If you’re visiting the Golden Triangle or considering, it’s probably your first time to India. Similar to me, you most likely have a few questions regarding this beautiful country known to inspire culture shock from foreigners. After experiencing it firsthand, I learned a few things so I put together a list of questions I had and tips I picked up while traveling India’s Golden Triangle.
Prior to my trip, I was hesitant about visiting India. Multiple friends told me stories about how it’s really crowded and chaotic, that they got sick from the food and that I was going in the hottest month of the year. They weren’t wrong, but there’s much more to a country than just the uncomfortable parts. Like any traveler knows, you need to look beyond the surface to discover the gems, which were plenty. I visited beautiful temples and monuments, learned about NGOs doing incredible work and above all, ate a lot of delicious food.
So when G Adventures reached out to me about going on a “G for Good” trip led by their founder Bruce Poon Tip, I knew I had to get over any fears about visiting India. I went to Tanzania, Costa Rica and Patagonia with them, and knew they could be trusted for incredible itineraries and partnerships that benefit local businesses.
The focus of this post will highlight how to have a safe, fun and memorable time in India. Basically, all the things I learned during my two weeks traveling around!
Below are my tips for traveling India’s Golden Triangle that will help make your first visit that much smoother.
What is India’s Golden Triangle?
The Golden Triangle is a famous tourist route that stops in India’s most popular destinations, namely the capital of Delhi, Agra (the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (the Pink City). It’s known as an “introduction to India” and is named because the route forms a triangle.
Should I go with a tour?
This depends on a few factors including how comfortable you are traveling independently, what your budget is, where you’ll be staying and if you’re comfortable taking public transportation. For me, as a solo female traveler who’s very comfortable with independent travel, I considered doing it on my own. However, after seeking advice from seasoned traveler friends, they all agreed a tour would be best, especially my first time to India.
I did this for a few reasons. First, I appreciated having a local guide who could share insights about customs, tips to avoid getting ripped off while haggling, how to cross the chaotic streets (it’s like a game of Frogger) and for safety reasons. Secondly, traveling with a group of like-minded people was comforting when everything else felt so foreign. Lastly, we had private transportation the entire time, which was cost effective and preferable to public transportation.
Like I said above, I’ve gone on a few trips with G Adventures and enjoy traveling with them. On this popular Golden Triangle route, we visited all the major spots with additional G experiences. Some of these special offerings included going on a city walk with former street kids in Delhi, eating at a restaurant run by two former G CEO’s (Chief Experience Officers) and staying in a private glamping site outside of Jaipur.
How long do I need to go?
My trip traveling around India’s Golden Triangle was 8 days from Delhi to Delhi. We spent 3 days in Delhi, 1 day in Agra, 1 day in Dhula Village and 3 days in Jaipur. It felt like we spent the right amount of time in each place and got to see all the sites.
Is it safe for women?
Whenever I visit a new place, I learn as much as I can about the culture beforehand so I know what to expect. For example, I read about how the dress is very conservative, so I packed clothes that reflect that. It’s a form of respect for the place I’m visiting as well as avoiding unwanted attention.
In the case of India, I read stories about gender inequality and violence against women, so knew I had to be extra safe and aware. I was cautious and didn’t put myself in situations where I’d be a target.
All of my interactions with the men associated with our tour were met with kindness and respect. These included our amazing CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Jai, hotel staff, tour operators, drivers, etc.
The unwanted attention came from people trying to sell things, take photos with us or out of sheer curiosity. I only felt unsafe one time during my two weeks, and it wasn’t enough for me to avoid traveling to India. Though I noticed as a whole was men were very comfortable openly staring at women. Unlike in NYC where they cat-call and you yell right back, this felt more passive aggressive. Not knowing intentions, it was somewhat intimidating and took some getting used to if your culture isn’t as big on staring.
This topic can be an entire article in itself, but for now, here are some tips to stay safe: don’t go out alone unnecessarily, always be careful and alert, walk with confidence, watch out for pick pocketers—don’t keep money or valuables in your pocket and arrange for airport pickup (I recommend Women on Wheels in Delhi, a transport service that trains women from resource-poor urban areas in India to become self sustaining professional drivers).
How can I avoid Delhi Belly?
First off, Delhi Belly is traveler’s diarrhea. Best ways to avoid it?
Don’t drink the tap water. Keep your hands clean. Use hand sanitizer and wet wipes as much as possible. Avoid street food. For meals, start off with simple dishes, then ease your way into more complex flavors as your body gets used to the spices. Don’t eat fruit that can’t be peeled. Only drink bottled or filtered water; same for brushing your teeth. Don’t drink ice cubes made from tap water. Take probiotics and vitamins to keep your immune system strong before, during and after.
Even with all these precautions, it’s possible to pick up a bug. About half our group had some type of illness which kept them in bed for a day or two. Just be sure to bring medicine with you from home. It’s not always easy to find a pharmacy or similar drugs you’re used to. No one likes getting sick while traveling, but it’s inevitable and make the stories more interesting after coming home!
What should I wear?
Like I mentioned above, India is very conservative in their dress. Everyone had long sleeves and pants or dresses on even in 100 degree weather. When visiting temples, shoulders and knees need to be covered.
However, since traveling around India’s Golden Triangle is very popular among foreigners, locals seemed to be more understanding. To each their own, but like I said above, it’s a sign of respect for the place you’re visiting to follow their customs. Just expect lots of stares since you will not be blending in wearing short shorts and a tank top.
When is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal?
I visited during sunrise and sunset and would highly recommend doing both if possible! They offer two very different experiences. However, if I had to choose one, I’d go in the morning. We were the first ones in line before the gates opened 30 minutes before sunrise. Our G Adventures CEO arranged our tickets beforehand and picked them up for us. As soon as the gates opened, we ran in without too many people around. For the first 10 minutes, it was pretty empty and quiet. A magical moment worth the 4am wake-up call!
After this early sunrise mission, I’d recommend getting breakfast down the street at Sheroes Hangout. It is entirely run by survivors of acid attacks and proceeds go towards ending violence against women in India.
What’s there to see in Jaipur?
Jaipur is known as the Pink City and is generally the last stop on the Golden Triangle Tour. The city was painted this signature pink shade to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria when they visited in the late 1800s as a sign of hospitality.
Jaipur was the first planned city in medieval India. Divided into nine blocks, at the center is the royal palace, or City Palace. Full of with graphic building designs, opulent Indian doors, gardens, courtyards and museums, part of it is still a royal residence. Be sure to check out the Pritam Niwas Chowk or “courtyard of the beloved” with four intricately designed gates inspired by the seasons.
Other spots worth checking out in Jaipur include the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, Amber Fort, Jal Mahal, Panna Meena Ka Kund, Nahargarh Fort and Albert Hall Museum.
Do you have any other questions about India or visiting the Golden Triangle? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them!
Thank you to G Adventures for hosting me on this incredible India trip. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.
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