Backpacking in Style-North India
Flinging a few old outfits and flip flops into a wearable 50-liter sack has long-been associated with students, budget travellers, dirty bus rides, dorm rooms and what’s essentially tremendous amounts of discomfort. The way we travel has transformed within the last few decades, and backpacking is going through a renaissance that has travellers of all demographics trading in their wheelie bags for rucksacks, without compromising comfort. And North India is the perfect place to start.
If the idea of backpacking through India instantly raises your blood pressure, this is the time to forget about everything you may have read, seen, or heard about this spectacular country, and discover it first-hand. India is a spiritual capital of the world, complete with mountaintop sanctuaries, ancient temples, expansive palaces and more luxury travel options than you could ever need – the possibilities in India are limited only by your imagination.
India is a large and beautiful country, and whether you’re getting around with a private chauffeur, luxury bus company or tour group, the amount of time you spend in transit will most likely be the same. So why not enrich your trip with cultural experiences?
Trains: Contrary to the images you’ve probably seen of what looks like thousands of locals sitting on top of Indian trains, the rail system in India is actually a very structured arrangement comprising seven classes of travel, covering everything from crowded carriages with unreserved seating to private rooms with beds, en suites and hot meals. But for a local experience, forgoing the private room option (1 AC – First Class Air Conditioned) and taking the second-best option (2 AC – Two-Tier Air Conditioned) is recommended.
Not only is 2 AC a popular option for locals, but it’s the highest class where you’ll get to buy local food on what’s probably a very long trip – something you’ll miss out on in 1 AC with pre-booked meals. Food vendors jump on the trains at one stop and sell coffee, chai and an assortment of local delicacies, before jumping off at the next stop to be replaced by another who jumps on selling something completely different. Best of all, this doesn’t come at the sacrifice of your comfort. Carriages and bathrooms in 2 AC are extremely clean, beds are made with fresh linen and have their own power outlets, and each bed has a curtain for the ultimate private slumber experience.
Buses: In areas where you can’t catch a train, buses are the way to go. While buses don’t offer the same freedom of movement as trains and are slightly more uncomfortable, luxury bus companies in India do their best to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. Most long-haul private buses have wifi, power outlets, blankets and private beds with their own doors. You can also stop at authentic eateries in roadside villages along the way, giving you the chance to try local food and engage in what’s such a large part of Indian culture.
The transport system is so complex and widespread because Indian people are prolific travellers of their own country. It’s common to see local families from all socio-economic backgrounds doing the same activities as you – visiting temples, hiring tour guides, renting houseboats and staying in five-star hotels with red carpets, private spas, pools and five-star restaurants while overlooking ancient cities.
India is dotted with palaces, ancient forts and mountaintop temples, and North India is a sea of royal relics and ancient wealth with accommodation options fit for maharajas. The great part about these luxury accommodation options is that, with so many local travellers, they’re not only catered to Western tourists, so you can feed your soul by truly traveling like a local.
As a luxury backpacker, your experience can be anything you want it to be. You could be on a rickshaw one minute and in your five-star hotel the next. And in places like Mumbai or Rajasthan, your hotel could very well be a restored palace overlooking the remains of an entire kingdom.
Interested in luxury backpacking through North India? Contact me today.
By Charlotte Karp
Repurposed with permission Ensemble Travel