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Facts

Population

1,210,200,000

Capital City

New Delhi

Another fact

Answer

Plug types

Voltage: 230V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Hindu

Currency

Rupee (INR) exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +5:30 hours

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  • What to expect

    Many first-time visitors to India are initially overwhelmed with the chaos, noise, crowds and fast-paced nature of its cities. While India is full of activity and life, it is also a feast for the senses and a celebration of colour and life. Leaving the cities for India's countryside opens up some entirely different sides to India, from its vast deserts to its scenic mountains and tropical south. While India is rich in history and culture, it is also developing at a rapid rate.

    Mobile phones, burgeoning technology industries and Western-style shopping malls can be found amidst more traditional elements of India. Meanwhile, rural India is still home to deeply held traditions and practices. India's poverty and sometimes hectic nature can be confronting, but patient visitors will be rewarded with cultural insights, beautiful landscapes, exotic sights and sounds and beautiful architecture, from temples to Maharajah's palaces.

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Flight times

From London

approximately 9 hours

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Events

Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed here. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our USA-based Asia specialists for details.

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  • 24 December to 2 January is the International New Year period

    , and only schools close during this time in India. Some hotels feature compulsory dinners, and the cost should be settled directly with the hotel.

  • 26 January is a public holiday commemorating Republic Day

    . All government, semi-government and businesses are closed. A major military parade in New Delhi causes traffic disruptions and road closures on the day and during the lead up.

  • February/March (last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna) is Holi Festival

    , an important Hindu festival which is celebrated by throwing coloured water and powder. Some tourist sites are closed and road travel may be disrupted. Wear clothes you don't mind being stained and keep cameras in watertight containers.

  • August/September (determined by the Islamic calendar) marks Bakrid

    , celebrating the end of Ramadan, or month of fasting. Though a public holiday, monuments remain open.

  • 15 August is Independence Day

    , a public holiday where government, semi-government and businesses are closed. The Prime Minister delivers a speech at the Red Fort in Delhi which remains closed to visitors during the two weeks prior.

  • 2 October marks the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi

    , famous for his non-violent means of protest. It is a public holiday and government, semi-government and businesses are closed.

  • October (10th day of the bright half of the Hindu month of Ashvin) is Dussehra

    , an important Hindu festival celebrating the victory of good over evil. It is a public holiday, but monuments remain open.

  • October/November (15th day of the Hindu month of Kartika) is Diwali

    , a five day Hindu festival of lights and sweet-giving, and a time of great joy and celebration in many parts of India. It is a public holiday but monuments remain open.

  • Health & Fitness

    Travellers to India should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. International-standard medical facilities are available in major cities, however elsewhere facilities can be basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in India include hepatitis A and B, dengue, malaria, tetanus, diphtheria and HIV/AIDS.

    We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up-to-date health advice at least one month prior to travel.

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  • Visa Information

    All foreign tourists to India, except nationals of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, must possess a valid visa. Visas are not issued on arrival. Visa issuing services are now outsourced to a company called VFS Global, with local offices and websites in many countries including Australia, UK, US and New Zealand.

    Online application is relatively straightforward and efficient. An itinerary outline is normally requested in the application - a brief outline of the main destinations and dates will usually suffice. Processing times are usually 3-5 working days plus postage time but ensure you allow additional time for any possible delays.

    Applicants’ passports must have a minimum of 6 months validity and 2 blank pages remaining. Additional permits are required for travel to some remote and sensitive border regions in India, but these are mostly rarely visited areas in the far northeastern states. Please check with your local consulate or embassy for further information if travelling to the northeast.

    Please note if travelling to the state of West Bengal including its capital Kolkata and popular hill station of Darjeeling, hotels will request a passport-sized photo on check in; this is a state government regulation. Please carry a sufficient number for your trip to this area.

    Please note Indian visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change and it is your responsibility to ensure your visa is in order before you travel. We strongly suggest that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence that these guidelines are applicable to you.

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  • Safety and security

    India is generally a safe country, however petty street crime does occur. We recommend you take taxis rather than walk at night in poorly lit or quieter areas. Taxis are mostly metered and inexpensive, but make sure the driver activates the meter and is clear on your destination.

    To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card to show taxi drivers. Throughout your stay, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals.

    You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible. We recommend you wear as little jewellery as possible and keep your spending money close to your body in a secure place when out on the street. When travelling on trains, you may wish to take extra precautions with your valuables by using a money belt. Read our safety guidelines for further information.

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Reading

 

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  • India: A History by John Keay

    chronicles five thousand years of South Asian history, including insights from a range of scholars on the area's people, culture and religions.

  • Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald

    is an entertaining account of an Australian radio personality's two year stint living in India, and her exploration of the country and its many and varied religions.

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

    is a novel set in Indian in the mid-1970s, following four people whose lives become intertwined during a period of political upheaval.

  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

    is an epic love story - a tale of life and love involving four extended families set in the early 1950s in newly independent India.

  • Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

    is an account of the author's escape from prison in Australia and subsequent ten years on the run, living in Mumbai. From gun running and working for the Bombay mafia to acting in Bollywood films, this is an extraordinary tale of a man's life on the edge of society.

  • God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    is a fictional account of a family living in Kerala, focussing on the lives of young twins and their childhood amongst a sometimes turbulent backdrop.

Useful words & phrases

  • Hello (or hi)

    Namaste

  • How are you?

    Ap kaise hain?

  • Thank you

    Dhanyavad

  • What is your name?

    Aapka naam Kya Hai?

  • My name is…

    Mera nam...Hai

  • Where do you come from?

    Kahan se aate hain?

  • I come from...(male/female)

    Main...se aa rahaa/rahiihun

  • How much is this?

    Iskaa daam kyaa hai?

  • Expensive!

    Mehngaa!

  • No

    Nahin

  • Yes

    Haan

  • I'm sony

    Mujhe maaf kiijiiye

  • Getting around

    Arrival and departure transfers

    For road journeys in India with Travel Indochina, expect to travel by air-conditioned minibus, modern sedan cars or traditional Ambassador cars. For groups of six or more travellers, air-conditioned Toyota Coaster or Hyundai with 25-40 seats are used. India has numerous regional airlines, though schedules are subject to change.

    India is home to an extensive rail network, and in coach class passengers have an individual reclining seat similar to those on planes. Compartments are air-conditioned or fan-cooled depending on their class. Air-conditioned sleepers usually contain four beds, and clean linen is provided. Boats and camels are also used for transport on occasion and where suitable.

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  • Internet

    Internet cafes are found throughout India, with services at very reasonable prices. Connection speeds can vary, and Wi-Fi is not common. International direct dial is available from most hotels at an extra charge, but is relatively expensive and not always reliable. To make cheaper international calls, look for an STD/PCO/ISD yellow sign outside local businesses. Reverse charge calls can be made from many cities.

    You can use your mobile phone in India, though you will need to organise roaming prior to departure. International post generally takes up to two weeks to reach its destination, with charges slightly lower than most Western rates. Parcels are inspected by a customs official at the post office before being sealed, and boxes are usually available for purchase.

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  • Food & drink

    India's cuisine varies in each region, though vegetables, pulses, rice and aromatic spices are used throughout the country. In Punjab and Rajasthan in the north, curries tend to be thicker, heavier and richer, with meat including lamb often used. In the tropical south, fruits like coconut and tamarind are incorporated, and seafood is popular.

    Throughout India, vegetarians are very well catered for, though vegans should be aware that ghee (clarified butter) is used in many dishes. Hygiene and food handling standards are not always on par with those in Western countries, and stomach upsets can occur.

    It is best to try and eat food that has been freshly prepared. In smaller towns, your hotel restaurant may be the only option outside very basic local eateries. You should not consume tap water in India, though bottled water is widely available.

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  • Tipping

    We believe tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for receiving great service, and while it is accepted practice in Asia, it should never feel like an obligation. At the beginning of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will ask for a small sum (around 50 cents a day) to cover tips for hotel porters and boat crews throughout the trip.

    This helps prevent over tipping and having to always carry small change. We are confident that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our guides, drivers and tour leaders, and in many cases will choose to show this through a tip, so we do not include compulsory tipping for any Travel Indochina representatives on any of our trips. The choice to tip is always completely up to you.

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  • Swimming

    Please note that modesty even around swimming pools is much appreciated in India. Topless swimming or sunbaking or very revealing swimwear may cause offence and should be avoided. Please note that due to the cool night time temperatures from November to February, most hotel swimming pools in the north will not be comfortable for swimming.

    For those visiting south India and especially the coastal states of Goa and Kerala, many beach areas do offer swimming opportunities. However please be very careful about local swimming conditions as most beaches are not properly patrolled and undertows, rips or other dangerous currents may exist.

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  • Responsible travel

    Throughout India, we have included overnights at several unique, environmentally and culturally sensitive lodges. In Rajasthan our travellers spend a night at Osian Camel Camp, which intensively employs local people and which returns tourist revenues to local people during a monthly camel festival.

    In the southern regions of the country, we stay at Coconut Lagoon and Spice Village, two eco-resorts which have a zero-waste program in place and have on-site recycling facilities. Anandham Swamimalai is another award-winning village-style eco lodge which is popular with our travellers.

    All but one of our India Small Group Journeys visit a national park/Project Tiger reserve, ensuring support for several of the country's critical nature reserves and the communities around them for which the parks are now a major source of employment and income. Learn more about our focus on responsible travel.

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