Nowhere else on Earth will you find such a diverse and vibrant population as you will in India. This nation is brimming with over 1.2 billion residents, all willing to share with you their love for life and the beauty of their native land. India is home to a multitude of communities, all of them alive with a rich and passionate energy. With 22 officially recognized languages, well over 1000 dialects and over 200 major tribal groups, India holds a treasure-trove of civilizations that will astound your mind. So open your heart to the people of India and, in exchange, you will be rewarded ten-fold with all that they have to offer you in return.
Every country in the world has many treasured symbols held dear by its people but precious few can come close to the fortune of cultural wealth possessed by India. Bedecked with an abundance of rich customs, ideas, skills and arts, the Indian subcontinent overflows with an enlightenment of heart, mind and soul that is unparalleled in the modern world. Everyone from the studied intellectual to the fearless thrill-seeker to the inquisitive shopper will become enthralled at every turn with the cultural riches that India awards to all who set foot on her majestic landscapes.
Summing up the history of India in a paragraph is akin to attempting to scoop up the world’s oceans into a drinking cup. Suffice it to say that India’s long and storied past has spanned the millennia and, as such, has amassed a historical record of epic proportions. Much of what is visible today in India was borne from what is known as “Early Modern India” which began in the early 16th century. The Mughal Empire of this period is the source of so many of the iconic monuments and artistic examples that comprise the well-known sights of India today. With the European explorations of the 18th century and the British colonization of the 19th century, India took on a very different flavor as the subcontinent was simultaneously romanticized for its beauty and resourced for its natural riches during the period of the British Raj. Following its independence and statehood in the mid-20th century, India emerged with great potential and has since grown into one of the largest economies in the world.
The physical world of India’s great subcontinent holds a tremendous diversity that spans nearly all types of geographic regions and possesses a great many extremes in terms of both terrain and climate. Although many iconic images of India portray the concept of a vast desert of windswept sand dunes crossed by lumbering camels, this is only one aspect of this diverse country. India is home to thousands of miles of white sandy beaches, enormous swaths of lush jungles, broad expanses of savannah-type plains, long ranges of mist-shrouded evergreen mountains, rich valleys of agricultural abundance as well as the southern reaches of the majestic Himalaya mountain range.
With India being one of the most spiritual societies on Earth, it is plain to see why religion is so overtly evident in every part of her history and humanity. In fact, it can easily be said that you cannot open your eyes in India without seeing a multitude of examples of religion wherever you look. According to a recent census, the majority of Indian residents practice Hinduism (81%), followed by Islamism (13%), Christianity (2%), Sikhism (2%), Buddhism (1%) and Jainism (less than 1%). With its long history of various religious backgrounds, it is easy to see why so many temples show elaborate carvings that celebrate all major beliefs. Despite pre-existing concepts held by most travelers, it is not uncommon for visitors to India to temporarily suspend their own beliefs and to absorb the beauty and vivacity of the many religions that surround them during their stay.
Often held as one of the highlights of a trip to India, the abundance of fabulous food available here can seldom be placed into a single category. With so many diverse regions and cultures determining the basic ingredients, the spicy embellishments and the wide variety of preparation methods, there is no practical way to sum up the totality of Indian food without simply encapsulating it into the overall heading of “amazing”. Gastronomical fortitude may often be rationale but the food of India is often a dividing point for many travelers. Often split between “too spicy” and “not spicy enough”, these designations are often the sign of a novice diner. Those who have ventured into the wide variety of culinary delights in India would never use just one attribute to categorize them all.By far, the best way to break the mold of past experience is to be more adventuresome in one’s dining endeavors. It is only by veering far from the standard fare of Westernized Indian restaurants can one discover the vast array of flavors and aromas that await your palate in India.
Clothing and Fashion
The two major factors that can often describe the many styles of local dress found in India are practicality and vibrancy. By far, the most recognizable Indian garment is the women’s sari. Comprised of between four and nine meters of elegant fabric, a sari is typically draped around the body and worn over a lehenga (petticoat) and a choli or ravika (blouse). As evidenced by anyone witnessing a festival, ceremony or even a market day, the sheer explosion of vivid colors that abound when thousands of women take to the streets in the brilliant sunshine can often dazzle the eyes beyond compare. As for their male counterparts, those opting to steer clear of the increasingly popular slacks and dress shirt wardrobe often indulge in a kurta-pyjama (a light and remarkably comfortable oversized shirt and pants combination), a dhoti (a loin cloth primarily worn in rural villages) or a lunghi (a versatile sarong like fabric conducive to hot and humid jungle climes), among a myriad of other styles and variations.
Fairs & Festivals
It is difficult to travel to India without stumbling upon a bright and joyous festival taking place on the streets in front of you. There are nearly three dozen major nationally celebrated festivals in India and those observed regionally number in the hundreds. Rajasthan alone has two dozen regional festivals and fairs, most of them celebrating religious events, landmark dates of the calendar or prominent cultural attractions. The dates of most festivals follow the lunar calendar and therefore change from year to year. Regardless of the exact details of a particular festival, rest assured that they almost all include colorful and festive clothing, rapturous music and dancing, a plethora of tasty food and drink as well as an inspiring jubilance towards life that fills the soul of everyone in attendance.
India certainly does not hurt for shopping opportunities. Being a major source of natural and manufactured resources since the early days of Eastern civilization, India has solidly maintained itself as a grand marketplace for some of the finest goods on the planet. Even for those not bent on packing an extra suitcase for the trip home, India provides a fabulous selection of exotic and unique items, a great many of them hand-made. From bulk fabrics and finished clothing to wooden carvings and stone sculptures to spices and teas to jewelry and gems, India proudly holds its place in the world market. And not to be missed are the meticulously ornate rugs and tapestries woven that can take years to complete using time-honored ancient methods. Most hand-made items can be viewed in production in front of your eyes at small factories or one-person shops in virtually any city.
Nowhere else can boast the wide array of photographic opportunities as can India. Whether your interests lie in animals, historical monuments, horticulture, religious sites, landscapes, festivals or simply slices of life, India can provide an abundance of breathtaking images to satisfy both the amateur shutterbug and the professional artist. India’s broad swaths of rural countryside juxtapose brilliantly with the pulsing swarms of humanity present in the urban centers. The jungles, temples and skylines often present intriguing backgrounds for the exotic and multi-colored subjects visible at every turn. Digital technology allows every traveler to share the vibrant sights of India with distant friends on a day-to-day basis, rendering them envious beyond belief of the incredible adventures documented with each subsequent post.
Every traveler has their own list of “must have” items. Regardless of whether you are prone to overpacking to the point of excess or you prefer to travel as if you were out on the lam, there are a few essential items that all visitors to India should bring along.
Current passport and visa:
These may seem obvious but inattention to expiration dates and processing times often make securing these two items the most stressful part of the trip. See below for more information on securing a visa.
Pocket sized flashlight:
Apart from the periodic power outages that throw all sense of reliability to the wind, it is always helpful to have a flashlight ready in a handy pocket. Being easily prepared for a poorly lit restroom, a random pothole on a dimly lit street at night or a hidden passage in a rural temple can be the difference between moving on to the next adventure and getting stuck in a difficult spot.
Sturdy money belt:
Although petty crime is very rare in most areas, lost money and documents can be an unwelcome hassle and delay.
Even if you are a heavy sleeper, these can often make the nights much easier. Also, automobile traffic starts early, goes late and makes heavy use of the horn.
Light sandals or flip flops:
Depending on your level of comfort desired, hotels, restaurants and public areas will have varied levels of restroom floor cleanliness. A light pair of alternative footwear can let anyone rest easier.
Reusable water bottle:
This is typically a divisive issue, as many guests prefer to avoid dealing with water purification methods and insist on cracking open a fresh bottle of water at every meal. But consider the issue of millions of disposable plastic bottles dumped in a country with little or no recycling infrastructure and make your our choice here.
Sunscreen, dark glasses, and a broad-brimmed hat:
Even on a pleasant day, the sun can be a bit relentless for some guests. A little preventative care can make the ensuing days more pleasant.
Recently, the Indian government turned overall processing of visas from the USA to a company called Travisa, located at www.travisa.com. This site requires all applicants to fill out the proper forms online then print them out and submit via US Mail or courier service. The site offers 15 types of visa, though most travelers will need a simple tourist visa. Expirations dates are typically for six months but note that the calendar starts ticking on the date that the visa is issued, not when you enter the country. Basic processing fees are approximately $50 USD plus various shipping methods and can be subject to rush charges as well.
Dos & Don’ts
Traveling to a foreign land with seemingly mysterious customs can be a bit perplexing at best. But as any guest quickly learns, courtesy and respect will get you 90% there. Luckily the majority of Indians will gladly help you with the last 10% until you feel comfortable enough to navigate the culture on your own. Still, the top issues to remember are as follows:
This is likely to be the most overlooked issue but is also the easiest to follow. Bare shoulders are not appropriate for both men and women, so plan for lighter fabrics that allow you to be both comfortable and appropriate. Shorts are not suitable for women and men are advised to wear longer styles of shorts. In either case, shorts are not advised in religious sites, so the zip-offs styles of trousers are a good idea to take along.
Practice respect at religious sites:
Apart from the attire guidelines above, always treat religious sites with great respect. This includes no smoking, no loud or obnoxious behavior and no public displays of affection. In some sites, photography is limited or fully prohibited, leather items are not allowed (consider eliminating all leather from your pack list to make this easier), specific head coverings may be required and additional restrictions may apply to women and/or non-members of that particular faith. Keep in mind that not all religious sites look like Western or European ones with a church styled building. Some very holy sites may be a lake, a tree or even an ordinary looking rock. Remember that you are being allowed to visit sacred sites that are typically occupied by worshippers at the same time you are there. Offer the level of respect that you would expect from others in return.
Be respectful when taking photographs:
Quite often you will find that women, religious subjects and some children are offended by being photographed. Also funerals, public bathing and certain ceremonies are not appropriate subjects. When in doubt, ask either the subject or your guide.
Although all major hotels will subscribe to Western eating habits, the opportunity to dine in a resident’s home can present some confusion. After checking at the door to see if removing your shoes is appropriate (this is always done left-handed), wait to find which chair you are welcome to sit in. Hand washing both before and after dinner is appropriate and guest slippers may be available for your use in the bathroom. Wait to be seated and wait to begin serving any food or drink. Serving and eating may appear to have the complexity of a ballet, but it all has a reason. There may be a specific order in which dishes are served and some members at the table may be served in a particular order as well. This varies based on region and social caste. In general, neither your hands nor personal utensils should come in contact with any common food or plate. Use serving utensils and do not tap them on your plate. Drinking can present a challenge as it is not uncommon for a shared vessel to be used to drink from. Managing to drink from a pitcher without ever touching your lips to the spout and without spilling all over yourself is often an art form. Regardless of which hand you use for any and all day to activities, only use your right hand for eating and bringing food to your plate. If you are sharing a meal where everyone around you is eating with their right hand instead of utensils, watch for some basic techniques and bravely dive in the best you can. Even once you have mastered the art of eating with your hand, the task is still typically a bit messy. Making an effort to comply with local customs earns points with the locals even if you feel like you are not doing all that well yourself.
During the season between April – June it is very hot so it is best to bring your sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat, etc.) and comfortable walking shoes. Shirts / T-shirts made of cotton or something similar that is slightly better to wear.
During the season between July – September there is rain but it rains all day so it is better to wear light clothes just like April –June but not so much heat but a little humidity.
During the season between October – November it is cold and better that you bring a light jacket for your use.
During the season between December – January it is very cold and we suggest wearing winter clothes with wool stockings, sweaters, cap, scarf, etc.
During the season between February – March the climate is very pleasant with sun during the day and fresh air during the early mornings and in the afternoon. Some winter clothing is sufficient.
During visits to a temple or a mosque, avoid showing too much skin, your guide or our staff will inform you about the dress codes in advance.
Tipping has been a traditional custom for many years in this part of the world and nowadays everyone who gives them a service expects a tip, although it is not obligatory. Tip serves as a very good tool to show appreciation for a service received. Suggestions to tip although it is not minimum or maximum but a suggestion:
Representante who will assist you Airport / Train station / Hotel / Airport: USD 10 Per Transfer
Porters at Hotel: USD 2
Local Guide: USD 10 – 15 Per Sightseeing
Accompanying Guide: USD 10-15 Per Person Per Day
Driver / Chaufer: USD 10 Per Day (Local)
Driver / Chaufer: USD 15-20 Per Day (Outstation)
Helper: USD 05 Per Day
During breakfast it is not necessary to tip
During Lunch and Dinner (hotels or restaurants) please check the account if SERVICE CHARGE appears there 10% you do not have to give anything although you can still leave 10% of the amount if SERVICE CHARGE does not appear in the account
Minor stomach problems are the most common for visitors from India and Nepal. To minimize the chances of getting sick, we recommend that you drink only mineral water during your trip. Complimentary mineral water will be available in the vehicle daily, and most hotels offer a complimentary bottle per person per night in rooms. Avoid having ice in your drinks. It is always a good idea to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer frequently throughout the day. Most hotels have doctors on call. Our staff is available to assist you in any way possible, but of course please bring regular medications with you.
Recommended items for packaging: Good walking shoes, sun protection, (i.e. sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, lip balm, etc.), mosquito repellent, diarrhea medication, hand sanitizer, binoculars , flashlight, medicines, alarm clock, calculator, camera with additional memory cards.
The voltage in India and Nepal is 220 volts AC 50 cycles. Plugs are similar to Europe two round tips and plugs have two or three round pin holes for plugs in a triangular pattern. If you bring electrical appliances, carry an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs. Most hotels have a hairdryer in the bathrooms.
To minimize your laundry concerns while on the go, it’s best to pack easy-care items. Most of the hotels you will stay in have laundry facilities and although it is not very expensive, you will have to make sure that you arrange the delivery schedule well. Most laundries deliver washed items the next night so it is best to check the itinerary well to ensure that when you are delivered you will be in the same hotel / city. It is possible to contract urgent delivery from the hotel at an extra charge. We suggest laundry delivery when your hotel stay is for two nights.
International phone connections are excellent. Calls made from the hotel can be expensive and we suggest that you check the charges before making the call. It is possible to use public telephones outside hotels to make international calls, however it is difficult to have privacy in the absence of private cabins. Most hotels have business centers that offer email / Internet, telephone, fax, secretarial and other business services. Most hotels also offer Wi-Fi facilities, albeit at a nominal cost.
India has a single time zone; It is 10.5 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time.
Nepal has a single time zone; is +0545 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time
Smoking is not allowed on board the bus. There are frequent sightseeing and rest / photo stops along the way can be used for smoking. Smoking in public spaces in India is prohibited.
Special permits are necessary for the use of tripod and artificial light. Most monuments have a fixed fee for digital cameras and professional cameras (nominal fee ranging from US $ 0.5 –US $ 8.00 per camera. Taj Mahal filming is not allowed after one point (after first pass of view). Guests may store their cameras.The expenses incurred for photography are at their own expense and their accompanying guide will inform them in advance of the camera fees, etc.
PASSPORT AND VISA
All visitors to India and Nepal need a passport valid up to 6 months after the date of departure from the country.
A SINGLE entry visa (one entry) is required for all India travel to Delhi or any other city in India. If you must return to Delhi or any other Indian city from a destination outside India to take a flight to another international destination, you will need a DOUBLE ENTRY visa or MULTIPLE visa. You have to process the same with the Indian Embassy in your country before your arrival in India. Please make sure you have a valid visa for India before your arrival in India.
Passengers of the indicated nationalities can request “E-TOURIST VISA-DOUBLE ENTRY ONLINE” for India through the website: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html
(If your country is not listed below, please make sure you get the necessary visa from the Embassy of India in your country)
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Burma, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Union Republica de Cameron, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Island, Chile, China, China- SAR Hongkong, China- SAR Macau, Vatican City, Colombia, Comoros, Cook Islands, South Korea, Costa Rica, Cote d ‘ lvoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Eritrea, Spain, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada , Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger Republic, Niue Islands, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua-New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saint Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tadjikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, East Timor, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Nepal visa can be obtained at Kathmandu airport on arrival. You will have to fill out a simple form, attach two photos (passport size) per person and pay a visa fee of US $ 30.00 per person directly in cash only (visa fees and policies are subject to change)
Most airlines offer a free checked bag per person not exceeding 15 kilos (economy class). USD 5 per kilo in the case of extra luggage and the price is subject to change (can be paid directly at the time of checking in at the airport. All flights / airlines for the Kathmandu sectors offer a free piece of checked baggage per person not exceeding 20 kilos (economy class). Only single piece of hand luggage is allowed in all flights for Nepal. The dimensions of which must not exceed 115 linear cm and the weight must not exceed 7 kilos. Travelers are allowed to carry a laptop over a piece of carry-on baggage as carry-on baggage.
The governments of India and Nepal do not require any type of vaccine, except for testing a yellow fever vaccine if you have traveled in a yellow fever area within the past six days.
Countries Considered Infected By Yellow Fever
Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast (Cote D ‘Ivo iré), Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan (south of 15 ° N), Togo, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela