The Best of Bangalore, India: One Local’s Tips & Favorite Spots
There’s no better way to explore a city than through the eyes of a local, which is why my new interview series features travel tips from expert guides around the world. Next stop: Bangalore, India!
Jenny is a family travel blogger from the UK and is “on a mission to dispel the myth that adventure has to wait until the kids are older.” She and her two boys, aged three and four, have hiked to 3000 meters in the Nepalese Himalayas, meditated with monks in Thailand, ridden tuk-tuks across Sri Lanka and traversed Africa for four months in a Land Rover Defender.
Up until recently, they were living in Bangalore, India (also known as Bengaluru), but they have returned to the beautiful countryside of the UK’s Peak District. I spoke to Jenny about her experiences in Bangalore and which spots she’d recommend to anyone paying a visit to this Indian megacity.
What do you love about Bangalore? What makes it special to you?
We lived in Bangalore for a year (2017/2018), as an opportunity came up with my husband’s work. My boys were 1 and 3 years old when we first moved out there. Bangalore, like many Indian cities, is crazy, congested and chaotic. But there’s an energy that gets under your skin, and I love how life spills out onto the pavement. But if the chaos ever got too much in Bangalore, there are pockets of oasis and western comforts to fall back on. Plus, it’s was a great base to explore much of India with kids as it is well connected by trains to other Indian cities and international flights across Asia.
I’d love to see it! What are your favorite things to do there?
As we are a young family, the focus was generally on what would keep the boys happy. There is so much to do in Bangalore with kids, but our favourite thing to do was to was to visit Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. This open space acts as the lungs of this congested city, and it’s a lovely place to wander, admire the flora and fauna and chat to some cheeky monkeys. We’d also then take the time to climb the Peninsula Gneiss (a large granite rock) to the east of the gardens, which affords good views over the city skyline.
If a traveler only had 24 hours in the city, what are some places you’d tell them they absolutely can’t miss?
Visit the ISKCON temple, which is one of the largest in the world. Climb the steps to marvel at the lavish decorations and stop to observe the fascinating ceremonies taking place, as the Hare Krishna chant provides a looping soundtrack to your visit. There is a fantastic food market as you leave the main temple so time your arrival for lunch. Then pop to the decadent Taj Westend for high tea, before a late afternoon stroll around Lalbagh Botanical Gardens.
What should travelers know about the local culture of Bangalore?
Even though Bangalore is more westernised than much of India, you should still dress conservatively, and don’t be surprised if people ask you for selfies (especially if you are fair skinned). Also, be prepared to haggle for items if buying from markets or taking auto-rickshaws around the city. And most importantly, learn that the Indian head wobble does not mean ‘yes’. It is merely an ‘ok, whatever you say’ nod.
Those are great tips! What’s a cool neighborhood you’d recommend to visitors looking for something a little different?
Head to Koramangala for some very funky cafes and restaurants. My favourite dish was always the kadai paneer. Vegetarians will be in heaven!
Paneer dishes are my favorite! Where would you recommend tourists stay when visiting?
I’m normally all for budget accommodation. However, the five-star hotels often have seriously amazing deals on booking.com, so it’s worth checking out. Our favourites were always the Hilton or Sheraton. If you time your visit with a weekend, be sure to check out the Sunday brunch – a lavish feast laid out that makes you feel like it’s Christmas Day!
Any photography tips for visitors to Bangalore?
Bangalore is such a colourful city, but photography brings a few ethical questions. Everywhere is busy with people, so it’s difficult to get photos without people in them. Many temples have a strict no-photo policy. Plus, there is lot of poverty in Bangalore and a flashy camera may be insensitive in places. However, Indians love taking photos on their phone, and visitors will be asked many times for selfies. If you’re uncomfortable having your photo taken, be polite but firm.
That’s really helpful to know! What advice do you have for travelers looking to avoid the crowds?
This is a tricky one. The only true oases from the city are the 5-star hotels. Even if you’re not staying in a swanky hotel, just ensure your accommodation is an oasis from the chaos, otherwise your visit will be extremely exhausting.
What should visitors know about transportation around the city?
Auto (tuk-tuk) is the most fun way to get around the city. However, drivers will recognise that you are not local and insist that the metre is ‘broken’ to try and get a larger fare from you. Haggling with the drivers can get frustrating, so download the OLA app, from where you can order an auto and it automatically calculates the cost for you. However, on those humid days when pollution levels are high, or during the monsoon, you may want to opt for a car booked through OLA or UBER. You may like to read my blog post about travelling by auto in Bangalore.
Thanks for the tips, Jenny! For more tips and stories from Bangalore and beyond, be sure to follow TraveLynn Family on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And stay tuned to Venga, Vale, Vamos for more local guides to unbelievable cities around the world!