This is a guest post by Rebecca Kuehler, German traveler and writer behind the blog Another Travelling Tragedy.
Without a doubt, the best way to see India is on its railways, a system left behind by the British Raj, which spans most of the country. I spent four weeks on Indian trains, traveling the country from North to South, East to West and it ended up being one of the most brilliant, fun and, let's be honest here, nerve-racking journeys of my life.
Here are some of the highlights of my trip:
Varanasi – the sacred city on the banks of the river Ganges. Get a 5am boat to see the sunrise on the Ganges! Make sure you aren't too nervous about the rituals surrounding death, you are likely to see funeral pires on the edges of the river. It is a beautiful, spiritual and, well, crowded place, but the best destination in India.
Kid hanging on to a bus in Jaipur. India doesn't really emphasize health and safety, I suggest you go with the flow. Hire a tuk tuk in Jairpur to take you on a tour of the city: from the Pink Walled Center (with amazing shopping), to the Fort and the Lake Castle.
View from the Amer Fort near Jaipur – beautiful!
View of Shimla – travel to Shimla on the foothills of the Himalayas for respite from the stifling heat of Delhi.
Visit the stranded ship 'River Princess' in Goa.
There are a couple of things to be aware of before flinging yourself on a 12 hour night train from Agra to Varanasi: first, book yourself into 2nd Class AC (Air-Conditioning). If you are a skint student, as I was at the time, it will save you a good couple of rupees and actually offers most of the comforts you get in first class plus the added bonus that you are more likely to come across lovely locals. I advise you get your Hindi up to scratch, whilst quite a few Indians you will come across speak a bit of English, it makes a good impression and is a great bonding tool to get chatting with locals on long, train journeys.
Right, Second crucial train tip: bring a bicycle chain to lock up your rucksack, anyone can get on and off trains at stations so just have your wits about you.
Thirdly, girls, make sure you cover up, even when you're going to sleep in an overnight train. Generally, buy some Indian dress when you arrive and you will get hassled less - it is also advisable (as outdated as this sounds) to get in big groups that include guys when
you are traveling. I went to India with my best female friend, and we had a much harder time when it was just the two of us traveling as opposed to when we were traveling with guys. This is a cultural phenomenon, and you should make sure to understand that you will be treated differently if you are females on your own.
Fourthly, enjoy the hot chai that is served on the trains! Also bring enough water and sustenance, trains can be quite delayed and you do not want to run out of water and drink train tap water: believe me, your stomach will not be happy.
Fifthly, look out of the windows! See the amazing changes in scenery between different regions. Truly amazing!
And lastly, don't just enjoy the destination; make sure you enjoy the journey!
To read more adventures of Rebecca and connect with her, visit her blog.