India is a fascinating, colourful, mix of histories, cultures, religions, smells and landscapes that will entice all of your senses. Northern India is the ‘jewel’ in India’s crown and offers you a scenic and cultural wealth you would not find in a single region anywhere else in the world. From lush forests and valleys to majestic mountains, deserts to royal cities, palaces, parks, ancient monuments and temples, India is a traveller’s dream destination. Whether your first visit to India or you have been here many times before, India is so vast and so fascinating that there is always more to see and you cannot fail to be blown away by the chaos and the culture of it all.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of departure from India and have 2 blank pages for entry stamps. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport. India’s Bureau of Immigration has announced that foreign nationals who arrive at an Indian port holding non-machine-readable passports will be denied entry. Carriers who transport non-Indian passengers holding non-machine-readable passports may be subject to a fine.
A visa is required for entry to India. India offers many types of visa, so please check on which is applicable to you on the following website: https://boi.gov.in/ Entry to India on the wrong visa type may result in you being denied entry and possibly blacklisted preventing return to India in the future.
Nationals of USA, Canada, United Kingdom are now able to apply for an e-Visa for tourism visits. Further details and links to apply for your e-Visa online can be found by following the link here.
Please be careful as there are several other websites out there purporting to offer the e-Visa. Visas must be arranged in good time prior to travel – the minimum requirement is 3 working days but can vary depending the diplomatic mission and nationality of the applicant. Do not apply for the eTourist Visa more than 120 days prior to arrival in India. All other nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. Once received, please send through your e-Visa confirmation numbers to email@example.com
Please note - Indian visa regulations change frequently, often with little notice, and changes may be poorly advertised and inconsistently enforced. Travelers are urged to check with the Indian Bureau of Immigration prior to any travel to India to review the most up to date information.
• Hotel details for Visa applications
The hotel details will be supplied to you in good time to make your visa applications.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in New Delhi, including those for the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and UK. There are also a number of consulates around the country in cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai However, embassies for other countries are located in other Asian cities, offering coverage to India. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
On some tours, we will be at high altitudes on our journey, as well as in some larger cities air pollution in the can be an issue to health. You may wish to speak to your doctor about how these may affect any existing medical conditions. You might also want to discuss precautions available to you to avoid the inconveniences that altitude causes to some people.
Malaria, dengue fever and the Zika virus are also present in some areas - your best defence for avoiding mosquito borne-diseases is through the use of a good insect repellent and keeping well covered during dawn and dusk.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
Our India Tours are Activity Level 2 and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. Important:
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs. Please take note of the information below:
Yellow Fever Certificate. Depending on the area you are visiting, or areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Cholera, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Malaria may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/countries
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
Pack breathable, light coloured, light weight wrinkle-resistant clothing and enough underwear and socks so that frequent laundry is not necessary. Conservative clothing, such as lightweight pants, loose shorts, long skirts or trousers and short-sleeved shirts are recommended for both sexes when sightseeing in towns. Somewhat smarter, but still casual clothing is appropriate for evening dining in city restaurant and hotels. Formal clothing, such as suits and formal dresses are not necessary.
When visiting temples, mosques and other religious sites, both sexes should cover their arms, legs and shoulders. Wear or carry a pair of socks, since shoes must be removed when entering religious buildings. Women should pack a scarf or shawl large enough to cover bare neck and shoulders. Evenings will be much cooler and so bringing clothing that can be layered and a sweater or light jacket is advised. You should also pack a lightweight waterproof jacket and a small umbrella as rain is common, as well as a swimming suit as many hotels have swimming pools. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, as well as sandals.
India has a relatively modest culture and covering arms and legs is a simple step toward respecting this. This is particularly important when entering a sacred space, like a temple. Also, if you see shoes outside a shop, it’s a sign to remove your own.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Internal flights – A number of our India tours include an internal flight in India. Please check with The Big Journey Company regarding specific luggage allowances for this flight.
Luggage handling is not included in our India tours. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services are available in some hotels on the tour.
In India, the official language is Hindi. Each state, however, has its own official regional language as well: 14 in all. English is widely spoken all over the country. Officially an “assistant” language after Hindi, English is the most widely spoken tongue in India and probably the most widely written and read.
The time zone in India is GMT+5.5, 5.30 hours ahead of London GMT.
India is a massive country and its geography ranges from the mountainous north, through its central plains down to the beaches of the south. Due to its location, it is generally hot and humid, but there are significant differences across the regions. November – March sees the coolest months, with low temperatures in the mornings and evenings, but sunny days. March to June sees the hottest months, with dry, dusty days and high temperatures. From June to October is the wet season, with the monsoon rains coming in most regions. As the tours to India cover varying locations, it is best to check on the weather reports for the areas you will be visiting close to travel.
In India, the standard voltage is 220V and the frequency is 50Hz. India uses three types of plugs – Type C (European style 2 round prongs), Type D (mainly used in Indian countries and some African countries, with three round prongs) and Type M (like Type D but with larger prongs). Blackouts (‘load shedding’) and power surges may occur in rural areas, so bring a voltage guard with spike suppressor (automatic cut-off switch) for your laptop.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
India has a good communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate or be non-existent. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide WIFI, but it can be slow and unreliable. Please check data roaming charges for India with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of India is the rupee ₹ (INR). It is a closed currency and cannot be imported nor exported from the country. Credit cards are widely accepted at mid-high range establishments, but it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well as virtually all transactions with street vendors and in smaller shops are carried out in cash only. US Dollars are also widely accepted, although smaller stall holders will only accept Rupees. Dollar notes should be in good condition and issued after 2009. Exchange only what you think you will spend in-country as reconversion on departure may be difficult and coins cannot be reconverted. Save all receipts from any currency exchange transaction as you may be asked to produce them when you exit the country, and they are required if you intend to reconvert local currency.
ATMs are widely available in cities, but not so in smaller villages. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip. Travellers cheques are accepted in most bureau de change, but the rate given and commission varies.
India can be quite expensive, with prices for even day to day items comparably cheaper than other European countries. You will also be able to use your bargaining skills to pick up a few deals along the way at the markets and in small shops.
• Bank Opening
Bank opening hours in India are short, especially in summer. Banks are usually open 10am – 3pm Monday to Friday and until 1pm on Saturday.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
India’s food is famously spicy, but not always spicy-hot. There are marked regional and religious differences in cuisine, but many meals are based on rice or another grain, served with meat and/or vegetables cooked in a spiced sauce. Condiments and pickles, ranging from sweet to sour to hot, accompany most dishes, and dairy products such as yogurt, butter and soft cheese are common. India has a well-developed vegetarian cuisine and many traditional, very rich and sweet desserts.
Regardless of precautions, changes in water and diet can result in mild abdominal upsets and nausea. It is advisable to bring antacids or abdominal pain medicines. Always drink bottled water and check the seal on purchased drinks to check it is intact.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
Do not drink the tap water in India, stick to bottled water instead or water that has been filtered or purified. Furthermore, check that the seal on bottled water is intact at purchase. It is advised to avoid ice in drinks and food unless you know it has been made with tap water and watch out with juices served at street stalls as they are often watered down with tap water or may be served in glasses that have been rinsed in tap water. Fruit are often rinsed in tap water, so make sure you peel them yourself, having first rinsed them in mineral water. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
India offers lots for visitors to buy. Silk textiles, gold and silver jewellery, precious stones, brassware and pottery are among the best and most typical souvenirs of India. Delhi is India’s “merchandise mart”, with many stores catering to visitors clustered around Connaught Place. Government-sponsored and large department stores operate on a fixed-price basis but elsewhere, even in smart hotel stops, bargaining is customary. Nevertheless, caution is essential as bargains and high-quality goods can be found—but reproductions, fakes and flaws are common. Just as at home, when a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many shops are transient, with frequent changes of location, name and ownership which complicates tracking down a missing shipment or refund.
Use common sense and caution when shopping. Please let your Tour Director or Local Guide know if you are feeling harassed into making a purchase and we can assist.
To avoid disappointment, we suggest you take the time to read credit card charge slips and compute the exchange rate before you sign them. Furthermore, duty taxes are paid (if applicable) as you re-enter your home country. Regardless of any assurances to the contrary, merchants cannot pre-pay duty fees on your behalf. Keep all sales receipts for items purchased throughout your trip and try and pack all items you will need to declare separately.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 7pm Monday–Saturday, though may vary locally. Street traders have varying hours and can be open later.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in India offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Petty crime levels in India are high, particularly in airports in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. Keep valuables locked away and do not wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. Your property and possessions are carried at your own risk. Valuable items (including jewellery, electronic devices, cell phones etc.) are best left in your hotel safe. For everyday access, use a money belt or pouch rather than a wallet or handbag. When travelling it is always prudent to exercise caution when using your credit and/or ATM cards to avoid the risk of fraudulent charges. Scams are common, so please beware when making purchases
India has sadly been the target of a number of terrorist attacks in recent years and strikes and protests are common. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
We strongly recommend that you arrange any transportation needs outside of your itinerary through your tour guide or hotel and avoid hailing a taxi in the street. Do not head out at night unaccompanied. Women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men.
Local people, as well as guides, are likely to have strong feelings about religious topics and political events, which they may not feel comfortable sharing with visitors. You may wish to avoid engaging in conversations of a religious or political nature.
Open displays of anger or displeasure are bad manners in many Asian countries. An outburst of this nature may cause your guide to “lose face” and become uncommunicative. Please respect local customs by remaining patient and polite, even when circumstances are trying.
Please don’t encourage begging by giving sweets or money to local people who may approach you on the street. Recognized charities often have collection boxes in hotels. We recommend that you make any donations here, where you can be assured that the funds will be properly used.
Pack Your Patience and good humour alongside your passport! Contrasts between the values and priorities of the international traveller and the local community are an interesting and illuminating part of the travel experience.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke. Smoking is prohibited on all means of public transport. Persons found violating this offense will face a fine.
India has a mix of religions and is characterised by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of some of the world's major religions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. India is predominantly a Hindu country with almost 80% of the population of the faith. Islam is followed by approximately 14% and Christianity 2.5%, mainly in the Kerala province.
India offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! Pack a dust-proof case (or sealable plastic bag) and an air brush to protect camera equipment from dust. Etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed. Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of airports, government buildings and installations, bridges and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask.
ARRIVAL IN INDIA
India requires all visitors to complete a Disembarkation Card, which will require general name and nationality information, plus your flight and visa numbers. Please have the address of the first hotel to hand. You should then exit through the “Green Channel,” unless you are in possession of a video camera, telescope, tape recorder or multiple cameras. In this latter case you should stop to obtain a Tourist Baggage Re-Export Form. When collected at the end of your trip, this form will allow you to leave the country without paying export duty on declared items.
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in Nepal or other Asian countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated December 2019