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Travel Tips in India

The birthplace of both Buddhism and Hinduism, India boasts a history that dates back some 5,000 years. The country enjoyed a golden age of art, learning, and medicine during the Gupta dynasty from 500 B.C. through 320 B.C.; was invaded between A.D. 450 and the late 1400s first by the Huns; then by Muslims, who established the Mogul Empire; followed by the Portuguese who fought the Dutch, English, and French to gain control of India’s valuable sea trade routes between Europe and Asia. By the mid 1700s, centuries of invasions and war had left the country without a strong central government, which enabled the British Empire’s powerful East India Company to fill the void. In 1858, the British government itself took control of India.

A national independence movement that had begun during the 1860s gained strength during the early 1900s; in return for India’s support during World War I, Britain offered India greater control over its own government, though it didn’t offer independence until 1946. After rioting between Hindus and Muslims threatened the prospect of sovereignty, Indian and British rulers divided the nation into India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim). On August 15, 1947, India became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Today it is a federal republic slightly more than one-third the size of the United States – with a population of more than one billion.

All foreign nationals require visa to enter India. However, there are some relaxations for Bhutanese and Nepalese nationals. Details and types of visa and the fee may be obtained from Embassy of India in your country. Tourist Visa is normally valid for 120 days. Visa extensions can be got by applying to the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi. It is closed on weekends and national Holidays. Those wishing to visit a neighboring country like Sri Lanka or Nepal, and then coming back to India, should obtain a double/multiple entry Visa.

Certain parts of the country need special permits before they can be visited.
Foreign Tourists can visit Nagaland In order to promote tourism in the North-east region; the Government of India has decided to allow foreign tourists to visit Nagaland. Until recently the entire state of Nagaland was a restricted area. However the Government of India has decided to allow foreign tourists to visit the districts of Dimapur, Kohima, Mokokchong and Wokha for a maximum period of 10 days and in a group of 4 or more. This restriction of group is not valid for married couples.
Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram: These States/Union Territories have been designated as protected areas and foreigners cannot enter these areas without special permits and it should be taken at least 4 weeks before the date of the expected visit.

Certain areas of Sikkim like Gangtok, Rumtek, Phodang and Zongri in West Sikkim and Pamayangtse have been excluded form the inner line and declared as restricted areas. Individual tourists are permitted to visit Gangtok, Rumtek and Phodang. Tourists are permitted to visit Zongri and Pamayangtse. The duration of stay has been raised from 7 to 15 days.

Permits can be issued by all Indian Missions abroad, all FRROs, Immigration Officers at Airports at Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and New Delhi. Manipur. Manipur has also been opened to foreign tourists; permits can be issued by all Missions abroad, all FRROs, Home Commissioner, Manipur, and Imphal. The duration of stay has been raised from 3 to 5 days. Permits are no longer required for These States/Union Territories have been designated as protected areas and foreigners cannot enter these areas without special permits.

These permits are issued by the:
Under Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Foreigners Division,
Loknayak Bhawan, Khan Market, New Delhi 110 003

Permits are no longer required for Darjeeling, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura. Andaman and Nicobar Islands : Individual foreign tourists can visit Port Blair Municipal Area, Havelock Island, Long Island, Neil Island, Mayabunder, Diglipur, Rangat, where a night halt is allowed and Jolly Buoy, South Cinque, Red Skin, Mount Harriet, Madhuban where only day visits are allowed. Prior permit is necessary.
Lakshadweep Islands: Only Bangaram and Subeli Islands are open to foreign tourists. Permits are required, obtainable from the Lakshadweep Administration, Wellington Island, Harbour Road, Kochi -3. Manipur

Yellow fever : Any person (including infants) arriving by air or sea without a certificate is detained in insulation for a period up to 6 days if arriving within 6 days of departing from an infected area.
Malaria risk exists throughout the year in the whole country excluding parts of the States of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Sikkim. No certificate required, but a course of anti-malaria pills is recommended. Drinking water: Bottled water is available and usually provided in flasks in hotel rooms for people with delicate digestive systems. It is advisable to use bottled mineral water, this is widely available.
Facilities: It is advisable to bring specific medicines. There are state operated facilities in all towns and cities and private consultants and specialists in urban areas.

The official language is Hindi but English is widely spoken, understandable & used in day to day work. Even most of the government, bank, airport, procedures & forms are in English & Hindi both. The States are free to decide their own regional languages for internal administration and education, so there are 18 official languages spoken throughout the country.

It is usual to tip waiters, porters, guides and drivers. Tips are not included in the bill.

Trained English speaking guides are available at fixed charges at all important tourist centers. The Govt. of India Tourist Offices can be contacted by tourists for the services of approved guides. French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese speaking guides are available at some cities. Please consult the nearest Govt. of India Tourist Office. Unapproved guides are not permitted to enter protected monuments, and tourists are, therefore, advised to ask the guides for the identity card issued by the Department of Tourism, Govt. of India.

These may vary from region to region. All international Hotels have a 24 hours money changing facility. Banks: 10.00 to 14.00 (Mo. to Fr.), and 10.00 to 12.00 (Sat.). Post Offices: 10.00 to 17.00 (Mo. to Fr.) and Sat. mornings, in big cities often longer. Shops: 09.30 to 18.00 (Mo. to Sat.).

GMT + 5 1/2 hours.

The standard time for India is calculated from Allahabad and is common to all cities. Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of London, 4 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Paris, about 10 hours 30 minutes behind New York, 3 hours and 30 minutes behind Tokyo and 4 hours and 30 minutes behind Sydney.

American Express, Master Card, Visa and Diners Club credit cards are generally accepted by large establishments including hotels, shops, and airlines.

Voltage in most places is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles, although some areas also have DC supplies.

Travelers to India find ample themes with varied subjects for photography from faces to monuments, wildlife, festivities, scenic beauty, etc. However, formalities in respect to protected monuments and the wildlife sanctuaries are: Special permission of the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, is required for use of tripod and artificial light. Photography in the wildlife sanctuaries is allowed on payment of a prescribed fee. Photography is prohibited in tribal areas.

Fax/Telex/Telegram: International 24-hours service from large hotels and telegraph offices in major cities. Telephone calls to most countries are now direct. There are telephone facilities between the most cities and towns. Internet facilities are available in most hotels otherwise every city has cyber cafes and cyber clubs which charge less than $1 per hour. The international direct dialing code for India is +91 plus city code.

Currency: Rupee = 100 Paise. Coins are in denominations of l, 2, 5 & 10 Rupees. Paper Notes are in denominations of Rs 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000.

There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers’ cheques a tourist may import; provided a declaration form is completed on arrival. This will facilitate the exchange of imported currency as well as the export of unspent currency on departure. Cash, bank notes and travelers’ cheques up to US$2.500 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry. Any money in the form of traveler cheques, drafts, bills, cheques, etc. which tourists wish to convent into Indian currency should be exchanged only through authorized money changers. Tourists are warned that changing money through unauthorized persons is not only illegal but also involves the risk of receiving counterfeit currency. To exchange foreign money other than through banks or authorized money changers is an offence. Please note that no Indian currency what so-ever can be imported or exported, except for Rupee traveler cheques. Banks abroad do keep Rupee balances with their agents in India and are able to draw upon these balances to issue Rupee traveler cheques to intending tourists. There are 24 hour exchange facilities available at all big cites and international airports.

All personal objects which are required in India are free from duty. Under this heading fall personal jewelry, presents up to a value of Rs. 600, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 0.95 litre alcoholic beverages. Professional material and articles which have a high value can only be imported duty free if the traveler gives a written undertaking that these articles will be re-exported. Those without any dutiable goods or high value articles or foreign exchange more than US $2,500 or unaccompanied baggage which needs to be declared, can walk through Green Channel. All others need to pass through the Red Channel. Goods up to Rs 750 (Rs. 12,000 for persons of Indian origin) for personal use or as gifts are exempt from duty. Beyond the free baggage limit, the duty rate is 52% plus 2% special duty.

There are many festivals and special events in India, but only a few of these are full public holidays. These are 26 January (Republic Day), 15 August (Independence Day) and 02 October (Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday). For dates of other holidays and festival please contact Tourist Offices in India.

01. Medications: Always consult your doctor regarding immunizations that should be taken like Hepatitis A and Polio. Additional vaccinations that your doctor may recommend are Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), Tetanus, Rabies and Hepatitis B. Also carry medications for malaria, diarrhea, anti-allergy, Typhoid etc. Keep a copy of those prescriptions with you in case the local authorities like the Customs question you. Carrying general medications for headache, nausea, few band-aids and mosquito repellent is also suggested. Although you get everything in India but its just better to have them beforehand.
02. Tourist Visa: Citizens of most countries require a tourist visa on their passport. You should consult an Indian Embassy close to your location for obtaining valid visa.
03. Make copies of all your important travel documents (like ID, passport and visa) and leave it with a friend or family in case you lose the originals. Fill in the emergency information page of your passport. If you know the hotel phone number you will stay, leave that also with them.
04. Keep the phone number of embassies of your respective country in India.
05. Do not wear expensive jewellery and do not put all your cash in one location. Get some money converted to Indian Currency (Rupees) before you go. Carrying some travelers' cheques is also a good idea. If you need money in India only exchange it with authorized agents or banks. Inform your credit card company and Bank that you will be traveling to India on which dates so that your card is not blocked for suspicious activity.
06. Always drink bottled water and make sure that it is sealed. Always eat well cooked food. In India, do buy fruits cookies and crackers with you, Local brands like Parle and international brands like Britannia and Nestle are safe to eat.
07. If traveling in the monsoon, carry a raincoat and umbrella. Carry flashlight and an extra set of lock and keys. If you need directions prefer to ask shopkeepers over pedestrians. Its a good idea to re-verify with someone else also. Winters (December to February) can be chilly, especially in North India. Always carry sweaters and jackets if you are planning to visit North, North East and Eastern India in winters.
08. Always be safe, follow local laws and keep patience, do not leave your luggage unattended in public places, beware of pick pockets and do not accept packages from strangers. Women travelers should take extra care of her for being safe.
09. Beggars: You will find them quite often. Although some are genuine but at times people are forced into it. If you want to donate, its better to donate to a nonprofit organizations.
10. You can expect to bargain/negotiate price of the item in most of the shops (expect for government-run). You can even start with half price. Leave it if you are not satisfied.
11. Try to learn some local words. In north India Hindi is the primary language, Southern India has a separate language for each State. Lot of people in India speak English, specially in popular tourist spots.
12. Not everyone follow the traffic rules in India, so prefer not to drive yourself. India has a lot of budget airlines; consider flying when traveling long distance. Trains are also a good option. Try to travel in 1st or 2nd A/C class compartment instead of general class.
13. Cell (Mobile) phone coverage is quite good in India and cheap too. Definitely consider getting one if you are staying for more than 1 month. Most telecom tariff plans have free incoming calls and cheap outgoing calls. If you want to buy a Sim card you can get it by showing your valid identity card and address proof. It is better to close the connection after leaving the India.
14. Please take care of your attire when you visit any Temple, Mosque and Gurudwara.Avoid to wear mini dresses and follow the rules and ritual of that pilgrimage place.
15. Always carry sunglass and the sunscreen lotion alogwith the hat in Rajasthan as sun rays lies straight during the sightseeing and might cause skin problems. Also keep warm cloth with you if you are visiting any hill station of India as in evening weather gets change and you can feel chillness in air.

Perhaps the best known of all Indians is Mahatma Gandhi, the “father of the nation” who led India’s struggle for Independence and is revered for his non-violent approach to civil disobedience. Other renowned Indians include Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister, whose daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi also served as prime ministers. Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun who spent most of her life serving the poorest of the poor in India, also counts among the country’s most revered people; as does film director Satyajit Ray, a master of world cinema who received an honorary Academy Award in 1992. In antiquity, Vatsyayana wrote the Kamasutra and Vyasa wrote the epic Mahabarata. Poet Rabindranath Tagore was the Nobel laureate for Literature in 1913. Writing in English, contemporary Indian authors Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, and V.S. Naipul have achieved widespread popularity with American readers.