It can be tough to plan out a trip before heading to a country and getting your feet on the ground, but at times it is necessary. For an upcoming trip to India, I barely have enough time to see and do what I want to, so hitting the ground running is a must. Not to mention, trains in India get booked up weeks, if not months in advance especially if you’re looking to travel in an air conditioned sleeper car — which I am. As it stands, planning the trip three weeks before arrival in India, a few train options were already sold out which led me to book a couple plane tickets as well.
Throughout the course of planning this trip I’ve found some great tools that made it relatively straightforward. Here are the best India travel booking sites I’ve found.
Skyscanner is hands down the best site to book flights in India. The national carriers and all budget carriers except for TruJet will show up. TruJet only has operations in seven cities, so depending on where you are traveling it may not even apply to you, but check their site separately to confirm and see if flights have better options and/or pricing for your needs.
Land transit is where it gets interesting. Train travel is a super cheap way to travel and pretty convenient because night trans can offset the cost of lodging. Figuring out the booking system for land transit proved to be a bit of a challenge.
Cleartrip is the solution. You will have to create an account with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Cooperation and link that account to your Cleatrip account. This process takes approximately one day unless you have an Indian cell phone number to receive a mobile verification code. If you don’t, you will need to email a copy of your passport in order to get the code to verify your account. Once your account is verified, you can link it to your Cleartrip account.
You may find that the Train Availability Calendar is also useful as it shows all trains operating within a 15 day window and how many seats are available in the class that you search for.
I only booked one bus ticket for my trip, so I have less knowledge of Travelyaari, but it served my needs well for the ticket I booked. The thing I absolutely love about Travelyaari is that you are able to select your exact seat.
There are a lot of different lodging options in India — assuming you’re not going to be spending every night on a night train or night bus! Value-wise I would not really consider staying in a big brand hotel in India. In many cases they are nice, but not worth the cost either in dollars or points. Instead, I would stay at hostels or airbnbs. Boutique hotels could be an option in some areas, but for the south west region where I will be traveling I didn’t find any that had a good enough cost/quality combination to surpass staying in hostels or at airbnbs.
If you’ve never stayed at an Airbnb before, I highly recommend it. You can sign up for an account on the Airbnb. If you sign up using my link we will both get $25. I always book hostels on Hostelworld for their large selection, rating system, and general organization.