Travelling to India with kids might seem like a crazy idea; the country’s size, geography and the sheer number of people can test even the most experienced of travellers.
But even if India might not be the most obvious family holiday choice, it’s a magical, eye-opening destination for kids. Filled with incredible sights, beautiful landscapes, fun activities, fantastic food and much more, there is a lot to see and do in India for children.
I lived in New Delhi for three years with two young children (my daughter was born there). So, I know that not only can you take a family trip to India but you can enjoy it!
If you’re considering a family holiday to India then this guide is for you.
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Should you visit India with kids?
Deciding whether or not a trip to India with kids is worth it really depends on you and your family. How do you think your kids will react to travel in a developing country? India is magical but it is also big, noisy, crowded and, at times, overwhelming.
If you have travelled in other developing countries such as Cambodia or Nepal, then India will feel more familiar. If, however, you have only travelled in Western countries then India might not be the best option for your first ‘off the beaten path’ experience.
That said, another question to consider is your budget. India does luxury travel very well so if you are prepared to splurge then you can have a very comfortable time travelling around India.
One other factor to consider is how old your children are. Travelling to India with a baby is easy whereas travelling to India with a 1-year-old or a toddler is more challenging because they are active but perhaps not steady on their feet. There’s also that wonderful toddler tendency of putting everything in their mouths!
Older children might find the obvious poverty challenging and teenagers, girls in particular, will probably feel more comfortable adopting a versions of the local dress and dressing more conservatively than they do at home.
Be aware that children, particularly Western children, get a lot of attention in India. The enthusiastic cheek-squeezing and pleas to smile for the camera is done with the best of intentions, however it can be very overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to ask well-meaning locals to stop taking photos or squeezing cheeks.
However, I do believe that as long as you are prepared then you will have a great time. This guide to India with kids shares my top tips for travelling around the country as well as where to travel in India, the best time to travel in India and more.
The best places to visit in India
You could spend a lifetime exploring India and still not see all that there is to see. If you’re wondering where to travel with kids in India then the following cities and states are some of the places that we enjoyed best during our time in India. This post also lists some of our favourite places to visit in India.
Rajasthan for kids
Home to pink palaces and blue cities the state of Rajasthan is a great place to start your Indian adventure. It’s also India’s most popular destination with a well-functioning tourist infrastructure.
You can ride a camel in the Thar Desert, paint an elephant’s trunk, go on a tiger safari in Ranthambhore National Park and more.
For a more detailed guide to visiting Jaipur with children, take a look at this post.
Delhi for kids
The chaotic capital of New Delhi is a fascinating place to explore filled with ancient monuments and sights steeped in history. It’s also a great place for food and a fun place to go shopping.
New Delhi also has some great family-friendly tours including a cycle ride through the ancient streets of Old Delhi. For New Delhi travel tips and ideas on things to do for children, take a look at this post.
Agra for kids
You can’t visit India and not see the Taj Mahal! India’s most famous monument is truly impressive and you should visit Agra Fort while you’re there as well. If you can, make sure you book a room at the incredible The Oberoi Amarvilas.
Kerala for kids
Mellow Kerala in southern India is a fantastic family holiday destination and an easy place to travel with kids. One of the highlights is floating along the region’s backwaters is on a traditional Keralan houseboat. This post shares one family’s adventure along Kerala’s backwaters.
Goa with kids
Like Kerala, Goa is an easy place to travel with kids, home to palm-fringed beaches and a range of accommodation options; these are some of our favourite family-friendly hotels in Goa. Goa is a really good places to visit with toddlers in India.
Assam for kids
Searching for rhinos in the Kaziranga National Park is an amazing experience for the whole family. Base yourself at Diphlu River Lodge.
Jammu & Kashmir for kids
The hill station of Gulmarg, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, isone of Asia’s top ski resorts. It’s home to waist-deep powder snow, near-empty ski runs that go for miles and miles and some of the most affordable skiing in the world.
Gulmarg often suffers from political unrest, make sure to check the security situation before travelling. Click here to read about a family skiing holiday in Gulmarg.
The Himalayas for kids
Once you’ve found your feet, consider a jeep adventure from Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir to Leh in Ladakh, like this one.
The best time to travel in India
The size and geography of India means that there’s always somewhere to go at any time of the year. Generally speaking there are three main seasons: summer, winter and monsoon.
Make sure to check a climate chart before booking your trip and choose your dates and destination wisely; exploring Rajasthan in 45C heat or navigating Kerala in the monsoon rains is not a good idea!
Peak season in India
October to March: Cooler climes make these months ideal for visiting India’s star attractions such as Rajasthan.
April to May/June: Temperatures in the north can exceed 40 degrees Celsius. The south remains a little cooler but with a lot more humidity. Humidity levels rise as the monsoon season approaches.
This is the best time to visit the hill stations in the north which offer respite from the heat. Avoid the cities.
June/July to September: This season is often very muggy and hot. Thunderstorms and heavy rain showers are intermittent and dramatic. The rain can bring much disruption to the infrastructure, with flooded roads and frequent power cuts.
It is difficult to escape the rains, with the one exception of Ladakh. However parents should be aware of the high altitudes in this region.
Family hotels in India
India does budget accommodation very well and it does luxury hotels extremely well. What it doesn’t have a lot of is good, value-for-money mid-range accommodation. You will find a lot of “heritage hotels” across India. Often these are dusty, tired, former “palaces” that have been given a lick of paint and called a hotel.
At the budget end of things, guidebooks like Lonely Planet India do a great job of listing cheap hostels. If you’re prepared to pay big bucks then there a lot of really beautiful hotels. Some of the more top-end hotels, such as those owned by the Oberoi group, have started cater for children but there are few that offer the kind of kid-friendly touches that you might be used to.
For inspiration, take a look at this post where I share seven of the best hotels in India.
Hotel room options for families
Hotels in India very rarely feature the range of family accommodation options found in hotels in the U.S. for example.
It’s unusual to find hotels with rooms housing two double beds. More likely you will find rooms with one double bed and a maximum of one extra bed allowed per room. Families with more than one child will usually have to book two hotel rooms. Some hotels are happy for a child to share a bed with their parents.
Budget hotels tend to be more flexible when it comes to the number of people per room but be prepared to splash out on two rooms in higher-end hotels. Inter-connecting rooms are not common either. Most mid-range and all high-end hotels will have air conditioning.
Hotels in India for babies
If travelling to India with a baby, you’ll find that staff will often try to help you out. Babysitting is generally available at most top-end hotels but not common in mid-range or lower-end hotels. Make sure you have a good travel cot with you (baby beds are generally only available at high-end hotels) and a travel high chair is also a good idea.
Hotels in India often have rigid meal times so be prepared to either wait for your kids’ food or bring lots (and lots!) of snacks with you.
How to avoid getting sick in India
Understandably, health comes at the top of the list of concerns for families travelling in India. Before leaving home, it’s worth making an appointment with your doctor to ensure that everyone’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Make sure you bring a basic medical kit with you that includes the following:
- rehydration preparation
- medicine for fevers
- treatment for diarrhoea and upset stomachs
- antiseptic cream
- a thermometer
- any other medicine that you might require
- mosquito and insect repellent. This post lists the best mosquito repellent for India).
You should also travel with insurance that covers medical assistance.
Medical care in India
Many embassies list hospitals in clinics in major cities, such as this one from the US Embassy. Most mid-range and top-end hotels have a doctor-on-call and 24-hour pharmacies are also available. Over-the-counter medicine is cheap but it’s worth buying whatever you need from a good pharmacy to avoid purchasing any out-of-date drugs.
The most common problem when travelling in India are stomach upsets. You can try avoiding the infamous Delhi belly by following these suggestions:
- Wash your hands! We were militant about hand-washing when we lived in India. I also always carried Anti Bacterial Hand Gel and Antibacterial Wipes.
- Eat food that is freshly cooked and served hot. Depending on where we were travelling, we would sometimes just stick to the vegetarian dishes. It’s best to avoid salads unless you can be sure the lettuce (and other veggies) have been properly cleaned and disinfected.
- Avoid food from street vendors. I ended up in the hospital for two days with a severe case of food poisoning after eating from a roadside stall. That said, we had a lot of friends in India who would eat street food believing the food was freshly cooked and hot (and therefore safe).
- Drink only bottled water (and other beverages) and avoid ice, which is made with tap water.
- With fruit, we would choose those that needed peeling (oranges, bananas) over those that needed disinfecting (apples etc..)
Dengue Fever is another concern when travelling in parts of India. It is an infectious tropical disease also known as ‘break bone fever’ owing to the severe joint and muscle pain victims experience. This post has more information on how to avoid dengue fever. Dengue is most common in India during the few months after the monsoon but also occurs during the monsoon season.
Transport in India
Planes, trains or automobiles are your options for travelling around India. There’s also the bus but I’d only recommend this if you were seriously trying to save rupees. Even the “deluxe” Indian buses can be challenging with young children; long journeys with infrequent stops for food and toilet breaks, and often manned by kamikaze drivers.
Plane travel in India
Air travel is undoubtedly the fastest way to get around. There are a number of popular low-cost domestic airlines including:
Infants under two pay taxes only.
Train travel in India
Travelling by train is a quintessential Indian experience. Indian Railways is one of the largest rail networks in the world and carries nearly 20 million people every day.
There are seven different classes of train travel, although not all classes are available on every train. They range from 1AC (1st class air-conditioned) to an unreserved seat in 2nd class. Children up to the age of 4 travel free, children aged 5 to 11 pay half fare and children aged 12 and over pay full fare.
It’s worth noting that if you are booking an overnight sleeper train, you are not guaranteed to have the compartment to yourself unless you buy all the berths in that carriage.
The excellent website Seat 61 is a great place to go for more information on train travel in India.
Hiring cars and drivers in India
If you want to drive in India you must either be a legal resident with an Indian driver’s licence or have an International Driving Permit. However, in all honesty, India can be an intimidating place to drive.
More common for travellers visiting India (especially if travelling with kids) is to hire a car and driver. Your hotel can usually arrange this for local sightseeing. If you would like to hire a car and driver for a longer journey then please get in touch with Stubborn Mule, who can help you plan a fantastic family trip to India.
Taking an autorickshaw in India
In cities and towns, autorickshaws are a cheap, fast and fun way to get around. Don’t expect car seats! Or seat belts for that matter…
Travelling to India checklist
Depending on where you are in India, you can buy a lot of the things you might need but prices may be higher than at home and your favourite brand might not be available. The following items may be useful to pack:
- Diapers / nappies are available but quality can be variable
- Swim nappies / diapers are not easily available
- Bottles, infant formula, Microwave steriliser bags, and sterilising tablets.
- Canned, bottle or squeezy baby food such as these ones from Ella’s Kitchen are very helpful.
- A portable baby cot, such as this lightweight one by Phil & Teds is a great investment. Hotel cots may not be available (or may not be up to the standard you’d like!)
- A baby carrier such as this one by Ergobaby will be really helpful. Pushchairs / strollers are not very useful in cities or busy areas. Pavements are scarce and kids get a much better view if they are on your back!
- Arm Bands or some other kind of Floatation Device for novice swimmers if your hotel has a pool.
- Good, sturdy shoes.
- Suncream and child-friendly insect repellent.
- Books, games and electronics