What to take when backpacking: India

You’ve booked your flights, mapped your route, and picked out your must-see sights. Now, you need to decide what to pack – and it’s trickier than you might first think. Whether you’re a grab and go packer or spend hours agonising over how many pairs of socks are too many, it always handy to have a rough idea of what you might need, particularly if you’re heading somewhere completely new.

There are lots of factors to consider which will influence what you decide to take with you – how long you’re planning on being away, how active you’re going to be, and whether you’re going to visit any religious or culturally sensitive places, for example.

The first item you need to think about taking with you is a decent travel backpack; I can assure you that trying to maneuver a suitcase around Delhi’s crowded streets will not go well for you. Check out this handy guide from The Broke Backpacker which reviews some of the best backpacks currently on the market, to see what kind of bag would suit your travel needs and style.

If you’re packing for more than a couple of weeks, you will want a pack with at least a 40 litre capacity to make sure you have room for everything you might need. You will also need a decent daypack for when you’re out and about exploring, as you won’t want to be carrying around your big pack all day, especially if you’re travelling during the peak season.

Essentials

  • A micro-fibre towel – these super lightweight towels take up minimal room and dry far quicker then a normal towel, an absolute must when backpacking.
  • Padlock – It’s always handy to carry a padlock on you to lock your bag while on a long-haul bus or train journey, and for securing hostel rooms and lockers.
  • Security money belt – This is a great secure way to stash your money out of sight of petty thieves or chance criminals, especially when travelling through busy or more dodgy areas.
  • ‘Stuff Sacks’ – These waterproof sacks are great for keeping your clothes and other valuables dry and compact so they don’t take up unnecessary room in your backpack.
  • Imodium – Everyone’s heard of the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’, so it’s worth packing some of this to make sure you don’t get caught out unexpectedly.
  • Bug spray – yeah, you’ll need this.

Clothing

The most important thing when deciding what, and how much, to bring with you is to pack light. You almost definitely won’t need everything you’re currently thinking of taking with you, and as a general rule clothes tend to be pretty cheap to pick up on the road as you move form place to place. Packing darker clothes is also a good idea as they don’t show the dirt as much. Here is a list of the types of clothes I took with me on my backpacking adventure around India…

  • Underwear – goes without saying, really…I would recommend at least a week’s worth, but be prepared to wash them by hand.
  • T-shirts – 3-4 T-shirts/vest tops that you can mix and match.
  • Long-sleeve top – Always handy to have one of these to cover sunburn/repel mosquito bites.
  • Hiking trousers – one pair will do.
  • Shorts – a couple of pairs.
  • Jumper – Depending on which part of India you will be travelling to, and in which season, it’s always a good idea to pack at least one lightweight jumper with you.
  • Raincoat – Especially if you’re travelling in monsoon season, but if you’re travelling in peak summer season you can probably leave this out.
  • Swimming costume – India has some of the most incredible beaches and warm oceans, so make the most of these if you get the chance
  • Scarf – one of the most useful things I took with me; you can use it to cover your shoulders while visiting religiously-sensitive sites, to avoid sunburn on the beach, or as a travel pillow while on a bus, train or plane.
  • Walking shoes/trainers – If you’re planning on doing any hiking or lots of walking then you should definitely invest in some decent footwear.
  • Sliders/sandals – for the beach/casual wear.
  • Going-out clothes – Packing light doesn’t mean you can’t take a couple of nice things with you for the evenings, such as a couple of light dresses or skirts.

Obviously, this is just a basic guide based on the kinds of things I took with me to India, and you can customise this list however you see fit, depending on the length of your trip and the kinds of activities (if any) you have planned.

No backpacking checklist is exhaustive, but one piece of advice I would give is to pack as light as possible – you can always pick things up on the road, and sometimes doing it that way is more fun, too.

Kicking back in Malta

Lying 50 miles south of Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, the island of Malta is a popular holiday destination for couples, families and, well, pretty much anyone. Spanning an area of just 122 square miles, Malta is the world’s tenth smallest sovereign country. But don’t let its size fool you, this tiny island has something to offer everyone and is the perfect place for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Marsaxlokk fishing village

Beautiful beaches, glorious sunshine and pretty ports, Malta isn’t short of picturesque scenery that leaves you feeling relaxed and fulfilled. Head to Marsaxlokk fishing village on the southern tip of the island on market day to sample fresh seafood caught that morning, and once you’ve had your fill wander through the stalls filled with trinkets and goods sold by the locals.

Make sure you visit Malta’s Blue Grotto, where you can take a short boat trip out to the caves to glimpse the piercing blue hues in the water around the island’s southeast coast. This is a really popular diving and snorkeling spot attracting around 100,000 visitors every year. Don’t let the crowds put you off though, as it really is worth the trip.

And if boat trips are your thing, then why not make a day out of it and catch the ferry over to one of Malta’s sister islands, Gozo. The ferry ride to Gozo takes around 25 minutes, and if you book an organised tour you’ll be met at the dock by an open top bus which will take you to the island’s capital, Victoria (Ir-Rabat). Here, you can weave through the cobbled streets, ducking inside the many shops and stop at one of pretty the open air cafes for a bite to eat. Take a trip up to the Citadel, where its towering fortifications provide superb views across the whole island. St George’s Basilica stands in a square in the heart of the Old Town, and the tiny winding streets around St George’s are some of the oldest in town.

Many of the boat trips to Gozo will also stop off at the striking Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino on their return leg. Here, you can swim for hours in the island’s crystal clear waters, and if snorkelling is your thing then you’ll be spoilt for choice with an abundant variety of sea life on display. A word of warning: it does get very busy at peak times in the main lagoon, and with more and more tour operators mooring up in the bay it can spoil the tranquility. However, if you’re prepared to take a short walk around the bay’s headland to a quiet stretch of coast it really is stunning, and provides a really relaxing, wholesome place to whittle away a couple of hours.

While it would be easy, and completely understandable, to spend all your time in Malta on the island’s idyllic coast, there is plenty more to see inland. One of the biggest pulls to Malta is its capital city, Valletta, which was named the European Capital of Culture in 2018. It’s definitely worth a day trip to the city to glimpse the mid-16th century baroque to modernism architecture of the Old Town, and have a look around its unique collection of churches, palaces and museums.

One of the buildings of significant historical importance is St John’s Co-Cathedral, which visitors can enter inside for a small fee, and which holds the only signed work and largest painting by Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. Take a stroll through the picturesque Lower Barrakka Gardens and gaze out over the port city’s 100m high fortifications, built by the Maltese Knights as a magnificent series of bastions, cavaliers and curtains.

Prepare to navigate a few steps in Valletta, with the city fortifications standing at 100m tall

It comes with the territory of holidaying on a Mediterranean island, but the seafood on offer in Malta is really something. Caught fresh and prepared with local flair, there’s little better than a delicious seafood platter to top off a day of sunbathing or exploring one of Malta’s many cultural hotspots. Due to Malta’s history of British colonisation, it’s really easy to find something familiar on the menu. But if you feel like pushing the boat out (so to speak…) then tucking into some fresh, local seafood is definitely something you should try while on the island.

Malta also has its fare share of decent nightlife for those who like to make an evening of it, with popular hotspots such as St Paul’s Bay and nearby Bugibba offering an array of restaurants, bars and clubs to suit all manner of tastes. The bottom line is, Malta has something to tickle the fancy of anyone – from a tranquil, relaxing beach break, to a cultural exploration of its many historical and cultural delights, to catering for those who prefer to party through the night and sleep throughout the day.