Useful Information

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT INDIA
Climate When to Visit What to See
Getting to India Visas and Entry Requirements Health
Accommodation Getting Around in India Communication
Cultural Information  Climate and Dress Eating
Interacting with People Money Matters Travel with Children
National Holidays and Festivals Shopping Crime and Safety
Important Things to Keep in Mind 

Climate    Top^

India's climate plays a hand in determining when to visit, as the country experiences seasonal variations, dominated by the monsoons which bring the rainy season. Additionally, the climate varies slightly between North and South India. The monsoon starts roughly between end May to June, along the southern coastline, gradually moving northwards.

By end of August to early September, the rains have receded from the north, taking just a little longer to fully clear in the southern regions. Parts of this region in the south exeprience additional rainfall between October to December from the "receding" monsoon.November onwards generally see clearer skies and cooler weather.

 

When to Visit    Top^

For this reason, November to April is the best time to visit. Generally speaking however, whenever you do visit be prepared for humidity , especially in the south , and depending on when you come, the heat. Also, northern India does get faily chilly during December and January, India's verison of a mild winter.
Visitors may brave the summer months too , from late April to August, as hotels and transport is by and large air conditioned and the period does offer it's own appeal with clearer weather. During this time, the Himalayas are also at their most accesible and August and September is the peak trekking season in the northern mountain ranges.

Hill stations, small, scenic towns located in the highlands, at higher altitude than the main cities, are still relatively cool during the summer heat and are popular destinations for tourists and Indians as well.

 

What to See    Top^

Some of India’s tourist attractions have become so well known, such as the Taj Mahal, that much else gets little attention. However there is plenty of see in India, the only problem being that there is usually not enough time to see much of these sights in just one trip. Therefore the best itineraries are the simple ones, sthat take in only certain regions or holiday themes without covering too much – keeping a relaxed pace of travel is a good thing.

Some of the places worth seeing, in a nutshell, are Delhi, Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal, South India, including Kerala and Goa, and the North, to include Himachal Pradesh, parts of Jammu & Kashmir as well as the Ladakh region.

 

Getting to India     Top^

Flying is the only practical mode of international transport into India, due to the fact that most overland routes are closed or intermittently inaccesible due to the political situation, climate or lack of reliable transport.

There are numerous international airlines serving India including Air India, Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar, Swiss, KLM, Northwest, Air France and many others.

 

Visas and Entry Requirements    Top^

Nationals of all countries except those of Nepal and Bhutan need a visa to enter India. Tourist Visas cost USD 60 and are usually valid 6 months from date of issue [note -NOT date of entry into India]. Mulitple entry visas are also available at no extra cost.

It is suggested that Visas be obtained in your country of residence from the respective Indian High Commission, Embassy or consulate. [ Please see details below].Requirements include the following but you must confirm individual requirements of each Indian embassy/high commission or consulate office as requirements vary slightly from country to country.

1. Original passport valid for at least 6 months
2. Two passport size photographs (5 photographs in case of Pakistan Nationals)
3. All required supporting documents and completed application form accompanied by Visa fee. 

Special Permits: These include Restricted permits and Inner Line permits, which are required by both Indian nationals and tourists intending to travel to certain locations in India such as Sikkim, parts of Ladakh and Rajashtan, among others. [ usually areas alongside sensitive international borders].
Parts of Jammu and Kashmir state are completely out of bounds to tourists.

Vaccinations: Unless you are arriving into India from, or have recently travelled through a country infected with Yellow Fever, you will not need and an innoculation certificate. Yellow Fever zone countries include nations in Africa and parts of South America, but exclude Western Europe and North America. It is however recommended that travellers to India get vaccinations against typhoid, Hepatitis A and Meningitis.

 

Health    Top^

Unless you have lived or travelled frequently in parts of Africa and Asia, you will be well advised to take particular care of what you eat and drink in India [reputable Indian hotels adhere to international standards of food safety and hygiene]- usually however travellers who are careful are at risk from nothing more than a bout of upset stomach but some do get ill enough to have to go to a doctor.Always drink bottled water, from a reputable company. Before you come to India you will also be well advised to get vaccinations against Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Meningitis. 

An Anti Malarial course, usually of tablets, is recommended for all visitors to India.It is therefore suggested that tourists to India eat at reputed hotels and restaurants where the food is likely to be hygienically cooked. Drinking water from the tap or other non bottled sources, eating unwashed fruit bought from the open markets etc is NOT recommended.Here are some useful Tips:

Always drink quality bottled water.

1. Outside of your hotels [ 4 or 5 star] , eat only fruit with a peel such as bananas – cut fruit lying in the open is not suggested.
2. Travel with a small medicine box containing common medicines for diarrhea, fever, cuts and headaches. Also keep insect and mosquito repellant lotion with you in case you may need it. A bottle of sun block is essential especially in the summer months.
3. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Do not over exert or pressure yourself into a rushed itinerary/ activity – the resulting fatigue will lower your immunity.

 

Accommodation    Top^

India offers a huge number of luxury hotels spread all over the country, and including palace turned heritage hotels, colonial-era 5 star hotels and modern, state of the art new hotels, most of which offer a unique experience to the traveller while also providing the western style comforts of international hotels. 

Prices match the international market with rooms at good hotels commonly ranging from Usd 250- 1500 a night. Hotels chains in India include Taj Hotels, Oberoi, Hilton, Intercontinental, Sheraton, Hyatt and Welcome Group. 

5 star , Luxury and Heritage Hotels: Quality Indian itineraries draw on the character of the hotel to additionally inspire travellers, so it is suggested that one always select characterful hotels as this will significantly add to their holiday in India.

3 and 4 star Hotels: There are numerous 3 and 4 star hotels in the country and the top picks in this category offer excellent value for money. We offer clients a range of 3 and 4 star hotels and also book Government approved Guest Houses in various locations of India.

 

Getting Around in India    Top^

It is possible in India to fly on the latest airplane, experience a bycycle rickshaw in the middle of traffic or enjoy the ride like royalty on an elephant, all in the space of a few hours - in a single day. 

Unique excursions apart, the 3 most practical modes of transport for tourists in India are flights, trains and cars.

Flights
Flights are best for covering large distances of over 800kms, a variety of connections to virtually all tourist locations are available at fairly good prices. There are numerous domestic airlines in India- the major ones all have excellent safety records and offer good service. At Into India we usually include domestic flights into your travel package and also book stand alone domestic flights - please contact us for information on these.

Trains
Trains are the largest people mover in India - India's railway is probably the largest in terms of human movement in the world. Travelling by train in India is an experience all on its own - be it luxury trains or narrow gauge steam engines, India has them, running on a day to day basis.
Most regular trains have 3 basic classes of travel - first, second and third - there are more sub classes too offering various sleeping berth arrangements and air conditioning. However only certain trains and train journeys would be recommended for an truly enjoyable experience.

There are also classic, luxury trains available for those willing to pay the extra price - air conditioned carriages, lavishly decorated, excellent service and delighful cuisine are standard on these trains.

The trains include the Palace of Wheels which traverses Rajashtan, ex Delhi, for a one week tour , and the Fairy Queen, pulled by the oldest working steam engine in the world, which tours Rajashtan and takes in the Sariska Tiger Reserve. There is also the Royal Orient which departs from Delhi and travels southwards through Rajashtan onwards to Gujarat.

By Car
The best and most cost effective way of getting around conveniently , cars are also comfortable and allow a greater degree of privacy and flexiblility in your tour. Self drive is not an advisable option as traffic in India is different from what most tourists will be used to [ even compared to Asia], and considering that the price of the driver / chauffer is usually included in the cost of hiring a car[ and is quite low anyway], it makes sense to hire a car with a driver and not to worry about countless things like directions or navigating through the crowds in towns and cities.

 

Communication     Top^

India is well connected country wide in terms of telephone, email and ordinary mail. Even smaller towns, and in some cases villages, now boast of internet cafes. Calling internationally is relatively cheap and easy - Mobiles / cellphones are widely available though getting one requires proof of identity.
Virtually all 4 and 5 star hotels provide email and internet access and most have business centers available to hotel guests.

India's country code is +91:
Common city codes are given below:
Common city codes are given below:
Delhi: 011
Mumbai: 022
Kolkata/ Calcutta: 033
Hydrebad:040
Madras/Chennai:044
Jaipur-Rajashtan: 141

 

Cultural Information     Top^

Religion
India is the birthplace of two of the world's major relgions, Hinduism and Budhism. Virtually all the major faiths are represented in India and indians are by nature generally very spiritual [and also religious] - they show respect to all symbols of religions such as places of worship, shrines, images, and even religious gatherings.

Most temples allow people of any faith to enter, some even welcome visitors - however one remove their shoes before entry and be dressed appropriately. In some cases, such as in the case of a mosque, one must also wash their hands, and in the case of a Gurudwara, cover their heads with a scarf [both men and women].

Mosque as a rule do not allow entry to non muslims –there are exceptions though. Most temples are open for visitors with the exception of some- many temples will not allow leather articles such as shoes, belts and even clothing, into the temple.

As a rule assume that photography is not allowed at places of worship or religious gatherings and only consider taking pictures after clarifying with your tour guide or with the person in charge at the site.

Taking photographs of government buildings, security installations or offices, and other such places connected to the Government, Police or Army, is Not allowed.

Dress Code
Indians are generally conservative in their dress particularly that of women. There are ofcourse great variations in a country, parts of which are both very modern and very traditional. One could walk into a night club in a hotel and find it most of the crowd dressed like they would be in a night club in London or New York - however dress codes vary singnificantly depending on the situation, places being visited or even the part of India in which you are travelling.

Meeting Indians in their homes would require at least smart casual. The same would apply for dinner in most quality hotels and restaurants as a rule.

This is not to say that tourists cannot wear full casual attire such as t-shirts ,shorts or mini skirts- you will see plenty of Indians holidaying in such casual clothes - the key point is - on a beach yes, in a temple perhaps not.

 

Climate and Dress    Top^

In the heat, white or light shade cotton clothes that reflect the heat are most comfortable. Dinner at most hotels usually requires smart casual clothing.

In the winter months of December and January, especially in the north, warm clothes such as a sweater would be required.

Most Indian cities have modern shopping malls that stock a variety of international clothing, fashion, shoe and sports brands.
Indian clothing is often popular with tourists who find it particularly comfortable during the heat - the "kurtha" , a losely worn, long shirt-like garment, is particularly popular and variations of this have also appeared on the catwalks in most western cities.

Saris are a traditional Indian dress for women - graceful and elegant, it does take some learning to drape a sari but the effort is often worth the result.

Upon request, our tours can incorporate shopping trips with a guide, or independently, so that our clients may have the chance to buy anything from clothes and fashion accesories to crafts and electronics.



Eating    Top^

The usual international ettiquettes generally apply - however customs related to eating again vary within India.
Generally it is safe to observe the following:

Eating is best done with the right hand - you may use your left hand sparingly - this is because the left hand is considered best left for dealing with the less clean chores of hygiene - anything from untying your shoes to cleaning your toilet.

Kitchens are treated with the greatest emphasis on hygiene - entering an Indian kitchen first requires removing your shoes and washing your hands.

The above are very general guidelines - there are many moden households mainly in Indian cities where these are not strictly followed.

One eating ettiquette that does find common acceptance all over India is not to touch someone's food with your mouth or lips - this food is considered soiled - drinking from someone's bottle of water requires that you do not touch the bottle with your mouth and rather pout the water intou your mouth - while being an ettiquette, it is also a great way of keeping infections at bay..



Interacting with People    Top^

India is famous for it's traditional, folded hands greeting- the "Namaskar" - a symbol of offering respect to the other person.
However this is not necessarily the usual form of greeting and as is that case with other things in India, it really depends on many factors. Shaking hands is commonly accepted as the mode of greeting.English is widely spoken in most cities in India and virtually all hotel staff, drivers and guides speak English fluently.
Hindi is India's national language. There are over 200 unique languages speoken in India, varying in writing and dialect across the country.As a foreigner, you may well be stared at rather frequently – however this generally purely out of curiosity.

 

Money Matters    Top^

India's currency unit is the Indian Rupee [ Rs]. 1 rupee is divided into 100 paisa.
However most of the money is in form of paper bills with the largest bill being for Rs 1000.
Hotel and tour rates are commonly quoted in Rs, Us dollars or Euro.
Dollars may be accepted at only the major hotels [ 5 star] or selected shops mainly only inside the hotels or in the major shopping malls in major cities. It is therefore better to change some of your international currency into Indian Rupees.

India has a well established banking system though more sophisticated banking transactions like changing travellers cheques or withdrawing cash via ATM are best done once you arrive into one of the major cities.

If you enter India with more than USD 10000, you must declare the same with the customs department and fill out a currency declaration form. Note also that it is illegal to take any rupees out of the country.

Tipping:
Tipping is not obligatory nor is it the convention in India. A tip is however appreciated though not usually by upper rank managers ! Bills at larger hotels and restaurants are usually inclusive of service charge so a tip may not be necessary. Hotel bellboys/luggage porters usually do expect a tip and it is customary to give them anything from USD 3 to 5 upon getting your luggage in the room.
You may tip your personal driver guide [ tour driver] whom you may be with several times during your itinerary but taxi drivers do not expect a tip unless you have been using the same driver several times.

Tip amounts vary, from 5-10% of the bill at restaurants which do not charge a service fee to adhoc amounts of USD 5 to 10 per day for a tour driver.

 

Travel with Children    Top^

Indians generally love children and are very flexible and tolerant while travelling with children. While disturbance to fellow travellers is therefore not such a problem, keeping children healthy is very important so what they eat and drink is crucial. Children should ideally be given any useful/ recommended vacinations and peventative medication and one should consult with their doctor before arriving in India. 
Most holiday hotels and resorts welcome families including children and most also cater to the needs of family travel.

 

National Holidays and Festivals    Top^

Festivals in India tend to be fascinating in themselves – colourful, spectacular and joyous- festivals such as Diwali or Holi are worth experiencing. Indian weddings are particularly enjoyable to attend, and you may well see everything from an elephant led procession of the groom to a deeply elaborate marriage ceremony.

There are many festivals in India though most of these tend to be localised within regions.
The main public/national holidays and important festivals are listed below:

National Holidays    Top^

26 Jan - Republic Day:
15 August: Independence Day:
2 October: Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.
25 December: Christmas Day:

Certain regions of India may give additional holidays such as for Diwali, which is the most significant and widely celebrated religious festival as it also marks the Hindu New year- dates are not fixed as they depend on the Indian lunar calendar.
We have listed some of the major festivals of India based on approximate period of the year.



Shopping    Top^

India is a superb place for shopping, mainly for clothing, fashion accessories, jewellery, electronics and home furnishings including hand made rugs. India is also known for its beautiful, intricate wood and stone carvings as well as handicrafts.
Prices tend to be much lower than similar items in the West for a fairly high level of quality, depending on the manufacturer.
We can arrange shopping tours in India –contact us for details:

 

Crime and Safety    Top^

India is generally one of the safest countries in the world, considering the overall population and poverty. However crime, mainly petty, such as pick pocketing, may occur and as a traveler one needs to take basic precautions , such as being careful with valuables and avoiding carrying large sums of money or wearing a lot of jewellery especially in crowded places. Violent crime, especially against tourists, is very rare. Gun ownership among the population is very rare.

Travelling at night, or even sightseeing in one of the main cities, is perfectly safe but as is the case anywhere in the world, one must keep in mind that their safety depends on many factors, such as which part of the city you are in, whether you are using your assigned driver or are using taxis off the street etc – women traveling alone need to exercise caution in this regard.

The main areas of tourist interest as well as the vast proportion of the main cities such as Delhi and Mumbai are considered very safe.

Political Crime & Terrorism
Certain areas of India have been placed off limits to travelers , be they Indian or overseas tourists, due to the prevailing political situation. These include most of the Kashmir area, parts of Ladakh, Sikkim and parts of Eastern India, including Assam and Nagaland.

 

Important Things to Keep in Mind     Top^

1. Smoking is not allowed in public places, including airports, railway stations and other such places.
2. You should keep photocopies of important documents such as passports , as a back up in case of loss of your passport. A good way of ensuring access to copies without carrying them around is to scan and send them to your own email for storage for access from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.