If you want to explore the beautiful and exotic country of India, why not travel to the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the holy city of Varanasi can be found.
Utter Pradesh (UP) is located in Northern India, and is the centre of Indian culture, religion, language and politics.
The Taj Mahal is located at the heart of UP (in Agra), and is a sight you can’t miss! While visiting this incredible new wonder of the world, make sure to visit the botanical gardens behind the Taj. Tourists don’t often venture here, and you can take photos and hang out with locals without the ridiculous price tag.
Fatehpur Sikri is an ancient city with an interesting story, and is definitely worth a visit. It was prophesised that an heir to the Mughal throne would be born there, and so Emperor Akbar built some incredible structures for his arrival. Among these were 3 palaces, one for each of his favourite wives. You can also visit the bear sanctuary set up by Mary Hutton of the Save the Bears foundation, and visit the formerly dancing bears.
Buddha famously came to Sarnath and gave his first sermon after achieving enlightenment. Sarnath is home to many beautiful Buddhist temples from around the world, and attracts many followers.
To experience some of the day-to-day life of the Indian people, we recommend Varanasi. Here you can wander the laneways and gullies, sit in one of the many cafés and watch all aspects of life pass you by!
Lucknow is a modern relaxed place to wander around. While it is best remember for the ordeal of its British residents during a five-month siege in 1857, it has some amazing buildings and is known for having great food. Lucknow is less busy than some of the more touristy towns, making it a nice place to sit and relax.
Aside from all the amazing places you can visit, it is important to plan for the different conditions you will face in India. The weather varies significantly over the year, and you will find yourself rugging up over the Christmas season and boiling in the summer. Make sure that you take plenty of warm and cool clothes, as layer is your best option. Power cuts are common here so fans and heaters aren’t always available.
There are a few different customs and behaviours that will be different from what you are used to. “Namaste” is the standard greeting and it can be accompanied with a bow. It is acceptable to shake a man’s hand, but you would not do the same to a female. Things also work at a slower pace here, and it is normal for people to be late. The students are used to westerners, so they won’t be offended if you do something wrong. However, make sure you are treating them with respect.
As for clothing, males can wear pretty much anything, although it is advisable to wear full length trousers/jeans and at least short sleeves at the school. Unfortunately for the girls, the clothing is going to be super conservative.
Food etiquette is also slightly different. You must wash your hands before every meal, even if you are using cutlery. Meals are traditionally eaten with your right hand, although the school and hostel has cutlery if you prefer. However, if you go to the slums or a local’s home, you will be expected to use your hand. Finally, food is valuable and you only take what you can eat. At the school and hostel the students are not allowed to leave any food on their plates.
You will be spending a great deal of your time in Varanasi, with plenty of fun places to visit and hang out. However, some areas are very poor and struggle with poor living conditions. Between Assi and Tulsi Ghat is where most kids and their families beg. A common scam they use is asking you to buy powdered milk for the baby hanging around their hip, and then trading the milk back to the store for money which will then be used for drink or drugs.