India

It is the acid test for every traveller. You will either love it or hate it, but one thing is assured… it will change your perspective on life forever.

India is not a destination for everyone – but it’s a destination that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

It’s the destination that you cannot wait to leave when you’re there… and the one to which you cannot wait to come back to once you’ve left.

You will find peace within its chaos, calm within its intensity, and very often, you will end up discovering yourself here after feeling truly lost. No other nation polarizes and contrasts all at the same time like India does.

It is a nation of over a billion souls, 6 major faiths, 18 official languages and 1,652 dialects. It is diverse in ways that are both obvious as well as subtle.

If you’re about to embark on a visit to this land of culture, history, colour and ritual, be prepared to be amazed as you’ve never been in the past!

Getting there

India is not part of the visa waiver treaty. Hence, most travellers will require a visa while travelling to India. Citizens of several nations can get a visa on arrival.

India has several international airports, and is served by multiple major carriers. The major airports are New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, with international airports also being present in several other cities (though not as widely served by a range of carriers).

While travelling within India, major cities are all well connected by air. One can also get around in India by their rail network which connects the smaller towns of the country to their urban centres.

Money Matters

India uses the Indian Rupee. This is a high denomination currency. Being a very cash-centric nation, be prepared to carry large volumes of cash. As it goes increasingly towards a cashless payment system, India uses an electronic wallet called PayTM. Credit cards are widely accepted. However, if you’re looking to purchase a bottle of water at the railway station, it’s best to have some small change handy.

Best time to visit

Indian summers are combined with the monsoon, making it a hot and sticky affair and should be avoided.

Without a doubt, the best time to visit India is from mid-November through to mid-March. This is India’s dry season, when the monsoons have passed, and the climate is cool and dry.

It is also worth noting two days in the Indian calendar – January 26th, and August 15th. The former is Indian Republic Day, and the latter is Indian Independence Day. Both days are national holidays in India, and all major cities shut down to observe these days and conduct ceremonies.

As the national capital, New Delhi in particular has several traffic changes during the week leading up to, and the week after both these days, and national security is tightened up. If you’re in India during either one of these days, plan on taking a day of rest in your hotel.

India also celebrates major festivals of every faith. It is worth finding out whether Holi (the festival of colours), Diwali (the festival of lights) or Dushera (a 10 day period leading up to Durga Puja, a Hindu festival honouring the Goddess Durga) are being held while you visit. These dates are based on a Hindu lunar calendar and change every year.

India also celebrates the major festivals of Islam. These include Ramadan and Id. In both cases, it’s a good idea not to plan to visit any mosques as a tourist, as they will all be very busy with the faithful practicing their faith.
I generally recommend not visiting India from April through October. It is very hot during this time of year, and most of the nation experiences the monsoon – making it very unpleasant to travel.

Clothing

India is a conservative society. Ladies visiting here should dress modestly, and keep their shoulders and legs covered. T-shirts and trousers or long skirts are recommended. Men can walk around in shorts and khakis without issue.

Tattoos are becoming increasingly mainstream in India. However, if you have a tattoo of a Hindu deity, its a good idea to keep it covered. This is particularly true if the tattoo is visible in the lower part of your body. There have been incidents where a foreigner with a tattoo of Ganesha on his calve raised the ire of a Hindu community.

Electrical

India uses the type C, type D, and type M connectors. I’d recommend bringing along a power strip with a single travel adapter. This generally makes things much easier.

What else should I know

India is a place that never sleeps. If you’re not used to loud noises, you’re going to need to get used to them very quickly. This is particularly the case when travelling in cities through the constant, chaotic traffic.

It’s a good idea to drink bottle water only. Water borne diseases are still quite common in India. Once you finish your drink, make sure that you crush the bottle before disposing it. (This prevents unscrupulous individuals from picking it, refilling it, and selling it at a later time).

Personal space is something that is not present in India. The sheer density of human population takes a whole new meaning here.

It is not uncommon to get stared at by the locals. This is quite common. A lot of Indians who have not had the opportunity to travel overseas find foreigners to be something of a curiosity.

When visiting any national monument, it is likely that you will be approached by a total stranger who wants to befriend you – only with the intention of leading you to “their uncle’s shop” to buy some souvenirs.