India Travel Tips

BASIC FACTS:

  • 1.10 Billion Population
  • Government Type: Democratic Republic
  • 5,000 year old ancient civilization
  • Major religions: Hindu and Muslim. Others: Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, and Jewish 
  • 325 languages spoken – 1,652 dialects of which 18 languages are official. Most widely spoken are Hindi and English
  • 28 states, 7 union territories
  • 3.28 million square kilometers of area, seventh largest country in the World.
  • 7,516 kilometers of coastline

PASSPORT: Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you are planning to stay in India, and must have at least two blank pages.

VISA: A visa is required for all non-Indian citizens entering India. Visa fee for tourists is approximately $73, and may change. For more information and online application, visit: https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/homepage. Visa is required for Nepal and can be obtained upon arrival in Kathmandu. 

MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS: No immunizations are required. We highly recommend that you consult your physician for pre-departure health advice. For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/.

CURRENCY: The local Indian currency is the Rupee (INR). The exchange rate varies, and has fluctuated between 44 – 48 INR for 1 USD in 2010. For exact and current exchange rates, visit: http://www.xe.com/ucc/. It is advisable to always carry some local currency with you while traveling. You may use your ATM card to withdraw INR while in India. We recommend you inform your bank prior to traveling to advise them of your travel plans, to avoid a security block on your ATM card.

CREDIT CARDS: Most merchants in major destinations accept credit cards. We recommend you inform your credit card company that you are traveling to avoid your card being blocked for security reasons.

TIME ZONE: India’s time zone is UTC/GMT +5:30 hours, generally about 9 – 11 hours ahead of the U.S. To calculate the exact time difference between India and your local time zone, visit: http://www.timeanddate.com/

CLIMATE: Weather in India is highly diverse, and varies dramatically depending on the region. There are seven different climate regions in India. India typically has three seasons: winter, summer, and monsoon.

The North Indian Plain (a huge section of North-Central India) 

  • 3 months Summer/Dry-March, April, May (Low-60F/High-105F/Avg-83F)
  • 4 months Monsoon/Rain and humidity-June, July, August, September (Low-80F/High-102F/Avg-91F)
  • 5 months Winter/-October, November, December (Heavy Fog Dec 15 – Jan 15) January, February (Low-45F/High-93F/Avg-69F)

The Western Ghats and Coast (South India)

  • 3 months Summer/Dry-March, April, May (Low-64F/High-72F/Avg-68)
  • 9 months Monsoon/Tropical-June, July, August, September, October, November, December (Low-81F/High-91F/Avg-86)

LUGGAGE: We recommend you only take one average-sized piece of checked luggage per person, with an approximate combined dimension of 54 in (137 cm) for height, width and depth, and weighing a maximum of 50 lbs (23 kg). In addition, you may carry-on a bag not to exceed 15 lbs (6.8 kg). It is important that you check exact specification of luggage allowed from the airline on which you are traveling, as they vary.
 
WHAT TO WEAR: Comfortable walking shoes and breathable, wrinkle-free, layering clothes work well for traveling in India. Tank tops and spaghetti straps for women are not recommended while entering Temples or Mosques. If wearing either of these, take a stole or wrap to cover the shoulders while in these places of worship as a sign of respect for the religion. Men and Women equally, are required to cover their legs while entering a Mosque.

REMEMBER TO PACK: Prescriptions, as well as over-the-counter medicine, sunscreen, mosquito spray, travel umbrella, binoculars, sunglasses, hat, camera, transformer/adapter. We also recommend that you pack in your check-in luggage, at least two copies of all the travel documents that you bring with you. Make copies of your passport page that contain your photo, date and place of issuance, date of expiration, and your citizenship, as well as your India visa page.

HOTELS: Hotel check in time is 3:00 pm, and check-out time is 12:00 noon.

ELECTRICITY: 220-240 volts, 50 Hz, Socket types A, C, and M. Electrical converter/transformer, and an adapter plug with two round pins & three round pins arranged in a triangle is needed.

FOOD: Minor stomach ailments are the most common affliction of visitors to India. We recommend you to always wash your hands before and after eating, and not to consume food from street vendors. Fresh fruit can be consumed after peeling and/or washing thoroughly with bottled water. Also drink plenty of bottled water while traveling.

SHOPPING: India is a shopper’s paradise. You’ll find everything from clothes to ceramics, metal works, and a variety of local handicrafts. Each region in India specializes in a particular industry that’s been handed down over generations. You’ll find that every item has a story behind it. Bargaining is common outside of malls and larger retail stores. It is recommended that you quote the price you want to pay. The seller will most likely meet you half way. If you’re lucky, they may even meet your price Every Shopping Market and/or Mall has a particular day of the week that they close. When open, the hours anywhere from 10 am – 9 pm. Some shops may also close during lunchtime for a few hours.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Special permission of the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, is required for use of tripod and artificial light. Photography in the wildlife sanctuaries is allowed on payment of a prescribed fee. In Delhi, videos are not allowed at Humayuns Tomb, and camera fees are imposed at both UNESCO sites visited in Delhi. Videos are not allowed in the Taj Mahal complex past the first viewing area guests may store their cameras.

GRATUITIES: It is customary to tip the various people that provide you with service during your travels. The amount you tip is a matter of personal discretion, and generally based on your satisfaction on the level of service you receive. Following is a tipping guideline for satisfactory service:

  • Tour escort: $5 per person per day
  • Driver: $2 per person per day
  • Local Guide: $2 per person for half day of sightseeing (2-3 hours) OR $5 per person for full day of sightseeing.
  • Hotel Porter: $1 per bag per person 
  • Wait staff in restaurants: 10 – 15 percent of your total bill
  • Housekeeping: $1 per person, per day

HOLIDAYS: India is culturally and religiously a diverse society, and celebrates various holidays and festivals varying by region. There are generally 14 official Holidays in India, and several other optional ones. Religious holidays are based on the ancient calendars, and change every year. As a guideline, use the follow list of holidays in 2011:

  • NEW YEARS DAY —-—Jan 1st
  • Pongal and Makar Sankranti  ——-——January 14th 
  • REPUBLIC DAY —————–Jan 26th
  • Basant Panchami ———-—-February 8th 
  • Milad un Nabi (Shia) Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad-—Feb 20th
  • Maha Shivaratri —————- March 3rd 
  • Holi —————————-—- March 20th 
  • Vishu 01 Apr 2011 – 30 Apr 2011 Date to be confirmed
  • Ugadi——————-April 4th 
  • Ram Navami ——————-April 12th 
  • MAHAVIR JAYANTI—————-—–April 16th
  • GOOD FRIDAY—————-—-—- April 22nd
  • BUDHA PURNIMA———-——-—–May 17th
  • Rath Yatra ———————- July 13th 
  • Onam – August-September, Date to be confirmed
  • RAKSHA BANDHAN————-———-Aug 13th
  • INDEPENDENCE DAY———————-Aug 15th
  • Janmashtami——————- August 22nd 
  • IDU’L FITR (end of Ramadan)—————-—–Aug 30th
  • Ganesh Chaturthi ————-–September 1st 
  • MAHATMA GANDHI’S BIRTHDAY——Oct 2nd
  • DUSSEHRA (WAY DASHMI)———- Oct 6th 
  • Some cases: An Additional day for Dussehra
  • DIWALI (DEEPAVALI)————-—- Oct 26th
  • Idu’l Zuha/Bakrid——————-—— Nov 6th
  • GURU NANAK’S BIRTHDAY—— Nov 10th
  • Al-Hijra / Muharram————————Dec 5th
  • CHRISTMAS DAY———————-Dec 25th
  • BANKING HOURS: Closed on Sundays and National Holidays. Operating hours can range from 9:30 – 6:00pm, and varies from Bank to Bank, as well as its location.

EMERGENCIES: Police: 100 Ambulance: 102 Fire: 101

CUSTOMS:

Driving is on the left side of the road, opposite of how we drive in the U.S.

Eating People often eat with the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean and is generally not used to eat or to handle food and money.

Feet The soles of your feet pointing towards someone is considered offensive, so care should be taken not to do this. Feet should not be placed on furniture. If you accidentally touch someone with your foot, it is common practice to apologize. It is also customary to remove your shoes when entering a private home in addition to places of worship and burial.

Garlands If you are given a garland of flowers, accept and wear it graciously. By removing or not accepting the garland, you will display humiliation to the person who offered it to you.

Greetings Handshakes are not a common method of greeting among Indians. The Indian greeting is to put your hands together just below your chin (as while praying) and incline your head forward, saying Namaste.

Begging is common in India, especially from the tourists. We do not recommend you give money to people who beg. Instead, you may distribute small items such as pens or your unused Hotel toiletries.

Personal Space India is densely populated and people are accustomed to being crowded. However, except in packed buses, strangers avoid touching each other. Cross-gender touching is especially offensive, although it is common to see same-sex friends holding hands or hugging.

Religious Places Most temples and mosques prohibit shoes inside the building and signs are sometimes posted when this is the case. Some Hindu temples do not permit non-Hindus to enter. If you have any doubt, ask and observe other visitors for guidance.

Street Scenes Even though you may have expectations of being exposed to poverty before arriving in India, it will be difficult to suppress shock when you encounter people, including children, begging in the streets. You will also see unusual sights, such as animals sifting through garbage in the streets. You will experience how Indians live harmoniously as one regardless of their social status, the wealthy, the middle class, as well as the poor. Being prepared for these different experiences will better enable you to enjoy your exploration through this colorful, vibrant and hospitable country.

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