Best Destinations for Families

India

 

 

Travelling in India with kids

India with Kids

New Delhi

 

There are few places on earth like India. Magical, mysterious and, at times, completely overwhelming, it can be one of the most challenging places to travel and can test even the most experienced of travellers. But it can also be one of the most rewarding countries to visit, a vibrant country that you would need a lifetime to truly explore properly. To outsiders India may not seem like an obvious choice for a family holiday, however, having lived in India for three years and having travelled a lot in the country with Alfie and Tess (Alfie was 18 months when we moved to Delhi and Tess was born there), I can honestly say that travelling in India with kids is both possible and enjoyable! Here’s all I learned about navigating India with young children in tow.

 

Accommodation in India for Families

India with Kids

Hotel Diggi Palace in Jaipur, one of our favourite hotels in Rajasthan

 

How family-friendly are 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 and tired “palaces” that have been given a lick of paint and a few beds and called a hotel. If you’ve ever seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, then you’ll know exactly what I mean!

At the budget-end of things, guidebooks like Lonely Planet do a great job of listing cheap hostels. If you’re prepared to pay big bucks then there a lot of really beautiful hotels including many by the Oberoi group that look after families well. Don’t expect lots of kiddie amenities however. Some of the more top end hotels have started to cater for kids (such as the Alila Diwa in Goa) but there are few that offer the kind of kid-friendly touches that you might be used to such as gifts upon check-in, sinks at the right height for children or all day kids’ clubs. Here are some of my favourite hotels in India for families; this includes a range of options including budget (but not a hostel), midrange and high end.

 

Room options for families

India with Kids

A bedroom in Mosaics Guesthouse, nr Jaipur

 

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 more often than not have to take two rooms. Some hotels are happy for a child to share a bed with their parents (whether or not you are happy with that is another matter!) The more budget end hotels are often more flexible when it comes to housing families but be prepared to splash out on two rooms in higher end hotels. Inter-connecting rooms are not common either.

 

Hotels in India for babies

India with Kids

Not all hotels have baths (let alone baby baths!). Buckets, however, are in plentiful supply.

 

If travelling with a baby in India, you’ll find that staff will often try to help you out. They may look quizzically at your microwave sterilising bags and not serve dinner early like they promised to, but on the whole people are very helpful. 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.

 

Health in India

Understandably, health comes at the top of the list of concerns for families holidaying 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 including rehydration preparation, medicine for fevers, treatment for diarrhoea and upset stomachs, antiseptic cream, a thermometer and any other medicine that you might require. We always travel with an antihistamine syrup, cough medicine and mosquito repellent for example. I would also highly recommend travelling with insurance that covers medical assistance.

 

Medical care in India

Many embassies list hospitals in clinics in major cities. Most mid-range and top-end hotels have a doctor-on-call should you or your child fall unwell. 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.

 

Delhi Belly

The most common problem when travelling in India are stomach upsets, the ubiquitous “Delhi Belly”. You can try and avoid sore tummies by following these suggestions:

  • Wash your hands! I was militant about hand-washing when we lived in India and always carried hand sanitiser gel with me.
  • 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 hospital for two days with a severe case of gastroenteritis after eating spicy potatoes from a roadside stall.
  • Drink only bottled beverages and avoid ice, which is made with tap water.
  • With fruit, choose those that needed peeling (oranges, bananas) over those that needed disinfecting (apples etc..)

 

Dengue

Dengue virus is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitos.

Dengue virus is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitos.

 

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. I’ve written a longer post on how to avoid catching dengue fever here. Dengue is most common in India during the few months after the monsoon, but also occurs during the monsoon season.

 

Getting around India with kids

India with Kids

Another method of transportation…

 

Planes, trains or automobiles are your options for travelling around India. There’s also the bus but we would only recommend this if you were seriously trying to save rupees. Even the “deluxe” buses can be painful with children; long journeys with infrequent stops for food and toilet breaks and often manned by kamikaze drivers. Two websites that are useful for booking tickets for air as well as rail are www.cleartrip.com and www.makemytrip.com.

 

Planes in India

Air travel is undoubtedly the fastest way to get around. There are a number of popular low cost domestic airlines including Air India Express, GoAir, IndiGo, SpiceJet and AirAsia India. Infants under two pay taxes only.

 

Trains in India

India with Kids

Katja’s daughter taking a snooze on an Indian train

 

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. The whole family will enjoy a train journey, whether you ride the rails for a couple of hours or overnight. 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) at the top to an unreserved seat in 2nd class at the bottom. 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 nothing 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 www.seat61.com is a great place to go for more information on train travel in India.

 

Hiring a car in India

India with Kids

It’s unlikely you’ll be travelling in a car like this, but you can dream! Taken at Udai Bilas Palace, Udaipur

 

You can not hire your own car in India and in reality, navigating the chaotic city streets and the pot-holed ones in the countryside would test even Lewis Hamilton. One very good option for exploring an area is to hire a car and driver. Your hotel can usually arrange this for local sightseeing.

 

Autorickshaws in India

India with Kids

Katja’s son touring Jaipur’s city streets in an autorickshaw

 

In cities and towns, Autorickshaws are cheap, fast and fun way to get around. Don’t expect car seats! Or seat belts for that matter…

 

Food in India with Kids

Although less fussy now, my oldest was not an adventurous eater when we lived in India. And yet, we safely managed to explore the country without them starving! Delhi has lots of restaurants that will cater to a Western palate as well as International eateries. Outside of major cities the menus will be less varied but you’ll be able to find vegetables and rice in plentiful supply. Paneer (unfermented cheese) dishes, naan breads (bread cooked in a tandoor), simple dhals (mild lentil curries) and momos (Tibetan dumplings usually steamed or fried) are good options. If you’re not that keen on spice, ask for your food ‘bland’; asking for ‘non-spicy’ is often simply interpreted as ‘just a little less spicy’. And if all else fails, lassis (yoghurt based drinks) are always a hit! Prior to travel, it might help to give your kids Indian food to get them used to the flavour. I’ve never done this but some families say that it can help!

 

India with kids: Be prepared for…

India with Kids

Pack for a Purpose

 

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, particularly for young children. Be aware of your family’s needs and don’t hesitate to ask well-meaning locals to stop taking photos or squeezing cheeks.

Poverty in India is extreme. And while nothing can fully prepare you, or your children, for the different social and economic conditions that you might encounter, it may be something you wish to discuss with your kids before travelling. Getting involved with organisations such as Pack for a Purpose, that offer a way for travellers to give back to the country they are visiting, can help children understand the importance of leaving a positive footprint.

 

Best months for travelling in India

India with Kids

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, is great to visit during the winter months

 

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.

Peak: October to March. Cooler climes make these months ideal for visiting India’s star attractions such as Rajasthan.

Summer: 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 furnace-like cities.

Monsoon: 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.

However, 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 with small kids is never a good idea!

 

Where to Go in India with kids

India with Kids

Alfie with his grandad in Lodhi Gardens, Delhi

 

There are so many places to visit in India with kids, some easier than others. Below are some of my favourites.

 

Rajasthan for Kids

India with Kids

The Blue City of Jodhpur

 

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, scout for tigers in Ranthambhore National Park and more. Rajasthan is also home to some of India’s most family-friendly festivals including Holi, the Pushkar Camel Fair and the Jodhpur RIFF. Have a look at these family-friendly hotels in the city.

 

Delhi for Kids

Best way to travel around India with Kids

New Delhi

 

The chaotic capital of New Delhi is a fascinating place to explore. Take a look at our list of Ten Things to do in New Delhi with Kids.

 

Agra for Kids

India with Kids

Katja with her two oldest kids (the third hadn’t arrived yet!) at the Taj Mahal

 

You can’t come to 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. The following family-friendly hotels are ones that we recommend.

 

Kerala for Kids

India with Kids

Floating along the backwaters on a traditional Keralan Houseboat

 

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. These are our favourite family-friendly hotels.

 

Goa for Kids

 

Like Kerala, Goa is an easy place to travel with kids, home to palm-fringed beaches and a range of accommodation options. Try these family-friendly hotels.

 

Assam for Kids

India with Kids

Rhinos!

 

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

Building snowmen in Gulmarg, Kashmir

Snowmen

 

The hill station of Gulmarg, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, has gained a reputation as one of Asia’s top ski resorts, 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.

 

The Himalayas for Kids

India with Kids

Visiting a monastery

 

Once you’ve found your feet, consider a jeep adventure from Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir to Leh in Ladakh, like this one.

 

India with Kids: What to bring

India with Kids

Tess and her Nana strolling through Udaipur

 

Depending on where you are in India, you can get 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 may be useful to pack:

  • Diapers / nappies are available but quality can be variable
  • Swim diapers / nappies are not easily available
  • Bottles, infant formula, microwave sterilising bags or cold water sterilising tablets
  • Canned, bottle or squeezy packs of baby food.
  • A portable baby cot, such as this lightweight one by Phil & Ted’s, is a great investment. Hotel cots may not be available (or may not be up to the standard you’d like!)
  • A backpack or baby carrier is a much better option for smaller kids than a pushchair, particularly in cities or busy areas. Pavements are scarce and kids get a much better view if they are on yoru back!
  • Water wings or some 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
  • Snacks!

 

How to Book a Holiday In India

India with Kids

A picnic with Tara the Elephant at Kipling Camp

 

It’s more than possible to organise your own family holiday in India, however, if you would like the peace of mind of booking everything in advance, including hotels, reliable cars and drivers, plane and / or train tickets, then we can recommend a fantastic agent. Please do  get in touch if you would like help organising your India family holiday.

Still unsure? This is a great post from Travelynn Family on the realities of travelling in India with small kids.

 

 

You May Also Enjoy the Following Posts:

Family-Friendly Festivals in India

10 Places to go with Kids in India

A Family Jeep Adventure from Srinagar to Leh

 

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