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Facts

Population

1,210,200,000

Capital City

New Delhi

Language

Hindi

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

    Arrival (and departure) transfers are included for all Small Group Journeys. For private tours you will need to book an arrival and departure transfer unless taking a tour which includes these. For those travellers with a transfer, on arrival in India, you will find a representative from Insider Journeys waiting to meet you as you exit the customs area after collecting your luggage.

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  • Internet

    Wifi is available in most hotels but there is an unfortunate tendency for hotels in India to overcharge for this service and it can be expensive.

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  • Food & drink

    Indian food incorporates a number of styles and each region specialises in its own cuisine. Breakfast is included each day on our Small Group Journeys and is usually a mix of buffet and continental style. In rural restaurants, food hygiene is not always up to international standards and in smaller towns or remote areas your hotel may be the only recommended option for eating. Drinking local tap water is not recommended. Bottled water is cheap and readily available throughout India, and provided free in some (not all) hotels and also in our vehicles on private travel itineraries.

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  • Tipping

    If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. India has a strong tipping culture amongst the local people and small amounts of around 50 Rupees per person is generally appropriate for one-off assistance with luggage, or other forms of ad hoc service.Please note that all of our Small Group Journey prices now include tipping of porters, boat operators, safari guides and any other local service providers used throughout your trip.

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  • Swimming

    Most four and five star hotels have swimming pools, and many of our Small Group Journey hotels feature these, especially outside of the major cities. Please note that modesty even around swimming pools is much appreciated in India.

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  • Responsible travel

    Insider Journeys practices a thorough, realistic responsible travel policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Asia’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Asia. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we largely work in a developing part of the world.

    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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