India known to be the largest democracy in the world with a population of 1.3 billion people and a diversity of religion and culture to match. Due to the varying climatic regions of India, it produces 75 varieties of spices in the world of the 105 varieties recognized by the International Standard Organization. Though colonized by the British for 200 years India’s unique cultural identity still remains through the recognition by UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the 36 of India’s natural and man-made world heritage sights some are easily recognizable by name such as the Taj Mahal (symbol of the emperor’s love for his queen which took 22 years to complete), or intricate Hindu stone carving of Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh. India aside from the magnificent architectural and natural marvels there is a deep unique spiritual past as well. Incorporating landmarks like the River Ganga has a great spiritual and symbolic significance in the Hindu faith. Come and learn of India’s heritage filled with colorful traditions, architectural marvels and wildlife.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Mainland Territory: 3,287,469 square kilometres (1,269,299 sq mi)
Population: 1.36 billion (2019)
National Capital: New Delhi
International Calling Code: +977
Indian history is considered by many as the cradle of human civilization. Artifacts dating back to as much as 500,000 years have been found. India’s history and culture is as ancient and dynamic, spanning back to the beginning of human civilization. Beginning with a mysterious culture along the Indus River and in farming communities in the southern lands of India. The history of India is one punctuated by constant integration with migrating peoples and with the diverse cultures that surround India. Placed in the center of Asia, history in India is a crossroads of cultures from China to Europe, and the most significant Asian connection with the cultures of Africa.
The History of India begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization in such sites as Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and Lothal, and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are usually described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic periods. It is in the Vedic period that Hinduism first arose: this is the time to which the Vedas are dated.
In the fifth century, large parts of India were united under Ashoka. He also converted to Buddhism, and it is in his reign that Buddhism spread to other parts of Asia. It is in the reign of the Mauryas that Hinduism fundamentally shaped the religion to the present day. Successor states were more fragmented.
Islam first came to India in the eighth century, and by the 11th century had firmly established itself in India as a political force; the North Indian dynasties of the Lodhis, Tughlaqs, and numerous others, whose remains are visible in Delhi and scattered elsewhere around North India, were finally succeeded by the Mughal empire, under which India once again achieved a large measure of political unity.
The European presence in India dates to the seventeenth century and it is in the latter part of this century that the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate, paving the way for regional states. In the contest for supremacy, the English dominated and ruled India marked by the conquests at the battlefields of Plassey and Buxar.
The Rebellion of 1857-58, which sought to restore Indian supremacy, was crushed; and with the subsequent crowning of Victoria as Empress of India, the incorporation of India into the empire was complete. After WW1 Gandhi organized the first of his many effective passive-resistance campaigns in protest of Britain’s oppressive rule in India. In the 1930s, the British government made some concessions to the Indian nationalists, but during World War II discontent with British rule had grown to such a degree that Britain feared losing India to the Axis. Gandhi and other nationalist leaders rejected as empty the British promises of Indian self-government after the war and organized the nonviolent “Quit India” campaign to hasten the British departure. British colonial authorities responded by jailing Gandhi and hundreds of others. Anti-British demonstrations accelerated after the war, and in 1947 the Indian National Congress reluctantly accepted the creation of Pakistan to appease the Muslim League and conclude the independence negotiations. On August 15, 1947, the Indian Independence Bill took effect, inaugurating a period of religious turmoil in India and Pakistan that would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, including Gandhi, who was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic in January 1948 during a prayer vigil to an area of Muslim-Hindu violence.
India the seventh largest country in the world, is well marked with off from the rest of Asia by mountains and the sea, which gives the country a distinct geographical identity. Bounded by the great Himalayas to the north , it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off in the Indian ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian sea to the west. You will notice four separate regions in the country – the plains, the mountains, the southern peninsula and the desert.
The eastern and middle portion of India is made up of productive Indo-Gangetic plains. The Thar Desert in Rajasthan is located to the northwest. The Ganges, Son, Brahmaputra, Chambal, Yamuna, and Gogra are the major rivers of India.
The major peaks in India are the Nanda Devi (25,645 feet/7,817 meters), Kanchenjunga (28,208 feet/8,598 meters), the third highest peak in the globe located on the boundary between Nepal and Sikkim, Badrinath (23,420 feet/7,138 meters), Kamet (25,447 feet/7,756 meters) and Dunagiri (23,179 feet/7,065 meters). The Andaman and Nicobar in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian sea are the two major groups of island are part of the territory of India.
India is composed of 29 states and 7 union territories (including a national capital territory). The union territories are governed by administrators, appointed by the President of India. Two of the territories (Delhi and Puducherry) have been given partial statehood, with elected legislatures and executive councils of ministers, but limited powers. The legislative and controlling division and running of any country is a complex and vital aspect of its governance, if it is to be effective and to the advantage of its citizens. India’s Administrative Divisions are sub-national and are made up of villages, municipalities, blocks, clusters of villages, and so on. Villages are the lowest level of sub-dividing and there are over a quarter of a million villages in India. In the cases of villages, a body is chosen to control population groups of 500 people at a time. This usually means that several villages need to be combined in order to achieve a combined population of this number. Municipalities are appointed in urban and suburban areas. They are called Municipal Corporations in large urban areas, Municipal Councils in small urban areas and Town Councils in suburban areas. The municipality is responsible for the town or city in terms of its services and infrastructure (which includes the building and maintenance of roads, the provision of sufficient shopping malls, and so on). The parliamentary and state assembly elections are held every 5 years to elect the Central and state governments. In India, it gives its citizens the right to vote irrespective of their caste, color, creed, religion, and gender. It has five democratic principles – sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic.
According to the Census of India of 2001 Census recorded 30 languages which were spoken by more than a million native speakers and 122 which were spoken by more than 10,000 people. Two contact languages have played an important role in the history of India: Persian and English. Persian was the court language during the Mughal period in India. It reigned as an administrative language for several centuries until the era of British colonization. English continues to be an important language in India. It is used in higher education and in some areas of the Indian government. Hindi, the most commonly spoken language in India and English are both the official language of the Indian government designated by the constitution of India. Despite the misconceptions, Hindi is not the national language of India. The Constitution of India does not give any language the status of national language. The population is categorized in terms of the 1,652 mother tongues spoken.
The ethno-linguistic composition of the population is a melting pot of many who migrated to India over the centuries and because it is also considered a cradle of human civilization it is more difficult to make the distinction in the usual term like in other countries. The majority of the population fall within two large linguistic groups, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. Indian society is traditionally divided into castes or clans, not ethnicities, and these categories have had no official status since independence in 1947, except for the scheduled castes and tribes which remain registered for the purpose of affirmative action.
All foreign nationals entering India are required to possess a valid international travel document in the form of a national passport with a valid visa obtained from an Indian Mission or Post abroad or online.
e-visa On 27 November 2014, the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) facility became operational for citizens of over 40 eligible countries, including those who are eligible for visa on arrival. The list was further expanded to 113 countries in August 2015 (see chart below). ETA is issued for tourism, visiting friends and family, short duration medical treatment and business visits. The scheme was renamed to e-Tourist Visa (eTV) on 15 April 2015. On 1 April 2017 the scheme was renamed e-Visa.
An application for e-Visa must be made at least four calendar days in advance of the date of arrival and can be made as early as 120 days in advance. The visa is valid for 60 calendar days from the date of arrival, and can be obtained three times in a calendar year. Double entry is permitted on e-Tourist Visa and e-Business Visa. Triple entry is permitted on e-Medical Visa. The duration of stay cannot be extended. The e-Visa fees are divided into four slabs of zero, US$25, US$80 and US$100, depending on nationality (based on reciprocity; see table below and notes), plus a bank fee of 2.5% of the visa fee.
E-Visa link: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html
The documents required for e-Visa are :
- For e-Tourist Visa
- Scanned information page of your passport showing the Photograph and personal details
e-Visa allows arrival at the following 26 airports and 5 seaports
Exit is possible via any authorized immigration check post.
Citizens of the following countries and territories who hold ordinary passports are eligible to obtain the e-Visa (unless the citizen is of Pakistani origin):
Services of e-Visa involves completely online application for which no facilitation is required by any intermediary / agents etc. It is advised not to believe or fall in trap of any such unscrupulous elements who claim speedy/express grant of e-Visa and charge money for it.
Do not share your personal information with any unauthorized website as it may lead to your personal data piracy. Only visit Government of India website with address indianvisaonline.gov.in for any kind of service or clarification. For any clarification or doubt, you may write to us on our email i.e. [email protected].
- International travelers whose sole objective for visiting India is recreation, sight seeing, casual visit to visit friends and relatives, attending a short term yoga programmed, medical treatment including treatment under Indian systems of medicine, business purpose, as attendant to e-Medical visa holder, attending a conference/ seminar/ workshop organized by a Ministry or Department of the Government of India, State Governments or UT Administrations etc. & their subordinate/ attached organizations & PSUs and no other purpose/activity.
- Passport should have at least six months validityfrom the date of arrival in India. The passport should have at least two blank pages for stamping by the Immigration Officer.
- International Travelers should have return ticket or onward journey ticket, with sufficient money to spend during his/her stay in India.
- International Travelers having Pakistani Passport or Pakistani origin may please apply for regular Visa at Indian Mission.
- Not available to Diplomatic/Official Passport Holders or Laissez-passer travel document holders.
- Not available to individuals endorsed on Parent’s/Spouse’s Passport i.e. each individual should have a separate passport.
- Not available to International Travel Document Holders.
Note: As of June 2018, the visa fee for citizens of:
- countries with mark “1”, and the UK, is US$100
- countries with mark “2” is US$25
- countries with mark “3” is US$0
- countries without any mark (except the UK) is US$80
You can contact your travel agent organizing your trip in China to help with the visa processing.
WEATHER & HOLIDAYS
The Climate of India comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a vast geographic scale and varied topography, making generalizations difficult. The majority of India is tropical and is affected by three main seasons; summer,winter and monsoon. Based on the Köppen system, India hosts six major climatic subtypes, ranging from arid desert in the west, alpine tundra and glaciers in the north, and humid tropical regions supporting rainforests in the southwest and the island territories. Many regions have starkly different microclimates. The country’s meteorological weather trend is as follows: winter (December, January and February), summer (March, April and May), a monsoon rainy season (June to September), and a post-monsoon period (October to November). The Himalayas stop cold winds from reaching most of India so winters remain warm and summers can get very hot. The best time to visit India is from October to March.
From the list of holidays one can see the diversity of religion and ethnicity are celebrated year round.
New Year’s Day
Guru Govind Singh Jayanti
Chinese New Year
Guru Ravidas Jayanti
Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Jayanti
Hazarat Ali’s Birthday
First day of Passover
Birthday of Ravindranath
Bakr Id/Eid ul-Adha
Raksha Bandhan (Rakhi)
Parsi New Year
Ganesh Chaturthi/Vinayaka Chaturthi
Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti
Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti
Karaka Chaturthi (Karva Chauth)
Chhat Puja (Pratihar Sashthi/Surya Sashthi)
Guru Nanak Jayanti
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom Day
First Day of Hanukkah
Last day of Hanukkah
New Year’s Eve
The popularity of Indian cuisine is continually on top of the world foodie lists. Top celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and many more all over the world recognize that Indian cuisine’s variety of flavors and complexity has made it stand above the rest.
Here are some dishes that will ticket your tastebuds.
1 – ALU GOBI
Alu Gobi is a dry dish made with potatoes (aloo), cauliflower (gobi) and Indian spices. It is yellowish in color, due to the use of turmeric, and occasionally contains kalonji and curry leaves. Other common ingredients include garlic, ginger, onion, coriander stalks, tomato, peas, and cumin. It all adds up to one of the most popular dishes ordered in Indian restaurants.
2 – BUTTER CHICKEN
Butter chicken is traditionally cooked in a tandoor; but may be grilled, roasted or pan-fried in less authentic preparations. The gravy is made by first heating fresh tomato, garlic, and cardamom into a bright red pulp, which is then pureed after cooling, then the chef adds butter, Khoa and various spices, often including asafoetida, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, fenugreek and fresh cream.
3 – ROGAN JOSH
Rogan josh (or roghan josh) is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine: originally it was brought to Kashmir by the Mughals. It is one of the main dishes of the Kashmiri multi-course meal (the “Wazwan”). It consists of braised lamb chunks cooked with a gravy based on browned onions or shallots, yogurt, garlic, ginger and aromatic spices (cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon). Its characteristic brilliant red color traditionally comes from liberal amounts of dried Kashmiri chillies that have been de-seeded to reduce their heat: these chillies are considerably milder than the typical dried cayenne chillies of Indian cuisine. The recipe’s spiciness is one of fragrance rather than heat, and the dish is mild enough to be appreciated by western palates that may not be used to spicy tastes. If you love lamb, this is a must eat dish.
4 – SAMOSAS
Samosas are a fried or baked pastry with savoury filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils and sometimes ground lamb, ground beef or ground chicken. They were introduced to India during the Muslim Delhi Sultanate when cooks from the Middle East and Central Asia migrated to work in the kitchens of the Sultan and the nobility. Indian samosas are usually vegetarian, and often accompanied by a mint sauce or chutney. Samosas are a common street food and many tourists or Indians eat them as a midday snack.
5 – TANDOORI CHICKEN
Tandoori chicken a popular North Indian dish consisting of roasted chicken prepared with yogurt and spices. The name comes from the type of cylindrical clay oven, a tandoor, in which the dish is traditionally prepared. The chicken is marinated in yogurt and seasoned with the spice mixture tandoori masala. Cayenne pepper, red chili powder or Kashmiri red chili powder is used to give it a fiery red hue. This dish goes so well with steaming basmati rice and crispy naan.
6 – MALAI KOFTA
Malai Kofta is a tasty vegetarian alternative. Restaurant style malai kofta is cooked in a creamy gravy made of tomatoes and cashew nuts. Malai actually means, “cream” and both the kofta and the sauce literally melts in your mouth. A heavenly dish that soaks up rice nicely.
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7 – MASALA CHAI
There’s nothing like the experience of stopping a Chai Wallah on the street and ordering a steaming cup of masala chai when in India. Made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic spices and herbs. The beverage has gained worldwide popularity, becoming a feature in many coffee and teahouses. Traditionally it is prepared by a decoction of green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn together with black tea leaves, In international tea shops, it’s often sold in a tea bag form, with a variety of revolving recipes, but once combined with steaming hot milk, it’s delicious all around, whether found in India or your hometown.
8 – MATAR PANEER
Matar Paneer is a vegetarian north Indian dish consisting of peas and farmer’s cheese (paneer) in a tomato-based sauce and spiced with garam masala. It is often served with rice, naan, paratha, poori, or roti (depending on the region). Most lovers of this dish recommend dipping whatever bread is accompanying the meal into the delicious tomato gravy.
9 – NAAN
Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread that’s normally served with all meals. Typically, it will be served hot and brushed with ghee or butter. In non-traditional circles, different varieties of naan are available, like garlic naan or cheese naan. However you eat it, naan acts as almost a spoon to soup up sauce or dipped into chutneys. An Indian meal isn’t complete without naan at its side.
10 – BEEF VINDALOO
Vindaloo itself is a curry dish popular in the region of Goa. It is known globally in its Anglo-Indian form as a staple of curry house menus, often regarded as a fiery spicy dish, though it is not necessarily the hottest dish around. A variety of meats can become a vindaloo dish such as lamb or chicken, but beef vindaloo is one of the most popular versions. A vindaloo paste can be a blend of chilies with cumin, coriander and other authentic spices. Traditionally a very hot curry with tomatoes, onions and of course loads of chilies, but many Indian restaurants ease down the hotness, by adding less chilies. If you want a bit of fire in your mouth, order this dish!
Most destinations have plenty of wifi cafes (it is usually bait to bring customers in) and you can connect and send and receive e-mails.
Cyber cafes are easily available too. It would be safe to assume that you would be close to an internet connection virtually every other day. However, the wifi connection might not always be a strong one or many people use it at the same time. Skype or streaming movies is not always possible.
Firstly, it is not absolutely necessary to have an Indian number while travelling but comes in handy to keep in contact with your guide and driver. If you have an unlocked smartphone you can purchase a local sim to use locally can save you money for both data and calls as opposed from using your overseas service from home.
Another option is to bring a mobile wifi box either with you from home or purchase one locally. You can put the rented sim in the wifi box to share with your partner to send and receive emails or access to the web.
You need the following to get a SIM card in India (please carry beforehand):
- A passport sized photograph (ideally with 2 copies)
- Copy of your passport
- Copy of your visa (very important)
Prepaid (pay as you go) SIM cards are available everywhere. Typically, each street would have a store that sells SIM cards. You will not miss the ‘Vodafone/Cell phone recharge/Airtel’ boards. Just tell them that you want to purchase a new SIM card.
The hotel reception will always be able to point you in the direction of the closest store to get a SIM card. If you first arrive in Delhi, you can purchase a SIM card and an inexpensive handset at the airport itself.
A SIM card usually is free or costs under INR 100. Recharging it with credit worth INR 500 is sufficient. If you do not have a phone, basic phones can be purchased for about INR 2000 (USD 40, euros 30).
Be prepared that it can take a couple of hours until the SIM card gets activated.
Planning a trip to India with a smartphone it’s a smart choice. Having email and usage of applications like Whatsapp will come in handing to connect with family& friends and especially your guide during your travels.
Get travel vaccines and medicines because there is a risk of these diseases in the country you are visiting.
CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in India, regardless of where you are eating or staying.
You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in India. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.
Ask your doctor what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going, how long you are staying, what you will be doing, and if you are traveling from a country other than the US.
CDC recommends this vaccine for adults who are traveling to areas of active cholera transmission. Cholera is assumed to be present in India. Cholera is rare in travelers but can be severe. Certain factors may increase the risk of getting cholera or having severe disease (more information). Avoiding unsafe food and water and washing your hands can also prevent cholera.
You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so CDC recommends this vaccine if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.
Talk to your doctor about how to prevent malaria while traveling. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria. Areas of India with risk of malaria: All areas throughout the country, including cities of Bombay (Mumbai) and Delhi, except none in areas >2,000 m (6,562 ft) in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Sikkim (see Map 3-29). See more detailed information about malaria in India.
You may need this vaccine if your trip will last more than a month, depending on where you are going in India and what time of year you are traveling. You should also consider this vaccine if you plan to visit rural areas in India or will be spending a lot of time outdoors, even for trips shorter than a month. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans. See more in-depth information on Japanese encephalitis in India.
Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in India, so CDC recommends this vaccine for the following groups:
· Travelers involved in outdoor and other activities (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) that put them at risk for animal bites.
· People who will be working with or around animals (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and researchers).
· People who are taking long trips or moving to India
· Children, because they tend to play with animals, might not report bites, and are more likely to have animal bites on their head and neck.
Above recommendations from the CDC,
ALWAYS PURCHASE EMERGENCY HEALTH AND EVACUATION INSURANCE
Currency, Banking, and Credit Cards
The local currency are called Rupees they come in paper and coin.
- coins: you can get lots of different coins here, but the largest, 10 Rupees, is worth 15 cents. I often leave any coins as tips when I travel.
- 5 Rs bill (also a coin) = 8 cents
- 10 Rs bill = 15 cents
- 20 Rs bill = 31 cents
- 50 Rs bill = 77 cents
- 100 Rs bill = $1.55
- 500 Rs bill = $7.76
- 2000 Rs bill = $31.06
Note above is of 2017. An currency conversion app like XE converter comes very handy: https://www.xe.com/apps/iphone/
As you can see there is a huge difference between the 500 note and the 2000 note which is the largest note. This is because recently the 1000 rs note was taken out of circulation with no news that it would re-enter.
Because of this, it’s difficult to break 2000 Rs. notes outside of fancy restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels. When you can, try to break this big bill so that you have smaller change. Having smaller change will also make it easier to negotiate when you are shopping.
Exchanging foreign currency
It’s always best to change money at the airport money changer or atm in India before you step out of the terminal. USD and Euros are the easiest to exchange on your trip to India. Keep in mind that U.S. bills must be clean and not ripped or marked with lots of ink or writing. Otherwise, you may have difficulty exchanging them.
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Banks offer good exchange rates, but they tend to be inefficient and the staff lethargic about tending to foreigners’ needs. You run the risk of being ripped off by using unauthorized money-changers; the most convenient option is to use ATMs while you’re in the big cities. Always ask for an encashment receipt when you change cash — you will need this when you use local currency to pay for major expenses (such as lodging and transport, though you should use a credit card wherever possible). You will also be asked to produce this receipt when you re-exchange your rupees before you leave India.
Usually ATM’s in India only allow no more than 10,000 rupees at a time which is the maximum amount you can take out at most if not all ATM’s. Getting cash from your checking account (or cash advances on your credit card) at an ATM is by far the easiest way to get money. These 24-hour machines are readily available in all Indian cities and larger towns and at large commercial banks such as Citibank, Standard Chartered, ABN Amro, and Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank; in fact, these days, there are ATMs even in relatively small towns, although some of them may run out of cash or have limits on the amount that can be withdrawn at any one time. Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7747; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587;www.visa.com) networks span the globe; call or check online for ATM locations at your destination. Be sure to find out your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. You should have no problem withdrawing Rs 10,000 at a time from an ATM (which goes a long way in India), although some ATMs may have slightly lower limits. Also keep in mind that many banks impose a fee every time a card is used at a different bank’s ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more).
Credit cards are another safe way to carry money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash. Keep in mind that you’ll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% “transaction fee” on all charges you incur abroad (whether you’re using the local currency or your native currency).
MasterCard and Visa are commonly accepted throughout India. American Express is accepted by most major hotels and restaurants; Diners Club has a much smaller following.
Made in India what what you see on the tags in your home country. So, imagine going to the source and enjoy the multitude of products and bargains. But you’ll want to be careful about the quality and authenticity, particularly for items such as gems and jewelry, where fakes are notoriously sold to unwitting tourists. If you’re considering dropping lots of rupees on expensive items, you better know exactly what you’re doing. Even the most genuine sounding salesman could take you for a ride. Someone is always telling you they will take you to their relatives shop to get a good deal.
A memorable trip one always wants to bring home memorabilia for one self, friends and family. Remember it’s better to get the item when you see it then to wait later and regret not getting it at the place you first found it.
When possible, purchase from small independently owned shops or those that support cooperatives that help provide income for individual tailors and artisans.
Here are some tips for shopping in India:
Clothing — Buying new clothes in India can be an adventure. Whether you’re shopping at a small market stall or a department store, you can get free alterations done almost immediately and items can be so cheap that you’ll be hard pressed to stop yourself from buying too much.
For a truly Indian souvenir, take home a sari. Made from either cotton or silk, these are generally worn for special occasions by younger women and more regularly by middle-aged women and the older generation. Many stores specialize in saris, with literally hundreds of fabrics from which to choose. Plan on spending an afternoon poring over your options. There’s a reason they serve tea or lemon soda in these shops — it could take hours to choose a pattern!
FabIndia is a delightful store with locations in most major cities. Trendy styles that appeal to Western tastes are created using traditional Indian patterns and fabrics. Half of my wardrobe is from FabIndia!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at FabIndia, you can purchase fabrics and have a tailor custom make an item. I have found that choosing cloth and then having a skilled seamstress create a clone of something else I own works well.
Textiles — Textiles are truly a part of India’s, uh, fabric. Gandhi had wanted Indians to burn their foreign-made clothes and support villagers by wearing khadiÂ (hand-spun cloth). Khadi shops that now include handcrafted products of all sorts are located throughout India, but the message remains the same — handmade textiles support the locals and provide Indians with a national dress.
Because it is a major industry, textiles are relatively inexpensive. Hand-woven silk and cotton, wall hangings, scarves, embroidery and more can all be found throughout the country.
Jewelry — Gold jewelry is worn by Indian women throughout the country with the exception of Rajasthan, where silver is the metal of choice. These are often inlaid with semi-precious stones such as amber, amethyst, rubies, turquoise, coral and more.
If you’re not well versed about gems but make your purchase knowing (or not caring) that what looks like a ruby or amber is simply colored glass, then no harm is done as long as you’re not paying a lot for it. My earring tree is filled with Indian jewelry and I honestly don’t know if they are real silver even though they all carry a “.925” stamp. The most important thing is that I love them and they remind me of India.
Carpets — You can hardly walk down a major city street without being accosted by a shopkeeper ready to serve you up some tea and roll out the carpets for you. Roll up your own sleeves and get ready for some hard bargaining as this may be one of your most expensive purchases. Shop around before you buy as prices will vary. Educate yourself in advance about the various knot counts available in both the cotton and silk varieties and ask lots of questions to ensure you’re getting a quality item.
Getting your purchase home is another issue altogether. While the shop owner will probably offer a shipping service, you might consider mailing it yourself using DHL or FedEx. It will be well worth the added expense to ensure your carpet arrives safely.
Handicrafts — The sheer variety of handicrafts available in India is unimaginable. Hole-in-the-wall shops and street vendors selling goods on makeshift tables cover every nook and cranny of a city’s sidewalks. Compare prices between shops. Even though items are cheap, be prepared to bargain as prices are rarely fixed in these smaller stores and stalls.
Government-owned handicraft emporiums are an excellent place to start your search for local handicrafts. I used to think of these only as well-stocked but over-priced shops until I started discovering unique gift items there that I literally couldn’t find elsewhere. While they are slightly more expensive compared to shops carrying the same items, their variety is unparalleled. Prices are fixed, which makes shopping hassle-free.
Handicrafts to look out for throughout the country include sandalwood, incense, jewelry, textiles, carpets, carvings, silk and pashmina scarves, handmade paper and musical instruments.
CDs, Books and Movies — Major cities boast a number of large chain bookstores, including Landmark, Oxford, Crossword, Higginbothams, Odyssey, D.C. Books and Strand Bookstall. In addition, you’ll find many small independent bookstores. While the variety of books available is not as wide as those in North America and elsewhere, you can pick up bestsellers, unique Indian-based works of fiction and nonfiction, and books on Ayurvedic medicine, yoga, local birding and other subjects pertinent to India. These bookstores also carry CDs, videos, newspapers and magazines. Prices tend to be cheaper than in other countries.
For your listening pleasure, visit an independent music store and pick up the latest Bollywood hits. A CD will set you back no more than a few dollars. I often go into one of these shops humming the tune that’s been playing in my taxi in hopes that the friendly staff can help me find this latest hit.
Tea — Tea can be purchased throughout India but you’ll have the best luck and variety if you pick some up in the main tea-growing areas of Darjeeling, Assam and Kerala. If you don’t want to carry it around, buy it at Mittal’s in Delhi before you leave the country. This small shop is chockablock with tea, offering both bulk and touristy packaged options.
Spices — India is famous for its food and the use of an amazing array of spices. A shopping spree at a grocery or spice store is a must before you depart for home. Prices are cheap and so much of what you’ll find will be unique to India. Roopak’s, in Delhi, has well-packaged bottles and bags suitable for carrying in luggage.
You should bargain: Bargaining is normal in India. So, prepare to enter into a bit of haggling while negotiating price with the seller. If you are thinking to buy something expensive, it’s good to ask around in couple of shops and previous buyers about the price. Happy shopping!
In India the power plugs and sockets are of type C, D and M. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
DO'S & DON'TS
Fortunately, Indians are very forgiving toward foreigners who aren’t always aware of the etiquette of Indian culture. However, to help you avoid embarrassing mistakes, here are some things not to do in India.
- The traditional Indianform ofgreeting is the namaste, which literally means, “I bow to the divine in you.” The namaste is used for greeting, for taking leave, and also to seek forgiveness. To greet someone with a namaste, bring your hands together with palms touching in front of your chest in a graceful fashion.
- Don’t Wear Tight or Revealing Clothing Indians adopt a very conservative standard of dress, particularly in rural areas. Western dress standards, including jeans on women, are now prevalent in major cities.
However, to be decent, you should keep your legs covered. You’ll rarely see a well-dressed Indian man wearing shorts, or an Indian woman wearing a skirt above the ankles (although the beaches of Goa and college students are common exceptions!). Sure, you can do it, and most likely no one will say anything. But first impressions count! There’s a common perception in India that foreign women are promiscuous, and wearing inappropriate clothing perpetuates this. You will get more respect by dressing conservatively. Covering your legs and shoulders (and even your head) is especially important when visiting temples in India. Also, avoid wearing strapless tops anywhere. If you do wear a spaghetti strap top, wear a shawl or scarf over it to be modest.
- Don’t Wear Your Shoes Inside
It’s good manners to take your shoes off before entering someone’s home, and it’s a prerequisite before entering a temple or mosque.
Indians will often wear shoes inside their homes, such as when going to the bathroom. However, these shoes are kept for domestic use and never worn outdoors. Shoes are sometimes also removed before entering a shop. If you see shoes at an entrance, it’s a good idea to take yours off as well.
- Don’t Point Your Feet or Finger at People
Feet are considered to be unclean and therefore it’s important to avoid pointing your feet at people or touching people or objects (particularly books) with your feet or shoes.
If you accidentally do so, you should apologize straight away. Also, note that Indians will often touch their head or eyes as a show of apology. On the other hand, it’s a sign of respect to bend down and touch an elder person’s feet in India.
Pointing with your finger is also rude in India. If you need to point at something or someone, it’s better to do so with your whole hand or thumb.
- Don’t Eat Food or Pass Objects With Your Left Hand
The left hand is considered to be unclean in India, as it’s used to perform matters associated with going to the bathroom. Therefore, you should avoid your left hand coming into contact with food or any objects that you pass to people.
- Don’t Be Offended by Intrusive Questions
Indians are really inquisitive people and their culture is one where people do anything but mind their own business, often due to a lack of privacy in India and the habit of placing people in the social hierarchy. As a result, don’t be surprised or offended if someone asks you how much you earn for a living and a host of other intimate questions, all upon first meeting. What’s more, you should feel free to ask these type of questions in return. Rather than causing offense, the people you are conversing with will be pleased that you’ve taken such an interest in them!
Who knows what fascinating information you’ll learn as well. (If you don’t feel like telling the truth to questions, it’s perfectly acceptable to give a vague answer or even lie).
- Don’t Always Be Polite
The use of “please” and “thank you” are essential for good manners in western culture. However, in India, they can create unnecessary formality and, surprisingly, can even be insulting! While it’s fine to thank someone who has provided a service to you, such as a shop assistant or waiter, lavishing thanks on friends or family should be avoided. In India, people view doing things for those whom they are close to as implicit in the relationship. If you thank them, they may see it as a violation of intimacy and the creation of distance that shouldn’t exist.
Rather than saying thanks, it’s best to show your appreciation in other ways.
For example, if you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, don’t say, “Thank you so much for having me over and cooking for me”. Instead, say, “I really enjoyed the food and spending time with you.” You will also notice that “please” is used infrequently in India, especially between friends and family. In Hindi, there are three levels of formality — intimate, familiar and polite — depending on the form that the verb takes. There is a word for “please” in Hindi (kripya) but it’s rarely used and implies doing a favor, again creating an excessive level of formality.
Another thing to keep in mind is that being polite can be viewed as a sign of weakness in India, especially if someone is trying to scam or exploit you. A meek, “No, thank you”, is rarely enough to deter touts and street vendors. Instead, it’s necessary to be more stern and forceful.
- Don’t Outright Decline an Invitation or Request
While it’s necessary to be assertive and say “no” in some situations in India, doing so to decline an invitation or request can be considered disrespectful. This is because it’s important to avoid making a person look or feel bad. This differs from the western view, where saying no is simply being upfront and not giving a false expectation of commitment. Instead of saying “no” or “I can’t” directly, adopt the Indian way of replying by giving evasive answers such as “I’ll try”, or “maybe”, or “it might be possible”, or “I’ll see what I can do”.
- Don’t Expect People to Be Punctual
There is time, and there is “Indian Standard Time” or “Indian Stretchable Time”. In the west, it’s considered rude to be late, and anything more than 10 minutes requires a phone call. In India, the concept of time is flexible. People are unlikely to turn up when they say they will. 10 minutes can mean half an hour, half an hour can mean an hour, and an hour can mean indefinitely!
- Don’t Expect People to Respect Your Personal Space
Overcrowding and scarcity of resources lead to a lot of pushing and shoving in India! If there is a line, people will certainly try and jump it. To prevent this from happening, those who are in the line will commonly stand so close to each other that they’re touching. It can feel unnerving at first, but it’s necessary to prevent people from cutting in.
- Don’t Show Affection in Public
There’s a joke that it’s okay to “piss in public but not kiss in public” in India. Unfortunately, there is truth to it! While you may think nothing of holding your partner’s hand in public, or even hugging or kissing them, it’s not appropriate in India. Indian society is conservative, particularly the older generation. Such personal acts are associated with sex and can be considered obscene in public. “Moral policing” does occur. While it’s unlikely that, as a foreigner, you’ll be arrested it’s best to keep affectionate gestures private.
- Don’t Overlook Your Body Language
Traditionally, women don’t touch men in India when meeting and greeting them. A handshake, which is a standard western gesture, can be misinterpreted as something more intimate in India if coming from a woman. The same goes for touching a man, even just briefly on the arm, while speaking to him. While many Indian businessmen are used to shaking hands with women these days, giving a “Namaste” with both palms together is often a better alternative.
- Don’t Judge the Whole Country
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that India is a very diverse country and a land of extreme contrasts. Each state is unique and has its own culture, and cultural norms. What may be true somewhere in India, may not be the case elsewhere. There are all kinds of different people and ways of behaving in India. Hence, you should be careful not to draw blanket conclusions about the whole country based on limited experience.
Emergency Travel and health insurance is not included in our tour package. This is an important requirement when you travel with us for your safety and peace of mind in the unexpected event that you need urgent international standard care. You should buy travel insurance in your country as it will be more convenient for you to deal with any claims and adjustments upon your return home. AIG, Allianz, or John Hancock have good travel coverage and respond very quickly to emergencies. We do not endorse any one travel insurance company but suggest you consider www.travelguard.com, as past clients of ours have had good experiences with them in times of need. Also, check with your insurance provider to see if they cover:
- emergency evacuation during your travels, and
- emergency airlift to an international hospital or provide professional medical care to transport you home. The cost alone for airlifting a person home can cost up to the 100’s of thousands of USD. Travel more safely with fewer worries.
A packing list is often a forgotten part of the planning processes, but it’s one of the most important steps to ensure an enjoyable vacation. Here are some important reminders from our traveler’s experiences:
- Your passport should have at least 6-months validity from the date of departure on your trip.
- Check your visa requirement to your destination. Check the entry date on your visa and validity of the visa.
- When possible book e-tickets. If you happen to lose your ticket you can always print your ticket online.
- Always make extra copies of your passport and keep it separate from your original.
- Make a copy of your travel insurance and emergency contact information. It’s best to have those numbers to be entered in yours and your travel partner’s mobile phone. It is a must for all travelers who travel with us to have medical treatment & evacuation insurance. We’ve seen too many nightmares when people try to save a few hundred dollars on insurance and end up with hundred of thousand of dollars in medical bills.
- Call your credit card company to inform them of the dates of your trip so that your charge card won’t get blocked by your card company because of a foreign charge. This will also protect you in the event your card is stolen, and you have fraudulent charges on your account. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted as oppose to Amex.
- Make sure your tour operator knows of any allergies you may have.
Electronics or gadgets
- Adapters for your gadgets
- Make sure your electronics can take 230 volts as this is standard in most countries.
- Sometimes it’s a good investment to bring a backup mobile phone where you can use a local SIM card for calls. It’s much cheaper than using your regular mobile phone and paying for roaming calls.
- Don’t forget your charger for your electronics and check to see if they are compatible with 230 volts.
- Bring small pocket solar calculator to convert exchange rates.
Clothing & Miscellaneous
- Know where you are traveling and the weather you should expect. Traveling to a tropical area you will expect to see mosquitoes, so bring some long sleeve shirts and long pants for evenings.
- Traveling to Asia it is frowned upon to wear shorts that are 6 in. above the knee, especially when visiting temples or places of worship. Wearing a dress is fine if you plan to dress light. But again, when visiting temples please make sure dresses are no more than a few inches above the knee with a shirt or blouse covering your shoulder. Revealing shoulders are frowned upon.
- Good walking shoes and socks
- Slip-on shoes for ease of taking them on and off when visiting pagodas, houses, and other places where footwear in inappropriate.
- Rain-resistant light jacket
- Head cover to protect from hot tropical weather
- Insect repellent with DEET
- Stomach medicine
- Prescription medication
- A good book for those occasional flight delays
Tipping guides and drivers after tours in India is customary, if they do a good job. A tip of around 200 – 300 rupees per day is considered an excellent tip. In terms of tipping guides for a more personalized tour, it really depends on how happy you were with the tour and the service. We suggest a wider price range of INR 300 to INR 1000 (happy to absolutely delighted).
For 1 or 2 passengers, tip between INR 300 to INR 600 per day. So if you had a driver for four days and were very happy you can tip him INR 2400.
For 3 to 5 passengers, then tip between INR 500 to INR 800 per day.
There have been instances when our guests have been absolutely delighted by their drivers. The driver has taken them to their village or house, told great stories, and overall taken great care of them. Do feel free to tip above this guideline if you feel like your driver deserves it. There is absolutely no issue with that!
Pick up/drops and day tours
When you are being picked up from an airport/railway station or just being dropped off at an airport/railway station you can tip INR 50 to 100.
If you have a car for a day touring the city, depending on your happiness with the service you can tip between INR 200 to 400. Base this on whether he gave you good local tips on places to eat or monuments to visit and whether he avoided tourist traps.
If you take a taxi or a tuk-tuk (rickshaw) from point A to point B after a rate has been negotiated, a tip is usually not expected.
Hotel staff: So if you are two adults staying in Delhi for 3 nights, you can tip 2 adults * 3 nights * 100 = INR 600. Note: Exclude restaurant tips from the general tips to the hotel.
Normally at the reception you would find a central tip box or you can ask if they have one. If not, then tip one central person at the reception and indicate you want that tip to go to everyone in the staff.
So if you are two adults staying in Delhi for 3 nights, you can tip 2 adults * 3 nights * 100 = INR 600. Note: Exclude restaurant tips from the general tips to the hotel.
Normally at the reception you would find a central tip box or you can ask if they have one. If not, then tip one central person at the reception and indicate you want that tip to go to everyone in the staff.
Additionally in India there will be times when bellboys (individuals who will carry your luggage to your room) wait for a tip at the door. In these cases you can give them a small tip of INR 10 to 20.
Before 45 days, no charge tours.
45 to 30 days prior arrival date: 5% of the total price
29 to 15 days prior arrival date: 10% of the total price
7 days to the day of arrival: 50%
3 days to the day of arrival: 100%