Updated 2020 from my second visit: Amritsar in Punjab is not a city that all travellers visit, especially on their first trip to India but if you want to see more than the cities of Rajasthan, Amritsar has to be on your North India itinerary!
What to do in Amritsar? Is what I’m sure you’re thinking. Well, there’s not that many things to do in Amritsar so you don’t need that long in Amritsar as it’s only a small city in terms of the tourism center. 1-2 days and 2 nights is enough time in Amritsar.
I recommend staying at GoStops Amritsar Hostel, it’s the highest-rated hostel in Amritsar with dorm and private rooms and I enjoyed my stay there!
The top 3 things to do in Amritsar are going to The Golden Temple, Eat in the Golden Temple Kitchen/Langar and to the Border of India and Pakistan, also known as the Wagah Border, so in this Amritsar Travel Blog I’m going to give you my top travel tips so you and prepared to visit them both in the most stressfree way!
How to visit Amritsar Golden Temple
SIM CARD FOR INDIA
I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but you can get a sim card in Delhi Airport, read this post to see how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport or if you fly in elsewhere 3 ways to buy a sim card in India and you’ll be connected in just a few hours!
WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA
If you are a woman, here’s what I recommend you pack and wear in India. Technically you can wear what you like in India in most places but to get fewer stares and feel more comfortable, read my post!
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Tips for visiting the Golden Temple in 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 on busy days and it is mainly visited by Indian tourists and Sikh people around the world!
Where is the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
t’s located right in the middle of the tourist part of the city at the top of Golden Temple Road and you really can’t miss it!
How much does it cost to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
Entrance is free however there are donation boxes around the temple and seen as you usually have to pay to go into monuments and temples in India you may feel like leaving a donation.
When is the best time to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
I’d say the morning and the evening so you can avoid the crowds in the middle of the day and the heat. The Golden Temple in Amritsar’s opening hours is nearly all day. Online it varies but it’s said that it’s open from 4:30 am to 11:00 pm. In fact, you really should try and see the temple during the day and at night and it’s totally different in both lights.
What to wear in the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
Knees must be covered, even men with shorts above the knees should try to wear something longer. Shoulders are allowed out but I’d say you’re best off wearing a t-shirt. You need to cover your head but they provide head scarfs at the entrance to the temple or you can take your own. You need to take your shoes off too and there is free and safe storage at each entrance.
Can you take photos inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
Yes, there are no restrictions on cameras, but of course, be mindful that this is a holy place and people are bathing in the water who may not want to be on camera.
What is there to do in the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
As a tourist, the thing to do in the Golden Temple is to walk around the lake and observe what is happening. Inside the lake is that actual Golden Temple. You will most likely see huge queues to get in here because it is where the Holy Book is kept. As a tourist and non-Sikh you’ll most likely not want to queue to go in and that’s fine.
Another popular attraction at the Golden Temple in Amritsar is to watch the ceremony of ‘putting the book to bed’ where the book is taken from the Golden Temple and put away at about 22:00 each night. The other thing you must do in the temple is to go to the langar kitchen and there are tips on that below!
Can you stay overnight at Amritsar’s Golden Temple?
Yes, you can. This is mainly for Sikh people and a lot of people do stay overnight but you can also stay overnight and help volunteer as a non-Sikh and foreigner.
For more Golden Temple Information see this website.
Golden Temple Amritsar Tours
The Golden Temple & the city of Amritsar is a very complex place so if you’d rather book a tour online in advance to understand better, here are the best tours I’ve found:
Spiritual and Cultural Walk of Amritsar from Get Your Guide.
Tips for visiting the Golden Temple Kitchen / Langar Hall, Amritsar
Where is the Kitchen in the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
The Golden Temple kitchen is called the Langar Hall, it is accessed from inside the temple where the Ramgarhia Bunga is. As you enter the main entrance of the Golden Temple it is on the next side to your left as you walk around to the left. You’ll see a yellow sign pointing you to the Langar Hall at the entrance.
What time does the kitchen serve food in the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
The kitchen is open 24 hours which is incredible so you can go any time of day. You may arrive just as a seating is starting and need to wait for the next seating but generally, it’s very quick. Remember they can serve up to 100,000 people in here a day!
Is the food in the Golden Temple in Amritsar free?
Yes, the meal here is totally free! But again, if you wish to leave a donation there are boxes as you walk out and where you hand in your dirty plate.
What food do they serve in the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
The food is all vegetarian and from my experience (visiting 3 times!) you are given 2 roti’s, daal, curry and a rice pudding type dish, plus water (but as a foreigner I’d suggest being careful of this, I’m not sure if it’s filtered), and they come round offering you more if you’re still hungry! It’s a healthy and delicious meal.
How do you get food at the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
You go where the yellow sign points you, walk through some water, on your left you’ll see the building where people are handing out plates, bowls and spoons, get all 3 and follow the crowds either upstairs or to the right to a room downstairs. You may need to wait to go in or you’ll go in straight away. Take a seat on the floor and wait for the food to be brought to you!
I was a bit intimidated going on my own the first time, especially as the queue was big, everyone was pushing to get in and I was the only foreigner. I doubted whether it was worth it, but I sat down, surrounded by Indian families and the actual eating experience was really peaceful and nice and I did not feel uncomfortable at all.
BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA
India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA
I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.
GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA
Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!
How to do a kitchen tour in the Golden Temple in Amritsar?
You may have seen YouTube videos where people go inside the kitchens on a langer food tour to see where the food is made which looks like an incredible experience because they cook such huge quantities of food, and this kitchen is said to be the most organised kitchen in the world which can be seen in the washing up process especially! I read each plate is washed 5 times to ensure good hygiene standards.
If there’s a group of you I believe you can prebook a kitchen tour by contacting them in advance. Alternatively, a guy I met in my hostel went in a group of a few foreigners and they offered them a tour after they’d eaten. I think the people that run the kitchen know that foreigners especially like to look at the kitchen and them so they seem willing to do kitchen tours.
Tips for Visiting the Wagah Border Ceremony from Amritsar
Now onto the Wagah Border, one of the top things to do in Amritsar! Every single evening there is a Ceremony at Wagah Border which is the border between India and Pakistan. It’s also known as the Attari Wagah Border.
The Ceremony is to show rivalry but also brotherhood between the 2 countries and it’s quite an experience so here’s how to visit the Wagah Border from Amritsar!
How to get to the Wagah Border from Amritsar?
The border is about 30KM from Amritsar and about an hours drive. You have a few options to get there:
1. Go with your accommodation. Hostels especially will arrange trips to the border and this is much less expensive if you are travelling solo. GoStops Amritsar Hostel can organise a tuk-tuk for 1000Rs and an air-conditioned car for 1500Rs so you can split the cost but of course this depends on other people joining!
2. Hire your own Tuk Tuk or Taxi. I was quoted 700Rs for a tuk tuk and 3 of us paid 1300Rs for an air-conditioned taxi. The taxi was really nice, it was comfortable, quick and the driver parked so close to the ‘stadium’ whereas the tuk-tuks need to park further back on the road.
I found a really nice taxi driver in Amritsar, he can take you to the Wagah Border, pick you up from the airport or drop you off, his name is Swaran Singh and his WhatsApp number is +91 98146 50454. I really recommend him and tell him Ellie gave you his details!
3. If you’re on a budget and can’t get anyone to share a tuk-tuk or taxi with you there are plenty of shared rides to the Wagah Border. 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.
On my first visit to the Wagah Border I decided to get a seat in a shared car, it was 300Rs in total, 200Rs upfront and 100Rs to be paid on the way back. This was a bit of a nightmare there were loads of us squished in the car and they tried to charge me more on the way back. However, I did meet a nice Indian family and went to the ceremony with them and it was the most budget-friendly option at the time.
Is the Wagah Border Ceremony Free?
Yep! You just need to pay for transport there and snacks if you want any. Popcorn was 100Rs and Ice Cream 50Rs.
What time does the Wagah Border Ceremony start?
The ceremony starts at around 5:00 pm so the best time to leave Amritsar for the Border is 3:00 pm so you can get a good seat. There’s dancing and crowd entertainment before the ceremony starts at 5:00 pm to keep you entertained!
What is allowed in the Wagah Border Ceremony?
No big bags are allowed inside, you can take a very small handbag or bum bag though. With that being said you can take pretty much everything inside apart from food, drinks and battery chargers. You can take your camera, phone, passport and purse in your hands, pocket or a small bag.
In terms of what to take to the Wagah Border Ceremony, I’d recommend a cap if you are sensitive to the sun as the sun is on you for a lot of the ceremony as it sets on the Pakistan side.
Should I bring my passport to the Wagah Border Ceremony?
Yes, it is advised for foreigners to take their passport as there is a foreigner seating section which offers a great view of the gates and you’ll need to show your passport to get in here.
Can I see the Wagah Border Ceremony from Pakistan?
Just like in Amritsar, in Lahore, you can visit the ceremony and sit on the Pakistan side but of course only if you have a visa for Pakistan and visit from Lahore, not from Amritsar!
HELP WITH YOUR INDIA ITINERARY
I’ve spent many months travelling India in the last few years visiting over 50 places around the country, here are my recommended itinerary posts for India to help you plan your trip!
Things To Do in Amritsar
In regards to other tourist places in Amritsar, there are not that many, the above 3 things are the highlights of things to do in Amritsar however there are 2 other places you should also see:
Jallianwala Bagh 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 does not take too long to walk around.
The Partition Museum is really interesting, it is the world’s first Partition Museum which was built to document and remember the partition of India and Pakistan. It’s good to understand the history of this area and of Punjab. It costs 250Rs for foreigners to enter.
For a few more ideas of things to do, see 5 Best Places to Visit in Amritsar.