INDIA TRAVEL TIPS
GMT + 5 hours 30 minutes
The official language is Hindi but English is widely spoken throughout India.
Staff at airline, railway, telecommunication counters and offices are usually fluent in English. Most direction signs usually have an English version too. Books like Words in Indian English by S. Muthiah can help visitors interpret local additions to vocabulary and grammar.
India is a secular country with diverse religious beliefs. Although the majority of the population here are Hindus, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Judaism are also practised. However, when visiting a religious monument, some areas may be off-limits to visitors who don't practise the faith; taking photographs in such places may also be prohibited.
The units of Indian currency are the Rupee and Paisa (100 Paisa equal 1 Rupee). Paper money is in denominations of Rupees 10, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 2000. Coins are in denominations of Rupees 1, 2 and 5.
Visitors can bring to India:
1. Local currency (Indian Rupee-INR): up to max. INR 25,000
2. Foreign currencies : unlimited. However, amounts exceeding USD 5,000 (or equivalent) in cash, or USD 10,000 (or equivalent) in traveler's cheques must be declared.
Foreign currencies include currency notes, traveler's cheques, cheques, drafts etc. (Re)exchange only through banks and authorized money exchange points.. Do not use unauthorised moneychangers for exchanging foreign currency. You run the risk of receiving forged rupees or being cheated.
Exchanging facilities are generally available at airports as well as in all major hotels and authorised moneychangers usually display the rates of exchange. Credit cards are widely accepted in major hotels, restaurants and shops.
Tipping is not customary, but it is appreciated nevertheless.
Best time to go to India
India is the seventh largest country in the world and as such the climate in one part of the country can differ significantly from another. Broadly speaking, the best time to visit India is during its winter season, from October to March, when the weather is very pleasant in most parts of the country. The months of September and April, with warm days and cool evenings, are also a comfortable time to travel.
A major attraction for visitors is India’s colourful fairs and festivals, most of which take place during this period. Popular Hindu festivals such as Dussehra and Diwali take place in October or November, while the Pushkar fair in Rajasthan in November also attracts a lot of visitors from around the globe. The festival of colours, Holi, takes place in March and is best celebrated in Jaipur or Jodhpur.
Summer is at its peak in India from May to June when most of India experiences very high temperatures. This is the time to escape into one of the many picturesque hill stations. In some of these cool retreats, adventure sports such as trekking, paragliding and angling are available. As summer is considered the lean season for tourism, most services are available at attractive prices.
Monsoons arrive in late June and cool down the Indian sub-continent. The monsoon period usually runs through to August. However, the south-eastern region receives most of its rainfall between mid-October and late December while other areas of India such as Ladakh and the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh remain dry which opens up trekking opportunities for visitors.
The dress code for your tour in India is comfortable-casual. First and foremost, we recommend light and breathable layers to add and remove according to the varying temperatures: it can be cool in the car and at night but will be hot during the day.
- Cotton t-shirts and tops
- Good footwear is recommended. Sandals may not be appropriate for some sightseeing activities.
- Lightweight pants, loose skirts or trousers and at least short-sleeved shirts are recommended for men and women when sightseeing in towns and cities
- Somewhat smarter, but still informal, clothing is appropriate for evening dining in city restaurants. Formal clothing is not necessary. Carry a sweater or lightweight jacket for evening and fiercely air-conditioned interiors.
When visiting temples, mosques and other religious sites men and women must cover their arms, legs and shoulders. Women should pack a scarf large enough to cover bare neck and shoulders. Shoes must be removed when entering religious buildings, so bring socks if you don’t wish to enter bare-footed.
Pack a swimming suit; many local hotels have swimming pools. Also pack sunglasses, sun block and a sunhat. Lightweight binoculars can prove useful for sightseeing as well as wildlife-watching. A small flashlight is useful in case of a local power failure, and to view artworks inside dimly lit monasteries and temples. If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, be sure to pack an extra pair(s).
For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.
India supplies electricity at 220 volts and 50 hertz.
Cell phone, cameras and laptops typically do not require a converter; however, other appliances may need a socket adaptor and voltage converter. Please check the operating instructions for your equipment to ensure that it can handle either 110 or 220-volt electrical systems.
Always ask permission before photographing local people (the only exception to this is when you are photographing a public scene with a lot of people in it, aiming at no one in particular). Always be considerate of anyone’s desire not to be photographed. Video cameras may be used at most monuments provided you are not filming for commercial purposes. However, specific areas of some monuments may be off limits for photography. Restrictions may also apply on the use of tripods and flash guns. There are some places where photography is prohibited, and these areas are usually clearly marked. Hindus are superstitious and taking photographs of images of deities or inside temples is not allowed. Do not take photographs of funerals or cremations.
Do note that video photography is strictly prohibited inside and outside airports, railway stations and certain government buildings. Do not photograph defence and police personnel in uniform. If in doubt, please ask.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
Visa & Immigration: In order to enter India, you will need:
A signed, valid passport and a tourist visa. Passport should have at least six months validity beyond the completion of your trip. The passport should have at least two blank pages for stamping by the Immigration Officer.
The government of India offers two options for tourist visas.
- One option is the Electronic Tourist Visa (e-Tourist visa). This type of visa allows a stay of up to 60 days in India from the date of arrival in India. Double entry is permitted on an e-Tourist Visa. Do not apply for an e-Tourist visa any earlier than 120 days and no later than four days before your scheduled date of arrival.
- The other option is a multiple entry visa which can obtained through the traditional application process. This type of visa has a 5-year validity and allows multiple visits. You need to apply for a traditional Indian visa if you are exiting and re-entering India three times or more during the course of your tour.
All Indian consular offices around the world issue visas. Special visas are also issued for trekking, botanical expeditions and sports and journalism related activities. Visitors may move freely throughout the country, except to restricted or prohibited areas.
Customs: Visitors possessing more than USD 5,000 (or equivalent) in cash, or USD 10,000 (or equivalent) in traveler's cheques must fill in a currency declaration form. If you plan to bring any expensive electronics/cameras, ask for a re-export permit from customs officials when you arrive. The permit will be written into the back of your passport, and unless you can present the item to Customs while leaving, duty will be levied.
India restricts the export of antiques, including foreign-made artifacts and items more than 100 years old. The Archaeological Survey of India is the authority that determines whether items are restricted. Visitors may not bring in or take out of India anything made from endangered animal species.
In India the right hand is for eating with (Indians traditionally eat with their fingers) and for shaking hands, while the left hand is reserved for personal cleansing. It is considered impolite to pass or accept things, or point to someone with the left hand. Kissing and embracing should not be performed in public places; in more conservative, rural areas, couples should also abstain from holding hands.
India’s food is famously spicy, but not always spicy-hot. There are marked regional and religious differences in cuisine, but many meals are based on rice or another grain, served with meat and/or vegetables cooked in a spiced sauce. Condiments and pickles, ranging from sweet to sour to hot, accompany most dishes, and dairy products such as yogurt, butter and soft cheese are common. India has a well-developed vegetarian cuisine and many traditional (very rich and sweet) desserts. When dining on your own, reservations for dinner are essential in India, even in hotel restaurants.