EXPLORE INDIA BECAUSE ITS INCREDIBLE
India is fantastic, complex and crazy!
India is a vast country and home to an ancient culture with a host of historic and architectural treasures unparalleled in the world. But more than anything else, it is India’s enigmatic “otherness” that so fascinates the first-time visitor, for perhaps no other country on earth can offer so much contrast—traveling within the subcontinent feels at times like traveling through time. From the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, where prayer flags flutter against an impossibly blue sky, to the golden deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, where women wear saris saturated with fuchsia and saffron; from the vast plains of Madhya Pradesh, dotted with ruins and tiger parks, to the lush tropical mountains and paradisiacal beaches off the Malabar Coast, the spectrum of images and experiences is stupendous. Perhaps one of the most heterogeneous cultures in the world, with a mosaic of languages, dialects, religions, races, customs, and cuisines, India and its people cannot be defined, labeled, or pigeonholed—only experienced. Whether you’re planning your trip to do a spiritual pilgrimage, view (or shop for) its myriad treasures, live like royalty in medieval palaces, unwind on unspoiled beaches, or simply indulge in the most holistic spa therapies known to man, India will leave an indelible impression on you.
Below please find a short list of key points below to assist with your planning and we can recommend the Lonely Planet website for more detailed information. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india
Air Travel ex Australia & Within India:
A number of major airlines now service India from Australia. Air India offers direct services and other airlines usually fly via Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Many offer discounted economy & business class airfares where you can fly into one Indian city and home from another for convenience and flexibility.
India now boasts improved local airlines, in particular privately operated Jet Airways, Vistara in addition to the government airlines of Air India and low cost carriers such as Indigo and Spice Jet.
India is a fast developing country with and enormous and growing population. You will experience the inescapable symptoms of poverty during your visit and some will be shocking to western eyes. Please do NOT give to beggars as many operate on a professional basis. The best way to ignore them is to not to look them into eyes. Should you wish to make a donation to a charity please discuss with your tour operator.
Business in India is conducted formally, with punctuality an important aspect. Suits and ties are appropriate and women, in particular, should dress modestly. If it is very hot, jackets are usually not required and short-sleeve shirts are deemed appropriate. It is customary to engage in small talk before getting down to business, and topics can range from anything from cricket to politics. Business cards are usually exchanged on initial introduction, using the right hand only. Handshakes are fairly common, though one should wait to see if greeted with a hand, or a ‘namaste’ – a traditional Indian greeting of a small bow accompanied by hands clasped as if in prayer. Visitors should return the greeting. It is common for women to participate in business meetings, and hold high positions in companies, and foreign businesswomen are readily accepted. Business hours are usually from 9.30 to 5.30pm (weekdays) with a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm, and Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm.
Generally speaking the best time to visit is between late October – April although this can vary in some regions and the weather in the far north (Himalayan region) is vastly different to the far south. The monsoon (very wet and very hot) hits hardest between late May and early September and is best avoided. Most safari lodges and game parks are closed over the monsoon.
The World Travel Guide weather web link below sums it all up very well.
Consider loose fitting clothing that covers most of your body and please avoid sleeveless tops and other body exposing garments for both cultural reasons as well as for your personal safety. Aside from selected beach areas or nightclubs a prudish approach to dress is encouraged. Indian dress is also encouraged provided worn correctly so please check with local customs first.
When on safari consider colours that blend with the environment and warmer clothes/windbreakers as early morning safaris can be chilly.
When visiting most places of worship, you will be required to remove your shoes, so a light pair of socks can be useful if you do not wish to go barefoot. In Jain & Hindu temples leather good such as bags, belts & shoes are not permitted. Shorts are NOT appropriate at any places of worship.
Communications – SIM Card:
To purchase a local SIM, at an India airport on arrival, please ensure you have a colour copy of your passport photo page and a passport sized photograph.
Any visitor resident outside India, not being a citizen of Pakistan and Bangladesh (and also not a traveller coming from and going to Pakistan and Bangladesh) may bring into India local currency notes up to an amount not exceeding Rs. 25,000 (approx US$400 worth) subject to entering only through an India airport.
A person coming into India from abroad can bring with him foreign exchange without any limit. However, if the aggregate value of the foreign exchange in the form of currency notes, bank notes or traveller’s cheques brought in exceeds USD 10,000 or its equivalent and/or the value of foreign currency alone exceeds USD 5,000 or its equivalent, it should be declared to the Customs Authorities at the Airport in the Currency Declaration Form (CDF), on arrival in India.
The above is the new notification released by Government of India (updated as on July 17, 2015).
The Indian rupee is a generally stable currency. Rupee coins come in 1, 2 & 5 & 10 denominations and rupee notes in 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 & 1000 denominations. ATM’s linked to major overseas banks are increasingly available in major towns and cities. It is always good policy to have some traveller’s cheques as backup in case of power failures affecting ATM’s or you lose your credit card etc. Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro & Plus are the major ATM cards accepted. If carrying overseas cash use USD or Euros. Some banks and moneychangers will accept Australian dollars.
India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educate themselves about its religious and social customs so as not to cause offence: for example, smoking in public was banned in October 2008. When visiting temples visitors will probably be required to remove their footwear and cover their heads. Generally, women should dress more conservatively than (perhaps) they are used to doing at home, both to respect local sensibilities and to avoid unwanted attention. Topless bathing is illegal. Indians do not like to disappoint, and often instead of saying ‘no’, will come up with something that sounds positive, even if incorrect. Social order and status are very important in Indian culture – remain respectful and obliging with elders.
Travellers to India over 17 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; one bottle of alcohol; medicine in reasonable amounts; 59ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette; and goods for personal use. Prohibited items include livestock, bird and pig meat products.
India operates on a 240v cycle and power sockets are the 3 round-pinned variety, slightly thicker than European round-pinned sockets. Please purchase a suitable adaptor before your journey.
Entry Fees to Major Sites:
The approximate entry costs to major monuments are detailed below. Please also be aware fees are charged to either film at most sites and/or to store your camera or smartphone.
Red Fort INR 500 per person (approx. US$ 8.40)
Qutab Minar INR 500 per person (approx. US$ 8.40)
Taj Mahal INR 1000 per person (approx US$ 16.80)
Agra Fort INR 550 per person (approx US$ 9.20)
Fatehpur Sikri INR 510 per person (approx US$ 8.60)
Amber Fort INR 500 per person (approx US$ 8.40)
City Palace INR 500 per person (approx US$ 8.40)
Observatory INR 430 per person (approx US$ 7.20)
We strongly recommend you seek advice from your doctor or the Travel Medical Alliance (TMA) at least 6 weeks before departure. You can locate your nearest TMA centre on toll free 1300 421142. Whilst there are currently no ‘mandatory’ vaccinations to enter India there is a rabies risk throughout the South Asian sub-continent and you should consider various precautions for stomach upsets, possible altitude sickness etc. An alcohol rub is a good idea for regular hand cleansing. You should pack all medications in original well labeled packaging and a letter from your doctor outlining your medications is recommended.
Outbreaks of Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus occur, both being transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria outbreaks are common in areas above (2,000m), particularly in the north-east of the country. Outbreaks of cholera occur frequently. Food poisoning is a risk in India: all water and ice should be regarded as contaminated, and visitors should drink only bottled water and ensure that the seal on the bottle is intact. Meat and fish should be regarded as suspect in all but the best restaurants, and should always be well cooked and served hot. Salads and uncooked food should be avoided. Health facilities are adequate in the larger cities, but limited in rural areas. Travellers should consider a standard first-aid kit complete with a course of general antibiotics if possible. Diarrhoea is common among travellers to India and is best treated with re-hydration salts; however, if symptoms persist for more than two days visiting a private hospital is recommended. Bird flu has been a problem in the past and travellers should take the necessary precautions when eating poultry and egg dishes.
Ladies – Be Aware!
* Do not shake hands with men. Say ‘Namaste’ (‘I bow to you’) with hands together and a bow of the head instead.
* Avoid walking alone at night.
* Women should be wary of masseuses & keep conversations short with unknown men.
Here is a good website for women travellers to refer to:
There is no shortage of amazing and colourful sights to photograph in India and with the exception of inside the Taj Mahal and at airport (and other restricted areas) you can photograph with confidence. However, you will be required to pay a fee to photograph at most major monuments & sights.
We recommend you check the Australian DFAT website for updates on areas of risk in the Indian sub-continent area. The North West areas bordering Pakistan should especially be avoided and periodically other areas may be risky to travel through. http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/
* There are many scams to take your money in India. Stay vigilant!
* Be careful where you purchase bottled drinking water & ensure the seal is not broken.
* Be careful in large crowds and especially at festivals. Regularly people are trampled to death at large events.
Safety in General:
Travellers in India must be aware of, but not paranoid about, the threat of terrorism. Recent attacks in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Agra and Bangalore occurred in popular tourist haunts like hotels, railway stations, markets and temples. There is the threat that public places frequented by Western tourists in the metropolitan centres (Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai) may be targeted in future. Tourist areas such as Goa are also at risk. Travellers visiting large religious events are advised that these ceremonies, which attract hundreds of thousands of people, can result in life-threatening stampedes. Increased security at major airports means travellers can expect delays. On a more everyday level, there is a risk of minor property left, such as pick-pocketing – but incidents of violent crime in India are astonishingly low. Travellers using India’s vast railway network are advised to lock their baggage, and to keep it as close to them as possible. There are also always stories about India involving scam-artists – so be on your guard, and if someone offers you a ‘business opportunity’ that seems to be good to be true, remember that it probably is.
There is some excellent shopping in India. Just be aware to be sure if there is an import/export duty fee payable on any item you purchase. Many shopkeepers will advise not and this could be untrue and misleading! Bargaining is common however Government emporiums have fixed prices and are generally safer for the purchase of higher value jewellery and textiles. Any item 100 years or older is banned from export out of India! If your local sightseeing guide pressures you to purchase, please advise your India tour operator or Bhutan & Beyond immediately.
Generally speaking taxis are reliable however it is good policy to set the price in advance to avoid any confusion.
Tipping is widely expected throughout India! Please be prepared to tip as follows. These amounts are total tip and not per person:
Hotel & Other Porters Rs 50 per bag or Rs 200 per trolley.
Restaurant staff 10-15% of the bill (if service is not already included).
Drivers Rs 500 per day on average.
Guides Rs 300-400 per half day.
Other hotel services Rs 50+ per event.
Whilst not mandatory it would be extremely foolish to travel to India (or anywhere else for that matter) without a comprehensive travel insurance cover and this should be purchased at the time you make any travel deposits for your maximum protection. Please ensure the comprehensive travel insurance you choose does cover for all activities you are going to be doing while travelling.
Train Travel (except for luxury train journeys):
Some tips to make your train journey more enjoyable.
*Take your own toilet paper! There are 3 Indian squat style toilets and one western style toilet in each carriage.
*Secure your loose items before using Indian squat style toilets…or risk losing them down the drain!
*Most food served on board is vegetarian. Non-vegetarian curries can be purchased cheaply at stations.
*It is customary for train travellers to share their magazines & parts of their newspapers with fellow travellers.
*You will ultimately get them back, well used!
All Australian & USA passport holders require an entry visa to enter India. This could be a single, double or multi-entry visa depending on your itinerary. Australians must apply for your visa direct with VFS-Global at their nearest location to your residence. Visa forms and all associated information can be downloaded from the VFS-Global website as per the web link below. You should lodge your visa application no later than 4 weeks before departure from your home country. There is now an on-line advance e-visa option.
Local India Operators:
Bhutan & Beyond uses the services of Target Tours in India, who in turn, sub-contract to regional hand-picked expert operators.
We have had a long association with the owners of Target Tours and can attest to their reliability and professionalism; the key requirements to make your India experience as rewarding as possible.
Bhutan & Beyond acts as ‘agents for the principals’ and does not operate these tours inside India.