So, in order to see the Golden Triangle of India, is a tour necessary?!
While a tour CAN be beneficial in many ways, it IS very possible for you to create your own Golden Triangle itinerary and do it on your own too!
You can get around the Golden Triangle by train, bus, or taxi.
What cities make up the Golden Triangle?
Each of these cities are important for their own reasons.
And if you have more time, it can be worthwhile to venture further out by following a route similar to this Rajasthan itinerary to the city of lakes, blue city, golden city, or for a camel safari in the desert.
And also be sure to see ideas for a one month South India itinerary too!
Golden Triangle map
Where is the Golden Triangle anyway?!
It’s located in North India, and the location means that a Golden Triangle tour can go perfectly alongside a tour of Rajasthan. (And if you want a contrast to North India, one week in Kerala in South India can be perfect too!)
And, if you look at a map of the Golden Triangle… you’ll see that it really does make up a triangle!
The Golden Triangle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
This means that there are plenty of hostels in the Golden Triangle to choose from when you’re traveling on a budget.
Best places to visit in the Golden Triangle
1. Amber Fort, Jaipur
2. Jaipur City Palace
3. Taj Mahal, Agra
4. Agra Fort
5. Qutab Minar, Delhi
- Jaipur itinerary – 3 days and 1 day of famous royal forts
- Agra itinerary
- Tips for visiting the Taj Mahal
The need-to-know India travel tips!
If it’s your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more!
Mosquito repellent tip!!
You can buy good mosquito repellent when you’re in India! There’s a more natural repellent, and it has vitamin E and almond oil in it too… meaning it’s good for your skin too. 😉
India tourist visa tip!
See the current cost of an e-visa by selecting your country. (partner website.) If you’re American, know that you can get a 10-year tourist visa! If you’re fairly certain this Golden Triangle trip is your ONLY trip to India you’ll make, then the e-visa will be a simpler process. American or not, also see about how to get an e-visa for India.
How many days in the Golden Triangle?!
For Delhi, you can easily make it 3 days in Delhi with enough to fill your days. Or if you’re short on time, or your interests aren’t in what the chaos of Delhi offers, then you can make it one day in Delhi too.
5 days in the Golden Triangle
So that would mean it would be ideal if you have at least 5 days in the Golden Triangle, if you make it:
- 2 days in Jaipur
- 1 day in Agra
- 2 days in Delhi
…and you really plan out the transportation between the cities well so you aren’t wasting any time so you can do plenty of activities on the days you travel.
6 days or one week would give you a bit more breathing room, and you can plan it so that you don’t plan anything specific on your travel days.
The distances between these cities is short enough that you won’t NEED a full day of travel.
But extra days will allow you to take it easy in the morning, travel comfortably without stress for a few hours, then maybe take in one sight or tourist attraction when you get to your new destination, and then rest easy in the evening for a full day of activities the next day!
10 days in the Golden Triangle
With THAT type of schedule, this is around 10 days in the Golden Triangle, taking it pretty easy:
- Day 1: Arrive in Delhi
- Day 2: Travel Delhi to Jaipur
- Days 3-4: 2 days in Jaipur
- Day 5: Travel Jaipur to Agra
- Day 6: One day in Agra
- Day 7: Travel Agra to Delhi
- Days 8-9: 2 days in Delhi
- Day 10: Fly out of Delhi!
Jaipur is still a big city in India, but somehow it just seems a little less chaotic, so it could be a better city to start in when it’s your first trip to India.
You can use your arrival day in Delhi to rest up a bit and walk the streets a bit, while saving more of the real touring for the end of your trip.
And once again, if you’re short on time, planning it out very well, you can condense the travel days into the activity days, by allocating half day of time in transit.
How long does it take to get between the cities?
Just to give an idea, the travel time by road is around:
- Delhi to Agra: 4 hours
- Delhi to Jaipur: 5.5 hours
- Jaipur to Agra: 4.5 hours
Your actual time may vary based on your mode of transportation.
You can opt for train, bus, or hired car with driver (taxi). You can even consider booking a flight too.
How to get around the Golden Triangle
Touring the Golden Triangle by bus, train, taxi
By bus travel
When you’re backpacking India on a budget, travel by bus can be a reasonable and reliable way of getting around this part of North India.
Because these distances are relatively short, you can find tons of buses leaving between Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.
There are government buses that you can take, and you can also find slightly more comfortable bus options too.
For government buses, you can just turn up at the bus station with no reservations necessary and catch the next bus to your next destination.
For the more comfortable option (and to be able to reserve a seat so you won’t end up sharing your personal space), you’ll want to book with a private bus company. These bus tickets you would book in advance, but you’ll probably be fine to book it in the days prior, as opposed to weeks in advance.
You won’t need an overnight bus for travel around the Golden Triangle, but in case you’re considering the bus for other parts of your India travel, see an example of travel by overnight bus to North India.
Search for buses through redbus.
How to book bus tickets
You can book bus tickets online through redbus too.
As of May 2019, I’ve recently booked a few tickets with redbus and could use my US number and pay directly with my US credit card.
The first time it did require multiple attempts though, because at first my bank declined the transaction thinking it might be suspicious activity. So if it doesn’t work for you, check your text messages/email to see if you’ve received a notification from your bank about the charge.
You used to need an Indian mobile number, and you needed to use Amazon pay to buy tickets with a foreign credit card. But it seems that’s no longer the case, which is great!
By train travel
Train can also be a reasonable way to travel around the Golden Triangle.
For comfort on the train (well, as comfortable as regular trains in India get!), you’ll want to book a train ticket in AC class – 1AC, 2AC, or 3AC. (The numbers indicating how many berths/sleeper seats are on one side.)
There is also the more comfortable train that’s called the Shatabdi Express.
These Shatabdi Express trains run on the Delhi to Agra route and the Delhi to Jaipur route. It used to also run between Jaipur in Agra, but as of spring 2018 that route got cancelled.
I’ve traveled in both classes, and they are both good options.
So if you’re looking to save a bit of money, chair class on the Shatabdi Express is still a reasonable and comfortable option.
Generally speaking, trains in India do sometimes sell out well in advance.
This can make it challenging to travel by train with seat reservations as it means that it can require planning out your schedule well in advance also.
You can also consider traveling by train without booking in advance by taking the train in general class.
You would buy your ticket at the train station on the day you want to get to your next destination.
But general class means there are no seat reservations, and that means there’s a chance that the train will be crowded and you may not be able to get a seat.
Also keep in mind that generally speaking, trains in India are known for delays. (Another reason to allow a full day of travel for a less stressful day of travel – you don’t need to feel like you must make it to your destination by a certain time!)
The distance between the Golden Triangle cities is short enough that you might consider traveling by general class train to be a reasonable option. (This is compared to an overnight train which I would never go for general class.)
You can search for trains through trainman.
Major train stations in Delhi:
- New Delhi NDLS
- Hazrat Nizamuddin NZM
Train stations in Agra:
- Agra Cantt AGC
- Agra Fort AF
Train station in Jaipur:
- Jaipur JP
Check the train schedule and train ticket costs
Delhi to Jaipur (or Jaipur to Delhi)
Jaipur to Agra (or Agra to Jaipur)
Agra to Delhi (or Agra to Delhi)
How to book train tickets in advance
If you don’t want to risk dealing with a crowded train in general class, you can book tickets in the other classes/compartments.
For the compartments you can book ahead, there’s non-AC (sleeper class) and there’s AC (1AC, 2AC, 3AC). For train travel in the Golden Triangle, really any of these will be just fine. (For overnight travel I would prefer AC.)
It’s possible to buy train tickets online through various India-based booking agencies, as well as directly through the Indian railways website.
You need to create an Indian railways account in order to book tickets through both the IRCTC Indian railways website and other India-based booking agencies like cleartrip.
But it’s generally known that it’s a challenge for foreigners to set up an account, so I haven’t bothered with it.
Instead, if I was booking ahead, I would generally just go to the train station to buy the train tickets when I’m in India.
But if you’re not in India yet and want to book tickets, then I would say buy your tickets through this non-India based booking site 12goAsia. The company is based in (and popular in) Thailand, and has expanded their train ticket bookings to other parts of Asia.
I’ve bought a train ticket through them for train travel from Thailand to Malaysia and it worked out well.
And more relevantly and more importantly, I’ve also booked a train ticket through 12goAsia in India when traveling in South India and it worked perfectly.
You buy the ticket directly through them online, and then you basically get the e-ticket by e-mail which is what you can show on your phone when you are on the train.
There is a “premium” for this convenience in that there’s a slightly extra charge compared to buying directly through IRCTC. Mine was about $5 extra for the ticket. The cancellation policy is also slightly less flexible compared to buying direct. Something like no refunds if it’s within 3 days of your travel date.
By taxi or Uber
Hiring a private car with driver, or taxi, or Uber might also be options to consider.
This can also give you flexibility in making stops along the way.
India is well-connected by flights, especially around the major cities.
Although bus, train, and car are more popular options, you can also have a look to booking a flight too.
Search for domestic flights in India through makemytrip.
Airbnb in Delhi and Jaipur
In many other places around the world, airbnb can be a good way to save money on accommodation.
But for India, guesthouses and hostels are cheap enough that I wouldn’t necessarily say to look at airbnb as a way to save money.
Instead, I think that airbnb can be a good way to find more easily places to stay with modern amenities in a guesthouse or apartment.
Arranging an airbnb before your first trip to India can also give you a local contact to ask questions about your trip to the Golden Triangle.
For the Golden Triangle, I think the best cities to consider an airbnb is in Delhi and Jaipur.
You’ll also find a number of guesthouse and hotels listed on airbnb.
If you haven’t signed up for airbnb yet, sign up through this referral link to get up to US$40 off an airbnb stay!
So that’s the Golden Triangle!
More for your India itinerary
Where to go next after your Golden Triangle tour?!
Of course, there are many more cities to consider if you have more time, like one month in India!
Making a side trip to the holy city Varanasi from Delhi or Agra can make sense too. (Side trip here means a few days.)
It can be a perfect one month in South India.
If you don’t have time to make it to these places for this trip to India, then that just means you’ll have to come back for more!
Have a deeper look at what these places have to offer for the rest of your India trip.
1. Udaipur (city of lakes)
2. Jodhpur (blue city)
3. Jaisalmer (golden city)
4. Thar Desert
Go for an overnight camel safari and sleep under the stars in the desert!
5. KERALA! 😉
…aka South India!
HAPPY GOLDEN TRIANGLE ITINERARY PLANNING!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train!
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India tourist visa tip!Access to India as a foreigner seems to be getting friendlier! There's an e-visa now and this visa fee is far less than it was before. See the current cost of an e-visa by selecting your country. That's a partner website to make the evisa application process less stressful - it's possible to apply on your own too. See about your options on how to get an e-visa for India.
Travel insurance for India - just in case!You get travel insurance hoping that you'll never have to use it. But if you do end up needing to use it, chances are that you will be VERY happy that you did get it! See how to figure out the cost of travel insurance for India.
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!
Retreats in IndiaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, see:
- Yoga retreats in India
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff: