Wednesday, November 16, 2022
India travel guide - Travel S helper

India

travel guide

India is a nation in South Asia. Its official name is the Republic of India. It is the seventh-largest nation in terms of land area, the second-largest in terms of population (with over 1.2 billion people), and the world’s most populous democracy. It is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean, on the west by the Arabian Sea, and on the east by the Bay of Bengal. It has land boundaries with Pakistan on the west, China, Nepal, and Bhutan on the north, and Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh on the east. India lies next to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean; furthermore, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia. New Delhi serves as the capital of India; other major cities include Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata.

For most of its lengthy history, the Indian subcontinent has been associated with its economic and cultural richness as the home of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and a location of historic trade routes and great empires. Four faiths developed here: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism; Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam came in the first century CE and influenced the region’s varied culture as well. From the early 18th century, India was gradually annexed and brought under the administration of the British East India Company, before being administered directly by the United Kingdom following the Indian Rebellion of 1857. India gained independence in 1947, following a struggle for independence marked by nonviolent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.

In 2015, India’s economy was the seventh biggest in the world in terms of nominal GDP and third largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). India became one of the fastest-growing global economies in 1991, after market-based economic reforms; it is classified as a newly industrialized nation. Nonetheless, it continues to suffer poverty, corruption, hunger, and insufficient public healthcare. As a nuclear weapons state and regional power, it possesses the world’s third biggest standing army and ranks sixth in terms of military spending. India is a federal republic with a parliamentary system, including 29 states and seven union territories. India is a multiethnic, pluralistic, and multilingual society. Additionally, it is home to a diverse range of species that thrives in a variety of protected environments.

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India - Info Card

Population

1,407,563,842

Currency

Indian rupee (₹) (INR)

Time zone

UTC+05:30 (IST)

Area

3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219 sq mi)

Calling code

+91

Official language

Hindi - English

India | Introduction

Geography of India

With mountains, jungles, the desert and endless beaches, in India you can find it all one place. It borders in the north and northeast on the snow-covered Himalaya, the highest mountain range in the world. They not only protect the land from invaders, they also feed the perennial rivers Ganges, Yamuna (Jamuna) and Sindhu (Indo), on whose plains Indian civilization flourished. Although most of the Sindhu is now in Pakistan, three of its tributaries flow through the Punjab. The other Himalayan river, the Brahmaputra, flows northeast mainly through Assam.

South of Punjab lies the Aravalli Range, which divides Rajasthan into two parts. In the western side of Rajasthan is covered by the Thar Desert. The Vindhyas cross central India, especially Madhya Pradesh, and mark the beginning of the Deccan Plateau, which covers almost the entire southern peninsula.

The Deccan Plateau borders the western Ghats (called Sahyadri in Maharashtra) in the west and the eastern Ghats in the east. The plateau is drier than the plain, as the rivers that feed the region, such as Narmada, Godavari and Kaveri, dry up in summer. Northeast of the Deccan Plateau there was once a dense forest area that included the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, the eastern border of Maharashtra and the far north of Andhra Pradesh. This area is still forested, poor and populated by tribes. This forest served as a barrier to the invasion of South India.

India has a long coast. The west coast is bordered by the Arabian Sea and the east coast by the Bay of Bengal, two parts of the Indian Ocean.

Demographics of India

India is the second most populous country in the world, with 1,210,193,422 inhabitants listed in the preliminary 2011 census report. The population increased by 17.64% in the period 2001-2011 compared to a growth of 21.54% in the last decade (1991-2001). The human gender ratio is 940 women per 1,000 men according to the 2011 census. The average age at the 2001 census was 24.9 years. In the first census after colonialism, which was carried out in 1951, 361.1 million people were counted. The medical advances of the last 50 years and the increase in agricultural productivity brought about by the “Green Revolution” have led to rapid growth in the Indian population. India continues to face various public health problems.

Life expectancy in India is 68 years, with a life expectancy of 69.6 years for women and 67.3 years for men. There are about 50 doctors for every 100,000 Indians. The number of Indians living in urban areas increased by 31.2% between 1991 and 2001. In 2001, however, more than 70 % lived in rural areas. The degree of urbanization decreased from 27.81% in the 2001 census to 31.16% in the 2011 census. The slowdown in overall population growth is due to the sharp decline in the growth rate in rural areas. since 1991. According to the 2011 census, India has over 53 million urban agglomerations; including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad in descending order of population. The literacy rate in 2011 was 74.04%: 65.46% for women and 82.14% for men. The literacy gap between rural and urban areas, which was 21.2 % in 2001, declined to 16.1 % in 2011. The improvement in literacy rates in rural areas is twice as high as in urban areas. With 93.91 % literacy, Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country, in contrast to the lowest rate in Bihar (63.82 %).

India has two large language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asian and Chinese-Tibetan language families. India has no national language. Hindi, which has the most speakers, is the official government language. There is widespread use of English in commercial and administrative circles and English has the status of a “subsidiary official language”. It is important in education, especially as a means of higher education. Each state and territory of the Union has one or more official languages, and the constitution recognizes 22 “programmed languages” in particular. The Constitution of India recognizes 212 programmed tribal groups, which together make up about 7.5% of the country’s population. The 2011 census revealed that Hinduism (79.8% of the population) is the largest religion in India, followed by Islam (14.23%). Other or no religions (5.97% of the population) are Christianity (2.30%), Sikhism (1.72%), Buddhism (0.70%), Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and the Bahá’í Faith. India has the largest Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and Baha’i population in the world and the third largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population in a predominantly non-Muslim country.

Religion in India

Religion in India has been characterized by a variety of different religious beliefs and practices. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four of the most important world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. In the entire history of India, the religion has been a integral part of the country’s cultural life. Religious diversity and religious tolerance are defined in the country by laws and customs. The Indian constitution has declared the right to religious freedom to be a fundamental right.

The northwest of India was home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the Indus Valley Civilization. Today India makes up about 90% of the Hindu population of the world. The majority of Hindu temples and shrines is located in India, as are the birthplaces of most of the Hindu saints. Allahabad is the site of the world’s largest religious pilgrimage, Kumbha Mela, where Hindus from all over the world gather at the confluence of India’s three sacred rivers: Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati. Many aspects of Hindu philosophy have been popularized by the Indian diaspora in the Western world, such as yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic medicine, divination, karma and reincarnation. The impact of the Indian religious beliefs has also been significant around the world. Several Hindu organizations like the Hare Krishna movement, Brahma Kumaris, Ananda Marga and many others have spread Hindu spiritual beliefs and practices.

According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the Indian population practice Hinduism and 14.2% practice Islam, while the remaining 6% belong to other religions (Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islamism). ethnic origin). The Christianity represents the 3rd largest religion in India. Zoroastrianism and Judaism also have an ancient history in India and each has several thousand Indian followers. India has the largest population of people belonging to Zoroastrianism (i.e. Parsees and Iranians) and Bahá’í beliefs in the world, although these religions are not originally from India. . Several other world religions also have some relation to Indian spirituality, for example the Bahá’í Faith, which considers Buddha and Krishna to be the manifestations of the Almighty God.

India has the third largest Shiite population in the world and, as the birthplace of Ahmadiyya Islam, is one of the countries in the world with at least 1 million Ahmadi Muslims. The shrines of some of the most famous Sufi saints like Moinuddin Chishti and Nizamuddin Auliya are located in India and attract visitors from all over the world. India has some of the most famous sights of Islamic architecture, most notably the Taj Mahal and the Qutb Minar. The civil affairs of the community are subject to Muslim personal rights and the constitutional amendments of 1985 have established its priority in family matters.

Biodiversity in India

India is part of the Indomalaya Environmental Zone and contains three hotspots for biodiversity. It is one of the 17 countries listed in the megadiverse and is home to 8.6% of all mammals, 13.7% of all birds, 7.9% of all reptiles, 6% of all amphibians, 12.2% of all pools and 6.0% of all flowering plant species. About 21.2% of the country’s territory is covered by forests (crown density> 10%), of which 12.2% are medium to very dense forests (crown density> 40%). The endemism is high in plants with 33% and in ecoregions such as Shola forests. Their habitat extends from the Andaman rainforest, the western Ghats and Northeast India to the Himalayan coniferous forest. Between these extremes is the humid salty deciduous forest of East India; the dry teak deciduous tree in Central and South India; and the thorn forest dominated by the Babuls of the central Deccan and the western Ganges plain. Heilneem, which is widely used in medicinal herbs in rural India, is a key tree in India. The lush fig tree depicted on the Mohenjo Daro seals obscured Gautama Buddha when he sought enlightenment.

Many Indian species are descended from taxa native to Gondwana, from which the Indian plateau was separated more than 105 million years before the present. The subsequent movement of the Indian mainland and the collision with the Laurasian land mass led to a massive exchange of species. Volcanism and climate change 20 million years ago forced mass extinction. Mammals then reached India from Asia via two zoogeographical passes flanking the emerging Himalayas. Although 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians being endemic, there are only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds. Among them are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the Western Ghats Beddome toad. India contains 172 endangered species designated by the IUCN, or 2.9% of endangered forms. These include the Asian lion, the Bengal tiger, the snow leopard and the Indian white-backed vulture, which have all but disappeared when cattle carcasses containing diclofenac were swallowed.

The omnipresent and ecologically devastating human intervention in recent decades has seriously endangered the Indian wildlife. In response to this, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, has been considerably expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and the Tiger Project to protect critical wildlife. The Forest Protection Act was passed in 1980 and amendments were added in 1988. India is home to over 500 game reserves and thirteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. There are 25 wetlands that are registered according to the Ramsar Convention.

Economy of India

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Indian economy had a nominal value of USD 2.183 billion in 2015. In terms of market exchange rate, it is the seventh largest economy and the third in terms of purchasing power parity or PPP, at $8,027 billion. With an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% for the last two decades and 6.1% for 2011-2012, India has become one of the fastest-growing economies of the world. However, India ranks as the 140th in the world for nominal GDP per capita as well as the 129th for PPP per capita. Until 1991, all Indian governments pursued protectionist policies influenced by the socialist economy. Widespread intervention and state regulation have largely isolated the economy from the outside world. A severe balance of payments crisis in 1991 forced the country to liberalize its economy. Since then, it has slowly moved towards a free market system, with both foreign trade and direct investment flows being the main focus. India’s newest economy model is predominantly capitalist. Since 1 January 1995, India is a member of the WTO.

India’s labor force is the second largest in the world, with 486.6 million workers in 2011. India’s service sector represents 55.6% of GDP, while the industrial sector generates 26.3% and the agricultural sector 18.1%. India’s remittances in 2014 amounted to US$70 billion, the largest in the world, and contributed 25 million overseas Indian workers to the economy. The main agricultural products are rice, wheat, oilseeds, cotton, jute, tea, sugar cane and potatoes. The most important sectors of the Indian economy include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, food processing, steel, transportation, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery and software. In 2006, India’s percentage of foreign trade was 24% in comparison with 6% in 1985; in 2008, India’s percentage of world trade was 1.68%; in 2011, India was the 10th largest importer in the world as well as the 19th largest exporter. The main export goods include petroleum products, textiles, jewelry, software, technical products, chemicals and leather goods. Major imports include crude oil, machinery, precious stones, fertilizers and chemicals. Between 2001 and 2011, the contribution of petrochemicals and technical products to total exports increased from 14% to 42%. India was the second largest exporter of textiles to the world after China in calendar year 2013.

With an average economic growth of 7.5% for several years before 2007, India more than doubled its hourly wages in the first decade of the 21st century. Around 431 million Indians have left poverty behind since 1985; India’s middle class is expected to reach around 580 million by 2030. Although India ranks 51st in global competitiveness, India ranks 17th for the sophistication of financial markets, 24th for banking, 44th for corporate sophistication and 39th for financial market sophistication. For innovation ahead of several advanced economies since 2010. With 7 of the top 15 IT outsourcing companies based in India, the country is considered the second cheapest outsourcing destination in 2009 after the US. India’s 11th largest consumer market is expected to be fifth in 2030.

As a result of growth, India’s nominal GDP per capita has risen steadily, from $329 in 1991 at the start of economic liberalization to $1,265 in 2010 and is expected to rise to $2,110 in 2016. However, it has remained lower than that of other developing countries in Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. However, it is superior to Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and others.

According to a 2011 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, India’s GDP could exceed that of the US in 2045 at purchasing power parity. Over the next four decades, India’s GDP is expected to grow at an annual average rate of 8%, which could make it a large economy that will grow by 2050. The report highlights the main drivers of growth: a rapidly growing young working-age population; growth in manufacturing due to increasing technical education and skills; and continued growth in the consumer market, led by a rapidly growing middle class. The World Bank warns that in order to realize its economic potential, India must continue to focus on public sector reform, transport infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, lifting labour regulations, education and  energy, public health and nutrition.

In 2016, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published a list of the 10 cheapest cities in the world, based on the cost of 160 products and services, including four in India: Bangalore (second), Mumbai (third), Chennai (second) 6th) and New Delhi (8th).

Things To Know Before Traveling To India

Touts in India

Smugglers are ubiquitous, as they are in many developing countries, and you should assume that anyone who tries to “proactively” help you has a hidden agenda to separate you from your money. However, in areas where there are few, if any, tourists, it is not at all uncommon for people to go out of their way to “proactively” help you when you approach, without expecting anything in return. During your travels in India, you will be inundated with touts trying to get you to buy something or visit certain establishments.

There are a variety of common scams, ranging from claiming your hotel is out of business (of course they will know of one that is open and has vacancies), to giving you false directions to a government rail ticket office (the directions will lead to your friend’s travel agency), to trying to get you to take diamonds back to your home country (the diamonds are worthless crystal), to getting you to take diamonds back to your home country (the diamonds are worthless crystal), to “poor students” who will offer you hours of sightseeing and then, out of pity, get you to buy textbooks for them (hugely overpriced by a bookshop they are connected to). There will also be more obvious touts who “know a very good place to eat” or want to sell you a chess set on the street.

In the face of such an attack, it is very easy to get into a siege mentality where the whole of India is against you and is out to squeeze you. Needless to say, such a mentality can affect any true appreciation of the country. Dealing with touts is very simple: assume that anyone who offers surprising information (such as “your hotel is closed”) is a tout. Never be afraid to get a second or third answer to a question. To get rid of a tug:

  • Ignore him completely and go about your business until he is gone. This may take quite a while, but patience is the key to dealing with India.
  • Tell him “NO”, very firmly and repeatedly.

It is also an advantage to have a steady Indian friend whom you can trust. If he shows you around, he will help you ward off such touts.

A basic strategy will help you:

  • Don’t let yourself be pressured, consider every problem and every joy as your experience, that’s why you are travelling. Isn’t it?
  • Hiring a qualified guide, if you can find a trustworthy one, will sort out most, almost all, problems.
  • If you still have questions or want to have a friendly chat with an Indian, find an Indian tourist or another pedestrian or passenger, but never accept unsolicited guidance or help that might turn out to be unpleasant. He/she may be able to help you if he/she knows English, but he/she probably knows less than you about the place you are visiting.

Price discrimination in India

Foreign visitors will quickly come across the special foreigner rates they are charged at some places in India. This applies to some tourist attractions. This may seem discriminatory and unfair to many visitors, but it is practised in most developing countries in Asia and Africa.

Some tourist attractions run by the Archaeological Survey of India have different tariffs for Indians and foreigners. These rates are clearly displayed at the entrance and ticket counters. The rates for foreigners can be five to ten times higher than those for Indians. Even if you book a hotel room or a plane ticket over the internet, paying in US dollars may be much more expensive. You can get an Indian friend to book in rupees and in most cases no one will ask you about it when you check in.

Languages in India

There are 22 official languages in India at the federal level, which include: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri , Marathi, Nepali, Odia ,Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

There are also hundreds of other, less prominent languages such as Tulu, Bhojpuri and Ladakhi, which are the main language in some places.

A good, if not foolproof, rule of thumb is to assume that each Indian state has a different local language.

Hindi, spoken by about 40 % of the population, is the mother tongue of people from the “Hindi belt” in northern India, which includes the capital Delhi, and the main working language of the Union government. Many more speak it as a second language. Although there are many dialects of Hindi, the prestige dialect of Hindi used in the media and education is based on the dialect of the Delhi area and is understood by most Hindi speakers. If you can only afford one phrasebook, go for the Hindi phrasebook as it will help you get around in most parts of India.

Sanskrit was the language of the Aryan invaders who arrived around 1500 BC, and is the language in which much of ancient Indian literature and religious texts are written. Today, Sanskrit survives as a liturgical language and has a status similar to Latin in Europe: few, if any, speak Sanskrit as a mother tongue, but quite a few scholars know it. Many modern Indian languages are descended from Sanskrit, and languages not related to Sanskrit have also been strongly influenced by it.

While most North Indian languages, including Hindi, are descended from Sanskrit, the major languages of the South – Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam – belong to an entirely different group called Dravidian; they are thought to be descended from the languages of the peoples who inhabited the region before the Aryan invasion. Nevertheless, due to the influence of Hinduism, they too contain many loanwords from Sanskrit.

The central government has tried to establish Hindi as the national language, but this has not been entirely successful; especially in areas where local languages are not related to Hindi, it faces considerable resistance. Avoid speaking Hindi in areas such as Tamil Nadu and the Northeast, where Hindi is opposed by many locals. Also, do not refer to the other languages as dialects of Hindi; they are separate languages, mostly mutually unintelligible with different writing systems, and some (like the Dravidian languages) are completely unrelated to Hindi.

Proficiency in English varies greatly by level of education, occupation, age and region. English is compulsory in all schools and is widely spoken among the affluent classes in major cities and near most tourist spots, as well as in most police stations and government offices, and serves as a lingua franca among educated Indians. However, if possible, it is better to pick up as many words as you can in the local language of the place you are visiting – people are proud of the culture and language of their state (or region) and will appreciate it if an outsider tries to communicate in that language. Code-switching between English and the local language is common among youth in urban areas, although most educated people would speak Standard English (British) when talking to foreigners.

In many Indian languages there is no word for “please”, just as in Scandinavian languages. Instead, verbs have many forms that indicate the degree of politeness and formality. Since there is no such distinction in English, Indians can also appear commanding to a Westerner. You may hear expressions like “come here” that can sound commanding to Anglophones from Western cultures, but it is not meant to be rude.

There are many English language TV shows that air in India (without dubbing) on Zee Cafe, FX, Star World, BBC Entertainment, AXN, Warner Bros and BIG CBS Prime. However, with the exception of BIG CBS Prime, the shows are usually a season behind. Almost all shows are American (with the exception of those on BBC Entertainment). There are many other English-language television channels; in fact, there are more English-language television channels than in any other Indian language. English-language films in cinemas are usually shown in their original language with subtitles in the local language. Cartoon Network, Pogo, Nat Geo and Discovery can be dubbed in Hindi, Telugu or Tamil in their respective territories. But this can be changed to English by modifying the audio settings.

Non-verbal communication is also important. There has been a lot of talk about the confusing Indian head nod for yes and no, but it is just important to understand that Indians have different nods for yes, ok and no.

  • When they nod their head up and down, they mean “yes” or “I agree”, as in a standard nod.
  • If they shake their head in a tilting motion from right to left and back, it means: I understand or I have understood what you have said.
  • If they shake their head sideways (from left to right to left), they mean no.
  • There are variations in the way these characters are used in North and South India. Moving back and forth means “yes” in northern India and a strong left-right shift means “no”, although the latter can be interpreted as “yes” in southern states like Tamilnadu. Look for verbal cues accompanying these sounds (such as “aaan” for yes) in southern India to get the correct meaning.

Internet & Communications in India

Phone in India

The country code for India is 91. India is then divided into area codes known locally as STD codes. See individual city guides for area codes.

In acronym-happy India, a phone box is known as a PCO (Public Call Office) and they usually offer STD/ISD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing/International Subscriber Dialing) or national and international long-distance calls. These are usually busy and you dial yourself but pay the operator after the call. Billing is per pulse and a service charge of ₹2 is added to the bill. In larger cities, there are also unmanned western-style public telephones, which are usually red and accept one rupee coins.

Local telephone numbers can be between 5 and 8 digits long. However, if the area code is included, all landline telephone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Mobile phone numbers usually start with ‘9’, ‘8’ or ‘7’. The following table explains how to dial:

Calling from Price Syntax Example
Same STD code Local Number 12345678
Mobile phone Local STD code of the city you are in Number 011-12345678
Mobile phone STD to mobile phone Number 012345678
Deviating STD code STD 0-range code number 022-12345678
Overseas ISD +91-area code +91-22-12345678

Toll free numbers start with 1-800 but are usually operator dependent: You cannot call a BSNL/MTNL toll-free number from an Airtel landline and vice versa. Often, the numbers don’t work from your mobile phone either. Special charges may apply for other national numbers beginning with 18xx or 19xx.

To dial abroad from India, prefix the country code with 00. For example, a US number is dialled as 00-1-555-555-5555. A call to the USA/Canada/UK on the regular phone line costs about ₹7.20 per minute. Calls to other countries, especially the Middle East, can be more expensive.

Mobile in India

In India, both GSM and CDMA are used and mobile phones are widely available, starting from ₹500. Major operators with India-wide networks include Bharti AirtelVodafoneBSNLMTNLReliance Mobile (both GSM and CDMA), TATA DOCOMO (GSM), TATA Indicom (CDMA), Idea CellularUninorAircelMTS (CDMA) and Videocon Mobile. Not all operators operate across India, but they work with other operators to provide nationwide network coverage via roaming, although roaming charges are higher. You cannot use your mobile phone in Jammu and Kashmir as the government there does not allow roaming and prohibits foreigners from buying SIM cards there. Local calls can cost as little as ₹0.10 per minute (typically ₹0.50), although it is considered roaming to call another state within India and additional charges of ₹1-3/min may apply for incoming and outgoing calls. International calls are comparatively cheap, with most destinations at ₹10/min, the same as what you would pay at a PCO booth.

Fully loaded prepaid starter kits are available for around ₹ 500 or less, including a few hundred rupees worth of talk time. Basic SIM cards sell for as little as ₹10-15, while in many cases they are issued for free. You will need an ID and a passport photo, though some shops also insist on a local address in India; try the next one if they are not accommodating. However, the best option is always to buy a SIM card from the phone company’s own shop. This way, you can check that the SIM card is working and that you have been allocated your credit before you leave. Buying from smaller providers often means a delay of a few hours to a few days before they call to get the SIM card working, and you risk having your SIM card cancelled if they never send in your identification papers.

Be aware that talk time (unexpired talk minutes) and validity (the date the SIM card expires) are considered separately and you need to top up both, otherwise the ₹500 you just topped up may disappear in a puff of smoke when the one-month validity expires. If you extend the validity, you will usually also get extra minutes, but you can also buy minutes for less without extending the validity. Alternatively, if you are in India for a longer period of time, you can buy a prepaid SIM with lifetime validity and then top up talk time as needed. Please note that in most cases you will need to recharge at least once every six months to keep the SIM active. The term ‘lifetime’ is somewhat misleading as it refers to the duration of the licence granted to the operator by the Government of India to provide mobile services. If the licence is renewed, your services will continue without any additional charges, but if the licence is not renewed, your lifetime SIM will also become invalid. Licences are issued to operators for a period of 20 years.

Be aware that while large telecom companies like Airtel are technically the same company across India and your SIM card will work wherever you have reception or a partnership, their sales and support teams are often outsourced and franchised. This means that a SIM card bought in one state (even from an official shop) will not only attract a roaming charge if used in other states, but also that your support numbers will not work. For example, if you buy a SIM card in Goa and something goes wrong while you are travelling in another state, the local shops will not be able to help you, and often neither will the support number that came with your SIM card. They will simply tell you to go back to the state where you bought the SIM card for support, or give you other numbers to try and call back in your state of purchase.

Internet in India

Internet kiosks are everywhere these days and they only charge ₹10-20 per hour (the cost is a trade-off for speed). Be careful when using your credit cards online as many cases of credit card theft using keyloggers have been reported. More reliable chains are Reliance World (formerly Reliance Web World) and Sify iWay.

Calls overseas are also very cheap if you use the many booths that advertise Net2Phoneservice. Quality ranges from acceptable to excellent, and the cost is very decent, with calls to the US starting at ₹2-5 per minute.

Wifi hotspots in India are largely limited. The major airports and railway stations offer paid wifi for around 60-100 ₹ per hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai and Delhi airport, you can use WiFi internet for free for about an hour. Note that many free WiFi services require you to enter a PIN, which is sent to an Indian mobile phone number.

Most internet users in India do not rely too much on WiFi. 3G data cards/USB modems are widely available, but require signing a contract with an operator and therefore may not be a practical option for short-term visitors without a residential address in India. The better companies like Airtel (GSM) and Tata indicom (CDMA) do not rent out data cards, which means you have to buy them outright. Reliance charges ₹650 per month (1GB download free, ₹2/mb) for a data card/USB modem. Incidentally, the cheap price also means a 256 kbit/s connection. Airtel are the cheapest 3G data providers (for phone or data card), with 10 GB (valid for a month) for ₹1250, and much lower amounts too. They have one of the largest networks and free India-wide data roaming, but the downside is the particularly poor customer support, which often manages to make the problem worse.

Internet censorship in India is considered “selective”. There are occasional random, inexplicable and arbitrary attempts by the government to block some sites it deems to be carrying hateful propaganda, but enforcement is spotty and decisions are often forgotten a few days after they are made. It is unlikely that you will find any useful site blocked.

Entry Requirements For India

Visa & Passport

The rules and validity of the visa vary according to nationality. Check the website of the Indian embassy, consulate or high commission in your country, which you can find on this list.

Nationals of Nepal and Bhutan may enter India without a visa and live there indefinitely.

Depending on the purpose of the visit, most passports allow you to obtain a tourist visa (six months), a business visa (6 months, one year or more, multiple entries) or a student visa (up to 5 years). A special 10-year visa is available for nationals of certain countries, including US citizens (US$100). An Indian visa is valid from the date of issue, not the date of entry. For example, a 6-month visa issued on 1 January expires on 30 June, regardless of your date of entry.

Do you need a visa?
Since the end of 2014 there are new rules for the tourist visa on arrival and now more countries are covered. See this website for more details.
Visa free:
Bhutan
Nepal
Maldives (max. stay of 90 days; tourism only)
e-Tourist Visa (eTV)
0 USD handling fee: Argentina, Cook Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu
Handling fee of USD 25 (+2.5% bank fee): Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka
Handling fee of USD48 (+2.5% bank fee): Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China (PRC), China (Hong Kong SAR), China (Macau SAR), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Russia, St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Petersburg. Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turks and Caicos Islands, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City (Holy See), Venezuela, Vietnam.
Handling fee of USD60 (+2.5% bank fee): Mozambique, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America
Advance visa required
All other nationalities except those mentioned above
Visa requirement with a waiting period of at least 4 weeks
Nationals (or former nationals) of Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran
Visa requirement with a minimum waiting period of 45 days
Nationals (or former nationals) of Pakistan

Since 2012, a minimum waiting period of sixty days between consecutive tourist visas or visits on tourist or visitor visas has applied to nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh, to foreigners of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin and to stateless persons; this rule was abolished in 2012 for all other nationalities[www]. Tourist visas valid for 6 months can have a maximum stay of 90 days per visit, depending on nationality. Check with your local embassy for the maximum length of stay per visit.

India has established an e-Tourist Visa (eTV). Electronic visas can be applied for between 4 and 34 days prior to arrival and are valid for a single entry and stay of up to 30 days. Travellers cannot obtain more than two eTVs in a calendar year. Entry with an eTV must be made at one of the sixteen designated airports (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, Varanasi – see web link for an up-to-date list). The eTV is currently available to citizens from over 100 countries (again, see the weblink for the current list; some EU countries and most African and Middle Eastern countries are excluded). People of Pakistani origin, regardless of nationality, are not eligible. The fee for eTV depends on nationality.

The eTV facility replaced the limited visa-on-arrival scheme in January 2015; there are no longer any visa-on-arrival facilities in India.

Regular visa applications (for travellers who are not eligible for eTV) are also completed at Indian Visa Online before being submitted to a Visa Application Centre.

Nationals or former nationals of Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran must apply for a visa well in advance (at least 45 days for Pakistanis and at least four weeks for the others). Contact your local Indian diplomatic mission well before you plan to travel.

Many Indian embassies have outsourced some or all of their visa processing to third-party companies, so check before you go to the embassy. In the USA, for example, since 21 May 2014, your visa application must be submitted to Cox & Kings Global Services and no longer to the embassy. Applying through these agencies also incurs an application fee (in the US with CKGS, this fee is USD 20), which is higher than the fee listed on most embassy websites and you should check before submitting your documents. In addition, many Indian embassies only offer visas to residents of the country: This means that you should apply for your visa before you leave, rather than trying to get it in a neighbouring country (although since August 2009, non-residents can apply for a visa at the embassy in Bangkok for an additional “transfer fee” of 400 THB).

It is advisable to ask for a multiple entry visa even if you do not plan to use it – they cost the same, are distributed quite generously and are handy if you decide to enter one of the neighbouring countries at the last minute.

business visa may be required if you intend to pursue work in India. Note that the eTV allows “occasional business visits” and is easier to obtain. If you need a business visa, be prepared to provide a variety of documents about your business in your home country as well as the business you are visiting in India. This may include a letter of invitation from the company you are visiting, business registration documents and possibly tax returns and other sensitive documents. It may be worthwhile to apply for a short-term visa (e.g. for 6 months) as the criteria may be lower in your case.

There are other categories for specialised purposes. The missionary visa is compulsory for anyone visiting India to “participate primarily in religious activities”. This rule is meant to combat religious conversion, especially of Hindus to Christianity. There have already been cases of preachers being deported for addressing religious gatherings on a tourist visa. You need not worry if you are only on a religious tour to churches in India.

If you have a student, work, research or mission visa, you must register with the regional immigration office where you will be staying within 14 days of your arrival. If the place where you are staying does not have such an office, you must register at the local police station. All visitors who intend to stay longer than 180 days must also register.

Overstaying a visa is to be avoided at all costs as you will be prevented from leaving the country until you have paid some pretty hefty fines and submitted a large amount of paperwork to either the local immigration office or police station. This whole process is unlikely to take less than 3 days and can take much longer when you factor in weekends, numerous government holidays and the inevitable bizarre bureaucratic requirements.

Customs and Immigration

Customs clearance can be a bit of a hassle, although it has improved a lot over the last decade. In general, you should avoid the touts who offer to take your luggage through customs. There are different rules regarding duty-free – there are different rules for Indian citizens, foreign ‘tourists’, citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, non-citizens of Indian origin and people moving to India. Take a quick look at the Central Board of Excise and Customs website to find out what you are allowed to bring in. Foreign tourists who are not Nepalis, Bhutanese and Pakistanis and who enter via Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan are allowed to bring in their “used personal effects and travel souvenirs” and “gifts” worth ₹4,000. If you are an Indian citizen or of Indian origin, you are allowed to bring in items worth ₹25,000. If you are bringing new packaged items, it is a good idea to bring the bills for them to show the value. You are also allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco and 1 litre (2 litres for Indians) of alcohol duty free. If you have nothing to declare, you can go through the green channel that is clearly marked at various airports and usually you will not be harassed.

The import and export of Indian rupees by foreign nationals is theoretically prohibited, although in practice there are no controls. Indian nationals can import or export a maximum of ₹7500, but not ₹500 and ₹1000 notes when travelling to Nepal.

How To Get in India

The main entry points in India are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Get In - With plane

The main entry points are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. The airports in these cities are either new or under construction. Delhi inaugurated its new international Terminal 3 in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Bangalore opened its new airport in 2008. Hyderabad airport is rated as one of the top 5 airports in the 10-15 million category. There are many non-stop, direct and connecting flights to these cities from Europe, North America, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.

Secondary points of entry to India include Goa, Kolkata or the Malabar Coast. There are many connections to the Malabar Coast region to cities like Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram from the Middle East. Most of the major airlines from the Middle East offer one-stop connections from their Gulf hubs to the coast. Goa is a popular European tourist destination and is therefore served by many European charter airlines such as Condor, Edelweiss, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways. Kolkata is connected with Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.

India has domestic international airlines like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo and SpiceJet There are daily flights to major hubs around the world through these airlines. Note that you need to carry a printed air ticket to take many domestic flights.

From the US, United Airlines offers daily non-stop flights from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai; Air India offers daily non-stop flights from New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare to Delhi and from Newark to Mumbai. American Airlines offers a daily non-stop flight from Chicago to Delhi. Several European airlines offer connecting flights from most major US cities through their European hubs, and several Asian airlines offer connecting flights from West Coast cities through their Asian hubs.

Arrivals from Europe and North America are possible with many European airlines such as Lufthansa, Finnair, British Airways, KLM, Air France and Virgin Atlantic.  A good deal is often available for long-term visitors (3-12 months) with Swiss Airlines  connecting flights from Switzerland to major European cities and some US cities.

To save on tickets, consider connecting via the Gulf States, with Air Arabia (low-cost airline based in Sharjah with some connections to Europe), Etihad (especially if you need a one-way ticket or are flying back to Europe from another Asian country) via Abu Dhabi, and Emirates via Dubai or Qatar Airways via Doha. Of course, these airlines are also the easiest way to get from the Gulf countries themselves, along with the Indian airlines, Air India, Air India Express, Indigo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet.

From East Asia and Australia, Singapore (served by Air India, its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express, Jet Airways as well as Singapore Airlines, its subsidiary SilkAir and the low-cost subsidiary Tiger Airways) has arguably the best connections with flights to all major cities and many smaller ones. As for cheap ways to or from Southeast Asia, Malaysian budget airline AirAsia is often the best choice (if booked in time, the price of a one-way ticket is usually under US$100, sometimes even under US$50, they have connections from China, Australia and most Southeast Asian countries). They fly from Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi and Tiruchirapalli. If you are flying to/from Thailand, Air India Express flies from Chennai and Kolkata to Bangkok. Jet Airways, Air India and Thai Airways also fly to a number of Indian cities from there. Silk Air also flies from Singapore to Hyderabad. IndiGo, an Indian low-cost carrier, also offers attractive fares to Singapore and Bangkok and is a pretty good option to consider.

Get In - With boat

India has several international ports on its peninsula. Kochi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai are the main ones handling passenger traffic, while the others mainly handle cargo. However, due to the abundance of low-cost flights, there seems to be no regular ferry services from India to the Middle East any more. The southern island of Minicoy in the Lakshadweep Islands is now a permitted point of entry.

Some cruise lines that go to India are Indian Oceans Eden II and Grand Voyage Seychelles-Dubai.

Get In - With train

There are two connections from Pakistan. From Lahore, the Samjhauta Express runs to Attari, near Amritsar, Punjab. The Thar Express, which resumed service in February 2006 after 40 years of inactivity, runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan’s Sindh province; however, this connection is not accessible to foreign tourists. Neither train is the fastest, safest or most practical way to travel between India and Pakistan, as it takes a long time to clear customs and immigration (although the trains are sights in themselves and make for a fascinating journey). The Samjhauta Express was the victim of a terrorist attack in February 2007, when bombs were detonated, killing many people. Should you want to get from one country to the other as quickly as possible, cross over at Attari/Wagah.

From Nepal, trains run between Khajuri in the Dhanusa district of Nepal and Jaynagar in Bihar, operated by Nepal Railways. Neither place is of much interest to travelers, and there are no connecting flights to Nepal, so most travelers choose buses or planes instead.

Train services from Bangladesh were suspended for 42 years, but since April 2008, the Moitree Express has been running again between Dhaka and Kolkata. The service runs fortnightly: A Bangladeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday and returns on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.

You can see which trains are available between the stations on the following pages: http://www.indiarail.gov.in. However, for booking train tickets through the internet, you should use the Government of India’s website http://www.irctc.co.in. For booking through this website, you need to register (which is free) and you need a credit/debit card. You can also use the services of many travel agents who charge a small service fee for booking rail tickets.

Get In - With car

From Pakistan, the only land route from Lahore to Amritsar is via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. See Istanbul to New Delhi by land. You will need a Carnet de Passage if you are entering with your own vehicle. The process is not particularly lengthy – crossing with your own vehicle to/from Pakistan should take a maximum of 3 hours to cross both borders for you and your vehicle. There are also border crossings with Bangladesh and Nepal.

There is only one open border crossing between India and China through the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim, which borders Tibet in China. At the moment, however, only traders are allowed to cross the border and it is not yet open to tourists. Special permits are required to visit the pass from both sides.

Get In - With bus

Bus travel is possible from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

From Nepal
From Nepal, buses cross the border daily, mostly with connections to New Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Varanasi. However, it is cheaper and more reliable to take one bus to the border crossing and another on from there. The border crossings are (on the Indian/Nepalese side) Sunauli/Bhairawa from Varanasi, Raxaul/Birganj from Patna, Kolkata, Kakarbhitta from Darjeeling and Mahendrenagar-Banbassa from Delhi.

From Bhutan
The Royal Bhutanese Government provides a service to/from Phuentsholing. These buses depart from the Esplanade Bus Station in Kolkata at 7pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and from the Bhutan Post Office in Phuentsholing at 3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The journey takes about 18 hours and costs ₹300. The buses are comfortable, but as much of the highway to Kolkata resembles the surface of the moon, don’t expect to get much sleep en route.
There is a regular connection between Siliguri and Phuentsholing.

From Pakistan
From Pakistan, the only land route from Lahore to Amritsar is via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. Despite tensions between the two countries, there is a steady trickle of travellers passing through this route. Entry procedures are fairly straightforward, but note that neither Pakistan nor India issue visas at the border. Expect to spend much of the day travelling between Lahore and Amritsar on local buses. It is usually possible to take a direct bus from Amritsar to the border, walk to the other side and take a direct bus to Lahore, although you may need to change buses at some point along the way. Amritsar and Lahore are both quite close to the border (about 30-40 minutes drive), so taxis are a quicker and easier option.
The direct service from Delhi to Lahore has been reinstated, but it is much more expensive than the local buses/trains, not faster and would mean you cannot see Amritsar. You will also be stuck at the border for much longer while the bus is searched and all passengers go through immigration.

There is now a bus connection across the Line of Control between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir; however, it is not open to foreign tourists.

From Bangladesh
From Bangladesh, there are a number of points of entry into India by land. The most common route is the regular air-conditioned and comfortable bus services from Dhaka to Kolkata via the Haridaspur (India)/Benapole (Bangladesh) border post. Bus companies “Shyamoli”, “Shohag”, “Green Line” and others operate daily bus services under the label of the state-owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). There are 2 buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, while from Dhaka they run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey usually takes about 12 hours and costs ₹400-450 or BDT600-800 one-way, about US$8-10.
Another daily bus service by “Shyamoli” and others under the BRTC label from Dhaka connects Siliguri, but the buses on this route do not cross the Changrabanda/Burimari or Burungamari border posts. Rather, passengers reaching the border have to clear customs, walk a few hundred metres to cross the border and board the waiting connecting buses to their final destination at the other end. A ticket for the Dhaka-Siliguri-Dhaka route costs 1,600 BDT, which is about 20-25 US dollars depending on the conversion rate. Tickets are bought either in Dhaka or in Siliguri.

There is also a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, the capital of Tripura. There are two BRTC buses daily from Dhaka and the Tripura Road Transport Corporation, who operate their vehicles 6 days a week and charging a $10 round trip fare, connect the two cities. There is only one stop on the journey in Ashuganj, Bangladesh.

Other entry points from Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati/Haldibari, Banglaband border posts for entry into West Bengal; Tamabil border post for a route to Shillong in Meghalaya and a few others with lesser known routes to northeast Indian regions.

How To Get Around in India

India is big and there are many interesting ways to travel, most of which can’t exactly be described as efficient or punctual. Plan a considerable amount of buffer time for any trip with a fixed date (e.g. your return flight) and try to remember that getting there should be half the fun.

Note that a Protected Area Permit (PAP) is required for travel to much of the Northeast (with the notable exception of Assam) and parts of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. The easiest way is to apply for it along with your visa application and it will be added to your visa. Otherwise, you will have to visit a local Home Ministry office and deal with the red tape.

Get Around - With plane

India’s size and unsafe roads make flying a viable option, especially as prices have fallen in recent years. Even India’s offshore islands and remote mountain states are served by flights, the main exceptions being Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh (although crossing from neighbouring states is fairly easy). Due to the aviation boom in recent years, airports have not been able to keep up with air traffic. Most Indian airports continue to function with one runway and a handful of gates. Queues for check-in and security can be quite long, especially in Delhi and Mumbai. India has recently built two new international airports in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, which are modern and well equipped. The airports in Mumbai and New Delhi have been upgraded. The newly built Terminal 3 in Delhi airport is the 8th largest terminal in the world.

In northern India, especially Delhi, heavy winter fog can throw off flight schedules, especially during Christmas and January, causing massive delays across the country. Flights to small airports in the mountains, especially to Leh in Ladakh (which is only accessible by air for most of the year), are unpredictable at the best of times.

Airlines

Domestic flights used to be the monopoly of state-owned Indian Airlines, but things have changed dramatically and now there are a whole host of competitors whose prices please the traveller.The main operators are:

  • Air India, India’s state-owned airline. Formerly two airlines, Indian Airlines (domestic) and Air India (mainly international). These merged in 2007. Air India has the largest route network in the country and offers excellent regional connections. Service is generally below average. Its service has been affected by pilot strikes several times in the past. Air India also operates the low-cost carrier Air India Express, which flies mainly on main routes and to international destinations in the Gulf region and Southeast Asia, and Air India Regional, which flies to obscure locations with small aircraft.
  • IndiGo Airlines – Low-cost airline connecting around 33 cities across the country. Their aircraft are new A320s, bought directly from Airbus a few years ago at most.
  • Jet Airways, full-service airline with very good coverage. Now flies to London (LHR) directly from Delhi and Mumbai and flies to/from Toronto via Amsterdam. Its subsidiary Jetlite, formerly Air Sahara, offers low-cost services.
  • Go Air, another low-cost carrier that connects around 22 cities across the country. It mostly flies from its base in Mumbai.
  • SpiceJeta third low-cost airline, serves around 34 domestic destinations.
  • Air Asia India, newly established low-cost airline
  • Vistara ,newly established full-service airline

Keep in mind, however, that air connections in India are not particularly good given the enormous size of the country. Therefore, it is also not a bad idea to fly into a city and take the train.

Fares

The earlier you book, the less you pay. You will hear a lot about airline tickets at ₹500, but these are special fares for limited seats that sell out within seconds. In some other cases, the advertised airfare may not include charges such as passenger service charges, air fuel surcharge and taxes that are added subsequently. Nonetheless, you will get good fares from low-cost airlines. Tickets for small cities cost more than those for metros due to the patchy coverage mentioned above. Indian ticket prices have not yet reached the mind-boggling complexity that the Americans have, but they are getting there. As of now, you don’t have to worry about higher prices on weekends, lower prices for round-trip flights and lower prices for weekend travel.

There are two complications for non-Indians trying to buy airline tickets:

  1. Many airlines have higher fares for foreigners than for Indians. Foreigners (“non-residents”) are charged in US dollars, while Indians are charged in rupees. In practice, you can simply pretend to be Indian when booking online, as the check-in desk rarely if ever cares, but you still take a small risk if you do so. If possible, it is best to patronise the airlines that do not follow this practice.
  2. Many online booking sites and some of the low-cost carriers refuse non-Indian credit cards. Read the fine print before you start booking, or book directly with the airline or through a brick-and-mortar travel agent instead.

Check in

Check-in at Indian airports tends to be slow, with lots of queues and multiple security checks. A few tips to smooth your way:

  • Arrive at least two hours before departure if travelling from larger airports. (For domestic flights from smaller airports, 60 or 90 minutes before is fine). The new rule requires check-in to close 45 minutes before departure time and the boarding gate to close 25 minutes before departure. Although the initial boarding could take longer, this rule is now largely strictly enforced to avoid delays in flight departures.
  • Bring a printout of your ticket or a soft copy of your ticket and an official ID, otherwise you will not be allowed to enter the airport. You will be forcibly checked and matched by security staff at the airport entrance gate. If you do not have a hard copy or a soft copy, you can get a copy at the airline offices outside the airport entrance. Some airlines have moved to charging for this privilege.
  • Most older airports require you to screen your checked baggage before checking in, usually at a booth near the entrance. In high-security airports like Jammu, Srinagar or somewhere in the Northeast, even hand luggage must be screened. In fact, all hand luggage is screened by an X-ray scanner and also physically at the discretion of the security personnel.

Don’t hesitate to ask someone if you are unsure. Most airport staff are very helpful and will go out of their way to make sure you still catch your flight. There are separate queues for passengers travelling light (without checked baggage) and these queues are usually less crowded. Different airlines have different standards for hand luggage allowed, so you should be careful, especially if you are travelling with a budget airline. As a rule, the free baggage allowance on most airlines is 15 kg.

Get Around - With train

Railways were introduced in India by the British in 1853, more than a century and a half ago. Today, India boasts the largest network of railway lines in the world and the railway system is very efficient, though rarely punctual. Travelling by Indian rail gives you the opportunity to discover first-hand the scenery and beauty of India, and is generally more economical than a domestic flight. It is one of the safest ways to travel in India. With classes ranging from luxurious to regular, it is the best way to get to know the country and its people. Most train passengers will be curious about you and happy to pass the time with a chat. If you are on a budget, you can travel by night train and reduce the cost of staying in a hotel.

Regular trains

Trains come in many varieties, but the rough hierarchy from luxurious to normal is as follows:

  1. Rajdhani Express
  2. Shatabdi Express
  3. Duronto Express
  4. Jan Shatabdi Express
  5. Garib Rath Express
  6. Super fast trains
  7. Post/Express trains
  8. Fast passenger trains
  9. Passenger trains
  10. Local/suburban trains

The ‘Rajdhani’ & ‘Shatabdi’ trains are the most luxurious and fastest trains on Indian Railways. They are fully air-conditioned and have breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner included in your ticket price. Food is served at your seat during the journey. Most of these trains also have modern German-designed LHB coaches, which are extremely comfortable and luxurious. The ‘Rajdhani’ express trains are fast long-distance trains that connect state capitals with the national capital, New Delhi, overnight. The ‘Shatabdi’ express trains are fast short-distance intercity trains that connect important cities in a region, e.g. two neighbouring state capitals, during the day. The “Duronto” express trains (introduced in 2009) are fast long-distance trains without stops that directly connect two important cities far away from each other. These trains have no commercial stops en route, only operational stops for maintenance and crew changes. The “Garib Rath” literally means “poor man’s carriage” and is a good option for those who want to use good facilities at low cost.

Luxurious trains

Although the history of luxury train travel in India dates back to the time of the Maharajas during the days of the British Raj, the modern history of this mode of transport dates back to 1982 with the introduction of India’s first luxury train, Palace on Wheels. Palace on Wheels was introduced as a joint venture between the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways to promote Rajasthan as a global tourist destination. The venture proved to be a great success with overseas travellers and more such train tours followed a few decades later.

Currently, there are 5 trains offering 12 distinctive journeys to major tourist destinations in India. Jointly operated by the Indian Railways and the respective state tourism departments, these luxury trains in India offer a wonderful way to experience the sights of India without having to worry about the hassle of travel and accommodation costs. The trips on board these trains are inclusive of accommodation, food, sightseeing, transport and porterage. Each of these luxury trains is equipped with state-of-the-art amenities like live TV, individual air-conditioning, restaurant, bar, lounges and cabins with electronic safes and attached bathrooms.

Below is a brief overview of India’s luxury trains:

  • Palace on Wheels, – The Palace on Wheels offer 7 nights / 8 days itinerary starting from US $ 520 and carry guests on a week long journey through royal destinations in Rajasthan. All destinations included in the itinerary are former princely states of Rajputana. The destinations covered in Palace on Wheels train itinerary are Jaipur, Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Agra and Delhi and includes sightseeing of forts, palaces along with a dash of wildlife, heritage and cultural interactions.
  • Maharajas’ Express, – Dubbed as the most luxurious train in Asia, Maharajas’ Express is an internationally recognised and award-winning luxury train in India. Maharajas’ Express is also the latest luxury train to be launched in India. It has created a significant buzz in the global luxury travel segment due to its refined interiors, lavish décor, world-class facilities and impeccable service. It is the only luxury train to offer accommodation in a presidential suite that spans an entire carriage. Redefining the art of elegant travel in India, the Maharajas’ Express train offers 5 rail journeys to tastefully selected destinations in India. The itineraries include 3 pan-Indian programmes as well as 2 short trips to the Golden Triangle. The journeys offered by this luxury Indian train are named “Heritage of India”, “The Indian Panorama”, “The Indian Splendor”, “Treasures of India” and “Gems of India”. State-of-the-art amenities, elegant interiors, refined luxury and impeccable service along with technology like the pneumatic hydraulic suspension system add to the indulgence and class of this wonderful rail journey in India.
  • Deccan Odyssey, – The second luxury train to be launched in India after Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey train journey covers destinations in two Indian states Maharashtra and Goa. The Deccan Odyssey train offers a week-long journey that takes in the mesmerising landscapes of the Western Ghats and Konkan Coast. The itinerary includes the coastal fortress town of Sindhudurg, the rock caves of Ajanta and Ellora, the beaches of Tarkali and Old Goa and Vasco. The Deccan Odyssey’s all-inclusive fare starts at US $425 per person per night for triple occupancy in peak season and US $315 for the same in lean season (April and September run).
  • The Golden Chariot, – The Golden Chariot is the only luxury train offering two train itineraries in South India. The itineraries are called “Pride of the South” and “The Splendor of the South”. While the “Pride of the South” itinerary includes destinations in Karnataka with a stop in India’s most famous beach destination Goa, the “Splendor of the South” itinerary offers tours to tastefully selected destinations across South India. Destinations visited during the 8-day Splendor of the South itinerary aboard the Golden Chariot include Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey and Kochi. Both journeys include a dash of cultural sightseeing, world heritage sites, local interactions and wildlife.
  • Royal Rajasthan on Wheels – Equipped with modern amenities like Wi-Fi internet, direct dial phones, spa and satellite television, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels offer royal ride across destinations in Rajasthan along with stops in Varanasi, Khajuraho and Agra.
  • The Indian Maharaja – This train is India’s first privately operated luxury train. Honoured with the coveted World Travel Awards in the category “Asia’s Leading Luxury Train”, the Indian Maharaja takes its guests on a week-long adventure through several exotic destinations covering the vast expanse of western, central and northern India. On the itinerary of this luxury train are Mumbai, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Sawai Modhopur, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. The train is equipped with two dining cars serving fine Indian and Continental cuisine. The catering and hospitality on board is provided by the renowned Taj Hotel Group. To make the journey even more luxurious, facilities like a library, gym and beauty salon are available on board along with Wi-Fi internet and large screen live TVs.

Classes

Most countries offer two categories of services, but India has seven. In descending order of cost & luxury, they are:

  • Long distance
    • AC first (1A)
    • AC 2 stage (2A)
    • AC 3 stage (3A)
    • Sleeper Class (SL)
  • Short distance
    • AC Chair Trolley (CC)
    • Second Class Chair Car (2S)
  • Not reserved
    • General subjects (GS)

Not all classes are available on all trains: For example, chair cars are usually only found on short-distance trains during the day, while sleeper classes are only found on night journeys.

Different train types

Basically, there are five types of moves:

  • Passenger trains are slow trains that stop at all stations, even very small stations.
  • Fast passenger trains are passenger trains that skip small stations and offer the same fare system.
  • Express trains only stop at larger stations and are more expensive than passenger trains.
  • Superfast Trains skip some of the main stations and are even more expensive than Express Trains.
  • Rajadhani and Shadabdhi trains are elite trains that offer only air-conditioned coaches. They stop only at selected stations. The price is quite high as all the food is included.

Train fare

The average fare for a 200 km journey for different classes is shown below:

  • First class AC: ₹1,200
  • Two levels AC: ₹617
  • Three-stage AC: ₹430
  • AC Chair Car: ₹203
  • Threshold class: ₹120
  • Second class seat on the express train: ₹70
  • Second class seat on passenger train: ₹30

Ticketing

Trains tend to fill up early. Tickets can be booked up to 4 months in advance. The school summer holiday period – mid-April to mid-June – is high season for trains, which means you may need to book well in advance. Other festive periods, long weekends or public holidays may see a similar rush.

Booking tickets through the rail website can be a frustrating and character-building experience due to the poor user interface, frequent timeouts and crashes. Plan plenty of time and draw on your reserves of patience. Also be prepared for your money to be charged to your credit card or bank account and for the ticket not to arrive. You will then have to wait 3 days for the refund. Also try not to book normal tickets during 09:00 to 12:00 as the traffic on the website is much higher due to Tatkal reservation time and causes a much higher failure rate.

Tickets are also available at the counters of most railway stations. Rail passes called Indrail passes are also available. Details of facilities for tourists from abroad can be found on the official website of Indian Railways

One day before the departure date of a train, the Tatkal contingent seats become available. The Tatkal quota accounts for about 10 % of the total number of seats. This allows tourists who like to plan their trip in advance to book seats closer to the departure date for an additional fee. However, booking for this service online or in person is an even trickier business.

It is sometimes difficult to book Tatkal tickets online because the Indian Railways website is overloaded. Indian Railways has recently introduced an e-wallet facility that allows the user to deposit money on the Indian Railways website to expedite the booking of tickets. This facility reduces the time taken to book tickets as the user skips the processing time of the payment gateway. It is very quick to book tickets using the e-wallet facility. You also need IFSC code to transfer money to Ewallet, but now you can also pay using your debit cards, credit cards, internet banking, etc. IFSC code generally stands for Indian Financial System Code which uniquely identifies bank branches in India, IFSC code is required to transfer money online in India. You can easily find the IFSC code using the IFSC code finder.

Meals

Most long-distance night trains (though not all) have a dining car, and if you are in sleeper or air-conditioned class, you can buy meals on board the train. Dining car staff will come to your seat before meal time to take your order. However, most of the time the meals in the dining car are not really good in terms of quality or taste. The railway is concerned about the poor quality of meals in the dining car and efforts are being made to improve things, but don’t count on it just yet. If you’re fussy, take enough food for the journey, even for delays: Bananas, bread and candy bars are good basics to have. Bottled water, Coke, pre-packaged snacks or biscuits can be bought from the staff in the pantry, who are constantly passing them from one carriage to another. At most stations, hawkers selling tea, peanuts, snacks and even complete meals walk up and down the train. At most stations there will be vendors selling all kinds of edible things. So you can also go to the platform to look for food, but make sure you know well the stopping times of the train at that station. Note that on the most luxurious “Rajdhani” and “Shatabdi” trains, meals are included in the fare and served at your seat during the journey. There are no dining cars on Indian Railways except on selected luxury trains.

Get Around - With taxi

There was a time when metered taxis were unheard of outside India’s largest cities, and if they could be found, getting one to take you to your destination and charge you the right price was a rare event. This situation has changed drastically for the better in recent years with many companies offering taxi services. Prominent among them are MeruOlaTaxi for sure and Easy Cabs. Uber can also be found in some cities in India.

Reliable pre-paid taxis are available at central locations in large cities such as airports or train stations, saving you both money and the hassle of negotiating. These pre-paid taxi ranks are managed by the local traffic police. Use this option wherever it is available to avoid inconvenience. However, beware of touts posing as pre-paid taxi operators. Always collect the receipt from the counter first. The receipt consists of two parts – one part is for your reference, the other part you have to hand over to the taxi driver only when you have reached your desired destination.

The taxi driver receives his payment when he presents or shows this other part at the prepaid taxi counter. Be aware that the taxi driver may not know how to get to your destination and will not tell you beforehand. This may result in the taxi stopping at various points during the journey as the driver gets out to ask for directions. Insist on being taken to your original destination and not to an alternative destination offered by the driver (e.g. another hotel).

Normal metered taxis are usually more widespread.

Get Around - With bus

Although you cannot travel across India by bus, buses are the second most popular way to travel across the states and the only cheap way to reach many places that are not connected to the railway network (e.g. Dharamsala).

Each state has its own public bus service, usually called “Road Transport Corporation” (or XRTC) or “State Transport Corporation” (or XSTC), which primarily serves intrastate routes but also has connections to neighbouring states. There are usually several classes of buses. The regular buses (called differently in different states, e.g. “Service Bus”) are extremely crowded and there is hardly any standing room (unless you are among the first on board), as reservations are not possible and they tend to stop in too many places. On the other hand, they are very cheap, even a 5-6 hour trip rarely costs more than 100 ₹.

In addition to ordinary public buses, there are also luxury or express buses, and most of them have air conditioning these days. Some state transport companies have even introduced “Volvo” brand buses on some routes, which are extremely luxurious and comfortable. These better class “express” or “luxury” buses have guaranteed seats (book in advance) and have a limited number of stops, so they are worth the small extra expense. However, even these better class buses rarely have toilets and occasionally have snack and toilet breaks.

Private buses may or may not be available in the area you are travelling to, and even if they are, the quality can vary greatly. Be warned that many of the private buses, especially on long journeys, play music and/or videos at deafening volume. Even with earplugs, this can be nerve-wracking. Toilets are available in the major bus stations, but are overcrowded. Unfortunately, the bus industry is extremely fragmented and there are few operators serving more than 2 or 3 neighbouring countries. Travel agencies usually only offer seats on private buses.

However, long-distance bus companies such as Raj National Express and KPN Travels are currently starting to expand their operations across the country, following the example of the Greyhound service in the United States. Their service is good and they offer on-board entertainment.

Regardless of the class of travel, all buses suffer from the poor condition of Indian roads and the chaos of Indian traffic, which generally makes them slower, less comfortable and less safe than trains. Night buses are particularly dangerous, and for long-distance travel it is advisable to opt for sleeper trains instead.

It is recommended to book your bus ticket online for your own convenience. To search for available bus options between any routes and book tickets online, use Indian online travel portals like RedbusTravelyaariBuskiraya Makemytrip, etc.

Get Around - With car

Driving alone

In India, people drive on the left side of the road – at least most of the time. You can drive in India if you have a local driving licence or an international driving licence, but if you are not used to driving on extremely chaotic roads, you probably won’t want to. The average city or village road is narrow, often littered with potholes and poorly marked. The National Highways are better, but they are still narrow, and Indian driving discipline is non-existent. In recent years, the central government has embarked on an ambitious project to improve the highways. The Golden Quadrilateral, connecting the four largest cities of Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata with four-lane highways, has been completed and is of a reasonable standard. Some of it is of international standard, but the same cannot be said of all of it. However, improving the quality of roads does not improve the way people drive, and it is very dangerous to drive on the roads in India because people drive as they please without regard to any rules (rules exist but are almost never enforced).

Driver hire with car

If you want to go by car instead, opt for a driver while you rent the car. Prices are quoted in rupees per kilometre and you have to pay both ways, even if you only drive one way. The driver’s salary is small (typically around ₹100-150 per day), so it adds little to the cost of hiring the car. The driver will arrange his own accommodation and meals wherever you travel, although it is common to give him some money to buy something to eat when you stop somewhere to eat. A common rental vehicle is the legendary Hindustan Motors Ambassador, which is essentially an Indian-made copy of the 1956 Morris Oxford: it’s big, boxy, with room for 5 passengers (including the driver) and a decent-sized boot. The Tata Indica (a hatchback) and the Tata Indigo (a small sedan) have replaced the Ambassador as the budget car of choice. Imported international models may be available at a higher price. If the number of people travelling together is large, popular rental vehicles are Tata Sumo, Mahindra Xylo and Toyota Innova. The larger vehicles are suitable if you are travelling in larger groups or have excess luggage. Many vehicles are equipped with a roof rack, so you can opt for a smaller vehicle for 2-3 people even if you have excess luggage. (Note: You may need to ask specifically for a vehicle with a roof rack).

There are numerous advantages to having a car and a driver.

  • A good local driver is the safest way to travel by car.
  • So you can safely take your bags and shopping with you wherever you go.
  • The driver often has some knowledge about local tourist destinations.
  • A car is the fastest and most reliable way to get from point to point. After the initial arrangement, you don’t have to spend time looking for another transport or haggling over the price.
  • You can stop anywhere you want and change plans at the last minute.
  • Driving in India is chaotic as traffic rules are routinely broken and it is best to have someone with experience of driving in India to drive you around.

It is rare to find a driver who speaks more than a few words of English. As a result, misunderstandings are common. Keep sentences short. Use the present tense. Use single words and hand gestures to convey meaning.

Make sure you can trust your driver before leaving your goods with him. If he shows any suspicious motives or behaviour, make sure you keep your bags with you. Conversely, if your driver is very friendly and helpful, it is a nice gesture to buy him a snack or drink at a stop. They will appreciate this very much.

Your driver may in some cases act as a tout, offering to take you to shops from which he receives baksheesh (a kind of commission). This is not necessarily a bad thing – he can help you find exactly what you are looking for and at the same time supplement his meagre income a little. On the other hand, you should always assess for yourself whether you are being sold a more expensive product than you want. Also, those places that provide the driver with commissions (especially restaurants) are often not the best or most hygienic, so use your judgement. Avoid touts on the road posing as tour guides that your driver may stop for because he gets a commission from them; supporting them only encourages this unpleasant practice. The driver might ask for a tip at the end of the ride. Pay him a certain amount (₹100/day is usually enough) and don’t let him tempt you into paying too much.

If you hire a car for a trip to a remote destination, make sure you recognise the driver before getting out and write down the registration number and his phone number (almost all drivers have mobile phones). Touts in tourist areas may try to lure you into a fake car when you get out; if you fall for it, you are sure to get ripped off, and possibly much worse, such as sexual assault, if you are a female traveller.

Be wary of reckless driving when hiring a car with a driver. Don’t be afraid to tell the driver that you have time to look around and that you are not in a hurry. Indian highways can be extremely dangerous. Also make sure your driver gets enough rest and time to eat. If you are visiting restaurants, the driver may be eating at the same time (either separately at the same restaurant or at another place nearby). He may be willing to work non-stop for you as you are the ‘boss’, but your life depends on his ability to concentrate. So make sure your demands on the driver are reasonable; for example, if you decide to take your own food on the road, make sure you give your driver time to get lunch himself.

Avoid travelling at night. Indian roads are dimly lit, if at all, and more dangers lurk on the road after dark – even muggers if you are far enough off the beaten track.

Get Around - With motorbike

According to a number of guides, the best possible way to explore India is to travel with a motorbike. When you ride through India on a motorbike, you get the closer look and feel of India with all the smells and sounds to it. There are companies that organise package tours or tailor-made tours for avid bikers and adventurous travellers to experience India on a motorbike. Blazing Trails Tours, Wild Experience Tours and Extreme Bike Tours are the well-known names in the market.

Another choice, popular with people who like to take risks, is to buy a motorbike. Not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced riders. In India, there are the highest rates of motor vehicle accidents in the world.

The Royal Enfield is a popular (some would say the only) choice for its classic looks and macho mystique. This is despite its high fuel consumption (25-30 km/litre), its supposed low reliability (after all, it is “classic” 1940s engineering that needs regular maintenance; you can find an Enfield mechanic in any city in India who has been working on this motorbike for ten, twenty, thirty years, performing miracles for about 100 ₹ per hour labour cost) and its supposed difficulty to handle (in fact, it handles beautifully, but for some, it may be a bit heavy and the seat high).

Or you can opt for the smaller but faster and more economical bikes. They can range from 100 cc to the newly introduced 220 cc bikes. The three most popular motorbike manufacturers are Hero, Bajaj and Honda. The smaller variants (100-125 cc) can get a mileage of more than 50 km/litre on the road, but offer less power if you choose to ride with a pillion on the highways. The larger variants (150-220 cc) are more powerful and you get a feel for the power, especially on the motorway – the mileage is lower on these bikes, somewhere between 35 km/litre and 45 km/litre.

Preferably, tourists should go for second-hand bikes instead of buying new ones. The smaller 100cc variants can be bought for anywhere between ₹15,000-25,000 depending on the year of manufacture and condition of the vehicle. The larger ones can be brought from ₹30,000.

Get Around - Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking in India is very easy due to the enormous number of trucks on every highway and road. Most drivers do not speak English or any other international language; however, most have a very good sense of where the towns and villages are along the road. It is rare that any of them expect payment.

Get Around - With the Auto-Rickshaw

The auto-rickshaw, usually abbreviated and referred to as a car and sometimes as a rickshaw, is the most common form of transport for hire in India. They are very convenient for short distance travel in cities, especially as they can meander through small lanes to avoid bigger cars stuck in traffic jams, but they are not very suitable for long distances. Most are green and yellow, due to the new CNG gas laws, and some can be yellow and black, with one wheel in front and two in the back, with a leather or soft plastic top.

If you take an auto-rickshaw, you can either negotiate the fare or go by the meter. In almost all cases, it is better to use the meter – a negotiated fare means you will be charged a higher price than normal. A metered fare starts at around ₹13 (varies by area) and includes the first 1 to 2 kilometres of the journey. Never get into an auto-rickshaw without either the meter being on or the fare negotiated in advance. In almost all cases, the driver will later charge you an exorbitant (by Indian standards) sum. A normal fare would be ₹11-12 for the first km and ₹7-8 per km thereafter. In most cities, auto-rickshaw drivers are provided with a fare card detailing the fares per kilometre. An observant tourist must check the meter reading against the fare card before paying. Auto-rickshaws have either digital or analogue meters, and the analogue meters may be tampered with. If the auto-rickshaw has an analogue meter, it may be better to choose a negotiated fare.

Ideally, you should speak to a local to find out what the fare will be for an estimated route. Higher fares may apply at night and for special destinations such as airports. Also bear in mind that drivers may have to pay bribes to join the queue at prime locations such as expensive hotels. The bribe is included in the fare.

Make sure the driver knows where he is going. Many autorickshaw drivers claim to know the destination without really having any idea where it is. If you know something about the place, ask them about it to filter out the liars. If you don’t know much about the place, get them to tell you in no uncertain terms that they know where it is. Because if they get lost and drive around, they will often ask for extra payment for their own mistake. You can then tell them that they lied to you and wasted your time, so they should be happy to get the agreed fee.

Addresses

If you need to get somewhere, call ahead and ask for detailed directions. Remember that road signs in India are rare or non-existent outside cities. Postal addresses often carry directions such as “Opp. Prithvi Theatre” or “Behind Maruti Showroom” or “near temple / church / mosque / bank branch / police station / school” to make it easier to find. Unlike the western address system, the Indian system uses the plot or house number, street, road, followed by a landmark and the pin code of the place instead of street name and block number.

To find a place, you usually have to do some searching, but you will always find someone in the area who can show you the way. Unlike many other countries, Indians ask passers-by, nearby shopkeepers or policemen for street addresses. So you can do the same, people will be happy to help you. Using Google Maps with GPS works well in most cases in major cities, but can sometimes be inaccurate due to misspelling of the street or incorrect positioning on the map.

Inner Line permit

Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow an Indian citizen to enter a protected/restricted area for a limited period of time. It is mandatory for Indian citizens from outside these states to obtain a permit to enter the protected state. The document is an attempt by the government to regulate movement into certain areas that are close to India’s international border. This is a security measure and applies to the following states:

  • Arunachal Pradesh – Permits are issued by the Secretary to the Government of Arunachal Pradesh. The permits are required for entry into the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh through any of the check gates at the inter-state border with Assam or Nagaland. Permits are issued in Arunachal Bhavan in all major towns. Permits are issued for specific districts. Therefore, plan the itinerary before applying for the entry permit for a district. Only locals and permit holders are allowed at the checkpoints at each district border.
  • Mizoram – Permits to enter Mizoram is issued by the Government of Mizoram. This permit is required to enter the Indian state of Mizoram through one of the checkpoints at the state border.
  • Nagaland – a permit is mandatory for a citizen of mainland India entering the state of Nagaland through any of the check gates at the inter-state borders.
  • Sikkim – permission is required for the recently opened “Nathu La” pass, which was an important Silk Road passage in the Middle Ages and is now part of the border between India and China. Foreigners are not granted permission. Only Indian citizens are allowed to cross this point. Other permits for high altitude regions like ‘Lachung-Lachen’ along with a high altitude lake called ‘Gurudongmar Lake’ can be applied for directly in Gangtok. Foreigners can be allowed to do so. Another point known as ‘Zero Point’ also requires permits.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands – Non-Indians need a Restricted Area Permit to visit the islands, but these are now issued on arrival at Port Blair Airport; if you plan to arrive by sea, you will need to obtain your permit before arrival, either in Chennai or when applying for your Indian visa. Indian citizens do not need a permit to visit the Andaman Islands, but permits are required to visit the Nicobar Islands and other tribal areas, and are rarely issued.

Destinations in India

Regions in India

India is administratively divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. The states are broadly demarcated along linguistic lines. They vary in size; the larger ones are bigger and more diverse than some countries in Europe. The union territories are smaller than the states – sometimes consisting of only one city – and have much less autonomy.

India has two island chains off the mainland – the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea.

These states and union territories are divided by convention into the following regions:

  • The North of the Himalayas (Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand).
    Mountainous and beautiful, a destination for the adventurous and the spiritual. This region contains some of India’s most visited hill stations and religious sites.
  • The Plains (Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh)
    The plains, India’s breadbasket, are watered by the holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna and their tributaries. This region is also home to the capital Delhi, Agra with its famous Taj Mahal, and the holy cities of Allahabad, Mathura, Varanasi, and Bodh Gaya. Many of the events that have shaped India’s history took place in this region.
  • Western India (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan).
    The kilometer-long Thar Desert. Home to the colorful palaces, forts, and cities of Rajasthan, the country’s most vibrant and largest city, Mumbai, home to the Bollywood film industry and the country’s business center, the fascinating rock caves of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra, pristine forests, the beautiful beaches of Goa, the Asiatic lions of Gujarat in the Gir jungle and the rapidly developing cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Jaipur, and Pune.
  • South India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Telangana).
    South India offers famous and historic temples, tropical forests, backwaters, beaches, hill stations, and the vibrant cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, and Hyderabad. The city of Mysore is world-famous for its palaces, especially the Mysore Palace. The island groups of Andaman & Nicobar (in the east) and Lakshadweep in the west are included in this region for convenience, but they are far from the mainland and have their own unique features.
  • Eastern India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, West Bengal).
    Economically less developed, but culturally rich and perhaps most inviting to outsiders. With Kolkata, once the capital of British India, and the temple towns of Puri, Bhubaneswar, and Konark. The region stretches from the mountains to the coast, resulting in fascinating climate variations. It is also the mineral repository of India, with the largest and richest mines in the country.
  • North-Eastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura).
    Insular and relatively untouched, this is the tribal corner of the country, with lush, beautiful landscapes, endemic flora, and fauna of the Indo-Malay group and famous for tea gardens.

Cities in India

These are nine of the most remarkable cities in India. For more cities, see their respective regions.

  • Delhi – the capital of India and the heart of North India
  • Bangalore (Bengaluru) – the garden city, once the sleepy home of retirees, has been transformed into a city of pubs and high-tech companies
  • Chennai (Madras) – the most important port in South India, cultural center, the automobile capital of India, and a rapidly emerging IT center
  • Hyderabad – known for pearl and diamond trade, now with a large manufacturing and financial institutions and a growing IT sector
  • Jaipur – This pink city is an important showcase for the Hindu Rajput culture of northern India in the Middle Ages.
  • Kochi (Cochin) – the Queen of the Arabian Sea, historically a center of international trade, today the gateway to sandy beaches and backwaters
  • Kolkata (Calcutta) – the cultural capital of India, known as the “City of Joy” and home to numerous colonial buildings
  • Mumbai (Bombay) – the largest city and the financial capital of India, the city that never sleeps, home of “Bollywood”, the Hindi film industry
  • Varanasi (Banaras or Kashi) – considered the holiest Hindu city, located on the banks of the Ganges, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world

Other destinations in India

India has many outstanding landmarks and areas of outstanding beauty. Here are some of the most remarkable.

  • The main temple complex at Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha Sakyamuni attained enlightenment, including the Mahabodhi Temple
  • Ellora/Ajanta – spectacular rock-carved cave monasteries and temples, a sacred place for the Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus.
  • Golden Temple – a sacred site of the Sikhs in Amritsar
  • Hampi – the awe-inspiring ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire
  • Temple complexes in Khajuraho, famous for their erotic sculptures
  • Konark – Sun Temple, a unique example of Kalingan architecture that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Meenakshi Temple – a spectacular Hindu temple in Madurai.
  • Taj Mahal – the incomparable marble tomb in Agra, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World

Accommodation & Hotels in India

The choice varies greatly depending on your budget and location. Cheap travel hotels are plentiful in big cities, where you can get a room for less than ₹ 450. Rooms in guesthouses with a double bed (and often a bathroom) can be found in many tourist locations for ₹150-200. Good budget hotels are not hard to find in India. You can find accommodation in clean dormitories in many Indian districts for as little as ₹50.

Most Indian stations have rooms or dormitories, are cheap, relatively well maintained (the beds, bedding, not the showers), and safe. There is also the added bonus of not being harassed by the rickshaw mafia, getting rid of your bag quickly, and for the adventurous, you are very likely to be able to hop on a cheap public bus back to the station, just ask. Remember that you must have an arrival or departure ticket for the station you want to stay at and there might be a limit to the number of nights you can stay.

Mid-range hotels are plentiful in the larger cities and are also expanding rapidly into second-tier towns. Reliable local chains include Country Inns, Ginger, and Neemrana, and prices vary from 1,000 to 4,000 euros per night. Local unbranded hotels can be found in every city, but the quality varies greatly.

For those who have the budget to afford it, you could try staying at the Grand Palace in Udaipur or at one of the modern 5-star hotels now available almost everywhere in the country. The pinnacle of Indian luxury lies with The Oberoi, Taj, and ITCWelcomgroup hotel chains, which operate hotels in all major cities and throughout Rajasthan. The usual international chains also operate large 5-star hotels in most major Indian cities, but due to India’s economic boom, availability is scarce and prices can be crazy: it’s not uncommon to pay over US$300 a night for what would be a very ordinary business hotel for a third of the price elsewhere. Note also that some jurisdictions, which include Delhi and Bangalore, impose a stiff luxury tax on house prices, which may result in unpleasant surprises when you check out.

Two important factors to consider when choosing accommodation are 1) safety and 2) cleanliness. Malaria is very common in certain areas of India – one of the best ways to combat malaria is to choose accommodation with air conditioning and sealed windows. An insect repellent spray containing DEET is also helpful.

Dak bungalows are found in many areas. These were built by the British to accommodate traveling officials and are now used by the Indian and state governments for the same purpose. If they have space, most will take tourists for a moderate fee. They are basic – ceiling fans instead of air-conditioning, shower but no bath – but clean, comfortable, and usually in good locations. The staff usually includes a retired soldier as a night watchman and perhaps another as a gardener; often the gardens are beautiful. Sometimes there is also a cook. One gets to know interesting Indian travelers this way.

Don’t rely on a reliable power supply unless you are staying in an upscale hotel. Power outages are common and many buildings have unsafe wiring.

Be sure to bring your passport, as most hotels will not rent out rooms without a valid passport.

Things To See in India

To see all the places worth seeing in India, even a 6-month visit is probably insufficient. There are more tourist destinations in India than can be mentioned in a full-length book, let alone in a summary. Almost every state in India has more than ten major tourist destinations, and there are cities that can hardly be explored in a whole week. Several Indian states alone are larger and more populous than most countries in the world, and there are 29 states and 7 Union Territories in India, including two island chains outside the mainland.

Historical monuments and fortresses in India

Probably India’s most famous single attraction is the Taj Mahal, widely regarded as the jewel of Islamic art in India and one of the world’s most admired heritage masterpieces.

The Qutb Minar and the impressive Red Fort are the two most famous historical monuments in Delhi.

Jaipur, the capital of the western state of Rajasthan, is incredibly rich in forts and palaces, including the mighty Amber Fort, the beautiful Jal Mahal (Water Palace) and the unique Hawa Mahal.

Nalanda in Bihar has the remains of a Buddhist university founded in 450 CE.

A slightly different and more modern kind of historical monument is the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, which was founded by the Mahatma himself and is all about Gandhi.

Houses of Worship in India

No visit to India would be complete without a trip to some of the country’s fantastic temples. All regions of the country are full of temples. The city of Jammu, the winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, has so many temples that it is called the “City of Temples” and is a major attraction for Hindu pilgrims. Bishnupur in West Bengal is the location of the well-known terracotta temples.The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is dedicated to Vishnu and is also a major attraction for pilgrims. The tantric temple complexes of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh are very popular for their thousand-year-old sacred erotic wall carvings, considered by some art historians to be the pinnacle of erotic art. The Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is a centre of worship for Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu is known for its magnificent temples from the Chola period.

Hinduism is not the only religion represented in the great temples of India. The world headquarters of the Sikh religion is located in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in Punjab. Leh and its environs in the Kashmir region of Ladakh are one of several areas that have magnificent Buddhist temples or monasteries. Located in the small town of Ranakpur, Rajasthan, the Ranakpur Temple is an impressively historic Jain temple.

India’s second largest religion in followers after Hinduism is Islam, and many parts of India have been ruled by Muslim dynasties for hundreds of years, so it is not surprising that India is also home to many magnificent mosques. Some of them, like the mosque at the Taj, are part of historical monuments. One impressive mosque that is still in use today is the beautiful 17th century Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Hyderabad in the south has several historic mosques, including the Charminar Masjid and the Mecca Masjid.

There are also notable churches in various Indian cities, and the dwindling old Jewish community of Kochi, Kerala, continues to use its famous synagogue, which is now a tourist attraction.

Geographical

India is a geographically very diverse country. In the north of the country you can see the Himalayas, the highest mountain range on earth. There are also hilly areas in many non-Himalayan states. In India, hill stations – towns in the cooler areas in foothills or high valleys surrounded by mountains, favoured by the Rajas, then the British and now by Indian tourists in the hot summer months – are sights and experiences in themselves. The biggest of these is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, but Darjeeling, overlooking Mount Kangchenjunga in the northern part of West Bengal, is very famous for its tea. Other famous hill stations are Shimla, Ooty and Gangtok, and there are many others – most states have some.

India is also a land of numerous rivers. Several of them are traditionally considered sacred, but especially the Ganges, known locally as Ganga, which fills the Indian plains, the breadbasket of India, with life and is not only an impressive body of water, but also a centre for ritual ablutions, prayers and cremations. There are several holy cities along the river that have many temples, but they are often less pilgrimage sites to specific temples than holy cities whose temples have grown because of the ghats (steps leading down to the holy river) and are the most interesting to visit for the overall experience of observing or participating in the journey of life and death along the river. Foremost among these holy cities is Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, where some 5,000-year-old rituals are still practised; other cities worth visiting to experience the Ganges are Rishikesh and Haridwar, much further upstream.

India also has a long coastline. The beaches of Goa, also an interesting former Portuguese colony; Kochi; and the Andaman Islands are among the most prized by domestic and foreign visitors.

Finally, India has a huge desert, the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. Several cities in Rajasthan, including Jaisalmer, are good starting points for camel safaris.

Wildlife in India

India is famous for its wildlife, including Bengal tigers, Asiatic lions and elephants. The Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh and the Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan are the most likely places where you can see an Indian tiger in the wild, although you will need some luck and perseverance to do so. Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat is dedicated to the conservation of Asiatic lions. The Sundarbans National Park is the largest mangrove forest and delta in the world, home to the famous Royal Bengal tigers and estuarine crocodiles, but also a fascinating overall ecosystem.

Things To Do in India

Fairs and festivals in India

Goa Fair (Carnival). February heralds the carnival in Goa. The streets were buzzing with colour for 3 days and 3 nights. The week-long event, held in mid-February, is a time for lively parades, floats, guitar sounds, graceful dances and non-stop festivity. One of India’s most famous carnivals, the Goa Festival is completely sold out in terms of tourist capacity.

Surajkund Mela (1-15 February). As spring arrives full of warmth and vibrancy, leaving the grey winter behind, Surajkund is adorned with colourful traditional handicrafts from India. Artisans from all over the country gather in Surajkund in the first two weeks of February to participate in the annual celebration, the Surajkund Crafts Mela.

Holi. The spring festival in India, Holi is a festival of colours. Celebrated in March or April, according to the Hindu calendar, it was meant to welcome spring and gain the blessings of the gods for good harvests and the fertility of the land. As with all Hindu festivals, there are many interesting legends associated with Holi. The most famous is that of Prince Prahlad, who was a devoted follower of Lord Vishnu. It is the second most important festival in India after Diwali. Holi is a festival of fun and frolic in India and is associated with the undying love of Krishna and Radha. The exuberance and festivity of the season are remarkable.

Diwali. Diwali – the festival of lights – which illuminates the darkness of the New Year moon, is said to strengthen close friendships and the knowledge gained through self-realization. Diwali is celebrated nationwide every year on Amavasya – the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin (Oct/Nov). It symbolises that ancient culture of India that teaches to conquer the ignorance that oppresses humanity and to dispel the darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. The festival of lights still projects India’s rich and glorious past.

Pushkar Mela. The sleepy town of Pushkar in Rajasthan comes alive with colour and excitement every November during the Pushkar Fair. Few fairs in the world can match the vibrancy of Pushkar. It includes the largest camel fair in the world, but is much more than that.

Sport in India

  • Cricket. India is a cricket-obsessed country and cricket is in the blood of most Indians. India plays an important role in world cricket and has been world champion twice in the ICC Cricket World Cup, in 1983 by beating the mighty West Indies in the final and most recently in 2011 by beating Sri Lanka. India also triumphed in the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, beating arch-rivals Pakistan in a thrilling final. The popularity of cricket in India is like no other game, so much so that it is very common to see children playing cricket in parks and alleys with rubber balls and makeshift wickets. Until 2008, Indian cricket was all about the national team competing against other countries in one-day matches or epic 5-day Test marathons, but the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has, for better or worse, brought fast-paced, commercialised ‘Twenty20’ cricket to the fore, complete with cheerleaders and high salaries. In international matches, Australia and South Africa are viable opponents, but the biggest rivalry is by far with neighbouring Pakistan, and matches between the two teams are often highly charged affairs. About half a dozen Indian stadiums have a capacity of over 45,000 spectators, and watching a cricket match can be quite an experience. The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata is the highest capacity stadium in Asia, with over 90,000 seats. Built in 1865, it is the oldest cricket stadium in the Indian subcontinent and is comparable to the House of Lords Stadium in London as well as the MCG in Melbourne.The atmosphere at most matches is electric. Almost all international matches are sold out and it is quite common for fans to bribe officials to gain entry. Ticket prices are quite reasonable; they can be as low as 250-300 ₹. India and Pakistan have always been arch-rivals, and cricket matches between the two nations attract up to a billion television viewers.
  • Football. Like cricket, you can find young boys playing with a football in any open space that is available. Club football is very popular, especially among young people, and you can find people arguing about their favourite teams in public places. Many people also support national teams other than India’s, but this usually depends on the nationality of their favourite players. The most famous and electrifying club derby is the one between the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club (est. 1889) and the East Bengal Football Club (est. 1920) at the Salt Lake Stadium (the second largest stadium in the world not used for car racing) in Kolkata, the football capital of India and an enormously football-crazy city.
  • Hockey (Field Hockey). As India’s national game, hockey retains a prominent place in the hearts of many Indians despite the craze for cricket and football. Although spectator numbers have declined significantly (compared to the golden era before cricket came to the fore in the mid-1980s), it has not completely disappeared. It still has a significant fan base, especially in northern India, some eastern parts like Jharkhand, Odisha and the north-eastern states. The introduction of the Premier Hockey League has helped regain its popularity in recent times.
  • Formula 1. Historically not very popular in India, Formula 1 has become much more popular recently. People now know the names of drivers like Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, whereas ten years earlier few knew the sport. One can enjoy Formula 1 in Noida, where the Airtel Indian Grand Prix is held every year in the last week of October.

Food & Drinks in India

Food in India

Indian cuisine takes its place among the great cuisines of the world. Chances are you have tasted “Indian food” in your country, especially if you are a traveller from the West, but what India has exported abroad is only part of its extraordinary range of culinary diversity.

Indian food can be spicy: hot fresh green chillies or red chilli powder will bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated and can be found in unexpected places like sweet cornflakes (a snack, not a breakfast) or even sweets.

To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Do not try everything at once. After a few weeks you can get used to the spicy food. If you don’t want to order your dish spicy, just say so. Most visitors are tempted to try at least some of the spicy dishes, and most find that the sting is worth the effort. Remember, too, that while “spicy” is a convenient shorthand for “chilli-laden”, the spiciness of food in India doesn’t always mean lots of chilli: The cuisine of India is frequently highly creative and flavourful, with a variety of different spices and other aromatic ingredients.

Cuisine in India

Indian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. The “Indian food” served by many so-called Indian restaurants in the Western Hemisphere is inspired by North Indian cuisine, particularly Mughlai cuisine, a style developed by the royal kitchens of the historic Mughal Empire, and the regional cuisine of Punjab, although it has been Britishised and the degree of authenticity in terms of actual Mughlai or Punjabi cuisine is variable at best and dubious at worst.

Northern India is a wheat-growing region, so there are Indian breads (known as roti), including chapatti (unleavened bread), paratha (pan-fried, layered roti), naan (cooked in a clay tandoor oven), puri (deep-fried and puffed bread) and many more. A typical meal consists of one or more gravy dishes along with rotis, which are eaten by breaking off a piece of roti, dipping it in the gravy and eating it together. Most of the Hindu heartland of India subsists on roti, rice and lentils (dal), prepared in various ways and seasoned to taste. As a side dish, there is usually spiced yoghurt (raita) and either fresh chutney or a tiny piece of an extremely spicy pickle (achar), which is a very acquired taste for most visitors – try mixing it with curry instead of eating it plain.

A variety of regional cuisines can be found throughout the North. Tandoori chicken, cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor, is probably the most famous North Indian dish, invented by a Punjabi immigrant from what is now Pakistan during Partition. For a taste of traditional Punjabi folk cuisine, try dal makhani (steamed black lentils and kidney beans in a buttery gravy) or sarson da saag, a delicious gravy dish of steamed mustard greens served with makke di roti (flat corn bread). Then there are the rich textures and intense flavours of Rajasthani cuisine, the meaty, rich Kashmir of the Kashmir Valley, or the mild and delightful Himalayan (Pahari) dishes of the higher altitudes. North India also has a variety of snacks such as samosa (vegetables wrapped in thin triangular dough) and kachori (vegetables or pulses wrapped in thin dough). There is also a wide range of sweet desserts such as jalebi (deep-fried pretzel with sugar syrup – in the shape of a spiral), rasmalai (curd balls soaked in condensed milk) and halwa. Dried fruits and nuts such as almonds, cashews and pistachios are used a lot, often in the desserts, but sometimes also in the main meal.

Authentic Mughal-style cuisine, the royal cuisine of the Mughal Empire, can still be found and enjoyed in some parts of India, especially in the old Mughal cities of Delhi, Agra and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. It is a sophisticated blend of Persian, Turkish and subcontinental cuisine, using a lot of meat and spices. Some of the Mughal names of dishes carry the prefix shahi to signify their prestige and royal status in a bygone era. Famous Mughal specialities include biryani (layered meat and rice casserole), pulao (rice cooked in a meat or vegetable broth), kebab (grilled meat), kofta (balls of minced meat), rumali roti (wafer-thin swirled flatbread) and shahi tukray (saffron and cardamom-scented bread pudding).

In South India, food consists mainly of rice. A typical meal includes sambhar (a thick vegetable and lentil porridge) with rice, rasam (a thin, peppery soup) or avial (mixed vegetables) with rice, traditionally served on a banana leaf as a plate. The southern region of India differs from the northern region in the use of mustard seeds, curry leaves, beans, fenugreek seeds and a variety of souring agents such as tamarind and kokam, which are commonly used. There are also regional variations – coastal regions use more coconut and fish. In the state of Kerala, it is common to use shredded coconut in everything and coconut oil for cooking, while someone from the interior might be surprised to learn that coconut oil can be used for cooking. The South also has some great breakfast dishes like idli (a steamed cake made of lentils and rice), dosa, a thin crispy pancake often filled with spiced potatoes to make masala dosavada, a savoury Indian donut, and uttapam, a fried pancake made of a rice and lentil batter with onions and other vegetables in it. All these dishes can be eaten with dahi, plain yoghurt, and chutney, a condiment that can be made from practically anything. Try the ever-popular masala dosa, originally from Udupi in Karnataka, at one of Bangalore’s old restaurants like CTR and Janatha in Malleswaram or Vidyarthi Bhavan in Basavangudi or at MTR near Lalbagh. South Indian cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, although there are exceptions: Seafood is popular in Kerala and on the Mangalorea Coast of Karnataka; and the cuisines of Chettinad and Hyderabad use a lot of meat and are much spicier. Coffee tends to be the preferred drink in South India rather than tea.

In the West, you will find a few major cuisine groups. While Gujarati cuisine is similar in some ways to Rajasthani cuisine, with its extensive use of dairy products, the difference is that Gujarati cuisine is mostly vegetarian and often sweetened with jaggery or sugar.Gujaratis make some of the best snacks like dhokla and muthia. Mumbai is famous for its chaat, as well as the food of the small but visible Irani and Parsi communities concentrated in and around the city. The neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Goa are known for their seafood, often simply grilled, fried or poached in coconut milk. A notable feature of Goa cuisine is the use of pork and vinegar, a rare sight in the rest of India. Vindaloo has its origin in Goa and is traditionally prepared with pork. Despite its obvious popularity in Indian restaurants abroad, it is not common in India itself.

In the EastBengali and Odishan food makes much use of rice, and fish due to the large river channels and ocean coastline in the region. Bengali cuisine is known for its complexity of flavour and bittersweet balance. Mustard oil, extracted from mustard seeds, is often used in cooking and adds a pungent, slightly sweet taste and intense heat to the cuisine. Bengalis prefer freshwater fish, especially the iconic ilish or hilsa: it can be smoked, fried, steamed, baked in young plantain leaves, cooked with curd, aubergine and cumin. It is said that ilish can be prepared in more than 50 ways. Typical Bengali dishes are maccher jhal, a bready fish stew that literally means “fish in gravy”, and shorshe ilish (cooked in a sauce made from mustard seed paste). East India is also famous for its desserts and sweets: rasgulla is a famous variant of the more familiar gulab jamun, a spherical morsel made from cow’s milk and soaked in a clear sugar syrup. It tastes great when eaten fresh or within a day of being made. Sondesh is another excellent milk-based sweet that can best be described as the dry equivalent of Ras Malai.

Many dishes have also been brought in from other countries. Indian Chinese (or Chindian) is by far the most common adaptation: most Chinese would hardly recognise the stuff, but dishes like Veg Manchurian (deep-fried vegetable balls in a chilli-soy-ginger sauce) and Chilli Chicken are very much part of the Indian cultural landscape and worth trying. The British have left behind fish and chips and some fusion dishes like mulligatawny soup, while Tibetan and Nepali food, especially momo dumplings, are not uncommon in northern India. Pizza has entered India in a big way, with chains like Pizza Hut and Domino’s Indianising it and introducing variations like paneer tikka pizza. Mumbai based Indian chain called Smokin Joe’s mixes Thai curry with pizza.

It is, of course, impossible to do full justice to the scope and diversity of Indian cuisine in this short section. Not only does each region of India have a distinctive cuisine, you will also find that even within a region, castes and ethnic communities have different cooking styles and often have their own recipes that you are unlikely to find in restaurants. The adventurous traveller is advised to sneak home invitations, try out different back alleys of the city and seek out food in unlikely places like temples and gurudhwaras in search of culinary nirvana.

Fruits in India

Although a variety of fruits are native to India, including chikoo and jackfruit, nothing is closer to the Indian heart than the juicy, ripe mango. Hundreds of varieties can be found in most regions of the country – in fact, India is the largest producer, growing more than half of the world’s production. Mangoes are in season during the hottest time of the year, usually between May and July, and range from small (the size of a fist) to some as big as a small melon. They can be eaten in ripe, unripe and also in baby form (the last 2 mainly in pickles). The best mango (the “king of mangoes” as Indians call them) is the “Alphonso” or Haapoos (in Marathi), which is in season in April and May on the west coast of Maharashtra. Buy them at a good fruit shop in Mumbai or at the Mahatma Phule Market (formerly Crawford Market) in South Mumbai. Dushheri mangoes are also popular in northern India. Other widely available fruits (depending on the season) are bananas, oranges, guavas, litchis, apples, pineapples, pomegranates, apricots, melons, coconuts, grapes, plums, peaches and berries.

Vegetarian in India

Vegetarians discover a culinary treasure here that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Thanks to a large number of strict vegetarian Hindus and Jains, Indian cuisine has developed an astonishingly rich menu that does without meat and eggs. The Jains in particular practice a strict form of vegetarianism based on the principles of non-violence and peaceful coexistence: Jains generally do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, cassava, sweet potatoes and turnips, as the plant must be killed before the end of its normal life cycle in order to obtain them. At least half of most restaurants’ menus are dedicated to vegetarian dishes, and by law all packaged food in India is labelled with a green dot (vegetarian) or a red dot (non-vegan). Veganism is not a well-understood concept in India, however, and vegans may have a harder time: dairy products such as cheese (paneer), yoghurt (dahi) and clarified butter (ghee) are used extensively, and honey is also often used as a sweetener. Milk is not usually pasteurised in India and must be boiled before consumption.

Even non-vegetarians will quickly realise that beef is not generally served due to Hindu religious taboos (except for the Muslim and Parsi communities, Goa, Kerala and the north-eastern states) and that pork is also not commonly available due to the Muslim population. Chicken and mutton are therefore by far the most common meats, although ‘buff’ (water buffalo) is occasionally served in backpacker joints. Seafood is of course ubiquitous in coastal India, and some regional cuisines use duck, venison and other game meats in traditional dishes.

Dining Etiquette Tips For India

In India, eating with your hand (instead of cutlery such as fork and spoon) is very common. There is one basic rule of etiquette that you should follow, especially in non-urban India: use only your right hand. The left hand is reserved for unhygienic purposes. Do not put either hand in the communal serving bowls: Instead, use the spatula with your left hand to help yourself and then reach out. Of course, it is advisable to wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating.

For breads of all kinds, the basic technique is to hold the piece with your index finger and tear off pieces with your middle finger and thumb. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bites before you pop them into your mouth. Rice is more challenging, but the basic idea is to mix the rice in the curry with four fingers and form it into a small ball before popping it into your mouth with your thumb.

Most restaurants provide cutlery and it is quite safe to use this instead of your hand.

Eating by hand is frowned upon in some “classier” places. If you are provided with cutlery and no one else around you seems to be doing it, take the hint.

Restaurants in India

Indian restaurants range from roadside shacks (dhabas) to posh five-star restaurants where the experience is comparable to anywhere else in the world. Away from the major cities and tourist spots, mid-range restaurants are rare and the choice of food is limited to local cuisine, Punjabi/Mughlai, ‘Chinese’ and occasionally South Indian.

The credit for popularising Punjabi cuisine across the country goes to the dhabas that line India’s highways. Their patrons are usually the truckers, who are predominantly Punjabi. The authentic dhaba serves simple but tasty seasonal dishes like roti and dhal with onions, and diners sit on cots instead of chairs. Hygiene can be a problem in many dhabas, so if one doesn’t meet your standards, seek out another. In rural areas, dhabas are usually the only option.

In South India, “hotel” means a local restaurant serving South Indian food, usually a thali – a complete plate of food, usually containing some kind of bread and a selection of meat or vegetarian dishes – as well as ready meals.

Although you are given an extensive menu, most dishes are only served at certain times, if at all.

Menus in English

Menus in Indian restaurants are usually written in English – but with Hindi names. Here’s a quick decoder key to help you understand common dishes like aloo gobi and muttar paneer.
– aloo or aalu – potato
– baigan or baingan – aubergine/ aubergine
– bhindi – okra
– chana – chickpeas
– dal – lenses
– Gobi – cauliflower (or other cabbage)
– machli – fish
– makkhan – butter
– matar – green peas
– mirch – chilli pepper
– murgh or murg – chicken
– Palak or Saag – spinach (or other greens)
– Paneer – Indian cottage cheese
– subzi – vegetables

Drinks in India

One of the sweetest and safest drinks you can get is tender coconut water (naryal paani). You can almost always find it on any beach or other tourist destination in the south. In summer (March-July), you can get fresh sugarcane juice and even many fresh fruit juice varieties at many places.

India is famous for its Alphonso mango variety, generally considered the king of mangoes by connoisseurs. Frooti, in its famous tetra pack, is the most popular processed drink, followed by Maaza (bottled by Coca-Cola) or Slice (bottled by PepsiCo), both of which contain about 15% Alphonso mango pulp. Both cost about ₹30-50 for a 600 ml bottle.

When buying bottled water, make sure the seal on the cap is not broken; otherwise, this is a telltale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous sellers are reusing old bottles and filling them with tap water, which is usually undrinkable for foreign tourists without first boiling it. Bottled water brands such as Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Kinley (by Coca-Cola) are common. Local brands such as Bisleri are also acceptable and perfectly safe. Taste may vary due to the mineral content of each brand. In semi-urban or rural areas, it may be appropriate to ask for boiled water as well.

Tea in India

Tea (chai in most North Indian languages) of one kind or another can be obtained anywhere in India. The most common method of making chai is to brew tea leaves, milk and sugar together in a pot and keep it hot until it is all sold. It is sweet and uniquely refreshing once you get a taste for it. Masala Chai, in addition to the above blend, has spices like cardamom, ginger or cinnamon etc. For some people, this takes a little getting used to.

While masala chai is popular in northern and central India, it is important to note that people in eastern India (West Bengal and Assam) usually consume the tea without spices, English style. This is also the part of India where most tea is grown.

Coffee in India

In South India, filter coffee is replacing tea as the standard drink. Indian filter coffee is a coffee drink made by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the decoction obtained by brewing finely ground coffee powder in a traditional Indian filter.

Alcohol in India

Drinking alcohol can either be frowned upon or openly accepted, depending on the region and religion of the area where you drink. For example, Goa, Punjab and Pondicherry are more permissive (and have low taxes on alcohol), while some southern areas like Chennai are less tolerant of alcohol and may even impose excessive taxes on it. Some states like Gujarat are legally ‘dry’ and alcohol cannot be bought openly there, although there is a substantial smuggling industry.

Popular Indian drinks include beer, especially the ubiquitous Kingfisher (a decent lager), and rum, especially Old Monk. Prices vary by state, especially for hard liquor, but you can expect to pay ₹50-100 for a large bottle of beer and somewhere between ₹170-250 for a 750 ml bottle of Old Monk. Mumbai tends to be the most expensive due to local taxes, which can be three times higher than in Meghalaya.

Indian wines, long something of a joke, have improved remarkably in recent years and there is a booming wine industry in the hills of Maharashtra. The good stuff is not particularly cheap (expect to pay around 500 ₹ a bottle) and the choice is mostly limited to white wines, but look out for labels from ChateauIndage or Sula.

Illegal liquor, called tharra when made from sugarcane and toddy when made from coconuts, is widely available in some states. It is cheap and strong, but very dangerous as there are no quality controls, and best avoided altogether. In the former Portuguese colony of Goa, you can get an extremely spicy liquor called fenny or feni, typically made from cashew fruits or coconuts.

Cannabis in India

Cannabis in its many forms – especially ganja (weed) and charas (hashish) – is widely available throughout India, but they are all illegal in most of the country, and the letter of the law states that simple possession can mean fines or years in prison, depending on the amount you possess.

In some states (notably Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Orissa), the only legal and socially accepted way to consume cannabis is bhang, an inferior preparation, sold in state-licensed shops and not only smoked, but also made into biscuits, chocolate and the infamous Bhang Lassi, an herb-infused version of the normally harmless yoghurt drink. Bhang lassi is usually available in different strengths, so be careful if you opt for the stronger versions. It is also occasionally sold as “speciality lassi”, but is usually easily recognisable by the ₹30-50 price tag (many times more than the non-speciality varieties). An important point to note is that the effects of “bhang” are slow and increase when consumed with something sweet. Also, first-time users should wait a while before consuming too much to test their tolerance.

Money & Shopping in India

Money in India

The currency in India is the Indian rupee (sign: ₹; code: INR) (रुपया – rupaya in Hindi and similarly named in most Indian languages, but taka in Maithili and Taakaain Bengali and Toka in Assamese). The rupee is divided into 100 paise. 5 rupees 75 paise would normally be written as ₹5.75.

Common notes come in denominations of ₹5 (green), ₹10 (orange), ₹20 (red), ₹50 (purple), ₹100 (blue), ₹500 (yellow) and ₹1,000 (pink). It is always good to have a number of small notes on hand as sometimes traders and drivers do not have change. A useful technique is to keep small notes (₹10-50) in your wallet or in a pocket and keep larger notes separate. Then it is not obvious how much money you have. Many traders will claim that they do not have change for a ₹100 or ₹500 note. This is often a lie so they don’t end up with a big bill. It is best not to buy if you do not have exact change.

The coins in circulation are 50 paise, ₹1, ₹2, ₹5 and ₹10 (recently introduced). Coins are useful for buying tea (₹5), for bus travel (₹2 to ₹10) and for exact change for a car rickshaw.

Indians generally use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Although these terms originated in Sanskrit, they have been so deeply adopted into Indian English that most people are unaware that they are not standard in other dialects of English. You may also find a non-standard, though common in India, placement of commas when writing numerals. A crore rupee is written as ₹1,00,00,000, so place a comma after three digits first, then after every two digits. This format may confuse you until you start thinking in lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.

Changing money in India

The Indian rupee is not officially convertible, and a few government shops will still insist on seeing official exchange receipts if you are visibly a foreigner and try to pay in rupees rather than hard currency. Rates for exchanging rupees abroad are often poor and importing rupees is theoretically illegal, although places with significant Indian populations (e.g. Dubai, Singapore) can offer decent rates.

Outside the airports, you can change your currency at one of the many currency exchange points, including banks.

Most ATMs pay out ₹40,000 for each transaction. State Bank of India (SBI) is the largest bank in India and has the most ATMs. ICICI Bank has the second largest network of ATMs and accepts most international cards for a small fee. International banks such as Citibank, HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro and Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Indian cities. It is always worth having bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure you have a backup available in case a card is blocked by your bank or simply does not work at a particular ATM.

In many towns and cities, credit cards are accepted in retail chains and other restaurants and shops. Small shops and family-run shops almost never accept credit cards, so it makes sense to have a moderate amount of cash on hand.

Maximum Retail Price – MRP

When buying factory-packed food or drinks (e.g. lemonade, cola, etc.), always look for a stamp on the packaging. It tells you the MRP (short for Maximum Retail Price) and you can always insist on not paying more than this.

Costs in India

The cost in India can vary greatly from region to region and even in the same city, depending on the quality of the service or product, the brand, and so on. But usually India is not very expensive for the foreign traveller.

Middle to upper class travellers

₹ 5000, minimum, for a decent room in a good hotel with cable TV, air-conditioning and direct telephone; this price, however, does not include a refrigerator. Food costs at least ₹ 150 for a decent meal (at a market stall, not at the hotel), but there is no limit upwards. While bus transport costs about 5 ₹ for a short distance of about 1 km, a taxi or rickshaw without air-conditioning can cost 22 ₹ for the same distance. Radio taxis are available in all major cities in India and the prices range from ₹20 to ₹25 per kilometre, are GPS-guided, equipped with air conditioning and accept debit/credit for payment. They are a very safe way of getting around. So the total for a day would be about as below:

  • Hotel: US$60 for a good place per day
  • Food: 10 USD for a nice meal per day
  • Arrival: 10 USD for taxis and buses together

Total: US$80 for a couple, US$70 for a person alone

Budget travellers

Budget travel through India is surprisingly easy, with the savvy backpacker able to get by (relatively comfortably) on as little as US$25-35 per day. It is usually cheaper than Southeast Asia with a night in a hotel costing as little as ₹200-1,000 (although there is unlikely to be air conditioning or room service for that price). Beach huts in the cheaper places of Goa can cost around ₹800 per night. A meal can be bought from a street vendor for as little as ₹30, but in a restaurant you can expect to pay ₹200-300 for a beer or two. Overnight buses and trains can cost between ₹ 600 and ₹ 1,000, depending on distance and location, although an uncomfortable government bus (benches only) can be cheaper.

Tipping in India

In India, traditionally little or no tipping is done, and today tipping is uncommon outside of upscale restaurants, where up to 10% is appropriate. Upscale restaurants may charge a service fee of up to 15 % in addition to government taxes. Some restaurants have also started placing jars at the cash register for diners to throw some change into if they feel like it, but this is a rare phenomenon. Most clubs in India have a complete ban on their members tipping. Normally, no service industry except hospitality expects a tip. In India, it is forbidden for taxi or rickshaw drivers to charge anything above the meter.

Shopping in India

In India, you are expected to negotiate the price with street vendors, but not in department stores and the like. Otherwise, you risk overpaying by a multiple, which may be fine if you think it is cheaper than at home. Retail chains are popping up in most major cities and even in smaller towns, where the shopping experience is essentially identical to similar shops in the West. There are also government-run shops, such as the Cottage Emporium in New Delhi, which allow you to taste goods sourced from all over the country in the comfort of air-conditioned surroundings. Although you will have to pay a little more in these shops, you can be sure that you will not get cheap imitations. The harder you haggle, the more money you save. After a few tries, you realise that it’s fun.

Usually you will get a better deal when you spend more time in the shop.It is worth spending time getting to know the owner, asking questions and getting him to show you other products (if you are interested). Once the owner feels he is making a sufficient profit from you, he will often offer you additional goods at a price close to his cost, rather than the usual “foreigner’s price”. You will get better prices and better service if you buy many items in one shop than if you negotiate individually in several shops. If you see locals shopping in a shop, you can probably get the real Indian prices. Ask someone around you quietly, “How much would you pay for this?”

Also, you will very often meet a “friend” on the street who invites you to visit his family’s shop. This almost always means that you pay twice as much as if you had been in the shop without your new-found friend.

Baksheesh – a small bribe – is an incredibly common phenomenon. While it is a big problem in India, it can ease certain problems and remove some hurdles. Baksheesh is also the term used by beggars when they want money from you, and can refer to tips given to those who provide you with a service. Baksheesh is as much a part of the ancient culture of the Middle East and Asia as any other place.It derives from Arabic and means a small gift. It refers to both charity and bribery.

Packaged goods show the maximum retail price (MRP) directly on the packaging. This includes taxes. Retailers are not allowed to charge more than this price. Although this rule is respected in most places, you may have to pay more in tourist destinations or remote locations. This is especially true for cold drinks like Coke or Pepsi, where a bottle (300 ml) costs around ₹33-35, while the actual price is ₹30. Also remember that a surprising number of things do not come in packaged form. Check the genuineness of the RRP as shopkeepers may put their own sticker to charge more from you.

What you should look to buy

  • Wood carvings: India produces an impressive variety of carved wooden products that can be bought at very low prices. Examples include decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture and various items that will surprise you. Check the regulations of your home country before attempting to import wooden items.
  • Clothing: It depends on the state/region you are visiting. Most of the states have their own specialities. For instance, silk saris if you are visiting Benaras, and block prints if for example if you are in Jaipur.
  • Paintings: Paintings are available on a variety of media, such as cotton, silk or with frames. Gemstone paintings contain semi-precious stone dust so they have a glittery appearance.
  • Marble and stone carvings: Common carvings are elephants, Hindu gods/goddesses. Compare several of the same type. If they look too similar, act tough as they are probably machine made.
  • Jewellery: Beautiful necklaces, bracelets and other jewellery are very cheap in India.
  • Pillowcases, duvet covers: Eye-catching and rich designs are common for cushions and duvet covers.

Designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Zara, A & F, all are available in upscale shops.

Festivals & Events in India

There are three national holidays: Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October), which take place on the same day every year. There are also three major nationwide festivals with alternate dates to be observed:

  • Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov – The festival of lights celebrates the return of the Hindu god Rama to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya, after a 14-year exile and the victory of justice over injustice when Narakasura was killed by Satyabhama with the help of Krishna. Probably the most extravagant celebration in the country, it reminds of Christmas with its food at Thanksgiving and shopping and gifts at Christmas.Houses are decorated, glitter is everywhere, and when you walk through the streets on Diwali night, firecrackers are set off everywhere, sometimes even under your feet.
  • Durga Puja / Navarathri/Dussehara, Sep-Oct – A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day Dasara, when locals worship the deity Durga. Workers receive sweets, cash rewards, gifts and new clothes. It is also the new year for businessmen when they are supposed to start new books of business. Durga Puja is the most important festival in some places like West Bengal. In the north, Dussehara celebrations take place and the killing of Ravana by Lord Rama is solemnly re-enacted as Ram Lila. In Gujarat and South India, it is celebrated as Navarathri, where the festival is celebrated by dancing to devotional songs and religious observances like fasting over a period of nine nights.
  • Holi, in March – The festival of colours is a big festival celebrated mainly in the north, east and west of India. During the first day, people go to the temple to light a bonfire, while the second day is a water fight combined with the spraying of coloured powder. It’s not a spectator sport: being a visible foreigner draws attention to yourself, so you either have to barricade yourself inside or put on your best disposable clothes and join the fight. Alcohol and bhang (cannabis) are often involved and crowds can get restless as the evening progresses.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi, is celebrated all over India. Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh Chaturthi is most enjoyed in Maharashtra. This is the perfect time to visit cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.
  • Christmas and New Year are public holidays nationwide and also Bank Holidays.
  • Eid-ul-FitrEid-uz-ZuhaEid-e-Milad-un-NabiYawm-e-Aashoora and Ramazaan are celebrated and observed as holidays throughout the country.

Besides this every state has its own important national festival such as Onam in Kerala, Makar Sankranti and Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Utarayan in Gujarat, Pongalin Tamil Nadu, Baisakhi for Punjab, Bihu for Assam, Rathayatra (car festival for Lord Jagannath) in Odisha, Nuakhai for Western Odisha. India is a diverse nation and festivals are a major part of life for the locals, providing holidays for about a week.

Religious holidays occur on different days each year, as Hindu and Islamic festivals are based on their respective calendars and not on the Gregorian calendar. Most of them are celebrated only locally. So check with the state or city you are visiting to see if there will be any closures. Different regions may give the same festival slightly different names. To accommodate different religious practices, offices have a list of optional holidays (called restricted holidays by the government) from which staff are allowed to choose two, in addition to the list of fixed holidays. This can mean thin staffing and late duty even when the office is officially open.

Traditions & Customs in India

Religion and rituals in India

  • At the temples and mosques, you must take off your shoes.There are special areas where your footwear can be kept for a small fee or free of charge. It may also be customary to take off your shoes when entering houses, to follow the example of other people or to look for shoes at the entrance of the house.
  • Touching people with your feet are disrespectful. If this happens accidentally, you will find that Indians make a quick gesture of apology, which consists of touching the offended person with the right hand and then moving the hand to the chest and eyes. It is a good idea to imitate this.
  • Books and written material are treated with respect as they are considered concrete/physical forms of the Hindu Goddess of Learning, Saraswati. A book should not be touched with the feet and if accidentally touched, the same gesture of apology should be performed as with humans (see above).
  • The same applies to currencies or anything associated with wealth (especially gold). They are treated as physical representations of Goddess Lakshmi (wealth) in human form and should not be treated disrespectfully.
  • Avoid winking, whistling, pointing or waving your fingers. All this is considered impolite.
  • The swastika symbol is widely used in India and is considered a religious symbol for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. This symbol has no association with the Nazis. There is no tradition of anti-Semitism in India. Jewish people have lived in India for thousands of years and have always had good relations with their neighbours.

Social etiquette in India

    • Travellers should be aware of the fact that Indian women generally dress conservatively, although more liberal dress can be seen in the big cities. Immodestly dressed women may attract unwanted attention from men. Avoid walking around in such clothing late at night, even in the bigger cities.
    • It is better not to go out on the street alone. It is always advisable to have some company.
    • Remember that Indians feel obliged to comply with a guest’s request and will insist very strongly that it does not cause any inconvenience, even if this is not true. This means, of course, that there is a mutual obligation on you as a guest to take special care not to be a burden.
    • Note that most Indians are not aware that the term “Negro” is considered offensive today, and they may use it without the intention of offending. People in India usually not aware of the “N” word.
    • Be aware of dietary restrictions when inviting Indian friends over for dinner. Pork is forbidden for Muslims, while beef is forbidden for followers of most other religions in India (e.g. Hinduism, Sikhism). While in some states, such as Kerala, beef is consumed liberally. It is best to ask beforehand.
    • It is customary to pick a small friendly quarrel with the host or another member of the group when paying bills in a restaurant or shopping. The etiquette for this is somewhat complicated.
      • At a business dinner, it is usually clear from the outset who is to pay and there is no need to argue. But if you are someone’s personal guest and they invite you to a restaurant, you should offer to pay anyway, and you should be very insistent. Sometimes these fights get a bit funny, with each side trying to snatch the bill from the other, laughing politely the whole time. If you’re not experienced in these things, it’s likely you’ll lose the chance the first time, but in that case, make sure you pay up next time. (and try to make sure there is a next time.) Unless the bill is very high, don’t offer to split it, and only as a second resort after they have refused to let you pay it all.
      • The same rule applies when you make a purchase. If you buy something for yourself, your hosts may still offer to pay for it if the amount is not very high, and sometimes even if it is. In this case, unless the amount is very low, you absolutely shouldn’t lose the game. (If the amount is indeed ridiculously low, say less than ₹10, then do not insult your hosts by picking a fight). Even if you happen to lose the fight to pay the shopkeeper, it is customary to practically shove the money into your host’s hand (in a nice way, of course).
      • These rules do not apply if the host has made it clear in advance that it is his hospitality, especially for a specific occasion.

Naming conventions

–  t Indians follow Western naming conventions, with a first name followed by a family name. Salutations also tend to follow Western conventions.
–  mil names, however, are an exception to this rule. Tamil names usually follow the convention of first name + father’s name, or father’s initials + first name. Therefore, someone named Ramasamy Govindasamy would have Ramasamy as his first name, Govindasamy being his father’s name. Alternatively, he could also be known as G. Ramasamy. Due to the patronymic nature of surnames, first names are always used when addressing people, so the above person would be addressed as Mr Ramasamy.

The foolproof method is therefore to ask how the person wants to be addressed.

Sensitive topics in India

  • Pakistan is a sensitive issue about which many Indians may have strong views. Be careful when bringing up the subject and better avoid mentioning it, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. It is fine to talk about your visit to Pakistan, the people, the culture, the music or Indo-Pak cricket matches. But it is far better to avoid any discussion about the political disputes with Pakistan or the Kashmir conflict. Similarly, bitterness and often violent dislike for Pakistanis or the Pakistani nation may be expressed.
  • Sri Lanka is a very sensitive issue in the state of Tamil Nadu.
  • Operation Bluestar or Indira Gandhi is a very sensitive issue in Punjab. Many people condemned the operation and Indira Gandhi was eventually assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. It is better not to discuss this as it can lead to trouble.
  • In some regions of India, it is better not to discuss politics. Light conversation is welcomed by the locals, but debating political parties and their views could trigger problems.
  • Avoid insulting or questioning religious beliefs. Do not draw parallels or comparisons between two religions, especially between Hinduism and Muslim beliefs.
  • Be careful when talking about the caste system, as Western views on this subject are often either antiquated or inadequate.

Culture Of India

Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years. During the Vedic period (ca. 1700 – 500 BC), the foundations of Hindu philosophy, mythology, theology and literature were laid, and many beliefs and practices that still exist today, such as dhármakármayóga and mokṣa, were established. India is characterised by its religious diversity, with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and Jainism among the country’s major religions. The dominant religion, Hinduism, has been influenced by various historical trends, such as the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras, the Bhakti movement and Buddhist philosophy.

Art and architecture of India

Much of Indian architecture, including the Taj Mahal, other works of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture, mixes ancient local traditions with imported styles. Vernacular architecture is also strongly regional. Vastu Shastra, literally “science of construction” or “architecture” and attributed to the Mamuni Maya, explores how the laws of nature affect human dwellings; it uses precise geometry and directional alignments to reflect perceived cosmic constructions.

As applied to Hindu temple architecture, it is influenced by the Shilpa Shastras, a set of foundational texts whose basic mythological form is the Vastu Purusha Mandala, a square that embodies the “Absolute”. The Taj Mahal, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, is described in the UNESCO World Heritage List as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the world’s most admired masterpieces of world cultural heritage”. The Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, developed by the British in the late 19th century, drew on Indo-Islamic architecture.

Literature in India

The earliest literary writings in India, written between 1700 BC and 1200 AD, were in the Sanskrit language. Prominent works of this Sanskrit literature are epics such as the Mahābhārata and the Ramayana, the dramas of Kālidāsa such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā) and poems such as the Mahākāvya. The Kama Sutra, the famous book on sexual intercourse, also originated in India. The Sangam literature, consisting of 2,381 poems, which originated in South India between 600 BC and 300 AD, is considered the forerunner of Tamil literature.

From the 14th to the 18th century, India’s literary traditions underwent a period of drastic change due to the emergence of devotional poets such as Kabīr, Tulsīdās and Guru Nānak. This period was characterised by a diverse and wide range of thought and expression; as a result, medieval Indian literary works differed significantly from the classical traditions. In the 19th century, Indian writers showed a new interest in social issues and psychological descriptions. In the 20th century, Indian literature was influenced by the works of the Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Performing Arts in India

Indian music spans various traditions and regional styles. Classical music comprises two genres and their various popular offshoots: the Northern Hindustani and Southern Carnatic schools. Regionalised popular forms include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of bauls is a well-known form of the latter. There is a wide variety of folk and classical forms of Indian dance as well. The more well-known folk dances include the Bhangra of Punjab, the Bihu of Assam, the Chhau of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand, Garba and Dandiya of Gujarat, Ghoomar of Rajasthan and the Lavani of Maharashtra. Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms and mythological elements, have been classified as classical dance by the Indian National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama.

These are: Bharatanatyam from the state of Tamil Nadu, Kathak from Uttar Pradesh, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam from Kerala, Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh, Manipuri from Manipur, Odissi from Odisha and the Sattriya from Assam. Theatre in India combines music, dance and improvised or written dialogue. Indian theatre is often based on Hindu mythology, but also borrows from medieval romances or social and political events and includes the Bhavai of Gujarat, the Jatra of West Bengal, the Nautanki and Ramlila of North India, Tamasha of Maharashtra, Burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, Terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu and the Yakshagana of Karnataka.

Motion pictures, TV in India

The Indian film industry produces the most widely watched cinema in the world. Well established regional cinema traditions exist in Assam, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Odia, Tamil and Telugu languages. South Indian cinema attracts more than 75% of the national film revenue.

Television broadcasting began in India in 1959 as a state communication medium and expanded slowly for more than two decades. In the 1990s, the state television monopoly ended and since that time satellite channels have been increasingly influencing the popular culture of Indian society. Today, television is the most pervasive medium in India; industry estimates indicate that there were over 554 million TV consumers in 2012, 462 million with satellite and/or cable connections, compared to other forms of mass media such as the press (350 million), radio (156 million) or the internet (37 million).

Cuisine of India

Indian cuisine comprises a variety of regional and traditional cuisines, often depending on a particular state (e.g. Maharashtrian cuisine). Indian cuisine basic foods include pearl millet (bājra), rice, wholemeal flour (aṭṭa) and a variety of lentils, such as masoor (mostly red lentils), toor (pigeon peas), urad (black chickpeas) and mong (mung beans). Lentils can be used whole, peeled – for example dhuli moong or dhuli urad – or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively. The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited by historians as the main catalyst for Europe’s Age of Discovery.

Society in India

Traditional Indian society is sometimes defined by social hierarchies. India’s caste system represents most of the social classifications and much of the social restrictions found on the Indian subcontinent. Social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous, hereditary groups, often referred to as jātis or ‘castes’. India declared untouchability illegal in 1947 and has since enacted further anti-discrimination laws and social welfare initiatives. In the workplace in urban India and in international or leading Indian companies, caste-based identification has all but lost its meaning.

Family values are important in Indian tradition, and patriarchal multi-generational joint families are the norm in India, although nuclear families are becoming more common in urban areas. A large number of Indians get their marriages arranged by their parents or other elders in the family, with their consent. Marriage is considered lifelong and the divorce rate is extremely low. In 2001, only 1.6 per cent of Indian women were divorced, but this figure is rising due to their education and economic independence. Child marriages are common, especially in rural areas; many women marry before they reach the legal age of marriage of 18. Female infanticide and female foeticide in the country have caused a discrepancy in the sex ratio; as of 2005, it was estimated that there were 50 million more men than women in the nation. However, a 2011 report showed an improvement in the gender ratio The payment of dowry, though illegal, is still prevalent across all class lines. Deaths due to dowry, mostly from bride burnings, are on the rise.

Many Indian festivals are religious in origin. Among the most famous are Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Thai Pongal, Holi, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidays celebrated in all states and union territories – Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. Other holidays, varying from nine to twelve, are officially celebrated in each state.

Sport in India

In India, several traditional indigenous sports remain quite popular, such as KabaddiKho KhoPehlwani and Gilli-Danda. A number of the first forms of Asian martial arts, such as Kalarippayattu, Musti Yuddha, Silambam and Marma Adi, have their origins in India. Chess, which is generally believed to have originated in India as chaturaṅga, is regaining popularity with the increasing number of Indian grandmasters. Pachisi, from which Parcheesi is derived, was played by Akbar on a huge marble court.

Improvements in the performance of the Indian Davis Cup team as well as other Indian tennis players during the early 2010s have led to the growing popularity of tennis in India. There is a strong Indian presence in shooting sports with several Olympic, World Shooting Championships and Commonwealth Games medals. Other sports in which Indians are internationally successful are badminton (Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu are two of the top ranked badminton players in the world), boxing and wrestling. Football is very widespread in West Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and North-Eastern states. In India, the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup is being hosted.

Hockey in India is managed by Hockey India. The Indian national hockey team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup and is the sport’s most successful team at the Olympics, with eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals (as of 2016).

India has also played a major role in popularising cricket. Cricket, for instance, is by far the most popular sport in India. The Indian national cricket team won the Cricket World Cup in 1983 and 2011, the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, shared the ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka in 2002 and won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. Cricket in India is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI); the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy and the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy are national competitions. BCCI is also responsible for organising the annual U-20 tournament known as the Indian Premier League.

India hosted or co-hosted several international sporting events: the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games, the 1987, 1996 and 2011 Cricket World Cups, the 2003 Asian-African Games, the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy, the 2010 Hockey World Cup and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Major international sporting events held annually in India include the Chennai Open, the Mumbai Marathon, the Delhi Half Marathon and the Indian Masters. The first Formula One Indian Grand Prix was held in late 2011, but has not been included in the F1 season calendar since 2014.

Traditionally, India had been a dominant nation in the South Asian Games. An example of this dominance is the basketball competition, where Team India has won three out of four tournaments so far.

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award are the highest forms of government recognition for sporting achievement; the Dronacharya Award is given for excellence in coaching.

Stay Safe & Healthy in India

Stay safe in India

As a rule, India is quite safe for foreigners, apart from cases of petty crime and theft, which occur in any developing country, as long as certain basic precautions are observed (e.g. female travellers should avoid travelling alone at night). You can check with your embassy or seek local advice before travelling to Jammu and Kashmir in the far north of India and to north-east India (Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh). There have been serious law and order problems in these areas for a long time, although the situation has improved greatly recently. The same applies when travelling to the formerly densely forested area in east-central India, which includes the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, the eastern edge of Maharashtra and the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh. However, the problem exists only in the remote areas of these states and normal visiting areas in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh are completely safe.

Unfortunately, thefts are quite common in places frequented by tourists, but violent thefts hardly ever occur. It is more likely that a thief will steal your bag or break into your room. Therefore, it is better to take precautions and lock the door tightly when you are inside and be on your guard when you are outside.

Some people handling your cash will try to rip you off or rip you off. Especially in Delhi, this is a universal rule followed by everyone handling Western cash. This does not apply to official ticket sellers at tourist spots, clerks at prepaid taxi stands or hawkers in all but the most upmarket shops. Count your cash before handing it over and insist on getting the correct change.

It is advisable or better to agree on the fare before you get into a car or taxi. This avoids further unpleasant arguments about the fare. If you can ask the advice of a local friend or a staff member at the reception of your hotel to find out how much a ride between two destinations should cost, you are a smart traveller.

Visitors from overseas, especially women, attract the attention of beggars, scammers and touts. Beggars often go so far as to touch you and follow you, tugging at your sleeve. It is of little use to get angry or say “no” loudly. The best reaction is to look unconcerned and ignore the behaviour. The more attention you pay to a beggar or touts – positive or negative – the longer they will follow you in the hope of a donation. Female travellers are advised not to stay out too long wandering around on their own, and also to be a little sensitive about how they dress in public. There have been some recent rapes of foreign women as well as very publicised rapes of Indian women, some of whom have been murdered.

Travellers should not trust strangers offering help or services. Be especially careful at tourist attractions such as the temples of Kanchipuram, where they take advantage of those who are unfamiliar with local and religious customs. If a priest or guide offers to invite you to a religious ceremony, find out beforehand what it will cost you, and don’t be pressured into “donating” thousands of rupees – just walk away if you feel uncomfortable. Don’t get too paranoid, though: fellow travellers on the train or Indian families who want to photograph you with their own cameras, for example, are often just genuinely curious.

When travelling on public transport (trains, buses), do not accept food or drinks from local fellow passengers, even if they are very friendly or polite. There have been cases where very friendly fellow passengers offered food or drinks, including tea or coffee, containing substances that put the victim to sleep, while all their possessions, including their clothes, were stolen.

Homosexual sex is illegal in India, with a theoretical maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. However, the law is hardly enforced and past prosecutions are no longer in the public memory. There is a vibrant gay nightlife in the big cities and some (but very few) openly gay celebrities. On the other hand, the law has been used as a tool by the police to harass gays cruising the streets. By the way, you will often see Indian men walking hand in hand through the streets. But that is a sign of friendship, not to be confused with a sign of homosexuality.

While Indian men can be really eager to talk to travellers, women in India often avoid contact with men. It is an unfortunate fact that if you as a man approach a woman in India even for an innocuous purpose like asking for directions, you usually put her on the defensive, especially the traditionally dressed ones. It is better to ask a man if one is available (this is usually the case), or to be extra respectful when asking a woman.

Black people can face prejudice from the police and the public if they are found to be drug dealers. This is not always necessary, but the reactions stem from the fact that in India, foreign-born drug dealers are more often than not found to be of Nigerian nationality. Since Indians find it difficult to distinguish between Nigerians and other Africans or African-Americans, this behaviour relates to the whole race and not just to a particular country. Apart from this, this behaviour is still considered publicly unacceptable when Indians are confronted with Indians themselves. It is therefore advisable to keep passports handy at all times, avoid going to areas notorious for illegal activities, and keep in touch with the respective embassies and, if possible, other self-help groups that can vouch for them.

Driving in India

Driving in India is generally considered a dangerous endeavour. Irresponsible driving habits, inadequate development of highway infrastructure, errant cattle and other hazards make travelling on the country’s roads a sometimes nerve-wracking endeavour.

More than 118,000 people died on Indian roads in 2008, the highest number in the world, despite the fact that there are only 12 cars per 1,000 inhabitants (compared to 765 in a more developed country like the United States). A first encounter with a typical Indian highway will undoubtedly feature a traffic mix of lumbering trucks, speeding maniacs, gleefully wandering cows and suicidal pedestrians, all meandering along a narrow strip of asphalt littered with potholes. To minimise the risk of becoming a victim of the statistics, use trains instead of buses, government buses instead of private ones (which tend to force their drivers to work inhumane shifts), taxis instead of auto-rickshaws, avoid travelling at night and don’t hesitate to change taxis or cars if you feel your driver is unsafe.

Of particular concern is that much of the road network is significantly underdeveloped. Most roads are very poorly constructed and they are full of debris, large cracks and potholes. Most road signs in the country are not very reliable and in most cases give drivers very confusing or inaccurate information. If you have any doubts, ask the locals, they are usually very helpful and willing to give information on how to get to a particular place. Of course, the quality of information and willingness to provide it varies, especially in the bigger cities.

Female travelers in India

India is rather a conservative country and some western habits can be perceived as dishonourable for a woman. But India is coming out of its conservative image quite quickly, especially in the big cities.

  • Outside the larger cities, it is unusual for people of the opposite sex to touch each other in public. Even couples (married or not) refrain from public displays of affection. Therefore, it is advisable not to shake hands with a person of the opposite sex unless the other person extends their hand first. A Hindu greeting consists of bringing the palms together in front of the chest, or simply saying Namaste or Namaskar. Both forms are equally polite and correct, if a little formal. Almost all people (even if they don’t know English) understand a “Hi” or a “Hello”. In most parts of northern India and in cities, it is perfectly acceptable to offer a “hello” or “good day” followed by a handshake, regardless of gender.
  • Outside of trendy venues or high society, women generally do not smoke. In some rural or tribal areas, women do smoke, but discreetly.
  • Places like discos/dance clubs are less conservative areas. It is good to leave your things at a hotel and go there to have a drink and a chat. Only take as much change as you think you will need, because if you lose your wallet or passport you will lose a lot of time trying to get any kind of help.
  • People are usually modestly dressed at the beaches as well. So be sure to find out the appropriate attire for the beach you are visiting. In rare places like Goa, where beachgoers are mostly foreigners, it is allowed to wear bikinis on the beach, but it is still offensive to walk around in a bikini on the street. There are a few beaches where women (mostly foreigners) sunbathe topless, but make sure it is safe and accepted before doing so.
  • It is not so safe to move around in remote places if you are a female solo traveller. Sexual offences against tourists occur in some tourist places. Never go out on the streets at night wearing clothes such as tight shorts, miniskirts, sports bras, tank tops or other clothes that show a lot of skin, or take a taxi or a car rickshaw. If possible, stay in areas that other tourists avoid.
  • On local trains, there are usually carriages reserved for women only and marked as such at the front. On Delhi Metro trains, it is the first compartment.
  • In most buses (private and public), a few seats are reserved for women at the front or one side of the bus. Usually these seats are occupied by men, and very often they vacate the seat if a woman is standing nearby and expresses her intention to sit there. In many parts of the country, women will not share a seat with a man other than their spouse. If you sit near a man, he may get up and give you his seat; this is a sign of respect, NOT rudeness.
  • Street parties on holidays are usually filled with crowds of drunk men. At celebrations like Holi, New Year’s Eve and even Christmas Eve, women can be groped and sexually aggressively approached by these crowds. At such times, just shout or make a scene by pointing your finger at the person. People will come to your rescue. It is less advisable for women to attend these festivities alone.
  • Friendly conversations with men you meet on the train are sometimes mistaken by them for flirting. In some scenarios, this can lead to unexpected sexual advances; this happens with Indian women as well as Westerners. However, making friends with Indian women can be a wonderful experience for female travellers, even though you may have to initiate the conversation first. A simple topic to get things going is to talk about clothes and food.
  • It is not disrespectful for a woman to tell a man who wants to talk to her that she does not want to talk – so if a man’s behaviour makes you uncomfortable, say so emphatically. If he doesn’t seem to take the hint, a calm apology is a better response than a confrontation.
  • Wearing traditional Indian clothing, such as salwaar kameez (comfortable) or saree (more formal and difficult to wear), often gives Western women more respect in the eyes of the locals – the idea is to present themselves as a normal person rather than a distant tourist. Simple clothing is to wear a kurta paired with regular jeans or a salwar. They are very comfortable and most women do the same.
  • Eve Teasing” is the most common term in Indian English and refers to everything from unwanted verbal advances to physical sexual assault. The easiest way to avoid this remains the same as in your home country. Anything that is overt should be dealt with firmly, and if necessary you should ask local people (especially women) to try to get the message across. Avoid confrontation if at all possible. It is not advisable to be in such an area.
  • Although hospitality is important in India, it is not common for people to offer to share food or biscuits at meals. Some such offers are genuine and some are not. If you are travelling on a train and are offered food by a large and rich family-like group, you may take a bite. But if you are offered something by men or even a couple eating part of it, try to avoid it as the other part might contain sedatives (this could be so that they loot your stuff when you pass out). You can respond with politeness and say no with a smile; they won’t mind or take it personally.
  • Be careful when you perform a body massage.
  • Body checks (e.g. at the airport) by police/security officers of the opposite sex are not allowed in India.
  • In view of the increasing sexual assaults, the Minister of Tourism has advised female tourists not to walk alone at night and not to wear miniskirts or even knee-length dresses.

Police and other emergency services in India

  • Unfortunately, corruption and inefficiency are present in all Indian police forces, and the quality of the police varies depending on the officer. For emergencies, you can dial 100 for police assistance in most parts of India. Try to speak the words slowly so that the policeman/ woman on the phone has no problem understanding your foreign English accent. For non-emergency crimes, go to the police station to report them and insist on getting a receipt for your complaint.
  • The emergency numbers for most of India are: Police (dial 100), Fire Brigade (dial 101) and Ambulance (102 or dial the nearest good hospital). In Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kochi and some other cities across India, you can dial 108 for all emergencies.

Terrorism in India

The India-Pakistan conflict, which has been simmering for decades, has manifested itself in terrorist attacks on India’s major cities in recent years: Since 2007, there have been bombings in New Delhi/Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities. The targets have varied widely, but the attacks have mostly targeted locals rather than visitors. The exception was in 2008 when a rampage killed many foreigners besides Indians in posh hotels and Mumbai railway station, etc. All the terrorists involved were from Pakistan and were killed in the act except one who was captured alive and later hanged. Realistically, there is little you can do to avoid such random attacks, but keep an eye on the national news and your embassy’s travel advice.

Stay healthy in India

When you travel to India, you have to get used to a new climate and new foods. However, taking precautions can minimise the likelihood and severity of illness. Do not overexert yourself at the beginning of your trip so that your body can acclimatise to the country. For example, take a rest day on arrival, at least on your first visit. Many travellers get sick because they want to do too much in too short a time. Be careful with spicy food if it is not part of your daily diet.

Tap water is usually not safe to drink. However, some establishments have installed water filters/ purifiers, in which case the water from them should be safe to drink. Packaged drinking water (popularly called ‘mineral water’ in India) is a better choice. Bisleri, Kinley, Aquafina, Health Plus are popular and safe brands. But if the seal has been tampered with or the bottle looks crushed, it could be tap water being sold illegally. So always make sure the seal is intact before buying. At Indian railway stations, a low-priced brand of mineral water from the Indian Railways known as “Rail Neer” is usually available.

Fruits that can be peeled, such as apples and bananas, and packaged snacks are always a safe option. Wash all fruit with non-contaminated water before eating.

No vaccinations are required to enter India, except for yellow fever if you are coming from an infected area such as Africa. However, vaccinations against hepatitis (both A and B, depending on your individual circumstances), meningitis and typhoid are recommended, as well as a booster vaccination against tetanus.

Diarrhoea is common and can have many different causes. Bring a standard first aid kit as well as additional over-the-counter medicines for diarrhoea and upset stomach. A rehydration kit can also be helpful. In case you run out of rehydration solution available in pharmacies, remember the ratio of salt, sugar and water for oral rehydration: 1 teaspoon salt, 8 teaspoons sugar, to 1 litre water. Indians have resistances to indigenous bacteria and parasites that visitors do not. If you suffer from severe diarrhoea for more than a day or two, it is best to go to a private hospital. Parasites like Giardia are a common cause of diarrhoea and may not get better without treatment.

Malaria is endemic throughout India. According to the CDC, the risk is present in all areas, including the cities of Delhi and Mumbai, and at altitudes of less than 2000 metres in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir and Sikkim; however, in Delhi and northern India, the risk of infection is considered low. Seek expert advice on malaria prophylaxis and take adequate precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Use a mosquito repellent when you go outdoors (especially in the evening) and also when you sleep in trains and hotels without air conditioning. A local mosquito repellent used by Indians is called Odomos and is available over the counter at most medical stores.

If you suffer from asthma, you should take enough supplies with you, as dust, pollen or pollution can cause breathing difficulties.

If you have to visit a hospital in India, avoid small government hospitals. The quality of treatment may not meet your expectation. Private hospitals offer better service. There are reports that vaccinations and blood transfusions in low-quality hospitals increase your risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, e.g. in some government hospitals, but this is not confirmed. To be on the safe side, you can go to private hospitals or clinics. Many rich Indians travel to Singapore for more serious problems, such as those requiring major surgery, and you may want to consider that as an option too.

It is very important to stay away from the many stray dogs and cats in India, as India has the highest rabies rate in the world. If you are bitten, it is extremely urgent to go to a hospital in a major urban area that is able to handle rabies. You can get treatment at any major hospital. It is very important to get a rabies vaccination after any contact with animals that involves contact with saliva or blood. The rabies vaccination is only effective if it is given completely before symptoms appear. Otherwise, the disease is almost invariably fatal.

If you venture into the forests of India, you may encounter poisonous snakes. If you are bitten, try to note the snake’s markings so that the snake can be identified and the correct antidote administered. In any case, seek medical attention immediately.

Finally, there are some travel clinics in India that you can locate through the ISTM website in major cities. Most of the vaccinations recommended by the CDC are available at many of these travel clinics in major cities. Large corporate hospital chains such as Fortis, Max, Apollo and similar facilities are the best choice for emergency medical care in larger cities, and they have better hygiene and generally well-trained doctors, many even from US and UK facilities.

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