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I'm backpacking in northern India in January by myself. How easy will it be to meet other western backpackers and does anyone have any advice on doing so?

I've never been travelling before. I've always heard it's really easy to meet people but I've also heard India is little different as people don't stay in hostels very much.

I don't suppose it matters that much but I'm 27 and from the UK.

I'm flying into Delhi. I'm planning on seeing a few places in Rajasthan and going to Agra. Then a few days in Varanasi before I fly back from Calcutta.

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Northern India is an incredibly broad region. Please edit your question to restrict its scope. –  Ankur Banerjee Dec 23 '12 at 16:50
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Have updated my question. –  jdln Dec 23 '12 at 20:50
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there are websites like couchsurfing.com, warmshowers.org, hospitalityclub.org etc. where you can find and connect with travelers and locals –  Raiyan Dec 26 '12 at 19:35
    
Raiyan is right, but getting started with one of those services (without "references" or knowing anyone) can be harder than finding a good backpacker hostel to stay in. (Just saying.) –  Jonik Dec 26 '12 at 19:56
    
Haven't been to India, but a simple tip: Take a look at a hostel booking/review site. There are several, but I usually use Hostelworld.com. Choose India, New Delhi, and the date. Browse through the results, looking at ratings (especially "Atmosphere") and reading reviews. That said, I tried it and couldn't find any "obviously good" backpacker hostels quickly. Nirvana Hostel was maybe closest, but even that had very mixed reviews. So +1 for a question clearly worth asking! –  Jonik Dec 26 '12 at 20:12

2 Answers 2

Though your question doesn't contain sufficient information but what I can understand you want to travel from Delhi -> Agra -> Rajasthan -> Western (Mumbai/khandala/Pune/Goa) -> to Eastern (Calcutta).

Yes you are right, its very easy to meet people in India but to meet right people is bit sometime. You will be flooded with Tourist guides at every location (most of them are fake/local, don't know much about the place). Its always better to contact Government tourism officer rather than saving few bucks with local adviser. In India, Hostels are not much preferred because you can get a cheap hotel very easily. Hostels are also not well equipped, don't go for it (Keeping your money concern in mind). You can easily get good cheap hotel in some Rs 1500-2500.

For long distance travel like from western part to eastern part (Calcutta), don't forget to book flight ticket in advance. Trains are always running over booked on these routes. By road, it could be tough/hell time consuming. But yes Northern (Delhi) to Western (Mumbai) part is well connected with Highways and expressways.

If you have time don't miss - Leh, Kashmir, Shimla, Manali, Nanital (Northern India part). In western part - khandala, Lonavala, Shirdi (if your religious), Goa. Plan in advance.

Don't forget to bargain in India, you should easily bargain for more than 50% at local shopping places as well as in hotels, private cabs etc.

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You're more explaining how to get around and what to see - which is great, but the question was how to meet westerners. You haven't answered that, which is why you get a downvote from me at present. –  Mark Mayo Jan 2 '13 at 19:09
    
@ Mark, Smiles :) If you are travelling to any country in thoughts that you will definitely find people of your interest, it could be tough. India is also like other countries you can hang with people (westerners, if you want) in pubs, bars and tourist locations. Not being any specific place where you can go and you will meet people of your interest waiting for you, its all matter of chance and luck. I will say, go for it, have confidence in you, you will definitely find what you are looking for. I had many solo trips and can always find people of my interest easily. Good luck! –  kuri Jan 2 '13 at 20:09

I spent some months in Southern India last year and compared with some other parts of the world it was indeed a bit harder to meet other travellers. I haven't been to the North of the country yet but I assume it is similar.

Some of the best places to meet people is in your dorm room or the hostel kitchen. India doesn't really have that many hostels or a hostel culture like other countries do. I mostly stayed in cheap hotels where I did not meet anybody. If you go with the hotels recommended in Lonely Planet or other guide books you have higher chances to meet people. But most places don't have (nice) common areas to hang out.

There are some neighbourhoods that are full of tourists, there are bars and restaurants so if you are good at chatting up people in a pub, you can try that. I find it actually harder to meet people in a tourist area than in a remote area with very few tourists. If there is only one other westerner in town, you talk to him/her almost automatically.

When I think back to last year, here's how I met most people:

  • While on a bus or a train you have time to look/walk around and talk to other travellers, chances are you are getting of at the same stop and can share a cab or public transport to the hotel.

  • At major sightseeing spots there almost always other westerners, you can start asking them about the place and what's the coolest thing they have seen there.

  • In restaurants ask people about their food and where they've been so far.

  • If you do any organized tours, you will spend some hours with other tourists on a bus/boat and most times that leads at least to a dinner in the evening.

The places you are going to are very touristy and there will be many other westerners, so it depends a little bit on yourself how many people you will meet. In general I would say it it much easier to meet people when in a foreign country compared to home.

Compared with many other countries many locals also speak good English and many are interested in talking to you, but keep in mind that often in the end they want to sell you something. Keep an open kind, you can always walk away later.

If you are female take extra care about what bus you are getting on.

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