So you’re looking at planning your first trip to India, and you’re trying to figure out your backpacking India itinerary, where to go, and how many days to spend in each city.
One month in India can give you the chance to take things a bit more slowly and to get a nice introduction to travel in India!
Or you can start in south India!
Here will give you an idea on some of what you might be able to expect when you’ll be traveling around South India on a budget!
South India itinerary when backpacking India
Below is a mini South India travel guide and ideas for backpacking India and ideas on things to do in India.
First, the quick list of the must-visit places for traveling around south India.
Then, this guide also includes ideas on your route, including how you can get around India on a budget from place to place by public transportation.
And then, a more detailed look into how you can plan out your route to go to these places during your one month in India!
Best places to visit in South India
Now first is the short list of places to consider prioritizing, or at least make the “core” places to visit in South India.
And then you can consider looking at the other cities based on which interests you the most!
But if you ONLY go to these top 6 places to prioritize, you’ll likely end up having a perfect first trip to India too!
So the important thing to know is to try not to cram too much into your one month.
Be sure to allow some time to take it easy when you’re traveling around India!
6 top places to visit in India in one month
Chaotic city in India
Chill beach vibes in India
Historical ruins in India
Palace in India
Chill vibes and backwaters in India
Chill vibes and ocean views in India
Because it is SO hard to create just ONE South India itinerary…
Mainly since different people have different preferences…
Here are a few more of the top places to visit in South India that you may want to make a visit to.
It’s not realistic to fit ALL of these places listed above and below into your one month itinerary, but this will give you a starting point of a list of cities to further research to see if you also want to add any of these cities to your own priority list!
So to continue…
More top places to visit in South India
8. Fort Cochin
Colonial history in India. You can make this your first stop in Kerala
Tea plantations in India. You can go here after Cochin and/or before Alleppey
Southern tip of India. You can go here after Varkala and Kerala
Temple city in India and one of the holiest cities in India… you can go here after Kanyakumari. Or if you’re coming from Sri Lanka, Madurai is often one of the cheapest flights from Sri Lanka to India.
French Quarter of India… You can go here if you’re flying into or out of Chennai. Chennai often offers among the cheapest flights from Southeast Asia to India.
Historical sites with chill beach vibes… You can make a day trip here when staying in Chennai or Pondicherry
- Maharashtra (Mumbai)
- Karnataka (Hampi, Mysore, Gokarna)
- Kerala (Alleppey, Varkala, Cochin, Munnar)
- Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari, Madurai, Mahabalipuram)
- Pondicherry (territory)
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 South India 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.
Some more details on how to further plan your one month in South India to see if you’ll want to follow this itinerary for your first trip to India!
How to put South India’s top backpacker cities into a one month itinerary?!
How to spend one month in India:
- 2-3 days in Mumbai
- 3-4 days in Goa
- 2-3 days in Hampi
- 1-2 days in Mysore
- 1-2 days in Alleppey
- 1-2 days in Varkala
So these days don’t add up to a month.
The number of days to spend in each city is SO flexible!
This gives you extra time in case you decide you want to stay in one place longer.
This also gives you time to add in extra nearby places along the way that interest you.
But listed numbers are just to give you an idea.
You may find that you want to spend more time in each place because you like the vibe, or maybe you’re ready to move on sooner!
But I really think that if it’s your first trip to India and you go to all of these places, you will leave India feeling like you need to come back to India for more!
You know, like spending a few weeks in Rajasthan. 😉
Getting around South India on a budget
- Mumbai to Goa overnight bus
- Goa to Hampi train or overnight bus
- Hampi to Mysore train
- Mysore to Alleppey train(s)
- Alleppey to Varkala ferry + bus (or Alleppey to Varkala train)
Getting around India by bus
Bus can be a reasonable way to travel around India.
I have been on plenty of overnight buses and daytime local government buses in India alone, and I think it’s a fine way to travel.
When you’re backpacking India on a budget, overnight bus travel can be a good way to get between many of the cities because of the longer distance.
And here are the basics to know about sleeper bus travel in India!
You can search for bus timings on redbus, and you can book your bus ticket that way too.
Overnight AC buses might cost around 700 rupees (US$10).
Daytime local bus
If you’re going a shorter distance of 2-6 hours, then traveling by local bus can also be a reasonable option.
For these types of buses, you don’t need to book in advance, and you’ll pay for the bus ticket once you’re on the bus.
To give you an idea of what local bus travel might be like, see an example of travel by bus in South India around Goa.
A 4-6 hour local bus might cost around 100-150 rupees (US$2).
Getting around India by train
Train can also be a reasonable way to travel around India.
I have also been on a number of overnight trains and daytime general class trains in India alone, and again, I think it’s a fine way to travel.
But given the distance of most of the places you’ll likely be traveling, it will be best to reserve your seat ahead of time for many of the train routes.
This is more or less mostly because certain routes could be good to choose overnight train travel.
That’s because generally speaking, trains in India do sometimes sell out well in advance.
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.)
But sleeper class (which is non-AC) can work out fine too, and it’s cheaper.
To see more of what a train looks like inside, have a look at this AC train ride.
A non-AC sleeper class overnight train might cost around 300 rupees (US$5). An AC overnight train might cost around 1,000-2,000 rupees (US$15-30).
Daytime general class train
It is also possible to travel by train in India and buy your ticket on the day of, but this is generally best for shorter train journeys.
That’s because you can also travel by train in general class without any specific seat reservations.
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.
For longer train journeys, you might want a seat reservation for comfort.
Also keep in mind that generally speaking, trains in India are known for delays.
A 2-3 hour general class train might cost 30 rupees (US$0.50).
Whether you’re going for overnight train or daytime train, you can search for train timings through trainman.
Getting around India by ferry
There are also a number of places in India in which a short boat ride might be a way to get around!
This can make it a unique way to get around.
These might be simple 5-10 minute boat rides to simply get across the water when you’re exploring a specific area, and it might cost you like 10 rupees (US$0.15).
Many times you can take a bicycle or a scooter with you on the boat.
Some of these commuter ferries also accept regular vehicles too, like a rickshaw or a car.
Or some ferries in India can be a boat ride of several hours too.
I’ve taken ferries in Goa, ferries in Hampi, and ferries near Gokarna, and these were 5-10 minute boat rides.
I’ve also taken a number of ferries in Kerala, and these were generally to travel a bit further, sometimes a few hours.
Getting around India by rickshaw
When you are in any given city in India, taking an auto rickshaw might be an effective way to get around the city.
How much you pay for a rickshaw will completely depend on the distance you’re going, but you might pay something like 50 rupees to 200 rupees (US$1-3) for a single rickshaw ride.
Other times, simply walking might be a good way to get around a city!
In bigger cities, it’s possible to get around by Uber or Ola ride sharing taxi services too.
Where to stay in India
India’s backpacker culture is expanding, and this means that there are now a good number of hostels in India to choose from.
There are many hostels with AC dorm beds, and these might be around 500 rupees (US$7) per bed.
There may be some popular backpacker cities that don’t have a huge variety of hostels, but in these places there are still decent budget accommodation options.
There are a few backpacker hostel chains across India now, with Zostel being among the most popular.
What are the best things to do in South India?!
If you’re looking for a long international flight to get to India, chances are Mumbai will be among the cheapest cities in South India to fly into.
And Mumbai can also make a nice gateway to India.
I think a lot of being in Mumbai is more or less about just being there.
So no matter what you choose to do, you’ll be sure to get a fine intro to Mumbai!
But in case you’re looking for specific things to do, many of the main “tourist attractions” are around South Mumbai.
If you are looking to take in some Mumbai nightlife, you may look into staying around the neighborhood of Bandra.
South India travel in pictures: Best things to do in Mumbai
1. Marine Drive
2. Gateway of India
3. More walking around South Mumbai
Next up: Mumbai to Goa
Going from Mumbai to Goa can be a solid overnight trip.
You can get there by bus or train, but bus might be a little bit more convenient as it generally doesn’t require as much planning in advance.
The state of Goa is known as a top beach destination in India, and it’s also a popular backpacking destination.
You’ll want to choose between 3 main areas of Goa to stay:
- North Goa beaches
- South Goa beaches
…Or you can spend more time in Goa by getting a taste of all 3 areas!
In general, especially during season time (generally speaking which is outside the summer monsoon months)…
North Goa is known for more of a party scene…
South Goa is known to be a bit quieter than the north…
And then Goa’s capital of Panjim will give you more of a taste into the state’s Portuguese history with the buildings all around.
When you head away from the main tourist strips of any of Goa’s beach towns, you can start to get a taste of Goa’s quiet village roads, along with cute colorful homes too.
Although Goa is primarily known for its beaches, if you want more than just beaches, Goa can be a cute area to explore!
There are also a number of forts in Goa that offer ocean views too.
South India travel in pictures: Best things to do in Goa
2. Beach hut
3. Beach shack or beachfront restaurant
4. Fort with ocean views
5. Roam the streets
South India travel in pictures: Best places to visit in Goa
1. Palolem (south)
2. Agonda (south)
Latin Quarter of India with Portuguese history
4. Anjuna (north)
5. Vagator (north)
Where to stay in Goa
I’ve stayed in the following hostels in Goa that I can recommend:
- Rainbow Lining hostel in Palolem
- Old Quarter hostel in Panjim
- Jungle hostel in Vagator
See more of the best hostels in Goa. (aka good backpacker destinations in Goa!)
Next up: Goa to Hampi
A popular way to get from Goa to Hampi is by overnight bus.
I decided to go by train during the day though (7.5 hours), mostly because that gives you a chance to see Goa’s famous waterfalls, Dudhsagar Falls, directly from the train!
There is no train station directly in Hampi, so once you reach the nearby train station, you’ll need to take a rickshaw or bus to Hampi.
See my train journey from Goa to Hampi with waterfall views.
If you like ancient ruins, Hampi is not to be missed!
One of the main things to do in Hampi is to visit the various UNESCO world heritage sites that are spread out in the area.
There are ruins to be seen all around, and there are constant scenes of boulders and stones all around Hampi.
There are basically 2 sides to Hampi, with a river dividing the 2 sides. You can cross the river by boat.
South India travel in pictures: Best things to do in Hampi
1. Matanga Hill
…and the nearby ruins
2. Anjanadri Hill
4. Walk the small streets
Next up: Hampi to Mysore
There is an overnight train from the train station near Hampi directly to Mysore!
Mysore is most famous for its palace.
This can also be a break-up point to get from Hampi to Kerala… which is basically one of the main reasons I passed through.
But if you’re looking for more things to do, there do seem to be places to explore around the city for a couple of days!
South India travel in pictures: Best things to do in Mysore
Next up: Mysore to Kerala
There are no direct trains from Mysore to Kerala – at least central Kerala and south Kerala where the main Kerala backpacker destinations are.
I found the easiest to go through Bangalore.
If you look at a map, this will look like you’re going out of the way a bit.
But I felt like this would be the most convenient as Bangalore is a major transit hub.
Being a major transit hub means that there are more connections available to go to different places, including from Mysore and to Kerala.
So I went from Mysore to Bangalore in the morning (2.5 hours), rested up in the waiting room at the Bangalore train station, and then took the evening overnight train from Bangalore to Alleppey (13 hours).
From Bangalore, you can also find overnight buses Wayanad and Munnar if you are interested in hill stations in Kerala.
This means that you have a few different options for experiencing the backwaters.
And after you’ve gotten your fill of the backwaters, you can finish it off with more things to do in Alleppey by relaxing with views of Alleppey Beach at a beachside guesthouse or beachside hostel, along with eating at a beachfront restaurant!
You can totally make it a perfect one day in Alleppey.
South India travel in pictures: Best things to do in Alleppey
…or morning yoga!
Where to stay in Alleppey
I’ve stayed at the following backpacker places to stay in Alleppey that I can recommend:
Next up: Alleppey to Varkala
There are a number of buses and trains you can take to get to Varkala from Alleppey.
The bus will likely take around 4-5 hours, and the train will likely take around 3 hours.
Since this is a shorter distance, you can go for the train in general class so you won’t have to book a train ticket in advance.
You just show up to the Alleppey train station on the day you want to go to Varkala and buy a ticket before you board the train.
Again, taking the train in general class does mean that you do have a chance of not being able to get a seat.
Varkala is known as one of the beach towns in Kerala.
It’s also famous for the restaurants and accommodations that you can find on the cliff.
Kerala is also the birthplace of ayurveda, which is basically using natural herbs and remedies for treating chronic illnesses (and non-chronic), as well as to stay healthy.
You can find many yoga retreats with ayurveda across Kerala.
You’ll also be able to find a place to get an ayurvedic massage in Varkala pretty easily. There will be beach resorts that offer them, and you can also find places as you walk along the Varkala cliff.
South India travel in pictures: Best things to do in Varkala
1. Varkala Beach
2. Varkala cliff restaurant
3. Ayurvedic massage
More places to visit in India
If you want to continue onwards, consider making your next stop the southern tip of India with a train from Kerala to Kanyakumari.
So from Varkala, you may consider, in this order:
Or if you want to fly out of Kerala, the nearest airport to Varkala is the Trivandrum Airport. This airport is around 1.5 hours from Varkala.
Another popular airport in Kerala for backpackers is the Cochin Airport. This airport is around 1-1.5 hours from Fort Cochin, and around 2-2.5 hours from Alleppey.
If you won’t be making an international flight from Kerala, and you’ll be sticking around India to go further up north…
Where to go in north India?!
Have a deeper look at what these places have to offer for the rest of your India trip.
1. Golden Triangle
Try 3 days in Jaipur, the pink city of India
Try 3 days in Udaipur, the city of lakes of India
Try 2 days in Jodhpur, the blue city of India
Try 3 days in Jaisalmer, the golden city of India
6. Thar Desert
Go for an overnight camel safari in India and sleep under the stars in the desert
HAPPY BACKPACKING INDIA FOR ONE MONTH… or more!
Welcome to India!!
Welcome to Kerala!!
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! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
There are affiliate links on this page that lead to partner websites.
Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
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:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
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!