I’m just going to say it - India is underrated. Everyday while scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I come across another new post about someone packing their bags and jetting off to South East Asia, or grabbing an inter-rail pass to see the sights of Europe. And while I can’t deny they probably have the time of their lives and that it’s totally worth doing, one thing is always crossing my mind. Why are very few people going to India?

There is nowhere on earth that you can compare to India. Nowhere. It is entirely unique, which is why it leaves such a lasting impression on the people who choose to travel there. A trip to India is full of surprises - the good, bad, and the downright shocking. India overloads your senses - expect rich smells, a rainbow of colours, and the intense sounds of unpredictable rickshaws speeding through the busy streets.

But what exactly makes India the perfect destination for students with empty bank accounts and itchy feet?

It really is affordable

Okay, so you’re still going to have to save up some of the pennies from your weekend job, but India isn’t going to drain your bank account like some other destinations would. Flights and a visa are going to be your main outgoing - but once that’s sorted, you can almost literally survive on nothing.

A private hotel room will set you back around £3 - £5 a night in smaller towns and cities, creeping up to a mere £10 - £15 in Mumbai or Delhi. Expect dirt cheap food which will fill you up all day - usually a whopping portion of curry, rice and a beer will set you back no more than £2 if you avoid the more touristy areas. Crazy, huh? You can eat like a king for next to nothing! It doesn’t stop there, either. Once you’re in India, you can travel around for minimal money. I paid £3 for a bed on a 48 hour train journey from Kerala to Delhi (which is 1600 miles).

It has incredible, diverse things to see and do

Come to India and you can experience so many different things. I found myself riding through the desert on a camel, visiting the slums of Mumbai, renting a houseboat on the incredible waterways of Kerala, rolling down sand dunes, visiting one of the seven wonders of the world, eating a free meal on the floor at a temple with 40,000 other people, experiencing a funeral on the banks of the Ganges river, feeding monkeys, getting lost in the backstreets of Delhi, and so much more.  

The food is one of a kind

You haven’t really tasted curry until you come to India. I have no other way of describing it other than it is amazing.  Everything tastes different, everything is insanely rich, everything is full of spices, seasonings and unusual flavours. Each area you go to, has it’s own unique cooking style and dishes - so there are endless things to try.

As well as eating in restaurants, you’ll love grabbing some classic Indian street food from a street seller, who also dive into the train windows at every stop to offer you food. You’ll never go hungry, or thirsty, for that matter - you’re never too far away from a smiley guy wandering around selling delicious cups of chai.

And most importantly, it makes you question things

While the whole ‘I found myself on my gap year’ stereotype has become somewhat of a mockery, travelling to less developed countries really does bring you back down to earth. So, I didn’t come back with dreadlocks or claiming to be a completely different person, but some of the things I saw in India had a big effect on how I viewed my life and the world.

I saw so much poverty in India, to a degree which saddened me deeply. I sometimes feel that as Westerners we live in a sort of bubble, where we take things for granted and tend to be rather materialistic. But being followed around cities by young children with no parents begging for money, and seeing people starving, almost dying, with ill babies, made me realise just how lucky I was just to be able to eat everyday, have clothes to wear, and a roof to live under.

Yet, the most surprising aspect of India, is how happy the people are considering how little they have. They are content with very little and take enjoyment from the small joys of life. The family units are solid, with several generations under the same roof - they don’t tend to leave, because family is the most important thing to them. Their relationships are rich, long lasting and deep. Everyone in the community knows each other’s names - without relying on social media, they interact daily.

In reality, they could teach us Westerners a thing or two. It made me wonder whether our social media driven, superficial, career-orientated, busy lifestyles are actually making us happy. You don’t need things to be happy. You’ll learn this by coming to India.

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Alice Lang Alice Lang, 11 months ago
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