One of the most fascinating and happening ancients in India, Varanasi is in some way intriguing. This divine city of Lord Shiva is believed to be the oldest inhabited cities in the world where people come to wash away their sins and attain liberation.
Observing life and death rituals performed at the same time and at the same spot, walking along the river, and exploring the narrow and confusing lanes of the city are a few of the major highlights of this city. Nearly everything you taste, smell, feel, hear, or see is surprising in its own term, and traveling to Varanasi can be an intense experience even if you are an experienced traveler.
Spending a holiday in this spiritual city is not always plain sailing, so use the below stated Varanasi travel tips to get the best out of your trip to Varanasi.
Explore The Other Nearby Cities First
Varanasi must be a part of your bucket list of destinations as it is considered to be the place where you can witness all the chaos and love of India in one place. This might be a very bold yet probably true statement that in every two seconds, you see something very new and exciting. It is believed that this gorgeous and exciting yet a bit scary and filthy city full of contradictions could be quite intense to visit as the first destination of your holiday.
You are advised to ease into it by stopping somewhere else first where Delhi and Rajasthan could be a perfect place to start.
Selecting the best mode of transport
One of the most important things to consider while planning a trip is to select the best mode of transport as it doesn’t only save your time but also makes your journey easier and more convenient. However, this magical city is accessible via all modes of transport yet the easiest way to get into this city is by flying. Board the flight to Delhi and then from there take a train to Varanasi.
Many of the trains have a stopover in Allahabad and then on reaching the Varanasi Railway Station, you can easily hire a taxi or cab to reach your desired destination.
Unlike other cities of the country, Varanasi is quite strict on dress code anyway, and showing too much body doesn’t only gather unwanted attention but also hampers the spiritual decorum of the place. So, make sure to carry decent dresses and do not forget to cover your shoulders and legs but this doesn’t mean that you are forced to carry full Indian dresses.
You can carry a full sleeve top covering the shoulders and pair it up with jeans or a knee-length maxi skirt would be fine.
Watch out for scams
One needs to be very wise and smart while planning your trip to Varanasi especially if you are coming from a foreign country. There are endless scams that are generally used to get travelers to cough up their rupees. You will find some touts asking for “wood” money and they will continue chasing you to explain you the facts about the ghats and will expect to earn some money.
Belittle strict at the place and tell them that you are not going to pay anything for their services and if you be lenient then they might curse you with bad karma. You also need to be very good at haggling as the boat riders ask for a ridiculous amount of money for a boat tour ride and even the taxi riders would also try to get a good commission from the tourists.
The same thing goes with the shops as they all look for high commission, so this is all in your hand to save your money.
Don’t bathe in River Ganges
The divine pilgrimage site and swimming or putting your entire feet in this holy river is a big NO for the tourists. The water of this river is used for day-to-day life activities including washing clothes, drinking, cleaning, watering plants, and many more things. There are bodies, rubbish, ashes, animals dipping, hair and all many other filthy items are thrown here. So, it’s best to maintain the sanctity of this pious river.
Watch out for bulls and bull crap
Being a spiritual city, Varanasi respects cows immensely as a deity and worships them as a true goddess. There seems to be ten more bulls here in the city than anywhere else in the country. Cows are meant to be the living incarnation of Lord Shiva and as the city is believed to have been founded by Lord Shiva, so it does make sense.
However, it might be quite scary to move around the narrow lanes where cows are found walking freely and as a consequence, the lanes of the city are full of cow poo. So, you need to be very alert while walking and keep an eye on the ground so that you don’t get slipped out in the middle of the roads.
Be careful while enjoying the nightlife in the city
Varanasi is not at all a party place and walking along the labyrinth of the narrow lanes can be a tough job even during the daytime then think of the situation at night. If in case it is an emergency then buddy up with someone when heading out in the evenings. If you are a solo female traveler then you should definitely avoid coming out of your hotel room as the city is not at all safe for females outings after it gets dark.
Take proper precautions as the pollution of the city can be quite horrendous
The streets of the city are always found crowded and congested with a number of vehicles and sometimes you might stuck in the traffic for hours. It is always better to cover your nose and mouth with a cloth or wear a mask to avoid falling sick due to pollution and stop some of it getting in your lungs. We would recommend you to hire a taxi for traveling and also carry an inhaler for a better breathe.
Do not click pictures of the cremation ghats
The travelers are strictly prohibited to click photos of the cremation ghats and the rituals performed there as it is counted as disrespecting the feelings of the deceased family. The moment you take out your camera or phone to take photos you will hear an alarming sound coming from a distance.
Keep your belonging safe and secure
The city is full of pick pockets especially the areas around the Cantonment Railway Station, so be smart and make sure to keep your belongings locked properly. Keep an eye on your valuable stuffs when you walk through the market areas and the ghats where evening Ganga Arti is organized. It’s better to leave your valuable items at your accommodation and carry only essentials while heading out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below stated are few of the most common questions and worries that run in the mind of almost every traveler and most likely for foreigners.
Q. How safe is Varanasi for traveling?
Varanasi is called by many nicknames including “The city of thieves” and the city is not famous for its enlightened attitude towards the female travelers and the locals too. But this should not be hamper your plan of visiting Varanasi as there are certain tips and tricks that you can follow to avoid any wrongdoing at the place.
Q. What is the best time to visit Varanasi?
October to March is believed to be the best time to visit this religious city as this is the time when the weather is quite pleasing and favorable. Winters are albeit chilly at night and are quite refreshing and pleasant. During the summer months, the climate is very hot where the temperature sometimes goes above 40 degrees Celsius.
Q. How to get to Varanasi?
The city is pretty well connected to many nearby cities of the country including Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Allahabad, etc. via all modes of transport, especially through railways. If you are coming from a far city then it’s better to opt for a flight to cover the distance between your city and Varanasi.
Q. What are some of the must-buy things here?
Banarasi Silk, other silk products, carpets, handicrafts, handloom products, religious items, etc. are a few of the must-buy souvenirs from Varanasi.