There are always advantages to every travel situation in life, and this is never more true than when you are planning a trip to India.
Never forget that this vast country is, geographically, a sub-continent. From the snowy peaks of the Himalayas in the north, through the deserts to the west, down to the steamy heat of the south, there is a huge range of climatic zones. So whenever you plan your journey, there will always be the weather factor to be considered. Given the size of the country, there is no single ‘ideal’ time to visit India.
For example, if you wish to travel to Ladakh, high up in Kashmir, you can only do so during the hot summer months, when the snow melts in the passes, and the road and airport become, once again, accessible.
Much (but not all) of the country experiences monsoons between the months of June-September, with varying degrees of intensity, but do not for a moment let the thought of rain deter you from traveling around India.
The monsoons are, in fact, a lovely time to see the country. Just a few showers are enough to transform parched dustiness and arid baked landscapes into lush, clean greenness. Dust is washed away, as is the heat-induced weariness of people. When it rains, people smile in relief and delight, and go stand out in the street, to relish those first deliciously cooling showers.
Not only does everything look cleaner and greener, there are usually far fewer tourists, so bookings are easier, monuments are not as crowded, and so what if it rains while you are sight-seeing? You sit it out, chat to the people who will inevitably join you, and when the monsoon shower is over, off you go.
By and large Indians are not whiners. So, when it pours down, far from grumbling, they smile and enjoy the rain. You will see more smiles and laughter during the rainy season than at any other time, guaranteed.
So, travel during the rainy season and enjoy a quieter, cleaner, greener India, whilst accepting that it may, at times, be a little more chaotic than usual.
Here are a few tips to surviving the monsoons:
- Make sure you have a rain cape to cover your back-pack/day-pack – though you will get hot, be warned – and if you have an umbrella for sight-seeing, so much the better. It will do double duty as a parasol and an umbrella. Most monsoons showers are just that, showers, so an umbrella often makes more sense – you are not venturing out for hours on end in the rains, remember.
- Rubber flip-flops (known as chappals in India) are ideal footwear in the monsoons. You have to take shoes off so often in India – inside places of worship, often inside peoples’ homes – that flip-flops make sense, in any case. Plus, they don’t get spoiled by a sudden downpour.
- You must always be careful about drinking water in India – as in never, ever drink the tap water – and you do need to be especially vigilant during the monsoons, since pipes do burst and water does overflow.
- Inevitably, where there is heat and rain, you will get mosquitoes, so be vigilant about protecting yourself. Cover up in the evenings, use repellent, and don’t ever leave water stagnating around you – prime breeding ground.
- If the rains are especially heavy, your timetable might well get a little altered. For example, in the hills, small landslides sometimes happen, and so the road will get blocked, and you will be delayed. There is nothing you or anyone else can do, so the only thing to do is to enjoy the rains the way the locals do.
- Sit back, wait for the landslide to be cleared/the overflowing road to drain/the rain to stop, and do that quintessentially Indian monsoon thing – have a steaming hot cup of tea and a plate of pakoras, and enjoy the rain.
Happy monsoon travels!