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India

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Stretching from the frozen summits of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, India’s expansive borders encompass an incomparable range of landscapes, cultures and people. Walk the streets of any city when you visit India and you’ll rub shoulders with representatives of several of the world’s great faiths, encounter temple rituals performed since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, onion-domed mosques erected centuries before the Taj Mahal, and quirky echoes of the British era on virtually every corner.

India is an utterly compelling destination, intricate and worn with a stream of life in its crowded bazaars. Listen to the echoes of enchanting music through its streets. Diesel fumes and cooking spices  casts a spell that few forget from the moment they step off a plane. Love it or hate it India will shift the way you see the world.

Indians have a saying, ‘atithi devo bhava’ (‘guest is god’), and you’ll be warmly welcomed whether you’re staying in a converted palace, jungle camp or Keralan family home. This remains constant whenever you are, be it the deserts of India, Nepali mountains, Bhutanese monasteries or the tropical idylls of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. And, as a home to more than 2,000 ethnic groups, here you’ll encounter a range of cultures in a subcontinent where traditions remain strong and religion is part of day-to-day life.

There is an amazing cultural diversity throughout India. The South, North, and Northeast have their own distinct cultures and almost every state has carved out its own cultural niche. There is hardly any culture in the world that is as varied and unique as India. This country is home to some of the most ancient civilisations, including four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

India is a vast country, having variety of geographical features and climatic conditions. A combination of these factors has resulted in a composite mixture of varying styles and influences.  In the matter of cuisine, for instance, the North and the South are totally different. Festivals in India are characterised by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals. In the realm of music, there are varieties of folk, popular, pop, and classical music. Family values are highly respected throughout India and are fundamental in daily life. Families often live with three or four generations in the same household. Arranged marriages are commonplace although the urban middle class population of India have begun to move away from arranged marriages. 

The Indian culture has absorbed and amalgamated many different customs and ideas throughout its long history which has led to a rich tradition and folk culture. India is well regarded for its rugs, craft, metalwork, bronzes, stone carving, pottery, woodwork, and jewellery. Folk dances are regional and often celebrated during festivals. ’Bollywood’ is the informal name given to the popular Mumbai-based film industry. Bollywood has the largest output in the world in terms of number of films produced.

India is a diverse multi-ethnic country that is home to thousands of small ethnic and tribal groups. It has 2 official languages, Hindi and English, which are spoken very widely. However, there are also 21 other languages which are recognised by the Indian Constitution, and overall there are more than 1500 languages spoken across the country. Prominent languages include Telugu, Tamil, Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Punjabi and Assamese. If you are visiting India, it would be wise to look up which languages are widely spoken in the particular area that you will be spending time in, as learning a few words or greetings in those languages will stand you in good stead.

Due to British colonial influence, English is spoken widely in the context of education, government and business. In North and Central India, Hindi serves as the communal language, however in the South there has been some resistance to the promotion of Hindi as a national language, with southerners feeling that it will diminish the importance of their regional languages. As a result, in the South of India, English is the more commonly heard of the two official languages.

As with most major world languages, Hindi has many local and regional dialects which are mutually intelligible. Modern Standard Hindi is the official variant which is commonly used in government and throughout the business world.

India is well known all over the world as a country of cultural and traditional festivals. One can enjoy a festival celebration in India every month. Each is celebrated uniquely in different ways according to the rituals, beliefs and its significant history behind. As it is a secular country full of diversity it is always crowded with the people involved in the fairs and festivals celebration. Each festival has its own history, legend and significance of celebration. 

India is a country with example of unity in diversity as it contains people of various religions like Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Christian and etc. Some of the festivals are celebrated at national level whereas some of are at regional level. According to the religions and rituals, festivals have been categorized into following categories:

HINDU FESTIVALS

Hinduism is considered the oldest organised and third largest religion of the world. Each Hindu festival celebration has a special ritual to be celebrated including the act of worship, offerings to deities, offering Ganga Jal, fasting, bathing in Ganga jal in early morning, feasting, Dan, Dakshina, Puja, Katha, Hoom, aarti and so many others. All the people of Hindu religion celebrate their festivals by uniting together in community without any distinction of age, caste and gender.

The dates of the Hindu festivals are fixed according to the dates of the Hindu calendar, lunar calendar which depends on the sun and moon movements throughout the year. Some of the festivals of Hindu are celebrated as the historical mythology, some for seasonal changes and some for cleaning and keeping the environment safe. Some of the festivals celebrations are limited to the specific sects or Indian subcontinent regions.

There are many believes in the Hinduism because of various historical sculptures (Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana), ancient and sacred religious text (Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda), Hindus deities and etc. The birth and death anniversaries of the god and goddess are also celebrated in the Hinduism with lots of fun and frolic activities such as music, dance and etc. Below is the list of all the Hindu festivals:

FESTIVALS IN 2019

Hindu Festivals
Lohri
Makar Sankranti
Pongal
Vasant Panchami
Thaipusam
Maha Shivaratri
Holika Dahan
Holi
Chaitra Navratri
Ugadi/Telugu New Year
Gangaur Festival
Mewar Festival
Ram Navami
Mahavir Jayanti
Hanuman Jayanti
Rath Yatra
Guru Purnima
Onam
Raksha Bandhan
Kumbh Mela
Janmashtami
Ramlila
Ganesh Chaturthi
Brahmotsavam
Pitr Paksh
Rambarat
Sharad Navratra
Dussehra
Maharishi Valmiki jayanti
Karva Chauth
Dev Uthani Ekadashi
Dhanteras
Diwali
Govardhan Puja
Bhai Dooj
Chhath Puja

MUSLIM FESTIVALS

All the people of Muslim religion enthusiastically celebrate their all the Islamic festivals all over the world. There are many religious festivals which they celebrate with great passion and dedication by following the date of their Islamic calendar. Some of the very important Islam festivals are Ramzan (Ramadan), Id-e-Milad, Muharram, Bakr-Id and etc which they celebrate in special ways by offering prayers in the mosques, feasting, fasting and wishing to each other.

They decorate their homes with colored lights and other things in the evening and celebrate throughout the night by getting together. Some of the Islamic festivals have been declared as the public holiday in the educational institutions, government offices and other working place. Islam was founded by the spiritualist Muhammad around the 7th century which has become the 2nd largest religion worldwide. The Islam has five most significant Pillars such as “Shahadah (Faith), Salah (Prayer), Zakah (Donate), Sawm (Fasting) and Hajj (Pilgrimage)”. Below is the list of all Muslim festivals:

Muslim Festivals
Barawafat
Giaravahin Sharif
Hazarat Ali’s Birthday
Shab E Miraj
Shab-e-Barat
Jamat-Ul-Vida
Id-ul-Fitr (Ramzan Eid)
Id-ul-Zuha (Bakrid or Eid Ul-Adha)
Muharram

SIKH FESTIVALS

As India is considered as the country of numerous religions, cultures and traditions that’s why it is known as having unity in diversity. People of Sikh religion have lots of unique and ritual festivals which they celebrate with full courage and enjoyment. They commemorate the lives of their 10 Sikh gurus including their teachings. Some Hindu festivals are also celebrated by the people of Sikh religion having different reasons of celebration.

All the worship at the festival in Sikhism is directed towards the holy book called “the Guru Granth Sahib” which was first compiled by the Sikh guru, Guru Nanak and later edited by the Sikh Guru, Arjan. The Guru Granth of the Sikh religion has the place of deity among people and taken out on a palanquin in the public processions while celebrating any Sikh festival. They involve lots of music and religious songs, readings from the holy book, holy songs, singing of gurbani while celebrating their festivals in order to attach with God. Below is the list of all Sikh festivals:

Sikh Festivals
Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti
Lohri
Holla Mohalla
Sodal mela
Guru Ramdass Ji Birthday
Guru Nanak Jayanti
 

JAIN FESTIVALS

People from Jain religion have lots of rituals and religious ceremonies to be celebrated as the festival. Their rituals belong to the idol worships in various ways and festivals belong to the life events of Tirthankara which involves the purification of the soul. Their rituals are divided in two parts named Karya and Kriya. According to the Jain Svetambara there are six obligatory duties called Six Avashyakas which are “Chaturvishnati-stava: praising Tirthankaras, Kayotsarga: meditation, Pratikramana: expiation of past sins, Pratyakhyana: renunciation of anything, Samyika: practising serenity and meditation and Vandan: respecting teachers and ascetics”.

According to the Jain Digambara there are six duties which are “Dana: charity, Devapuja: worship of Tirthankaras, Guru-upashti: respecting teachers and ascetics, Sanyam: controlling self by following different rules, Swadhyaya: studying spiritual texts and Tapa: austerities” which has been involved as a fundamental ritual activities of the Jains. Below is the list of all Jain festivals:

Jain Festivals
Deep Diwali
Mahamastak Abhishek
Mahavir Jayanti
Paryushan

CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS

As India is a land of variety of cultures and ethnicity because of celebrating lots of colorful festivals by the people of different religions. People of the Christian religion celebrate their festivals like Christmas, Easter, Good Friday and etc with big enthusiasm and fun filled activities. People from other religions also become involve in the Christmas celebrations which proves the unity in diversity of India.

There are various famous places in India where the Christian festivals are celebrated such as Goa as most of the oldest and beautiful churches are there. They do feast, prayers and processions while celebrating their festivals. Below is the list of all Christian festivals:

Christian Festivals
Good Friday
Easter
Christmas

BUDDHIST FESTIVALS

People from Buddhist religion celebrate their festivals well connected to their Lord Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. It is considered that the Buddhist festivals were first started by the lord Buddha and He advised his followers to be in touch with each other to strengthen their bond. Buddhist has their own beliefs and rituals of celebrating historical festivals. The do worship of the historical objects while celebrating their festivals.

Their festivals become more religious, spiritual and intellectual which are not restricted to any service of the community. Below is the list of all the Buddhist festivals:

Buddhist Festivals
Losar
Buddha Purnima
Hemis Gompa
Ullambana

India does have a diverse religious make-up, including Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, but by far the most widely practised is Hinduism. Hindu temples are therefore extremely commonplace throughout the country, and many traditions and practices from Hinduism have become intrinsic parts of Indian culture. For example, it is common to remove your shoes as a sign or respect before entering a temple and indeed before entering into someone’s home.

In India it’s traditional to greet people using ‘Namaste’ – place both hands together and bow slightly. In urban areas this is often overlooked. Men will often also shake hands when meeting or leaving. Men should not attempt to shake hands with women. Some Indian women might shake hands with a western woman. Indian culture is based on a hierarchical system so elders and superior are greeted first. Religion, caste and social standing all effect greetings.

Some of the ways in which Indian etiquette differs from western etiquette are as follows:

Dining: It is considered proper to eat with your hands, and in a lot of restaurants or when you are eating with locals, cutlery may not be provided, though in most places spoons can be provided if asked for. If you do try to eat using your fingers, make sure you only use your right hand and not your left, even if you are left-handed, as the left-hand is considered to be ‘unclean’. Also, as common sense would suggest, your fingers will be dirty from eating with them, and as such do not try to serve yourself so as to avoid dirtying the serving spoon, but wait to be served by a waiter or your host.

Clothing: In India, traditional clothing varies hugely in different parts of the vast country. It is common to see draped, flowing outfits, such as the sari for women, and the dhoti for men. In recent years a passion for bright colours and shiny and ostentatious jewellery and accessories has become more apparent in female dress. In urban areas, it is common to see both men and women wearing more Western-influenced clothes, and in a business context suits and ties for men are the norm.

What kind of cloths should I carry during trip to India?

In the hot Indian summers we recommend light coloured cotton tops, shorts and trousers with sun-hats. If you are travelling to any of India’s national parks, remember to pack some long-sleeved cotton tops for game drives. Practical colors to wear are khaki, beige, muddy-brown and white. In the cold winter months temperatures may drop dramatically in early morning & evening hours, so some warm clothing is essential. When visiting religious monuments and shrines you may need to cover up, so both men and women should pack some long skirts and pants. For women it is a good idea to throw in a scarf or shawl that you can use to cover your head and shoulders if required. It is recommended that women wear lightweight long pants, shirts that cover your shoulders and a shawl or sarong to cover your cleavage. 

  1. Don’t Try to Cover Too Much Ground

One of the most important tips when traveling in India is to only include a few stops on your itinerary and spend more time in each one – rather than trying to cover too much on your trip.

Sometimes just walking around in a busy Indian city can be an onslaught to the senses, so you need to budget time in your itinerary for resting and recovering. If you are trying to do too much in too little time, you will suffer from burnout and fatigue.

Instead, take your time and explore fewer destinations in more depth – you’ll have a more enjoyable trip. Also, you’ll have more opportunities to connect with the local people and have interesting experiences.

  1. Prepare Yourself for Culture Shock

When you first arrive in India, it is essentially guaranteed that you will experience cultural shock. There is no use trying to fight it. Instead, prepare yourself and accept that things will not be the same as you are used to back home. Try to open your mind and leave your expectations at home.

  1. Bring Traveler’s Diarrhea Tablets

Unfortunately, one of the common experiences that many travelers to India encounter is the dreaded “Delhi Belly.” No matter how careful you may be, your body will not be used to the array of different bacteria that is in the water and food in India. This is why it is good to have traveler’s diarrhea medication with you – before you need it.

If you wait until you are already feeling ill, you will not want to be far away from a toilet and searching the streets for a pharmacy. A good medication to take is called Loperamide, as it will slow down the movement of your gut therefore reducing your symptoms. If you continue to have stomach issues for more than three or four days, see a doctor as you may need an antibiotic.

  1. Go Beyond the Cities

Although India’s big cities like Delhi and Mumbai can be exciting, it is also worthwhile to go outside of the cities and visit some of India’s smaller villages. The pace of life will be slower, the air will be cleaner and you’ll get a different insight into Indian culture.

  1. Cover Yourself and Dress Conservatively

Although the temperature may be warm in India, walking around in a mini skirt or a low cut top is not acceptable. It is a conservative destination and you will draw a lot of unwanted attention to yourself when you dress in a revealing way. Also, if you are visiting a religious site such as a temple, it is disrespectful to dress in this way. Bring along lightweight long pants, shirts that cover your shoulders and a shawl or sarong to cover your cleavage.

  1. Take Off Your Shoes Before Entering a Temple

Many temples will ask you to take off your footwear before entering. So, it is a good idea to wear shoes that you can easily slip on and off, like sandals. If you are worried about your shoes getting stolen from the front of the temple while you are inside, you can keep them in your backpack or give the temple attendant a few rupees to keep an eye on them.

  1. Get a SIM Card for your phone

Being able to use your phone while traveling around India will make things so much easier. You will be able to look up directions on Google Maps, read TripAdvisor reviews before visiting a restaurant, quickly check out travel websites on the go for tips and scam warnings and much more. When you arrive, getting a SIM card with data for your phone should be one of your top priorities.

  1. Watch Out for Religious Scams

At many of the temples and mosques, you may be pressured to make a donation or to buy a sacred offering. For example, a holy man might put a red dot on your forehead or wrap a string around your wrist, then ask you for money.

Many visitors feel pressured into doing this, as they don’t want to be disrespectful of the local religion. However, you don’t need to if you don’t want to. If it sounds like the price would be very high for a local to do, it is probably not a real spiritual offering but just a way of getting money from tourists.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid of the Local Pharmacy

Some travelers, if they are ill, will ignore the problem and hope they get better because they are too nervous to go to a local pharmacy. However, this just means that your illness will be getting worse for no good reason, as there really is nothing to be afraid of.

When you go to the pharmacy in India you will discover that they are cheap and friendly. You will be able to get antibiotics or any other pills you need, often without a prescription. If you need to see a doctor, it will often be very affordable and good quality.

  1. Understand the Indian Head Waggle

While you are traveling in India you will probably notice that the locals have a certain way of waggling their head back and forth as a response. It’s not the same as a nod up and down for yes, or a nod from side to side for no. It’s a gesture that doesn’t exist in the West, so it can be quite confusing. The Indian nod can have a lot of meanings depending on the context that it is used in.

  1. Learn How to Haggle

Haggling is a natural part of shopping in India, but it will feel a little bit strange and intimidating at first if you are from a culture where haggling is not the norm. The important thing to remember is that it is not a battle – it is a friendly negotiation.

The vendor will probably quote a price that is quite high and he is expecting you to give a counter-offer that is lower. Then, you can go back and forth and reach a price that works for both of you. The price is always negotiable and if you don’t haggle, you will end up paying over the odds for nearly everything you purchase. Plus, word will quickly spread to all of the vendors that you are an easy target and everyone will try to charge you more.

Here’s a tip, if the seller won’t budge on price, just thank them and start walking away. As they don’t want to lose your business, most sellers will change their mind and lower the price after all just to get you back to their stall. Of course, you will also have to accept the fact that foreigners will almost always pay more – so don’t sweat the small stuff too much.

  1. Watch Out for Pickpockets

Whenever you are in a busy public place, be on your guard to make sure that your personal belongings are safe. Don’t carry your wallet, passport or phone in your back pocket – keep it in your front pocket or in a zippered pocket. Don’t wear a lot of expensive jewellery or accessories – keep it simple and only carry the basics.

  1. Understand that Personal Space Isn’t the Same as What You Are Used To

In a country with 1.25 billion people, personal space is not guaranteed. When you are using public transit or walking through the streets, you might find yourself squished and crowded much more than you are used to in your home country. It feels weird at first, but just take a deep breath and go with it.

  1. Carry Hand Sanitizer and Toilet Paper

It is a good idea to carry these around with you, as they are rarely found in public washrooms.

  1. Consider Going Vegetarian During Your Trip

Most Indians are vegetarian and the vegetarian food available in India is diverse, healthy, fresh and delicious. Many traveler choose to eat vegetarian during their visit because it reduces your risk of getting sick from badly prepared meat.

  1. Don’t Expect Things to Happen On Time

Remember that things happen on “Indian Time.” Trains won’t necessarily leave when they are scheduled, Indian friends might not arrive when they said they would and things can take a lot longer than expected. It’s important to keep this in mind and to allow extra time for delays so that you don’t get stressed out. Take a good book to read while you wait and just sit tight, the thing you are waiting for will happen eventually.

17. Couples – Avoid Public Displays of Affection

If you are traveling to India with your partner, avoid hugging, kissing or holding hands in public. These types of public displays of love are considered inappropriate in Indian culture and they will be frowned upon. Keep your affections discreet out of respect for the locals.

  1. Learn How to Eat With Your Hands

In many parts of India cutlery is not used. You eat curry by folding over a bit of naan bread, using it to scoop or pinch some rice and curry and then stuffing it into your mouth. This takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth giving it a try! However, never eat with your left hand as traditionally this is the one used to clean yourself after using the toilet and it is seen as rude and unclean.

  1. Inspect Bottled Water Before Purchasing

Unfortunately, some shop keepers will refill their bottles of water with tap water and then put the lid back on and sell them again. In order to avoid getting ill, make sure that you inspect the water before purchasing. Most types of water bottles will have a plastic seal and if it is broken you can avoid buying it.

  1. Count Your Change Very Carefully

This is a tip that applies almost anywhere in the world. Whenever you are buying items or paying for something, make sure that you check your change and count it carefully. It happens very often that someone will make a “mistake” and give you back the wrong amount of change.

  1. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

You really shouldn’t travel anywhere without travel insurance and India is no exception. If you get ill or injured, any medical treatment you require will be covered by your insurance and reimbursed. Some insurance policies will also cover you for theft, lost luggage, cancellations and anything else that can go wrong during your trip. This will give you peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens you will be taken care of.

  1. Be On Your Guard When Exchanging Money

Be aware that many places that exchange money, such as the money exchange offices at the airport, are likely to rip you off. In fact, it is better to get your money from the ATM as they are the safest and they will have the best possible exchange rates.

  1. Be Careful When Walking on the Sidewalk

You will notice that on many of the streets in India, there is no such thing as a sidewalk at all. The street is just a traffic jam of cows, motorbikes, rickshaws, people and stray cats and dogs trying to move without colliding with each other. If there is a sidewalk, it may be poorly maintained and might have big holes or sharp things sticking out of it. This is why it is essential to watch your feet when you are walking and be aware of your surroundings.

  1. Just Go For It!

The truth is that traveling in India will be much more challenging than traveling in other countries. You might find yourself overwhelmed and exhausted at times, so it is important to take care of yourself and be prepared for this. However, the experience of going to India is absolutely worth it. You will see some incredibly beautiful sights, meet some unforgettable people and get to know a fascinating ancient culture.

When is the best time to visit in India?

The weather in India varies dramatically. While the southern tip of India is being lashed by tropical monsoon rain, the north will be blanketed in thick snow. Therefore, the best time to travel to India depends greatly on the destinations to be visited and the climate experienced there.In India, scope for tourism activities prevails throughout the year. The best time to visit India depends on your tour theme or purpose of visit. Winter (Nov-Dec-Jan-Feb) is the most preferred time for tourists in India. Tours for Heritage tourism, cultural tourism, wildlife tourism are mostly organized during this time. The Central India & Southern regions are good destinations in the winter months (November to March), as temperatures are mild and game viewing in the national parks is at its best. Winter temperatures in the north can be harsh, but this is an excellent time for bird watching, as migrant species arrive. Winter is also the breeding time for big cats. Summer weather (April to June) in the south is mild and this is the ideal time for beach holiday or cultural tours in this region. In the north, summers are an excellent time to visit the Himalayas. Although hot, summer is considered a good time for wildlife photography and safaris in the interior, as the jungle thickets dry out and game becomes concentrated at watering holes.

Summers are good for adventure tourism and hill station visits of North India and North East areas. For trekking it is the ideal time. North & Eastern regions like Leh-ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim etc are the mostly visited states & regions during summers.

In general, the north of India is cooler, the centre is hot and dry, and the south has a tropical climate. Indian weather itself is divided into three distinct seasons — winter, summer, and the monsoon. Generally, the best time to visit India is during the winter, when the weather in most places is relatively cool and pleasant.

Summer (March to May)

India starts heating up from around the end of February, first in the northern plains and then the rest of the country. By April, many places experience daily temperatures exceeding 40 C (105 F). It stays cooler in the southern parts of the country, with temperatures reaching around 35 C (95 F), although it’s a lot more humid. In late May, signs of the approaching monsoon start appearing. Humidity levels build, and there are thunderstorms and dust storms.

The most tiring thing about summer in India is that the heat is so relentless. Day after day the weather doesn’t change — it’s always extremely hot, sunny, and dry.

Monsoon (June to October)

India actually has two monsoons – the southwest monsoon and the northeast monsoon. The southwest monsoon, which is the main monsoon, comes in from the sea and starts making its way up India’s west coast in early June. By mid-July, most of the country is covered in rain. This gradually starts clearing from most places in northwest India by October. October is a peak month in the Indian festival season and many Indian families travel during Diwali holidays, pushing up demand for transport and accommodations.

The northeast monsoon affects India’s east coast during November and December. It’s a short but intense monsoon. The states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala receive most of their rainfall from the northeast monsoon, while the rest of the country receives most of its rainfall from the southwest monsoon.

The monsoon doesn’t appear all at once. Its onset is characterised by intermittent thunderstorms and rain over a number of days, eventually culminating in a huge and lengthy downpour. India during the monsoon doesn’t receive rain all the time, although it usually rains for a heavy period every day, followed by pleasant sunshine. The rain brings some respite from the searing heat. Conditions become very humid and muddy though, while still remaining quite hot.

Winter (November to February)

The disappearance of the monsoon marks the start of clear sunny skies, as well as the start of the tourist season, for most of India. December and January are the busiest months. Daytime winter temperatures are comfortable, although often quite chilly at night. In the south, it never gets cold. This is in complete contrast to the freezing temperatures experienced in India’s far north, around the Himalaya region.

In India, currency is the Rupee. Because the Rupee is non-convertible it cannot be taken out of India, so you cannot get currency before you travel. You can change money at the airport, in banks and large hotels. ATMs are available too, especially in more established resorts. While Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, we recommend you check with your card provider about what fees they charge for transactions abroad. These vary considerably, and can add up over the course of your holiday. There may also be limits on how much cash you can withdraw during a 24-hour period, so check you will be able to take out enough to cover your needs.

Tipping:

Tips in India are typically referred to as baksheesh. Think of giving baksheesh as a small act of appreciation for good service. You will be asked for baksheesh in India often but may refuse anytime. Tips in India are often much smaller (up to 10 percent) than what is expected in the United States and other countries where employees depend on customer gratuity as an important part of their salaries.

Get some small change as quickly as possible after arriving in India. Make a practice of separating your money; carry a few small bills in an accessible pocket so that you can give baksheesh quickly without digging through a wad of money in view of everyone. You shouldn’t have to expose your wallet to snatch thieves each time you give a small tip — which you may find is more often than expected.

Note: Beggars in India often approach with demands of “Baksheesh! Baksheesh!” Someone asking you on the street for baksheesh without providing a service is simply begging. Child begging gangs and hierarchies are a serious problem in India — don’t perpetuate this nefarious industry by making it profitable.

How Much to Tip in India
As always, exact numbers are debatable and depend on the quality of service, but there are some loose guidelines.
Although seeing the poverty in India makes Westerners want to be overly generous and err on the side of giving too much, doing so causes cultural mutation over time. Expectations for gratuity shift as tourists get preferential treatment. Locals, who aren’t in the practice of tipping as much as tourists, find they can’t get decent service in their own countries. Staff would rather wait on the naive tourists.
• For meals: around 10 percent; 15 percent if someone really went out of their way.
• Hotel porters: 20 rupees per bag carried
• Taxi drivers: Rs 300 per day
• Airport transfer drivers: 50 rupees for timely service
• Guides and personal drivers: between 300 – 500 rupees per day, depending on service.
• Barbers, spa staff, and anyone providing a direct, personalized service to you will appreciate a small tip at the end of a job well done. When in doubt, default to 5 percent, and go up to 10 percent for great service.

Tipping in Restaurants
Before deciding how much to tip in a restaurant in India, you should check the bill. Charges on the often-bewildering document should be itemised. Look for “Service Tax” which the government gets and any “Service Charges” that the restaurant gets. These are separate items. You may see that the restaurant has already added 5 or 10 percent to the bill as a service charge; you can adjust your gratuity accordingly. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that management will give any of the service charge to staff. It may simply be used to cover their base salaries. If service was exemplary, consider leaving a cash tip of 5 – 10 percent. If no service charge is present, you can tip around 5 – 10 percent on basic dinners in restaurants. If the bill is quite high (around Rs. 1,000 or more), you can tip a little less. Leaving between 5 – 7 percent will suffice.

General Guidelines for Tipping in India:
• When giving a tip in India, do so subtly and quietly without making a big production of it. You may attract additional begging if noticed. Some employers may demand that their employees turn over their tips; be discreet.

• Anyone who carries your bags — whether you asked for assistance or not — will expect a tip of 50 rupees per bag, with 20 rupees being the absolute minimum. Do not allow porters in the airport, train stations, and hotels to grab your bags for you if you do not wish to pay them • • 

• 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.

• Tip drivers and boatmen by rounding up a little if they got you where you wanted to go quickly and safely. Traffic is terrible in many places in India, so sometimes, a hair-raising ride is the result of a driver wanting to get you to the destination quickly in order to earn a tip. Locals often allow the driver to keep small change when paying.

• Sometimes a centralized tipping box is present in hotels and restaurants. Use these when possible. A few large hotel chains may have no-tipping policies in place.

Q 1: Do I need a visa to travel to India ?

A: Yes, valid Visa is mandatory for all visitors. This must be obtained before arrival and we recommend that you contact your local Indian embassy or consulate when planning your trip.

Q 2: Is it safe to travel in India ?

A: India is generally considered safe country for travellers from any corner of world. We will always be there to take care of you every step of your tour. In addition to this their are certain basic precautions to be taken during tour like it is a good idea to lock away your spare currency, travellers cheques, passports and precious jewellery in the hotel safe. Try not to walk around alone late at night, particularly in deserted areas or small towns, where everything closes early. To the possible extent, avoid travelling on the roads after dark. As anywhere else, never leave your luggage unattended or in custody of unknown person at an airport, train station, bus stands etc. Do not disclose your travel plans to strangers. Keep petty cash in separate to meet frequent small expenses, tips etc.

Q 3: Is India a good destination for traveling with children ?

A: India is an excellent destination for family travel. Here you can find diverse landscapes and culture during your tour. Beach holidays and wildlife adventures in national parks are good options, while many forts, palaces and monuments have sights and light shows that will capture children’s imagination. The country’s many colourful festivals, traditional dressing style also offer plenty of distractions. For teenagers, the many outdoor activities, such as camel safaris, elephant sanctuaries, boat rides and trekking are the best sum up of adventurous activities. The greatest challenge for families travelling in India may be the distances that need to be covered between cities. Air travel and railway journeys are usually the most comfortable modes of travel, and are recommended for those with young children. Western fast food is widely available in standard & luxury restaurants/hotels/resorts.

Q 4: What type and standard of accommodation I can avail in India ?

A: India offers an incredibly wide range of accommodation, from backpackers’ hostels to former maharajahs’ palaces. Any accommodation recommended has been selected for its high standards and attention to detail. Our consultants travel throughout India on a constant basis, paying regular visits to the properties that we recommend.

Q 5: It is safe to drink tap water in India ?

A: It’s best practice is to avoid drinking the tap water. Packed bottle mineral water is ideal solution for drinking water. Packed mineral water bottles of popular brands like Aquafina, Kinley, Bisleri are easily available in urban & country sides. At the time of purchase, don’t forget to check it expiry date. At most of the Airports, popular Railway Stations, metro cities bus stands, tap water having cooling system are almost hygenic and can be used in requirement. Similarly at higher officials government offices, available tap water is also good.

Q 6: What kind of food will I have at Indian hotels & restaurants ?

A: As you know in India tradition, culture, language, taste, dress changes in every 10 to 50 kms. There is huge variety in the food available throughout different parts of India with changes in cooking technique, ingredients and spices etc. North India cooking is known for its meat dishes, which are usually made with chicken, mutton or lamb where as South India is popular for its vegetarian cuisine. Seafood is also readily available, particularly at the coastal parts of country. While Indian cuisine tends to be fiery, most restaurants will gladly prepare a milder variation of the meals on request. Restaurants offering western style food are found in most towns and cities, and large centers such as Delhi and Mumbai will offer a wide selection of cuisine, from Indian to Mediterranean, Chinese or even Mexican.

Q 7: Can I easily have non-veg dishes in India ?

A: Chicken, lamb and mutton are available in most areas, particular in northern India, where the cuisine is dominated by meat dishes. Beef and pork are largely unavailable, as they are forbidden to Hindus and Muslims respectively for religious reasons. Seafood is also an important part of the Indian diet, particularly on the west coast.

Q 8: Is it forbidden to consume liquor in India ?

A: Gujarat is India’s only dry state, but drinking laws are in place throughout the country. Each state may have designated dry days when the sale of liquor is forbidden. Both local and imported brands are readily available in larger cities such as Delhi or Mumbai. However, be prepared to pay a liquor tax. Note that, as a rule, few vegetarian restaurants serve alcohol.

Q 9: What kind of medical precautions do I need to take before traveling to India ?

A: You may need to take malaria prophylactics or have some vaccinations before you travel. We recommend that you visit your doctor at least four week before date of departure.

Q 10: Will I be able to get internet access easily during tour ?

A: Internet connections are available in most places in India and are generally reasonably fast, except for the more remote rural areas. Wi-fi access is available at most good hotels and a growing number of cafés in the larger cities.

Q 11: What is the electricity supply in India and what plugs are used ?

A: The electricity supply is 230 – 240 volt, with three round pin plugs. Most western visitors will require an adaptor.

Q 12: What kind of currency is used in India & how can I do money exchange ?

A: The Indian currency is the rupee, which is made of 100 paise. Major currencies such as US dollars, British pounds and Euros are easy to exchange throughout India. Most international airports throughout the country will have money exchange counters, as should the larger hotels and resorts.

Q 13: Can I use my credit card in India ?

A: The most commonly used cards are Visa and Mastercard, but neither American Express nor Diner’s Club are widely accepted in India. Outside the main cities, it is recommended that you carry enough Indian currency for purchases and tips.

Q 14: How is ATM facility in India ?

A: ATMs linked to international networks are situated in most big cities, as well as an increasing number of smaller towns. Make sure that you have a four-digit PIN code for your card, as Indian ATMs require this.

Q 15: Is it customary to tip and how much should I give ?

A: A service fee is usually automatically added to the bill in most tourist hotels and restaurants. If it is not, the tipping standard is usually 10% of the bill. It is customary to tip bellboys and porters, as well as taxi drivers and chauffeurs.

Q 16: Is there anything I need to know about visiting religious sites ?

A: Remember to dress a little more conservatively – don’t wear shorts or sleeveless tops. You may need to take off your shoes or remove all leather items (don’t worry, the shoe minder will take good care of them). Check that photography is allowed before taking any snaps. Bear in mind that some sites might not admit women or might be reserved for followers of that faith.

Q 17: Is it allowed to take photos everywhere in India ?

A: It’s recommended to always ask permission when taking photos of anyone, especially women. Always ask before taking photos at a religious site or ceremony, or of people bathing on the ghats, river banks or in rural areas. It is forbidden to photograph military installations, courts, security establishments, which can include some train stations, bridges and airports.

Q 18: Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in India ?

A: Single woman or small group of women can travel alone to any tourist destination in India by following some precautions. Here we recommend avoid traveling alone in night hours and lonely places with unknown person. For traveling distant places, tribal areas, night travels do take service of good travel agency. Do not get friendly with strangers who have no valid reason to talk to you. In case you have reached station in late night and have no prior booked taxi, it is better to spend night at railway station or nearby good hotel till morning rather than traveling with strangers & getting yourself into risky situation.

Our itineraries are designed in such a way that there is rarely any scope of night traveling. We prefer early morning drives rather than night drives as per convenience of guest. In case, situation compells to visit in night hours, we keep tracking our guests movements till their destination has been reached.

Q 19: Is it safe to travel with heavy cash in India ?

A: We recommend carrying a small or moderate cash amount with you and try to make use of credit-card or ATM cards instead of carrying heavy cash with you. If you are travelling to a remote destination, national park, tribal areas, less known tourist destination than carry sufficient cash with you as you may not find ATM or card charging machines, currency exchanges in such places. Arrange your cash in two parts in which you keep heavy cash at safe place and do not reveal in public places like Airports, railway station, ticket counters, taxi stands etc. Keep petty cash separately to manage frequent expenses.

All the hotels, train/flight tickets, taxi, jungle safari, guide payments etc. are pre-paid so you do need to keep cash for these expenses.