The magic of India has been captivating British travellers for generations thanks to the two countries’ historic ties. But there’s more to this fascinating land than tea and cricket. From the shimmering Indian Ocean to the remote Nepalese borderland, the dizzy whirl of Mumbai to the hushed temples of Andhra Pradesh, the world-famous landmarks of the Golden Triangle to the protected wildlife reserves of Kerala, this hospitable country delivers a feast for the senses – including the taste buds! And with an ever-expanding menu of cheap flights to India, you can afford to go back for seconds.
India’s diverse climate generates a corresponding range of seasonal variety from region to region. The country generally receives the bulk of its rainfall between June and October, bringing with it a humidity that’s less intense in the countryside. Check out the monsoon season for your chosen destination in advance – although this might be the cheapest time to travel, you may prefer to wait for better weather. December to February are the coolest months overall, so if you’re planning to pack in plenty of sightseeing, this is a good time to visit. Budget flights to India should be reasonably easy to find at any time of year if you’re prepared to shop around and steer clear of the most important religious festivals such as Diwali (late October/November) and Holi (late February/March), when demand reaches a peak.
Direct flights from London Heathrow to India’s most populous city, Mumbai, take around 9 hours, with a choice of carrier including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways. Oman Air offers competitive fares on the same route via Muscat, with the quickest journey time under 12 hours, while Etihad flies from Manchester via Abu Dhabi. New Delhi, the Indian capital, is a busy hub for incoming flights and onward connections – direct services include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow, among others. Flights to Amritsar, the spiritual epicentre of Punjab, are provided by Qatar Airways from Birmingham or London Heathrow via Doha. The unique heritage of Kolkata is just 14 hours away thanks to Jet Airway’s London Heathrow route via Mumbai, while Etihad Airways operates a one-stop service to the cosmopolitan southern hub of Bangalore from Manchester via Abu Dhabi.
Public transport provision in India varies from city to city, so check the website of your destination airport carefully before you arrive. Most international airports will have onsite taxi ranks as well as local bus services. Be sure to have some small change in the local currency (rupee) to make it easier to pay your fare. As the main gateway to India, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport is well equipped for international travellers. Choose from a fleet of taxis – which can also be booked online up to 3 hours prior to arrival – or hop on the suburban railway to connect with all parts of the city and suburbs. Take advantage of the number of bus routes that serve the terminal, or get your first taste of public transport Indian-style with a ride in an auto rickshaw. New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport is linked to the city’s efficient metro network by an express line to the central station, with a journey time of around 25 minutes.
If it’s your first time in India, there’s no better introduction than the iconic Taj Mahal at dawn. The Golden Triangle takes in the most important historic sights of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, allowing you to explore the Red Fort, the Pink City and the atmospheric bazaars of Delhi in one easy tour. Go in search of temples in Amritsar, Mughal fortresses in Rajasthan or Bengal tigers in Madhya Pradesh. Get your pulse racing on a trek through the Kullu Valley, or chill out on a dreamy Goan beach. But don’t try to squeeze in everything in one visit – like the best Indian meal, it pays to linger and digest slowly.
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