Capital City New Delhi
Population: 1,210,000,000
Currency: Rupee (INR)
Language: Hindi, English, various others
Calling Code: +91

Every year, millions and millions of people think about going to India. And every year, the majority of them decide to head elsewhere, dissuaded by their preconceived notions of the second most populous country on earth. It’s true: India is filled with poverty. It does have a completely different way of life. And yes, it does have an overwhelming stench at times. But what people forget is this: there’s no place on earth that enchants the senses like this country, and a gap year in India is one of the best choices anyone could ever make.

India is big. Really big. From the mountains of the north, through the arid centre and to the tropical climates of the south, every day will throw up something new. But one thing does remain constant – India will constantly challenge your preconceived notions, and the people you encounter will prove to be some of the friendliest on the planet. Most backpackers head for the big tourist spots – New Delhi, Goa, Varanasi, Agra – and why not? There’s enough here to keep anyone busy. But there are hidden treasures in this country as well, and you just need to be able to survive massive train journeys in order to find them (the Indian railway system is an experience in itself)…

There’s Meghalaya, the wettest place on the planet, with its abundance of natural sights, and there’s Maheshwar, which is a great alternative to the touristy Varanasi. Then there’s the Spiti Valley, high in the mountains, which provides some of the sceneries you are ever likely to see. We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t see the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the beautiful Goan beaches – in fact, they are all essential to any gap year in India – but make sure you get out there and dig a bit deeper to find the real India.

Working in India

Don’t even bother thinking about working in India, as there just aren’t any opportunities. Even if there were, you can be almost guaranteed that the Indian bureaucratic system would intervene at some point along the way. Instead, you might want to give some of your time over to volunteering, which can range from working with kids in New Delhi or Mumbai, through to helping out at animal sanctuaries. Many people volunteer in India, and nearly all of them find it to be an eye-opening experience.

Where Next?

India is perfectly located for onward travel. There’s China to the north and the Middle East is just a few hours away by air. Most backpackers choose to head on to South-East Asia though – usually Thailand – and who are we to argue with this choice? The truth is that India is so well served by airlines that you can get anywhere you want to after your gap year in India is finished.

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