WHEN TO GO :
Travelling in India is largely determined by the weather. The best time is between Oct and Mar, when conditions are pleasant across the country. Try to avoid the summer (April-JunE), which is unbearably hot in the north, and very sultry in the south. The rainy season (July-September) is also best avoided, as frequent heavy rainfall can make travel difficult, especially in the southern western states of Goa, Maharashtra and Kerala. The Himalayan region can be very cold from November to January. The foothills, which provide a welcome escape from the heat of the plains, are at their best between March and June, and again in September (after the rains).
WHAT TO CARRY :
The cloths you need will depend on the time of year that you visit. In northern India, from November untill February, you will need a warm jacket, sweater and socks, especially after sundown, whereas in the south, the weather is balmy at that time. In february and march, and again in October, bring light woolens. During the summer and monsoon season (Apr-Sep) only loose-fitting cotton clothes are comfortable. Bring footwear that is easy to remove, as you will heave to take off your shoes in places of worship. A first air kit is a must. A raincoat or umbrella, a hat to protect against the strong sun, and a torch are also useful.
VISAS AND PASSPORT :
Visa is required y everyone to enter India. The Indian consular offices around the world issue a standard six-month multiple-entry visa for tourists, which is also helpful for visiting neighboring countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka. Foreigners who arrive in India on this visa donot need to register themselves with a local authority and can travel freely in all areas except the so-called “restricted area”, which require special permits.
Visa extensions are sometimes granted for 15 days or, in exceptional cases, for a longer period. The application process is complicated. In Delhi, collect an extension form from the Ministry of Home Affairs office, then submit it to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) ; it will finally be issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. In Mumbai, Chennai or Kolkata, contact the local FRRO.
Obtaining a visa extension, whether for 15 days or longer, is extremely difficult and extensions are only granted if at all, in special circumstances.
SPECIAL TRAVEL PERMITS :
In addition to a visa, you may need special travel permits to visit what are known as “Restricted Areas”. Obtaining a permit, can be complicated, so it is best to ask a reliable travel agent, at home or in India, to arrange it for you. This can take up to four weeks, so plan ahead. Permits are also issued by Indian embassies and consular offices abroad ; from the FRRO in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai ; and from the Resident Commissioner’s offices in Delhi. You will be asked to show these permits when travelling in restricted areas. You will also need trekking permits for the Himalayn regions bordering Pakistan, Tibet and China, and for treks in Uttranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and West Bangal and Sikkim. All visitors to Sikkim require 15-day travel permits, becuase of its proximity to a sensitive border with China.
Among the seven northern-eastern states, no permits are required for Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. However, permits are required for Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland and can be acquired from any of the states tourist offices. In some areas, permits are issued only to groups of four or more – these are best organized by a travel agent.
Foreign national require a permit, valid for 30 days, for the Andaman Islands, but this excludes tribal areas and some islands, including Nicobar. Permits can be obtained on arrival at the immigration counter at Port Blair airport or at Kokatata, and Chennai airport. If travelling by shop, a permit cn be obtained on arrival at Port Blair, as well as from the FRRO offices in the fourt main cities.
It is advisable to take out an insurance policy for medical emergencies as well as theft before leaving home. Travel insurance is also essential to cover any adventure activity or sport that you may undertake on your trip.
Thought Hindi is the official language of India, there are several regional languages as well. Bengali is spoken in Kolkata and West Bengal, Marathi in Mumbai and Maharashtra, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Telugu in Andhra Pradesh and Malayalam in Kerala. English has become the most convenient link language and is widely spoken in most Indian cities. Most people who deal with tourist, such as taxi drivers, guides, hotel staff, shop assistants and officials, speak English. Road signs and numbers are usually in English as well as in the regional language of the particular state.
Only visitors travelling from certain countries in Africa, South America and Papua New Guinea require a valid vaccination certificate for yellow fever. However, visitors should get vaccinated against tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A and B. It is also advisable to start a course of anti-malarial tablets before leaving for India, after consulting a doctor.
GREETING PEOPLE :
The traditional greeting in India is the namaskar or namaste when meting or parting. The palms are pressed together, raised towards the face, and the head is bent slightly forward. Greetings and gestures vary somewhat according to religion or regional group. Muslims raise their right hand toward the forehead with the words adaab or salam aleikum. The Western handshake is also widely used, though more conservative women still prefer to greet visitors with a namaskar.
SUITABLE DRESS :
Indians tend to dress conservatively and keep the body well covered. In small towns, most women wear saris or slwar-kameez. In cities, jeans, skirts and t-shirts are common, particularly among the younger generation. however, men do tend to stare at skimpily-clad women, so try to avoid short skirts, halter-neck tops, or anything that might attract unwanted attention.
It is best to dress formally when visiting Indian homes. In fact , wearing an Indian outfit for the occasion will probably delight your hosts. Inexpensive, readymade Indian cloths for men and women are widely available.
It is acceptable for men to go shiftless on the beach. Nude sunbathing is never allowed, and women are advised to wear full swimsuits, or sarongs over their bikniis. If you are going to out for the evening, remember that most nightclubs have a dress code, and you may not get in if you are wearing shorts or sneakers.
PLACES OF WORSHIP :
Whether you are visiting a Hindu temple, Buddhist monastery, Islamic mosque or Sikh gurdwara, make sure that you behave and dress appropriately. You should for example, always ask permission to take photographs. Women should wear dresses that cover the upper arms, and are lest mid-calf length, and take a scarf along to cover their head. It is acceptable for women to wear long trousers. Men should avoid shorts and may be asked to cover their heads with a hanky or scarf (rather than a hat).
Jain temples have strict rules, and will not allow leather items, even wallets or watch straps, inside. In some Southern Indian temples, men are expected to remove their shirts and wear a dhoti instead of trousers. These are often provided at the temple entrance. At most places of worship, shoes are taken off at the door, and you should sit with your feet facing away from the main shrine. In a temple or monsatery, walk around in a clockwise direction. You may be offered prasad (sacred food) in most temples and gurudwars, which must be taken only in the right hand. The segregation of men and women is common.
In Hindu temples, it is usual for devotees and visitors to offer flowers and incense. Do not sit or lean against temple walls or shrines. Even those in ruins, as well as simple road side graves are considered holy. Some Hindus temples, especially in Kerala and few in Orissa, are out of bounds for non hindus. . If you are barred from entering, donot take offence . Avoid entering a mosque during Friday prayers and men should stay away from the women’s enclosure.