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After watching The Budgeteer’s India Series on YouTube where they visited Amritsar in Punjab going to The Golden Temple and to the Border of Pakistan and India, also known as the Wagah Border, I knew I needed to go!
Amritsar was my only stop in Punjab and I got a train to Amritsar from Delhi which took about 6 hours before then going from Amritsar to Dharamsala by bus.
My stay in Amritsar didn’t start out great as I didn’t like where I stayed, I got Food Poisoning on my first night and because I visited just after Diwali and a Sikh Holiday, Amritsar was totally packed.
I booked 3 nights accommodation in Amritsar but quickly reduced it to 2 nights, mainly because of the above, but also because there isn’t that many places to visit in Amritsar and 2 days in Amritsar is definitely enough so keep this in mind when planning your trip there!
With that being said, the 3 main things I wanted to do in Amritsar were:
Despite the food poisoning and crowds I did do all of these 3 things and even though they may seem like 3 quite small things and you may wonder if it’s worth going all the way to North Punjab when there aren’t many other places to visit near Amritsar, I would say they are worth it!
So here are my tips on how to visit the Golden Temple Amritsar and the Wagah Border from Amritsar!
The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib is one of the most important Sikh Temples in the World, because of this up to 100,000 people can visit per day, especially on holidays so be prepared to visit a busy temple!
There are many entrances to the Golden Temple and the main entrance is evident at the end of Golden Temple Road but if this entrance seems too busy, I recommend walking around the side and entering in one of the side entrances or the back entrance like I did. Whilst there were around 100 people around the front, I was the only person walking in through the back when I did!
SEE my trip to Amritsar on my YouTube channel here!
Entry is free but there are donations boxes around the outside. Seen as most major attractions in India do charge, I think because it’s free leaving some money in the box is a nice thing to do, also because no-one pressured me into leaving money (which is rare in India!) I also felt happy to do so.
The Inner Temple is where the Holy Book is kept and is the actual ‘Golden Temple’ within the Golden Temple complex, and if you want to go inside you will most definitely have to queue. As you maybe be able to see in the photo below, the bridge had a huge queue of people along it so there was no way I was going to queue and as a tourist and a non-Sikh, seeing the complex is enough I think.
In regards to what to wear in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. You will need to have your legs covered, at least past your knee’s with no shorts, have your shoulders covered and your head.
At the entrance’s you will see a box where you can pick a head scarf, sellers are selling these outside the Amritsar temple too but do not feel pressured to buy one as you can get one for free. Alternatively as a female you can wear a shawl over your head which is what I did.
You must remove your shoes and leave them outside, don’t try to sneak them in in your bag like I did, and before you go in you need to walk through some water to clean and cleanse your feet.
Photo’s are allowed so make sure you take your camera in.
If you have 2 nights in Amritsar, one night must be spent going to the Wagah Border, but on the other night try to go back to the Golden Temple as in the evening they ‘put the Holy Book to bed’ via a ceremony which I heard is good to see (I didn’t because, err food poisoning) and I can imagine seeing the Temple all lit up is really nice too!
For more Golden Temple Information see this website.
Firstly, make sure you do visit!
The Golden Temple Kitchen’s name is the Langar Hall, it is accessed from inside the Temple where the Ramgarhia Bunga is, but as you are walking around it you will also see a yellow sign pointing you to the Langar Hall.
Food is served all day, the sittings do not last that long so you may be lucky and catch the start of one, or you may have to wait for one to finish.
Remember they serve up to 100,000 people in here a day too!
Your plate, bowl and spoon is handed to you on arrival, you go upstairs (and try not to get pushed too much!) and then head into one of the halls when they are ready for the next round.
SEE my trip to Amritsar on my YouTube channel here!
You will sit on the floor and delicious Vegetarian food is brought round to you and it keeps on coming until the end or until you say no more!
I was a bit intimidated going on my own, especially as the queue was so big and everyone was pushing, I doubted whether it was worth it, but I sat down, surrounded by families and no other foreigners and the actual eating experience was really peaceful and nice and I did not feel uncomfortable at all.
If you can sneak a look at where they make the food on your way out then do! I’ve seen photo’s of it and it looks incredible as it’s made in such large quantities. I believe you can also do a tour of the kitchen at set times.
Also be sure to watch the washing up process as it really is process with the men fully in sync. I read each plate is washed 5 times to ensure good hygiene standards.
The majority of people who work here are volunteers and tourists can volunteer too as well as stay the night so that is worth looking into if it interests you.
I also found that a smile goes a long way here. As a foreigner you may not be spoken to, mainly because the other people do not speak English, but the volunteers serving the food and collecting the plates were very friendly and a smile and thank you received a lovely smile back from them. It seemed to me that they were happy to see foreigners going!
The meal is also free and another reason to leave a donation in one of the donation boxes outside!
To get a better idea of this experience check out my YouTube video as I got more video footage than photos!
Every single evening there is a Ceremony at Wagah Border which is the border between India and Pakistan. It’a also known as the Attari Wagah Border.
The Ceremony is to show rivalry but also brotherhood between the 2 countries and it is a must do activity in Amritsar! In fact, it’s probably the best thing to do in Amritsar!
It is 30km from Amritsar to Wagah Border and it will take about an hour due to the traffic. There are a few options of how to get there as a tourist in Amritsar.
Hire your own Tuk Tuk, I was told this would be about 700Rs, find people to share a tuk tuk with to reduce the cost, or go in a shared car.
Outside of the Golden Temple on the Golden Temple Road you will hear men saying ‘Wagah Border’ over and over again all morning and afternoon.
I decided to get a seat in a shared car, it was 300Rs in total, 200Rs up front and 100Rs to be paid on the way back.
Although the guy tried to get me to pay 200Rs on the way back until I showed him my receipt from the guy who took 200Rs off me initially. I can imagine this is a popular scam so be sure to have proof of how much you paid and how much you need to pay.
I also say I paid for a seat but actually they squished 9 adults and 2 children into a 8 seater car including the driver which was uncomfortable to say the least but luckily in my car was a nice Indian family and the daughter spoke English well so they adopted me for the evening.
The meeting time at the Golden Temple was much earlier than I thought – 2:30pm despite the timing of the Wagah Border ceremony being a 5:00pm start! We got there at about 3:30pm which was already too late as the stadium was already completely full and we ended up standing on the very top tier. I think it was especially busy because of Diwali but if you do go on your own with your own driver, arrange to go as early as possible to get a good seat.
No bags are allowed inside, not even small handbags, if you want to take your phone and a camera you will need to carry it in your hand or in a pocket.
There are sellers selling India caps and merchandise as well as drinks and food on the outside and on the inside.
The actual ceremony is only very short, it started at 5:00pm and we were leaving by about 5:30pm as a lot of people want to leave early to avoid the crowds (including the Indian Family I was with). The ‘warm up’ which happens pre- 5pm is very entertaining though and part of the experience!
The timing of the Wagah Border may change depending on the time of year so be sure to look into this. I visited in November.
In regards to other tourist places in Amritsar, there are not that many.
Jallianwala Bagh is worth a visit, it is a public garden with an entrance along Golden Temple Road and inside is a memorial for the people who were massacred by the British in 1919. It is free to enter although it will not take too long to walk around.
There is also the Partition Museum, the world’s first Partition Museum which was built to document and remember the partition of India and Pakistan.
Hostels in Amritsar: I stayed at WOW Backpackers and really didn’t like it so I would not recommend it to you. Unfortunately there are none of the big chain hostels in Amritsar like Zostel, Moustache etc which is a bit annoying but after my visit a friend of mine stayed at Jugadus Hostel and she had such a great stay! The hostel arranged tours, cooking classes and so much more so I really recommend staying at Judadus Hostel in Amritsar.
Hotels in Amritsar: There are lots of hotels in Amritsar too for all budgets. Do be warned that the hotels that are not along Golden Temple Road will be in the back streets and I found the back streets to be very dirty and busy but they are ok, just another reason to only stay 1 or 2 nights.
There are 2 sides to this city- the clean, big streets around the Golden Temple and the small, dirty back streets. Both are very busy and both sides are good to see – the tourist side and the local side, but just keep this in mind.
As I said at the start, you only need 2 nights in Amritsar in my opinion and if you go to the Golden Temple in the morning, have a early-ish lunch, you’ll be able to go to the Wagah Border in the afternoon and do everything there is to do in Amritsar in one day! That is definitely possible!
For a few more ideas of things to do, see 5 Best Places to Visit in Amritsar.
You can watch my trip to Amritsar in this YouTube video!
For more of my posts on India see: