Just because its #IncredibleIndia 🙂
India is more than just Taj Mahal. It is a vast challenging land and culture that overflows with adventure suited to different personas of the world. No wonder, women solo travelers flock to this tricky country. Yes, despite being tagged as one of the most menacing nation, we have come to accept the challenge; to survive and enjoy India. More so, with its socio-philosophical diversity (in all its superlative form), it is home for the important archaeological and religious sites in Asia. And infinite reasons to uncover the reality beyond the realms of what the television and internet show us.
As of April 2015, the one month Tourist Visa on Arrival for all Philippine Passport holders have been lifted. Prior to arriving in India, one has to obtain a valid tourist visa. In my case, I applied when I was in Nepal. It was hassle free.
- Go to the Indian Visa online application website http://www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa.
- Fill out and print the form.
- Bring the form with your 2×2 picture and a photocopy of your valid passport and Nepal Visa (Nepal Visa should be valid until the tentative release date of your Indian Visa) at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu located in Lainchur Area (walking distance from Thamel) just a few meters away from the British Embassy. Line starts at around 7am while the office starts accepting application from 9am to 12NN.
- Visa fee starts at $50 for 1-3 months single entry. Pay the required amount based on your desired length of stay.
- The officer will give you a receipt and the tentative date of the release of your visa. Claim your passport and Indian visa on the said date from 4:00PM-5:00PM.
** steps 1-2 can be skipped. Just go directly to the embassy, there is a small shop that can arrange this for you. Come early so the submission will be on the same day for a fee of $6. Would like to recommend that if you plan to visit India after Nepal, upon arrival in Kathmandu, apply for an Indian Visa immediately. Processing may take 10-15 days. Also the validity starts upon the approval (not on the day of arrival in India) of your visa.
Crossing to INDIA
The easiest way to cross to India is thru a flight which can cost around $70-120USD. The cheapest to do this is crossing the Nepal-Indian border in Sunauli.
- From Kathmandu, take a bus to Lumbini. For local bus, we paid $8 that takes 8-9 hours. Leaves at 7am.
- Get down at Bhairahawa.
- Take a shared jeep to the border, Belahiya (Nepal side).Pay 50 Sri Lankan Rupee
- From the terminal, walk towards the border (just follow the crowd) and have your passport stamped.
- Literally cross towards India!!!
From Sunauli, buses travel to Gorakhpur (nearest train station) and Varanassi. Less buses travel after 1PM. I would suggest to take this route in the morning.
The Indian Rupee is more expensive than Nepali. Its literally twice the former.
Current Exchange rate: $1USD= 66 Indian Rupee
Food: literally a dollar per meal is possible. Fruits are cheap. 1 liter of bottled water cost 20 rupee.Train stations provide free and clean drinking water (experienced and recommended by my friend theBernTraveler).
Accommodation: can be free up to couple of days provided by Sikh and Buddhist temples. Most of these temples accept dana or donation. A decent room or dorm bed can start from $3 to $5 per night.
Transportation: depends on preference. Commuting around India is cheap. For inter-state travel, trains are preferred. Check the Indian railway website for the complete schedule and prices http://www.indianrail.gov.in/train_Schedule.html. It is advised to get an Indian sim to be able to use the railway online booking. Or one can use the Tourist booth in the stations. Please book in advance to avoid hassle and extra fees.
Safety: Surprise surprise…just be extra careful with luggage and money. For women, I would like to suggest not to wear revealing clothes to avoid those scary stare. Most of them will just look at you.Some will try to talk or touch but its always avoidable. Walk away from touts. Bargain decently. And be selective. Instinct helps.
Shopping: The Indian women have the most colorful wardrobe that I have seen. I fell in love with their stuff. Cheap and comfortable. Mostly made of cotton. Best place to shop would be the local markets. Do not bring too much clothes to India:-) because I bet, you will have to either suffer from over baggage or trading them to the lovely sarees.
India being an enormous area to immerse, it is good to plan the journey based on the length of stay, weather, current events and budget. For me, India was both a spiritual jaunt and an adventure. I even prepared a checklist (apart from the yoga teacher’s training I intended to attend and finish):
- Taj Mahal walk
- Watch a LIVE Cricket Game
- Attend a Real Indian Wedding
- Watch a Bollywood movie (with English subtitle)
- Trek to Dharamsala
- Complete the Buddhist Pilgrimage
Oh dear, India, why have you done this to me? You have changed my perspective. Two months with you was too short. Maybe its your way of telling me, “hey solewanderer, you ought to come back, very soon.” While the rest will tell me, “you are crazy!” I say, Namaste!