All you need to know about India
Discover the top tips from our destination experts in this India travel guide.
India is a land painted in a vivid palette of geographical and cultural contrasts, inspiring and intriguing visitors since Roman times. For travelers today, the options are vast and varied. From luxury vacations in India to rugged trekking or deep relaxation, cultural immersion and more – the choices are as diverse as the subcontinent itself.
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Visa and entry
All visitors to India require a valid Tourist Visa.
Visa before Arrival – You can apply for a Visa before Arrival directly at your nearest Indian Consulate. Given the variations in timings and turnarounds, we advise you to apply for an Indian visa at least 2-3 months prior to departure. Depending on which country you reside in, you may be required to present two Indian referrals in your application. Your Travel Consultant will be happy to advise you and provide such referrals for your visa.
Visa on Arrival – Citizens of most countries can apply for Visa on Arrival directly online at the official site.
Visa through assistance offered by a service provider – Alternatively, you can obtain your Visa through the following private companies that provide Visa Outsourcing Services to the Indian Consulate.
Please note that visitors to Sikkim require a special permit which you can apply for at the same time as your visa. This permit incurs an additional fee of USD $30. All hotels in Darjeeling & Sikkim require a passport size photograph of you at the time of check in.
Currency, cash and cards
The official currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR). Major currencies such as US dollars, British pounds and Euros are easy to change throughout India. You must present your passport whenever you change currency or travelers checks.
Modern 24-hour ATMs are found in most large towns and cities. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa and MasterCard. Credit cards are accepted at growing numbers of shops, up-market restaurants, midrange and top-end hotels. Away from major towns, always carry cash or travelers checks as backup.
All major brands of Travelers Cheques are accepted in India, but some banks may only accept checks from Amex and Thomas Cook. Charges for changing travelers’ checks vary from place to place and bank to bank.
Do’s and don’ts
- Whenever you change money, check every note. Do not accept any ripped notes, as these may not be accepted as payment elsewhere.
- Keep some smaller denomination notes handy – these are useful for transactions with small vendors.
- When you are traveling away from major towns, always carry cash or travelers cheques as backup.
- Check in advance whether your card can access banking networks in India and ask for details of charges.
- Keep the emergency lost-and-stolen numbers for your credit/debit cards in a safe place, separate from your cards, and report any loss or theft immediately.
- When using travelers cheques, always keep a record of the serial number along with the proof-of-purchase slip, and encashment voucher.
Language, communication and internet
Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India, however, English is widely spoken and written. There are 17 major languages and 844 dialects recognized by the Constitution of India. You will find that most people can understand and speak a fair amount of English at popular tourist destinations. In rural areas however, very few people may speak or understand English.
Mobile phone communication in India has skyrocketed in recent years and you can expect mobile phone coverage, except in very remote rural areas. Internet cafes abound in urban areas and many modern/business hotels offer WIFI services to their guests. However, only a few hotels offer complimentary WIFI in public areas and that most hotels provide internet on a chargeable basis.
India’s country code is +91.
You can purchase a local prepaid SIM card from mobile phone stores. These are readily available and usually take 24-48 hours to activate from the time you arrive in India. You will need to bring a photocopy of your passport to purchase a temporary local number/SIM card.
Health and insurance
Most of the popular tourist areas of India are extremely safe for international travelers and health risks are relatively low. However, it is advisable to check the latest travel health advisories from your national health center. We advise you to carry mosquito repellant on your trip to India.
It’s best to purchase international travel health insurance, should you fall ill during your trip, require medical assistance or hospitalization during your trip. While medical facilities in most big Indian cities are of a good standard, having medical insurance is highly advisable in order to obtain the best services and healthcare during your trip, should you need any.
India has a very strong network of roads, railways and airlines. This way you avoid office traffic and reduce your drive time. When starting early for inter-city drives, please carry packed lunches from your hotel. Please carry toilet paper with you on all long drives since public washrooms may be always be clean. Here are our top tips for travel within India.
It is advisable to start early in the morning for inter-city drives. This way you avoid office traffic and reduce your drive time.
Train journeys in India can be challenging, from crowded stations to unpleasant restrooms. However they do offer a truly unique look at life in India. It is best to reserve your seats in advance so that you have better seats. Always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your hand luggage and refrain from buying any food or water from local vendors.
Baggage allowance for inter-country travel is a lot less than on international flights. Typically, most airlines allow for 30 kg (66 lb) for business class passengers and 15 kg (33 lb) for economy class passengers. You are allowed 1 piece of hand luggage weighing 7 kg (15 lb) for all domestic flights within India.
Indian food is renowned for the delectable range of varied cuisines and regional flavors. There are so many types of food in India that visitors will find themselves spoilt for choices. All Enchanting Travels cars are equipped with bottled water; please avoid drinking water from outside, even if it is sealed and of a good make. Also, please avoid eating vegetable salads, fried foods, and beverages from roadside vendors. They might seem tempting but can be unhygienic. Your guides and chauffeurs will know reputable restaurants, and all of your hotels with restaurants will be a good choice for dining. When ordering food, please feel free to request orders ‘non-spicy.’ Also, please keep in mind certain cultural sensitivities while eating at restaurants. Please do not ask for beef products unless it is listed in the menu. Vegetarians will find their diets easily catered to, however it is good to remember that in India, eggs are not considered vegetarian food.
In the larger cities, look out for state-run emporiums (shopping centers with fixed prices) which offer the best rates. One can bargain in most privately run shops, especially at local markets. Working hours differ in various parts of the country, but as a rule, shops are open from 10am to 8pm.
Beware of touts who approach you to try and sell something with a verbal guarantee of quality or an “amazing price.” Also keep in mind that export of certain items such as ivory, fur, skins and antiquities, is banned and hence, it is mandatory to obtain a certificate of legitimate sale and permission for export if you intend to purchase these items.
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Clothes and etiquette
As a rule of thumb, visitors to the larger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, or Bangalore will find that a mix of Indian and Western clothing is acceptable and is worn by many young Indians. However, in many popular tourist destinations such as Rajasthan, modesty in dress is recommended.
Modest behavior is also appreciated as public displays of affection, even between spouses, is considered in bad taste in many parts of the country.
Important note: The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department has issued a notice to the temples under its control to strictly enforce a dress code for entering temples in Tamil Nadu, South India. Other temples that do not fall under the government control may also enforce their own dress code. As a result, Hindu temples in southern India have begun turning away visitors in western clothing after a court order banning jeans and shorts as inappropriate for spiritual worship came into effect.
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Private travel to India can include many hotels wrapped up in unique history and culture – from charming converted palaces to grand colonial homes. Our Enchanting Travels CEO Parik offers his hand-picked selection of top 10 palace and heritage hotels in India.
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This was absolutely amazing! We spent 9 or so days traveling throughout India and Enchanting Travels was very hospitable and flexible! Our tour guides were personable and funny, as well as knowledgeable. All of the hotel accommodations were clean and beautiful. I think the real difference for me was with our Trip Coordinator and how she would reach out daily to ensure we were enjoying ourselves and making herself available if any problems arose. I would strongly recommend Enchanting Travels.
I cannot imagine being without Enchanting Travels for my first trip to India. With new and different things to acclimate to and customs I was not privy to, ET made my journey a breeze. I was able to see and enjoy the entirety of all places visited without worrying about tickets and transfers and luggage and hotels and anything that might take me away from being “in the moment”. Usually one fourth of my trip is spent making arrangements but not so with Enchanting Travels as it is all done for you. Kudos to ET.
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