India is on every adventurous world traveler’s list. Known for its deep history and spirituality, colorful traditions and generally chaotic urban life, India is an assault on the senses that can leave a traveler completely fulfilled or terribly overwhelmed. Can you do it with kids? You bet you can, with our tips.
Top Reasons to Visit India With Kids
India is one of those countries that is both at once exciting and terrifying to visit. Diverse and vibrant, crowded and bustling, it’s certainly an assault on the senses, but India can be one the most rewarding travel experience you can have. Here are some tips for visiting India with kids:
- History: India’s history dates back to the Indus Valley, one of the earliest civilizations known to man. Every corner of the country tells a story – from forts and temples to yoga centers and religious festivals. You are constantly reminded of the country’s rich culture and past.
- Cultural Diversity: India’s culture varies vastly from the North to the South and from the East to the West. Each region boasts its own language, cuisine, clothes, art, and norms. Often, the common denominator is language, which is English, so tourists from the U.S. don’t feel so out of place after all. Many are surprised to learn that many major religions in the world are represented in India so it’s possible to find a temple, a mosque, and a church within the same few square miles in the big cities.
- Economic Diversity: India’s economic inequality is astounding. Almost 50% of the population lives below the poverty level. You wouldn’t guess that with all the designer brands and Audis you see on the streets. It’s a eye-opener for kids to see how these different classes co-exist.
- Food!: There is much more to Indian food than Chicken Tikka Masala. You’ve not truly experienced the wonders of this cuisine till you’ve tasted prawn curry and apam from the South, mithai from Bengal, street food in Mumbai, and tandoori rotis from the North. As if all this wasn’t enough, cities like Mumbai and Delhi have bustling, eclectic restaurant scenes, with international cuisines competing on a global scale.
- Beauty: India has some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. From the valleys of Kashmir to the backwaters of Kerala, from the tea estates of Assam to the sun-kissed beaches of Goa, there truly is something for everyone here. The Indian aesthetic is brilliantly colorful as is seen in Indian art; jewelry and textiles; and also in the now world-famous Bollywood industry.
Planning a Trip to India
Ok, you’re sold. You are going to India. But where do you even start to plan a trip?
India is a huge country and it’s hard to cover it all in one trip, unless you are taking a couple of months off. If you are traveling with kids, two weeks is a good time, so it’s not too overwhelming all at once.
For the sake of travel, India can be broken up into four major regions:
Delhi and the North: Most people start trips to India in the capital city of New Delhi and then travel around. Delhi is the nation’s capital and offers much to see in terms of the currently political landmarks and historical monuments. It’s also an easy launch pad to some of the country’s most famous sights such as Jaipur (the Pink City), Udaipur (the “Venice of the East”), Khajurao (known for its ancient Hindu temples and sculptures), Fatehpur Sikri (former capital of the Mughal Empire), and of course, Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.
Mumbai and the Konkan Coast: Mumbai is the “New York of India” and people’s reactions to this city are similar to that of the Big Apple: You either love it or hate it. Mumbai has a beautiful collection of art deco and Victorian buildings, such as the famous Taj Mahal hotel and Gateway of India. But really, one goes to Mumbai to witness contemporary India in action. Mumbai is fast-paced, exciting, and loud, and home to Bollywood, great restaurants, shopping, and bars. Those seeking a quieter pace can head South to Goa, an Ibiza-like beach town with beautiful resorts for the family.
Kerala and the South: The backwaters of Kerala are India’s lesser-known gems, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the coconut groves and paddy fields of the Southern states. You can hold up in luxury 5-star accommodations or stay in rustic over-water shacks. Diving enthusiasts can also consider the Andaman or Lakshadweep islands off India’s Southern coast.
Calcutta and the East: Some of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures hail from its East coast. From the banks of the Ganges, India’s most sacred river, to the colonial architecture of Calcutta and temples of Bhubaneshwar, a visit to this region will provide a deep understanding of the country’s art and religions.
Tips for Travel to India With the Family
While there are a lot of reasons to visit India with the family, there are certain things that first-time travelers, particularly from the West, should pay attention to:
- Water: Never drink water from a tap in India. Always insist on bottled water and ensure the seal is not broken before you drink.
- Food: As mentioned earlier, the food is one of the best things about India. It’s best to eat in established restaurants (not street vendors) and to avoid anything that is not cooked, like cold salads, unless you are in an upscale restaurant (you’ll know when you are paying international prices).
- Bargain: It’s perfectly acceptable to bargain for goods and services in India. Start at half the price quoted and go from there!
- Hotels: If you are traveling with kids, I would not recommend going for anything less than a four star. Basic sanitation standards vary, and you want to make sure you are at least guaranteed clean sheets and bathrooms!
- Car seats: You’ll be hard pressed to find seats in or for cars outside the major cities so take your own if it is something you are particular about. Most cars have seat belts but you may find yourself in a rikshaw or taxi without one. Hold tight, and remember that many have been here before you, and survived!
- Safety: Indians are welcoming and hospitable people but as with any country with a lot of poverty, petty crime is always a concern. Keep your bags and personal items close to your person at all times and try to leave your valuables in the hotel safe.
Further reading: Top Safety Tips We Share With Our Kids and Remind Ourselves
A visit to India will not leave you unmarked, and it’s a wonderfully rich experience to gift your children. For more information, read Momaboard’s guides to Mumbai and Delhi with kids.