Travelling in India
India never ceases to amaze you. Every day here is a new day. It unfolds its mysteries through many special experiences. The culture, tradition, food & dressing changes from state to state. You can spend a lifetime learning all about this enigmatic country. Traveling with Beyond the Taj, we make it simple to understand and help you discover this dazzling, complex country and make this learning an exotic, fun experience for you.
We recommend, prior to travelling, you to get adequate travel insurance from your country, covering trip cancellation, interruption, baggage and medical insurance. It would be advisable to check with your insurance carrier regarding coverage of emergency medical evacuation outside your home country.
We would advise that you discuss your fitness level with our travel advisors before booking a tour. It is important to note that you may be visiting ancient monuments with steep steps or trekking at high altitudes in the Himalayas. A certain level of fitness will be required for these activities.
Though no vaccination is mandatory for India – we recommend you consult your General Practitioner. An inoculation against Yellow fever is required if you have traveled to infected countries 5 days prior to travel to India. It is advisable to protect yourself against Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Cholera and Malaria. You should keep a high factor sunscreen, hand sanitizer and a mosquito repellant with you at all times. If forgotten our driver or guide will help you buy one.
We strongly recommend that you keep yourselves hydrated throughout your stay in India. We provide enough drinking water during your travels – some drives here can be long. Most hotels provide two bottles of drinking water in the rooms. You can ask for more at a charge. Tap water, unless specified, in most places is not for drinking.
Passport & Visas
Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of exit from India. You must renew your passports in your home country prior to your journey. In some cases it may take over 30 days for renewal of passport.
Indian Visa from most countries is an online application. Once your itinerary is finalised, we will share the relevant link for your country to make it easier for you to apply.
You are allowed to carry two one litre bottles of alcohol from Duty Free into India. Some parts of India are dry & don’t give access to any type of alcohol, where as some states serve Indian wines & beer only. Please ask our tour adviser for information on your itinerary so you are not disappointed on arrival. Drinking age varies from state to state from 18 yrs to 25 yrs. You may not be served alcohol in bars if you are underage.
India is a vast country and goes through five seasons in most parts – Winter, Spring, Summer, Monsoon & Autumn. Winters in the Himalayas can dip way below freezing point. During winter, most of North India stays at 10 to 15 degrees centigrade in the day & 2 to 8 degrees centigrade on its coldest days in January.
Though the Monsoon brings widespread rain to all of India, The East & South of India gets heaviest downpour from June to early September. The winter temperatures here remain moderate.
The best months to travel to most of India are October to March. The shoulder months of September and April, though a little warm, are popular months too.
There are regions you can visit in the summer months but the temperatures here may soar up to 47 degrees centigrade. Travel to Leh & Ladakh is recommended from May to September.
Most of the wildlife sanctuaries remain closed from 1 July to 1 October due to the monsoons.
What to Wear
We recommend layered clothing in the winter months to be able to cope with varying temperatures during the day. Cotton clothing is recommended. An open pair of sandals and comfortable walking shoes are an essential for your walking tours. In the winter months you do need a jacket, a light sweater and a shawl for the evenings. If your itinerary takes you to the mountains you will need heavier warm clothes. A pair of sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat can protect you from the strong sun. It is a good idea to use a high factor sunscreen when stepping out.
For visits to the game parks, since the early morning drives in the forests can be chilly, we recommend that you wear wind cheaters, headscarves or caps and light woolens for the months from November to February. Colors recommended for the safaris would be Khakhi, Olive, Beige or brown that blend with the natural environment.
Visiting Temples or mausoleums, as a mark of respect, you will have to remove your shoes before entering the place of worship. If you do not wish to walk barefoot, it is advisable to carry a spare pair of socks. Dress should be conservative – shorts are not appreciated at places of worship. It is mandatory to have a headscarf for a visit to a Sikh temple. In some of the Jain temples you may be asked to take off your leather belts, wallets and shoes.
Indian cities are crowded and bustling with activity. It can be overwhelming for a first time traveler. These places are all safe – Indians are very hospitable and you may find people staring at you. Do not get frightened – they are just curious and trying to be friendly. If you like to do something that is not in your itinerary – we would recommend you call your local representative for guidance.
If you do decide to venture out on your own – please carry your hotel address and our contact no. You will see most signs marked in English and most city-dwellers do speak English. If you get lost, contact your local representative or ask for directions – someone will guide you or in some cases, even escort you to your hotel.
India is a photographers delight. Every step is a photo opportunity. Just remember to keep your camera charged and ready whenever you step out.
There may be some restricted places like inside the Taj Mahal or at the airports where you cannot take pictures. There will be a charge for your cameras at most monuments – before your trip, do let us know if you are carrying a tripod or a professional camera.
Cabs and Cars
When you are feeling adventurous – Uber or Ola are an easy way to move around in cities. Smaller towns have options of Tuktuks or cycle rickshaws. These drivers may not speak English – so it is advisable to keep your hotel and local representative’s contact handy when you venture out on your own. Always settle the fare with the driver before your ride.
Gratuities & Tipping
It is customary to tip for services in India though it is at your discretion. For guidelines this may help –
If service charge is not included in your bill then 10% of your bill amount
Porters at railway stations Rs 50.00 per piece of luggage or Rs 200.00 for a trolley full
Sightseeing guide – Rs 500.00 per day
Driver – Rs 500.00 per day
At the time of arrival, before immigration, you are given an arrival form. There is no restriction to the maximum amount you bring in, if in this form, you declare the amount of foreign currency you are carrying in form of travelers cheques and cash. However, cash or travelers cheques, equivalent to US $10000.00 need not be declared. It is safer to carry large sums of money in the form of travelers cheques. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at most hotels, restaurants and outlets. There are ATM’s easily available in large cities, though it may not be so in some offbeat destinations. The Indian money denomination is as follows –
Coins – 1, 2, 5, 10
Notes – Rupees – 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 2000