Passport & Visa
Travel in India will be a more comfortable experience if you keep a few things in mind. To start with, travellers must have a valid passport and a visa to enter India. Visas, which are of several types, have to be obtained prior to arrival in India. Relevant and detailed information can be obtained from the Indian consulate or embassy in your country. One needs additional permits to go to certain destinations in India such as Andaman Islands, Gujarat, Ladakh, Kerala, and more. Check with your travel agent or embassy while planning your visit.
15-Day visa extensions are granted under exceptional circumstances. If you intend to stay longer than 3 months on non-tourist visas there is a registration requirement. This registration makes the bearer eligible for domestic ticket prices.
Always make photocopies of important documents such as your passport, visa and air tickets. Always carry the photocopies with you, and keep the originals in a safe place, unless you are going to change money, where the originals will be required. Keep extra photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport. This will be required for Indian permits. Also, keep extra photographs of yourselves. These will be required for permits, filling out forms etc. Notify your country’s embassy or consulate in case your passport is stolen or lost.
Travelers must provide an International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever if they arrive from an infected area. Before traveling to India it is advisable to get a medical checkup and consult your doctor about recommended vaccinations about 3 weeks before your trip.
Guests are advised to carry any essential medication that they are in the habit of using. Chemist stores are abundant in India, however your specific brand of medication may not be available. It is advisable to get medical insurance before you travel to India.
Visitors are generally required to make a baggage declaration in respect of baggage and foreign currency in their possession. They are also required to obtain the currency declaration form from the customs. They should fill in the disembarkation card handed over to them by the airline authorities during the course of the flight. There are two channels for clearance at the international airports. Green Channel is for passengers not in possession of any dutiable articles or unaccompanied baggage. Red Channel is for passengers with dutiable articles, unaccompanied baggage, or high-value articles to be entered on the tourist baggage re-export form. Dutiable articles, unaccompanied baggage, or high-value articles must be entered on a tourist baggage re-export form (TBRE). These articles must be re-exported at the time of departure. A failure to re-export anything listed on the TBRE becomes a payable duty levied for each missing item. The following duty-free possessions are permissible-clothes and jewellery; cameras and up to five rolls of film; binoculars; a portable musical instrument; a radio or portable tape recorder; a tent and camping equipment; fishing rod; a pair of skis; two tennis rackets; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars; 95 litres of liquor; and gifts not exceeding a value of INR 600.
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers’ cheques a tourist can bring into India provided he makes a declaration in the Currency Declaration Form given to him on arrival. This will enable him not only to exchange the currency brought in, but also to take the unspent currency out of India on departure. Cash, bank notes, and travellers’ cheques up to US $1,000 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry. Any money in the form of travellers’ cheques, drafts, bills, cheques, etc., in convertible currencies that tourists wish to convert into Indian currency should be exchanged only through authorized moneychangers and banks. The encashment certificate issued by them is required at the time of reconversion of any unspent money into foreign currency. Exchanging of foreign currency other than banks or authorized moneychangers is an offense under Foreign Exchange Regulations Act 1973.
Travel Insurance Policy for India
A travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea. There are a number of policies available, so check the fine print carefully. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ which can include scuba diving, motorcycling or even trekking. You may prefer a policy that pays hospitals or doctors directly, rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. Check that the policy has ambulance and emergency flight home cover.
Travel as light as possible. Clothing and laundry are both quite inexpensive. Its better for women to avoid tank tops or short skirts / shorts or clothes that are too revealing to avoid attracting undue attention. The best outfit, especially during the hot summers, is a T-shirt worn with loose cotton trousers. You can purchase them anywhere in India, at very reasonable rates, at any of the shops. Adventurous ladies can try wearing the Indian ‘salwar-kameez’. It is comfortable and free sized.
If you give the impression of being from a different country, chances are that you might be stared at,and become the center of attraction, especially in the smaller towns. Don’t be offended – they mean no harm, it is just curiosity. Public display of affection is not appreciated in India and neither is public nudity unless perhaps one is at a beach. One is expected to cover the head before entering a religious place such as a temple or mosque. Ask for permission before clicking pictures of women and religious complexes. Some places charge for taking pictures while it is completely prohibited at a few places.
Photography may not be allowed at some bridges and airports and military installations. Look for signs about restricted areas so that you don’t get caught on the wrong foot. Batteries for cameras and other electronic equipment are easily available at General stores in India, but it helps to carry some with you.
In India, public toilet facilities are few and far between. Take every opportunity you can to use a clean toilet in places such as hotels and restaurants. Make this a habit wherever you go.
Do not let them hassle you, and do not encourage them by giving them money.
Getting Around and About
Most cities have means of efficient local transportation such as taxis, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, and buses. Private cabs can also be hired.
It is important to carry an International Driving License if you wish to drive on your own. For inter-city and inter-state transport you can avail services of Indian Railways and domestic airlines. Buses, taxis and cabs also ferry people across cities and states.
Taxi and auto-rickshaw fares keep changing, and therefore do not always conform to readings on meters. Insist on seeing the latest rate card (available with the driver) and pay accordingly.
Insist on the taxi/auto meter being flagged down in your presence. As much as possible, especially from the airport or railroad station insist on using the pre paid services which are available at most important places.
It is best to visit Indian plains during cooler months from November to March. For a visit to mountainous regions of India, the months of April to October are better suited.
Credit cards & Currency changing facilities
All international credit cards such as Diners, American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in hotels, shops and other commercial establishments including the tour operators. In cities you can change most major foreign currencies and brands of travellers’ cheques – but you’ll widen your options and save yourself hassles if you stick to US dollars or Pounds Sterling, and either Thomas Cook or American Express travellers cheques.
Most big cities have ATMs which accept both Visa and Mastercard as well as American Express. The ATM network is ever expanding and in some states, you can find them even in some smaller towns.
The Indian currency is Indian Rupee (INR).
India’s standard time is GMT + 5 Â½ Hours. Everything in India takes a longer time than in most places. So always give yourself extra time for whatever you may have to do even it is just a visit to the Post Office or changing money. Indians joke about the concept of “Indian Stretchable Time” (IST). Certainly, if you’re a super-punctual sort, India can be frustrating. Make allowances for this.
Cyber cafes and phone booths are aplenty across India. Tourists can stay connected with all cities and many small towns and tourist destinations. Mobile telephone services are widespread across India. If you bring your mobile phone buying a prepaid phone card, easily available at Indian markets, is a convenient way to stay connected. English is widely spoken across the cities and towns in India and street signs are also usually in English.
Drink only bottled water. Many popular brands are available. Look for established brand names such as Bisleri, Aquafina or Kinley and check the seals of bottles before drinking. It is not advisable to drink water from streams, lakes or dams. In restaurants insist that they bring a sealed bottle to your table. Beef is not served in many parts of India. Pork is also not easily available. Eat non-vegetarian food only in good restaurants. The meat in cheaper and smaller places can be of dubious quality. Good quality vegetarian food is easily available. Curd or yoghurt is served with most meals. It is a natural aid to digestion and helps temper the spicy food.
Most restaurants and hotels have water purification systems and provide safe drinking water. Indian cuisine is a tad too spicy for European and American taste buds. Indulge in the gastronomical delights only if you have the stomach for it. Also, there are plenty of non-spicy cuisines and delicacies to choose from.