India is among the most colorful nations of the world and boasts of a rich history, culture and heritage. To get the most of your trip to India, it would be a good idea to equip yourself with useful information before you set out for a journey of a lifetime.
Getting In and Out
To explore India, you need a valid passport and visa to India. Carry them at all times while enjoying a vacation in India. Notify your country’s embassy or consulate in case your passport is stolen or lost.
One needs additional permits to go to certain destinations in India such as Andaman Islands, Gujarat, Ladakh, Kerala, and more. Check with your travel agent or embassy while planning your visit.
15-Day visa extensions are granted under exceptional circumstances. If you intend to stay longer than 3 months on non-tourist visas there is a registration requirement. This registration makes the bearer eligible for domestic ticket prices.
India's booming economy has created a large middle-class population in India & rapid economic growth has made air travel more and more affordable in India. Air India, India's flag carrier, plays a major role in connecting India with the rest of the world. Several other foreign airlines connect Indian cities with other major cities across the globe.
Air Deccan, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Indigo Airlines and Air India are the most popular brands in domestic air travel in order of their market share. Of these, Jet, Indian and Sahara also operate overseas routes after the liberalisation of Indian Aviation. These airlines connect more than 80 cities across India.
Air India is the national airline of India with a worldwide network of passenger and cargo services. It is part of the National Aviation Company of India Limited and the only state-owned airline in the country. The company was created with the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, as well as each carrier's subsidiaries. Together with its subsidiaries and related carriers, Air India connects 130 international and domestic destinations around the world and includes 12 gateways in India with Air India Express, a fully-owned subsidiary of Air India. www.airindia.com.
Jet Airways is the country's second-largest international airline after Air India and the largest domestic airline. It operates over 400 daily flights to 62 destinations. Its primary base is Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport with secondary hubs at Bangalore, Brussels, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune. www.jetairways.com.
Kingfisher Airlines Limited is an airline based in Bangalore, India. It is a major Indian airline operating 218 flights a day and has a network of 38 destinations, with plans for regional and long-haul international services. Its main bases are Bengaluru International Airport, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport and Indira Gandhi International Airport. Kingfisher is one of only six airlines in the world to have a five-star rating from Skytrax. www.flykingfisher.com.
Indigo Airlines is a private domestic low-cost airline based in Delhi.. It operates domestic services linking 14 destinations. Its main base is Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.
Spice Jet is a low-cost airline based in New Delhi, India. It began service in May 2005. It was voted as the best low-cost airline in South Asia and Central Asia region by Skytrax in 2007.
India's rail network is the longest of any country. Rail operations throughout the country are run by the state-owned company, Indian Railways. The rail network traverses through the length and breadth of the country, covering a total length of around 63,000 km (39,000 miles). Out of this a total 16,693 km of track has been electrified till now and 12,617 km have double tracks.
Accommodation classes range from general through first class AC. Trains have been classified according to speed and area of operation. The ticketing system has been computerised to a large extent, and there are reserved as well as unreserved categories of tickets. www.indianrailways.gov.in.
It is best to visit Indian plains during cooler months from November to March.
For a visit to mountainous regions of India, the months of April to October are better suited.
Food & Cuisine
Indian cuisine is a specialized art and cuisine in India not only differs from region to region but may even differ from household to household!. The cooking styles and flavors of every region of India are unique and differ from each other. While Kashmir is famous for its 24-course banquet- the Wazwan; coastal Goa, Kerala and Bengal specialize in fish, seafood and coconut-based dishes. Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are the best states to taste vegetarian specialties. Bengal, Bikaner and Delhi are particularly famous for sweets.
Such is the diversity available in Indian cuisine that it is not possible for a tourist to taste all Indian delicacies in a single visit to the country. Indian cuisine can be a tad too spicy for European and American taste buds. Indulge in the gastronomical delights only if you have the stomach for it. Also, there are plenty of non-spicy cuisines and delicacies to choose from.
Continental, Chinese and western cuisines are easily available in many restaurants of India. Some restaurants, particularly those in the metros also specialise in specialty cuisines such as Thai, Spanish, French, Mexican, Italian, South Asian and Mediterranean.
It is mandatory for all foreign tourists to possess a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate coming from or through endemic Yellow Fever regions (Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea). Though no other vaccination certificate is mandatory, tourists are advised to consult their doctor for innoculation against typhoid, hepatitis and meningitis and perhaps even polio, measles, mumps and cholera. Certain precautions should be taken while traveling to India.
It is safer to drink only boiled or filtered water. Another option is to buy mineral water available all over the country under well known .Food items should never be consumed from roadside stalls. As Indian food contains lots of spice and oil, over-eating even at a good eatery should always be avoided. To ensure that the food retains its hygiene, only food served hot should be consumed. However, most tourist places have approved restaurants.
You may occasionally need insect repellent cream. If you are allergic to dust, be sure to carry medication with you. Sunscreen is another must-have.
Pharmacies or chemists are available in every little town and village from where medication, condoms or tampons can easily be purchased. If the services of a doctor are required, tourists may contact their hotel first as most of them offer doctors-on-call facilities.
Adequate travel insurance is vital. Mountain and other adventure sports enthusiasts should have insurance that covers trekking, climbing and mountain biking. Most insurance offered by credit cards does not provide sufficient cover. Please check before you travel that you are fully covered.
What to Pack
Modesty in dress is an important aspect of Indian life and, away from beaches, one should respect the local customs. This is especially important when visiting temples and religious sites, where trousers or full-length skirts should be worn and shoulders should be covered and in Sikh temples, your head must also be covered. Shoes that can be slipped on and off easily are also very useful as they must always be removed at all religious sites. On game drives clothes should be in muted jungle shades of beige, brown and green. A wind proof jacket, a sweater and even a woolen hat may be required on early morning drives since the open vehicles can be rather chilly in the early morning and at dusk - even in the warmer months. Formal clothes are not necessary but something elegant is always appreciated. For general day wear, we recommend light cottons and loose clothing, with jumpers or fleeces and sturdy shoes for those traveling to hill stations and desert locations. In many hotels, restaurants and trains, the air conditioning can be rather chilly. A light jumper or pashmina is very handy in these situations
Bargaining is the norm in local bazaars selling products without a written price. Resist the urge to buy without comparing prices from shops selling similar stuff.
Be wary of roadside peddlers trying to sell you semi-precious and precious gems and jewelry. Visit state emporia and the Central Cottage Industries Emporia (most major cities have one) for fixed prices and a fair idea of the cost with a regular dealer.
Trading in ivory, fur, animal skins, antiquities and the like is illegal. If you must have it, obtain a certificate of legitimate sale and permission for export before leaving the country.
India is a country where one shall come across many customs. Different customs are followed in different parts of the country. However, customs in the metros and the countryside may substantially differ. Metros in India are liberal and cosmopolitan as compared to the countryside. In the countryside, there are many customs which may be regarded as rigid and unusual. It is surprising to note that some of these customs may date back to even thousand years at the best thing about Indians is that they are very hospitable people and welcome the customs and lifestyles of others.
-Public display of affection is not appreciated and neither is public nudity unless perhaps one is at a beach.
-One is expected to cover the head before entering a religious place such as a temple or mosque.
-Ask for permission before clicking pictures of women and religious complexes. Some places charge for taking pictures while it is prohibited at a few places as well.
Dress codes for religious places can include covering your head, being barefoot etc. Ask, so that you don’t unwittingly give offence. Some temples do not permit any leather articles at all on their premises and certain temples are not open to Non-Hindus so please check with the local agents.
Most museums in India are closed on Mondays and site museums, those near archaeological monuments, on Fridays. Photography is not always permissible, and at many places it is permitted only at a fee. There is usually a higher fee for using a video camera.
English is spoken at almost all tourist centers, but you can also request for us to provide you with trained and approved guides who also speak German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian or Russian.
Money & Exchange Rates
The unit of currency in India is the Rupee where Rs.1 is made up of 100 paisa. Bank notes are in denomination of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000.
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers’ cheques a tourist may bring into India, provided a declaration in the Currency Declaration Form is made with Indian customs. Cash, bank notes and travelers’ cheque up to US$ 10,000 or equivalent, need not be declared at the time of entry.
Any money in the form of travelers’ cheque, drafts, bills, etc. in convertible currencies, which tourists wish to convert into Indian currency, should be exchanged only through authorized money changers and banks who will issue an encashment certificate that is required at the time of re conversion of any unspent money into foreign currency. Exchanging of foreign exchange other than through banks or authorized money changers is an offence under the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act 1973.
In cities most major foreign currencies can be changed and brands of travelers’ cheque that are widely accepted are the US Dollars or Pounds Sterling of either Thomas Cook or American Express. There is a severe problem of counterfeit currency floating in the market care must be taken to exchange money from a reliable source.
Banking hours at most commercial banks are:
Monday – Friday: 0930 – 1400 hours (1900 hours for International chains)
Saturday: 0930 – 1200 hours
Major hotels have foreign exchange facilities and most shops, lodges and travel agencies accept travelers’ cheques.
Most big cities have ATMs which accept Visa and MasterCard as well as American Express. The ATM network is ever expanding and in some states, you can find them even in some of the smaller towns.
Visa, American Express, Diners Club and MasterCard are honored by most restaurants, stores, hotels and other points of sale and service. Proof of identity may be requested in some instances and it is therefore useful to carry a passport or some form of photo identification at all times. Please note that a fee can often be charged for credit cards.