my friend and i are setting off on our gap year in July and we are starting off by flying to Mumbai then getting another flight to Madurai where we are involved in a volunteer project in hospitals there for 3 months. During this time we are working week days but have the weekends free to do as we like. Since neither of us have ever been to a place like India before i was wondering if anyone had any general advice on staying there or any suggestions of places to see and things to do during our time off. We read about rice boats in Kerela and that looks fantastic but does anyone have any information on this?
I assure u that u would really have a good time in India.. We Indians are very warm and loving and respect our guests as Gods. Madurai is nice city having the world famous Meenakshi temple, accomodation is not a problem in this temple town. U can get decent n budget accomodation in madurai.
About the rice boats and backwaters of Kerala, it is really a memorable experience.. I had recently been on a backwater water.. U will really feel lost in the charm of rural Kerala. Boats are there to suit all budget. Tell me when ur trip is finalised, i will give u more information.
I have not been in Kerala.
But my general advise, for somebody going to India for the first time, is to thouroughly read all safety advise, in the Lonely Planet(or whichever book u have), before going.
India is a confusing country, and I think u should prepare yourself, as much as possible, before going.
Where does India confuse?and how?
How does one prepare to visit India?
Glad to know that you will be engaged in some volunteer programmes near Madurai. (There is a very famous volunteer organisation just ouside of Madurai).
Since both of you will be mostly in Madurai, there are lost of famosu places in and around Madurai.
Maduarai itself a temple city ..so you will enjoy temple visit and its beautiful architecture.There are other sight seeing palces like Maharaja Palace.
You can visit Rameshwaram which is a religious town for Hindus.You can eel some of Hindu culture here.
Visit to Kanyakumari will be rewarding which is India's Land's end!! You can see the joining of three seas and a beautiful sunset and moon rise!!
Or you can visit Kodai a beautiful hillstation for the week end.
The adjoining state is Kerala.From Madurai it takes about 3.5 hrs to reach a beautiful hill station called Periyar wild sanctuary(Thekkady).
Week end would be better.
You can also visit Allepey (you may need 4-5days) where you can see and stay over night in traditional rice boats or make yourself wind in small boats thru back waters of kerala.All around you you have coconut trees.
Remember kerala state has rainy seasonfrom mid May till about end July/early Aug.and it pours!!
Regarding staying and general advice: Hope your stay has been fixed.It is easy to get good and cheap accommodation in the city itself.Food is cheap but a it spicy. Being a trading centre, you might feel noisy.City has excellant transport system 24x7 for both road and trains. There is only one (domestic) airport.
Lots of advice are to be given but don't know where to start. Drink bottled purified water availale in every shop and it's cheap. Avoid road side food. As it has tropical climate almost thru-out the year, wear lose and comfortable cotton clothes. shorts are big "no" "no" for ladies. Never walk in dark or isolated streets/places after 830pm.Keep an eye on your personal belongings in crowded palces.
If you need any further information, let me know.
As Madurai people are very helpful and friendly, you will enjoy your stay there.
Have a nice stay.