A Solo Backpacker’s Guide to the Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand, India

A backpacker’s paradise and a photographer’s delight, the Valley of Flowers is a place you must visit before you die. If you are looking for a place where you can experience nature in its most pristine form and stay away from the so called “civilization”, the Valley of Flowers National Park offers an excellent option. A part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the valley comes into life for a brief period of four months from June to September every year when the entire valley gets covered with flowers of varied colours and shapes. However, it is not easily accessible and needs a bit of prior planning. However, it is a must see destination in the Indian Himalayas for true nature lovers as well as photographers. Based on personal experience of the author, a few quick tips are being provided below for future travellers.

How many days does it take?

– 6-7 days from and to New Delhi to Valley of Flowers but it must be planned well.

What is the best time to visit?

– June-August

What are the modes of transport?

– From Delhi trains and buses are available to Haridwar. After that buses or rented cars are the only option. They move very slowly due to the difficult terrain and it takes time to cover small distances. But the good thing is that they are not costly at all. The usual route is, Haridwar-Rishikesh-Rudraprayag-Chamoli-Joshimath-Govindghat. At Govindghat the real trek starts. One can hire mules or horses up to Ghangaria if the trekking becomes too difficult. Ghangaria is the last place offering accommodation and food en route. After that one must trust their feet to reach the Valley of Flowers. Camping at the Valley is now allowed and the visitors must come back to Ghangaria by the evening.

What kind of Food is available?

– It is mostly vegetarian considering there are a lot of pilgrims in this route. After Govindghat, a plate of Maggi noodles is the best option at any point of time.

Budget?

– The entire route to Valley of Flowers is a backpacker’s delight. The costliest thing will be the mule ride from Govindghat to Ghagaria with costs INR 500. A single person should wrap up the entire trip to and from Delhi within INR 5000-7000.

What about accommodation?

– Budget accommodation is available till Ghangaria and it should not be a problem for anyone. But if you are looking for luxury resorts, you might be disappointed.

Should I hire a guide?

– Basically there is only one road and a normal traveller cannot possibly get lost and hence a guide is avoidable as well. Still if you are feeling insecure you can hire one at Joshimath.

Travel Guide for Backpackers

Thailand is one of the world’s famous holiday destinations. Thousands of tourists go on holidays in Thailand every year. This is one place people keep coming back to. Whether it is for the breathtaking beaches, food, photo-walks, or shopping, there is always something new you can look forward to.

Thailand is a large island, which stretches more than 2,000 kilometers from South to North. It is famous for its rich marine life, unique culture, modern urban adventures, and incredible diversity. With its rich history, it still managed to keep its distinct and unique tradition.

Why spend your holidays in Thailand?

It’s not that difficult to find a vacation spot in Thailand. Each of its main regions offers a great experience for every traveller in search of discovery. Tall and misty mountains located in the north shelter rich valleys and exotic hills. In the central region, you will experience unique traditional customs and crafts that have been well preserved over centuries. This is one of the reasons people spend their holidays in Thailand.

Along the breath-taking coastlines of the east and south lie some of the world’s greatest beaches and off-shore islands. You will also see historical monuments in the north-eastern region of Thailand. These sacred Khamer monuments existed from the time of Angkor Wat.

Where to spend your holidays

Bangkok

You cannot miss out Bangkok in your itinerary. Your holidays are not complete without seeing this modern “mecca” of east meets west. Its popular destinations include the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Aroon Temples, Thailand National Museum, and Jim Thompson’s House. While you are in the city, make sure you’ll get some Thai recipe like the famous Pad Thai and native Tom Yam Goong. If shopping is your hobby, you can check out Chatuchak Weekend Market. This large strip covers 40 acres and contains over 6,000 stalls. This popular market receives over 300,000 visitors every week.

Phuket

Phuket holidays are your best choice if you love spending your time on a beach. This humble town features stunning natural wonders, pristine white sand beaches, and lush tropical green forests. If you like water sports and other water activities, you’ll find it all here. Experience the adventure of your life paragliding, wind surfing, boating, and jet skiing. Divers and underwater enthusiasts will have a field day exploring the depths while discovering thousands of marine life that thrive in Phuket’s crystal clear waters.

You will also find ancient villages in Phuket. Discover the wonders of their rich culture and tradition. Have a taste of their delicious and exotic dishes like snake blood. You can also have a good time with your kids at the Phuket Aquarium and Orchid Farm. These are just some of the places you can go, once you’ve had your feel of the beach.

Spending holidays in Thailand is truly a remarkable experience. The country characterises authentic Asian culture with its people, arts, and cuisine. Make it your next destination.

Money Advice For Backpackers – When to Use Cash, Credit Cards and Traveler’s Checks

General

Do not put all your eggs in the same basket. Divide your cash, credit cards and travelers cheques in several locations e.g. in your daypack, backpack, money belt and wallet.

Research the most suitable way to carry money in your destination. It can be US dollars, traveler’s cheques, credit card, local currency, etc.

If you are on a tight budget you can use your journal to keep track of your expenses by writing them down in the journal.

Cash

There are a lot of counterfeit bills around in some parts of the world. This has led some places to prefer bills from certain years, with certain print (e.g. USD with big print) and bills in good condition. Check what is advisable before you change your money.

It can be practical (though expensive) to get some of the local currency (in small denominations) before you leave.

Try to break large bills in shops and restaurants, getting small bills can be difficult. If you cannot find a place to change money you can try the big hotels.

If you for some reason get stranded with no cash whatsoever, calling mum or other family members is a good life savior. If there is a bank or just about any shop around there is a good chance that they will be able to transfer money with a money transfer agency.

Change a bit of cash in your home country so that you have enough local currency for a day or two. Having to find a place to change money after a 20 hour flight is tedious, even though usually there are several ATMs in airports.

Personal Experience – The Komodo Crisis

Try not to get stranded without money. A friend of mine was traveling overland in Indonesia to Komodo and was steadily running down on cash hoping that there were ATMs around. There were none and he was lucky to run into some people who could lend him some cash.

Credit card

Check the expiry date of your credit card. You do not want it to expire in the middle of your trip. Also note that some credit cards mainly intended for younger people, (e.g. Maestro and Electron cards) may not work in all ATMs. These cards usually do not have relief printing on them and will not work in old fashion manual swipe machines. Check with your card issuer just to make sure.

Relying on one credit card only may be risky if you plan to use ATMs. Occasionally they get swallowed for seemingly no reason whatsoever. If you plan on having several cards with you it can be useful to make sure that they are on different networks e.g. on Cirrus and on PLUS.

You can also get prepaid cards where you store a certain amount of money and then withdraw your prepaid amount without any credit, which may be safer if your card is stolen.

If you have a special device or one-time codes for Internet banking bring them along if you plan on using your Internet bank.

Traveler’s Cheques

Different brands are preferred in different countries, check before you go.

Keep track of which traveler’s cheques you have used (in a separate location from the cheques themselves).

Make sure your that your signature on the traveler’s cheques matches the one in your passport.

Bring the purchase record with you (in a separate location from the cheques), it is sometimes needed in order to cash the cheques and to claim a refund for stolen cheques.

Personal Experience – The Cambodian Cock-up

I was traveling in Cambodia and tried to cash my traveler’s cheque. I had gotten a new passport and had the bright idea of changing my signature. Only problem was, the signature on the cheques was my old one so they did not match. This made it close to impossible for me to cash my cheques in Cambodia.

Personal Experience – The Alice Springs ATM Adventure

A Friday afternoon 1997 in Alice Springs, Australia I was getting low on cash. I had $20 left and tried to withdraw cash from the one of the few ATMs in the outback. I inserted the credit card the way it is done in Sweden – with the magnetic stripe upwards. The card was swallowed by the machine and there I stood with just a few dollars left. My hostel accepted credit and I found myself eating bananas, drinking tap water and comparing pasta prices for the next five days. A quite different diet from the steak and umbrella drink life I was used to. For FedEx to get a new card to the middle of nowhere (i.e. Alice Springs) took five days.