Food apps and legroom for less: 6 tips for savvy travel in India

4 minute read

India is so vast and diverse that although I have been there 10 times, I have experienced only a sliver of this extraordinary nation.

But with each trip, I have become better at navigating India, especially its boisterous cities.

Along the way, I learnt tricks to maximise a vacation there. From dodging crowds to exploiting phone technology, and from staying comfortable on the move to uncovering lesser-known wonders, here are six tips for enjoying the country.


1. Walk to discover

Explore a Parsi fire temple in Mumbai. PHOTO: RONAN O’CONNELL

Compared with Singapore, city streets in India can be so busy that many travellers favour taking taxis. At times, this is the best option, particularly in peak summer when walking is exhausting.

But bear in mind that India’s delights are not confined to ancient temples and forts. It is a joy to explore the lively neighbourhoods that lie between world-class attractions.

At least once on your trip, take time to walk and discover. 


This was how I stumbled upon the fascinating fire temples of Mumbai. I decided to stroll the 2km from the tourist-saturated arch-monument Gateway of India to the gorgeous Unesco-listed railway station Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Along the way, I encountered a bull with wings and a human’s head. This statue embellished an old stone building, which a Google search revealed to be a fire temple for Parsis, the Indian members of the 3,500-year-old faith of Zoroastrianism.

2. Never trust Google Maps

Goa in western India is one of the country’s most popular destinations. PHOTO: RONAN O’CONNELL

In my home town of Perth, Google Maps is a trusty tool that accurately predicts how long it will take to drive anywhere in the Australian city. That app works so well because Perth is spread out and quite sparsely populated, with minimal traffic problems.

Whereas in India, I have to give up on using Google Maps to judge travel times. This was also the case when I was living in Bangkok.


While most Indian cities do not have traffic as bad as that in the Thai capital, their roads are clogged and unpredictable enough that estimating how long a journey will take using the app is a hit-and-miss affair.

In Goa in 2023, for example, I was delighted when my journey from the airport to my hotel was five minutes shorter than Google Maps had suggested.

On my previous trip to India, however, I almost missed my flight out of Kolkata after the taxi to the airport took three times as long as the app had estimated.

In India, Google Maps is still very useful when walking, or for tracking your progress during a taxi trip.

But in the big cities, forget about getting anywhere promptly by road. Instead, just embrace the slow pace of taxis and gaze out of the window at the colour and intrigue of this beautiful country.

3. India has some good Metro systems

Magnificent yet empty: Hyderabad’s Qutub Shahi Tombs. PHOTO: RONAN O’CONNELL

You can now sometimes avoid heavy traffic in the big cities by using the modern metro systems. Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai all have substantial metro rail lines.

I first used the metro in India’s capital territory, Delhi, some 13 years ago. It allowed my friends and I to bypass the crammed roads below as we glided swiftly from our hotel about 10km east to the temple of Akshardham. 

The Akshardham station had been open for only about a year at that point. Back then, the Delhi metro was a tiny network. Now, it has more than 250 stations spread across 11 lines that collectively cover a distance of about 350km.

To get a sense of just how comprehensive that is, consider Singapore’s MRT system, which has about 140 stations spread across six lines that cover 200km.

4. Fly in relative luxury on the cheap

Jaipur is firmly planted on India’s tourist trail. PHOTO: RONAN O’CONNELL

Domestic flights in India are terrific value for money. You can fly from Delhi to Jaipur, Mumbai to Goa, or Bangalore to Chennai – each for as little as $35 one way. My three domestic flights in India in 2023 were very comfortable, thanks to a hack that I came across. 

By booking a front-row seat on some Indian airlines, such as Indigo, you not only get much more legroom, but also a free snack and a drink – all for as little as $15 extra. As I am 1.97m tall, this greatly enhanced my experience. 

5. India has brilliant food delivery apps

Use food apps to have delicious meals and snacks delivered to your hotel. PHOTO: RONAN O’CONNELL

While in Mumbai in March 2023, I spent 90 minutes first finding a large supermarket where I could buy premium instant coffee and other Western comforts, and then detouring past a Subway sandwich outlet to bring my dinner back to my room.

Then, the hotel staff made me realise how much time I had wasted. 

They said that for just a few dollars, I could have had all of these delivered to the hotel lobby by using a food delivery app, such as Zomato.

I do not use such an app in Australia as I enjoy wandering the supermarket, and my talented wife cooks almost all of our meals.

But India’s delivery apps greatly enhanced my trip. At the end of each day, as I headed back to the hotel in a taxi, I would order my dinner, drinks and snacks. Then, I would linger in the hotel lobby for a few minutes, collect my order and head to my room for some well-earned rest and sustenance.

6. Detour from the tourist trail

Golconda Fort in Hyderabad was the hub of an Islamic empire. PHOTO: RONAN O’CONNELL

Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Agra and Goa are all wonderful destinations, and I understand why they dominate India’s international tourism. But if you have time to detour or have already visited those spots and are returning to India, be sure to stray from the tourist trail.

India has 1.4 billion people and covers as much land as the five biggest countries in Europe combined. It is so colossal and ancient that it boasts a trove of brilliant destinations beyond those that are world famous.

The metropolis of Hyderabad, for instance, brims with magnificent Islamic architecture. Or consider eclectic Bangalore, with its modern cityscape, botanic garden and European-style palace. Such less-visited locations also save travellers time and money. 

When I visited Hyderabad and Mumbai in 2023, they were a study in contrasts. In Hyderabad, I paid half the amount for the same standard of accommodation, compared with well-trodden Mumbai.

And while Mumbai’s top attractions were swarming with visitors, in Hyderabad, I enjoyed peace and space at its commanding Golconda Fort and Qutub Shahi Tombs.

  • The writer is an Australian journalist and photographer whose passion for India has seen him visit the nation 10 times, including on separate trips with his mother, father and brother.

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