India loves kids of all ages. Its lively tumult, which can be overwhelming for adults, is manna to children. The sights, sounds, and smells mean they’re never bored. And their actions, exclamations, and even tantrums, which may raise eyebrows elsewhere, are easily absorbed by India’s accommodating culture.
While the country may throw up challenges for traveling families — the need for vaccinations, heavy traffic, and not being able to drink tap water — parents will never struggle to find a restaurant or hotel that welcomes children. And you’ll always find something great to do with kids in every part of India.
Is India good for kids?
Undoubtedly. From friendliness and affordability to experiences and activities, India is an amazing destination for families. Usually, children under five years stay and eat free in hotels, and kids aged under twelve can sleep on an extra bed in your room at a minimal charge. Many restaurants have kiddie menus, and others are happy to customize meals to cater to tiny palates.
When it comes to getting around, the cost of flight tickets can add up for large families, so give the trains a shot. Booking four adjacent berths in air-conditioned first-class or two-tier A/C class gets you your own private compartment and a comfortable family experience.
Renting a taxi for a day of sightseeing is also a practical option – providing the flexibility to stop when cranky children need to stretch their legs or when you spot a clean washroom or an intriguing sight. Within India’s biggest cities, you can take the metro, or hop into a three-wheeled autorickshaw for a fun family adventure.
Prepare your kids for two of the things that India will throw at them. First, the country has many more people than they’re probably used to, and it’s easy for small travelers to get confused or lost in a crowd, so make sure the kids always have your hotel’s card with the address and phone number in their pockets. Second, pedestrians do not have right of way on India’s roads. Cars will not stop for pedestrians, so always cross at pedestrian crossings (ideally with crossing guards) or look out for pedestrian bridges.
Where is best in India with kids?
India’s dramatic wildlife encounters are sure to wow children. Snorkel with turtles in the tropical Andaman and Nicobar Islands or cruise down the Chambal River in Rajasthan to spot prehistoric-looking gharial crocodiles with pot-like bumps on their snouts. Camp with fireflies in Maharashtra’s Purushwadi, spot endemic fauna in the dense rainforests of the Western Ghats, volunteer at an elephant rescue center in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, or go on safari in one of 53 tiger reserves across the country to see Bengal tigers in the wild.
India is the perfect place to collect memorable experiences that little ones will still cherish years later. Get lost together in the labyrinthine Bhool Bhulaiya maze in Lucknow, take a hot air balloon ride over Rajasthan’s forts, walk over living-root bridges in Meghalaya, or ride into the Himalayas on the toy train to Shimla passing through more than 100 tunnels and over 800 bridges. For maximum magic, skip the hotels and spend a night in a houseboat in Kerala’s backwaters, camp under the stars in the Thar Desert, or travel on the luxurious Deccan Odyssey train.
Picking and choosing what to see and where to go can be hard, so let the weather play a part in your travel plans. The dry months from September to March are pleasant in most of India; Goa’s beaches are fabulous at this time but avoid the Himalayas unless you’re prepared for the cold. Save exploring those mighty mountains and their stunning landscapes and welcoming communities for the pre-monsoon season from April to June, when it’s burning hot in the lowlands. The monsoon, July to August, is a challenging travel period and best avoided with children.
Best things to do in India with babies and toddlers
Plan a trip based on your interests before kids start asserting their own ideas! Ask for an electric kettle at your accommodation for mixing baby formula and sterilizing bottles.
Discover jungles and palaces in Rajasthan
Rajasthan is known for its forts and former royal families, but the state has amazing wildlife too. Stay at a comfortable jungle camp in Jawai, Rajasthan, and go on safari rides to see leopards in this stony, scrub landscape. It’s a remarkable and accessible place to explore, where leopards thrive close to people and villages.
Mix heritage and cooler climes in Kerala
Relaxed Kochi is a place to explore at an easy pace. There are arty cafes, cool studios selling clothing and mementos, museums and art galleries, synagogues and churches, and a rich cuisine that reflects the city’s many cultural influences. Tots will enjoy a boat ride on the scenic Kochi backwaters, and the Kochi Biennale, India’s largest art fair, runs for four months every alternate year, providing a visual treat.
Continue inland to Munnar for an indulgent stay among the tea estates that carpet the gentle hillsides. For a fun family retreat, stay in one of the heritage bungalows at this British-colonial-era hill station. Bring long sleeves and trousers for walks in the tea estates; if it is wet, carry a sachet of salt to deter the leeches that lurk in the undergrowth.
Best things to do in India with kids
Destinations that offer a lot to do in one place work best for young kids since they tend to get fidgety with too much travel. Mix up the itinerary, alternating high-energy experiences with moments of calm at strategically chosen restaurants or snack breaks in the outdoors.
Discover a different India in Ahmedabad
For a family immersion into old India, spend a couple of nights in Ahmedabad, the country’s first Unesco Urban World Heritage Site. The city’s Old Quarter has fascinating 200-year-old mansions you can stay in, the street food is delicious (eat where the locals take their children), and the Sabarmati riverfront is a lovely area to explore with kids. A massive kite festival is organized in January each year – a visual delight for young travelers.
For more kid-friendly encounters, drive two hours to Balasinor to stay in a heritage homestay at the Garden Palace, still occupied by the town’s former royal family. It’s a handy base for exploring the nearby fossil park – the second largest in the world – where the Rajasaurus, dubbed India’s T-Rex, was discovered. Numerous dinosaur hatcheries and fossils of 13 dinosaur species were found at this site and there’s a small museum.
Returning to Ahmedabad, make a longish day visit to Rani-ki-Vav (Queen’s Stepwell) in Patan, a 2½-hour drive each way. This 11th-century Unesco World Heritage Site is a bit like an upside-down temple, with seven flights of stairs lined with intricate sculptures leading to the well at the bottom. Don’t skip the Patan-Patola Heritage Museum just down the road.
Make the most of the water in Goa
For a relaxing beach holiday, head to a south Goa village such as Benaulim or Palolem. The more serene half of the state, South Goa has gentler beaches, kid-friendly beach shacks for meals, and lifeguards on duty. There are plenty of guesthouses, hotels, and cottages to rent for long stays, and there’s plenty to do away from the beach as well.
Get a gentle taste of the Himalayas
To experience the Himalayas in comfort, go to Gushaini village in Himachal Pradesh’s Tirthan Valley. The gateway to the Greater Himalayan National Park, this cozy village has numerous places to stay set beside the Tirthan River. Pick a homestay amid apple orchards and immerse yourself in Himachali cuisine and hospitality.
Spend days by the river painting pebbles, building small dams along the riverbanks, and spotting tiny fish in the eddies. Older kids can try fly fishing and hikes in the national park.
Step into history at Hampi
Hampi was once the capital of an ancient empire, and its former glory is evident in the ancient structures that dot its boulder-strewn landscapes. Culture-loving kids will be fascinated by the forts, temples, and ruins spilling out between the outcrops. If your kids are more adventurous, take a ferry across the Tungabhadra River to visit the Anegundi fort and climb 570 steps to the temple of Hanuman, the beloved monkey god who is an endless source of fascination for children.
To experience more of this ethereal landscape, go bouldering on the outcrops with a local climbing operator, schedule a walk with a naturalist at Hampi’s Boulders Resort, or spot birds and look for signs of sloth bears, mostly seen in the evenings or at Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary.
Best things to do in India with tweens and teens
Tweens and teens have very definite likes. Depending on what they are into, choose a destination that offers culture, adventure, wildlife or a mix of all three!
Water adventures in India’s far south
Visit Palk Bay, near the southern tip of India, for some of the country's calmest beaches and clearest waters. Stay at a beach resort and book into a water sports academy for activities that suit your desired level of exertion. There are sailing trips for the family, guided kayak tours for teens, and windsurfing or diving lessons for sporty folk.
To wrap the holiday up with a dose of culture, drive 2½ hours north to the town of Karaikudi to stay in a 100-year-old Chettinad mansion, visit atmospheric antique stores piled with old treasures, and enjoy delicious local food.
Meet rhinos in Assam
For one of India’s most magical wildlife encounters, meet the one-horned Indian rhinoceros in the grasslands of Kaziranga National Park in Assam, then round the trip off with a stay in one of the area’s British-colonial-era tea estates. This will take you off the main tourist map in India, into a world of memorable experiences.
Discover risque sculptures and tigers in Madhya Pradesh
To see the royal Bengal tiger in the wild, pick Panna Tiger Reserve over Madhya Pradesh’s more popular Kanha or Pench national parks, which tend to get crowded. As well as tigers, you may spot a leopard or sloth bear, the Ken River is full of crocodiles, and there is a dazzling diversity of bird life.
The famous temples of Khajuraho are just an hour away, but don’t let the temples’ reputation for erotic art deter you. The sexual scenes are depicted as a normal aspect of life just like agriculture, art, culture, sports, war, etc., on the temples’ beautiful facades.
Go hiking on the Singalila ridge
From the hill station of Darjeeling, plan a trek with older kids along the stunning Singalila Ridge on the border between India and Nepal. This moderately challenging trek has great views of the eastern Himalayas, including four of the world’s five highest peaks. In April and May, the blooming rhododendron forests and bountiful bird life make this trek extra special. There’s a chance of spotting the adorable but shy red panda, and there are trekkers’ lodges and huts for overnight stays.
- Before you come to India, visit your doctor and ensure the children have the necessary shots. Carry basic meds for fever, flu, nausea, diarrhea, and allergies. Make sure you have mosquito repellent and plenty of sunscreen. Pack light cotton clothing that can cover the arms and legs; it’s more culturally acceptable and will protect from the sun and mosquitoes.
- When it comes to accommodation, most hotels have family rooms with extra beds that are more affordable than booking separate rooms, or it’s easy to arrange an extra bed. Finding clean toilets can be a challenge so brief children about safe ways to use public toilets. Touch as few surfaces as you can, squat rather than sit, and carry your own toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and a toilet seat disinfectant spray in your day bag.
- Prepare children for their first glimpse of India. The sights, smells, sounds, crowds and poverty can be a little overwhelming when they first land in a big city such as the capital Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru, and the culture shock can color their visit without some prewarning.
- India’s love for children also means that there are few boundaries. Everyone wants to talk to visiting children, touch them, and photograph them. If you’re not comfortable with photos, politely say no. And guide kids to respond with a wave, a thumbs up, or a “namaste” (“hello”) when they need to.
- If you have a fussy eater, carry some ready-to-cook packet foods with you. Most hotels and all homestays will indulge you and follow the packet instructions to make children a familiar meal when they need a taste of home. The popularity of European and American cuisine in India also means you can always find some version of grilled chicken, sauteed vegetables, pizzas, pastas, or burgers wherever you go.
- Indian cuisine has plenty of kid-friendly options, like dosas (rice and lentil pancakes) and idlis (steamed rice and lentil cakes) in the south and stuffed parathas (flatbreads) and rice and lentils in the north. Any decent restaurant will serve purified water, so bring your own water bottles and refill them to limit single-plastic use.
- India’s roads are not very stroller friendly – use a baby carrier for younger children. Plan your travel so that pre-schoolers and upwards can get regular rests and only walk when they need to (autorickshaws and pedal rickshaws are handy for energy-saving short hops).