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India rarely changes and rarely forgets

You want to travel to India…

but you have questions. We understand. And we will answer every one.

An Indian street vendorHow old is Indian civilization?

Indian history dates back to 3000 BC when the Indus Valley was a highly developed urban civilization.

Why are there many Muslims in India?

Muslim invasions of India started between 1001 and 1025 when Mahmud of Ghazni plundered the sub-continent for its spoils. Later, during the Sultanate of Delhi Muslim rulers introduced Islamic concepts of society and governance to most of the sub-continent, though the South remained largely untouched.

Today Muslims are the target of Religious violence in India. Since the Partition of India in 1947, there have been several instances of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindu mobs. This pattern of sporadic sectarian violence between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority continues.

The Taj MahalWhat should I know about the Taj Mahal?

It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. It was built between 1632 and 1653 and a whopping 22,000 laborers, painters, stonecutters, and embroidery artists, as well as 1000 elephants, were employed to complete it.

 Many of the precious stones on the mausoleum were ripped from the walls by the British army during the Indian rebellion of 1857.

The four sides of the mausoleum are incredibly symmetrical and the columns tilt out so they can fall away from the dome during an earthquake.

Shah Jahan was best known for his architectural prowess and commissioned many other monuments. The Mughal Empire reached its peak during his rule.

Taj Mahal means Crown of Palaces.

Who colonialized India?

Vasco da Gama was one of the first Europeans to land in India. The Portuguese established their colony in Goa in the 16th Century but they did not expand it even though their rule continued till 1961.

After the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch and the English were all lured by the commercial interests that India offered. By the last quarter of the 18th century the English established themselves as the dominant power in India. The British succeeded due to the disintegration of the Mughal empire, fighting among the Maratha rulers and inability of the various rulers across the country to unite against a common enemy.

A local shop in India

How did India become independent?

In the 19th century there was a revival of national pride and across India people were tiring of the British interference in every sphere of daily life. The first war of independence broke out in Meerut in 1857 sparked by the introduction of cartridges introduced by the British in the Army. It was alleged that they contained pork and beef tallow and as they had to be bitten off to use in the new rifle that came with them this offended the religious sentiments of both Hindus and Muslims!

The Indians lost the initial battle but the Indian National Congress was set up and anti-British sentiment became a phenomenally large movement under Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi. A unique strategy based on non-violence and civil disobedience resulted in the British agreeing to transfer power on August 15, 1947.

Today, India is the world’s largest democracy with a federal form of government.

Do I need a visa to travel India?Visa Policies of India

This is the most recent information but we cannot guarantee that it is correct at the time of reading. Please do reconfirm visa requirements at your earliest convenience.

A street in IndiaIs English widely spoken in India?

English is a national language in India and it is only in very rural areas that communication might be a problem. Even though only 10% of Indian residents speak workable English the figure is heavily weighted towards anyone working in the trade or tourism industry.

What are the airports like?

An expansion is happening throughout Indian airports. This has been driven by airport modernization, the success of low-cost carriers, foreign investment in domestic airlines, and emphasis on regional connectivity.

Many airports have undergone massive upgrades and most airports are owned and managed by private companies. This has resulted in some smart and improved new terminals but capacity continues to be stretched.

In Delhi and Mumbai you can take a free shuttle between the domestic and international terminals. Always be very clear about which airport you want to go to. Lines are very long to get into the airport and you will not be admitted without a ticket.

DO run your check-in bags through the security check as you enter the building – you will not be allowed to check your bags if you haven’t done this.

Only take government-approved airport taxis.

Delhi airport can suffer from fog delays between December and February. Travel time to the city is 45 minutes during normal traffic (not in rush hour).

Mumbai airport is prone to runway congestion. It takes an hour to two hours to travel from the airport to town.

Bangalore airport also has fog delays in winter. Travel to town takes one to two hours.

Chennai Anna airport is owned and operated by the Indian government and has been plagued by poor workmanship mishaps. Travel to town in half an hour.

Dense fog between December and January can cause delays at Kolkata airport. Travel to town in 45 minutes to one and a half hours.

Goa airport is also government owned and serves the entire island. It has a capacity for 5 million passengers per year and is handling upwards of 7 million per year. North Goa is due to have a new airport in 2019 which will alleviate the pressure. It takes 40 minutes to reach the state capital from Goa airport.

A Tiger resting

What should I pack in my travel first-aid bag?

Indian food is generally safer than imported European food on the street. Do not drink street drinks containing ice.

Juice from restaurants and washed fruit and veg should be fine – it is acceptable to ask if your fresh food has been washed (although washing in tap water is still risky: cooked food is your best bet).

Bring a LifeStraw personal water filter, a couple of Band-aids, your malaria prophylactic – extra protection: Deet free mosquito wristbands, cortisone cream, Benadryl, Neosporin, Paracetamol, Immodium- superior option: Activated Charcoal, Ciproflaxin (use with caution as it is easy to develop a resistance to Cipro) superior option: Electrolytes and Probiotics, Earplugs, Body lotion and Suncream (it is difficult to find any cream without skin lighteners in India). All of your usual medication.

It is easy (and cheap) to replace any medication in India

What is the ‘eating-with-your-hands’ protocol?

If you have cutlery on the table, use it. If you don’t then you can eat with your right hand.

About the toilets…

In all the lodges you will have western toilets. In other locations, you might encounter squat loos. Some of these will have toilet paper (but you can’t always flush, you need to throw it in the trash after use). Carrying wipes with you is a good idea.

There is also a water hose in some public loos (this does a good job) or a bucket and tap (fill the bucket and splash water on yourself – maybe the least ideal situation).

What do Indians mean when they do the Head wobble?

Yes, no, maybe so! (Maybe not!!)

What to wear/ What not to wear

In big cities Western wear is acceptable. Don’t wear anything too revealing or tight. If you are visiting a Temple and want to be respectful then you definitely want to skip the jeans, shorts, leather belts, skirts, short sleeves or tight leggings and cover your shoulders and head.

A Kameez top or a full Sari is the most respectful Temple wear for ladies.

A white Indian Kurta or pajama set with a dhoti (known asa mundu or a veshti in Southern India) is the most respectful Temple wear for gents.

Is the electricity safe to use? Do I need to bring protection for my gadgets? What kind of adapter do I need?

The voltage in India is 220 volts, alternating at 50 cycles (Hertz) per second. If you are using any electronic appliance, device or gadget from the United States, or any country with 110-120 volt electricity, you’ll need a voltage converter and plug adapter if your appliance does not have dual voltage.

Plugs and sockets have either grounded/earthed 3 Pin connections (Type D) or ungrounded 2 pin connections (Type C). The two pin plug is also called the Europlug.

An indian mystic

Is it true that laptops can get altitude sickness?

Yup. If your visit to India will take you above 3,000m / 10,000 feet your laptop will most likely act up and can crash resulting in the loss of all the data on your hard drive. Altitude sickness is usually not covered by insurance. Shut all laptops down at altitude.

What do I need to know about the money?

India’s currency is the Rupee (INR), abbreviated Rs. One Rupee is made up of 100 PaiseRupee notes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000. Each note has its value written on it in 17 languages, including English. Due to the Rupee´s low monetary value, prices can easily reach astronomical numbers. Therefore, Indians use lakh and crore. One lakh equals Rs100,000 and one crore is Rs10,000,000

It is generally prohibited to import or export Indian Rupees if you are a foreigner. Exchange money at Indian banks or at private exchange bureaus (where the rates are usually slightly better). You might even be able to negotiate your rate, though this can make the money-exchange a very time-consuming process.

You may be required to make a minimum payment of Rs250 to use your debit or credit card.

ATM’s can be found in most places where you would expect them (the cities, the airport etc.) even though they are not extremely common. The maximum withdrawal is usually around Rs10,000 and Indian ATM’s usually pay out in Rs100 and Rs500 notes.

Hands paint in paint for Indian festival

When is the best time to visit India?

India is very seasonal with the monsoon in the south and snow in the north. Tourism season is generally from October to March.

The Monsoon months are July to September. The rain will fall from all directions, there is a fair amount of flooding and you will need high-quality rain gear and quick drying layers with waterproof and quick-drying shoes.

Temperatures in the north (Delhi) average between 80°F to 94°F (27°C to 34°C), and in the south (Kochi) between 75°F to 85°F (24°C to 29°C).

After the Monsoon, in the Indian fall, the season is windy as air spills across the Himalayas. Bring layers and have your weatherproof gear on hand for October and November.

Temperatures in the north (Delhi) average between 60°F to 90°F (16°C to 32°C), and in the south (Kochi) between 75°F to 88°F (24°C to 31°C).

INDIAN WEATHER

What is the internet like?

Great! Do make sure you ask before using it to ensure you don’t receive a surprise bill. In restaurants, the password is changed daily but they will give it to you on request.

Will I only eat Indian food?

The Indian food is incredible but there is also plenty of Thai, Japanese, Italian and Fusion food available.

What not to bring to India?

Valuables
Your best shoes

2 BONUS QUESTIONS

Will India make me go crazy?

India is extra chaos, extra crowds, extra smells. It has cows and beggars in every road, the noise and the scams and the dirt and pollution. Whatever you expect – up that by 10.

On the other hand, it will make you feel like the luckiest person on earth and will stir emotions nowhere else can.

Which famous games were first played in India?

Chess, Ludo, Snakes and ladders, Dice, and Cards

 

Images via: Pau CasalsTiago RosadoAnnie SprattThomas YoungDerek StoryHitesh ChoudharyDebashis BiswasChristopher BrownJose AragonesAndreas DressRaghu NayyarVignesh MoorthyA row of Franked Stamps

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