Travel guide to India

India's large animal reserves are the experience of a lifetime. You can find close on every single possible kind of wild animal in just one place. India is ideal for expeditions through impressive landscapes; the home of snakes, elephants, lions, monkeys and panthers. The list never ends, and this is a country that must be experienced to be believed.

Facts

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Local name
Republic of India
Capital
New Delhi (10.100.000)
Size
3.287.000 km2
Principal Languages
Hindi and English
Principal Religion
Hindu
Inhabitants
(2000) 1.000.000.000
Government
Republic
Geography
Indian borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The Northeastern states are almost totally cut off from the rest of the country by Bangladesh. The Himalayan Mountains that rise up in the north, the Indus River in the west, and the Ganges River in the east - all form a physical barrier between India and the rest of Asia. You will find almost every kind of landscape in India - there are deserts, mountains, lowlands, fertile soil by the coast, and cool highlands.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Because the country is so large it is difficult to find an exact time that would be best to visit. It depends on the area, but for most of the country October to March are the most comfortable months.

Literature

Lonely Planet India A Passage to India

Local conditions

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Currency

Rupee (Rs)

Net cafes

There are Internet cafés in all parts of India - especially in the larger cities.

In case of emergency

Police (100) Ambulance (102)

Tipping

At tourist restaurants and hotels it is customary to add 10% to the bill as a service fee. At smaller establishments it is customary to tip, but not necessarily 10%. The term 'baksheesh' is otherwise well known throughout India. It covers the idea that you are paying more for getting something done than you are giving a tip. For example if something is missing it will most likely turn up again very quickly if you pay 'baksheesh'.

Timezone

When the time is 12:00 in England (summer time) it is 16:30 in India. When the time is 12:00 in England (winter time) it is 17.30 in India.

Weight and Measures

In India they use the metric system for measuring.

Photography

There are several places where you have to be careful with taking pictures, especially near military or border chechpoints. A large proportion of the population does not appreciate being photographed either, so all in all it is a good idea to always ask first.

Drinking water

All water should be boiled before use.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz

Behaviour

You should always behave quietly and calmly in India, there are many sacred places and you should follow the instructions given there. Women are advised to dress so that their whole body is covered.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 10:00 10 14:00 (Monday-Friday) and from 10:00 to 12:00 (Saturday). Shops are open from 10:00 to 17:00 (Monday- Saturday). Offices are open from 10:00 to 17:00 (Monday- Friday).

Food and drink

The most important word in Indian cooking is 'spice'. India is well known for excellent food - especially curry (found in most dishes). It is not curry as we know it that creates the characteristic taste, but a mixture of five to six different herbs and spices. Dishes with animal flesh are mostly served in the northern part of the country - and this is mostly chicken or lamb. Many dishes in India are purely vegetarian - and these are exquisite. On the coast you can also get many dishes with fish and shellfish. With regard to beverages, tea is the most common drunk in the country, whilst coffee is becoming more and more common. Moreover it is possible to get really good Indian beer, gin, rum, and wine.

Disabled travellers

The facilities for the disabled are not very good in India, particularly if you want to travel around the country. The buses are often crammed and ill-equipped for the disabled. Furthermore there are very few places that you can easily enter with a wheelchair. Despite all of this there are many disabled people who accept the challenge and go to India. A good piece of advice would be to contact the places you would like to visit before going there.

Holidays

New Years Day, January 1st The Day of the Republic, January 26th Independence Day, August 15th Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday, October 2nd Christmas Day, December 25th

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are camping grounds in most of India - the best thing to do is to ask at your local travel agency.

Hotels

Large luxury hotels can be found in all the major cities and in most of the larger tourist areas. Middle class and less expensive hotels can be found in almost all cities. The hotels range from 5-star deluxe to 1-star and tourist bungalows.

Hostels

You can find youth hostels/hostels in almost all cities and areas in India. Youth hostels are usually inexpensive accommodation, but there is a difference in quality and price depending on the area.

Other Accommodation

You can take trips and spend the night on houseboats on many of the rivers in India. The standard varies, but very often they do have modern facilities such as electricity, hot water, and a good kitchen.

Local transport

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Planes

Domestic flying is easy in India. There are flights to all the major cities in the country and many airlines to choose from. Sometimes it is possible to get a 'pass' that allows you to travel to several different cities at a cheaper price, and you can choose how long the pass is for, for example 21 days, which enables you to fly as much as you like.

Bus

A network of buses connects most of the country. Buses are a good form of transportation, especially in the mountains where there are not any trains. You should be aware that the buses are usually overcrowded, in poor condition, and that at times it will take ages compared to the distance you travel.

Trains

The Indian railway system is the largest in Asia. There are over 70.000 kilometers of tracks and 7000 stations. Trains carry more than 12 million passengers every single day. The trains cover most of the country and are a good and cheap way to travel. Check the local station for departures and prices. You can purchase an Indrail pass, which means that you can ride all lines for a certain period (for example - 21 days). This pass can only be bought by foreigners and can be ordered in advance in the UK.

Taxi

There are taxis and auto-rickshaws in all of the country's major cities. A few have meters, but it is still a good idea to negotiate a price before starting the ride.

Car rental

In many tourist agencies it is possible to rent a car with a chauffer to drive you around. Generally it is not possible to just rent a car that you can drive yourself, but there are e few cities where it is possible

Boat or Ferry

There are houseboats that sail up and down many of the rivers and you can spend the night on them. Moreover there are many boats and ferries that sail along the coast and they sail right out to many of the islands that can also be found off the coast.

Special conditions

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It should be emphasized that it is very important that you have a good insurance policy in case of sickness, and that you have all your vaccinations in order - before you go to India. You should also be careful when visiting certain parts of the country. You are highly recommended to read any current Foreign Office guidelines on India before leaving on your trip.

Find your travel arrangement to India here

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