India is magical, even exotic, yet a singularly different destination from any other you may have visited. With an astounding mosaic of cultures, peoples, histories, languages, cuisines, climates, landscapes, and faiths, the beautiful sub-continent will greatly inspire and move you. And sometimes exasperate. India is, however, a great teacher, if you understand the essential basics, set your expectations correctly, and travel well prepared. So, do go with an open mind in order to enjoy your tour fully. We have prepared these travel tips to help you with your pre-holiday planning, also for after you arrive in India.
Modesty in attire is an important aspect of Indian life and, away from beaches, one should respect local customs. This is especially important when visiting temples and religious sites, where trousers or full-length skirts should be worn, shoulders should be covered. Shoes that can be slipped on and off easily are very useful as they must always be removed at all religious sites. On game drives, clothes should be in muted jungle shades of beige, brown, and green. A wind proof jacket, a sweater, and even a woollen cap may be required since the open vehicles can be rather chilly in the early morning and at dusk - even in the warmer months. Formal clothes are not necessary but something elegant is always appreciated. For general day wear, we recommend light cottons and loose clothing, with jumpers or fleeces and sturdy shoes for those travelling to hill stations. In many hotels, restaurants, and trains, the air conditioning can be rather chilly. A light jumper or pashmina is handy in these situations.
Foreign nationals visiting the countries of India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives that form part of the Indian subcontinent are required to possess a valid international travel document in the form of a national passport and a valid travel visa to the country of visit. Please be sure to refer to the respective official government websites for the latest visa requirements and information on each destination before you travel.
Recommended vaccinations are polio, tetanus, diphtheria, typhoid, and hepatitis A. You may need to take anti-malarial tablets as well. Please consult your doctor or a travel clinic for the latest medical advice at least one month prior to your departure. If you will be travelling during the summer or monsoon times in a tropical climate, such as in South India, carry Insect Repellent sprays/creams. Please discuss health requirements for your travel itinerary with a qualified health professional at least six weeks prior to departure. If you do have any known food restrictions, allergies or medical conditions or physical disabilities, which need special care, you should ensure that your travel agent, and we, are made aware of these. A copy of your health insurance should be available with you when you travel.
Everyone wants to avoid an upset stomach and by observing a few sensible precautions, this can be achieved. Generally speaking, food in four and five star hotels, and good restaurants is safe. Drink only bottled water from a reliable source and use it when brushing your teeth as well. All hotels provide bottled water in your room. If you do become unwell, the hotels have good doctors who have plenty of experience in dealing with upset stomachs. Avoid uncut fruit and food that has been kept in the open for a long time.
Adequate travel insurance is vital. Mountain and other adventure sports enthusiasts should have insurance that covers trekking, climbing, and mountain biking. Most insurance offered by credit cards does not provide sufficient cover. Please check before you travel to ensure that you are fully covered.
The Indian Rupee cannot be purchased outside India. Traveller’s Cheques in US dollars or Pound sterling are widely accepted and safer than carrying cash. You can exchange cash and Traveller’s Cheques at the airport, banks and at most of the larger hotels. Bank hours are 1000 – 1400 hrs. Remember to keep your money exchange forms as proof and obtain plenty of small denomination notes such as ten and twenty rupee notes for tips. It is advisable to carry some Rupees in cash when travelling to remote areas or visiting smaller establishments as credit cards and Traveller’s Cheques may not always be accepted at these places. ATMs are aplenty and available in the larger towns and cities but there is a transaction fee. Please ensure your card is valid during your period of travel and it is advisable to notify your card provider that you are going to be out of the country to ensure they do not cancel your card.
Each state in South India has a language of its own, usage of which is limited to its boundaries only except the bordering towns. In Kerala it is Malayalam while it is Tamil for Tamil Nadu, Kannada for Karnataka, and Konkani for Goa. The country functions in English too, so you should not have any problems communicating unless you are really in the middle of nowhere.
Electrical current in India is 220 volts. If you are travelling with electrical appliances, it is worth bringing along an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs. These are available from most electrical and hardware stores. It is suggested that you take battery-operated appliances wherever possible, along with a supply of extra batteries.
Photographic opportunities in India are immense. Please be respectful when taking photographs and seek permission before taking photographs of people. Photography in religious institutions is generally not permitted. Outdoor photography is usually permitted when visiting such places, but please check with your guide before taking any photographs. At most major monuments, you have to pay a camera fee that may range between Indian Rupees 50 and Indian Rupees 200.
Mobile network coverage throughout India is good and you will be able to use your mobile phone in some rural areas, if you have international roaming facility. Emails and internet access are available in most hotels, but like phone calls, they can be very expensive. If you are bringing your laptop with you, bring an adapter and an extra battery pack if you have one.
The way to deal with touts in India is to simply ignore them. If that does not work, a more firm approach – ‘No, thank you’ – should do. As for beggars, this comes with the experience. It will take time to adjust, but typically the best method to donate money is to do so through charities. Cash given to individuals may not always be put to good use. When in crowded bazaars, at railway stations, and at major tourist sights, be aware of your possessions, particularly wallets, handbags, and cameras.
Tipping is a part of life in India and it is a good idea to always have small denomination notes within easy reach, separate from your main wallet. Tipping is entirely at your discretion and not compulsory; however, more often than not, the person providing you a service (driver, bell boy, waiter, porter) would expect a tip for services rendered. • For airport transfers, you can tip between Indian Rupee 100 -150 to the porters. • When tipping at hotels, we encourage you to use their central tip box wherever possible. The cumulative tip should be approximately about Indian Rupee 800 –1,000 per day for the number of nights you have stayed at the hotel. For the bell boys and the porters who assist you during check in and check out, Indian Rupee 100 per large bag and Indian Rupee 50 for a small bag is an approximate tip amount. • Tipping after meals is 10 per cent of the bill amount. • When you have a driver over multiple days, you should budget to tip him between Indian Rupee 400 –500 a day for in-city driving and Indian Rupee 800 –1,000 when driving across cities or on especially long days. • You could tip your local guide or travelling escort between Indian Rupee 1,000 –1,500 per day depending on how happy you were with their knowledge, and, with your overall experience.
Security at Indian airports is very strict and all hand baggage is x-rayed and sometimes physically searched prior to boarding flights. Domestic airlines do not permit any dry cell batteries, sharp implements, and inflammable items to be carried in cabin baggage. Therefore please ensure that camera batteries, scissors, razors etc. are packed in your checked baggage. There are several different sets of baggage allowance regulations in effect for international and regional flights. Baggage allowance varies depending on type of aircraft and class of service. Currently the baggage allowance* on domestic Indian flights is 15 kg only for economy class travel. Only one piece of hand luggage is permitted per passenger and the allowance varies between 5 kg to 7 kg depending on the airline and the sector. Please note: The baggage allowance is included in the ticket printout we email to you. Please read the same carefully to confirm the exact baggage regulations pertaining to your specific itinerary. Any baggage in excess of airline limitations may be subject to excess baggage charges. These charges are the sole responsibility of the traveller. And we will not be held responsible or pay for the same on your behalf. Every piece of checked baggage should be locked, and contain identification both inside as well as outside. In addition, do not pack valuable items, such as cameras and jewellery in checked baggage. While every precaution will be taken with your baggage, we cannot be held responsible for any damaged, lost or stolen baggage or personal property and we strongly recommend the purchase of adequate baggage insurance by each traveller.