India - Travel Tips
India's currency is the Indian Rupee (INR). One Rupee is equal to 100 Paisa. Coins are in denominations of 50 paisa, 1, 2 & 5 Rupees. Notes are in denominations of Rs 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 2000.
Renowned Credit Cards like American Express, Master Cards, Diners Club, Visa, are generally accepted by large establishments, including hotels, shops and airlines. We advice you to use travelers’ cheques of well reputed organisations like Thomas Cook, American Express and Visa. Please note that small shops and vendors may not accept credit cards or travelers’ cheques, therefore, we advice that at any given time you carry cash and loose change with yourself.
Indian climate comprises of a wide range of weather conditions across a varied and large geographic area. Cool weather lasts from November to March, with December to February being the winter season. April marks the start of Indian summer, with peak summer commencing from mid May and lasting to the start of July. July to September is the monsoon season in most parts of India.
As a general rule, please remember that India is a conservative country. While the young generation is relatively modern, a large population of India, especially in non metro areas prefers to see people in covered clothing.
Accordingly, we recommend that women should try and dress conservatively. Avoid tank tops or short skirts / shorts. The best outfit, especially during the summer months is a shirt or T-shirt worn with loose cotton trousers. These are comfortable, cool and easily washable. You can purchase them anywhere in India, at reasonable prices. If you are adventurous, try wearing the Indian 'salwar-kameez'. It is comfortable and free sized, and will guarantee a more friendly and receptive attitude from the Indian public.
Indian winters can get chilly at night and early morning, but during the day the temperature could be as high as mid 20’s. Hence, it is recommended to wear layers that can be removed during the day.
The Indian summer sun can be harsh. Remember to use sunscreen on exposed parts of the body. Covered clothing, a pair of sunglasses and a hat or umbrella would help in screening out harmful rays.
Do not forget to remove your footwear when visiting a place of worship or mausoleum. At some places, you may even be requested to cover your head with a scarf and remove any leather apparel e.g. belts.
Even before you land in India, be very clear of what to expect on Indian roads - chaos, endless horn blowing, erratic driving, an occasional stray animal and an apparent lack of traffic rules would be a good start to create a picture of Indian driving conditions. However, amidst all this confusion, is a sense of direction, best known by Indian drivers! Be assured, you will be chauffeured by an experienced driver, who has grown up learning the tactics of Indian driving.
Average driving speed in India is quite low, around 50-60 km/h. It is normal for drivers to stop frequently to ask directions; with the boom of new roads everywhere, maps are often not detailed enough or up to date, hence the age old way of discussing with passers by is very practical on the road!
Watch out for cyclists, pedestrians and general traffic, when opening car doors – please bear in mind traffic can come from any direction! To ensure your comfort, please tell the driver if you wish to go faster or slower or stop for photographs or refreshments.
Please bear in mind that due to poor infrastructure, distance is often deceiving in terms of driving time, as the latter is heavily dependent on road conditions.
Please note that you do not need to reimburse the driver for his accommodation and meals. You may tip the driver, based on his service and your appreciation for those services. It is customary to tip the driver at the end of the day, but the amount of tip is entirely up to your satisfaction level with the service received.
Electric current in India is 220 -240 volts. India uses round pin plugs and socket sizes vary, therefore it is advisable to carry a multi-purpose adapter - one with a triple round pin plug would be most useful.
Please note that the country is prone to frequent power failures and heavy voltage fluctuations. 3* standard and above hotels usually have 24/7 power backup, so you may not experience power outages at your hotel. However, smaller hotels, heritage havelis in remote areas, small shops and vendors may not be well equipped with large generators.
We would recommend you drink only purified bottled water. You can ask your tour escort for a few respectable brands for purified water. In restaurants, insist that a sealed bottle of water is brought to your table.
Non vegetarian food should be eaten only at reputed restaurants and hotels. The meat at cheaper and smaller places could be of dubious quality. Beef and Pork are not easily available in India.
Vegetarian food is easily available, cheap, and of excellent quality. Curd or yoghurt is served with most meals; it is a natural aid to digestion and helps temper the spicy food.
It is not recommended to eat at street shops or stalls. The quality of food at small street shops could be poor and could lead to stomach infections.
You can exchange money at international airports where 24-hour exchange facilities are available through banks and approved money changers. You can also exchange currencies at nationalized banks and other banks in the country. Insist on a receipt when exchanging your money. Retain all exchange receipts with you, as without them you cannot reconvert your unspent money on your final departure from India.
Some of the larger nationalized banks include the State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Punjab and Sindh Bank, HDFC bank, ICICI, Canara Bank, Allahabad Bank and Union Bank of India. International banks such as ANZ Grindlays, Standard Chartered, Citibank, BNP, Bank of America, HSBC and others can be found in major metro cities. Most banks have 24-hour ATMs. American Express and Thomas Cook offices may be found in major metros and tourist cities.
Banks timings are usually from 1000 hrs to 1600 hrs on week days and 1000 hrs to 1200 hrs on Saturdays. Please remember that not all banks will exchange foreign currency or travelers cheques — particularly in small towns.
No vaccinations are officially required for a visit to India. Travellers should check with their GP / doctor in their home country regarding the advisability of vaccination against typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis and malarial prophylaxis. Should you have transited a yellow fever area within 10 days prior to arrival in India, a vaccination certificate is mandatory. Prescription drugs are not widely available and visitors should carry any required medication with them. If carrying a lot of medicines, it is advisable to have a doctor's prescription stating that medicines are required for personal use.
Carry a tube of mosquito repellent with you. Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Most incidences of stomach bugs are actually heat strokes. Fresh lemon juice with water or soda and coconut water are some of the most refreshing and re-hydrating drinks available and are advisable to be consumed in plenty to avoid dehydration.
Unfortunately, in India public transport like buses, local taxis and auto-rikshaws are not of a high standard. For all its guests, Travelite (India) ensures the provision of luxury tourist vehicles. However, should you wish to experience a local transport feature then please be vigilant of the following:
- Taxis and auto-rikshaws fares change frequently. Before paying for your trip, insist on seeing the latest fare chart
- Taxis and auto-rikshaws may not have meters in all cities. However, where they do, please insist on the meter being flagged in your presence. Where there are no meters, bargain a good price with the driver before you start your trip. You should ideally start bargaining with 50% of the asking price.
- When using public buses, please ensure you get a ticket from the bus conductor when boarding the bus. For your own safety, please try and be seated in the bus. Should you have to stand in a moving vehicle, please place yourself as far from the door as you can, i.e. try and move towards the middle of the bus
Four of the world’s main religions - Hinduism, Sikkism, Jainism and Buddhism - originated in India. Hinduism with its millions of gods is practiced by approximately 80% of the population, Islam by 12%, Christianity by 2.5%, Sikhism by 3%, Buddhism by 1% and small numbers practicing Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Religion and spiritual life are closely intertwined with everyday life in India.
India is a country of bargains; if you are good at it you can make the most of it! We recommend our guests to be accompanied by their tour escorts when going shopping. Having a local person with you helps in negotiating better price and selecting good quality. It can sometimes be hard for tourists to negotiate with shopkeepers and distinguish inferior quality products from good ones.
If having a tour escort is not an option, then we recommend you shop from reputed emporiums, government handicraft shops and fixed price malls.
At all times, keep a close eye on your handbag and / or wallet. With a population of more than a billion, pick pocket is not uncommon in crowded places in India, so please be vigilant at all times.
Given the population and widespread poverty in India, it is more than likely that you will have an encounter with street beggars at some stage during your stay in India. Please be advised that India does not want to encourage street begging and the Indian government is constantly evaluating measures to reduce street begging.
As general advice:
- Don’t keep your wallet in the rear pocket. Keep it in an inside jacket pocket or side trouser pocket.
- All valuables and important papers (jewelry, passports, return tickets, etc) should be kept in your hotel's safe deposit box. It is not advisable to carry these around, when sightseeing or shopping.
If you have seen the famous 2009 Bollywood Oscar winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, then please beware that film is not far from reality. During your sightseeing and shopping excursions, you are likely to come across hawkers, who may try to sell you inferior quality products at exorbitant prices. For all group tours, we strongly recommend that you follow the advice of your tour escort. For independent travelers, we advice you not to engage in any conversation with street hawkers and when in doubt take advice from your driver or contact your 24/7 tour manager.
Tipping is a personal expense and depends entirely on the quality of services provided to you and your appreciation of those services. Whilst tipping is not mandatory, it is expected at restaurants and by drivers, guides and escorts. The following estimated guideline may help you in determining the tip amount, should you wish to tip any service provider in India:
Restaurants: Approx 5 - 10% of your food bill
Guide for half a day: INR 300 - 500
Guide for full day: INR 500 - 600
Driver for half a day: INR 250 - 350
Driver for full day: INR 350 - 400
Driver on outstation: INR 350 - 400 per day
Escort: INR 400 - 500 per day
Check-in and Check-out at hotels: INR 50 - 100