Aside from Goa and Kerala, travel to South India isn’t as popular as travelling around North India which has all of the big sites and cities like the Taj Mahal, the Holy City of Varanasi, the Majestic State of Rajasthan and of course Mumbai and Delhi.
However, South India is a great area of India to travel around! It’s so diverse with the Beaches of Goa, the lush Green-ness of Kerala, impressive Hindu Temples, huge wildlife-filled National Parks, Tea Plantations and a lot more!
I spent 2 months travelling North India and 2 months travelling Southern India in one trip, I enjoyed both sides but I found travel to South India very different to the North.
There’s a lot of information online with travel tips for India but most of these tips are aimed at North India because that’s the most popular part of India to travel to, so here are my South India travel tips and information on travelling to South India only!
Travel To South India Tips!
Best time to visit India
Before we get into this India travel blog, it’s worth thinking about the best time to visit India as the country get’s very hot and wet in the middle of the year. November to March are the best times to visit both North & South India.
South India will be warmer than North India in the winter months of December and January, Delhi and further North actually get cold in these months but are still enjoyable to visit with the right clothing.
Outside these months, you can still visit but you’ll find that the heat and humidity will be much higher, especially as you go further South.
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!
DON’T GET SCAMMED IN DELHI
Most people arrive for the first time into Delhi and get scammed within a few hours! Read my Delhi Travel Tips to help you enjoy Delhi, and the best places to stay in Delhi which is so important!
1. In Tourism Terms, South India covers 4 States
Technically South India is bigger than 4 states but in terms of tourism and where travellers to South India will visit there are 4 main states with the best things to do in South India- Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
All of these states are very different. I had my Marco Polo South India Guide with me on my trip and it covers all the Cities and major tourist sites which was a huge help and helped me understand the difference between the states (because they are very different) and what to see in each.
Look for the best flights to India here!
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2. South India is Huge!
On a map South India is much smaller than the North but India is huge so it’s good to note that South India is very big too. I took an overnight train from Goa down the coast to Kerala and it took me 15 hours! My train from Chennai to Mysore took me 7 hours. Make sure you keep this in mind when planning your trip to South India itinerary to see the best places in South India!
3. The East & West of South India are very different
Another thing to note about travel to South India is the difference between the Eastern and Western side of South India.
Goa is on the West Coast and has all of the dreamy beaches, or at least that’s what people know it for.
Kerala is further down on the West Coast and is extremely diverse with a huge coastline but inland it has coconut palm forests, rice paddies, and hill stations with tea, coffee and spice plantations. Kerala is a really nice state so many people take a holiday to Kerala but I will say that it’s beaches are not as nice as Goa as many are very local, can be quite dirty and are not for sunbathing.
The Eastern Side of South India has the beaches and coastline too but the state of Tamil Nadu is much more known for its Hill Stations and Historical Sites. The Marco Polo Guide informed me that Tamil Nadu, in fact, has the most world heritage sites in this area.
In terms of religion, the West- Goa and Kerala are very much Christian mainly due to the Portuguese influence, the East and Middle of South India- Tamil Nadu & Karnataka are very much Hindu, although you will find both religions and many others in all areas.
The West is also a lot more touristy because of the charm of Goa and Kerala, it attracts backpackers but also many holidaymakers. The East is much less visited by tourists to India in my opinion. This may be good for you or it may not.
Related Post: 2 Week Goa & Kerala Itinerary!
4. Think about your Priorities for travel to South India
Based on the above differences between the states and the sides of South India, the best way to plan a trip around South India to see the tourist places in South India, especially if you are on a tight timeframe is to think about what your priorities are in my opinion because as I said South India offers a lot.
Do you want to chill on the Beaches? If so, Goa is for you.
Do you want to go Hiking in Hill Stations and to spot Wildlife? If so, Kerala is for you (note that I saw Wild Elephants in Thekkady National Park!).
Do you want to experience Hindu Culture and Cities with past Colonialism? If so, Tamil Nadu is for you.
Do you want to experience a more Modern City, a Royal City and a Rock Adventure Town? If so, Karnataka is for you.
Of course, you can mix and match these, I managed to see all 4 in my 2 months in South India but you don’t want to end up on the East Coast visiting Cities such as Madurai and Chennai if really you wanted to spend your time in South India on the Beaches, Hiking and seeing Wildlife.
The Marco Polo South India Guide was great for helping me work out what was in each state and the map on the back was my go-to in helping me figure out the best route around South India so I’d really recommend purchasing it before you go to South India as it will help you with the planning aspect and it’s nice and small and very lightweight so you can take it to South India with you and it will continue to help you whilst you’re there.
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!
- More of my must-read India posts to help you:
- Best Beaches in Goa for Foreigners!
- 3 Different 1 Month South India Itineraries!
- 2 Week Goa & Kerala Itinerary!
- How to get a Sim Card in India!
- How to Apply for a Tourist Visa for India!
5. Local Buses are the most popular mode of transport in many parts
I found how to get around South India to be one of the big differences between North and South India. I took a few trains in South India between Cities and Goa and Kerala but as soon as I started going inland in Kerala and through Tamil Nadu I took my fair share of local buses too.
Local Buses in India are quite tricky. There are no schedules, you don’t pre-book then, there’s no English written on the front to show where it’s going, they get very busy and the roads are bumpy and windy. I’m not selling this to you I know, the best thing about the buses in India though are that they are cheap! It’s also similar to travelling Sri Lanka by bus, so if you have been there, you’ll know what to expect.
Keep this in mind when planning your trip around India as one of the South India travel tips. If you can’t see a train on the official Indian Train site then it’s likely you’ll need to take a bus, and there will be a bus if you’re going between tourist places, but you’ll have to wait until you arrive to sort that out, your accommodation will be able to help you.
6. There is Less Tourism When You Travel To South India
As a whole, I’d say South India receives less tourism. The areas of Goa and Kerala are touristy because they are popular holiday destinations in India but if we take the example of backpacker accommodation, for example, North India is full of hostels whereas I found in many cities in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka there were only one or two hostels to choose from.
There are plenty of nice hotels though, the Marco Polo South India Guide recommends quite a few hotels in all Cities in South India. For Mysore, they recommend The Green Hotel which I went to for a coffee and it is really nice!
Have you booked your flight to India yet??
I use Skyscanner to book all of my flights! I’m a huge fan of Skyscanner because I love how easy it is to compare different dates and routes to help me find the best flight at the best price! Open Skyscanner by clicking here and search for the best flights as you read this post.
7. It Does get Cold in South India
I had this idea that South India would be really hot all of the time. In fact, before coming to India I thought that the whole Country would be hot, this is not correct and also incorrect for South India.
Generally, it is very warm, it has 2 main seasons which are the dry season in Winter and the wet monsoon season in Summer and although the West Coast by the beaches stays pretty warm in the Winter and is the perfect time to visit Goa, when I was in Goa in December it really cooled down at night and was quite chilly. Munnar one of the Hill Stations was so cold at night and a few weeks after I left in January they woke up to frost!
So be sure to include some warmer clothes in your South India packing list.
As the Marco Polo Guide says the best time to visit South India is between November to March.
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!
2 WEEK INDIA ITINERARY, PERFECT FOR YOUR FIRST TRIP!
2 WEEK SOUTH INDIA ITINERARY – GOA & KERELA
1 MONTH NORTH INDIA ITINERARY IDEAS!
1 MONTH SOUTH INDIA ITINERARY IDEAS!
2 MONTH INDIA ITINERARY IN THE NORTH & SOUTH
8. South India is not Safer or less Busy than in North India
Before I travelled to India myself I had heard many things about the South being a lot more chilled than the North and a lot safer with nicer people.
To the point where I, as a nervous solo female traveller to India, nearly visited the South first as a ‘ease in’ to India. However, firstly I had no need to be nervous either way (you can watch my YouTube video here on why), secondly, I did not find much of a difference between the North and South after 2 months in each in the terms of safety and busyness.
This is good of course in terms of safety as I felt very safe in North India and continued to do so in the South, and the North is very busy, loud and a bit crazy, but if I’m honest, so is the South!
The Beaches of Goa are quiet, chilled and very ‘Un-India’ in that way, but once you’re out of Goa, you really feel like you’re in India!
Related Post: My First Impressions of India!
I hope these points help you plan your trip around South India.
I really enjoyed my 2 months there. Goa was my favourite place in South India with Palolem Beach being my favourite beach, that might have had something to do with the amazing yoga holiday I did there too!
However, I also enjoyed seeing the famous backwaters of Kerala, and the Cultural side to the South Eastern side of India that a lot of travellers miss!
You can purchase a copy of the Marco Polo South India Guide Book on Amazon here for a great price. It was really handy when planning my trip around South India and once I was there too!
- Now you’ll be set for your trip to India! Enjoy!
- See ALL My India Posts Here!
- See My India Adventure on YouTube Here!
This post is in collaboration with Marco Polo Guides but all thoughts, opinions and real use of the guidebook are my own.