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India Facts and Travel Tips

The Country and Population: India has a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometers. The country is so large that there is a severe variation in the topography and ethnic identity of the people living in different regions of North, South, Central, West and Eastern India . Every visit to the country offers a new experience of the socio-cultural spectrum. The population of the country is approx. 1100 million, second only to China .

Climate: The Indian winter is from mid-November to early March - with temperatures in the Northern plains ranging between 5°C to 22°C and in the South, between 22°C and 30°C. Summers in the North are hot with temperatures in May and June soaring to 45°C. South India is more balmy with temperatures between 28°C to 37°C. The rainy season in the West, Central and North India starts from the last week of June and ends end August. The rains bring down the temperature and end the dry weather.

Religion: India is a positive example of secularism. The major religion is Hinduism, followed by Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism and Zoroastrians (one of the oldest religions on earth). Hindus form approx. 80% of the population, Islam - 12% and the balance 8% amongst the others.

Passport: A valid passport is required for arrival into the India . To avoid any difficulties upon arrival, check your passport before leaving. You need at least one empty page for your passport to be stamped. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival. Keep your passport number (and a copy of your passport) in a separate place while traveling.

Visa: A valid visa is required for all the visitors visiting India .

Granting of Visa does not confer the right of entry to India and is subject to the discretion of the Immigration Authorities. Visitors to restricted/protected areas need special permits and for this purpose an additional form has to be completed. Please contact the High Commission of India in your country, if you wish to ascertain whether any of the places you intend to visit fall in the category of restricted / protected areas.

General Requirements for Visa

1. Original passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of intended departure from India .
2. Correct visa fee
3. Two passport size photographs

4. Supporting documents, where necessary
5. Duly completed application form

Packing List: Overall, the less luggage you bring the easier it will be to get around, the more you will enjoy your trip. A good goal is to fit everything into a single piece of checked luggage and a carry-on daypack. The large pack must lock, although you will carry your most valuable items in your daypack. It will be your main repository for personal gear while traveling. Also bring an extra (lockable) duffel to carry new purchases home. It is important to lock up items when checked on the plane. Previous trip members have had items stolen from luggage in airports when it was left unlocked. Domestic Indian flights have different weight limit ranging from 15 to 30 kg. of checked-in baggage per person free of cost. Excess baggage can be carried at an extra cost.

Clothes: Besides normal clothing, we also recommend the following for the trip to India -
  • Shorts
  • Short sleeve cotton shirts
  • Pile jacket or sweater (the evenings can be cool)
  • Light hat with wide brim for sun
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Swimsuit
  • Sport sandals
  • Baggage tags, one per bag
  • First aid kit
  • Toiletries
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun-blocking lotion / lip balm
  • Small flashlight
  • Spare eyeglasses / contacts
  • Neck pouch or money belt for passport / cash
  • Cameras and films. Plenty of good quality films are also available at reasonable prices at most of the places in India .

Most travelers in India wear short pants and loose tops during the day. There are no cultural restrictions on clothing, though it is recommended to avoid wearing revealing clothes, while sightseeing, shopping etc.

Personal First Aid Kit:
  • Aspirin / Tylenol
  • Water disinfectant
  • Prescription medicine
  • Pepto Bismol
  • ?Anti - Diarrhea drug
  • Vitamins
  • Ace bandage
  • Band-Aids
  • ?Alka-Seltzer
  • Antiseptic
  • Antibacterial cream
  • Safety pins
  • Anti-fungal & anti-itch agents
  • Scissors

However, most of the above items are easily available at drugstores all over India , and can therefore be bought on arrival.

Accommodation: In the major metro cities of India clean secure accommodation ranging from 2 - 5 star deluxe rating is available. In the smaller towns clean 2-3 star hotels are also available. All hotels with a 4 star and higher rating offer room service, central air-conditioning, coffee shops and restaurants. The smaller hotels normally have a dining room where TDH meals and snacks can be ordered.

Transportation: Public urban transportation is almost non-existing in India . In the larger metros metered taxis and scooter rickshaws are easily available. In the smaller towns non-metered taxis scooter rickshaws and bicycle rickshaws are the common mode of transportation.

Foreign Currency : Any tourist can bring into India from a place outside India foreign currency without any limit. However, declaration of foreign exchange / currency is required to be made in the prescribed Currency Declaration Form in the following cases:-

(a) Where the value of foreign currency notes exceeds US$ 5000/- or equivalent

(b) Where the aggregate value of foreign exchange (in the form of currency notes, bank notes, traveler cheques etc.) exceeds US$ 10,000/- or its equivalent

Indian Currency : Bringing Indian currency by any foreign national is prohibited. Only Indians who travel overseas frequently can bring small amount of INR. Hence please bring your country currency and get it exchanged into Rupees here.

The Indian currency is called the Rupee, which is divided into 100 Paise. Bank Notes are available for 10, 20, 50, 100 & 500 rupees. It is recommended to carry rupees for shopping, eating out etc., as most establishments do not accept foreign currency. The best rate for your money is available at the banks of the larger cities. However, please keep the receipt given to you by bank so that you can reconvert Indian Rupees into your currency, at your departure in the International Airport . Currently the exchange rate is approximately Rs. 39 to US $ 1.

Credit Cards: Major credit cards (like Visa, Mastercard and American Express) are accepted at all major hotels, restaurants and large shops. However, the smaller shops still prefer cash and it is advisable to always carry some currency notes and coins.

Photography: We suggest that you bring your own camera for the trip. If you are using an automatic camera, please bring a matching pair of batteries, in case current ones run out. 35 mm film from ASA 100 - ASA 400 is easily available at reasonable prices. In the larger cities specialized film and batteries are also available. While photography is permitted at most of monuments (except at some specific religious centers) a small camera fee is levied everywhere. The fee is normally around Rs. 25 (US $ 0.50). For video cameras a fee of Rs. 100 (US $ 2.50) is levied.

Photo Sensitivity: As India is the land of magnificent sunshine, for people arriving from temperate regions, sun-block or sunscreen is recommended.

Electricity: Electric current is 220 - 240 V AC, 50 cycles. The electric socket used is 2 or 3 round pin type.

Bargaining: All major shops, airlines and hotels have fixed prices. Smaller establishments are subject to negotiations. At the market a question of `how much?' is the beginning of a conversation. Carrying a small pad of paper and a pen to write down offers with is a good idea. Here are some general rules to the game :-
  • Never lose your temper or sense of humor.  A smile is very useful.
  • Pretend indifference to an object if you really want a good price.
  • Do not be shy about denigrating an item you want to buy: `Is this a scratch?', `But look, the color is fading.'
  • It is not worth bad feelings just to knock a few cents or dollars off. You have spent a lot of money to get here, why spoil it by over bargaining. While situations vary, it is reasonable to end up at 70% of the asking price.

Tips: Tipping in India is the norm. It is approx. 10% of the food bill at a restaurant and Rs. 20 to 30 for room service or portage per bag (at a hotel). It is not normal to tip a metered taxi or motor scooters. However, if you have a chauffeur driven car, it is customary to tip the driver, if he has done a good job. The normal tip for a car is Rs. 200 per tour day and slightly higher for the larger vehicles. Normal tip for tour guide ranges from Rs. 300 to Rs. 500 per day.  

Health: Qualified doctors and medical supplies are available at all towns; advanced hospitals with latest medical facilities are available at the larger cities. It is advisable to have ONLY BOTTLED MINERAL WATER during your tour and abstain or avoid eating pre-cut raw fruits and vegetables from smaller restaurants and outlets. Safe bottled cold drinks like Coke, Pepsi etc., are available all over the country.

Security: India is a safe destination. Armed assault and robbery is very rare. However, it is advisable to never leave your bags unattended and to keep valuables, money, passports etc., in the hotel safe deposit boxes. During traveling it is recommended to carry these items in a waist pouch.

Indian Customs: Bringing in large quantities of gold, currency, electronic items, animal products and drugs are banned by Indian customs. Before you enter India , you will be given an Immigration Form to fill in details on dutiable items being carried by you.

Language: The official language is Hindi but English is widely spoken across India . Besides English and Hindi , India has another 17 main regional languages.

Business Hours : Most Indian shops are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Normal banking hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., except on Saturdays when they open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. - with Sundays as the weekly holiday.

Time: India is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of GMT and 10 hours 30 minutes ahead of Eastern Standard time of the USA .

Phones: All over the country (including the smaller towns) phone booths are available. All these booths carry a signboard with ISD / STD / PCO written on them. Here you may make metered calls to any part of the world. However, these calls are to be paid for in cash (no credit cards). Card telephones, available in most European and North American countries, are not available in India . All hotels have direct international dial facilities, which cost about double the price of a normal metered call.

Reporting time for Domestic and International flights: For domestic flights, reporting time is 1 hour before departure. For all international flights reporting time is 3 hours before departure. Many International Airlines require a reconfirmation of the flight 72 hours before departure. No reconfirmation is required for domestic flights.

Emergency Phone Numbers:

Police                                       :           100

Fire                                           :           101

Ambulance                                :           102

Accident & Trauma Service         :           1099

Food: India offers a range of delectable cuisine. Traditional Indian food is normally too spicy for the western palate. However, many restaurants and hotels all over the country provide buffet meals, which are a combination of Indian and Continental, food. At a la Carte restaurants, you may also ask for a less spicy platter to suit your taste.

Shopping: India is known all over the world for its arts, handicrafts, cotton & silk fabrics, carpets, ethnic jewelry, Objet D'art etc. Also, a wide variety of international branded products are available in selected showrooms, priced at approximately 30 to 40% less than the European market.

Departure Tax: The international departure tax payable at the airport is Rupees Seven Hundred. However, most international tickets issued nowadays have this tax included in the price. So, please check your ticket.
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