Travel Tips

Citizens of the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and most of the other countries who onlu plan to visit India for up to one month can apply on line for an e-Tourist Visa (eTV) through the Indian government’s official online portal i.e. You have to fill the application, upload your photo and pay the visa fee online, then carry a printed copy of eTV with you to India. You will be issued with your visa on arrival. Visa Fee depending on your nationality.

Standard shop opening hours in India are Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 6pm, with Sunday openings increasingly common. Most big stores, at any rate, keep those hours, while smaller shops vary from town to town, region to region, and one to another, but usually keep longer hours. Government tourist offices are open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5pm, Saturday 9.30am to 1pm, closed on the second Saturday of the month; state-run tourist offices are likely to be open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm.

India’s unit of currency is the rupee, usually abbreviated ₹ and divided into a hundred paise. Almost all money is paper, with notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 2000 rupees. Coins in circulation are 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupees, the latter two gradually replacing the paper versions, plus (rarely seen) 50 paise. Note that it’s technically illegal to take rupees in or out of India (although they are widely available at overseas forex exchanges), so you might want to wait until you arrive before changing money. Don’t accept torn banknotes, since no one else will be prepared to take them and you’ll be left saddled with the things, though you can change them at the Reserve Bank of India and large branches of other big banks. Don’t pass them on to beggars, they can’t use them either, so it amounts to an insult.

The easiest way to access your money in India is with plastic, though it’s a good idea to also have some backup in the form of cash. You will find ATMs at main banks in all major towns, cities and tourist areas, though your card issuer may well add a foreign transaction fee, and the Indian bank will also levy a small charge, generally around Rs25. Your card issuer, and sometimes the ATM itself, imposes limits on the amount you may withdraw in a day – typically ₹10,000–20,000.

US dollars, Euro and Pounds Steerling are the easiest currency to convert. Major hard currencies can be changed easily in tourist areas and big cities, less so elsewhere. Changing money in regular banks, can be a time consuming business, involving lots of form filling and queuing at different counters. so it’s best to change substantial amounts at any one time. Banks in the arrivals halls at most major airports stay open 24 hours. You’ll have no such problems with private companies such as Thomas Cook, American Express or Forex Agents. Major cities and main tourist centres usually have several licensed currency exchange bureau rates usually aren’t as good as at a bank but transactions are generally a lot quicker and there’s less paperwork to complete.. Hotels are also change money, probably at a lower rate.

Wherever you change money, hold on to exchange receipts (“encashment certificates”) they will be required if you want to change back any excess rupees when you leave the country and to buy air tickets and reserve train berths with rupees at special counters for foreigners.

Perhaps the most important India travel tip for first-timers! A dodgy stomach is pretty common on your first trip to India. There are ways to avoid though. Stay on the bottled water and avoid salads or ice – these are often the cause of stomach upsets. You don’t have to rule out street food completely, but try to stick to peeled fresh fruit and foods that have been either boiled or fried. Indian cuisine is a part of the Indian Culture and should be sampled. But watch out for the especially spicy dishes. Beef and pork is not generally eaten in India.

Be aware that India has a relatively modest culture. Covering arms and legs is a simple step toward respecting this. Indians are forgiving of those who aren’t familiar with their customs, but you can quickly make a good impression by, for instance, removing your shoes before entering someone’s home. This is particularly important when entering a sacred space, like a temple. At temples, you should also keep shoulders covered and make sure dresses and shorts reach your knees. Also, if you see shoes outside a shop, it’s a sign to remove your own.

Generally 220V 50Hz AC, though direct current supplies also exist, so check before plugging in. Most sockets are triple round-pin (accepting European-size double round-pin plugs). British, Irish and Australasian plugs will need an adaptor, preferably universal; American and Canadian appliances will need a transformer too, unless multi voltage. Power cuts and voltage variations are very common voltage stabilizers should be used to run sensitive appliances such as laptops.

Since the mobile phone revolution, privately run phone international direct-dialling facilities – STD/ISD (Standard Trunk Dialling/International Subscriber Dialling) places – have become far less common so you can’t always rely on finding one. In addition, calling from them will cost more than dialling from a mobile if you have an Indian SIM card. Most visitors bring their own phones and buy an Indian SIM to cover their trip.

SIM cards are sold through most mobile phone shops and network outlets, though the process for obtaining one is rather complicated and can take up to 48 hours. You have to provide a photocopy of your passport (photo and visa pages), fill in a form and be registered at an Indian address, though the hotel you are staying in usually suffices. There is an initial connection fee ranging from ₹50 to ₹250, depending on the dealer and network.

Coverage varies from state to state, but the largest national network providers are best – Vodafone, Airtel and Idea. Once your retailer has unlocked your phone and you have paid for the initial card, it can be topped up (“re-charged” as it’s known) by amounts ranging from ₹100–1000, though only by paying specific amounts (check with the retailer) will you get the full amount in credits.

Beware of pointing your camera at anything that might be considered “strategic”, including airports and anything military. Remember too that some people prefer not to be photographed, so it’s a good idea to ask before you take a snapshot of them. More likely, you’ll get people, especially kids, volunteering to pose and it’s quite common for Indians to ask you to be in their snaps. Almost all photo shops can now transfer digital images onto a memory stick or CD – useful in order to free up memory space.

India is all in one time zone and remains the same year round: GMT+5hr 30min. This makes it 5hr 30min ahead of London, 10hr 30min ahead of New York, 13hr 30min ahead of LA, 4hr 30min behind Sydney and 6hr 30min behind New Zealand; however, daylight saving time in those places will change the difference by an hour. Indian time is referred to as IST (Indian Standard Time, which cynics refer to as “Indian stretchable time”).

While “don’t go down dark streets alone” might seem a bit obvious, there are plenty of straightforward ways to avoid subtle dangers in India. Of course, carrying huge quantities of cash isn’t a good idea anywhere. In crowded Indian cities, pick pocketing is a very present problem. Equally, haggling at a market can, at times, become an unpleasant, heated exchange. If you do find yourself in an exchange that’s heating up, try to stay calm. Be pleasant but firm, and don’t allow yourself to be irritated.

Foreign currency above US$ 10000 brought into the country needs to be declared in a Currency Declaration Form. Currency should be changed only at the authorised dealers. Airports, most banks and many hotels fall under this category. Banks at International Airports, as well as some authorised money changers, are open 24 hours a day. They will issue an encashment certificate which is later required for reconverting local currency into foreign currency. Local currency cannot be legally taken out of the country due to exchange regulations.

Mosques and Temples are not always open to foreigners or women. Dress codes for religious places can include covering your head, being barefoot, not wearing leather articles etc.

If travelling in scorching summer heat, remember to drink enough water and use Sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.

Photography is not always permissible and at many places is permitted only at a fee. There is usually a higher fee for video cameras. Museums and monuments are usually closed one day in a week. Photography at airports and metro stations is prohibited.

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