India is a big country. About five times bigger than France and 13 times bigger than the United Kingdom. So, getting around can be a challenge, particularly when travelling with children.
I spent three years living in Delhi and during that time my husband and I would pack up our two young kids and get out of the city as much as possible. We had some wonderful trips and some that were definitely more work than relaxation. However, during that time, we did work out where are the best places to go in India with kids as well as the best way to travel.
Your main options for travelling in India are planes, trains or by car. Buses also criss-cross the country and are what I call an “experience” if you’re a backpacker and “crazy” if you’re a parent! Even the “deluxe” buses can be challenging with children, particularly young ones, as journeys can be long, stops infrequent and the driving erratic.
In cities and towns, you can zip around in an autorickshaw, a three-wheeled motorised vehicle with a tin or canvas roof. Don’t expect seatbelts, however! Tempos and vikrams also roam the streets; these are larger versions of the autorickshaw designed to carry more people (although you will often see lots of people crammed into an auto, too).
Air Travel in India
If you’re short on time then air travel is by far the best way to cover large distances. There are a number of popular low cost domestic airlines including GoAir, IndiGo Jet Airways and SpiceJet. Air India is the country’s national carrier and they also have a low-cost option, Air India Express.
Train Travel in India
Riding the rails is something that you must experience at least once when travelling in India. Indian Railways in the largest rail network in Asia with over 64,000km of track. Incredibly, the railway carries over 23 million passengers every day! Train travel is a wonderful way to get a feel for the country and the people and the whole family will enjoy a train journey, whether it’s for a couple of hours or overnight.
Some of the country’s most scenic train journeys include the Goa Express, from Goa to Karnataka, the Indian Maharaja Deccan Odyssey that runs between Mumbai and Delhi, and the Himalayan Queen, India’s pretty metre-gauge railway famous for its 900 curves, 87 bridges and 102 tunnels. This is a great article on life aboard the longest train ride through India.
Car Travel in India
More often than not (i.e 95% of the time!) when you hire a car in India, it comes with a driver. The option to hire a car and self-drive is still a very new concept in India and, in truth, the chaotic city streets and potholed country ones would test even the best driver. Plus, driving distances can be long, traffic frustrating and road signs non-existent. Train and plane travel are useful for covering long distances but if you’re planning to explore a number of destinations in a state such as Rajasthan or Kerala then hiring a car and driver is the best way to go – especially if you’re travelling with kids. And if you travel to Kerala, then you can explore the region by boat.