Regarding the question of "when to visit India", the best time to visit India for tourists is the winter season. The season lasts from October to February. It is a pleasure to visit India during these cooler months, when the heat of summer is no more. Around this time, the usually wet areas of Northeast also become dry, making it easier to travel there. Even the hot South India is blessed with cool weather and rain on beaches in this peak season for India.
Another reason to visit India in these months is that they coincide with the celebration mood in India. This is the time when maximum well-known festivals of India are celebrated. In October - November falls Dussehra, Durga Puja and Diwali. Also in November is the Pushkar Fair (in Rajasthan), the largest cattle fair in India. In January is the Republic Day of India and Lohri - the festival of Punjabis. In March falls Holi, the festival of colors. Then there is Id, Easter, Christmas and a number of another festivals, each celebrated in totally Indian fashion. You can experience true India, in all its richness, by attending these festivals.
The summer months of March to May are very hot and humid. If you are planning to visit India during summers, then the best thing is to go to the hills and enjoy the scenic beauty. If you are interested in trekking or mountain climbing, then, the Himalayas are for you. Months of March to May, September and November are ideal for trekking in the Himalayas.
You will experience a range of variations in the Indian climatic conditions. India has three major seasons - summers, winters and monsoon. The lines below will tell you about Indian weather in detail:
The summer season in India lasts from March to June. During summers, temperature can even go above average, causing unbearable heat. Another drawback of summers is the dust-laden air that can hamper views. Many Indians, themselves, head to "hill stations" to get a relief from the extreme heat of the lowlands.
The winter season lasts from October to February. It is the best time to visit India. The weather is pleasant throughout the country with minimal rainfall in most places. It is the ideal time to enjoy the beauty of India.
The monsoon season lasts from July to September. Rains sweep across the country with heavy downpours. The drawback of this season is a high possibility of flooding in some areas. This makes it difficult to travel around. Duration of monsoons may vary in different regions by several weeks.
WHAT TO WEAR
If you are traveling to India, carry minimal clothing. We will suggest you to carry light luggage. The reason is that both clothing as well as laundry is quite cheap in India. "How to dress up in India" is not a very big problem. Read on to know about the clothes to wear in India.
Indian summers are too hot. So, if you are planning to come in the period of March to June, carry light clothes. Men can wear loose cotton shirts or T-shirts and baggy Pants. In the big cities and Metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Banglore, Pune, etc you can wear shorts also. However, women should dress conservatively. Short tops, short skirts / shorts, etc should be avoided. You can wear cotton shirts or T-shirts, with cotton trousers or ankle length skirts. Make sure that the clothes are not too tight or body revealing. These clothes can be easily purchased from the Indian markets at a reasonable price. If you want to try Indian clothing, then, men can wear "kurta pyjama" and women can try "salwar-kameez".
Winters (October to February) in India are quite cold, especially North India. So, pack some woolen clothes with you. Also, pack some warm innerwear, especially if you are planning to roam around too much. During Monsoon (July to September), there is a high level of humidity in India. So don't wear synthetic stuff. In this case also, cotton clothing is the best.
Last but not the least, while visiting places of worships (temples, gurudwara or mausoleum), you should be fully clothed. Also, don't forget to remove your footwear before entering any religious place.
There is no single cuisine in India. Just like the culture of India, the Indian cuisine is also very diverse. From Punjabi to South Indian to Gujarati, Indian food consists of a number of different regional cuisines. Read further to know about the traditional food of India.
Most of the Indian cuisines have a liberal usage of spices. Also, there is a wide usage of a variety of vegetables. Within these basic similarities, there is also diversity in the local styles.
North and West:
North Indian meals consist of basically chapatis or rotis, along with dals (pulses), vegetables and Curd (yoghurt). Use of rice is there but not too much. There are also side dishes chutney (preserves) and achars (pickle). In the North and West, there are also Kashmiri and Mughlai cuisines, reflecting the strong influence of central Asia. There is a heavy consumption of Milk based sweets also.
South and East:
In South and East India, there is a heavy consumption of rice, along with dals and curries. The dishes are mostly rice-based. Coconut is a very important and widely used ingredient in most of the South and East Indian dishes. Fish also consists of a part of this diet.
In the desert area of Rajasthan and Gujarat, there is a usage of a wide variety of dals and achars. A reason for this is the relative lack of fresh vegetables.
However, the staple diet of India consists of rice, atta (whole wheat flour), a variety of pulses and vegetables. Besides the main dishes, there are a number of snacks that are quite popular in India. Some of them are samosa, pakodas, vadas, chillas, etc. Regarding drinks, the most popular is tea. Coffee is more popular in South India. Nimbu pani (lemonade), lassi, and coconut milk are also popular. Traditionally, meals are eaten while sitting on the floor. But with the modernization of India, this practice has diminished to great extent. Also, most of the Indian food is eaten with the fingers only.
The food you eat, how it's cooked, stored and served is very important. Make it a rule to stick to freshly cooked food, made in clean and hygienic place. Here are some food precautions for India that need to be taken by you:
The safest thing to eat is freshly cooked food. Food left sitting may attract flies and cause major health hazards.
Salads and cut fresh fruits should be strictly avoided. Eat only unpeeled fruits.
Avoid fresh fruit juice. If you want to have juice, go in for branded ones being sold in tetra packs.
If you are a non-vegetarian, buy from decent shops. It is better not to eat from lower end restaurants or station platforms.
Never ever eat anything from the roadside vendors. There are high chances of the food being contaminated.
IMMIGRATION & PASSPORT CONTROL
Citizens of all countries, except Nepal & Bhutan, require a valid national passport or valid travel documents and a valid visa granted by Missions abroad for entering India. Nepalese or Bhutanese citizens need no passport or visa but should possess suitable documents for their identification when proceeding from their respective countries.
Requirement for Visa: Foreigners desirous of visiting India can do so after obtaining visa from the Indian Mission in their country of their residence. They should possess a valid National Passport - except in the case of nationals of Bhutan & Nepal, who may carry only suitable means of identification.
Tourist Visas: Usually, a multi-entry visa, valid for a period of 180 days, is granted for the purpose of tourism. The visa is valid from the date of issue.
Collective Visas: The facility also exists for the issue of collective visas to group tours consisting of not less than four members and sponsored by a travel agency recognized by the Government of India. Such groups may split into smaller groups for visiting different places in India after obtaining a collective "license to travel" from the immigration authorities in India. However, they must reassemble and depart as the original group.
Transit Visas: Transit visas are granted by Indian Missions abroad for a maximum period of 15 days.
Exemption from Registration: Foreigners coming to India on tourist visas for 180 days or shorter period are not required to register themselves with any authority in India. They can move about freely in the country, except to restricted/protected areas and prohibited places.
Nationals of Bangladesh are exempted from registration upto six months. If their stay exceeds six months, they have to register themselves. Individuals without nationality (stateless persons; IRO refugees, persons receiving legal or political protection.) should have valid passports, identity documents or sworn affidavits along with the visa for which they should apply two months in advance.
Family passports issued by other governments are recognized without discrimination.
Landing Permit Facility: Tourists may note the no Landing Permit Facility is available to any foreign tourist landing without a visa. A limited facility exists only for group tours consisting of four or more members and sponsored by a travel agency recognized by the Government of India.
Children of foreigners of Indian origin below the age of 12 may be granted a landing permit by the immigration authorities up to a period of 90 days to see their relatives, in case they happen to come without a visa.
Tourist Groups: A tourist group arriving by air, ship or by a chartered or scheduled flight may be granted a collective landing permit for a period of up to 30 days by the immigration authorities on landing, provided the group is sponsored by a recognized travel agency and a pre-drawn itinerary is presented along with details of passport etc. of the members, and the travel agency gives an undertaking to conduct the group together.
Extension of Visa: As a rule no extension of stay is granted on a Tourist Visa.
Other Types of Visas: If a foreigner wishes to come to India for a purpose other than tourism, he should come after obtaining one of the following visas.
Business Visa: A foreigner can obtain one from an Indian Embassy abroad. A multiple entry visa is valid for 5 years, provided he wishes to come for some business. Foreigners of Indian origin can obtain a 5 year multiple entry visas for business, to meet their relatives etc.
Student Visa: A student visa can be obtained from the Indian Embassy on the production of proof of admission and means of sustenance while in India, etc. The visa is valid for one year but can be extended in India for the duration of the course.
Conference Visa: Delegates coming to attend international conferences in India can be granted Conference Visa to cover the conference as well as for tourism in India. Delegates are advised to apply to Indian Embassies well in advance. ** Employment Visa: Foreigners desirous of coming to India for taking up employment should apply for an Employment Visa, which are issued by Indian Missions abroad. Initially granted for a period of one year, it can be extended in India upto the period of contract. ** Recreation : Foreigners wishing to undertake any international sporting event, trekking, botanical expeditions, yoga, journalists, media men, documentary and feature film makers may obtain visas after due formalities from the Indian Embassy.
Electricity in India is 240 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. You will require a voltage converter if you are carrying a device that does not accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz. To adjust your device according to the power and voltage in India, the following three types of Voltage converters may be used:
This type of converter usually supports approximately 50 -1600 Watts. They are lightweight. You can easily use this converter for high-wattage electrical appliances like hair dryers and irons. But, you can use them for short periods only and they are not ideal for digital devices.
Transformers support low watt rating, around 50 - 100 Watts. Generally, you can use them continuously. Also, they provide better electricity for low wattage appliances like battery chargers, radios, laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players and camcorders. Their drawback is the low wattage and heavy weight.
Combination converters are also manufactured by some companies. They are a combination of a resistor network and a transformer in the same package. You can easily switch between the two modes. If you need both types of converters, then it is better to buy this combination converter.
Outlets in India generally accept the following types of plug:
Two round pins
Three round pins arranged in a triangle
If your appliances plug has any other shape, you will need a plug adapter. If you plan to travel a lot in the future, it is better to get a combination voltage converter and a plug adapter.
India is a land of diversity, even in religion. All the religions in India exist simultaneously and peacefully. Religion is an integral part of Indian customs and traditions. The oldest Indian religion to develop was Hinduism. Later on other religions developed. Apart from Hinduism, India is also the birthplace of another great religion, Buddhism. Also, Zoroastrianism and Jainism owe their birth to India itself. Sikhism is another very recognizable religion that began here. People following the religions that originated in other countries such as Islam, Christianity, Bahaism and Judaism also form a part of the Indian population.
At present, the dominant faith in India is Hinduism. The 2001 Census revealed the following facts about the percentage of various religions in India:
About 80.5% of the population of India practice Hinduism. It is one of the ancient religions in the world.
After Hindus, Muslims hold the second dominant position in India. The proportion of Muslims in this country is 13.4% Muslims (over 100 million)
Out of the total population of India, Christians constitute almost 2.3% (over 20 million).
About 1.9% (18 million) of India's population consists of Sikhs.
Other Indian Religions
Rest of the population (less than 2%) includes Buddhists (6 million), Jains, Parsis (Zoroastrians), Jews and Bahais.
Tipping in India is a common practice.
In restaurants, the tip to waiters is around 10-15 percent of the bill. In cases of restaurants of famous and prestigious hotels, generally a 10 percent service surcharge is added to the bill. Tipping at such a place is discretionary. In smaller places, the tip is not a percentage of the bill. Rather, few rupees are given as a tip, depending on the quality of service.
Tipping taxi and three-wheeler a driver is not too common. It is up to your discretion. However if you want to give tip, then, 10 percent of the fare or leaving the change is enough. If you are hiring a car throughout your stay, then, tip the driver Rs. 50-100 per day, depending on the distance traveled. At railway stations, pay the porters around Rs. 5-10 per bag. But, make sure to set the rate beforehand.
Travel insurance is necessary for not only traveling to India, rather, for any place in this world. Travel insurance acts as additional security in the case of unforeseen eventualities like cancellation or interruption of travel plans, lost or damaged luggage, travel delays, illness, accident, etc.
EXPORT OF ANTIQUITIES
Antiquities include sculpture, painting or other works of art and craftsmanship, illustrative of science, art, crafts, religion of bygone ages and of historical interest which have been in existence for not less than one hundred years.
Also manuscripts, or other documents of scientific, historical, literary or aesthetic value in existence for not less than seventy five years — art - treasures — not necessarily antiquities but having regard to the artistic and aesthetic value cannot be exported out of India.
For farther clarification on the antiquity of an artifact, the tourists can contact the authorities and get information on the Acts and Rules governing Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.
Restrictions Pertaining To Export Of Articles Made From Animals Etc.
Govt. of India is concerned about the conservation of its endangered and rare fauna. With this view, export of all wild animals indigenous to the country and articles made from such listed animals like skin, pelts, furs, ivory, rhino horns, trophies etc have been totally banned.
Tourists are also advised to acquaint themselves with the provisions of Convention on International Trade of endangered species of wild fauna and flora. All the member countries of the convention allow import of the articles covered by convention on the strength of a certificate of export from the country of origin.
Before embarking on your India vacations, you must make yourself familiar with different diseases that are common in Indian climatic conditions. In addition to that you should also consult your physician before going for any vaccination or medicine. Here is a comprehensive list of all the diseases that are common to India and vaccinations for them.
Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travelers to India.
All travelers are recommended to take Typhoid vaccination.
In case of Polio, one-time booster is recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult.
Vaccination for yellow fever is required only for travelers arriving from or transiting through any yellow-fever-infected area like Africa.
This vaccine is recommended for travelers staying for more than 1 month and traveling to rural areas or travelers engaging in extensive unprotected outdoor activities in rural areas, especially after dusk.
Travelers who may have intimate contact with local residents should take this vaccination, especially if their period of stay is more than 6 months.
Any traveler who may have direct contact with animals should take sthis vaccination.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
If any person born after 1956 has not previously taken this vaccination, he/she should take two doses of the same.
You need to take this revaccination every 10 years.
Planning a trip to India and worried about common diseases in India? To make your India visit truly memorable, we are highlighting some of the major diseases that occur in India.
The most common ailment of travelers is diarrhea. The main cause of it is unclean food and water. It is advised to carry an antibiotic and an anti diarrhea drug if significant diarrhea occurs. In case of diarrhea, good amount of fluid intake is required. However, if diarrhea gets severe you should immediately call a doctor.
Prophylaxis with mefloquine (Lariam), atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone) or doxycycline is recommended throughout India (including Delhi and Bombay), except at places located at high altitudes (2000 m/6561 ft).Long-term travelers coming to India may not have access to medical care all the time; they should bring along medications for emergency self-treatment in case they develop symptoms indicative of malaria, such as fever, headaches, chills and muscle aches. It is importhant to note that symptoms of malaria sometimes may not occur for months or even years after exposure.
Altitude sickness may occur in travelers ascending altitudes greater than 2500m. This specifically includes the mountain areas of northern India. Those with a history of heart disease, lung disease, or sickle cell disease are advised to avoid high altitudes.
India has a number of airports for national as well as international flights. These days the aviation industry is in the boom period. The Delhi and Mumbai airports are even being modernized to meet the growing demands of the aviation industry. India's airport network, even today, is catering to hoards of tourists and other travelers coming to India with efficiency. There are more than 20 international airports in India. Apart from that, there are also several domestic airports.
Delhi: Indira Gandhi International Airport
Mumbai: Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport
Hyderabad: Begumpet Airport
Calicut: Calicut International Airport
Chennai: Chennai International Airport
Cochin: Cochin International Airport Limited
Banglore: HAL Airport
Kolkata: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport
Amritsar: Raja Sansi International Airport
Ahemadabad: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport
Trivandrum: Trivandrum International Airport
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE FORMALITIES
Arrival Formalities: If the visa, for stay in India, is for more than 180 days, a Registration Certificate and Residential Permit should be obtained from the nearest Foreigners' Registration Office within 15 days of arrival. All persons including Indian nationals are required to fill in a Disembarkation Card, at the time of arrival. Four photographs are also required for registration. The foreigners registered at Foreigners' Registration Office are required to report change of their addresses.
CUSTOMS FORMALITIES AND REGULATIONS:
The usual duty free regulations apply for India.
- Alcoholic liquor and wine up to 1 liter each.
- 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 gms. of tobacco.
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers' cheques a tourist may bring into India provided he makes a declaration in the Currency Declaration Form given to him on arrival. This will enable him not only to exchange the currency brought in but also to take the unspent currency out of India on departure. Cash, bank notes and travelers' cheques up to U.S.$10,000 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry.
Any money in form of travelers' cheque, draft, bills, cheques, etc. in convertible currencies which tourists wish to convert into Indian currency should be exchanged only through authorized money changers and banks who will issue an encashment certificate. This certificate is required at the time of re-conversion of any unspent money into foreign currency. Tourists are warned that changing money through unauthorized persons is not only illegal but also an offence under Foreign Exchange Regulations Act 1973.It also Visitors are generally required to make oral baggage declaration in respect of baggage and foreign currency in their possession. Visitors in possession of more than US $ 10,000 or equivalent thereof in the shape of travelers' cheque, bank notes currency notes are required to obtain a Currency declaration Form before leaving Customs. They should fill in the Disembarkation Card handed over to them by the airlines during the course of the flight there are two channels for Custom clearance:
for passengers not having any dutiable articles or unaccompanied baggage.
For passengers having dutiable articles or unaccompanied baggage or high value articles to be entered on Tourist Baggage RE-Export Form.
FOREIGN TRAVEL TAX
Passengers embarking on journeys to any place outside India from a Customs airport/seaport will have to pay a Foreign Travel Tax (FTT) of Rs. 500 and Rs. 150 on journeys to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Srilanka and Maldives. No tax is payable on journeys performed by ship from Rameshwaram to Talaimanar and in case of transit passengers, provided they do not leave the customs barrier. Transit passengers traveling by air who have to leave the airport on account of mechanical trouble but continue their journey by the same aircraft and the same flight number by which they arrive are also exempt from FTT. Transit sea passengers leaving the ship for sightseeing, shopping etc. during the ships' call at any of the Indian ports will not be required to pay FTT.
RESTRICTED AND PROTECTED AREAS:
Military installations and areas, defense organizations and research organizations are considered protected areas, where permits are generally not given to foreigners.
Photography is prohibited in places of military importance, railway stations, bridges, airports and other military installations.
SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR INDIA
Don't forget to keep photocopies of your important documents for travel to India. Keep them separate from the originals, in case the originals get lost or stolen.
Getting some background information on India and the particular place that you are planning to visit is quite a good idea.
Staying in India is not a big problem. There are a number of 4-star and 5-star hotels in India, measuring up to the international standards. They will provide you the comfort and luxury comparable to any other in the world.
Foreigners are required to pay all their dues regarding the hotel bills in foreign currency only, in the form of cash, traveler's checks or credit cards. Even concessional tickets like Youth fares, Discover India Fares and Air Fares are to be paid for in foreign exchange only.
Never ever purchase air/ rail/ bus tickets through strangers or unauthorized travel agents/ tour operators, also known as touts. They are not at all reliable. Buy tickets from the authorized centers only.
It is advisable not to hire any type of transportation from unlicensed operators.
In case of taxis and auto-rickshaws, try to hire them from the pre-paid booths, if possible. Otherwise, insist on going by the meter and check the readings regularly to ensure that the fare is correct. In case there are no meters or the meters are dysfunctional, set a fare in advance to avoid being fleeced later on.
Make travel arrangements well in advance, especially if you are traveling in the peak season (between October to March).
English is spoken at almost tourist destination in India these days. However, if you want, you may hire Government-trained and approved guides who also speak German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian or Russian.
Indian people are quite hospitable and friendly. Do not feel offended if they stare at you. It is just curiosity on their part. Most of the people will also go out of the way to help tourists and properly guide them.
It is advisable for you to carry your own medicines. Almost all medicines in India are locally manufactured and you may not find the same brand names. However, you may easily set substitute products here. But take the advice of reputed druggists or doctors for the purpose.
Make sure to remove your footwear when visiting a place of worship or mausoleum. Some temples in India will not even allow you to carry leather articles inside. You can deposit them in the temple cloakroom and collect it on your way out.
It is not entirely unsafe to travel in India. You just have to take some precautions like avoiding isolated places, not going out after its too late, etc.
The electric current in India is 220/ 250 volts and 50 cycles. It is AC practically everywhere. Carry converters if you have some electric equipment with you.
Don't feel offended if Indians ask you some personal questions like how much do you earn, are you married, do you have kids, etc. They are just a little curious and mean no offence. It is just their way of getting friendly.
Just some general conventions to follow and then India is a wonderful place to be. You will enjoy the scenic beauty, rich culture, engrossing traditions and almost everything about India.