Plan your epic motorcycle tour of India
In this updated blog post, I share the process I followed to plan my all-India motorbike trip. Discover essential tips on budgeting, routes, preparation, and more to fuel your motorbike adventure across India’s diverse terrains.
Since crossing India in 2016 on my Dawes Galaxy, I moved to Goa in 2018 and have been here as a long-term expat ever since. I draw on these experiences to share my top tips for planning an all-India long-distance motorbike trip.
Can We Fix It?
Stripped of the engine, planning a motorbike trip is not unlike that of a bicycle tour. My bike travel tips outline some of the key factors I consider when making a long-distance overland journey. Further still, my bootstrapped bicycle touring philosophy shares an adventure travel mindset as much as it does practical advice.
The key difference in my opinion, between human-powered bicycle touring and horse-powered motorbike trips is the ability to repair and maintain the machine – if you can fix it, you can ride it!
Multiple Entry Visa
First off, when I considered the possibilities for a motorcycle tour of India, I looked at the options for an interesting and challenging route. Mountains I love, so that was the first port of call. Next, I factored in how much time was available for the trip.
In my case, I had a six-month visa at my disposal, cash in the bank and an appetite for adventure
For the first two months, the plan for my all-India motorbike trip was to travel with my sister. Lucy had a break between work contracts and felt the call to tag along on the Indian bike odyssey. So, with context in place, let’s address the specifics of planning an all-India long-distance motorcycle adventure.
How To Plan An All-India Motorbike Trip
We booked our flight tickets to Delhi from the UK about eight weeks in advance, which secured us a great deal. Flying with Saudia, with a connection via Jeddah, I scored a return ticket for just £303. Inshallah, those days of affordable air travel return quick sharp.
Our plan was, in its most simple formula: to fly to Delhi, buy a Royal Enfield, and ride away to the mountains.
And that is exactly what we did. Having travelled India by bicycle some years before I knew enough about what to expect and how it might be. I knew to trust the process. A motorcycle tour of India would help me to see even more of this mesmeric country.
Keen Bean Biking Machine
For those new to India, I would recommend doing the same. As Goethe said, ‘there is magic in bold action’. Pack a bag, book a flight and enjoy the ride. The reality is that everything is possible in India. With a little patience, a flexible attitude and a fistful of rupee, doors will open (minds too) and (“good”) things will happen.
If you’re even vaguely tempted by the idea, read my guide to buying a second hand Royal Enfield in Delhi. If you’re still keen after that, you’re all set to explore India on a motorbike!
How To Plan Your Route Around India
Now, then, I use the term ‘all India’ loosely. Cargo trucks have a sticker that I’m rather fond of: ‘All India Permit’, which is displayed in many of the trucks and taxis of the big cities to indicate that they have permission to carry goods or people across the sub-continent.
In my case, for this blog post at least, the term motorcycle tour of India means that I travelled a chunk of the north in a big loop, like a giant horseshoe, and a stretch from Goa to Rishikesh via Delhi. The two journeys are distinctly different and separate in their chronology.
As an expat of five years, I’ve seen enough of the country on two wheels that I consider my learnings to be helpful and relevant.
Seasonality is one of the main factors to consider when planning a motorbike trip around India. India is a big country with vast regional variations in climate. Choosing the correct season for your Indian motorbike adventure is crucial in planning a successful expedition.
Indian Himalaya Motorbike Trip Itinerary
For a far north itinerary of the Indian Himalaya by Royal Enfield (Leh – Ladakh – Spiti) loop from Delhi ideal timings are between June and September.
Plan your ride to start and finish inside of these dates and chances are the roads will be open and the conditions optimal. Outside of this weather window and it’s likely that the journey will be hampered by road closures, snow and landslides.
Bikepacking the Himalayas
I went bikepacking Manali to Leh in October, and it was just about OK. It was wet in Himachal Pradesh, dry in Ladakh and snowing at the top of Tanglang La.
Side note: As of 23/24, the Manali to Leh highway is closed for the winter due to heavy snowfall to make time for essential repairs and maintenance.
That Sunny Southern Weather
For a South India motorbike itinerary, October through April is perfect. The temperature will be on either side of thirty degrees, and the sun will shine.
Outside of that, it’s rainy season, and you’ll spend most of the trip navigating flooded roads in low visibility, wet to the bone.
As you will see from the timings, a south-to-north itinerary is possible, given the appropriate start date. Begin at the right time of year and its possible to enjoy the best of the weather across the country.
A motorcycle tour of India can follow the seasons and enjoy the country in the finest conditions.
All India Motorbike Itinerary
Six to seven months is possible for a circumnavigation. 12 months would be a comfortable timeframe for deeper exploration of the interesting places and extra layovers where you feel the call. If you have time, this is the way to go.
The motorcycle tour of India I undertook was split into two parts.
I took a loop of the north at the lower altitudes of the Himalayas with my sister in November 2018. In March 2019, I rode from south to north across the country solo. I spent three months in Goa between times. Of the five-month trip, I spent just over two months on the road.
The route of my motorbike tour in the north of India is as follows:
Delhi to Chandigarh Loop
Delhi – Rishikesh – Waknaghat – Jawalamukhi – Dharamshala (McLeod Ganj) – Gurdaspur – Amritsar – Chandigarh
The route of my south-to-north motorcycle tour of India:
Goa to Delhi
Mandrem – Rajapur – Wai – Aurangabad – Ajanta Caves – Omkareshwar – Mandu – Udaipur – Chittorgarh – Pushkar – Agra – Haldwani – Rishikesh – Delhi
A Tale Of Two Itineraries
These two itineraries allow for layovers and sightseeing. In particular, the distances in the north were intentionally shorter to accommodate a more full experience of the places we passed through.
Since it was Lucy’s first visit to India, we wanted to ensure the time was well spent.
The solo trip was more direct but deliberately steered into places of interest. The route was planned to include the most value regarding landmarks and cultural significance.
Embarking on a Motorbike Tour of India: Your Ultimate Guide
India, with its vast landscapes and rich tapestry of cultures, offers an unparalleled adventure for motorbike enthusiasts.
From the rugged Himalayan trails to the sun-kissed coasts of Goa, a bike tour across this diverse country is nothing short of epic.
But where do you start? Let’s throttle up and dive into planning your grand Indian motorbike tour.
Budgeting for the Ride of a Lifetime
What’s the cost of adventure?
For an all-India bike trip, your budget is as flexible as your itinerary. On average, set aside $20-$50 per day, covering your stays, street-side feasts, fuel, and the occasional fix-up.
Remember, India’s cost of living varies dramatically from the mountains to the metros, so tailor your budget to your route.
Crafting Your Journey
Planning a bike trip in India is like setting up a grand chessboard; every move counts. Start with the when and where.
India’s weather can be a game-changer, with monsoons and winters dictating passable routes. Next, pick your steed wisely. Royal Enfields are the go-to for their rugged build and easy repairs, but ensure it’s a ride you’re comfortable with for long hauls.
India on Two Wheels: Is it Possible?
Absolutely! With the right paperwork and a sense of adventure, you can traverse the length and breadth of India. Be mindful of permit requirements for certain regions like Ladakh and the Northeast. The key is in the planning – ensure your route is clear of any seasonal or regulatory roadblocks.
Gearing Up for the Long Haul
Preparation is paramount for a long motorcycle ride in India. Start with a thorough bike check-up, focusing on tires, brakes, and engine health. Pack light but essential – think repair kits, spare parts, hydration packs, and your weather-appropriate gear. And don’t forget your personal prep; a bit of physical conditioning goes a long way on the challenging Indian roads.
All India Itineraries: Traversing India’s Best
India’s vastness offers routes that cater to every biker’s dream. Here’s a snapshot of the most coveted guided motorbike tours:
The Leh-Ladakh Traverse
Starting from Manali, this route takes you through some of the world’s highest motorable passes, with stark landscapes and monastic tranquillity as your companions. Best time: June to September.
Rajasthan’s Royal Trails
Explore the Thar Desert’s expanse, with stops at historic forts and vibrant bazaars. Ideal during the cooler months from November to February.
The Southern Spice Route
Kerala and Tamil Nadu’s lush landscapes offer a stark contrast to the northern aridity, with backwaters, beaches, and hill stations dotting your journey. Perfect all year round, but magical during the monsoons.
The Northeast Odyssey
Venture into the mystical lands of the Seven Sisters, with uncharted terrains and vibrant cultures. Note the monsoon season from June to September can be challenging.
I loved Northeast India by bicycle very much. I plan to return again in the coming years. There is so much cultural immersion in this compact piece of north India that it’s compelling to travel through these wonderful states.
The nature, people and sheer remoteness offer an impactful itinerary.
A motorbike tour of India is not just a journey; it’s a plunge into the heart of diversity, challenging terrains, and boundless beauty. With careful planning, respect for local norms, and an open heart, your two-wheeled adventure across India could well be the saga you’ll recount for years to come.
So, gear up, plan right, and hit the Indian roads with gusto! Happy journey!
Share your tips on how to plan an all India motorbike trip in the comments: