india is big the way continents are big. It’s a 3214km (2000-mile) journey from northern Ladakh to the tip of Tamil Nadu, and a 2933km (1822-mile) trip from the west end of Gujarat to Manipur in the Northeast States. Needless to say, getting from one end of this vast country to the other takes some time and effort.
Luckily, India’s magnificent rail network is on hand to do much of the heavy lifting, with nearly 20,000 trains running daily on 67,956km (42,226 miles) of track, carrying a staggering 8 billion passengers per year. Every journey by train is backed up by thousands of journeys by bus, jeep, taxi and rickshaw, while planes connect every corner of the country, from the beach resorts of Goa and Kerala to tiny mountain airstrips high in the Himalayas.
Whether you’re making plans for the plains or getting high in the hills, here’s our guide to getting around India.
Exploring India by air
Once upon a time, domestic air travel in India was a haphazard business, with unreliable schedules, aging state-owned aircraft and elevated US-dollar fares for non-Indian passengers. But since the liberalization of air travel in India in the 1990s, domestic aviation has exploded, with bargain fares for online booking and budget airlines bringing cheap air travel to the masses.
Given its environmental impact, many travelers are happy not to fly. Yet a short flight can be a good way to avoid overland travel through lawless regions, or save days of rough travel in ancient diesel jeeps that aren’t exactly paragons of safety or environmental friendliness themselves.
If you want to fly sparingly, save internal flights for trips into the Himalayas – the flights to Leh in Ladakh and Pakyong in Sikkim rank among the world’s most spectacular air routes, with dizzying views of the tallest mountains on earth. With rampant competition, airlines come and go in India; Air India, Indigo and SpiceJet are presently the biggest carriers.