I’m frequently asked, ” What’s the best country you’ve ever visited?” and always fail to answer with just one country. Every country offers something different. We love to get off the beaten track and take our boys on true adventures, pushing the boundaries of family travel, yet we still love a good European camping holiday or city break. But our favourite travel memories as a family are always amongst epic landscapes or bustling Asian cities where we have stepped out of our comfort zone.
So I’ve decided to compile this list of our top 5 countries from our own experience. I’m sure this will change over time and I plan to update it if we ever visit a country that tops one of these. But hopefully this may provide you with some family adventure travel ideas for 2019.
If your crave epic lunar landscapes, affordable and rewarding safaris, and a true African adventure, Namibiagets our vote as one of the best places for intrepid family travel. Don’t do an organised tour. Hire a 4×4 with roof tents and go it alone! The quality of roads in generally very good and the campsites are seriously fantastic. Add to this a low malaria risk and an amazing climate, and it’s a definite winner in our books.
We fell head over heels in love with Sri Lanka. We visited whilst we were living in Bangalore and although there were many similarities with India, we found it to be cleaner and less chaotic. It’s a relatively small country so travelling between places is easy, yet it still offers enough activities, must-see sights, and fun to keep the whole tribe entertained. Indeed, for a country roughly the same size as Ireland, it manages to offer so much variety – both natural and cultural – that we’re sure you’ll fall in love with it too. Our favourite experiences in Sri Lanka were the incredible beaches and spotting wild elephants.
We had put off visiting Iceland for so long, as we thought it was too expensive. But we were tempted by cheap easyJet flights and photos of those dramatic landscapes. Admittedly the car hire and accommodation are going to be your biggest outgoings, but self-catering will keep costs down, and if you travel independently, exploring Iceland‘s natural wonders and hiking through it’s expansive landscape is totally FREE! Check out these other tips to save money on a family trip to Iceland.
On our 5 day Iceland itinerary we explored the classic Golden Circle, but also ventured off the beaten track and over to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. If you’re a family who love the great outdoors and wild landscapes, Iceland is a perfect destination for you; just ensure you pack layers as the weather is extremely interchangeable.
We love the energy, the ornate temples, the colourful markets, the polite people and the food… oh my THE FOOD! Oh, and of course the incredible beaches! Don’t rush straight to the islands though, enjoy your first few days in bustling Bangkok. It has to be our favourite city to explore with our boys (check out our Bangkok with kids itinerary).
Thailand is one of the most accessible countries we’ve visited with the boys. Many restaurants, even along the once backpacker enclave of Th Khao San, have highchairs, and we found that some beach restaurants in Ko Lanta have toys and kids’ play areas. Also, kid-friendly food is available everywhere; think sticky rice, banana pancakes, and tropical fruit aplenty. Throw in tuk-tuk rides, exploring mystical temples, and jumping in the waves crashing on to tropical islands, and you have the perfect mix for a fantastic family adventure holiday.
Now India isn’t everyone’s cup of chai. It’s loud, chaotic and confronting. But, it was our home for a year and it feels wrong not to include it. Admittedly, it’s not a place to visit with kids for a first visit to Asia. But if you are ready to take on the challenge, India will be one of you most memorable family adventures ever. The tourist dollar goes far here, so you can spend a little more on accommodation to create an oasis away from the chaos. Allow time to drink in the vibrancy and energy of this magical country, and once you’ve finished exploring the temples and spice markets, head for some downtime on the beaches of Goa.
And the runners up are…
It was honestly so tough narrowing it down to our top five countries, but Malawi, Nepal and Morocco are close behind…
Would love to hear what your favourite family adventure travel destination is! Let me know in the comments 🙂
India is rarely a top travel destination for young families. The ever-jostling crowds, the incessant honking, the haggling, the selfie requests, the red tape, the litter, and the infamous ‘Delhi Belly’. It’s certainly an attack on the senses and travelling India can hard work at the best of times, let alone with little people along for the ride. So travelling India with young kids, is it worth it?
For those families that take on the challenge, the rewards can be great. Check out our post: Twelve Tips for Travelling India with kids. India truly is incredible and you will experience adventures like nowhere else on the planet. Although for some, understandably, it’s just too much and there are so many other places to explore in this world for half the hassle.
So we reached out to some top family travel bloggers who have also travelled India for their honest thoughts, and we asked them the all-revealing question: would you go back?
Katja from Globetotting
Age of kids: 18-months when the family moved to India and their daughter was born in India. They lived in India for three years.
“During our three years living in India we travelled a lot, both to explore the country and to escape the craziness of New Delhi where we were based. Many of our trips were incredible such as our stay at the Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling and the RIFF festival in Jodhpur. But there were also moments when we wished we had never left home, such as the time we waited for hours with a toddler and a baby in 35deg heat on the platform at Old Delhi Railway Station for an overnight train that never came. But this is India – a country full of amazing highs and crashing “what on earth are we doing here” lows.”
“We spent a month in India with our three kids and both the highlight and low light occurred while on trains.
The lowlight was my 5 year old coming down with food poisoning on the train. The night before we had been having dinner at a local restaurant. They had brought metal cups full of water, which we usually put aside as we always drank bottled or filtered water in India. Before we could put the cups aside, my five year old took a drink. No big deal, we thought; the restaurant was a pretty nice local place. In the night he woke up sick, but we had to board a train to get to an airport in another city. On the train the vomiting turned to the other type of sickness and the poor kid only had a hole in the train’s floor as a toilet. That trip I learned how well Imodium works, but it was a rough couple of hours.
The highlight occurred in our first week in India and is one of my fondest memories of our time in India. We ended up in a carriage where you needed a reservation, which we didn’t have. A large extended family took us under their wings, squeezed us in between them, gave up their seats for the kids and bought us chai from the chai vendors that roam the trains. We talked about India, we talked about Canada, we talked about their lives and they doted on our children. We kept in touch with them throughout our time in India. It was serendipity that we met them at the airport when we were leaving as they were meeting an uncle there. To be befriended by strangers in a foreign country is one of the most precious parts of travelling.”
Would you go back? “Definitely! We spent our month in India in the south and we are eager to explore the North next”
“Family travel in India with young children has been amazing so far. Our best times have been our kids playing with local kids, and attending a Hindu wedding in an ancient temple. The spectacular sights and delicious food are nice too. Our worst time was definitely the whole family being sick on an overnight train. Our strangest times are what we call the selfie-storms. Imagine dozens of young men and whole families surrounding you and wanting to hold your kids for selfies. Now I know what it feels like to be facing the paparazzi.”
Would you go back? “It’s been a really great experience so far; we’re halfway through our 2 month visa and we’re already planning a second visit next year.”
“Having been on the road for 9 month, Northern India was our hardest destination so far. Why? Well we decided to go at the height of summer for one, which was particularly stupid. It was HOT and low season, so transport was limited but mainly because TOO MANY SELFIES. Our dream trip to the Taj Mahal ended abruptly with hysterical children. People were lovely one-to-one, but the intensity of all of the attention was just too much and followed us everywhere.”
Would you go back? “We wanted to love it, but would you flog a dead horse? No, we won’t be going back.”
“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t have to ask my 6 year son to stop shouting. In his excitement to tell me about what happened in the latest Ninjago episode, or what he did at school with his friends, his volume is always set to loud.
So when we arrived in India, hot humid and sticky, my son was in his element. India is often described as an ‘assault on the senses’. Before living there I used to picture the colourful saris and temples and imagine the strong scent of spices and fresh fruit, but I’d never considered the sounds associated with this vibrant country.
Cue LOUD. EVERYTHING is LOUD. The music is always turned up to the max, the horns beep incessantly, warning of their presence even though the traffic has ground to a halt, and the live drumming and street parties should come with a health warning.
“Mummy, Mummy, MUUUMMMMMMY” “Sorry Alf, but you’re going to have to speak up. I can’t hear you.”
Only in India “
Would you go back?: “Yes. I would love to go back to India. It’s really got under my skin.”
Click herefor Susannah’s video for how loud India really can be!
Sometimes you need to know your audience. If you wanted to sell Mysore to an adult, you’d mention the World Heritage listed palace and see their eyes light up. Try the same with kids and the response might be more underwhelming. So you need a different angle to get their imagination ticking over; instead, try telling them they can climb all over derelict trains, get chased by monkeys, haggle for spices in a market and spot a white tiger in the zoo… you may have piqued their interest. Trust us when we say that Mysore with kids is a great idea!
Mysore (which has recently changed it’s name to Mysuru, although everyone still calls it Mysore) is much more that just its grand, centre-stage Palace. People tend to only stop here for the day to tick off the prize attraction but if you’re travelling with kids, it’s definitely worthwhile staying for a couple of days.
Here’s our top 5 things to do in Mysore with kids:
1. Rail Museum
A collection of brightly painted derelict trains have been collected in this shady open-air museum close to Mysore Railway Station. Children are allowed to explore inside the engines and climb over and around the carriages. There’s also a playground that has seen better days. Bring water and snacks as there is no cafe or food stalls (they’re missing a trick!) (Open Tues-Sun 10am to 5:30pm. Rs.15 adults, Rs.10 children, Rs.20 camera. Click here for website.)
2. Devaraja Market
Vibrant, colourful and one of the few markets we’ve come across in India that isn’t overly congested, meaning the boys could walk (almost) freely. Engage the kids by giving then a shopping list. Perhaps some spices, paints, flowers and bananas. (Hours 6am to 8:30pm, located here)
3. Mysore Zoo
Standards at Mysore Zoo rise above what you may have seen elsewhere in India. Set in well maintained gardens, be on the lookout for tigers, rhinos, gorillas and more. Try to visit before 11am or after 3pm as in between these times animals take shelter from the sun and may be difficult to spot. (Open 8:30am to 5:30pm, closed on Tuesdays. Rs.25 adults, Rs.10 children.Click here for website.)
4. Chamundi Hill
Flag down an auto and escape the bustling city to Chamundi Hill. It’s a 30min ride (INR400 return) and then a short 5min walk to Sri Chanundeswari Temple. If you’re visiting at the weekend you’ll more than likely find queues snaking around the temple. Walk through the throng of worshippers, visitors, decorated priests and incense to explore one of the smaller working temples the other side for a more intimate experience. After a blessing, grab a drink from one of the stalls but just be careful that a monkey doesn’t chase you down for it. On your way back down to Mysore, be sure to ask your driver to stop at the the View Point to take in some breathtaking views of the city below.
5. Mysore Palace
Well you can’t come to Mysore and not see the Palace, one of India’s grandest royal buildings. Just get your visiting times right. We didn’t and arrived at the hottest, busiest time of the day (1pm). We shuffled around the stuffy corridors negotiating the hordes of visitors and couldn’t really take it all in. Next time we go, we plan to visit as soon as the gates open at 10am, or perhaps on a Sunday evening when the Palace is illuminated by almost 100,000 lights bulbs. Also note that no cameras whatsoever are allowed inside the Palace. If you’re seen even reaching for your phone, an officious security guard will be perforating your ear drum with his whistle.
Getting to Mysore
Mysore is easily accessible by train. From Bangalore there are at least 14 trains per day to Mysore, averaging about 3 hours. The 11am Shatabdi Exp does the journey in just 2 hours. From Mysore train station there are an abundance of autos waiting to drive you to your hotel. It’s likely they will actually use the meter(!), as they’ll take the opportunity to promote their tour guide services along your short journey.
Where to stay
Unfortunately we wouldn’t recommend the place that we stayed. However, some fellow expats Mums in Bangalore have suggested the Raddison Blu. It’s in a great location, has a nice pool and lots of space for the kids to run around. Plus I’m reliably informed that the breakfast is excellent! You may also want to try the reasonably priced Country Inn and Suites or The Green Hotel, a charming hotel full of character.
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To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet? There’s a detailed chapter on Mysore that provides a detailed history and plan of Mysore Palace.
Are you considering a visit to Kochi with kids? Colourful Kochi perches happily on the Keralan coast; a city of two sides separated by a stretch of water busy with tiny fishing boats and huge container ships. Ernakulam (to the east) is the urban district, complete with luxury apartment blocks, transport links and a thriving container port. On the western side sits Fort Kochi, showcasing a rich colonial history with quiet lanes and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere; a contrast to the chaotic, bustling main cities you may have experienced elsewhere in India.
When you visit Fort Kochi you’ll be following in the footsteps of the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British empire builders who all left their mark on the city; the resulting fusion is captivating. In the space of a few square miles you’ll see fisherman working Chinese fishing nets, Kathakali performances, fine hotels in restored heritage buildings and vibrant street art by local students keeping the history alive. Kids will love the contrasting elements and there’s enough to keep them engaged for at least a couple of days. Here are our top five things to do in Kochi with kids:
1. Take the ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi
You’ll probably arrive in Ernakulam and stay in Fort Kochi and there are lots of transport options between the two: auto-rickshaw, taxi or bus direct to your hotel. However, for just Rs4 per person (under 5s free), we’d recommend the fifteen minute ferry crossing. Admittedly the ferry needs a lick of paint and you will wonder how it doesn’t sink, but the kids will love it. There are even freighters and navy ships to spot en-route. Our boys were in their element.
2. Wander around Fort Kochi
The main sites are conveniently contained in a relatively small area, making it all accessible for little legs; especially with frequent stops for mango juice. Start at the Chinese Fishing nets and watch the fishermen heave in the big nets and sort through their catch. Just behind the fishing nets is a playground which is a little worse for wear and, as we visited in monsoon season, full of muddy puddles. Peppa Pig may have taught our boys to appreciate mud, but we managed to avoid splashing around this time.
Then take a wander along the quiet, colourful Princess Street and Burgher Street, perhaps popping into a chic cafe, before some reflective time at St Francis Church. Be sure to check out the cool street art along the way. Walk back towards the Chinese Fishing nets via the Beach Walkway, alongside Mahatma Ghandi Beach. This isn’t a beach for sandcastles and swimming but it’s always a treat in India to find an open pedestrianised walkway to allow the kids to run freely. Plus, there are more boats to spot!
3. Watch a Kathakali performance
Kathakali is one of the oldest forms of theatre in the world, conceived around the same time Shakespeare was writing his plays. The elaborate costumes, bright makeup, large movements and exaggerated facial expressions make it a perfect theatre experience for young kids. The performance at Greenix Village is an hour long and the best bit is the last 20 minutes which culminates in a big argument and a knife to the throat (don’t worry, it’s not gory at all, but something to bare in mind as parents). If you turn up early, you can even watch the performers putting on their makeup. Just don’t turn up too early (as we did), as your little ones may not appreciate the intricacies of makeup application for a full hour. You need to save some of their ‘quiet time’ quota for the actual performance. Bring drinks and snacks for the kids during the show. (Performances at the Greenix Village are Rs350, free for children. Start time is 6pm. You can watch the performers apply their makeup from 5pm. Kerala Kathakali Centre is another place to watch a performance.)
4. Drive an auto around the sites in Mattancherry and Jewish Town
And by ‘drive an auto’ we mean – get driven around by your kids! Our hotel (Ayana Fort Kochi) introduced us to a fantastic auto driver who took us around the sites of Mattancherry and Jewish Town (15 minute ride from Fort Kochi), and allowed the boys to sit on his lap and ‘drive’ between the sites. It’s actually a great tactic to keep the kids engaged amongst all the history! Visit Mattancherry Palace (built by the Portuguese and renovated by the Dutch), Paradesi Synagogue, Jain Temple (non-Hindus aren’t allowed inside after some local boys got up to some unspecified naughtiness with some European girls a while ago) and the Spice Markets. (Mattancherry Palace is open 9am-5pm Sat-Thurs, Pardesi Synagogue is open 10am-1pm and 3pm-5pm Sun-Thurs, closed Jewish holidays).
5. Stay in a heritage hotel or guesthouse
If there is one place in India that you should splurge a little on your accommodation, it’s Fort Kochi. There are many beautiful heritage buildings which have been renovated into impressive hotels and guesthouses, offering a high standard of service at an affordable rate. Plus, many of these places have a pool, which the kids will love! We were invited to stay at the magnificent Ayana Fort Kochi, which was situated in the former Court House. The staff are fantastic with young kids and our boys particularly loved the fluffy muffins fresh from the onsite bakery in the mornings and jumping in to the roof top pool. Plus, we swear Ayana Fort Kochi has the comfiest beds in all of India! Read our full review of this fantastic hotel here.
Getting to Kochi
There is an international airport in Kochi servicing the Gulf States, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia and Singapore. There are also direct domestic flights from the main Indian cities (including Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai).
However, as regular readers will know, we do love the sleeper train! There are three trains per day from Bangalore, including the overnight sleeper leaving Bangalore at 8:12pm and arriving Eranakulam Town the following morning at 7:30am. There are also trains south to/from Trivandrum and north to/from Calicut, Kannur and even New Delhi! Check the IRCTC website for up-to-date train times. There are two stations in Ernakulum; Ernakulum Junction and Ernakulum Town. When you arrive at either station, walk past the auto drivers pleading for your custom and head straight for the pre-paid auto stand. An auto to the ferry terminal to Fort Kochi will cost you Rs50-80, depending on which station you arrive at.
If you’re looking for more reading on travelling Kochi with kids, check out 5 Lost Together. For a more extensive insight into travels with kids in Kerala, check out Wanderlust and Wetwipes.
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To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
Are you considering Pondicherry with kids? What a lovely surprise this little coastal town was. Whilst there is no mistaking you’re still in India, every now and then a little bit of the past will appear from around a corner, transporting you to a quaint French village, complete with patisseries, colourful colonial architecture and beautiful churches.
Pondicherry (which has recently changed it’s name to Puducherry, but locals refer to it as ‘Pondy’) has a relaxed pace, which you’ll immediately notice (and appreciate) if arriving from one of India’s larger cities. The old traveller in you may want to stroll along the shady tree-lined streets of the French quarter, pop into a café for a latte and catch up on your travel journal…
But as parents, you know that’s not going to cut it with the kids. So instead, here are our top 5 things to do with kids in Pondicherry:
1. Temples and Churches
One thing we love about travelling with our boys is the many opportunities it provides to expose them to different religions and cultures, all the time discussing the differences and similarities we see. As a fascinating contrast to the temples you’ll visit in India, take a trip to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral; elegantly designed in the Portuguese style. Then take the short walk through the Tamil Quarter to the Sri Manakual Vinayagar Temple, featuring its star attraction, Lakshmi the elephant, who has been blessing visitors and worshippers since 1997.
2. Stroll along the seafront
The large boulders on the shoreline mean the sea at Pondy isn’t suitable for swimming but it’s still a great place to let the kids run free and throw stones into the crashing waves. Beach Rd/Goubert Avenue, which runs parallel to the seafront, is closed every evening from 6pm, when it springs to life with seemingly all of Pondy’s residents taking a romantic evening stroll in the cool evening air.
3. Bharathi Park
This central park boast two playgrounds. Admittedly they need a lick of paint and some TLC, but the kids probably won’t notice; they’ll be too busy running, sliding and playing with local kids to care.
4. Enjoy the French food
If you’ve been on the road (or railways!) for a while, treat the family to some familiar foods. Our boys devoured the pain au chocolat at Baker Street and particularly enjoyed the freshly cooked woodfire pizzas at the little pizza restaurant down St Louis Street.
5. Paradise Beach
Flag down an auto and take the 25 minute ride to Paradise Beach, south of town (Rs600 return). Here you’ll find brightly painted working fishing boats dotted along the beach and precariously built shacks serving fresh seafood. Walk along the shoreline to the left for a quieter stretch of sand, although you’ll soon have a group of ‘observers’ join you. This is not the place to top up your tan in that skimpy bikini, but the kids will love splashing in the waves and the sea breeze is a welcome treat if you’re visiting in the summer months.
Getting to Pondicherry
Pondicherry is easily accessible by train. There are daily trains every evening from Chennai (4 hours 15 minutes) and an overnight train from Bangalore (Yesvantpur Junction, 9.5 hours) four times per week (Mon, Tues, Fri and Sat). You can connect at Villupuram Junction for many more services. Check the IRCTC website for up-to-date train times.
Your accommodation may be walkable from the station (Pondy isn’t that big). However, with two young kids and backpacks, we prefer to get an auto. No auto in Pondicherry uses a meter but it seems to be an unwritten rule that all fares within the town will be Rs50 or Rs60. If it’s evening, add on Rs20.
Where to stay
We stayed at the extremely welcoming La Maison Radha. Ravi, Sumathi and their son live on the ground floor and rent out four other rooms on the upper floors. Each themed room has a colourful work of art painted on the walls and comes with aircon and private bathroom with reliable hot water. We stayed in the ‘Birds’ room which also has a kitchen area and living room. There is one double bed, but additional beds can be provided on request.
Ravi and his wife go out of their way to help you in any way they can (they even had toys for the boys to play with!) and they are quick to respond on email should you have any questions before your visit. A tasty breakfast can be provided at additional cost, plus there is a communal kitchen with a fridge for storing milk and free WIFI throughout. You’ll also find a splendid rooftop terrace which affords wonderful view across Pondicherry to the Sacred Heart Basillica.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.
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To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
One of the golden rules of travelling is to follow the advice of the locals but this was perhaps one of those instances we really shouldn’t have.
We had been reliably informed that if you go to Nandi Hills, you must go for sunrise. Apparently it’s beautiful and it’s what everyone does. So we woke to a 3:15am(!!) alarm and shuffled downstairs to meet our driver for the day.
It was a treat to glide through the city streets without a hint of traffic chaos, a novelty to see a driver use second gear for a change. We felt smug to have beaten the crowds and were already mentally taking our amazing sunrise pictures. But as we approached our destination we were welcomed by brake lights, then a few more, then too many to count, all disappearing around a bend ahead of us. It was 5:30am and we had arrived at the foot of Nandi Hills with at least a hundred other cars and motorbikes all with the same idea.
Our eldest woke from his slumber and asked if we were here yet: ‘Kind of…’ was the best we could answer. We joined the long queue where we sat for 20 minutes watching the sky lighten. The sun was due to rise at 5:54am. There was no way we were going to make it to the top by that time. Our driver appeared at the window and quietly broke the news that we weren’t allowed up yet due to the fog. However, it was only when we passed the entrance gates that we realised they don’t actually open until 6am! After sunrise!
We chugged up the the narrow hair-pin bends, three cars abreast with motorbikes weaving between the cars, everyone asserting their position with the horn. Ah, the serenity once out of the city… Eventually we arrived at a large car park and managed to skip the mile-long queue for entrance tickets by paying a random man with a cane an extra Rs50. It was then only a short walk to the breathtaking views below, which for us were completely shrouded in cloud, fog, mist and any other weather phenomenon which means whiteout.
This is what the view is supposed to look like:
Now travel teaches you that you win some, you lose some. It was a lesson for us and the boys that it’s not always like in the postcards. We managed to find the funny side of our situation and searched for the positives; we were breathing in some lovely fresh air and finally getting to wear those jumpers we had packed from the UK. The boys were more than happy playing around on the rocks and we sat quite happily, joining the locals in taking numerous selfies in the mist.
What to do
Once at the top and you’ve absorbed the (ahem) views, there are a couple of small temples to explore, a cave and a lovely walk along the ancient fortress for more (ahem) fine views. There is also a small cafe serving hot local food. Allow at least a couple of hours for exploration and breakfast.
Nandi Hills is 60km north of Bangalore. There are local buses from Bangalore central bus station departing around 8:30am and returning at 2:30pm, 4:15pm and 5:00pm. The journey is approximately 2 hours and costs Rs40. The easiest way to get there however is by car. We hired a driver and car for the day costing Rs3500.
What to take
Take a jumper and rain jacket. It can get muddy up there and slippery on the rocks, so avoid wearing flip flops. Take snacks, but be wary of the stray dogs and hungry monkeys. Also, don’t forget your camera for those awesome views 😉
Our top tips
Check sunrise time and weather. If sunrise is before 6am (when the gates open), don’t bother with the early start. Go a little later in the morning when it’s quieter, although still try to beat the crazy traffic out of Bangalore. Winter is the time to go for sunrise when the sun rises at around 6:30am, after the gates have opened. Checking the weather forecast will also allow you judge what the views will be like from the top. Finally, try to visit during the week to beat the crowds, it’s quite a popular weekend escape for Bangaloreans.
On the way back to Bangalore, stop in to Prestige Golfshire, a fabulous golf resort, for a swim and a bite to eat. It’s just a 25 minute drive from the main car park at Nandi Hills and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. We wholeheartedly recommend the steak sandwich or beefburger (for those that have been missing beef on their Indian travels!). As well as a large infinity pool, there’s a fantastic shallow pool for the kids, an adjacent playground and even an indoor play area. The staff are incredibly friendly and will look after you very well. Day rates (available Tues-Fri) for non-members are Rs930 (inc. VAT), children under 6 free. This is for pool use only, golf access is additional.
To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
The digital clock ticked over to 22:06 and we were still at Hospet Station, peering hopefully down the tracks as we waited for the overnight sleeper train back to Bangalore. We were sat on our backpacks with the tired but happy boys curled up on our laps watching Paw Patrol on their tablet. A train pulled in, briefly raising our hopes until we realised it was the one going to Hyderabad. I watched as two young Western girls stepped off the carriage and into the swarm of eager auto-drivers, touts and hotel owners. I was jealous. They were about to experience Hampi for the first time.
The moment you turn off the main road from Hospet, Hampi gradually starts to work its way under your skin. Large sandstone boulders balance precariously across the undulating landscape, which itself is dotted with magnificent ancient temples and ruins patrolled by tribes of macaque monkeys. A calm spirituality ebbs across this chilled traveller town where the magnificent Virupaksha Temple plays centre stage.
Hampi Bazaar (where the guest houses, restaurants and shops are) is a fairly typical backpacker village with the usual collection of hostels, roof-top restaurants and travel shops. If you’ve travelled much around Asia before kids you’ll probably recognise the vibe: devoid of package holiday comforts, where young hippy travellers congregate in roof top shacks to swap tales over some chai and perhaps a recreational cigarette or two. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll see other families travelling here but don’t let this put you off; kids are very, very welcome and there is a huge amount to keep the whole family Happy in Hampi.
Where we stayed
Accommodation in Hampi is cheap and cheerful at best so you shouldn’t arrive here expecting the five-star comfort. Hampi Bazaar, by Virupaksha Temple is the main traveller area although Virupapur Gaddi across the river has become a more tranquil alternative (you’ll need to get a boat across and be wary of last crossing times). But with 40 degrees forecast for our visit at the end of May, finding a guest house with AC was our main criteria – check out our Accomodation Check-list post. So we booked in to the very central Thilak Home Stay.
Standard room at Thalik Home Stay
As mentioned above, none of the accommodation options are going to provide all your creature comforts so you’ll need to be a little bit inventive in certain areas; there is no fridge (to store) or kettle (to heat) milk but we made it work (we brought several cartons of Nestle A+ milk from Bangalore and the owner kindly boiled water for us that we kept in a thermos flask). We’d booked into a double room so all four of us had to sleep on two single beds pushed together (very common in India and we find if works best if everyone sleeps width ways). On the plus side, there were power points to charge phones and tablets, a hot shower to cleanse that sweaty grime away and most importantly air-conditioning, which (aside from the occasional power cut) turned the room into a chilled oasis from the midday heat. Perhaps most importantly, the owners are super friendly, extremely accommodating and spoke excellent English. They even bought our youngest a birthday cake to celebrate his 2nd birthday during our stay! There is also the most amazing view from the rooftop which is particularity impressive at sunset. Overall, the guesthouse is highly recommended.
If you require a few more Western comforts, we suggest you look at staying in Kamalapur or even Hospet (where the nearest train station is).
We visited Hampi at the end of May, and it was HOT. By 1pm the thermometer was hitting 40 degrees so we ventured out early morning and late afternoon, allowing for a siesta between 12 and 3:30 whilst we napped under the AC in our room. There are lots of stalls selling drinks and snacks to stock up before you head out and you can usually pick up water at some of the tourist sites, just don’t count on it.
This is a working temple and majestically towers over the village of Hampi, always managing to photo-bomb your pictures. Entrance is INR2 per adult (kids free) and INR50 for camera. As with all temples, leave your shoes before the entrance for INR2 per pair but don’t worry about the burning floor on your bare feet as carpets are laid out to protect them. Try to ensure you have some small notes to give to the elephant for a blessing (he’s trained so well that he can tell the difference between money and food so don’t worry) and enjoy exploring all the arches, tunnels and doorways.
Playing hide and seek in the temple. Ez – we can still see you!
Strolling the ghats
The Tungabhadra River is a perfect spot for people watching (or more likely, being watched by people) after picking up some melon from a stall. Locals bathe and wash their clothes and at 8:15am the temple elephant can sometimes be spotted having a leisurely soak.
TraveLynn Family with their entourage.
Hire Vinay the tuk-tuk driver and tour the ancient ruins and temples.
Our guest house introduced us to the most wonderful tuk-tuk driver – Vinay. He has a fantastic way with kids, was flexible to our needs, extremely knowledgeable about the area, very reasonably priced and even let the boys (safely) DRIVE THE TUK-TUK (by far their highlight of their trip!) An all round super guy!
Vinay the tuk-tuk driver with the boys
Our youngest driving the tuk-tuk on his 2nd birthday.
We left it to Vinay to show us all the best spots around Hampi, which meant us parents could sit back, relax and not worry about negotiating or planning. A INR500 per adult ticket (INR30 if you’re Indian!) allows entrance to the main sites, which we covered in a morning and late afternoon session, and another morning was spent exploring a selection of the many free sites. If (like us) you might be worried that walking around ruins may get a little boring for the kids, try and keep some tricks up your sleeve to keep them entertained. They loved spotting the animals carved onto the stone walls, playing hide and seek, looking for tunnels to explore and we made up tales of dragon attacks on the temples.
Picking a comfy rock and watch the sun set.
Hampi is a magical place, especially at sunset, when the orange hues of the sandstone boulders come to life and long shadows are cast from the many temples and ruins dotted across the terrain. There’s always something very poignant about watching the sun set at the end of a day, even more so when you’re together as a family. Aptly named ‘Sunset Point’ was a favourite of spot of ours, just be wary of the very territorial monkeys who enjoy a biscuit at sunset but don’t like paying for them.
Eating and drinking
Pick a rooftop chill zone and collapse onto a floor cushion or find a view over the Tungabhadra River and perch on a plastic chair – either way, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants around the main village that cater for all tastes (yes, the kids can eat beans on toast, pizza and fries!). Everyone is so relaxed that they don’t mind kids running around or accidentally spilling juice on the floor. Our favourite was the (Old) Chill Out, just round the corner from Thalik Guesthouse, right on the river (amazing breakfast!). Just a note that (as with all restaurants), the food is made to order so you may have to wait a while, and as Hampi is a religious centre, alcohol is not allowed (although some restaurants may oblige a thirsty traveller if you are desperate) and meat is difficult to come by.
Hydration stop with a view.
Getting there and away
Train is the obvious way to get to Hampi, although you can get there by bus if you’d prefer. We live in Bangalore which means getting there was super easy for us via the overnight sleeper train (Hampi Express, 9 hours) between Bangalore City Railway Station and Hospet. From there it’s a 30 minute tuk-tuk ride to Hampi. We booked two adult tickets in 2AC on the IRCTC website. Under fives go free and they slept in the narrow bunk with us (prepare to sleep like a knife on its edge whilst your Precious spreads out like an eagle!). Bedding is provided and curtains allow some privacy (depending on which bunk you get), so Mum (or Dad) may want to pack a sarong to use as a makeshift curtain. Our guest house arranged a tuk-tuk to collect us from Hospet station for INR200 (£2.40).
Early morning, coming in to Hospet
We have such special memories of our time in Hampi and will definitely be back. It’s a fantastic option for a long-weekend away from Bangalore and for those longer-term travelling families, it’s a wonderful place to regain some sanity from the cities further north or to continue the chilled vibes you found in Goa. As the slogan reads on many Hampi tuk-tuks: Don’t worry, be Hampi.
And I just have to finish with this photo that our 3 year old took whilst I was taking a family selfie. Cool, huh?
Pin for later
To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
Auto-rickshaws, tuk-tuks, whatever you choose to call them (we’ll go with autos here), they are an annoying but handy way to get around Bangalore with kids. Not only are they (sometimes) cheap, they give you and the kids a fun way to travel around and see the city in a different way to an air-conditioned car. But travelling around autos in Bangalore don’t come without their frustrations so here is a quick guide on how to cope:
Don’t allow them to spoil your day
Autos have a terrible reputation in India, with locals as much as travellers. In fact, many locals have implored us not to use them and opt for an Ola or Uber. Try to remember that autos also overcharge, ignore and trick people who have lived in the city all their life so don’t think it’s just you and your poor bargaining skills. These drivers are just trying their luck.
Keep your cool
The majority of drivers are friendly but won’t use the meter under any circumstances and will try to charge you 20%-50% extra. Be firm in negotiating the correct price, but keep your cool. Think about where you are flagging an auto down from. If you’re stood in front of the Hilton and going to the Ritz, they are most definitely going to try their luck and double the price.
There are then those who will stop when you flag them down, but won’t understand where you want to go and will drive off before you can explain. A handful you’ll find to be unfriendly, won’t actually know the way, will try to guess locations and will rip you off at the end. Finally there are just the plain rude who will dismiss you with a sneer and flick of the hand before speeding off, muttering something vaguely rude under their breath. Again, try and keep your cool with these guys and don’t take it personally. Acting on your frustrations won’t change anything and will only portray negative images to your impressionable children.
You may however, once in a blue moon, come across a lovely driver who will treat you to a friendly, courteous and safe metered ride around the city. Make sure you tip this guy. Maybe in time drivers will learn that being honest and courteous is the best way to earn those extra rupees.
Proof that you can get a metred taxi!
They’re not the safest modes of transports with their open sides, questionable highway code interpretation, lack of seat belts and open to the worse of the pollution. If you are travelling with kids, double-check with yourself that it’s worth the risk and if you decide to go ahead, keep hold of them at all times. Try to sit towards the middle if you can and watch out for young one’s limbs, clothes, bags, etc which might hang over the side.
Navigate as you ride
DO NOT trust that they know where they are going or will take you the quickest (cheapest route). Have Google Maps running and keep track of where you are. Don’t be afraid to tell them if they are going the wrong way, it may or may not be by mistake but it’s better to correct it as soon as you can. We find they don’t mind being told they are going the wrong way.
More often than not you will need to navigate your auto driver.
If all else fails, there is probably an app for that
You can actually order an auto on the Ola app. There are no price negotiations as the fare is calculated by Ola and the driver follows the route on Google Maps. However, it’s a bit hit and miss as to whether they turn up or not. Some drivers find it difficult to read the map and find your location and others may pick up a better fare en-route to collecting you.
For shorter journeys, either flagging down or booking an auto can be worth the hassle as they’ll usually be cheaper than a taxi and more fun. But, if you’re venturing further afield, or don’t fancy the negotiations, book a car with Ola or Uber. They’re not much more expensive for longer trips and you’ll have the added safety, air-conditioning and knowledge that Google Maps are providing directions.
If you can cope will all the above you’ll be in for an thrilling ride! There’s something about riding around in an open auto that makes you feel like you’re part of Bangalore street life, rather than in a capsule protected and hidden from the apparent chaos. Our little ones love the autos and find it surprisingly relaxing. The youngest often falls asleep(!), leaving the parents to sit back and enjoy the ride.
*The feature photo was actually taken in Hampi, where the roads are MUCH quieter than Bangalore and both our boys experienced driving an auto!
To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
We arrived in Bangalore exactly one month today and boy have these past few weeks flown by! Read about the move here. We’ve already had some amazing adventures exploring temples, palaces and markets, meeting lots of new people, and experiencing our first Indian rail journey together to Mysore. Already we feel we’ve bonded more as a family and the boys have adjusted wonderfully to their new life. Our eldest, who is 3, is even asking to try more of the local food!
Exploring Bangalore Fort
We’d moved countries before (pre-kids) and found it challenging but moving to Bangalore with kids was a whole different ballgame. The surprising thing was that amid all of the chaos, it was actually the boys who helped us to settle and feel grounded. However crazy things got in those first few days, when we were trying to get everything organised and were attempting to decipher how the new city worked, the kids’ needs still came first and familiar patterns and routines began to emerge. It doesn’t really matter where you are in the world, the old rules still apply: if the kids are happy, life becomes a lot easier for the parents.
So now we’re a month in, we feel like we’ve already learnt a huge amount and thought now would be a good time to report back on the things we have learnt from our first month in Bangalore with kids – hopefully they’ll be of use if you’re ever planning the same…
1. Prepare craft activities and games for those first days
There is a lot of waiting around in the first few days while you wait in to get your TV or Internet hooked up so ensure you have some activities to keep the kids entertained. We packed an army-ready craft kit containing paper, paints, kids’ scissors, sellotape, glue and dinosaur stickers. The boys then made paper chains, bunting and pictures to decorate our new apartment.
Getting crafty in those first days.
2. Download the offline Google map of Bangalore on to your phone
Auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) drivers rarely know where they are going, even if they say they do, so you’ll often find yourself acting as navigator. Plus, in those first days when you perhaps don’t have internet access, it’s super handy in helping you navigate around your new home city.
You will have to navigate the majority of tuk-tuk drivers.
3. The Bangalore Mums Whatsapp group
It wasn’t until I finally bumped into another Mum two weeks into our time here that I realised I wasn’t on my own and she invited me onto the Bangalore Mums Whatsapp group. This is a group to ask any questions you may have whilst living in Bangalore (from advice on schools and maids to where to buy kids shoes and books) and it was through this group that I found a couple of playdates. To get onto this group you need to know someone to be able to add you, so please feel free to email Travelynn Family to assist. However, a forward thinking mum has just very recently set up a Facebook Group – Online Village for Ex-pat Mums in Bangalore – which will hopefully become a more practical ‘right arm’.
There is also the Overseas Women’s Club that host a couple of region specific playgroups.
4. Embrace ‘India Time’
In this maddeningly-congested city, getting from A to B always seems to take an age and people struggle to keep to specific appointment times. Best to go with the flow, allow lots of time and keep the kids’ tablet handy for when they get jiffly in the inevitable traffic jam.
Traffic in Bangalore has to be seen to be believed!
5. Crossing the road The general rule is that a gridlocked road is easy to cross, a quiet road is easy to cross (good luck finding one) but a slightly busy road is a nightmare to cross. And that’s when you are on your own – just try doing the same thing when you have two children to control and a shopping bag under one arm. But, a bit like a bungy jump, the hardest bit is actually stepping out. It’s unlikely a complete gap will ever appear so it’s best to follow the locals and choose the quietest moment you can. Don’t make any sudden movements, try to keep eye-contact with the drivers, take it one lane at a time and remember that 99.9% of the drivers will have sympathy for your plight and want to avoid you at all costs. Clipping a Westerner involves way too much paperwork. As a final resort, shadow a friendly local and think of England.
6. Put ‘getting a SIM’ to the top of your To-do list One of the hardest tasks you’ll face when you first arrive is getting a SIM card. If you are here on a tourist e-visa it’s possible to get one at the airport and apparently it’s quite a straightforward process. If, like us, you’re on a different visa type, you’ll need to venture into one of the big mobile providers (Airtel, Vodafone, !dea, etc) shops and take your chances. Depending on who you speak to, you’ll need to take your passport, proof of address, foreigners registration document and contact details of a local. You may find it easier to enlist the help of someone from India to get one on your behalf. It’s a fiddly process but essential – you need a phone number to do almost everything here, from ordering pizza to booking a train ticket.
7. Download the Ola and/or Uber app
If you need a break from negotiating an auto, want to escape the heat, or just don’t fancy breathing in those traffic fumes, use an Ola or Uber car to get you from A to B. Just don’t expect the cars to have car seats. Some families choose to have a driver here, meaning that the children will always be in a car seat and someone is always on hand to drive you to your destination.
8. Food apps
There are a range of apps to deliver meals and groceries to your door. We currently use Big Basket for groceries and Food Panda or Fresh Menu for our evening meals. We haven’t cooked many evening meals since arriving here as we can get a freshly cooked meal delivered straight to our door that feeds the whole family for around a fiver! And for everything else (books, linen, scooters…) head to amazon.in.
Mummy Lynn’s current favourite dinner – Paneer Kadai
9. Your children will get a lot of attention
Western children in particular get a lot of attention from locals. The cheek-pinching and selfie requests are with the best of intentions, although your little ones may find this overwhelming or be generally non-compliant. Don’t hesitate to politely say ‘no’. Although don’t be surprised if they try and get a last shot of your family on their phone as you walk away.
Big Bull Temple
Defence Colony Children’s Park
11. Things happen late
Many of the gated playgrounds in the city don’t open until around 4pm, playgroups start at 4pm and many shops and the Funky Monkeys soft play don’t open until 11am during the week. This has taken some adjustment and flexibility on our behalf. Although we still like the boys in bed by 7pm 🙂
12. Western commodities cost a little more here than back home
Pack a little extra of your favourite hair and skin products, swim nappies, normal nappies, baby wipes and tampons (ladies, obviously!). You can still get baked beans and Marmite (£5.80 in Spar for 125g!), but again you just need to pay a little more for them. But totally worth it.
13. Every day is an adventure!
Even the most westernised, familiar activities, such as going to soft play or buying groceries from a supermarket will involve something out of the ordinary; haggling with an auto driver, whizzing past a cow grazing on litter in the middle of the road, finding yourself in the middle of a religious parade. It’s exciting and disorientating but you will gradually begin to realise that your daily routine now has these crazy elements intertwined with all the normal stuff from back home. Embrace it all and throw yourself in to the mix!
Receiving a blessing at Mahabaleswara Temple, Mysore
To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
As we sit on our 8th floor balcony overlooking the lights of Bangalore, wrapped in the warm night air with the buzz of the aircon overhead and the incessant beeping of congested traffic below, we can’t help but smile and feel content. We did it. We’re living in India.
Our boys are just 1 and 3 years old (18 months apart) and we’ve always wanted to make the most of the travel possibilities before our eldest starts full time education. Before we had kids, whenever we wanted to do a big six-month or year-long trip, we would just get our heads down, tighten our belts, save save save for our adventures and then pack up and go! Once kids are in the picture, it becomes all the more difficult. Saving was a huge obstacle for us, especially when we’re mostly living off the one salary. So when an opportunity arose to move to Bangalore for a year through Daddy Lynn’s work, we jumped at it!
A good idea?
Now moving to India with young kids wasn’t without its reservations. We had previously spent 3 months backpacking around India in 2012 where we had a minuscule budget of USD25 per day so we had an idea of what to expect. To an outsider, an Indian city is loud, chaotic and dirty. Rubbish litters the streets, broken pavements mean you can rarely look up, roads are congested and fumes fill the air from battered cars and tuk tuks that sit on their horns. But it’s raw and alive. Here, life spills out onto the streets and it’s simply fascinating.
Our new home in Bangalore needed to be an oasis from the vibrant chaos of India. A place that is clean, safe and has a TV to watch Paw Patrol. A sanctuary, providing a sense of normality to counteract their daily sensory overload.
But we also had to consider the practicalities of leaving our home in the UK. We were now grownups with a mortgage – what to do with our little cottage in Kent? What about Mummy Lynn’s work? We’d lose our support network of close friends and family and we knew no one in Bangalore. How would Mummy Lynn keep the boys entertained without our regular activities and playdates? Would we send the boys to a nursery in Bangalore? Our eldest had just started his new pre-school and was so very happy – is it fair to take him away? Then there were the numerous vital immunisations for our boys to consider…
You can always find an excuse not to do something. But we knew that we would never regret our decision to go. This was the adventure we were looking for. For one year, Bangalore would be our base for our travel explorations.
Leaving the UK
So we put our house up for rent and found some lovely tenants to take care of our home, Mummy Lynn spoke to her work (thankfully a job to go back to!) and Daddy Lynn started the overly-complicated task of sorting visas and tax through his work. We talked to the boys a lot about India through maps, books, YouTube videos and our old travel photos. In fact we spoke to them so much about India that when our youngest is asked, “What’s your name?” he replies, “India”!
Moving and packing up a house, whether it be round the corner or to the other side of the world, is never fun. We’d only been living back in the UK for 4 years, but the amount of stuff we’d accumulated (mostly plastic toys!) was ridiculous. Nevertheless, the house was eventually cleared and our belongings in to storage.
Before we knew it, it was time for goodbyes. Goodbyes suck, even though we knew we’d be back in a year. On the days leading up to leaving home, you realise all the more how much the people there mean to you. However, the innocence and naivety of the boys helped to normalise the teary moments as they bounced around, excited about their ‘holiday’.
The first weeks
We’re now into our third week living in Bangalore and feel like we’re finding our rhythm and routine. We’re beginning to understand how the city ticks, how to be flexible with ‘India time’, how to negotiate with tuk tuk drivers, how to cross the unpredictable roads, how to always keep small change, where to buy things and we even have our first playdate booked in.
We’re living on a gated community, which provides the oasis we require and safety for the boys. Daddy Lynn heads off to work each morning and flags down a tuk tuk at the front gate and Mummy Lynn and the boys are left to explore our new city. In the UK we were constantly booked up with playdates and activities, but we’re currently enjoying the freedom to venture as much or as little as we please; be it to a playground, park, temple or hotel pool in a tuk tuk. Wherever we go, our blonde boys are a novelty (even on our apartment complex) and people are always taking photos, pinching their cheeks and requesting to pick them up. They’re gradually getting used to this celeb life, but also learning to say ‘no’ to people.
India is indeed incredible and we’ve only just started chipping away at it. We’ve only got a year here, but as a family we’re ready to pack in as much as possible. The boys have already experienced their first Indian train journey to Mysore for a weekend and there are trips in the pipeline to Hampi, Rajasthan, Kerala and Sri Lanka. We’re all so very excited about the adventures ahead and we look forward to sharing the journey with you.
I'm Jenny - a travel addicted mum to my two boys (aged 3 and 5). As a family we try to push the boundaries of family travel and dispel the myth that adventure needs to wait until the kids are older!
After a year living in India and 4 months traversing Africa in a Land Rover, we have recently moved to the Peak District in England and now plotting affordable adventures across Europe and around school terms.