Figuring out where to go, what to see, and how long to stay can be a daunting process.
We asked Carol Dimopoulos, president of Perillo’s Learning Journeys—which helps yoga and meditation teachers lead retreats in India and other destinations around the world—for her best advice on where to start.
Tip No. 1: Decide when to go
Most experts say the best time to visit India is in winter (from November to March), when cooler temperatures make travel more pleasant, but Dimopoulos says the only time she avoids is late June through mid-August. “After that, you can get great value,” she says. “For example, mid-to-end of September is just after monsoon season and rates are fantastic. And, I always love visiting India during festivals—whether Diwali, Holi, or another—as it’s an incredible way to really immerse yourself in the culture.”
Tip No. 2: Decide where to go
India is vast. It’s also a country where you can find everything from snow-capped mountains to tropical beaches. If it’s your first visit, Dimopoulos suggests focusing your trip in the north. “From a yogic perspective, this is where you’ll find the places that are most important to your understanding of the practice,” she says.
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Tip No. 3: Get a tourist visa
At least one month before you take off, log on to the government website (indianvisaonline.gov.in), where you can pay for a visa that’s good for six months of travel. If you think you might return to India or want to stay longer, Dimopoulos recommends applying for a 10-year visa: “It’s a better value for the money if you’re like many yogis and India calls you back.” If you’ve left applying for a visa to the last minute, you can use a private company such as iVisa, which will help you save time but will likely cost you more.
Tip No. 4: Get vaccinated
While this is a personal choice, and you aren’t required to show proof of vaccinations to get through customs in India, Dimopoulos recommends checking the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) website for vaccination recommendations. “Depending on where you’re traveling, the CDC’s recommendations will be different,” she says. “Talk to your doctor or a travel health specialist about what’s right for you.”
See also Yoga Journal’s Pilgrimage to India
Tip No. 5: Buy travel insurance
This is a must, Dimopoulos says: “Not only does travel insurance cover medical issues that might arise when you’re far away from home, including extreme situations where you might need to be air-evacuated from a location, but it also covers expenses you might encounter due to flight delays and lost baggage.” There are many options when it comes to travel insurance companies. Leave time to do research so you can find a plan that works best for your trip.
Tip No. 6: Book train travel well in advance.
Using the wide-reaching Indian railways network is a convenient, budget-conscious way to travel. However, keep in mind that trains are often booked weeks or even months in advance, which means it’s a good idea to secure train tickets ahead of time. Dimopoulos adds that doing this on your own—as well as trying to find your seats and handle your own baggage—can be daunting. Her advice: Use a licensed agent to help you book train tickets and organize porters to help with your baggage.
Tip No. 7: Know what to pack
Be prepared—and show your respect for Indian culture. There are a few essentials Dimopoulos always brings when she travels to India:
- Lightweight shawls.
“You’ll need to cover your shoulders when you visit temples and participate in ceremonies,” Dimopoulos says.
- Comfortable, easy-to-slip-off footwear.
“You’ll also need to take off your shoes before going into temples or homes in India,” she says.
- Warm layers.
Even if you’re visiting in summer, cities in higher elevations in the north will get chilly at night. “Not to mention there’s a chance you’ll encounter an over-zealous air conditioner at some point,” she says.
- Hand sanitizer.
This is smart for any travel, but it can be especially important in India, where many people eat with their hands and you won’t always find running water or soap in bathrooms.
- Pocket tissues.
These can easily double as toilet paper when needed.
- Ginger chews (or anything else that settles your tummy).
“If you’re driving on winding mountain roads, even those who don’t usually experience motion sickness can get pretty queasy,” Dimopoulos says.
Tip No. 8: Mentally prepare yourself for India
While nothing can really prepare you for traveling to this country for the first time, reading about the culture and learning as much as you can will certainly help prepare you for the shock and sensory overload you’ll likely experience, Dimopoulos says. “India is the kind of place you go to feel with all your senses,” she says. “And while the smells, sounds, tastes, and colors may feel a bit chaotic and overwhelming at first, it’s all part of the experience. Stay open to all of it, and you’ll be able to fully enjoy this incredible country.”
See also 3 Powerful Lessons Learned from a Deep Dive into India’s Yoga
A 5-Minute Meditation to Release Anxiety
Detach from anxiety and come back to the present.
Rina Deshpande shares her quick 5-minute meditation to release anxiety and let go of attachments.
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Yoga Helped Me Face My Fears About Marriage Once and For All
I went to Mexico to rejuvenate, detox, and practice yoga with my boyfriend. Turns out, it would also be where I faced my fears about marriage.
It was a humid sunrise on a quiet, sandy beach in Tulum, Mexico. Despite our previous late-night mezcal tasting beneath the jungle leaves, my longtime boyfriend, Anush, had dragged me out of our tiny thatched-roof cabana at first light.
I adjusted my Beyoncé t-shirt and gray cotton shorts I’d worn to bed as I scanned the horizon. When I turned back to Anush, he was kneeling in the sand, holding a typed love letter and a tourmaline engagement ring.
“Will you marry me?” He asked.
I was so incredulous, I couldn’t speak. Feelings of doubt and darkness coursed through me, even though I’d always imagined a future with him: He was the one person who made me feel seen and cared for and uplifted. Still, I was reluctant to commit.
My parents went through a dramatic and corrosive divorce when I was 13, but the fallout had lasted long after. Most of the great pain in my life has come from marriage—and its ending. Marriage is the thing that has made me most likely to run, and least likely to trust
See also This Guided Meditation Will Inspire You to Live From Your Heart
As I stared at the man I love, these past traumas lit my body from head to toe with alarm bells. How could I marry anyone? But, as I looked at him, I calmed myself down. I silently told myself something I had learned in my yoga and mindfulness practice: Be here now. With that mantra, I slowly came back to the moment. With that mantra, I reminded myself where I was, who I was with—and most importantly, who I am now.
He waited patiently. I started to cry. Finally, I said, “Yes! Yes. Yes. Of course, yes.” He put the ring on my finger, and he held me while I cried. In that moment of “yes,” my world expanded.
We drank champagne and ate fruit in front of the ocean while the Tulum sun rose, pink and hot on our skin. I could hardly believe my good fortune—engaged in Tulum at sunrise. In that moment, instead of fear, I chose gratitude.
I saw a beachfront yoga class almost immediately after—Tulum, thankfully is crawling with them—and I asked my fiance(!), if he’d like to take it together. I was still shaking from the metamorphic decision I had made: unwavering commitment in the face of fear. I hoped familiar asana would steady me. Internally, I repeated my mantra as we walked into a large triangular wood pavilion, perched on a hidden natural cliff in the jungle, overlooking the beach as if it had been there forever.
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Our yoga teacher, a young woman from Mexico City with a sing-song voice, instructed us to let go of our fears, to open our hearts, to experience the beauty of the moment we were in.
I was exactly where I needed to be. I still had my dark corners—I may always—but I could learn to live with them and still claim the life I wanted and deserve. I could live in the present and not in the past. I could be here now, soaking in the jungle, the ocean, in a magnificent place where afterward we would eat fresh coconut and bike carefree down the beach road and hike up Mayan ruins and speak a little Spanish and accept a glorious chocolate mole cake that said “Felicidades.”
As I looked over at the joyful, patient man doing yoga next to me, the waves crashed out ahead. I took his hand for just an instant, and he smiled. And then we raised our arms together, side-by-side, to salute the sun.
See also 7 Simple Ways to Call in More Joy—and Feel Less Stressed
About our author
Gina Tomaine is a yoga teacher and magazine editor in Philadelphia. Her work has been published in Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and other publications. Learn more at gina-tomaine.com.
6 Yoga Teachers Share What They Never Travel Without
Yoga teachers weigh in on what they can’t travel without—plus, our favorite must-brings for every adventure.
1. Under Armour Cotton Fleece Logo Hoodie
“A sweatshirt with pockets and a big-enough hood that I can pull over my eyes and take a quick snooze or do a little yoga nidra on the plane.” —Rosie Acosta
2. Vuori Performance Jogger
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3. Magic Bullet Mini
“I love having the ability to make matcha or a smoothie wherever I go. It’s a game-changer.” —Eoin Finn
4. Primal Defense Ultra Probiotic Formula
5. Ujjaya Balance Bottle
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6. BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow
“A travel pillow that supports my neck is vital for falling asleep on the plane!” —Rina Jakubowicz
7. Mantisyoga Guru Backpack
8. Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones II
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9. HITOP Classic Plaid Tartan Blanket Scarf
“An oversized scarf and my essential oils: I put the oils on my neck and wrap the scarf around me so I can push out airplane germs.” —Kathryn Budig
(from $14, amazon.com)
10. Pangea Organics Frank-incense Essential Oil Roller
“Frankincense helps me connect with my intuition and stay grounded while traveling—plus, it doubles as an organic insect repellent!” —Lauren Eckstrom
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11. Yoga For Bad People Travel Mat
“My travel mat is great for practicing in tropical and humid climes, and it’s super yummy when thrown over a gym or hotel mat—extra cushion without the gunk!” —Heather Lilleston
12. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Shoe
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