Essential information

Name: India, Bharat (long form Republic of India)
Capital: New Delhi
Currency: Indian Rupees (INR)
Continent : Asia
Population : Approximately 1.2 billion made up of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists Parsis
Official languages: Hindi, English and 21 other state languages

Geography

India is part of the continent of Asia. Most of India forms a peninsula, which means it is surrounded by water on three sides. The world’s highest mountain range, the Himalaya, rises in the north. The southeast is bordered by the Bay of Bengal, and the south and southwest is bordered by the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea respectively. India’s terrain varies widely, from the Thar Desert in the west to jungles in the northeast. A fertile area called the Ganges Plain covers much of northern India. The countries that border India are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, Nepal and Pakistan.

Weather

India’s climate is also varied but is tropical in the south and mainly temperate in the north. The country also has a pronounced monsoon season from June to September in its western and southern portion.

When to visit

The climate of India differs from North to South and East to West, thereby making India an
all round destination, choosing the right region to be in at the right time. If you are visiting in the months of April-June, head up North to the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh where the weather is pleasant as the snow from the winter months melts. If you are visiting from October – March, you could visit any part of India as the weather all over is good. This is peak season in India. June- September is usually the monsoon season in India.
High Season (Dec–Mar)
• Pleasant weather – warm days, cool nights.
• December and January bring chilly nights in the north and pleasant weather in the rest of India
• Temperatures climb steadily from February.
Shoulder Season (Jul–Nov)
• Passes to Ladakh and the high Himalaya open from July to September.
• Monsoon rain-showers persist through to September.
• The southeast coast and southern Kerala see heavy rain from October to early December.
Low Season (Apr–Jun)
• April is hot; May and June are scorching.
• From June, the monsoon sweeps from south to north, bringing draining humidity.
• Beat the heat by heading to the hill stations in the northern part of India.

Getting a Visa

Foreign nationals wishing to travel to India are required to possess a valid passport of their country and a valid Indian visa. However, nationals of Nepal and Bhutan do not require visa to enter India and nationals of Maldives do not require visa for entry in India for a period up to 90 days. A 6 month tourist Visa can be applied for at your country of residence through the Indian Embassy/High Commission/Consulate. Some specific countries like Cambodia, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, Myanmar, New Zealand, Phillipines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam can obtain visa on arrival in India for upto 30 days provided they are not of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin. Visa on arrival is available only at 4 major airports namely Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkatta.

Travelling within India

Getting around India is easy and cheap. The domestic airlines offer reliable, comfortable and comprehensive range of schedules to connect one city to the other. Besides that, India has a huge railway network which is accessible and easy to travel by. There’s a good network of buses that offer cheap travel, however these are generally quite crowded. Taxis and auto rickshaws / cycle rickshaws are available in all cities for travelling within the city. One can also hire cars to travel within a city or between cities.

Culture

India is a multi-cultural nation with many religious beliefs. The culture of India is a tapestry of Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Zorastrians, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and other nationalities. It is important to dress modestly when away from hotels and resorts especially when visiting the smaller cities in India and religious places.
India is very famous world-wide for its love for the arts and fine arts. Indian Dance forms, Art, Cinema, Music and Literature are very crucial parts of India from very early times.

Art

The art of India is inextricably intertwined with the country’s cultural history, religions and philosophies, with the production and patronage of art being linked to social and cultural contexts. Right from sculptures from the Chola dynasty to cliff paintings from the 2nd century BC, pottery painting, paper art, metalwork, folk and tribal art, Mughal Art , Art during the British rule, Post Independence art to the contemporary modern art, India has a rich collection of art and artists who are world famous.

Music

Said to be one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world, Indian classical music has its origins in the Vedas (ancient scriptures of the Hindus). The system of Indian music is based on raag and taal with the former being the melodic form and the latter, the rhythmic.The different interpretations of the raag and the taal led to the distinction of two major traditions of classical music: Hindustani sangeet of the north and Carnatic sangeet of the south. Instruments typically used in Hindustani music include the sitar, sarod, surbahar, tanpura, bansuri, shehnai, sarangi, santoor, pakhavaj and tabla. Instruments typically used in Carnatic music include venu, gottuvadyam, harmonium, veena, mridangam, kanjira, ghatam and violin.

Bargaining

Bargaining and haggling are common in India, and the locals will expect you to negotiate their prices as per their custom. Shopkeepers tend to price their items higher for tourists than for locals, so it is important to become comfortable with haggling so you don’t pay too much.

Phone calls and internet

India’s country code is +91. India is well serviced by local mobile networks including Vodafone, Airtel, Idea, Reliance, Aircel, BSNL, MTNL, Jio etc. You can also arrange roaming status before travelling here as well as on arrival.
Internet access and email is available in most parts of India and internet cafes are abundant in major cities and towns.
Emergency contacts: 100 (police), 101 (fire) , 102 (ambulance)

Electric point

India uses 230 Volts, 50 Hz alternating current as the power source. Plugs and sockets have either grounded / earthed 3 Pin connections or ungrounded 2 pin connections . The two pin plug is also called the Europlug. It has two round 4 mm (0.157 in) pins. Electrical sockets (outlets) in India usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. Leading hotels and resorts offer universal outlets for electrical appliances. However, you may want to carry your own universal adapters.

GST refund schemes

As a tourist, you can claim GST spent on purchases. Though the procedure for tourists to claim GST refund is not well laid out yet, it would be streamlined as GST law has mentioned a standardised procedure for processing a GST refund claim across India. On filing a GST refund application, an acknowledgement for refund application would be provided within 14 days if the refund application is acceptable. Also, on receiving a GST refund request, the concerned Officer would have to convey the status of the application within 14 days. If there are any deficiencies in the application, the GST refund request would be sent back to the applicant along with the list of deficiencies and the applicant can refile the application. If there are no errors or deficiencies, the GST refund claim, if in order must be sanctioned within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of the claim. Officers are not allowed to issue deficiencies memo after the 14 day period.

Time Zone

Indian Standard Time (IST) is the time observed throughout India and Sri Lanka, with a time offset of UTC+05:30. India does not observe daylight saving time (DSTu) or other seasonal adjustments.

Population

Approximately 1.2 billion made up of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The majority of the population is Hindu.

Health

India is free from yellow fever. One requires inoculations only if travelling from an infected area. You need a yellow fever certificate for travel to India if you are arriving from a yellow fever country. India has an effective medical system in place with government and privately run hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, dental service and pharmacies available.

Getting into India

India is very accessible from all around the world. India has many international airports in major cities where the air connectivity is high. Various airline networks operate in and out of India. So, whether you are coming from North or South America or Canada, you have ample connections with airlines like British Airways, American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines etc that have connections into India. If you are travelling from Europe, almost all European carriers have connectivity into India. Airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss Air, British Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Aeroflot, Air France, etc have their base in India. Similarly, if you are arriving from Middle East or Africa , airlines like Emirates, Etihaad, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, Gulf Airways, etc have regular, direct flights to and from many cities within India. Similarly, airlines like Thai Airways, Singapore airlines, Cathay Pacific, All Nippon airways etc connect India with the Far East. For connections from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji Islands, airlines like Qantas, Jet airways and Fiji Airways operate. Thus, India is connected very well to every country in the world.

Cuisine

India being such a diverse country, the cuisine differs from one region to another. The South of India consists of states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Chennai as well as the union territory Lakshadweep and Pondicherry which has an indo-french influence. South Indian cuisine like dosas, idlis, medu wada and sambhar are very popular. Also, Hyderabadi Biryani is famous world-wide. Rice is a staple for most people in South India. The North of India consists of states like Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar as well as union territories of Delhi and Chandigarh. The North of India is popular for assorted parathas, butter chicken and lassi, a drink made with yoghurt. Kawa is famous in Kashmir and is a type of tea. Lucknowi kebabs, biryani and Moghlai cuisine are other popular North Indian foods. The West of India consisting of states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Goa as well as union territories like Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu are popular for Gujarati, Marwari, Konkan and Maharashtrian food. Coconut milk and seafood are used in a lot of Goan dishes which has a Portuguese influence. Gujarati and Marwari cuisine is purely vegetarian. Maharashtrian food is overall spicy. The East of India consists of states like West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Sikkim and the 7 sisters consisting of Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura as well as the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Island. West Bengal is famous for its Bengali sweets. East Indian cuisine differs from state to state and has some influence from Chinese and Tibetan cuisine.

Dance

Different parts of India are famous for different dance forms. For eg Kathak is famous in North India, Manipuri, Chhau and Odissi are from East India. Kathakali, Bharat Natyam, Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam are famous South Indian dance forms. Besides these classical dance forms, India has various folk and tribal dances specific to each state which are an expression of joy. Folk dances are performed on every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals. The dances are simple in terms of steps or movements but burst with verve and vitality. Men and women perform some dances exclusively, while in some performances men and women dance together. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are flamboyant with extensive jewellery.
The Dandiya from Gujarat, Bhangra from Punjab and the bamboo dance from Mizoram are some such examples.

Cinema

India is the world’s largest producer of films, with as many as 1,000 films in various Indian dialects being produced annually. The Indian film industry dates back to 1913 when the first commercial, silent film was produced. From then onwards it has been a long journey and Indian cinema has grown from strength to strength. Since Indians are all over the world, indian films are screened in a lot of countries as well as DVDs being available of the latest movies.

Literature

The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. The Rig Veda, a collection of sacred hymns (1500–1200 BC), and epics Ramayana and Mahabharata composed towards the end of the first millennium BC, form a part of India’s impressive repository of literary works. Examples of Classical Sanskrit literature include Shakuntala and Meghadoot, two plays written by Kalidas, Chanakya’s Arthashastra and Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra are all examples of India’s exemplary literature.Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore became India’s first Nobel Laureate in literature in early 20th century.

Tipping

Tipping in India is not customary, but it is expected from tourists. In restaurants, a good rule of thumb is to pay a tip of 5-10% of the total of your bill. In your hotel, you are expected to pay a tip of 5-10% of your tariff each day, and hotel staff, such as bell boys and cleaners, will often wait near your door for a tip after performing tasks. A small tip is sufficient for their services.

Currency and banking

The Indian rupee and paisa is the basic unit of currency, available in denominations of Rs.10, Rs.20, Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.200, Rs.500 and Rs.1000. Coins are 25p, 50p, 1, 2, 5 and 10. Normal banking hours are from Mon-Fri: 9:30am to 4:00pm and Sat: 9:00am to 1:00pm at some selected banks. ATMs are available around the country at various locations.

Driving in India and Licenses

India follows right-hand drive like Fiji and United Kingdom. One can hire cars and explore parts of the country by opting for self-drive. However, the traffic in some parts of the country are very heavy and driving there can be quite difficult if not used to it. Road conditions in the main cities are of a fair standard, but when one moves off the main roads, some of the roads can become poorly-maintained with pot holes. India recognizes the international driving license and one can drive on that license for a short duration. If you intend to stay longer in India, then one needs to apply for an Indian driving license. The driving in India is done on the left side of the road.

Duty free and custom duty

Every adult passenger can bring into India the following goods duty free, provided they are accompanied and not for sale. Cigarettes not exceeding 200 sticks or cigars not exceeding 50 sticks or tobacco not exceeding 250gms. Alcoholic liquors or wines upto 2 litres is permissible.

Communicating in India

While quite a large number of people in India speak English, knowing a few key words and phrases in Hindi, which is the country’s official language is not only polite but will endear you to the already warm and welcoming Indian people. Below are a few key words that will help you while touring India.

Hello namaste / namaskar morning su prabhat
 Bye alvida Excuse me kshama keejiye
Yes haan Thank you dhanyavaad
No nahi House ghar
How much is this ? yeh kitne ka hai? Man aadmi
It’s for …. yeh …..  ka hai Woman mahila
How are you? Aap kaise hai? Coconut nariyal
I am fine Mai acchha hoon Eat khana
Village gaaon Drink peena
Shop dukaan Quickly Jaldi karo
Temple mandir Slowly Dheere se
Toilet shauchalaya Small thoda
One ek Big bada
Two doe Please help kripaya madad keejiye
No worries koi baat nahi Sorry Maaf karna