India’s major religion is Hinduism and is practised by approximately 80% of the population. There are many minor religions practiced in India, including Islam (the largest minority religion), Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism.
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.
Area (sq. km):
3,287,590 square meters
India is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of GMT.
The climate in India varies from tropical monsoons in the south to more temperate climates in the north. October to March are the most pleasant months to visit and it can get very hot during the summer months. Rain in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur is quite likely during the monsoon season June to September.
Major gateways include; Indira Ghandi International Airport in New Delhi, Chennai International - 20km from city, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai - 14km from city, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata - 18km from city
The international dialling code for India is +91. Phone cards are best value for local or international calls. Local SIM cards are also an option but can be harder to obtain for foreigners in India post 2012. Phone calls from hotels often incur a significant service charge and are at very high rates.
Voltage in India is 220 volts (50 cycles). You will need an international adaptor. Electricity supplies are subject to occasional disruption.
In India we use our hotels and guesthouses primarily as a place to stay. Breakfast is included in the tour cost at your hotel. All towns and cities have a superb choice of restaurants for lunches and dinners and your tour guide will advise you as to the best places to go. Casual clothing is all that is required for a night on the town. We recommend you only drink bottled mineral water, bottled soft drinks and tea/coffee, etc. Do not drink water from the taps, and avoid ice in your drinks. We suggest you use the water provided in the hotel flasks only for cleaning your teeth.
You will have some free time to explore as you wish. Most cities are large and not all places of interest are within walking distance. In all cities traffic is congested and vehicles are driven somewhat erratically! The most sensible and safest form of transport is by taxi, which is relatively inexpensive. Auto rickshaws are also readily available and cycle rickshaws are great fun on the quieter roads. Taxis and auto rickshaws have meters but for cycle rickshaws bargaining before you set off is essential. All our tours to India involve travelling on busy roads. You will either travel in a small mini-bus or by car depending on group sizes. Roads can be rough and bumpy and the standard of driving is somewhat erratic. You will share the road with other cars, trucks, bullock carts and even camels at times. Your journey will not lack excitement. The driver will stop regularly on the way for refreshments but do feel free to request a photo or toilet stop when required.
India is a veritable shopper's paradise, offering a wide range of handicrafts, carpets, cotton and silk clothing, miniature paintings, wooden carvings, marble inlay, cast metal statues of gods and goddesses, gems (some real, some not), fake watches and Ray Ban sunglasses. Our main advice is to please be careful in all your transactions. Indian salespeople can be very, very persuasive and you must expect to bargain for most items. Most tour guides will offer to show you the best emporium for purchasing gifts and souvenirs; this is particularly so in Agra and Jaipur. Our policy is that after the completion of a tour those who wish to return to the hotel are taken directly back there, and then those who wish to view souvenirs can accompany the local guide to an emporium. Please be polite and very firm if you do not wish to go shopping.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance OR on arrival*
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
There is NO visa on arrival in India for most nationalities. Indian visas can NOT be obtained in Nepal. Tourist visas are available in Single and Multiple Entry. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip.
*Visa on arrival is available for select nationalities, including New Zealanders provided that specific criteria can be met. See link below for more information.
The Indian Government has advised that from December 2014, all visa applicants will need to be physically present at a visa application centre, by appointment, to submit their applications and biometric data, including fingerprints and facial imagery).
ALL Australian travellers to India will need to personally attend their nearest consulate to complete their visa formalities.
India Lonely Planet-Sarina Singh
A Passage to India-EM Forster
A Suitable Boy-Vikram Seth
Chasing the Monsoon-Alexander Frater