India with its wide diversity, from snow-dusted mountains to sun-washed beaches, tranquil temples to feisty festivals, lantern-lit villages to metropolitan cities, it’s hardly surprising that this country has been dubbed the world’s most multidimensional.This vast country with a total area of 3,287,263 km2has an eclectic melange of ethnic groups, which translates into an intoxicating cultural cocktail for the traveller.It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area and the second-most populouscountry with over 1.2 billion people. Bounded by the Indian Oceanon the south, the Arabian Seaon the south-west, and the Bay of Bengalon the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west;China, Nepal, and Bhutanto the north-east; and Burmaand Bangladeshto the east.
Climate plays a key factor in deciding when and which part of the country to visit in India. Climate in India varies greatly, from the arid deserts of Rajasthan to the cool highlands of Assam, allegedly the wettest place on earth. But basically India has a three-season year - the hot, the wet and the cool. The heat starts to build up on the northern plains around February and by April it becomes unbearable - expect 35-45°C (95-113°F) days in most places. The first signs of the monsoon appear in May, with high humidity, short rainstorms and violent electrical storms. The monsoon rains begin around 1 June in the extreme south and sweep north to cover the whole country by early July. The monsoon doesn't really cool things off, but it's a great relief - especially to farmers. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the southeastern coast is affected by the short and surprisingly wet northeastern monsoon, which brings rain from mid-October to the end of December. The main monsoon ends around October, and India's northern cities become crisp at night in December.
India holds as many variations in religion, language, customs, art and cuisine as it does in topography and this is makes it a unique travel destination.
Indian art is basically religious in its themes and developments, and its appreciation requires at least some background knowledge of the country's faiths. The highlights include classical Indian dance, Hindu temple architecture and sculpture, the military and urban architecture of the Mughals, miniature painting, and mesmeric Indian music.
You must get a visa before arriving in India and these are easily available at Indian missions worldwide. Six-month multiple-entry tourist visas (valid from the date of issue) are granted to nationals of most countries regardless of how long you intend to stay.
Visa update: Any holder of a tourist visa who wishes to visit another country during their stay in India must wait at least two months before re-entering. This time will be factored into the total duration of your visa (usually either 90 or 180 days). Obviously, this new condition reduces the number of times you can come and go from India, however it is possible to apply for a more flexible arrangement through your nearest Indian Mission/Post.
Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by a complicated permit system. A permit known as an Inner-Line Permit (ILP) is required to visit northern parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that lie close to the disputed border with China/Tibet. Obtaining the ILP is basically a formality, but travel agents must apply on your behalf for certain areas, including many trekking routes passing close to the border. ILPs are issued by regional magistrates and district commissioners, either directly to travellers (for free) or through travel agents (for a fee).
Entering the northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram is much harder – tourists require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which must be arranged through Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) offices. Ultimate permission comes from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which is reluctant to issue permits to foreigners – without exception, your best chance of gaining a permit is to join an organised tour and let the travel agent make all the arrangements.
Getting Into India
To enter India you need a valid passport, visa and an onward/return ticket. It’s wise to keep photocopies of your airline ticket and the identity and visa pages from your passport in case of emergency.
Entering India by air or land is straightforward, with standard immigration and customs procedures.
By air:India is a vast county so it makes sense to fly into the nearest airport to the area you want to visit.There are 12 international airports in India in New Delhi, Kolkotta, Mumbai, Goa, Punjab, Banglore, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai and Cochin and Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala
By road: Entering India by road needs to cross the border from one of these four countries: Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan or Pakistan.You must have a valid Indian visa in advance as no visas are available at the border.
India with its huge geographical variation, from tropical beaches to the Himalayan mountains, environmental issues such as heat, cold, and altitude can cause several health problems. Food and water borne illnesses are common. It is recommended to drink purified water and eat in clean outlets only.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends these vaccinations for travellers to India (as well as being up to date with measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations):Adult Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B, Polio, Typhoid, Varicella, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningitis, Rabies and Tuberculosis (TB). The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever, in case you have visited a country in the yellow fever zone within six days prior to entering India.
Recommended items for a personal medical kit:
• Antifungal cream, egClotrimazole
• Antibacterial cream, egMuciprocin
• Antibiotic for skin infections, eg Amoxicillin/Clavulanate or Cephalexin
• Antihistamine – there are many options, egCetrizine for daytime and Promethazine for night
• Antiseptic, egBetadine
• Antispasmodic for stomach cramps, egBuscopam
• Decongestant, eg Pseudoephedrine
• DEET-based insect repellent
• Diarrhoea medication – consider an oral rehydration solution (egGastrolyte), diarrhoea ‘stopper’ (egLoperamide) and antinausea medication (egProchlorperazine). Antibiotics for diarrhoea include Norfloxacin or Ciprofloxacin; for bacterial diarrhoea Azithromycin; for Giardia or amoebic dysentery Tinidazole.
• First-aid items such as scissors, elastoplasts, bandages, gauze, thermometer (but not mercury), sterile needles and syringes, safety pins and tweezers
• Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory
• Indigestion tablets, eg Quick Eze or Mylanta
• Iodine tablets (unless you are pregnant or have a thyroid problem) to purify water
• Laxative, egColoxyl
• Migraine medication if you suffer from them
• Pyrethrin to impregnate clothing and mosquito nets
• Steroid cream for allergic/itchy rashes, eg 1% to 2% hydrocortisone
• Sunscreen and hat
• Throat lozenges
• Thrush (vaginal yeast infection) treatment, egClotrimazolepessaries or Diflucan tablet
Even if you are fit and healthy, don’t travel without health insurance. Declare any existing medical conditions you have – the insurance company will check if your problem is pre-existing and will not cover you if it is undeclared. Be sure to that your policy covers all adventure activities in your trip, medical expenses, loss, theft, trip cancellation and evacuation.
The Indian rupee is divided into 100 paisa but paisa coins are increasingly rare. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25 and 50 paisa, and Rs 1, 2 and 5; notes come in Rs 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 (this last bill can be hard to change outside banks). The Indian rupee is linked to a basket of currencies and its value is generally stable. Keep the stockpile of Rs 10, 20 and 50 notes since it is hard to find change for the bigger bills. Do not accept any filthy, ripped or disintegrating notes, as these may not be accepted as payment. Major currencies such as US dollars, UK pounds and euros are easy to change throughout India. A few banks also accept Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars, and Swiss francs. Private money¬changers accept a wider range of currencies. Officially, you cannot take rupees out of India. You can change any leftover rupees back into foreign currency, most easily at the airport (some banks have a Rs 1000 minimum). Note that some airport banks will only change a minimum of Rs 1000. You may require encashment certificates or a credit-card receipt, and you may also have to show your passport and airline ticket.
ATMs:ATMs linked to international networks are common in most towns and cities in India. Modern 24-hour ATMs are found in most large towns and cities.
Credit Cards:You must present your passport whenever you change currency or travelers cheques.The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, Master, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus. Always carry cash or travellers cheques as backup and keep the emergency lost-and-stolen numbers for your credit cards in a safe place, separate from your cards, and report any loss or theft immediately.