The Taj Mahal is a truly stunning piece of architectural art symbolising a King’s love for his beloved Queen. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder! Probably for Taj Mahal, the axiom is just the other way round. The Taj displays its different moods through its varied shades. It has as many shades as any kind of beauty can ever have. The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening, golden when the moon shines. It’s a must see monument for almost all visitors.
There is an unfathomable diversity in India, and yet amidst the vast diversity there is unity. You can travel though India and experience distinct differences in religion, cuisine, customs and a just about everything else. It’s impossible to make a blanket statement about India, because when you find one thing to be true, somewhere the opposite is also true.
India is a country that can’t be explained; it must be experienced. A walk down any chaotic ‘Bazaars’ in Old Delhi is a potpourri of sights, noise, and smells- people having loud chats on their cell phones, beggars clanking their coins asking people for pocket change, colourful attires, unorganised traffic continuously honking, smells of street food, the stink of rotting garbage, the stifling heat in full sunshine. It’s a kind of chaos that somehow flows when you least expect it, and definitely you won’t experience it anywhere else in the world.
India has some of the largest and populous cities in the world and some of the most backward villages. It’s a good idea to experience a balance of both. Witness the hustle-and-bustle of a jam-packed city life and experience the peaceful and simplistic lifestyle of a remote village. There’s a lot to discover from both, and by visiting both extremes one can appreciate how far India has come in its growth to modernization. I always enjoy visiting the villages because it gives me a break from congested cities, and because the people there are extraordinarily warm and welcoming although they live simple lives. Try to get a feel of both the big cities and the rural villages, because both are an essential part of modern India.
The hindi film industry, popularly called “Bollywood” and Cricket are a national pastime and a cultural phenomenon. People from all regions and socioeconomic classes flock to the cinemas to see the latest films and as the actors are the most well-known people, there is always some star gossip going around. The Indian movies are often long and full of drama, comedy, songs and dance. Sometimes you have to suspend the laws of reality and probability and just embrace the cheesiness, but they really are enjoyable. Cricket, a legacy from the British, is another national obsession. Everyone follows cricket, and if they’re not watching the game on the TV or listening to the commentary on radio, they’re playing on the streets.
Travel to India, which is known for its difficult visa process, just got a little easier thanks to a new Tourist Visa on Arrival program for nationals from 43 countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany. The 30-day visas are for the purpose of ‘recreation, sightseeing, short duration medical treatment, casual business visit, or a casual visit to meet family and friends’ only and can be issued up to two times a year per person.
The program is called “Visa on Arrival,” however; tourists are required to apply online at least four days before they are set to arrive in India. Applicants must submit a photo, a copy of their passport and a $60 fee. Once approved, they receive an “electronic travel authorization” email that they should print and present with their passport upon arrival. The visas are good for entry at nine international airports: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Goa.
Until now, India only issued visas on arrival to visitors from 12 countries. Most visitors had to submit applications at visa processing centres and then wait several weeks before learning whether their visas were approved.
It’s quite evident that the country’s tough visa system has deterred tourists. In 2012, there were 6.58 million visitors to India, fewer than other Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, but the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to make tourism a significant driver of economic growth. “The new system is aimed at sending out a clear message that India is serious about making travel to the country easy”- Mahesh Sharma, the country's tourism minister, said in a statement.
Welcome to India! For intrepid travellers who’ve been waiting for things to get easier to visit the largest democracy, things are looking up.
Citizens of 43 countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Germany and Australia, can now apply for a visa-on-arrival, cutting out the need to visit an Indian embassy and wait in line for a permit.
The Ministry of Tourism has just released the details. What you need is a passport valid for six months, a photograph, $60 and four days.
You can upload these documents along with an online application form on the website, pay your visa fees via debit or credit card, and wait to receive an “electronic travel authorization” via email.
Having trouble during the application process? Track the status online by clicking here or call +91-11-24300666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a full list of eligible countries including 12 that were already able to get visa on arrival:
Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam.
Currency is Indian Rupee. 1 Rupee = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of Rs 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50 paise.
The weather in India varies dramatically. While the southern tip of India is being lashed by tropical monsoon rain, the north will be covered in thick snow. Therefore, the best time to travel to India depends greatly on the destinations to be visited and the climate experienced there.
Based on temperature and rainfall, the Indian Meteorological Service has classified the country into an incredible seven different climatic regions.
These are the Himalayas, Assam and West Bengal, the Indo-Gangetic Plain/North Indian Plain (a huge section of north-central India), the Western Ghats and coast, the Deccan Plateau (south-central India), and the Eastern Ghats and coast. In general, the north of India is cooler, the centre is hot and dry, and the south has a tropical climate.
Indian weather itself is divided into three distinct seasons -- winter, summer, and the monsoon. Generally, the best time to visit India is during the winter, when the weather in most places is relatively cool and pleasant.
India starts heating up from around February, first in the northern plains and then the rest of the country. By April, many places are experience daily temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit). It stays cooler in the southern parts of the country, with temperatures reaching around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), although it’s a lot more humid.
In late May, signs of the approaching monsoon start appearing. Humidity levels build, and there are thunderstorms and dust storms.
The most tiring thing about summer in India is that the heat is so relentless. Day after day the weather doesn’t change -- it’s always extremely hot, sunny, and dry.
While the summer can be very uncomfortable and draining in most parts of India, it’s the perfect time for visiting the mountains and hill stations. The air is fresh and soothing. If you're interested in wildlife and spotting tigers in their natural environment, then summer is the best time to visit India's national parks as the animals come out of the thickets in search for water in the heat.
India actually has two monsoons –- the southwest monsoon and the northeast monsoon. The southwest monsoon, which is the main monsoon, comes in from the sea and starts making its way up India’s west coast in early June. By mid July, most of the country is covered in rain. This gradually starts clearing from most places in northwest India by October.
The northeast monsoon affects India’s east coast during November and December. It’s a short but intense monsoon. The states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala receive most of their rainfall from the northeast monsoon, while the rest of the country receives most of its rainfall from the southwest monsoon.
The monsoon doesn’t appear all at once. Its onset is characterized by intermittent thunderstorms and rain over a number of days, eventually culminating in a huge and lengthy downpour. India during the monsoon doesn't receive rain all the time, although it usually rains for a heavy period everyday, followed by pleasant sunshine. The rain brings some respite from the searing heat. Conditions become very humid and muddy though, while still remaining quite hot.
The monsoon, while welcomed by farmers, can be an extremely challenging time in India. It produces widespread destruction and flooding. Frustratingly, the rain also appears out of nowhere. It can be a beautiful clear day one minute, and the next it’s pouring.
It’s difficult to travel throughout most of India during monsoon time as the rain often disrupts transport services. However, it’s the best time to visit popular but isolated Ladakh region in the far north, as the roads leading there don’t clear of snow and open up until June. This is just one of many great destinations for monsoon travel in India.
The disappearance of the monsoon marks the start of clear sunny skies, as well as the start of the tourist season, for most of India. Daytime winter temperatures are comfortable, although often quite chilly at night.
In the south, it never gets cold. This is in complete contrast to the freezing temperatures experienced in India’s far north, around the Himalayan region.
The winter season is the time to hit the beaches in India, and many people flock to relax and party on the long strip of beaches in Goa. India's far south is also best enjoyed during winter, with December to February being the only really good months to travel there. The rest of the time it’s either uncomfortably hot and humid, or wet. Apparently, it rains for an astonishing nine months of the year in the state of Kerala! It's also a good idea to travel to the desert state of Rajasthan during the winter, to avoid the searing summer temperatures. Unless you want to go skiing or indulge in other winter sports or adventures, visits around the Himalayan Mountains should be avoided in winter because of the snow. It can be a very beautiful experience though.
Since we started organizing India Tours through The Indian Safari, the most common question we are asked is- “What should I pack for my trip to India?” - Especially by the women members of the group. Now this question at first amazed me as I was hoping to be asked about how to avoid Delhi Belly or how safe is it to travel solo in India for women. But the question for what to pack and what NOT to pack was pretty new to me. Being a man who can travel in just 1 shorts and 2 t-shirts for the entire trip, the packing dilemma was a total unheard phenomenon for me.
But I was wrong! When I discussed the question of the perfect packing list for India with my wife, I realised it’s not so easy to decide what to pick and what to leave behind. Based on her recommendations & many tips of the members of my previous tours, I am presenting this near perfect India packing list for travellers to India.
The majority of India is hot and humid except the hilly north area so you need clothes that will keep you cool, but it still has conservative standards when it comes to body hugging or revealing clothes. All we can request you is to dress modestly especially outside major cities. Wear comfortable, loose clothing that covers your shoulders / knees / cleavage. That way it will be easier for you to mingle with the local crowd and reduce any unwanted attention.
As with any trip, pack as little as possible.
Personal Health Medicines are easily available in India and often you do not require a prescription for over-the-counter medical supplies. You can buy this entire stuff once you land in India on your first day and be safe for the rest trip.
We recommend fast drying and easy wash clothing. Women should bring a skirt that covers their knees and a scarf for visiting places of worship. If going for jungle trekking, or on a safari, it is recommend you wear beige, light green or light brown clothing which will camouflage your presence with the surroundings.
However this India packing list should be used as a guide only and is not intended to be a complete India packing list for any weather or situations. Any other items that you wish to pack are at your own discretion. Some items on this list may not be necessary for your particular trip at a particular time. What all to pack varies according to the trip style (Backpacking / Budget / Luxury), the destinations you’re visiting, the climate and the time when you are visiting. I request you to please carefully consider the weather and time of year that you plan to travel.
While North American travelers will find many familiar amenities and necessities of daily life in India, it is still a developing country and somewhat conservative in customs and dress. Major credit cards are accepted and banks with ATM machines are accessible, which means you can probably leave the travelers checks and money belts at home. Cities in India have good medical facilities, but smaller towns and villages may not, so if you're traveling off the beaten path you'll want to add a basic first aid kit to the essentials listed here and be sure to include medications that treat stomach ailments, which are the most common complaints of travelers.
Passports are required and must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Tourist visas are also required. Check for current requirements (travel.state.gov) before planning your trip, and leave yourself plenty of time to obtain the correct visa.
Plan to pack light with clothing that can be mixed and matched, and opt for a soft-sided duffel bag, preferably with wheels, which will be lighter and easier to handle than a hard-sided suitcase. Invest in a good backpack, too, as day-to-day touring requires items like water bottles, an umbrella and clothing layers - a purse might not be big enough to hold everything.
India has three seasons. Winter starts at the end of October and lasts until the end of February; temperatures are moderate and pleasant, but it will be quite a bit colder in the northern part of the country, especially at night. Summer arrives with extreme heat in March, which continues into June. Monsoon season, which varies in timing and intensity across the country, generally hits in July and August, and visitors will need rain gear and umbrellas during this time. An umbrella is also handy as a sun shield and of course, sunglasses are essential to protect the eyes. Pack a wide-brimmed hat for protection from the intense sun, and long-sleeved tops and full-length pants to avoid mosquito bites at dusk.
In general, during any season traveling clothes can be casual and comfortable; light colors such as khaki and white are recommended. Cotton and linen fabrics allow your skin to breathe in hot temperatures --- avoid synthetics, unless they are sports clothes designed to wick away sweat. Also be prepared for chilly mornings and evenings, especially in mountainous regions, by packing layers and long pants.
In large cities, jeans and T-shirts will be fine in many places, but it's best to dress more conservatively in villages and rural areas. In other words, leave the mini-skirts at home. For visits to mosques and temples, women must keep legs and shoulders covered, so long skirts or pants and a shawl are recommended items to pack. Men should wear shirts with collars rather than T-shirts, and shorts are not recommended for either sex anywhere, but especially when visiting India's holy sites.
If you plan to go swimming, bring a bathing suit, as this item may not be readily available for purchase outside of major cities. You'll probably see a variety of swimsuit styles on fellow Western travelers in resort areas like Goa, but in general, if you're visiting public beaches a conservative suit is recommended.
Be sure to pack sturdy shoes with good support. Sandals, preferably closed-toe ones, are a good option, but they still need to support your feet with good rubber soles for extensive walking on uneven surfaces. Sneakers or hiking shoes might be more versatile, especially if you plan to explore rural areas and go trekking in northern India.
Sunscreen is a must, as it tends to be very expensive in India. Take your favorite brand of mosquito repellent as well, since you'll need lots of it and Indian brands tend to be less effective. Most personal care items are available in major cities, but some antiperspirants and hair products are difficult to find in smaller centers. Other items to consider packing, especially for rural areas, are a 230-volt converter and a good travel guidebook for when digital planners like smart phones aren't useful or easy to recharge. And make sure to bring a journal to record the memories of the trip.
If you're coming to India for the first time, you're probably feeling a bit apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. This is completely understandable and is something that everyone who travels to India experiences.
Here's some information to help you avoid suffering too much India culture shock when you arrive.
Stepping out of the airport can be a disorientating experience. You'll probably be struck by two things at the same time - the heat and the people. Unless you come from a warm, humid country, you'll definitely notice a change in the weather in most places in India. The amount of people in India is what really takes some getting used to though. There are just so many of them!
They're everywhere, and you can't help but wonder where they all came from and where they're going.
Chaos is the word that best describes Indian roads. A trip in a taxi can be a hair-raising experience, let alone trying to cross a road as a pedestrian. There's a system in place whereby smaller vehicles usually give way to larger vehicles, and the largest vehicles rule the road. Drivers weave all over the road, and overtake from both sides. To actually cross a road, you'll have to brace yourself to walk out in front of oncoming traffic. However, don't be too concerned as drivers are used to this and will stop. The best thing to do is go with the flow and follow everyone else who's crossing the road at the same time.
The roads themselves are in various states of repair. Unsealed roads, roads full of holes, and partially dug up roads are common.
Similar to how some people wonder if kangaroos can be found in cities in Australia, they also wonder if cows really roam the streets in India. Actually, it's true about the cows.
You'll find these fearless creatures meandering along all over the place, even on the beach. They're huge too, but quite harmless. Depending on where you travel in India it's likely that cows won't be the only animals you'll see on the roads. Donkeys and bullock carts are also common. If you go to the desert state of Rajasthan, you're almost guaranteed to see camels pulling carts through the cities.
India is not a quiet country. Indians love to use their horns when driving. They'll honk when turning corners, when overtaking, and incessantly when there are vehicles in the way. The constant noise is one of the most draining things about being in India. The Mumbai government once tried to implement a "No Honking Day" but it met with shock and disbelief from many drivers.
The smells of India can be the best and worst things about the country. The stench of garbage and urine is common, but so are the heady rich aromas of spices and incense. Evenings are a wonderful time to explore India's streets as the smell of fresh spices wafts up from the roadside snack stalls, and people light incense to attract Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, into their houses.
Indian society is very close-knit, and personal space and privacy are foreign concepts to most people. However, Indians are warm hearted and curious people. The down side of this though is that they tend to stare and ask lots of questions, many of them personal in nature. It can be confronting if you don't expect it, but don't be afraid to ask the same questions in return. You won't cause offense. In fact, people will be happy that you've taken an interest in them.
It's likely that you'll be shocked by the lack of sanitation and the amount of dirt and garbage lying around in India. As far as Indians are concerned, the most important thing is to keep their houses clean. So as long as the garbage isn't in their house, they're not bothered. They're content knowing that someone else will usually come and clean it up. Most things get recycled in India, and picking through trash is one way that the poor people make money.
The glaring poverty and begging in India are the most confronting and hardest things to accept. The contrast between rich and poor is so obvious and you never really get used to it. On one side of the street you may see palatial apartments, while on the other side people live their lives in makeshift houses on the sidewalk.
The great thing about India is that there's a photo opportunity around every corner, so keep your camera handy! The scenery is so stunning and foreign, and full of history, that every photo you take will be interesting.
The booming economy and flourishing development has made India a lot more traveler friendly in recent years. The influence of the west is being felt across most cities with supermarkets and shopping malls coming up everywhere. India's middle class is growing and has more money to spend. Most people now have cell phones. Many have computers and the Internet. Cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have become quite cosmopolitan, with an increasing number of modern restaurants, bars, and clubs.
Expect that it will take a lot more time to get things done than what it would back at home. There are inefficient processes to deal with, conflicting information that's given, and closures due to lunch breaks to contend with. Oh, and of course, the crowds of people! It can be a challenge to figure out how and where to get things done. Things that make sense back home don't make sense in India and vice-versa. India's a great country for building (and testing) patience, however if you're persistent it will pay off. There's a saying that anything is possible in India, it just takes time (and a bit of money on the side!).
As a foreigner in India, do be aware that the price you are quoted for items will usually be much higher (commonly up to three times more) than the price Indians would pay. Hence, it's important to negotiate. Never accept the first price given. Start with these tips for bargaining at markets.
All in all, it does take a while to adjust to being in India but rest assured, most people start feeling more comfortable after a week or so. Before long you'll find yourself falling into a love-hate relationship with the country, its frustrations and its strange appeal.
Currency is Indian Rupee. 1 Rupee = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of Rs 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50 paise.