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Country Guides

Welcome to Incredible India - a land of many times, a story with many a theme. India is home to some of richest and the best cultural and traditional tapestries, something every Indian is innately part of. Come home to India and discover a huge kaleidoscope of bright and rich colours, textures, tastes, sights and scents.

Come, tour the Taj by moonlight, chase the big game through a wide lens, snap up some great bargains in the many shopping capitals, or simply settle down in a roadside Dhaba with some hot dhaal and rotis!

Our India Country Guide below will tell you all you need to know about the best of amazing India. If you are more interested in City events, attractions and things to do, click on the Delhi & Agra Destination Guide and our local Delhi & Agra Tours. Let us guide you through incredible India with our local suggestions.

Check out the latest Delhi & Agra Travel features on You Tube.

Yes, the crowd in the cities can be maddening; the air quite rancid with pollutants, but India has a mixed bag for every type of traveller. The villages are especially interesting with their quaint ways of life and their almost innocent ignorance of technical advancements. Green and fresh, these villages form very ethnic, rural India. The cosmopolitan capital cities in every state have their own treats to offer - from road side eateries to five-star resorts and palatial archaeological masterpieces.

Modern India is home alike to the simple folk with their anachronistic lifestyles and to the sophisticated urban jetsetter. It is a land where the tame temple elephants exist quite amicably with the most current gizmos. Its ancient monuments are the backdrop for the world's largest democracy where atomic energy is generated and industrial development has brought this aggressive nation within the world's top ten countries.

You can still find the communities of fishermen along the country's southern coastline using simple fishing boats in a centuries old tradition while, only a few miles away, fast cars glide off conveyor belts in production plants and business booms at an incredible rate!

This is India, a country that lives by its cultural norms. A place where every guest is treated like God, a common household value, one that will continue to entice its guests to appreciate the warm and generous hospitality offered by the locals.

India Country Guide

Useful information on this page includes:

Climate/Weather

Because of India's size, its climate depends not only on the time of year, but also the location. In general, temperatures tend to be cooler in the north, especially between September and March. The south is coolest between November to January. In June, winds and warm surface currents begin to move northwards and westwards, heading out of the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Gulf. This creates a phenomenon known as the south-west monsoon, and it brings heavy rains to the west coast. Between October and December, a similar climatic pattern called the north-east monsoon appears in the Bay of Bengal, bringing rains to the east coast. In addition to the two monsoons, there are two other seasons, spring and autumn.

Though the word 'monsoon' often brings to mind images of torrential floods and landslides, the monsoon seasons are not bad times to come to India. Though it rains nearly every day, the downpour tends to come and go quickly, leaving behind a clean, glistening, fresh green landscape.

Click on this Weather link to view the current weather in New Delhi.

Communication

India is well connected globally via a strong communication network. Local ISP providers have Internet Cafes at almost every nook and corner possible! Telephones and Public Payphones are easily accessible. You can also purchase Prepaid Calling cards at post offices, communication-provider shops and even at most larger general stores. Prepaid cellular phone cards are also available at most general stores.

Communication might be difficult in remote rural areas and cellular networks are often out of range at higher altitudes.

India has the largest postal network in the world and various options are available for people wanting to send mail/parcels overseas.

Currency/Money

The currencies used in India are the Indian Rupee and the Paise. 100 Paise is equal to 1 Rupee. There is no limit to the amount of currency that Non-Indian Nationals can bring into the country, however, we would advise you to reconfirm with the Indian High Commission near you if new restrictions or limits have been imposed.

Banks are open everyday except Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Not all branches of banks allow you to convert foreign currency to Indian Rupees. It is best if you take the time to exchange a certain amount of foreign currency at the first International airport through which you enter into India.

Most major hotels, restaurants and shopping malls accept Visa and Master Cards, with fewer accepting American Express. In some shops, you may get a better discount if you pay by cash.

Check today's Indian Rupee (Rs) Exchange Rate from OANDA.com, The Currency Site.

Electricity

India electrical system runs off 230 volt/ 50 Hz. Some hotels have transformers. There may be pronounced variations in the voltage, and power cuts are common. Socket sizes vary so you are advised to take a universal adaptor (available at most airports). Many hotels even in the higher categories don't have electric razor sockets. During power cuts, diesel generators are often used in the medium and higher category hotels to provide power for essential equipment but this may not always cover air-conditioning.

Embassy Locations

To view a list of Indian embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within India, click on this link to EmbassyWorld.com

General Information

Population - 1.09 billion people (2nd most populous nation in the world behind China)
Total Area - 3,287,590 square kilometres
Capital - New Delhi (13.8 million people)
Time Zone - Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +5:30 hours

To view the current time in New Delhi, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.

Language

English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication. Hindi is the national language and primary tongue of 30% of the people.

There are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit. Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language.

Some common Hindi words/phrases handy for travellers include:

Hello = NA-MA-SKAR
Goodbye = ACH-HA
Please = KRIP-YA
Thank you = DHAN-YA-VAD
Nice to meet you = AAP SE MIL KE KHU-SHI HUI
Where is the bathroom = BATH-ROOM KID-HAR HAI
How much does this cost = YEH KIT-NE KA HAI
Help = MA-DAD
Street = SA-DAK
Left = BA-YEN
Right = DA-YEN
Water = PA-A-NEE

Public Holidays

Click here to view a list of current public holidays for India.

On these are days you will find all the government and private establishment closed including banks and tourist spots:

Republic Day: 26th January. It was on this day in 1950, the constitution of Independent India became applicable to the country and so the republic became a legal entity.

Ambedkar Jayanti: 14th April. The birth anniversary of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar, the founder of the Indian constitution.

Independence Day: 15th August. The anniversary of unfurling of the Indian tricolor at the red fort ushering in the age of freedom from British rule in 1947.

Gandhi Jayanti: 2nd October. A grateful nation pays its heartfelt tribute to the Father Of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi on his birthday.

India has a great number of holidays and festivals. Most follow either the Indian lunar calendar or the Islamic calendar, and therefore festival dates changes from year to year according to the calendar. Christmas Day is celebrated on 25th December. Local tourist offices should be able to provide specific dates. Most tourist attractions, such as museums and monuments, are closed on public holidays.

Religion

India's history goes back to 3,200 BC when Hinduism was first founded. Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, Zoroashtrianism, Christianity and Islam all exist within the country today. Hindu accounts for 85% of the population; Muslim 13%, Christian 2-3%, and Sikh 2%.

As a consequence of India's size, the history of the country has seldom been the same for two adjoining territories, and its great natural wealth has lured a succession of traders and foreign influences to it, each having left their imprint in the country, however faint or localised. Thus, Chinese fishing nets in Kerala are a throwback to that country's ancient maritime trade, while in the north, terra-cotta figurines of the centuries BC bear distinctly Greek traces.

Visas/Passports

Most Indian embassies and consulates won't issue a visa to enter India unless you hold an onward ticket. Be careful to check whether your visa is valid from the date of entry or the date of issue. 6 month multiple-entry visas are now issued to most nationals regardless of whether you intend staying that long or re-entering the country. Only 6 month tourist visas are extendable.

Geography

Side by side with the country's staggering topographical variations is its cultural diversity, the result of the coexistence of a number of religions as well as local tradition. Thus, the towering temples of south India, easily identifiable by their ornately sculptured surface, are associated with a great many crafts and performing arts of the region.

In the desert of Kutch, Gujarat, on the other hand, a scattering of villages pit themselves against the awesome forces of nature, resulting in Spartan lifestyles made vibrant by a profusion of jewellery and ornamental embroidery used to adorn apparel and household linen. In the extreme north is the high altitude desert of Ladakh. Local culture is visibly shaped by Buddhism as well as by the harsh terrain. Yet another facet of Indian culture is observed in the colourful tribal lifestyles of the north eastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur with their folk culture.

In the central Indian states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh tribal village life has resulted in a variety of artistically executed handicrafts.

Location

The subcontinent of India lies in south Asia between Pakistan, China and Nepal. To the north it is bordered by the world's highest mountain chain, where foothill valleys cover the northernmost of the country's 26 states. Further south, plateaus, tropical rain forests and sandy deserts are bordered by palm fringed beaches. To view a map of India, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

Flora/Fauna

India has its fair share of Tiger Reserves. India's National Animal, the tiger happens to be a symbol of strength and speed. India boasts of two-dozen Tiger Reserves. The fastest mammal on Earth, the tiger happens to be the joy and pride of India. The Royal Bengal tiger is amongst the most majestic species of the tiger. Sixty percent of the total population of the wild tigers in the world resides in India. Amongst the best-known tiger reserves in India is the Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. It is often referred to as the crown in the wildlife heritage of India. Tourists at Bandhavgarh can spot Royal Bengal Tigers, cheetahs, leopard, gaur, sambhar, and many more faunal species. The highly successful Project Tiger has shown once again that man can only undo in small ways the loss and destruction of natural habitat due to continuous growth and expansion of the population.

Indian wildlife has its share of native birds along with the migratory birds. Several hundred species of birds can be spotted across India. The Himalayan region is well known to be the natural habitat for the Pheasant, griffon vulture and ravens. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park popularly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in the Indian state of Rajasthan, in close proximity of Delhi, is home to indigenous water birds, waterside birds, migratory water birds, land migratory birds, and domestic land species. Tourists from far and wide are attracted to the Bird Sanctuary. At the Dudhwa wildlife reserve migratory birds like Egrets, herons, storks and cormorants share space with the ducks, gees and teals. The region of Andaman is home for the rare species of birds like the Narcondum hornbill, Nicobar Pigeon and the Megapode.

Food

Indian cuisine has captured the loyalty of millions round the globe. Its preparation and the sheer variety of spices make Indian food a popular choice by far. Often, Indian cooking is distinguished by the use of a larger variety of vegetables than many other well-known cuisines. Within these recognisable similarities, there is an enormous variety of local styles.

In the north and the west, Kashmiri and Mughlai cuisines show strong central Asian influences. Through the medium of Mughlai food, this influence has propagated into many regional kitchens. To the east, the Bengali and Assamese styles shade off into the cuisines of East Asia.

All coastal kitchens make strong use of fish and coconuts. The desert cuisines of Rajasthan and Gujarat use an immense variety of dals and achars (preserves) to substitute for the relative lack of fresh vegetables. The use of tamarind to impart sourness distinguishes Tamil food. The Andhra kitchen is accused, sometimes unfairly, of using excessive amounts of chillies.

All along the northern plain, from Punjab through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, a variety of flours are used to make chapatis and other closely related breads. In the rain-swept regions of the north-eastern foothills and along the coasts, a large variety of rices are used. Potatoes are not used as the staple carbohydrate in any part of India.

Modern India is going through a period of rapid culinary evolution. With urbanisation and the consequent evolution of patterns of living, home cooked food has become simpler. Old recipes are recalled more often than used. A small number of influential cookbooks have served the purpose of preserving some of this culinary heritage at the cost of homogenising palates. Meanwhile restaurants, increasingly popular, encourage mixing of styles. Tandoori fish, mutton dosas and Jain pizzas are immediately recognisable by many Indians in cities.

Many Indian dishes require an entire day's preparation of cutting vegetables, pounding spices on a stone or just sitting patiently by the fire for hours on end. On the other hand, there are simple dishes which are ideal for everyday eating.

Health

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to South Asia. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.

Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.

Japanese encephalitis, if you plan to visit rural farming areas and under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.

Rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.

Typhoid. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to faecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors Vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region. There have been recent reports of typhoid drug resistance in India and Nepal.

What to Wear

Cottons are wearable throughout the year in India but if you plan to visit the Highlands in the later months of the year, it is best to carry some warm clothing such as a sweater or jacket. It is a good idea to have a few pairs of shorts, if you plan going on a climbing or cycling trip. Slippers or sandals normally suffice, but if you plan to go into forest reserves, trekking, etc, then make sure you carry appropriate shoes. Sunhats, sun glasses, sun protection creams are strongly advised.

We would strongly recommend that you to carry mosquito repellents/ creams and based on your doctor's advise carry sufficient quantities of basic medicines and any specific ones that you may be taking at that moment.

Please carry on your person a small card indicating any current medical conditions, such as High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, current medication and known allergies.

Business Hours

Government offices are open from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday, and are closed every second Saturday. Banks are open from 10 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday, and 10 am to 12 noon on Saturday. Some banks also have evening branches. Travellers cheque transactions usually cease 30 minutes before the official bank closing time. In some tourist centres, there may be foreign exchange offices that stay open longer (Thomas Cook is open Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 6 pm). In most of the state capitals, the main post office (usually called GPO) is open until around 7 pm daily.

Shops and markets opens around 10 (it varies with city) and closes at 8 pm, markets are usually closed on Sunday and public holidays. But you will also find some shops open on Sundays.





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