I have always been a fan of off-season travelling in India. Just like many others I want to see the popular places around me, but I don’t like crowds. So naturally I gravitate towards travelling when most others are not. And I have done a fair bit of it so here is a piece where I talk about what I feel about travelling during the off-season.
Pros of off-season traveling in India
Stays are cheaper
Since it’s the off-season, there aren’t many travellers which means you can find accommodation for lot less. I remember travelling to Goa, with my friends, in September of 2010. We had a week to enjoy the place and had no specific itinerary planned. We ended up staying at Anjuna the longest. The resort we stayed at cost us Rs. 1,000/day. It was a nice duplex room with two big beds, an attached bathroom, and an air conditioner (much needed if you can’t beat the heat). During the season for Goa, Oct to Feb, the same place would go for Rs. 3,000 a day at that time.
Transport is cheaper
Have you ever seen flight tickets during Diwali or the second half of December? Or even during the summer months? They can be quite expensive. But that’s because it is the season for travel and vacations. If you travel at other times, the flight tickets may cost less.
Now this is something I that prefer; not everyone looks forward to this. Since the off-season is a time not many are travelling, when you visit those destinations, you are planning to go to, you’ll be able to enjoy them a bit more without having to deal with a crowd.
Fewer people = more time on-site
As a result of there not being a crowd, you may also get to enjoy the place a bit longer. When the crowds are thick, you may have to keep moving to ensure that others behind you can also move up (especially when you visit a monument or something). In the off-season since there is no rush, you can get to enjoy the place a bit longer before having to move on.
Fewer people = better service (at times)
Drawing on the advantage of fewer people is this next benefit that since there are no crowds, the resort or hotel that you stay at will pamper you a bit more. Since they are not rushed to tend to lots of guests, they few that they have get to enjoy the undivided attention.
Cons of off season travelling in India
While, according to me, traveling at an odd time is brilliant, it is not free from cons. Here are some of the possible disadvantages that I can see.
Places may not be open
When people are not arriving in hoards to visit a place, the administration may choose to shut it down for maintenance work. This could leave you in lurch if you were planning to see that particular thing which are shut.
Travel arrangements are not that simple
In some cases, it may not be easy to arrange travel to your destination as all modes usually activate during the season and shut after that.
The activity is seasonal
If you are going to places like the Valley of Flowers, then going during the off-season won’t help as you won’t get to see the main attraction. The same could be said about activities like diving, where during the monsoons, the industry usually stays shut.
Weather proves to be a problem
In some places the weather could stop all your travel plans. For example, if you were visiting Coorg during the rains, you may want to make other plans because sometimes there can be a danger of landslides during the rains. In the hills, the winters can block roads, as can the monsoon. In the plains the heat can make it a bad idea to visit places where you are going to be walking in the hot sun.
Photography could be a problem
Visiting places with magnificent views could be a problem in the monsoon as the clouds make it very difficult to take photographs. The lighting gets all messed up and most things you photograph show up as silhouettes. The rains during the monsoon can also make it a problem to pull out expensive camera gear and risk getting it wet.
Be careful of weekends (for weekend getaways)
Imagine traveling to a place within 200 to 300 km of a tier one city like Bengaluru (Bangalore), Delhi, Mumbai, etc. You’re there over the weekend, and suddenly you realise you are surrounded by a LOT of people on Saturdays and Sundays. This can happen if you are in a place known to be a weekend getaway. My advice, to avoid this scenario, would be to plan your trip in such a way that you are either away from the city over the weekend, or are traveling to the next destination on your list.
Shopping could be a problem
During the season, there are lots of people visiting a particular destination. This means that the local vendors also come out with all sorts of Knick knacks, souvenirs, local specialties, etc. to sell. If you are planning on buy some of this, then you may run into situations where the lack of travellers has led to a lack of vendors to buy from. It could also lead to scenarios where the things you buy end up costing more because of it being the off-season.
Tips on making your off-season travel a success
If you do want to ensure that you have done your best to ensure a disappointment free experience, then here are some tips from my side.
- Accept the time of your travel and that the results may not be as you hope
- Plan the trip so that you are able to achieve your travel goals
- Do your research so that you are by disappointed with closures and seasonality
- If you are traveling with others, ensure they are aware as well
- Most importantly, do thorough research on your destination before making plans
One place that is brilliant even during the off-season
Most places in India are open to travellers all year round, here is one place that I can honestly recommend travel to even if it’s not the season. The place is Ladakh, and it is a must-see during the winters. It is at this time that the popular Chadar Trek happens but that is the main attraction. While you will be able to see a few things that can only be seen during the winters, like the Chadar Trek and ice hockey.
There are other things that you will need to consider before you make the trip. Things like the fact that most of the market is closed at this time of the year. The temperatures are well below zero. I saw it go down to minus 27 degrees Celsius in the city. You need 3 to 4 layers of clothes just to stay comfortably frozen. While you can go to some of the nearby monasteries you can’t really go to many places around because of the roads being shut.
It all sounds rather grim, but it really isn’t that bad. There is a certain beauty in that extreme temperature which is worth exploring.
So, if you are like me and are not really a fan of travelling with crowds, you might want to try off-season travelling. If the destination is really popular, then you can try travelling to it on the weekdays to avoid the crowd. Overall, off-season is a really enjoyable time to travel and has a lot to offer.