Celebrating Holi with Kids: Holi Activities at Home

One of our favorite memories of when we lived in India was celebrating Holi with kids. For the years we lived there, we never missed one and we knew we needed to carry on the tradition once we arrived to the US. Along with celebrating Diwali each year to not only to keep up connections to where my son was born, we have found celebrating these holidays to be a great way to share this snippet of life in India with our friends here.

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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting the Taj Mahal in India

If you are on a trip to India, the you will surely be planning visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. As one of the premier attractions in India it is on every bucket list, but there is a lot of information to know before you go to ensure you have the best visit. 

This white marble magnificence was ordered to be built by Shah Jahan for his most loved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Often called a monument to love, the Taj Mahal is spellbinding, no matter how many times you see it. 

After living in India for a decade and visiting the Taj Mahal many times throughout the years, with and without kids, I share with you my top 10 mistakes to avoid when visiting the Taj Mahal. Make sure to read all of this as it contains very important information that will make or break your once in a lifetime visit to this iconic landmark. 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Trip to India

India is a favorite destination among travelers for its varied and interesting culture, natural beauty and of course food. Planning a trip to India for the first time can feel daunting, but it’s not really that bad once you do a little bit of research!

After 10 years of living in India and more than 15 years of traveling to the country, I share the biggest mistakes tourists make when planning a trip to India. Read on to find out all you need to know when planning a trip to India.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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7 Spectacular Places to Visit In Delhi

Are you heading to New Delhi in India? Whether it’s your first or 100th visit, we have all the best places to visit in Delhi to ensure you have the best time.

Delhi, the capital of India, is for most visitors their first view of what this fascinating country has to offer. Filled with breathtaking forts, mosques and monuments from the days of Mughal rulers alongside markers of a new, modern country that is taking hold. The contrasts between the congested, narrow roads in Old Delhi and the well-planned green New Delhi is quite striking. The city can either be overwhelming or totally engrossing, depending on how you approach it.

Having visited a handful of times, usually spending most of my time in Old Delhi being hassled by touts, I wanted to discover something new and find a way to get the real pulse of the city. On my most recent visit, I set off on a adventure looking for the best places to visit in Delhi to get a real feel of what’s happening today.

I definitely recommend spending at least some time in Old Delhi at Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid and the Red Fort, but when you are ready to get out of the craziness head to New Delhi for some of the best places to eat, shop and experience the city.  While much of this is applicable to families as well, if you have kids, check out what else is on our top picks of what to do in Delhi with kids. Otherwise, keep reading for our top picks for things to do in Delhi.

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Where to Stay in Mumbai: An Insider’s Guide to the Best Hotels in Mumbai

Heading to India and wondering where to stay in Mumbai? We have you covered with our insiders guide to the best places to stay in Mumbai from hotels near the Mumbai airport to hotels in Bandra and beyond. Some of the best hotels in the city are not located in the main tourist areas, but … Read more

Top 5 Weekend Getaways From Mumbai

Living in one of India’s largest cities is life changing. Mumbai, a city of millions, where the past, present and future can be seen in one square block is exciting, chaotic and sometimes overwhelming. Being a resident here, you learn not only to survive but thrive in epic traffic jams and seasonal flooding all while living it up in a fascinating cosmopolitan city.

Even with all there is to love in this great city, there are times when you just need to escape to rejuvenate and relax away from the hustle and bustle. After 10 years in this vibrant city, we had our fair share of weekend getaways from Mumbai. Some are close and easy to drive to, some require a ferry, train or even a flight – but they all share one thing in common – a total removal from the vibrant city we call home. Read on for our top 5 weekend getaways from Mumbai.

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What to Pack for India (& What to Buy There)

What to pack for India (and what to buy there)If you are like me, you probably tend to over pack for destinations that you don’t know personally. I find this especially true when visiting a developing country.  On my first visit to India I took WAY more than I needed. I listened to people who had only visited the country for short times and who also probably took way too much!

I had loads of medical supplies, so many clothes that were too hot to wear there, inappropriate shoes etc. After living and traveling the country for more 14 years, I now know what to pack for India and what to buy there. Read on for my top travel essentials for India and a free downloadable India packing list.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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Palace on Wheels Train: A Journey Through Rajasthan

Palace on Wheels Train Journey Through RajasthanMost first-timers in India focus on exploring the well known Golden Triangle area of the country that encompasses Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It is here that you can experience the hustle and bustle of Old Delhi, while also getting inspired by the world’s most famous monument to love at the Taj Mahal in Agra before heading into the beautiful pink city of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

There are few regions more fascinating than Rajasthan. With opulent palaces, historic forts and animals galore, you are fully immersed into the history and culture of India, both past and present. Travel here is a sensory experience on all levels – the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Rajasthan provide visitors a perfect sampling of what the country has to offer. Trust me, as soon as you spot women in their bright pink or orange sari’s, you will be swooning.

Palace on Wheels Train Journey Through RajasthanGiven that Rajasthan embodies the classic image that fills most people’s imagination about India, it’s only fitting that one of the country’s most popular train journeys, the Palace on Wheels, traverses 3000 kilometers through this colorful desert state.

Spanning a large portion of northwest India, Rajasthan is massive, and virtually impossible to fully experience even on a longer trip. That said, the Palace on Wheels train journey offers an amazing itinerary hitting the major sights of the state in a very short amount of time. In just 7 nights, the Palace on Wheels includes the Golden Triangle, two national parks and more forts and palaces than you can count.

Read on for more information and our Palace on Wheels review on this iconic traditional train journey taking visitors though one of India’s most beautiful states.

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How to Get a SIM Chip in India

how to get a SIM chip in IndiaOne of the most frustrating things while traveling is not knowing how to stay connected. Historically it has been very difficult to get a SIM chip in India, however I am happy to report things have been streamlined and it’s getting much easier. In addition, there are also other great options that previously didn’t exist for tourists coming for a short duration. Read on to find out how to get a SIM chip in India for your next visit.

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Traveling by Luxury Trains in India

Traveling by Luxury train in India

If you follow me on social media you will have surely heard that I’m heading back to India to catch a ride on one of India’s most famous trains, the Palace on Wheels. Living in India for years I had heard many tales of the gloriousness of the Palace on Wheels train, but never had the opportunity to check it out. Therefore, you can imagine how excited I was to be chosen to participate in the Great India Blog Train and to get a room on one of the best luxury trains in India, the Palace on Wheels.

As part of India’s promotion of luxury train travel in India, the Great India Blog Train includes several other luxury trains that I had never heard of, but sound pretty spectacular. Since I hadn’t heard of these other trains even after years of living in the country, I thought it would be nice to share more information on each of these trains with you guys.

Travel by train in India has and continues to be one of the main methods of transportation in this vast country, so it’s no surprise the rise in popularity of special luxury trains crisscrossing the country.

The concept of traveling by luxury trains in India is that you will travel from one town to another mostly overnight in the comfort of private sleeping quarters, while enjoying prepaid organized group excursions in each town on the itinerary. Think a cruise on wheels essentially! The luxury train is a perfect way for tourists to get their feet wet in India without having to deal with the hassle of moving accomodation every day, figuring out where to eat or sorting their own tours or English speaking guides.

For the adventure traveler, an all inclusive guided tour may not be their cup of tea, but for families or adults who do not feel so confident traveling to India on a first adventure, this is a wonderful option in the travel market.

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Top 3 Boutique Hotels in Kerala

Top 3 boutique hotels in KeralaOne of my favorite things about traveling in Asia are the amazing luxurious hotels at reasonable rates. During our years in India, the country in general was often behind the game when it came to boutique hotels, which meant most of the time we were trained to look for the international chain 5 star hotels if we wanted some luxury. However, Kerala was a different story. The southern most state of India always seemed to have a leg up on the rest of the country with an abundance of cute, inspiring boutique hotels. On our last visit, we had the opportunity to stay at several that we think are well worth checking out.

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Rickshaw Run FAQs

Rickshaw Run FAQsIf you have found yourself here, chances are you are considering or have already signed up for the Rickshaw Run that happens several times a year in India. If you have an adventurous spirit and a little bit of the crazy gene, a desire to see India in a way most people don’t and are willing to risk limbs for it, then this is something you should aim to do. Don’t panic though, it will be amazing. Driving an auto rickshaw across India in the name of charity continues to be one of the most adventurous things I have done in my life. And it ruled. Ok. Truth be told, it actually probably sucked more often than it was awesome at the time, but now looking back, it was the most exhilarating adventure I had in my many years of living in India. Even with years of Mumbai living under my belt, the Rickshaw Run is what truly opened my eyes to the greatness of India and her people.

In the years since doing the Rickshaw Run, we have been asked the same questions over and over, so I decided to finally collate my years of emails and share the answers here with you.

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Tips to Survive the Rickshaw Run

Tips on Surviving the Rickshaw RunYou’ve done it, you have taken the plunge and signed up for the Rickshaw Run. Congratulations! It will be the best adventure of your life, I promise.  But it won’t always be easy!

The Rickshaw Run is adventure travel on steroids. It is intense, unconventional and most of all, occurs in a country known to be chaotic, infuriating and intoxicating. You will not leave this journey without learning something about the inner workings of India and how you manage under extreme stress. (If  you have no idea what I’m talking about, read our intro post here.)

Having already lived in Mumbai for 5 years, we were at an advantage while doing the Rickshaw Run. We had a much better sense of how the country worked as well as a bit of the language under our belt. We saw some fellow teams suffer unnecessarily along the route without an insider’s knowledge of India.  So, without further ado, here are some tips to help make your journey a little easier!

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7 Fun Ways to Celebrate Diwali with Kids

One of our favorite festivals during our time in India was Diwali, known in Sanskrit as Deepavali. It gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that are lit outside of people’s homes. Basically, Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the beginning of a new year. It is celebrated for 3 to 5 days every year between mid October and mid November, based on the Hindu lunar calendar.

Diyas: 7 ways to celebrate Diwali with Kids
Photo via Flickr

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of India’s most popular and important festivals. To an outsider, it looks similar to Christmas and New Year combined.  Houses are cleaned, presents are purchased, fairy lights are hung up and fireworks are set off.  This is also the time of year (in India) when staff receive yearly bonuses, families buy new clothes and businesses start a new fiscal year.

Even though people from all religions participate to some extent, it is primarily a Hindu holiday which remains as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. 

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Ganesh Chaturthi: In Photos

Ganpati: In PhotosOne of my favorite Indian festivals is the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi. This 11 day festival takes over the city of Mumbai, giving a festive feel to an already bustling city. For more information on the celebrations and tips on how you can experience it, read our post about it here.

While the immersion celebrations are fascinating to watch and participate in, my favorite thing to do during Ganpati was to visit as many of the mandals around town as I could during the 11 day festival. Seeing the Ganesha idols in their temporary homes with local devotees passing out sweets was the best way to experience this popular Hindu festival.

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Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai

Celebrating Ganesh ChaturiGanesh Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrating the elephant-headed god Ganesh (also called Ganpati or Ganesha). Ganesh is one of India’s most well known gods. He is highly revered as the remover of obstacles, the god of new beginnings and the god of good fortune. Because of this, his image is found everywhere in India and he is invoked before the undertaking of any task.

Ganpati, as the festival is colloquially known, is one of my favorite holidays in India (second only to Holi). It is a long festival that completely takes over the city of Mumbai sweeping everyone up in its delightful chaos. It is also the time of year when my son was born. From a young age my son gravitated towards anything elephant. Maybe his being born on the auspicious final submersion day really did create a connection to Ganesh!

Ganpati is celebrated between August and September, based on the moon cycle.  Celebrations last for 11 days ending with a raucous celebration and submersion into a body of water on the last day. While celebrated all over India, the most elaborate celebrations happen in Mumbai and throughout the state of Maharashtra. If you are in India during this time, find your way to Mumbai!

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Places to Visit in Kerala with Kids

Places to Visit in Kerala with KidsIndia is one of those places that so many people dream of visiting. However, that dream often dies when children come on the scene. Everyone says “NO, you can’t go to India with kids!” Actually, you can.  I won’t lie, a trip to India will be challenging, but it will fill your heart and soul like no other place on earth. Kerala, in the South of India, is a wonderful mellow introduction to India for the whole family.

From lazing on beautiful beaches, hiking in mountainous tea plantations to exploring the jungle and cruising the backwaters, a trip to Kerala is a dream for outdoor families. Without massive highways or crowded cities to contend with, a visit to South India can be full of quiet serenity, which is usually not synonymous with travel in India! 

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Being a Woman in India | Thoughts on Safety

Being a Woman in IndiaI lived in India for close to a decade. I’m white, blonde haired and blue eyed. The first night I arrived to India, minutes from the airport, I was assaulted in a taxi. During the floods of 2005 in Maharashtra where 1000 people died, I was assaulted while walking home in waist high water.  The times of breast and crotch groping are too numerous to list.

Did I feel safe in India, you ask? Yes.

Are all female travelers safe there? No, not at all.

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Insider’s Guide: Best Shopping in Mumbai

The Insider’s Guide to Mumbai series is loaded with information to help you visit and explore this expansive and vibrant city like a local. After living as an expat for so many years, I found that to really get to know a city quickly you need to stay outside of the tourist zones and hang out and eat where the … Read more

The Most Beautiful Hotel in Udaipur – Devi Garh Palace

Devi Garh Palace (Udaipur, India) The difficult part of living abroad is that eventually you have to leave. When our time was almost up in India, I knew I had to fit in a few more places from my never ending (India) bucket list. One of these was the beautiful (and expensive!) RASS Devi Garh Palace … Read more