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India . . . where do you begin to give advice on such a vast sub-continent that’s a world all its own, with over 415 living languages, and multiple climates and cultures. So before we embark on our journey, it is auspicious to check out a few facts to make your stay there as comfortable as possible. For your convenience, we have provided you with links to sites you can visit for more detailed information.
The following information is correct and valid at the time of publication, to the best of our knowledge. This advice is a genuine effort on my part to make your stay as pleasant as possible, but regret and cannot accept any responsibility for any changes to the advice or information given.
Strongly recommend for all travellers to purchase adequate trip cancellation and interruption, medical, and baggage insurance, and carry the details of their coverage with them on tour. You may wish to check first with your own private insurance carrier regarding the terms of your coverage (or lack of coverage) outside your home country, including emergency medical evacuation.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travelling to India, although it is strongly recommended that you protect yourself during travelling against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Cholera, and Malaria and Dengue fevers. (Don’t be scared, be educated!) Consult your doctor, and allow at least 4 weeks before the date of travel for all medical advice.
Here is what I personally do to protect myself in India. I take Grapefruit seed extract and Triphala everyday while in India. Triphala supports my overall health. (In fact I take it all the time wherever I am.) In India I stock up on it, and use the Himalayan Herb brand. I have an up-to-date Tetanus shot. I lived in India for 4 months last year. This is my personal experience. Do what you trust!
At times I wear a mosquito net like a shawl when I meditate. Get them at REI and other sporting good stores. It frees you from the worry of getting bit, and you are able to sit in peace. (Unless you are free from mosquito consciousness!) Use mosquito repellent.
Passports are required for all travellers. Get the full 10-year passport! You’ll be returning to India soon, and I give discounts to loyal clients and referrals. Make sure your passport is valid at least 6 months beyond your planned return date of tour. Passports may be obtained by post from any Passport Office located in the traveller’s home country, and also through main post offices. Visas are required in advance of travel for entry into India.
Visa for India
The Indian Embassy and Consulates in the US have outsourced the Indian visa processing to Cox and Kings. Cox and Kings requires travellers to complete the visa application online and mail the application (via FedEx) with passport and photos to Cox and Kings directly. Use firefox for your browser not Safari. Click here to visit the Cox and Kings website
India is a vast country with complex seasonal and geographical variations in climate. Generally, the best time to spend your vacation in India is during the months of October through April. The Monsoon season can start in mid-May and continues through to the end of August. Most of the game sanctuaries of India are closed during the Monsoon period. During the summer months of May and June the lower plains of the South and the desert areas of the North are very hot, either dry in the North or humid in the South; while the hills and mountain regions provide a cool sanctuary.Winter at Dwarahat is long johns!
Comfortable Clothes in India
Keep cool in the Indian sun with cotton clothing, along with a comfortable pair of open sandals. Sunglasses are a necessity. In the cooler months, you will require some warm clothes such as light sweaters or shawls for the evenings. (Do not pack a lot of clothes, we will shop for most of your clothes upon arrival, you will be so happy you don’t have all that extra baggage. See our testimonial page!) In the mountain regions of India you will require warmer clothes in winter. As it can sometimes warm up during the days, layers are always a good option along with comfortable walking shoes.
Indian cities are bustling and exciting, and in most areas, quite safe. There is little danger of being mugged on the streets here, but don’t be offended if the locals stare at you; the Indians are friendly and hospitable people, and just curious. Almost all city-dwellers speak and understand English, and you will find all the street and shop signs in English as well. Should you get lost, the local people are so obliging that often you’ll find they will not only give you directions, but walk you all the way to your destination!
With the exception of inside the Taj Mahal, the airports, and other restricted areas, you may photograph to your heart’s content; although many popular sites will levy an additional charge for the use of your camera, and a video camera may cost a little more. It’s just their way!
Cabs and Cars and Rickshaws
The majority of hired cars are chauffeur-driven in India. Hiring a taxi is no problem and quite reliable. Always (did I say ALWAYS) settle the fare before you set off. Be aware and alert.
Gratuities & Tipping
This is entirely at your discretion. However, the following may be helpful. If service is not included in the bill, 10% is usually the accepted amount. Hotel and railway porters will expect about 50 rupees for one piece of luggage and about 200 rupees for a trolley full. At the end of your stay if you wish to tip your sightseeing guide and driver, an acceptable amount for the guide would be approximately between 400 – 500 rupees per day; and for the driver, it would be approximately between 200 – 400 rupees per day.
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travellers cheques you may bring into India. For safety and convenience we would advise that you take the majority of your money on a debit card. It is advisable to change your money through authorized ATM’S banks and hotels. The units of Indian currency are: Paper money comes in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 rupees and coins are available in 1, 2, and 5 rupees. All major credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants and government shops, as are travellers cheques in US dollars .
How to Eat in India
Avoid eating spicy foods when you first arrive in India, however tempting. Allow your system at least a day or two to get used to them, introducing one Indian dish with each meal for the first couple of days. After that it is best to stick with cooked foods, and remember to peel fruit before eating it. The best drinks to enjoy with your meals or to quench your thirst are the bottled mineral waters, other bottled drinks, coffee, and Chai. The water from the purifiers in the ashrams of YSS and Parmath Niketan in Rishikesh are fine. If in doubt, ask me. I may come over to you and say “what are you thinking? Put that down!” I do take care of you!
Shopping in India is FUN. Please note that bargaining is common in India. You must try it and smile as you do it! In Government Emporiums the prices are generally fixed.
Travelling by Road – Seat Belts
It is mandatory that all passengers/guides wear seat belts if driving in the front seat of a car. Long journeys : Motion sickness remedies are advised if you have a motion problem. Dont let it spoil your trip.
India is a developing country with an enormous and growing population. Social and economic development continues apace, and tourism income undoubtedly has had its part to play. But you will certainly experience many of the inescapable symptoms of poverty during your tour, some of which can be shocking to western eyes. For obvious reasons, beggars will be attracted to tour parties, but we would ask that you do not give to them. Many of the beggars will be operating “professionally,” and regardless of this, giving to them simply perpetuates the practice.
You can buy a converter in India. The electric current in India is 230-240V and electricity is widely available in the main towns, cities, and tourist destinations. Sockets are the three-round-pinned variety, similar (but not identical) to European sockets. European round pin plugs will go into the sockets, but as the pins on Indian plugs are somewhat thicker, the fit is loose and a connection not always guaranteed.
Prices and itinerary are subject to change without notice. ALL information is correct to the best of knowledge and belief. It is current at the time of publication. With regret I cannot accept any responsibility for any changes on advice or information given. The advice given is a genuine effort to make your stay as pleasant as possible.