Local Food Outlets in India

As part of our Must Do in India post, we mentioned “fresh food” under “must experience”. So we thought we should expand on that a little. Having traveled quite a bit in India, we picked up a pattern for food. Somehow cheaper food at local outlets tastes better than most mid-high end restaurants.

Ideal Indian Food

Shruti and I have been eating North Indian home food since we were able to eat solid food. While we can’t claim to be experts, we know when we get a good Indian meal. After all our ‘most’ favourite dish is a North Indian dish, dal chawal being Shruti’s fav while paratha & rajma is mine. We can eat that day in day out.

Ideally, food should be light, hot (in temperature not spice), flavourful, cooked fresh (not reheated) and not too oily. While each dish may vary in taste, these are the must characteristics for all Indian food.

Parathe wali gali, Delhi

Problem with Restaurants

The oil

Firstly, restaurant food is rarely light. Even the humble daal is full of oil or butter amongst other spices. This of course also means that the food is incredibly oily as well. This makes you bloated when you finish your meal. Add in a desert and its calories central!


The restaurant food is quite expensive comparatively. An average vegetarian curry is around Rs 250-300. If you add in the service charge, a meal for 2 people will easily go over Rs 1000. While this may not be an issue for many middle class Indians, it certainly was a problem for us as backpackers. We can’t afford that food economically everyday.

Oh My Paneer

Many parts of India have a large number of vegetarians. Understandably, restaurants cater to their audiences but for some odd reason there is an oversupply of paneer (cottage cheese) dishes. Shruti and I aren’t particularly fond of paneer which means we had to look for non-paneer dishes which would almost certainly be too oily. Bummer!

Same ol’ Food

There is a peculiar problem with Indian restaurants almost everywhere in North India as well as other big cities. Due to overwhelming number of North Indian tourists, the menu in most restaurants is quite similar. The general menu of every Indian restaurant is: 4 daal dishes, 10 paneer dishes, 1 eggplant dish, 1 okra dish, Indian Chinese food, idli and dosa to represent the South Indian cuisine.

Other than this, we found that now mock Italian had started to enter the menu as well. Unfortunately, by catering to all audiences, they don’t get any of those right.

What are Local Outlets?

Basically where the locals eat on regular basis. It can be the dhabas in North India, small home food joints or ‘fast food’ outlets.

Dhabas started as truck stops on the highways around India. The number of Dhabas are higher in Haryana and Punjab due to GT Road being one of the oldest highways in India. Dhabas cater to truck drivers and families traveling in buses and cars.

Home food joints are usually found in South India and North East India. They are small outlets run by a family. The board outside will say “home food” or something similar. Usually they are only open for lunch but if you are lucky, you could find some open for dinner too. The food cooked by the family is as they would eat at home.

‘Fast food’ outlets are usually found in bigger cities. They focus on time efficiency – quick seating, quick order, quick service  and quick payment. They are very popular during lunch hours, especially around office areas. Generally speaking, a person maybe seated in the outlet for 25 mins top.

Thukpa in Sikkim

Why Local Outlets?

The food at local outlets is cheap, simple and earthy. Generally the amount of food cooked is based on the traffic of people visiting and so it tends to be fresh and flavoursome.

The curries at local outlets on average cost between Rs 100-150. Thali, a combination of various curries, served with rice and bread is pretty common as well. Usually, a good thali could range between Rs 100-150 too. Very economical.

Oh wait, there is still the best part – local outlets generally serve local area cuisine. That means, you are eating like a local. Dishes like sarson ka saag and makki ki roti in Punjab, rotla with jaggery in Gujarat, meal on banana leaf in Kerala or thukpa in Sikkim.

Meal on Banana Leaf in Kerala

Which Local Outlet?

If you go looking for them, there are plenty of local outlets around. While most of them maintain a certain level of hygiene, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any not-so-clean ones. We recommend asking a local, they will have the best answer to it.

So next time do check out local food outlets in India.

Rotlo in Gujarat

Must Do In India

As mentioned in our previous post, India gave us a terrific experience. Although we were born here, we learnt and saw so much. It was sometimes too much to take in all.

So here we have compiled a list of must do in India.

Must See


Taj Mahal is a must visit.  Pictures can never do justice. Once we walked through the main gate, we were mesmerised from the first glance.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Qutb Minar is Shruti’s favourite monument after Taj Mahal. The pillar was erected in 12th century and is really very tall. One can only imagine how was it constructed back then.

Qutb Minar, Delhi, India


Hawa Mahal in Jaipur is truly a fine building that represents Rajasthani architecture. We stood in any corner of the building and felt the cool breeze. Also, the building’s view from across the road is marvelous. I wish we had spent some more time just gazing at it.

Hawa Mahal, Rajasthan, India

Amer Fort, again in Jaipur, was one of our favourite forts in India. The pond at the entry, climb up to the palace, the open area over looking the Aravali Hills and the architecture of the doors, windows and building was just beautiful. I would love to come back here with a book and picnic basket to take in everything at the fort.

Amer fort, Rajasthan, Insia

Spiritual & Religious

Varanasi is one the most important religious town in India. We had assumed it to be similar to Haridwar but this city was different. There were over 80 ghats and each of them have their own story. People of all age groups, religion and background (read white travelers) were seen on the ghats. While some enjoyed the cool breeze of Ganga, others were busy chatting up with friends. This place had something to offer to everyone.

Varanasi, Bihar, India

Bodhgaya is the place where Budha gained enlightenment. Upon reaching the temple, we felt the calmness and peace within ourselves. It was almost like time stood stagnant and we could concentrate on our breath.

Bodhgaya, Bihar, india

Golden Temple is the most important religious temple for Sikhs. When we got there, the sun was high, there was cool breeze and lots of people queuing up to enter the main temple. But for some reason, the environment was very calm. Although we were in the middle of hundreds of people, there was no usual pushing, pulling or talking. It was like everyone there just wanted 30 mins of silence!

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Natural Beauty

Kerala, ‘God’s own country’ has a beauty like no other place in the world. Coconut trees, backwaters, blue sky and greenery everywhere makes Kerala picture perfect. Unlike everywhere else we visited, Kerala looks dazzling in all climates.

Munnar, Kerala

Gangtok, Sikkim, and the surrounding areas’ natural beauty was made better by the colours and culture of Buddhism. The prayer flags hung from flag poles or trees against the green foothills made the beauty unique.

Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim

Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, is a hilly rainforest with a reputation of highest rainfall in India. The waterfalls and the rivers flowing down from Meghalaya hills to Bangladesh made us realise just how much water passes through this land. Moreover, the tribesmen have learnt to live with the land and invented root bridges to cross waterfalls.

Root Bridge, Meghalaya, India

Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, was once the mouth of river Indus in Gujarat. An earthquake in 1819 changed this land greatly. We saw the salt pans, parched land and migratory flamigoes in a space of 50 kilometres. At night, we saw a clear sky full of stars and star constellations without any other light in the sky. There were no clouds in the sky and we could see the milky way. Sublime!

Salt pan, Rann of Kutch, Gujarat


Hyderabad in one word: courteous. Hyderabadis were well-mannered from our experience. The dialect, the manners and respect of women was universal in Hyderabad.

Rajasthan should be a synonym for colour. Despite being dry and colourless in large parts of Rajasthan, the colours are simply stunning. The ladies wear colourful blouse, skirts and shoes, the men wear colourful turbans and camels are dressed up colourfully as well.

Rajasthan Coloures

Must Experience

Aarti in Varanasi

No where in the world (as far as I know) people gather around a water body in hundreds and thousands, twice a day, for prayers. I would recommend witnessing the Ganga Aarti from a boat.

Aarti in Varanasi, India

Durga Pooja in Kolkata

Durga Pooja was an absolute shocker. We had expected lots of pandals and lights but didn’t expect to see the whole city on ecstasy. It was mental, we had never seen anything like it before.

Durga Pooja in Kolkata

Punjabi Wedding in Punjab

When we were returning from Amrit’s wedding, Shruti said, everyone should have at least one Punjabi friend so they can witness the craziness at a wedding. I can’t describe it, you have to attend one for yourself.

Punjabi Wedding

Relaxing houseboat in Kerala

Various bollywood songs were shot in houseboat which made Shruti really excited. When we got on ours, we experienced a different kind of relaxation. Cool breeze, right speed of the boat, green everywhere, water below us and sky above. It was just perfect.

Kerala Backwaters

Desert Stay in Osian, Rajasthan

We spent a day with Gemar Singh in Osian village, close to Jodhpur. We rode camels, watched sunset from dand dunes, watched wildlife and spent a starry night in a hut without electricity or running water. It was an amazing surprise. We enjoyed every second of it, especially when we were woken up by the call of peacocks in the morning.

Fresh Food

There are plenty of options for food in India, but the best are small, local outlets that cut, cook and sell daily and quickly. We don’t recommend restaurant visits in India, instead eat from where the locals eat. Some of our best meals were:

  1. Eating a meal from banana leaf in Kerala
  2. Hot thukpa noodles at Tsomgo Lake Sikkim
  3. Rotlo (breads) in Gujarat
  4. Sandesh and Rasgulla (sweets) in Kolkata

Unexpected hits

Hampi in Karnataka

It took our breath away. Apart from the kingdom ruins, the natural backdrop is just unique. Plenty of massive boulders and trees and farmland to add green to the brown. Although it was monsoon when we visited, I felt it was the perfect time to be there. Very dramatic scenic as the sky grew darker and we experienced downpour on top of a hill.


Secondly, Sikkim was another place which hit us hard. It is a mountainous kingdom with natural beauty all around. The prayer flags flying in the air, Shruti’s favourite, alongside the mountains and pin turns created a very peaceful environment.


Finally, Gujarat incredibly surprised me. While people claim Modi as a development man, none of this is evident until one visits Gujarat. The industries have taken over ensuring jobs, water and electricity for locals. The people continue to follow their culture and traditions while the nature and wildlife is well preserved in this land.

Special Mentions

If there was one place I would go back and live in, it would be Gangtok. The beauty and civility of the people was just amazing.

Having said that, Varanasi was special too. I could imagine going back on regular basis to unwind and connect with reality.

We Will Be Back

Although we visited a lot of places, there are plenty that we had to skip. Shruti and I have promised each other to be back to travel more. Because, India can never be enough. It engulfed us and we enjoyed the ride.

Like ‘they’ say, you either love India or you hate it. There are no questions which side we stand.


Hope you enjoyed the post. Do let us know what you thought. Did we miss anything? Or is there something you need to know?

How India Treated Us

In one word – Brilliantly. India gave us a great experience.

Before getting into all the details, let’s have a quick look at our travel in Asia, time lapse mode.

So back to India.

Why India?

We are Indians by birth, but left India at early age – read about us here. We hadn’t seen much around in India and Shruti hadn’t even seen the Taj Mahal (till September this year).

It is well known that India is diverse and we had to experience it. So when we decided to quit our jobs and travel, we knew we had to spend quality time in India.

The next task of planning our itinerary in India was a big task. There is so much to do here – history, culture, food, nature and spirituality. Where do we go and what to we skip. After many discussions, we had a plan and booked our transport and hotels well in advance.


We started our trip in Delhi visiting my family and Haridwar, Rishikesh and Agra to escape the heat. We also managed to apply for USA visa in Delhi.

Once we started backpacking, we first covered the south and west region, i.e., Hyderabad, Hampi, Goa and Kerala. We then spent some quality and spiritual time in Varanasi and Bodhgaya before visiting family in Kanpur and Mumbai.


While in Mumbai, we tried to renew Shruti’s passport but it was unsuccessful. We then went on a 15 day trip of North East and Kolkata. We continued our travels in Rajasthan for 11 days before returning to Mumbai and getting Shruti’s passport.

We briefly went to Gandhidham, Gujarat where Shruti’s parents now live to celebrate Diwali and my birthday. We then flew to Delhi for Peru visa and attended my friend Amrit’s wedding. After a small tour of Amritsar, it was time to meet and say goodbye to family in Delhi before returning to Gujarat to visit Saurashtra and Kutch region.

Family, India

Family aside, we were able to see a variety of places in India while keeping some obvious places for next time. It has been a great journey across this great land.


  1. Biggest mistake – booking EVERYTHING in advance!
    We had to book transport, otherwise traveling in train would have become impossible. India has a huge population (well known fact) and covers huge area. This makes train the most convenient way for transport. Train tickets go on sale 3 months in advance and usually get sold out early. We had no choice but to book in advance.
    The hotel bookings though could have been avoided.
  2. Taking flights – expensive mistake
    As we were visiting India during the monsoons, we had to pick our destinations carefully and check the weather well in advance. This led to quite a few flying trips within India. We ended up spending almost Rs. 80,000 (USD 1200) on flights within India.
  3. Booking tour packages – we realised we could have done it cheaper
    We chose tours for Kerala and North East as the logistics was getting difficult. We  could have managed it on our own, but decided to take a convenient option.
  4. Doing things too fast – The trip was a mad rush at times
    We had plenty of time in Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Shillong. It allowed us time to stop and think about things around us. Although we couldn’t spend a week  or more in Rishikesh like many white backpackers do but we should have avoided the rush in places like Agra, Hampi, Gangtok and Udaipur.
  5. Cultural shyness – We rarely scratched beneath the surface
    Now, being from India, there are a few cultural norms and cultural issues we have grown up with. This means it was always tough for us to photograph a Hindu Sadhu (holy man) because after that he may get offended or ask for money. We didn’t ask people in Varanasi how drugs are affecting kids because being from India, we knew the set boundaries when speaking to strangers and elders.

What we gained from India

Where do we start? While we made some mistakes (see list above), we gained a lot of experiences in India which are invaluable. We ticked off quite a few places off our bucket list namely, Brahmaputra river and root bridges of Meghalaya in the east to Mehrangarh fort and Mewar kingdom (Udaipur) in the west and Kerala backwaters in the south to Varanasi in the north. While the distance between them is huge and it cost us a bit, I have to say, money can’t buy the vast experience.

Secondly, I feel Australia has a habit of depressing us. There are issues with liberals and labor, property prices, traffic and alcohol-fueled violence. However, not until you see a country with a huge difference between rich and poor, sectarian violence and hatred and dishonesty in people that you realise how grateful you are. It is not until you hear our experience of getting a passport and then hear of an Indian gangster in Australia having an Indian passport that you realise the law is not the same for all. The term ‘first world problems’ makes you realise how tiny our problems are until you have lived in a country like India.

Finally, we have learnt that it is very important to be accommodating. In India, the word used is ‘adjust’. Here there are plenty of cultures, religions, languages and every person has their own set of problems, but for some reason the country is moving forward in a very disorganised form, the actual term is ‘organised chaos’ is apt. As we will be traveling to South America, we are ready to be culturally shocked and embrace it with open arms.

Look out for complication of must do in India.

Camels on Beach, India

Peru visa for Indians

Based on our change of plan #2, we decided to visit South America before Europe. So that means, applying visa for South American countries. Having said that, we lost lot of our time trying to renew Shruti’s passport.

We read about the visa application processes for various countries and their leniency when a non-resident applies for visa from another country. That means, as an Indian, Shruti has to apply for Peru visa from Colombia though She’s not a resident there. There are lots of people who have tried and shared their experiences. After doing initial research, we gauged that Peru is one of the toughest countries to grant visas overseas.

So we decided to get Peru visa in India before flying out. And here we share our experience, applying Peru visa for Indians. Hopefully it is helpful.


Peru embassy in New Delhi is located at D2/5, Vasant Vihar. There is no public transport close to the embassy. The closest metro stations are Hauz Khas and Chattarpur. It costs around Rs100 to get there. Once at the end of Vasant marg or on Paschimi Marg, there are signs for embassy of Peru. Its not a big building and is a bungalow next to a park.

Documents needed

The visa form and the documents needed are standard for any visa

  • Photo graphs
  • 2x Filled application form
  • Valid Indian passports for one year
  • Photocopy of front and back passport pages
  • Proof of financial capability
  • Itinerary for Peru
  • Hotel and flight reservations

However, please note that we were able to provide bus tickets from Cruz del Sur and into another South American country as proof of ‘flight’ reservations. Our plan was to travel overland and Peru embassy accepted these.

In addition, Shruti also has a USA B1 visa which helped with the application. We had called up several times to check for details and the embassy was readily available to answer questions.

Processing time

We were told that the application would be processed in 5 working days.


We received no calls in 6 days. Upon calling them, they told us that the application was neither rejected nor approved. Their ‘new’ system could not accept our arrival date being more than 90 days though we had everything else in order.


We had given all the right paper work and everything was in order. However, our arrival date in Peru which was based on the bus ticket was longer than 90 days. It was a grave mistake on our part.

What now?

As stated in the change of plans, We will fly to Colombia and then cross into Ecuador. At both places, we will apply for Peru visa in various consulates. If received then great otherwise Machu Pichu will have to wait til when Shruti gets an Australian passport.

Change of Plans #2

Current status

If you have been following the blog you would know that we have been traveling around India. This was after spending 4 days in Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

Europe next or last?

While we were in Australia, we have envisioned going to Europe in the peak of winter. We bought winter clothes accordingly and were aware of how cold it can be. And, we wanted to experience Northern Lights as well.

However, Shruti’s uncle in Hong Kong made a very valid point. While we were prepared to brave the cold, we had not taken into account that a lot of Europe’s lesser known towns and tourist destinations may be shut for the winter.

One example of his drove the point home. In the summer, many streets in Paris or squares in Italy have open air bars with people mingling around creating a holiday atmosphere. However, in the winter the cold wind and possibly the rain or snow would drive people inside. Therefore, while there would still be people around the Eiffel tower, Brandenburg date etc, the fun of Europe would be lost.

Hence, we chose to put Europe to the end so we could enjoy the summer in Europe.

So what now?

We discussed lots of options such as going to South America or Africa but our bucket list items were left out. There was a bit of stress and we were trying really hard to crack it.

Till one fine afternoon, Manish spoke words of wisdom – hey, we can go to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. BAM! We hit jackpot. After we finish from India, we could head to USA and then South America. And once we completed our journey in the American Continents, we could head to Europe.

Problems with the passport

As we wrote in another post, Shruti and I had a long procedure trying to get her passport renewed. This left little time to do other things namely getting visas for South American countries. Having said that, the visa application is usually accepted at least 3 months in advance to planned travel. So our Peru application (post coming soon), for instance, was not accepted because we applied too early, almost 4 months in advance.

Luckily we managed to get USA visa, so that is a big yay! Now, even if getting visa for South American countries is an issue, we could fly to Central America and spend time in islands :)

What’s next?

We will be flying to USA next week, spending Christmas and NYE in New York. That fulfills our bucket list for White Christmas and New Year.

In addition, we will be flying to Fairbanks Alaska, to try our hand at seeing the Northern Lights. After this, we will be traveling to Colombia and then to Ecuador. From there, it’s que sera sera with plenty of options…..