All foreign passport holders must be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months after their date of return. Valid visas must be obtained prior to arrival in India with a few exceptions some countries now have visa on arrival. Make sure and check with your local Indian Consulate well before you plan to leave for India. **Please note that Indian visa’s are valid from the day they are issued so if you are planning an extensive tour make sure you do not get your visa too early**
The official languages of India are both Hindi and English. People in business and associated with tourism speak English throughout the country.
The currency of India is the Rupee, which is divided into 100 paise. The Rupee comes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 notes. Please – rarely will any other currency be accepted.
There are over 1.3 billion Indians today and the number is growing daily.
HEALTH & WATER
It is advisable to drink only bottled or distilled water which is readily available throughout the country in small shops, restaurants, grocery stores and hotels. If you find yourself suffering from dehydration or “Delhi belly” there are good hospitals located througout all major cities and the doctors are all well educated and willing to help. If you do not have insurance do not worry as most short visits will only set you back about Rs200 or so (about $5USD). Alternately you can stop at a local “Medicals” store and inquire within for self-medication.
India basically has a tropical climate with three main seasons, however in the winter months of October to March it is advisable to dress warmer if you will be travelling in the Northern states or to any Hill Stations as it is cold.
- Summer season: April to Mid-June
- Monsoon season: Late June to September
- Winter season: October to March
WHAT TO WEAR
India is a conservative county therefore we recommended guests dress in a nature which is both respectful and comfortable. At all times you should make every effort (man or woman) to wear clothing that covers knees and shoulders.
As well we recommend you carry a hat during sightseeing to keep off the mid-day sun or pack an umbrella. And for the evenings a dress or salwar kamize is recommended for ladies and for men you can wear trousers and jeans during the day with comfortable cotton shirts. Of course if you would like a Sari is always welcomed and the locals will be more than happy to help with the fitting.
Hotels & Restaurants – Some hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charges on the bills, no further tipping is necessary. If service charge is not included, 10% is normal, unless service has been extraordinary.
Tour guide & driver’s
Local day tours – $10USD
Full-time private guide – $10USD (minimum per person per day)
Full-time private driver – $3USD (minimum per person per day)
CREDIT CARD USE
In major cities Visa, Master and American Express cards can be used however only in large shops, restaurants and hotels. Please do not rely on your credit card as a source of finance in small cities thoughout your tour or at any “local” shops or street vendors – cash only.
MONEY & ATM’S
ATM’s are located throughout all major cities in India, generally your hotel will be able to exchange major currency as well as local currency exchange shops. Please check the rates as they can vary greatly between vendors. Our recommendation is you use your ATM card (check with your bank before leaving home to find out the service charges) or bring cash in your local home currency as it is easily exhangeable – much easier than travellers cheques or getting cash advances on credit cards. If you find yourself short on finances you can always call home and have money wired to a local western union located throughout India.
India is a shopper’s paradise – but be prepared to negotiate. With products such as hand-woven rugs, inlaid marble, semi-precious stone jewellery, silk fabrics, and brassware jus tto name a few items. Another great idea is to have clothing custom made – fabic is inexpensive and tailors are fast and pleantiful. Souvenir shops and art & craft emporiums are to be found everywhere.
TOUR GUIDES AND SHOPPING
Yes, the guides do take you to shops and showrooms, while you are on tour and in some cases these guides will make a commission on what their clients buy. But when you do visit the store with the guide, you do not necessarily pay a higher price. You can always say “No” when you don’t want to visit the shops or are not interested in shopping with a guide. However you can also use your guide to your advantage and have them negotiate on your behalf if you are not comfortable doing so.
Indians and intrusive questions: Indians are really inquisitive people and their culture is one where people do anything but mind their own business, often due to the lack of personal space and privacy in India. As a result, don’t be surprised or offended if an Indian asks you how much you earn for a living and whether or not you are married within the first moements of initial meeting. This along with a host of other personal questions is quite normal and truly not meant to be offensive. What’s more, you should feel free to ask these type of questions in return. And instead of them taking offense they will be pleased that you’ve taken such an interest in them!
Attention: Some people will unabashedly stare at foreign tourists, who can also be magnets for persistent touts and beggars. Beggars, especially malnourished children and the badly deformed can be particularly disturbing.
Noise: Drivers lean on their horns constantly, radios and TVs blare Bollywood tracks, even temples, mosques and churches use loudspeakers to spread their message.
Pollution: All Indian cities suffer badly from pollution. Exhaust combined with dust can make the drier seasons a nightmare for asthma sufferers.
Crowds: Indian streets, markets, and bazaars are jam-packed with people, vehicles and sometimes cows, dogs, ox, and sometimes an occaisional elephant.
Toilets: India has a combination of what is called “squatter” or Indian toilets and western toilets. You will find in all major hotels standard western toilets, however often they lack tissue paper. And if you find yourself out and about and in need of the facilities do not be shocked to find you will have to use a squatter and make sure to bring some tissue paper.
Traffic: The best way to describe the traffic in India is organized chaos. The traffic at any given time contains a complete array of motor vehicles (4-wheelers), stray dogs, motorcycles (or 2 wheelers) with sometimes up to 5 people riding at a time, lorries, buses, cows, auto rickshaws and ox draw carts. No one pays any attention to the lines on the road – it is “every man for himself”. Police are generally active at all major intersections and there appear to be to adherence to any traffic laws - but somehow it all works and there is rarely if ever roadrage!
Never say NO: For some reason Indian’s have a very difficult time saying NO, so even if they do not know the proper direction to the place you are trying to find they will often give you false directions. They mean no harm, they just feel bad for not be able to help. Other times they will go out of their way to find someone to help.
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