Even without kids, India is by no means an easy country to travel. The bewildering concoction of noise, chaos and commotion, can be a shocking assault on the senses for any first timer. However, for those that take on the challenge, it may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your travelling lives. And with kids along for the ride, well they will just help to break down any cultural barriers, slow you down for the better, and enable you to appreciate the smaller details of everyday travel. So here is the truth about travelling India with Kids.
Due to an opportunity which arose through my husband’s work, we spent almost a year living in Bangalore with our two boys (aged 1 and 3 when we arrived). In that year, we took every possible opportunity to travel India with Kids; whether it be a long weekend exploring Hampi or Kochi, or a couple of weeks to explore the palaces and forts of Rajasthan and witness ceremonies on the River Ganges, or seeing the New Year in on the sun-drenched beaches of Goa. We used sleeper trains and autos (tuk-tuks) where possible, ate in local restaurants and tried to soak up all that India had to offer.
Many people raise their eyebrows when we tell them the places we travelled in India with kids so young. Admittedly it wasn’t all easy. The bureaucracy frequently drove us insane, the chaos can be draining and the lack of sanitisation unnerving. But, every day was an adventure full of colour and vibrancy, and there is an infectious energy that gets under your skin and makes you yearn for more. Plus, our kids loved it! They saw past all the dirt and were oblivious to the bureaucracy. For them, India was an incredible sensory playground. Parents, just ensure you plan, book ahead, and take it slow.
I have lots of tips on my blog for travelling India with kids (such as the best time to travel, how to plan and what to take) as well as destination guides for families. However, there are so many misconceptions surrounding India travel that discourage families from adding it to their list. Some of these may be right, but many are wrong, and I just wanted to take the opportunity to dispel a few.
It’s guaranteed your kids will get Delhi Belly.
In the year that we were living in India with kids, my boys never got sick. Honestly. Us parents, perhaps a couple of times. But the boys were absolutely fine. That is, until we headed back to the UK for a visit in Autumn and returned with snuffly noses. We were careful about where we ate (busy, reputable restaurants where the food is moving) and always had sanitiser to hand.
It’s too much of a sensory overload for children
Yes. It can definitely be. For adults too! So you experience it in small doses and don’t pack too much into your day. Ensure your accommodation is an oasis from the chaos (accommodation in India is very good value, so you can afford to stay somewhere a bit nicer than usual) and plan some beach time in Goa towards the end of your trip. However, kids will absolutely love careering around cities in an auto, exploring hidden tunnels of ancient forts, and walking around the markets (we always gave ours a little shopping list of their own).
You need a driver to travel India
Not at all. Admittedly it may be easier with a driver and you can travel with more luggage. However, there is a good train network across the country (just ensure you plan your route and book in advance, ideally 2AC or above for comfort) and you will always be able to flag down an auto to take you to your next port of call. Public transport enables you to understand a culture better and most kids would pick a train ride over being buckled in a car seat, surely?
You will constantly be hassled for selfies
Perhaps more so than any other country, Indians love taking selfies with Westerners, particularly if you have very fair children. Sometimes these requests can be overly persistent and sometimes people don’t ask. Take the lead from your children. If they are unhappy, be polite and firm and say ‘No thank you’ and walk away. You will then generally be left alone.
The poverty is too confronting
India has a strong class-based system and the gap between rich and poor is heartbreaking. My boys would see children begging on the streets and ask me where their mummy and daddy were. They learnt that we are not all the same and we all need to look after one another. On leaving India, my then 4yo was happy to leave all his toys to a charity for street kids, knowing that it would make another little boy or girl very happy.
You need a lot of injections and antimalarials
You do not need antimalarials for India. However, you do need to protect yourselves from mosquitoes due to Dengue Fever in the monsoonal months (April to July, although these months are are really too hot to be travelling India with kids). Hep A and Tetanus are advised, which you can get on the NHS. Rabies is only advisable if travelling very off the beaten track, which is unlikely with little ones. However, please consult a medical practitioner for up do date advice.
The truth about travelling India with kids is a guest post by Jenny Lynn from www.travelynnfamily.com