India at a Glance
3,287,262 square kilometers
1.2 billion officially (closer to 1.5 billion if all responded to the census)
The religious demographics of the Republic of India show a predominance of Hinduism as the main religion in India accounting for 80% of the population. The second largest religion is Islam (13%).The other natively Indian religions, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism taken together account for less than 3%. About 2% of Indians adhere to Christianity and 2% are other religions.
Because of India’s size, its climate depends not only on the time of year, but also the location. In general, temperatures tend to be cooler in the north, especially between September and March. The south is coolest between November to January. In June, winds and warm surface currents begin to move northwards and westwards, heading out of the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Gulf. This creates a phenomenon known as the south-west monsoon, and it brings heavy rains to the west coast. Between October and December, a similar climatic pattern called the north-east monsoon appears in the Bay of Bengal, bringing rains to the east coast. In addition to the two monsoons, there are two other seasons, spring and autumn.
Because of the unusual topography of the land, climatic conditions are widely diversified on both a seasonal and regional basis. The coolest weather lasts from November to mid-March, with cool, fresh mornings and evenings and dry, sunny days. Really hot weather, when it is dry, dusty and unpleasant, is between April and June. The mean temperature is approx. 29 degree Celsius or 84.2 Fahrenheit.
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
India is a constitutional democracy. There are 28 states and 7 union territories. Parliament is bicameral; the lower house is known as the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the upper house is known as the Rajya Sabha (Council of States).
VISA TO INDIA
Indian Missions Abroad are the right place to acquire your Visa to India. You may seek a tourist visa to India, business visa to India, student visa to India, employment visa to India, transit visa to India, or an entry visa to India, from these Indian missions abroad. The Embassies of India, High Commissions of India, and the Consulate Generals of India, will be happy to help you get a Visa to India.
Money: The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks, and authorised bureaux de changes as well as at Hotels. No matter what time you arrive in India there will be an exchange office open at the airport. It is illegal to exchange money through the black market and it is advisable to refuse torn notes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. It is best to change money into small denominations. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are generally available in all the major cities and towns
Banks are open from 1000hrs – 1400hrs Monday through Friday and 1000hrs-1200 Noon on Saturday. Variations occur, so please check. In some tourist centres, there may be Bureaux de Changes that remains open later. Shops are open 0930hrs – 1900 hrs Monday through Saturday. In established markets, shopping hours usually stretch on till night falls. Market trading days and business hours vary. Check in advance with us.
Standard voltage is 230-240V (usually 240V). Pack a universal travel adaptor that will allow you to use a hairdryer, electric shaver, charge a mobile ‘phone or minidisc/CD Walkman. Take care with your choice of adaptor. Be sure that it is suitable for India, as Indian sockets accept round 3 pin plugs that are similar but not identical to European plugs.
Meeting you in the street or watching you walk out of your hotel. These professionals dressed in western clothing, speaking perfect English are quick to start up a conversation. They will offer you assistance to find where you want to go or invite you for a cold drink. The best response is to ignore them. No matter what do not get into a conversation with them, let them walk with you or take you anywhere.
During your visit to Monuments you will find many Hawkers chasing you over their wares. The best solution in this case is to ignore them if you do not intend to buy and not to enter into any price negotiation. If buying you need to be good at negotiating prices and need to watch your pockets and cameras as many hawkers surround you at the same time and you may end up getting your pocket picked.
TAXIS / AUTORICKSHAWS
If arriving on your own at airports or railway stations, hordes of touts and taxi men will crowd around you and offer to take you to wherever you need to go. You are very likely to get overcharged upon reaching your destination. You are not expected to tip taxis. If you are unsure about the cost conversions – which are usually one and a half times to twice what the meter reads, you can always ask for a meter card from the driver.
When venturing out and about, you may need to take an auto rickshaw or taxi. Be sure to give your directions to your exact destination and be sure to ask for the direct route with no stops offs, shopping or detours on the way. Do not allow any extra co-passenger with you.
Taxis charge a minimum fare of about Rs 8 and auto-rickshaws about Rs 5 for the first kilometre. There are no extras, except for luggage for which Rs. 5 is charged per piece and a late night charge for travel between 11 pm and 5 am.
Post Card stamps are available at post offices and at some souvenir kiosks and hotel receptions. Indian postal services are generally excellent. Expected letters are almost always there and letters you send almost invariably reach their destination
The international direct dialing code for India is 91. Telephone booths are available in all towns/villages. (24hr service is available in large hotels). Please check with your mobile phone provider if your network & contract enable you to have coverage in India. You can also take a prepaid mobile connection on your arrival in India. But due to security reasons, the procedure is time consuming as a lot of paperwork is required.
INTERNET CAFES & E-MAILS
Like all other countries Internet Cafes are easily available at main cities except for small villages & towns. Most of the Hotels have internet facilities for the clients to use at a nominal cost.
There is no scarcity of drinking water in India. Most towns and cities have a well planned system of over head tanks that store water which can be used as and when the need be. Though Indian drinking water is clean, it is advisable that you have bottled water only. Bottled mineral water is available all through India in all roadside shops as well as in Hotels. As a precaution you are advised to drink mineral water only and do not forget to check the manufacturing and expiry date on the bottle.
TOILET & FACILITIES
Public Toilets, when they can be found are usually ‘squats’ – holes in the floors with the footrest at either side. They come with a compulsory usage of Rs 5- Rs10. They can be of poor hygienic standards. Most come with a water squirter for washing yourself, so always have a paper with you. Always pack some toilet papers and anti bacterial wipes for your comfort.
Major credit cards are generally accepted by large establishments, including hotels, shops and airlines. Hotels may refuse to accept credit cards at certain destinations. It is best to pre check with your booking agent.
ATMS & CASH MACHINES
ATMs and cash machines are easily available in big cities in India but not in villages & small towns.
SECURITY OF PERSONAL BELONGINGS
Avoid carrying valuable things. Wear a money necklace or stitch a pocket inside your outfit to keep important documents like passport, credit cards, travellers’ cheques, etc. It’s always better to take photocopies of important documents and leave them with someone trustworthy. Make sure you keep a card mentioning important contact numbers, your age, blood group, etc, so that people may help you in the event of an emergency. Also make sure to carry the Hotel Card from reception if you are going out on your own – You might lose your way back!
Carry only essentials Taking cognisance of time, place and season of visit, carry only the most important things with you. Avoid unnecessary items like too much of eatables, bulky clothing, heavy items, etc.
WOMEN TRAVELLERS IN INDIA
India is a very warm and hospitable country. Though modern in most aspects, India still remains traditional. The western influence is very much there in India, but it is not very appealing to the Indian sensibilities. It is not always safe for women to travel alone. Don’t wear clothes that are revealing or provocative. When in India, it is best to cover up yourself so as not to attract unwanted attention. Women can roam around in jeans and tee shirts, long cotton pants and cotton shirts. Skirts, if long are much better than the short ones. It is not quite advisable to show public displays of affection as it may attract lewd remarks and gestures. Refrain from any such physical activity that is intimate.
You may see lots of beggars on the streets, the main roads and on the traffic signals, begging for alms. Though most of them leave after begging for a minute or two, handling beggars in India is an acquired skill as some may be too nudging and reluctant to leave unless you give them some money. In order to help you out, we bring you some beggar handling tips that will prove useful during your travel in India.
- You can give food or eatables to the handicapped and the really old ones. But, look out for some beggars posing as handicapped ones. They trade crutches with fellow beggars and go around begging.
- Some women beggars with a small malnourished baby may use hand gestures to signal they are hungry. It is okay to give them food or eatables. But, watch out for some women who trade babies for this purpose.
- Don’t be surprised to see children begging on the streets. Most of them are young kids, hardly 5 years old, who have been sent by their parents to beg for money. It is best to give them some left over food or candy. Children can’t resist candies and it is better than giving them money.
- We strongly recommend that you do not offer money to beggars as it encourages a well organised criminal syndicates running the begging business.
For amateur photography of national monuments, there are no restrictions on taking photographs with a still camera (with flash inside the camera synchronized with exposure) or an 8mm.movie camera. At few monuments there is a camera fees applicable for still cameras as well as video cameras.
FOOD PRECAUTIONS IN INDIA
The vast range of food offered in India tempts most people. While this lip smacking food is usually prepared with much care, some of it may be contaminated. That is how people tend to fall ill while on their trip to India. Certain food precautions in India have to be followed by tourists. These Indian food precautions are for your own benefit and well-being. So go through these safety measures for food in India and stay healthy!
- Always have food that is hot. Warm food is a bit risky and one may fall ill.
- Avoid cut fruits and salads since they have high levels of contamination. Go for unpeeled fruits, as they are the safest. It is recommended to wash the fruits before.
- Do not have fresh fruit juices from the roadside juice stalls. Go for packed juices that are branded or bottled sodas.
- Do not have food from roadside vendors. They are usually contaminated with dust and flies.
- If you want to have non-vegetarian food, go to a decent restaurant that locals may recommend.
- Avoid eating at dingy restaurants and the ones that are empty. Empty restaurants are a sign that the food is not that great.
- There are many fast food joints and international names in all major cities. If you cannot find a decent restaurant while touring, go to these joints.
SHOPPING IN INDIA
Every tourist who visits India wishes to take back a part of this lovely country. Shopping in India is the ideal way to fulfill your wish of taking a memory of India with you. Indian shopping attractions offer a variety of items to suit your diverse needs and taste. Ask your booking agent for a list of authentic places of shopping in every city as per your requirements and interest.
TRAIN TRAVEL IN INDIA
Travelling by train is one of the great experiences in India, and a good way to meet Indian people. According to the itinerary, these may be during the day or night.
Useful tips while traveling on trains in India
- Beware of pickpocket while boarding or de-boarding the train.
- Do not accept any eatables from unknown persons/unknown fellow passengers. Refuse politely.
- Never leave your luggage/valuables unattended especially when the train is not moving. Take extra care of your cameras and other small but valuable equipment.
- After de-boarding from the train, wait for our representative at the platform itself. Railway stations normally have more than one exit. If you have arranged a pick up service with us and in the unlikely event of our representative not already being there, it is advisable to wait at the platform for him, making it easier for him to locate you.
When traveling in India, having an idea of common Indian phrases will help you in communicating more effectively with the locals. These frequently used phrases in India are usually very handy when you want to know your surroundings better and mingle with the locals. It also ensures that you are not taken for a ride in an unknown country. You will find help right away if you are stuck in a situation, as you are able to communicate at a more personal level with people around you. Check out this list of common helpful phrases for conversing with people in India.
|English Phrase||Hindi Translation|
|How are you?||Kaise hain?|
|I am fine||Main theek hoon|
|Goodbye||Main chalta hoon (chalti for female)|
|How much/ What is the cost?||Kitna hua/ kitna daam hai?|
|I want to go to hotel||Mujhe hotel jana hai|
|Can you please help me?||Kya aap meri madad karenge?|
|What is your name?||Apka naam Kya hai?|
|My name is …||Mera naam … hai|
|Thank you||Shukriya/ Dhanyavaad|
|OK/Fine/Good/Whatever||Theek hai / Achhaa|
|What happened?||Kya hua?|