We’d like to give you an overview of the different types of accommodation and hotels in India. As in much else, India has its own distinctive rules and traditions regarding accommodation for its guests. Where possible, as is the case across all our destinations, we try and focus on smaller, characterful properties with personalised service. Accommodation options vary in standard across all types, from the quirky and nostalgic to refined luxury. You and your travel specialist can decide together what type and standard is right for you.
Characterful properties that reflect local design and architecture, often in historic buildings, form the backbone of our selection of accommodation across India. Below are the three main types of heritage properties, but there are many more unique options that don’t quite conform to a style.
Forts and Palaces: Rajasthan and the North
India has an incredible wealth of glorious forts and palaces. In recent years, many have opened up as hotels lovingly converted to varying standards, but always full of character. For any trip to India, it’s recommended to experience one of these incredible hotels - it’s usually possible with most itineraries and, indeed, most budgets. Expect friendly local staff, spectacular views, oodles of charm, quirky features and local food. Some are basic, whereas others are noted as the most luxurious hotels in the world. Many have played an important role in Indian history and they are not to be missed.
Boutique Havelis: Rajasthan and the North
Havelis, meaning mansion, are former private residences of noble families. Many dotted around northern India, especially in Rajasthan, have been restored to their former glory as superb hotels of varying sizes (perhaps with the odd new wing attached). Usually, a haveli will feature at least two courtyards and are often built in the prevailing Indo-Saracenic style. They occasionally operate partly as homestays but with a more traditional hotel vibe, so expect bars and restaurants in most. What’s more, havelis are often in prime locations in towns and cities, as noble families tended to reside close to the palace to attend the Maharajah. A wonderfully atmospheric option for those seeking a unique and nostalgic stay in India.
Kerala is where the concept of homestays originated in India, with locals opening up their houses to guests and offering a similar experience to what we’d call a B&B in the UK. Whilst it has now spread throughout India, the premise remains the same. This is a fantastic way to live like a local and be welcomed into their homes: expect an extremely warm welcome, home grown local cooking and some characterful accommodation! These are generally the homes of former landed gentry or senior government employees and as such the standard of English and quality of the accommodation is far higher than you might expect from homestays elsewhere in Asia. Staff are part and parcel of life in India and what the service lacks in hotel polish will be more than compensated for by the friendliness and willingness to please.
See our selection of homestays in India.
Boutique Properties: Countrywide
We define boutique properties in India as characterful stays that reflect the local surroundings. Compared to heritage properties, they might feel more contemporary in design and lack an historic story, but they make up for this with style, and you will still get a sense of the tradition and history of your location.
Plantation Properties: Countrywide
Whether it be a working tea planter’s bungalow or a colonial landowner’s home, staying in a plantation property is part of the experience in areas across India, from Kerala in the southwest right up to Darjeeling in the northeast. There are a variety of standards and styles: some are standalone bungalows that you have exclusively to yourself, while others are slightly bigger with more of a hotel feel. Most of the staff will come from the local region and some properties have in-house naturalists. You’ll get plantation tours included in your stay and a lot also have great hiking routes directly from the property.
Camps and Wildlife Lodges: Countrywide
India has such a variety of landscape and wildlife that even just a night or two in a camp or lodge can bring a whole new dimension to your trip. When it comes to wildlife stays, we advise three nights minimum (ideally more) in each place to really soak up the location and get a bit of R&R in there too.
Camps often close in the offseason or are mobile so move around. Standards vary from simple tents right to a luxury mobile camp with all the bells and whistles. We’ll always choose the right one for you based on your interests and desires, but expect amazing scenery, privacy and personalised service as a given.
Wildlife lodges can take a number of forms, former landowners' homes, hunting lodges or properties built to fit in with the local environment. We’re picky about which properties we use to ensure they’re sustainably run.
We use boats when we believe they’re the best way to experience a region. For example, a private houseboat for two nights on the central Keralan backwaters is a fantastic way to experience the amazing network of waterways, or a small boat cruise down the mighty Brahmaputra and the Hooghly. We’ll chat to you about the pro’s and con’s and use our expert knowledge to work out what best works for you.
From day trips in coach class to luxury cabins for several nights, we use a variety of trains across India to get you from one place to another. We’ll go through the positives and negatives of the luxury train journeys and give you our honest feedback. Plus, we’re careful to choose routes that minimise your chances of delays. If you brave it and take an overnight train journey (a lot of our travellers do!) we’ll ensure you’re provided with a goody bag to make your adventure comfortable. One of our in-country partners will even take you directly to your berth and help you with your luggage as you board.
Although we tend to hunt out characterful hotels to enhance your travel experience and be in keeping with the country itself, sometimes a more mainstream hotel is used. We might suggest one of these properties for various reasons, which we would always discuss with you, but often the location dictates in cities, or it might be good value for shorter stays. For example, in somewhere like Agra, boutique hotels are few and far between – so, as many travellers often only stay for one night to see the Taj Mahal, we recommend a good value mainstream hotel. A mainstream hotel might also provide facilities such as a pool, that could be essential to you.
For all of our hotel and accommodation choices, please see here.