A few years ago, my uncle went to India for a wedding. It was a traditional ceremony that lasted days, and per tradition, he spent a few days following the wedding traveling with the bride and groom and other close friends before parting ways: them off for a honeymoon and he and the others to explore the rest of the country. He shared some of his transportation tips with me, and I also did some research for my someday trip — I keep adding to my bucket list!
Like in most cities, travel by bus is the cheapest way to get around and convenient in that they go pretty much anywhere more frequently than trains or planes. Be forewarned though — roads in India are notoriously dangerous, and drivers have a reputation of being reckless and risky. They aren’t glamorous, either — crowded and with no air conditioning (and always the potential for an accident), buses are really a last resort for many travelers.
Train travel is much more tolerable than buses for a longer ride, and a much safer alternative. It’s also a huge part of a true Indian experience, and by far the most popular travel option between cities. India has a very extensive network, and because there are many options as far as accommodations, it’s something that can really fit any budget. It’s wel worth the slight price increase over buses for the safety and reliability factor.
I was surprised to learn that travel by hired car is sometimes comparable to trains as far as costs are concerned. They also offer a lot of flexibility — it’s easy to stop and spend some more time at a destination along your way. You are, of course, still putting yourself on the roads with the infamous buses, but with a professional behind the wheel you’ll be in for a much better ride! One of my uncle’s highlights from his trip was renting a motorcycle for a day (he also doesn’t always think every decision through!). Some people do try to tour the country by bike, but I’m just thinking about the practicality of carrying your belongings and would suggest it more for a day experience.
India is a BIG country! If you’re going to be traveling between a few different cities, it could be worth your time to hope on a quick domestic flight. There are a few major airlines, and also a constant cycle of budget airlines popping up. For shorter trips where you want to fit a lot in, this will definitely save you travel time but remember — you’re going to be on a plane for a long time just to get to and from the country, so don’t forget about the other options!