Many times I came across the question when is the best time to visit India. India is a huge country and has a very diverse climate, so the first thing you actually need to consider is what places in India are you planning to go.
I have been traveling to India since 2011 and visited places like Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Bikaner in the Rajasthan state, and Agra for its Taj Mahal and Red Fort in the state of Uttar Pradesh. My latest trip to India was in 2016 to Delhi from August to September and I spent the whole month visiting as many places in Delhi as I could. At the end of the trip, I was confident enough to help travelers and expats avoid getting sick in India (click here to read my post about it). After all, I spent a full month (except the days I was puking my guts out) wandering around the historical places in Delhi, visiting monuments, gardens and temples as well as more offbeat areas of Delhi.
When is the best time to visit India?
India is a tropical country with four seasons. However, the four seasons in the subcontinent don’t correspond to those of the other continents. Namely, in most parts of the country, India weather doesn’t include spring and autumn. Indian summer starts from late March to June, the monsoon season goes from July to September, post-monsoon starts from October up to December while winter is from January to March.
To help you decide when is the best time to visit India, here are some figures of the different seasons and temperatures in some of the states. However, these are just to give an idea, since the weather in India can vary depending on the states (the northern border is much colder in winter and has both spring and autumn), and even in the same state depending on the area.
These, roughly, the temperatures in states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka and the capital of India, Delhi:
Summer temperatures can be 24 to 45 degrees Celsius
Monsoon season, from July to September, goes from 20 to 40 degrees Celsius
Post-monsoon, October to December, 15 degrees Celsius – 30 degrees Celsius
Winter temperatures, January to March, go 10 to 25 degrees Celsius
Overall, the best season to visit India is from early October to late March.
That is when the deserts and the cities are not too hot and this is also why most of the traditional festivals are held during winter, making the best time to visit India weather-wise. Again it depends on where you are going in India, for instance, Mount Abu in the Rajasthan state is recommended between March and May.
Kerala, one of the most visited states in India, has mild temperatures all year long, being the maximum 33 degrees and the minimum never going below 20 degrees. On a related note, during Kerala’s monsoon season the rainfalls have been recorded as 80% in the northern area and some 40-50% in the southern regions.
India boasts 22 official languages and at least six recognized religions, and when it comes to the weather, they have pretty much the same variety. This is why it’s hard to pin down general figures for the whole country and also decide exactly when it’s the best time to visit India.
When it gets to 45 degrees, it’s hot enough to start melting the surface asphalt on the roads of many parts of India, and if you are not used to it, it really is unbearable to engage in outdoor activities or stay out a day walking even in places like Delhi.
What you need to keep in mind is not only the heat but also the strong humidity and poor public hygiene which is always a problem in India. The custom of urinating on the sides of roads and urban streets and the trash areas packed with all sort of mixed trash that stays exposed under the sun give the cities a pretty nasty smell. Summer sees a higher rate of patients hospitalized due to the contaminated water and poor hygienic conditions that can cause different infections.
During summer and monsoon seasons another issue that hits wet and warm areas: the presence of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can cause malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis and other ailments. When we were in Delhi last August (granted, not so much the best time to visit India), the cousin of a friend of ours was hospitalized due to the dengue fever. He stayed in the hospital for weeks and finally when he was released, doctors told him the disease is going to stay in his system for good.
Taking his misadventure as a warning, we used anything possible to keep mosquitoes away: we kept the doors and windows closed all the time, the air conditioning on around the clock as this also helps. We even used the smoky anti-dengue device and then the anti-mosquito electronic plug-ins in all rooms. When outside, we also used some cream mosquito-repellent.
While we are not saying in winter you can lower your guard, there is less chance to pick any of these illnesses and the trip is definitely more enjoyable. Obviously, in winter, too, you need to be careful about what you eat and drink in order to avoid food poisoning from Indian food.
Even though we have suggested that the best time to visit India is in winter, we are aware that for many full-time employees this is not always possible as often the only season they can plan their vacation is summer. So we have put together a list of essential things to pack if you planning a trip to India.
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What to pack for India
If you are traveling between October and March, which is the best season to visit India, except for some mountainous areas where it gets very cold, first of all, we recommend you pack clothes for temperatures ranging between 10 to 30 degrees Celsius such as jeans, shirts and light jumpers/jackets. Even a light tunic that covers your hips would be a good idea since in India they stare until you start freaking out!
Apart from this, here are some essentials we think you will need when you go to India also to avoid getting sick or get some emergency treatment if you are out of the cities.
Drugs and medications. While in India you will find pretty much everything, we suggest you arrive already with some sort of first-aid kit in case diarrhea or vomiting kicks out at night or when you don’t have a chemist within handy reach. I never travel without my activated charcoal, which can be used in many situations, including food poisoning, because it helps get rid of toxins. Click here for more information and prices for the activated charcoal.
Water purifier. One of the biggest problems travelers find in India is the water. Tap water is contaminated, so not only you can’t drink it, but you shouldn’t use it for brushing your teeth or washing fruits and veggies either. When you are out of the city, hiking, trekking, or in any way far from shops, you might find it hard to bring liters of water. This is why a water purifier might come in handy. There are many types of water purifiers such as “pens”, straws or tablets, you can pick one depending on your needs, space, and preferences. Click here for more information about SteriPEN water purifier and the latest prices.
Mosquito repellent and mosquito nets. Very little can be done against mosquitoes, except protecting yourself using mosquito repellent products when you are going out. If you are going out of town, you can even use a mosquito net to hang on your tent or bed for more protection.
Inside the house or hotel room, you can also use an electronic mosquito repellent to plug in, they sell it in many shops and supermarkets in Delhi. It’s not heavy though, so it won’t harm if you actually carry one from home.Click here for more information on mosquito nets and latest prices.
Hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Always carry some hand sanitizer and wet wipes in your bag when you travel in India. They will come in handy every time you want to wash your hands and you don’t have a tap nearby, before eating, when going to the toilet and many different occasions. I also carry with me a small bottle of tea tree oil as I use it to disinfect toilets, repel insects and bed bugs, etc.
Sunscreen. Even though the best time to visit India is during winter, it’s still mostly a warm and sunny country, so don’t forget to take a sunscreen with you. The lighter the skin, the stronger the protection. If you forget it, don’t worry, you can find many in India, although maybe not as strong as you would like.
Universal plugs adapter. Make sure you have a proper plug adapter so you charge your electronics such as mobile phone, tablet, laptop, camera, etc.
Comfortable shoes. Either if you are staying in the city or hiking in the jungle, we definitely recommend some very comfortable shoes, be it runners, Birkenstock or whatever is your favorite style. Streets in India are not really great and also in some parts of Delhi, there is no sidewalk. Plus, the traffic is really mental and you definitely want some comfortable shoes.
Light Sleeping Bag. You are traveling to India on a shoestring and you want to save whenever you can, so you pick hostels or cheap hotels. All understandable, but when it’s too cheap it can also lack on some basic hygienic standards, and when it comes to hotel rooms you need to pay attention to beds, bed sheets, and bed bugs. That’s why, if you are traveling on a budget, you might consider carrying a light sleeping bag with you to replace any bed that you deem not clean enough.
Click here for more information about light sleeping bags and the latest prices