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How to Plan Your First Trip to India 2024/2025

By RitaUpdated Apr. 10, 2024

The splendid Taj Mahal, magnificent palaces, colorful religious festivals, and delicious curries all showcase the unique and mysterious charm of India.

Planning a trip to India could be overwhelming due to the abundance of choices for destinations and the complexities of dealing with travel logistics. With this guide, we aim to help you make the most of your time and create your dream trip.

1. Choose Where to Go

India is a vast country with so much to see. For a better understanding, we could divide it into tropical-landscape-filled South India and history-packed North India. According to our previous clients' choices, most of them prefer to visit North India first for its iconic architecture, such as the Taj Mahal.

North India

Where to Go in North IndiaWhere to Go in North India

The Golden Triangle route (Delhi–Agra–Jaipur) serves as the natural starting point of most first visits in North India and even India in general. Following this route, you could discover chaotic Indian city life in its capital, Delhi, encounter the magnificence of the Taj Mahal in Agra, and explore majestic palaces and ancient forts in pink Jaipur.

Beyond the Golden Triangle, you could extend your trip to the following destinations:

  • For wildlife enthusiasts, you could take a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park. Hop in a jeep, venture into the jungle to see tigers, and sleep under the stars at a tented camp. The park is closed for safaris from July to September though, as it's the rainy season.
  • The Rajasthan region: If you'd like a heritage tour with a desert experience, don't miss this region. Starting from pink Jaipur, you would discover most-ornately-decorated Junagarh Fort in red Bikaner and take a camel safari in golden Jaisalmer. Then, enjoy a leisurely heritage walk with a family visit in blue Jodhpur and savor a private dinner at the palace on Jag Mandir Island in white Udaipur.
  • Varanasi: As the spiritual hub of India, Varanasi is a must for history buffs. Immerse yourself in the peaceful Ganges ambiance with a sunrise boat ride, walk along the riverside to explore the ghats and temples, and appreciate the impressive Ganga Aarti ceremony at night.

In addition to the above-mentioned cities, there are yet more hidden gems in the north, such as Amritsar for the Golden Temple and the border ceremony, Shimla for summer retreats and toy trains, and Khajuraho for less well-known temple complexes and their erotic sculptures.

South India

Where to Go in South IndiaWhere to Go in South India

South India is characterized by backwaters, beaches, and colonial history. So, if you prefer a laid-back vacation, which may be particularly suitable for a family with teenagers, South India would offer a more relaxing vibe than visiting the highly-frequented historical gems of the north.

Among the popular destinations in South India, Mumbai is a gateway to learning about Indian culture. Meanwhile, Goa and Kerala are renowned for their relaxing beach destinations and backwaters. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu is a paradise for history lovers.

  • Mumbai: You could vividly experience the stark wealth disparity in Mumbai by contrasting Asia's largest slums with the high-rise downtown area. Also, discover the Indian film industry and watch a Bollywood dance show at Bollywood.
  • The Goa region: With picturesque beaches, Goa boasts rich water sports, yoga retreats, and a unique Portuguese colonial history. For those seeking more secluded beaches, head to the southern parts of the region.
  • The Kerala region: In Kerala, you could admire colonial-style buildings in Kochi, go on a trekking tour in Munnar, discover the spice plantation in Thekkady, cruise the backwaters in Alleppey aboard a traditional houseboat, and indulge in some beach time and Ayurvedic rejuvenation in Kovalam.
  • The Tamil Nadu region: You could experience Tamil Nadu's metropolis, Chennai, admire the spectacular rock sculptures in Pondicherry, and discover iconic temples, such as the tallest temple, Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur, and the grandest Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.

Get some ideas about a classic South India tour: Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

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2. Decide How Many Days to Stay

India Travel Map

For first-time visits, you're advised to stay for at least 9 days to experience some of the best of India at a comfortable pace. For classic 9-day tours, you could choose to discover India's icons in the north, take a week to see the Golden Triangle cities (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), and then allocate the remaining 2 days to Varanasi or a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park. Alternatively, if you prefer the south, you could focus on the Kerala region or Tamil Nadu.

A good amount of time for exploring India more deeply is 14 days. Following 1 week in the Golden Triangle, you could spend another week in Rajasthan (Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, and Udaipur) in North India. Or you could delve into the top two regions of South India: Kerala (7 days) and Tamil Nadu (7 days).

You could also gain a comprehensive overview of India from the Golden Triangle in the north (9 days) to Mumbai (2 days) and Goa (3 days) in the south. If you are ambitious and want to see the multiple facets of South Asia in one trip, you could also combine the Golden Triangle of India with neighboring Nepal and Bhutan.

If you have over 2 weeks to explore off-the-beaten-path routes, consider extending your trip by 3 to 7 days in the northernmost region of Ladakh (Leh, Pangong Tso, and the 'Valley of Flowers') for outdoor adventures and Tibetan culture. Additionally, you could opt for a wildlife safari for 5–9 days in Madhya Pradesh (Satpura, Pench, and Kanha) for a unique wildlife experience. 

3. Our Top 2 Handpicked India Itineraries

We've thoughtfully crafted two itineraries for readers' inspiration: 9-Day India's Golden Triangle with Tiger Safari and 14-Day Classic Rajasthan Tour. Most of our clients take them as a starting point for customizing their own ideal India itinerary. If you have a different schedule or interests, feel free to contact us for a personalized itinerary.

India Itinerary 1: Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, and Jaipur in 9 Days

India family tour map

This tour is specially designed for first-timers, particularly for families with teenagers. Your 9-day adventure starts from the capital, Delhi, where you would experience a profusion of Indian city life. In Agra, known as the epitome of love, you could marvel at its grandest wonder, the Taj Mahal. Then, venture into Ranthambore National Park on a thrilling jeep safari to spot tigers. Finally, visit Jaipur to see the captivating historical palaces and forts of the Pink City.

For more exclusive experiences, you and your loved one(s) could traverse the lively markets via a rickshaw ride in Delhi, take a light walk around a local village with a high tea break, and create your own Indian cuisine with a local family in Jaipur.

If you are more interested in India's religious culture, you could consider replacing the tiger safari with Varanasi(See the itinerary accordingly).

Here is a suggested itinerary:

  • Days 1–2: Delhi sightseeing
  • Days 3–4: Drive from Delhi to Agra, Agra sightseeing
  • Days 5–6: Drive from Agra to Ranthambore, Ranthambore jeep safari (only available from October to June)
  • Days 7–8: Drive to Jaipur, Jaipur sightseeing
  • Day 9: Drive back to Delhi

Get the details from 9-Day India's Golden Triangle with Tiger Safari. You could find more options on 9 days in India or 10 days in India.

India Itinerary 2: 14-Day Golden Triangle and Rajasthan Highlights

India Map

This 14-day tour would take you beyond the Golden Triangle (Delhi–Agra–Jaipur) deep into Rajasthan, the 'Land of Kings'.

Starting your trip from the Golden Triangle cities, visit the interesting Karni Mata Temple ('sacred rat temple') in Bikaner, take a camel safari in the desert of Jaisalmer, wander around the blue city of Jodhpur, and unwind in laid-back Udaipur.

If you are looking for romantic experiences, you and your partner could visit the Taj Mahal in Indian attire in Agra, enjoy a candle-lit dinner like a king and queen in Amber Fort in Jaipur, and stay at a heritage palace hotel in Udaipur.

You can see the summary itinerary below:

  • Days 1–2: Delhi sightseeing
  • Days 3–4: Agra highlights
  • Day 5: Jaipur sightseeing and cooking class experience
  • Days 6–7: Bikaner sightseeing with a heritage hotel experience
  • Days 8–9: Jaisalmer exploration with a camel safari
  • Days 10–11: Jodhpur sightseeing
  • Days 12–13: Udaipur tour with a boat ride experience
  • Day 14: Back to Delhi

Click here to get the full itinerary! You could also check out our 2-Week Luxury India Tour for more romantic choices, or see more itineraries for 11 days, 12 days, and 2 weeks!

4. Best Times to Visit India

India Weather

For cool and dry weather, December to February is the best time to visit most of India, except for the far north areas, such as Ladakh. This is because the monsoon lasts from June to September and hot temperatures dominate from March to May across most of the country.

March, October, and November could be seen as middle-ground periods. During these periods, you could enjoy mostly warm and dry weather, and also benefit from more affordable prices than December to March. Besides, you would have chances to celebrate India's most important festivals with locals: join in the colorful powder fights during Holi (around March) and hang out at the festival markets during Diwali in October/November.

Celebrating with colorful festivals with us:

Celebrating Holi escorted by our experienced guide Celebrating Holi escorted by our experienced guide

5. Consider Your Travel Budget

India is a large and diverse destination that offers different costs for traveling. The cost of travel in India depends on where you are going and what kinds of hotels you are going to stay at.

If you're looking for a hassle-free and comfortable trip in India, the daily cost is about US$200 to 250 per person per day for a private tour during the peak season (December to February). During the festival seasons (Holi in March, Diwali in November, and Christmas and New Year), prepare for even higher prices and avoid last-minute bookings.

If you're traveling in the low season (June to September), the price would decrease to 170 to 200 USD per person per day.

These prices include private transfers, private land tours with guides, 4/5-star hotels, and internal flights. You could see more price details from our two best-selling private tours.

Check out more on our How Much Does a Trip to India Cost?

6. Special Accommodation Experiences in India

When traveling to North India, treat yourself to a special palace stay, which is especially recommended for a milestone celebration. You could easily find budget-friendly to luxury options in Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur. Surprise your loved one(s) with the sunset views of the Taj Mahal from The Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra or enjoy a private lakeside candlelit dinner at The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur.

Wildlife enthusiasts, don't miss a luxury jungle camp experience in Ranthambore National Park. SUJÁN Sher Bagh, just outside the park, comes highly recommended. Stay at a luxury tented camp, enjoy a private dinner by a campfire, and immerse yourself in all the sights and sounds of nature with a rustic and old-world vibe.

If you are going to travel to South India, consider taking a private overnight backwaters houseboat in Alleppey, Kerala for exclusive and tranquil experiences. Cruise the waterways among green fields, palm trees, and quaint villages, and sit back with your partner to enjoy sunset drinks.

Contact us to customize your private India tour with more special stays within 24 hours! Or get some inspiration from How to Plan an Affordable Luxury Trip to India.

7. How to Get To and Around India

Getting to India

The best way to get to India is by flight. There are direct flights from the main cities in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and other countries to Delhi and Mumbai. It takes about 12–15 hours from America or Australia to India and 8–10 hours from Europe to India by air.

How to Get Around in India

Private transport is the main choice for city tours, especially when taking in some offbeat experiences and venturing into remote areas. Our door-to-door service offers the best flexibility and saves you from the hassles of navigating train stations with confusing signs and the hardship of being crammed into a small seat on a crowded bus.

The train is considered to be the most atmospheric and relaxing way to unveil authentic Indian life and scenery in a longer journey context. In India, you could use express trains or slower trains. Slower trains are not recommended due to their lack of privacy and hygiene. Meanwhile, booking train tickets online poses challenges for first-time visitors, given the complex registration process and ticket class selection.

So, if you're considering including a train journey in your private India tour, for hassle-free booking and to ensure your comfort, we recommend opting for express trains for short journeys, such as Delhi to Agra (about 2 hours), or exploring on all-inclusive luxury tourist trains, such as our 7-Day Maharajas' Express Luxury Train Tour.

Flights are highly recommended for long-distance travel. For example, from Delhi to Varanasi, flights just take 1½ hours, while the fastest trains require 8 hours and private transfers need 12 hours. For shorter distances, the check-in time, transfers from/to the airport, and possible delays could whittle away the time advantage.

Tour India with Us

As one of the leading tour companies in Asia, we have been providing travel services for more than 20 years to thousands of satisfied customers. To fulfill your South Asia travel dreams, let us know your requirements and interests for a tailor-made tour of India.

Here are some popular itineraries for your reference:

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Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

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