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Helpful Indian Traveling Notes

INDIA

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, and the grandmother of legend.” – Mark Twain. Steeped inglorious history, India is an ancient land wrapped in myths, legends and is a mosaic of diverse cultures influenced by the Mughals, Arabs, Portuguese, French and British. Once numbered among the richest nations in the world, India’s diamonds, silk and spices attracted traders and colonisers and not long ago India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. From the ethereal Taj Mahal; the fabulous and impossibly romantic palaces as well as the timeless rural countryside of Rajasthan – the Land of Kings, the teeming jungles that inspired Kipling to write the Jungle Book; to the snow-capped mountains of the lofty Himalaya; the exquisite temples in Gujarat and the religious fervour on the banks of the sacred Ganges, there is nothing else quite like the experience of discovering India.

INDIA: COUNTRY FACTSHEET

 

Population: 1,250,000,000
Area: 3,287,263 sq. km | 1,269,219 sq. miles
Language/s: Hindi, English (English in tourist areas)
Capital: New Delhi
President: Ram Nath Kovind
Religion/s: Hinduism 81%, Islam 13%, Christianity 2.3%, Sikhs, Buddhists and others 3.7%
Currency: Indian Rupee (INR); Time Zone: GMT + 5:30 Dialling code: +91

PASSPORTS & VISAS

 

British and US Citizens require an e-Tourist Visa to enter India and this can be applied for via https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/ . The e-Tourist Visa costs US$ 60 per person and is valid for single entry for 30 days. The validity of the e-Tourist Visa begins from the date of arrival specified in your application and the e-Tourist Visa is allowed for a maximum of two visits in a calendar year.

If you are travelling to India more than once on the same trip or planning to visit India more than once within six months, then you need to apply for a six month multiple- entry tourist visa by logging on https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/.

The six-month multiple-entry tourist visa will require submission of your passport along with the completed application form and any supporting documents to the nearest India Visa Application centre on the scheduled date of interview. The instructions for completing the form and scheduling the appointment can be found at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/.

All visitors entering India must possess a full passport with a minimum of six months validity on it and at least two blank pages for the immigration stamps.

Visa on Arrival: It is NOT possible for British and US passport holders to apply for a visa on arrival in India.
Special Permits: Visitors to the Andaman Islands and Sikkim require a Restricted Area Permit; however, this is best obtained upon arrival in India.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS—NON BRITISH CITIZENS

 

If you are not traveling on a British passport it is essential that you check your visa requirements in advance of travel. We recommend the Indian government website https:// indianvisaonline.gov.in or https://boi.gov.in, which can be used to check visa requirements.

 

DEPARTURE TAX

 

There is no departure tax payable on leaving India

 

TRAVEL ADVICE & THE FOREIGN OFFICE

 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) regularly updates its travel advice for India. The FCO site contains important information for the traveller concerning the political situation and customs within India. We strongly recommend that you make yourself aware of the official government travel advisories. Foreign & Commonwealth Office website: www.fco.gov.uk/travel

Know Before You Go

 

When travelling abroad the FCO strongly encourages all travellers to adhere to the travel advice given below.

  • Take out comprehensive travel insurance, and read the small print.
  • Check the FCO’s country travel advice for India.
  • Research your destination on the FCO’s site — know the local laws and customs.
  • Research the health risks.
  • Check that your passport is valid and you hold all necessary visas.
  • Make copies of important travel documents and/or store them online using a secure storage site.
  • Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them.
  • Take enough money and have access to emergency funds.
LOCAL LAWS & CUSTOMS

 

India has strict laws against the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs. If you are convicted of any of these offences, you can expect to receive a heavy fine or a prison sentence. Similarly, India has tough laws against crimes related to the abuse of children. In some circumstances, you can be held without charge indefinitely. Convicted offenders may face a lengthy jail sentence.

The possession, sale and export of antiquities are against the law. Dress modestly, cover your legs and shoulders, remove shoes and take off hats, if you are visiting a place of worship.

It is illegal not to carry some form of photographic ID in India. Carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times. Don’t take photographs or use binoculars near military, official installations or vehicles used by VIPs. Always ask for permission before photographing people.

Smoking in public areas is prohibited including in the hotel lobby area and restaurants. You can be fined if you are caught smoking or drinking in a designated smoke-free/alcohol-free area. On religious days (this includes Good Friday) and during certain National Holidays such as Gandhi’s birthday as well as in the run-up to elections alcohol is NOT usually available; however, visitors can consume alcohol, in the privacy of their rooms. Each of India’s states has independent alcohol regulations and legal drinking age ranges from 18 to 25.

Homosexuality is illegal and could lead to prosecutions. Public displays of affection could result in prosecution for public order offences. Nude or topless sunbathing is not allowed. Women travelling alone may feel uncomfortable if not dressed modestly. British nationals have been arrested for bringing satellite phones without prior permission from Indian authorities. You may need prior permission from the Indian authorities to bring equipment like listening or recording devices including powerful cameras and binoculars and drones.

DRY STATES

 

Dry States: Alcohol prohibition is in place in the states of Gujarat, Bihar, Manipur, Nagaland and Lakshadweep. Travellers to Gujarat, though, can obtain a permit on arrival that allows them purchase of alcohol locally. In Lakshadweep, sale and consumption of alcohol is permitted only on the Bangaram Island. Alcohol is otherwise not available in certain holy towns such as Pushkar and parts of Hampi. The first day of each calendar month in Kerala and the last day of each month in Andaman Islands are also dry days. In Kerala, alcohol licences are restricted to hotels with 5-star
classification. However, hotels that do not have liquor licence – encourage guests to bring their own and do not charge for corkage.

TRAVEL HEALTH ADVICE

 

Travelling to different climates and environments abroad can expose you to disease and health risks. You should be aware of the dangers and how to stay healthy.

 

Vaccinations and Immunizations

 

We are not medical experts and believe that it is essential to visit your GP as soon as possible to check if you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures for India. The risk from vaccine-preventable diseases can change at any time. Please remember that in some cases courses of pills may take up to 6 weeks before they become effective.

MASTA (Medical Advisory Service for Travelers Abroad) can supply a free, quick and easy online Travel Health Brief. This includes (i) easy to understand vaccination advice for single or multi-country trips. (ii) detailed maps showing the areas
where there are risk of malaria within a country (iii) information and preventive advice on all major disease risks. For more details please visit www.masta-travel-health.com

A leaflet on ‘Health Advice for Travelers’ is produced by the Department of Health and can be obtained free from Post Offices or by visiting the following website set up by the NHS in Scotland, which has useful advice for travellers: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk

 

General Health Tips

 

  • Take out adequate travel insurance or you could face a huge medical bill if you fall ill and need treatment.
  • Drink plenty of water in hot climates to avoid dehydration.
  • Be safe in the sun – use a high-factor sunscreen and avoid sunbathing between 11 – 3 pm.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition inform your travel insurer about the condition and ask your doctor how the trip might affect you. Carry a copy of your prescription and ensure that your medication is legal in the country you are visiting.
Long Distance Journeys

 

  • Do not wear tight clothing on long-distance journeys.
  • Do regular stretching exercises such as flexing and extending your ankles to avoid circulation problems.
  • Walk around at regular interval on long flights. Drink plenty of water on flights and avoid drinking too much alcohol.

 

EAT & DRINK SAFELY

 

Many people suffer from an upset stomach or diarrhea because of something they have eaten or drunk abroad. Serious diseases can be contracted from contaminated food and water. Taking a couple of simple precautions while abroad can make a great difference. We recommend:

  • Drinking bottled water and checking that the seals are unbroken.
  • Eat fresh, thoroughly cooked food that is still piping hot. Avoid food that has been kept warm.
  • Avoid ice used in drinks unless you are sure it’s made from treated water.
  • Avoid under-cooked or raw seafood and shellfish.

 

MEDICAL FACILITIES

 

The care provided in Indian hospitals varies greatly. While medical care in major population centres approaches and occasionally meets Western standards, medical facilities are limited or unavailable in rural areas. Hence, travellers should carry any special medication with them.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

It is a requirement of Corinthian Travel that all travelers hold adequate travel insurance. The insurance policy must be valid for India and cover the whole time that you are away.

As a minimum travel insurance policies should cover the following:

  • Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad.
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover in case you are sued for causing injury or damaging property.
  • Personal accident cover.
  • Legal expenses cover.
  • Lost and stolen possessions cover.
  • Cancellation and curtailment cover.
  • Extra cover for any adventure activities that you may be taking which are commonly excluded from standard policies.
  • Terrorism: 60% of policies will now cover terrorism. Where, possible ensure your policy includes this clause.

An emergency abroad can extremely expensive. If you need to be returned to the UK it could cost you thousands of pounds unless you are adequately insured. Always check the conditions and exclusions of your travel insurance policy to see exactly what is covered.

Ensure that your policy:
  • Will refund the full cost of your holiday.
  • Covers extra costs incurred to get home.
  • Pays out if you need to cancel or cut short a trip because you fall ill for example.
CRIME & PERSONAL SAFETY

Generally crime levels are low, but street robbery and pick pocketing are common in the major tourist areas. Be wary of strangers approaching you offering food and drink (which may be drugged), to change money or to take you to a restaurant or nightclub. Passports and money have been stolen from hotels and guesthouses, even when they have been kept in the safe.

Credit card fraud is the most common type of crime. Wherever possible use cash and access ATM’s that are attached to banks or major hotels. If you do use your credit card it is important
that you don’t lose sight of it. It is also advisable to keep your bank informed about your travel plans, as banks’ automated fraud protection system block transactions at times.

Violent crimes against foreign visitors are extremely rare. However, western women continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment and there have been an increasing number of reports of sexual offenses including on minors. Women traveling alone and those traveling with young adults should take particular care when visiting crowded areas such as market places, railway stations and sporting events as well as avoid isolated beaches.

Do not leave your luggage unattended on trains at all and be wary of confidence tricksters. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them so they are not spiked.

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel standards in India are generally very good. However, the ancient villages in Sikkim and Kumaon in the Himalayan foothills as well as in parts of central India, the options are limited and the best available options should be regarded as simple. In North India, where possible we always hotels with character and style including converted royal residences. These are typically of a 5 to 4 star international standard though in some areas, as mentioned above, maybe the best available.

TRANSPORTATION

All transfers within India will be chauffeur driven. The exceptions are the jeep safaris whilst visiting the National Parks. The type of vehicles used will depend on your choice and size of party.

TIPPING

Providing gratuities for services is part of the culture in India and is expected. If you do not need the help of porters, you should say so firmly. Tips for your driver / guide are not included in the tour cost. The suggested tipping levels are calculated based on a party size of two.

  • Driver who accompanies you throughout your tour: US$8 per day.
  • English speaking local guide: US$15 per day (for full-day sightseeing).
  • Accompanying guide: US$ 25 per day
  • Naturalist: US$8 per game drive.
  • Local driver for transfers / game drives: US$3 per transfer / per game drive.
  • Local driver for sightseeing: US$5 (for full-day sightseeing).
  • Forest-department guide: US$ 2 per game drive.
  • Waiters at hotel restaurants appreciate a tip of 10 – 12%.
LANGUAGE

India has 22 official languages that reflect its diversity. English is widely spoken though and appears on street and road signs. In the areas frequented by tourists, most Indians will speak two or more languages.

MOBILE PHONES & THE INTERNET

All GSM mobile telephones except North American dual- band phones work throughout India. It is advisable to check the rates for roaming charges with your phone provider prior to departure. Please note that hotels in India charge a heavy premium for making overseas telephone calls so it is advisable to check the rates with reception before making any call. Internet access, either through wired or wireless connection, is available at nearly all hotels.

ELECTRICITY

Voltage: In India the single-phase power supply is between 230-240 Volts at 50 Hertz. Most power sockets in India have round three pinholes but many of them will work with double-pin European plugs; however, the pins on Indian plugs are slightly larger and thicker and hence, a European adapter may not always work. In some places you might find square three-pin sockets as well. Visitors will need an adapter plug for any electronic items they are carrying.

WEATHER

The best time to visit India is between October (just after the south- west monsoon season) and March. However, given that the country occupies over 1 million square miles, India’s weather is quite varied. While Delhi and Rajasthan can be chilly in the late evenings and early mornings during December and January, the tropical south soaks in the warmth of the winter sun. Similarly, while the monsoon rains start in early June and slowly move from Kerala to the northern plains; it is the ideal time to visit Kashmir and Ladakh, and when the temperature in the Gangetic plains and the Deccan plateau rises to early 40C between April and May, the Himalayan foothills and the hill stations of Shimla and Darjeeling offer respite from the scorching summers. The summer months are also ideal for wildlife viewing.

WHAT TO WEAR & WHAT TO PACK

Pack light clothing for the heat and humidity with warmer cover-ups for visits to the hill country. When visiting the religious sites and while traveling through the Indian countryside ‘modest dress’ should be adopted. While visiting shrines remember to remove your shoes, socks, hat and sunglasses. In some living Hindu temples and all Jain temples leather goods such as belts, shoes, bags and wallets will not be permitted. In Hindu temples, non-Hindus are also restricted from visiting the inner sanctum-sanctum.

Away from the main cosmopolitan cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai, the dress code is more conservative. It is prudent to wear long and loose clothing. Women should consider at least knee-length skirts or trousers and a blouse that covers the shoulders. Men should consider at least knee- length shorts or trousers and either a shirt or a t-shirt. It is fine to wear swimming costumes on the beach but topless sunbathing is illegal. Bikinis are just about acceptable on beaches. If you plan to swim inland in rivers or lakes a sarong is advisable (please check with your local guide). It is much easier to travel with lightweight luggage. We therefore suggest that you pack lightly taking casual clothes for the most part. The lifestyle in India is generally very relaxed though some people do dress up in the evenings.

FOOD IN NORTH INDIA

North Indian cuisine is rich and diverse with distinctive regional culinary tradition. Shaped by the religious beliefs of the local population northern India’s cuisine also reveals the influences of various cultures including the Mughals, Portuguese and the British. This includes Lucknow’s famed Awadhi cuisine, renowned for its refined cooking style and where preparation of finger-licking kebabs and lamb biryanis are elevated to a fine art and the equally celebrated Mughlai cuisine, which was

developed in the Mughal royal kitchens that historically blended Hindu and Persian cooking styles. Further east, Calcutta’s Railway Mutton curry traces its origins to the British-Raj colonial era. Along the west-coast, Goan Vindaloos, Gujarati Dhoklas as well as Bombay’s very own fast-food, ‘Paav Bhaji’ and the ubiquitous Tandoori dishes that originate from Punjab showcase the remarkably varied landscape of India’s kitchens.

The traditional north Indian cuisine though is predominantly flatbread such as Naan (bread prepared in a clay oven) served with Dal (lentils cooked using a mixture of spices) and a Curry, which could be either chicken, mutton or paneer (cottage cheese) prepared using yoghurt, cream and a variety of spices. For breakfasts, parathas (flat breads stuffed with vegetable fillings) as well as puris (fried puffballs) served with a spicy dry potato curry are common. Salads are not essentially a part of a traditional north Indian meal; and although the cuisine is pre-dominantly non-vegetarian, a variety of vegetarian dishes form part of the menu. International cuisine is available in all major cities, whilst in the small towns most hotels that we feature offer a selection of Continental food. A variety of finger food including bhelpuri (a mix of puffed rice, potato and crunchy puri with tamarind sauce), bhajis (deep fried vegetable cakes) and kebabs (minced meat) together form an integral part of the street food scene.

DRINKS IN NORTH INDIA

Tea is the preferred drink in north India and is served in a number of ways. Whilst the sugar-rich, milky ‘Indian Chai’ reigns supreme among the locals, you will get a pot of European-style “tray” tea in most 4 and 5 star hotels. Trendy coffee shops serving cappuccino and espresso are presently limited to big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai; while instant coffee is increasingly common. Lastly, north India’s famous cold drink – Lassi, a refreshing, delicious yoghurt based drink that comes in two distinct varieties: sweet and salty is served almost everywhere. Imported spirits, beer including those locally brewed are available and despite restrictions in some states it is legally possible to obtain alcoholic beverages from licensed shops.

TRAVEL MONEY

The Indian currency is called the Indian Rupee (INR) and one Indian Rupee is made up of 100 paise. Bank notes are in denominations of INR 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 2000; coins are in denominations of INR 1, 2 and 5.

All major foreign currencies may be exchanged in India. It is recommended to carry a float of US dollars with you, although English Sterling is generally accepted too. ATMs are widely available throughout the country. All hotel extras can be paid in Indian or foreign currency cash or by credit card.

Most banks are open from 10:00 am until 4:00 PM Monday to Friday (while some remain open until 3:00 PM), and 10:00 am – 1:30 PM on Saturdays. On Sundays and during other national holidays, banks remain closed.

SHOPPING

India is a paradise for shoppers and the bustling, colorful Traditional markets and bazaars offer hand- woven silk, embroidered hand-made textiles including garments, scarves and bed/table linens. The markets are also a fabulous place to shop for exquisite Indian jewellery including gold, silver and pearl necklaces and glass bangles. Other products include variety of spices, traditional handicrafts, bronze idols and figurines, wood and stone carvings, antique reproductions. Many shops have demonstrations where you can watch the local crafts being made. If you do not wish to be taken to these, please advise your tour guide. Local shopping is always at the discretion of the traveler and clients are not obliged to visit any shops at the urging of the local guide.

Shopping hours:

Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm. Shops are usually closed on Sundays and festival days. In big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore some stores remain open until 9pm and in areas frequented by tourists many convenience stores are open until late, 7 days a week.

Haggling:

In most shops and outlets the prices are fixed, but you may be able to haggle in smaller shops and markets.

Importing goods:

Please check with your customs department in advance of travel and be Local Bazaar, Jaipur aware of controls on the export of items such as antiquities and carvings. Local shopkeepers are not always aware of the latest import duty fees and customs policies.

Guide Books for India

Lonely Planet Discover India : One of the best books to discover must see & memorable places with featured photographs, maps, along with not to be missed places to eat shop and see.

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