Travel Tips to India – Know Before You Go
A visit to India forms a part of everybody’s travel bucket list. If you are no exception, let us tell you that there can be only one outcome out of these two – you would either like India or hate it. Though depending on how well prepared you are, your notion may change.
Someone aptly said, “Patience is the key to manage in India”. Right from your arrival at the airport, you will feel the need of it. We are here to help you avoid summing up your journey to this incredible land as a nightmare. Here’s presenting you the practical travel info while visiting and experiencing India – one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of geography, ethnicity, cuisine, arts, culture and tradition.
In India English is widely spoken and transportation and infrastructure is good, but please remember that this is India- expect the unexpected! If you are able to bring with you a lot of patience, a great sense of humour and a willingness to try and interact with the local people, your travel experience will be greatly enhanced.
India is 5.5hrs ahead of GMT.
A useful website to check the time zone differences is www.worldtimezone.com
Food and Alcohol:
The great myth about India travel is that the food is poor. This is definitely not the case. Indeed many people find the delicious food to be one of the highlights of a visit to India, there is endless variety – it’s not all spicy – and can cater for any specific needs. Read over list of 52 Best Indian Dishes to Try when in India
Avoid eating spicy foods when you first arrive in India, however tempting. Allow your system at least a day or two to get used to them, introducing one Indian dish with each meal for the first couple of days. After that it is best to stick with cooked foods, and remember to peel fruit before eating it. The best drinks to enjoy with your meals or to quench your thirst are the bottled mineral waters, other bottled drinks, coffee and tea. Indian beer is very good, along with Indian gin and vodka.
In terms of Alcohol, everything is available from Indian-made Foreign Brands to imported spirits but sometimes the imported brands are hard to find in small cities.
Standard voltage is 230-240V (usually 240V). Pack a universal travel adaptor that will allow you to use a hairdryer, electric shaver, charge a mobile phone and other electrical items. Take care with your choice of adaptor. Be sure that it is suitable for India, as Indian sockets accept round 3 pin plugs that are similar but not identical to European plugs.
In India the unit of currency is the Rupee. 1 US $ usually fluctuates around 60 Indian Rupees. To check out the latest exchange rate you can visit www.xe.com
Visitors may bring up to $8,000 US dollars into India. Visitors may not bring or take out any Indian currency, except as travelers cheques.
American Express, MasterCard, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted. It is sometimes necessary to have cash (rupees) in hand for smaller hotels, lodges and camps. When making a credit card transaction be sure that slips are completed and validated in your presence.
Keep this in mind:
- Payments are mainly made in cash.
- Some hotels and shops accept credit cards.
- Use of credit cards in shops attracts approx. 2-10% bank transaction charges extra
- A high number of ATM are available around the country although you will be charged extra on every transaction.
- If using ATM machines, be sure to notify your bank before you travel.
- Dollars and Euros are easily exchanged in large towns
- Use of Travelers Cheques is not recommended as not many places accept it.
- It is useful to bring a mix of small denomination notes as well as large notes for bulk payments.
- In major tourist cities, large payments can be made in US Dollar & Euro
Language & Religion:
In India, the major language is Hindi, with 17 other official regional languages and English as a common language for all. Religion is mainly Hinduism alongside Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity.
It is recommended that you be vaccinated for Tetanus and Polio, if you haven’t had a booster in the last ten years. Food and waterborne diseases are more common, so we recommend vaccinations for Typhoid (valid 3 years) and Hepatitis A (validity varies). You are also advised to take anti-Malarial medication. This information is only intended as a guide and recommendations can change regularly so please consult with your local healthcare provider.
At Indian Impression Tours (India) we are very aware of the ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures. We realize that taking a group of tourists through such a region can have a negative impact on the lives of those who live there and on all our tours we therefore go to great lengths to minimize the negative and accentuate the positive… after all, there are also many good things that the tourist can bring.
To help this process we ask that our clients do not hand out pens or sweets to children. As one sign in Egypt emphatically put it, ‘Please don’t make beggars out of our children!’ No matter how well-intentioned, in our opinion the giving out of free gifts fosters a ‘beggar mentality’ that is ultimately extremely destructive to a society. In addition we do not recommend giving out money to beggars or ‘students’.
Please remember, we are guests in the countries through which we travel and we may sometimes inadvertently cause offence by taking photographs without first asking permission. Photographing members of the army, police or official personnel can lead to your equipment being confiscated and bridges, borders or government buildings are usually the strictest.
Although you will feel like a celebrity in most places of India where people would love to get in the photo with you, but keep in mind when to click and where to click.
Best Time to Visit India:
Due to India’s size and topography, there’s a huge amount of variation in its climate. One of the most beneficial times to visit is from September to March when temperatures are at their coolest. During winter (December-January), temperatures can get quite cold in Delhi and in the north, especially at night. Monsoon is from late-May to around October and offers hot and humid conditions, although this is considered one of the best times to visit Ladakh and the hills.
The “foreigners” here are not only treated specially, but at some places are charged so too. Some of the tourist attraction under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India charge “special foreigner rates”. At these sites you may find the details of such “special” rates by the ticket counters at the entrance. Many hotels as well as airlines too have special charges for tourists in India.
Every tourist has one or two stories to share about the touts they encountered while visiting India. These touts have a knack of sniffing out tourists from the most unexpected spots and you, as tourists, may find them at every junction of your journey. The thumb rule to deal with them is to “ignore them”.
Don’t eat at quiet restaurants.
No foot traffic in a restaurant means a low turnover of food, so they may be serving you leftovers. In all our tours, we recommend good popular restaurants where locals eat. It can be sensible to eat as a vegetarian until you get close to the beaches where you can enjoy the fresh sumptuous seafood. If you do get Delhi Belly, a banana shake is the best local remedy for settling your stomach.
Familiarize Yourself With India’s Culture
If you’re visiting India for the first time, you’re probably feeling a bit apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. The risk of culture shock can be overcome to a certain extent by reading as much as you can about India, as well as watching documentaries and other programs on India. In order to be as prepared as possible, you should also familiarize yourself with as much information as you can about scams, dangers, and annoyances.
“Yes” Doesn’t Mean Yes and You Rarely Hear “No”
When someone says “Yes” to you in India, this does not confer actual agreement. Instead, “Yes” often translates to: “I have heard what you said and I’ll consider it.” You may also find yourself confused when you discover that few people ever directly say “No.” Americans, in general, are an extremely blunt breed. “Yes” tends to mean yes and “No” tends to mean no.
Travel by Train:
Travelling by train is one of the great experiences in India and a good way to meet Indian people. Some of our tours include comfortable air-conditioned train journeys. According to the itinerary, these may be during the day or night. See the individual tour for details.
The Indian Railway system is the world’s 2nd largest, with over 108,706 km of track, connecting more than 7,000 stations and emplying around 1.4 million people. Every day, more than 7,000 passenger trains run, carrying some 14 million passengers.
If travelling overnight, we accommodate passengers in the comfortable 2nd class sleeper air-conditioned category (unless otherwise indicated at a higher level). 2nd class sleeper air-conditioned cabins consist of 2 upper and 2 lower bunks (which are sat upon until retiring to bed), shared by you and other Indian travelers. Some smaller cabins comprise 1 upper bunk and 2 lower chairs that are for seating until retiring to bed, when these 2 lower chairs can be easily converted to a lower bunk. All cabins are mixed sex.
Your cabin is not a self-contained as such.‘Cabins’ are separated from the carriage corridor by curtains, serving as an artificial barrier that can be drawn at night. Luggage can be stored underneath the lower bunks or on the floor. The carriage is manned by an attendant who will distribute linen. Dependent upon the service, a variety of snacks and drinks or full dinner service can be ordered at additional cost. Food aboard the Shatabdi Express train is exceptionally good, though on many other train services it is probably best to buy snacks, fresh fruit or meals prior to the start of your journey. In addition, there are washrooms (European and also ‘squat-style’) at each end of the carriage. Cleanliness varies, so be prepared and take your own anti-bacterial hand wipes and toilet paper.
If travelling on a daytime journey, you will travel in an air-conditioned seated carriage (or 2nd class air-conditioned cabin), except to elevated destinations where due to local weather patterns air-conditioning is not necessary.
India is a shopper’s paradise. At the many bazaars known as ‘chowks’, the cardinal rule is to bargain hard. Carpets of quality equal to those of Persian origin, Rajasthani pottery and metalwork embellished slippers known as jootis, marble inlay handicraft, jewelry in breathtaking designs, leather work, wood-carvings, silks and saris in spectacularly colorful designs, paintings and clothing are well priced and make excellent souvenirs.
Banks are open from 10:00hrs – 14:00hrs Monday to Friday and 10:00hrs-12:00 on Saturday. Variations occur, so please check locally. In some tourist centers, there may be Bureaux de Changes that remains open later.
Shops are open 09:30hrs – 20:00hrs Monday through to Saturday. In established markets, shopping hours usually stretch on until night falls. Market trading days and business hours vary, check before locally.
Tour Joining Instructions:
An arrival and departure transfer is included with all tours starting and ending from Delhi. In case you are arriving earlier than your tour date or plan to leave later than your actual tour ends, we can arrange airport transfers for a small fee.
Our driver/local guide will be waiting for you with a Travel Genes Tours sign with your name on it. Please check carefully once you exit the baggage hall as there seem to be hundreds of people waiting outside in the arrival area.
Be aware too, that touts at the airports, even at hotel-reservation counters, may try to trick you into booking a hotel room by claiming that your prior reservation is invalid or that hotel is closed. This is the most common scam in Asian countries. Ignore them and get in touch with us.
Please note that visas for India are the responsibility of the individual traveler. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. For the most up to date information please check your governments foreign ministry websites as the rules do change. It is important that you check for yourself. For most travellers there will probably have an embassy and consulate in the country that you live in.
Standard Indian tourist visas are good for 6 months with multiple entry and exits. VISA IS NOT AVAILABLE AT PORT OF ENTRY AND must be obtained in advance.
Please also make sure you have access to at least an additional USD $200 (or equivalent) as an ‘emergency’ fund, to be used when circumstances outside our control require a change to our planned route. This is a rare occurrence!
It is customary in India to tip service providers such as waiters, at approximately 10%, depending on the service. Tipping is expected – though not compulsory – and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. There are several times during the trip where there is opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use.
Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from US$ 1-2 per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service.
A Couple of Rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on any trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for our travelers. Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter, and in particular the local people who make the world the special place it is. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. We have the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
In India, the dress standard is more conservative than it is back home. When packing try to pick loose, lightweight, long clothing that will keep you cool in the usually hot and humid climate of Indian summers. As a general guideline shoulders and knees should be covered at all times. The wearing of shorts is not allowed as it will restrict your entry into buildings of a religious nature and family homes. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat essential.