Visas & Permits
• Foreign Nationals (except for Nepal & Bhutan) desirous of coming into India are required to possess a valid passport of their country and a valid Indian Visa. The Indian consular offices around the world issue a standard six month multiple entry visa for the tourists. Visas can be extended for a period of 15 days but that is a very complicated process.
• The foreign nationals of many countries can appply for a eVisa (Electronic Travel Authorization Policy) for a maximum validity of 30 days with single entry facility. For this the arrival has to be at Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai or Trivandrum. Read more...
• In respect of foreign nationals holding Tourist Visas with multiple entry facility, there should be a gap of at least 2 months between two visits to the country on such a Tourist Visa. If any foreign national is required to visit the country again within a period of 2 months of his last departure, such foreign national should obtain special permission from the Mission/Post concerned. The Mission/Post may consider such requests on merits of each case. In all such cases, the foreign national should register himself with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office i.e. FRRO/FRO concerned within 14 days of arrival. An endorsement to this effect will be made on the visa sticker.
• In addition to visas, for security reasons, the tourists are required to obtain special travel permits to visit the “Restricted Areas”. These areas include: the states of Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim; parts of the state of Himachal Pradesh (near Chinese border), Uttarakhand (near Chinese border), Jammu & Kashmir (nearing LOC with Pakistan); portions of Islands of Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep. It is advisable to get an organized tour wherein your travel agent arranges the permits for you.
• Official business hours are generally between 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Sunday is a holiday in all offices. Many remain closed on Saturdays also. Banking hours are 10am – 2 pm from Monday to Friday & 10 am – noon for Saturdays.
• Shops are generally open around 10 am and stay open till 8 pm or later. Close days for different markets in a city may be different. Some are even open 7 days a week.
• Restaurants generally operate between 8 am to 10 pm. Their timings also vary region wise.
Climate & Clothing
The geographically diverse country like India unsurprisingly has an equally varied climate. The weather in North at a time is very different from that of South. In the winters (November – February) when its biting cold in the Himalayan states of North India, it is quite comfortable in the down South. Indian seasons can be broadly divided into three categories – cold, wet and hot.
Winters (November - February): Winters are chilly and bring in snowfall in the states bordering the Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh etc).The months of December & January see the cold winds sweeping the plains of other northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab , Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan. Good woolens will be required when travelling in these areas. Dressing in layers will be wise.
Unlike the above, the weather is pleasant in the southern states. Only the hill stations there would require you to carry some warm clothing.
Summers (mid April – mid October): Summer time temperature may shoot up to 40 degree Celsius or even greater in the plains of the northern & central India. The weather in the southern states is sultry. Light cotton wears are advisable. Weather-wise it is not a very good time to travel in India barring the hill stations where the days are pleasant while the evenings a bit colder with the mercury dipping a little. It is considered to be an off season for the Indian tourism industry so the hotel rates are significantly low. The travelers on tight budgets can strike great deals at this time.
Monsoons (June – September): Kerala in south India is the first to receive rains in the country. India is home for two of the world’s wettest places viz. Cherrapunji & Mawsynrum (both in Meghalaya). North eastern states receive good amount of rain. The rains, especially in the hilly regions, may hamper your tour program but no doubt the scenic beauty is at its best during the monsoons. Do carry some light clothes that can dry quickly. An umbrella or rain gear may come handy at some places.
• Travelling with a health insurance cover is advisable be it any country. One may require an extra cover for adventure activities.
• The only vaccination required by international regulations is yellow fever, if arriving from a place in yellow fever zone.
• UTo protect yourself from mosquito and insect bites, use insect repellants on exposed skin and in the evenings consider wearing clothes that cover your skin the most.
• It is advisable to drink bottled water only, especially when outside your hotel. Also avoid eating anything from road side vendors. The Indian food, normally, is spicy by western standards. If you are not used to spices at all, do make it clear with the restaurant at the time of ordering.
• Although there is no dearth of good doctors in the country and the treatment is also cheap as compared to western nations we suggest you to carry a kit of some common medicines for stomach upset, insect bites common cough & cold etc.
• The Indian currency is Rupee(s). Coins come in the denominations of 50 paise (1 Rupee = 100 paise), 1, 2, 5 & 10 Rs ; notes come in Rs 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 & 1000.
• Modern 24 hrs ATMs linked to international networks are common in most cities of India. However, it is advisable to carry some cash & also money in the form of travelers’ cheque for backup as they are widely recognized. You must present your passport whenever you change currency for travelers’ cheques.
• Major currencies such as US dollars, UK pounds and Euros are easy to change throughout India. Changing money through unauthorized persons is illegal.
• Most mid range and top end hotels, up market restaurants and shops accept major credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, Visa and MasterCard.
• Tourists can bring any amount of foreign currency by filling in a declaration form on arrival. Officially, you cannot take rupees out India. You can change any leftover rupees back into foreign currency, most easily at the airport. Note that some airport banks will only change a minimum of Rs 1000. You may require encashment certificates or a credit-card receipt, and you may also have to show your passport and airline ticket.
Languages: There are as many as 22 major languages with hundreds of dialects spoken across the country. Hindi is the most widely spoken Indian language though with some regional touch or accent at different places throughout the country. English is also widely understood and spoken. Getting around the country with English should not be a problem at all. Still, a little knowledge of the local language would always come handy.
Accommodation: The country has a wide array of accommodation options ranging from budget to top end ones that share the podium with the best hotels worldwide. Besides the Indian biggies like the Taj and Oberoi, several international chains like Radisson, Accor, Le Meridian, Choice hotels are active in the Indian hospitality sector. Stay in different accommodation types viz.
Heritage hotels: These are palaces & forts of yester year maharajas (kings) that have now been converted into hotels that are maintained to exude the same air and offer their guests the same kingly treatment.
Ayurveda resorts: These have an in house team of deft doctors and masseurs to provide their guest the best suited treatment based on Ayurveda (the oldest known medicine system of the world). Even if you are in the pink of your health, you can stay here to benefit from rejuvenating massages.
Ashrams: Those who come to India in quest for spirituality must consider staying in ashrams at various locations throughout the country. But do keep in mind that the ashrams have their own set of rules or rather daily schedule to which all residents are supposed to adhere. Also it is mandatory to stay for a minimum no. of days in the ashram as decided by the ashram authorities.
Houseboats: This staying option is available only in lakes of Srinagar & backwaters of Kerala. While the houseboats at Srinagar remain anchored in the midst of the lake (for movement there are small sleek boats called shikaras), those in Kerala glide at a leisurely pace passing across the paddy fields, tiny hamlets where you find the villagers busy in their routine work, women coming to the water edges to haggle with the shopkeeper boatman, washing clothes or utensils while standing knee deep in the water, kids going to school in boats, people catching fishes for lunch and dinner, flocks of ducks & water hens all of which make for a wonderful sight.
Home Stays: To all our inquisitive and interactive guests we suggest experiencing a home stay. There is nothing like staying with a local family in their house if you want to know or rather feel the essence of a place. Your host can introduce you to his country and its life, culture and practices far better than any guide book. Most of the home stays are lived - in houses with spare rooms thrown open to guests. Depending upon the location, there are highland estate bungalows, heritage backwater homes, hideaway homes in the plantation area.
• Besides the major players like Indian, Jet airways and Kingfisher, there are a no. of low cost carriers (no frill airlines) like SpiceJet, Indigo, Go airways etc that connect more than 80 cities across India.
• Air fares vary according to airline and season i.e. the fares shoot up during the tourist season (October –March) of India.
• In India also we have a provision of discounted advance purchase fare that is less than the normal fare. These fares change according to the occupancy in the flight that means the earlier you book the better discount you can avail. But there is no provision of holding the tickets under this fare. Also the cancellation cost such ticket is much greater than the normal ones.Railways:
• India has one of the largest rail networks in the world. It is the cheapest and also the best mode of transport to cover long distances in the country.
• Besides the fast paced trains like Shatabdi and Rajdhani express, there are quite a few luxury trains, rather luxury hotels moving on wheels, operating on various routes viz.
- Palace-on-wheels & Royal Rajasthan on Wheels : Touring throughout Rajasthan
- Golden Chariot: Cutting across Karnataka and Goa
- Deccan Odyssey: Covering Maharashtra
- Splendor of the South: traversing Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
• India’s quaint toy trains that chug up hill on a narrow gauge are an experience in themselves. Two of them – Darjeeling Himalayan Railway & Kalka – Shimla toy train appear on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.Roadways:
• In the countryside and remote areas where the rail network cannot be accessed and airline operations are few or non-existent roadways are the but obvious means of transport. We say, the real experience of a country lies in road traveling because it’s not just about destinations but also about attractions/places/people/colors you see en route as you drive from one destination to another.
As a shopping destination the USP of India is that here you will find good value for money and the variety available would never cease to surprise you. But do pay attention to the following things
• Always ask for an invoice when you purchase goods, so that the entire transaction is legal and transparent and if need be, as in case of dissatisfaction, you can claim later.
• In case of payment by a credit card, always insist that your card be swiped in front of you.
Always sign the customer copy of the charged slip and keep it safe with you.Be very cautious when dealing with street sellers outside the sightseeing venues as they may become aggressive if you negotiate and don’t buy.
Do keep in mind that there is a lot of scope for haggling at most of the shops but for the big ones and branded showrooms. For typical traditional Indian articles you can look for the Govt. Emporiums where the rates are fixed and the quality generally good.
• Display of affection in public like kissing and hugging is not appreciated by the Indians.
• Dress conservatively, especially when you are visiting any place of religious importance.
• Always remove your shoes when entering any place of worship like a temple or a shrine.
• Before clicking, make sure if photography is not prohibited at the place. Always seek for permission in case you wish to take picture of an individual.
• As such there is no general rule for tipping and it is by no means compulsory but is always desirable. Porters and bell boys are happy with Rs 20-30. At the restaurants, if the service charge is not included, a tip of 10% of the total amount will be ok
• All major hotels offer subscriber trunk dialing (STD) & International subscriber dialing (ISD). The STD & ISD booths in the market offer much cheaper call rates.
• It is advisable to carry a GSM mobile phone, for you can easily acquire a SIM card from the airport itself. You will be required to present your passport (photo ID) and one or two passport sized photographs.
• Internet cafés can be found easily in the market areas even in the smaller towns. Most large hotels offer internet access to their guests. Please check, for some hotels charge for this service while others may not.