India Travel Guides

Business Hours

Banks: 09:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday; 10:00 to 12:00, Saturdays
Post Offices: 10:00 to 17:00, Monday to Saturday
Department Stores and Shops: 09:00 to 19:30, daily
Museums: 09:00 to 18:00, Tuesday to Sunday; closed Mondays
Business Offices: 09:30 to 18:00, Monday to Friday; 09:30 to 14:30, Saturdays

Cautions

India is one of the planet’s most populated and impoverished countries. Desperation and survival instincts often bring out the worst in people, so there are several cautions to consider while travelling around India. Thankfully, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be the victim of violent crime, but petty theft and scams are a daily occurrence. Tourists make natural targets, so it’s likely you’ll encounter at least one scam artist or tout during your visit.

Most of the trouble revolves around theft. If you flaunt your wealth you will attract unwanted attention. Pickpockets are rife in crowded cities and sightseeing spots where tourists congregate. Leave a bag unattended and it will disappear in a heartbeat. Don’t walk alone at night and do your best to blend in as an average type of visitor.

Scams are taken to new heights of creativity in India. Being a tourist makes you the number one target since most Indians know all about the common scams. Touts wanting to be your “guide” can be avoided by simply ignoring them until they give up. Their persistence makes this difficult and frustrating, but if you stick to your emphatic “No” they’ll eventually move on. Every young man in India is a tour guide, and you really don’t need one to enjoy the sights. Many even carry I.D. cards stating they are ‘government-approved’, but they are definitely not approved by anyone but their families.

Taxi drivers can also be a problem in India, as they occasionally insist that your hotel no longer exists or is closed. If they try this common scam (suggesting an even better hotel) then ask to be let out and hail another taxi. The police aren’t always helpful (though many are). Expect to pay a bribe if they catch you doing something illegal like drugs. 

Police: 100
Tourist Police: 103

Electricity: 220V AC, 50Hz; all plugs are round two-pin types.

Health

India does not require vaccinations to enter the country, but it’s highly recommended to get booster shots for hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid and cholera. Malaria exists in India, but the best protection is to simply wear long pants and shoes after dusk to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Anti-malarial pills make most people nauseous.

Hygiene and sanitation are the major health concerns for visitors. Nearly every traveller to India gets a case of upset stomach at some point. This can occur from consuming contaminated food or water, or simply because your stomach isn’t used to the rich and spicy cuisine. Usually, however, stomach problems arise from dirty food and water.

Never drink the tap water in India. Don’t use it to brush your teeth, and try to keep it out of your mouth when you bathe. Stick to bottled water for everything, as it’s cheap and readily available. Just be sure the seal on the bottle is intact.

Indian food can also easily upset your stomach. Start with mild dishes and work your way up the spice ladder. Be particularly careful when eating street food. Even vegetarian items can be prepared by dirty hands, and the glass you drink your tea in may have been washed in old dirty water. Remember that this is India, so don’t expect anything to be sanitary unless you’re at a 5-star restaurant. Luckily, medicine for upset stomachs and most other minor illnesses are available at the local pharmacy.   

Language

Hindi is the main language in India, spoken by 30 per cent of the population. English is widely used thanks to the British colonial era, especially in the tourism industry. There are 17 other regional languages officially recognised by the government.

Currency

India uses the Indian Rupee, which comes in denominations of Rs1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 notes. There are 100 paise in a rupee. Coins come in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, as well as 50 and 25 paise.

Currency Exchange

Since Indian rupees cannot be obtained outside of India, visitors will have to exchange money once they arrive. Banks are the best place to use, though some hotels and shops will also do this at a lower rate. ATMs make an excellent choice for withdrawing a daily amount of rupees. Most ATMs accept Cirrus and PLUS cards, and can be found in almost every large Indian town. Make sure you keep all your currency exchange receipts, as they are sometimes needed to make large purchases.

Credit cards are typically accepted at the larger hotels, upscale restaurants and established shops. Always keep some cash on hand, because most merchants don’t accept credit cards. Also keep a supply of small bills with you such as Rp100s as small shops can rarely change big bills. Another thing to remember is that merchants won’t accept torn or badly worn banknotes. Don’t accept them if they are offered in change, as this is a common trick to dump them on tourists. Only accept banknotes that are in decent condition. 

Customs

Visitors over 17 are allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, 2 litres of alcohol and up to 60ml of perfume without incurring a duty tax. All visitors to India bringing laptop computers or special video and camera equipment are required to fill out a Tourist Baggage Re-Export Form provided at the airport. When you depart India this form proves that you didn’t purchase the equipment in India.

Etiquette

The first Hindi word you should learn is namaste, which means hello. Some Indians may try to offer a handshake, but most greet each other by putting their palms together at their chest, thus avoiding touching. Indians have serious issues with the left hand, so never use it to touch anything or anyone as it is traditionally used in the toilet and considered unclean. The feet are also an unclean part of the body, so never touch someone with your foot, use it to point, or prop your feet up on the table.

The way you dress says a lot about your status in class-conscious India. The more flesh you expose indicates you aren’t wealthy enough to cover your body or you have no shame. Either way, it’s best to cover up as much as possible (men and women) with loose, lightweight clothing. When visiting a temple you will need to cover up more than usual and always remove your shoes. Footwear is also removed when entering someone’s home. A small gift is appropriate when invited to an Indian’s home. Just get some advice on what to bring, as some Indians are vegetarian or have religious issues.

Indians love a good conversation and even a heated debate, but they rarely lose their temper. If you feel like learning more about this rich and varied culture, put yourself on the listening end and don’t offer too many potentially critical comments about things like their caste system, poverty, religion or cricket. As in all cultures, the rule of thumb is to do as the locals do. If you make a social mistake, a sincere apology goes a long way to quickly diffuse a sticky situation. 

Dining Etiquette
When eating out in India, remember that the left hand is used exclusively for bathroom activities so don’t use it for anything involving food. Most Indians eat with their right hand, which is an interesting experience that should be tried at least once. But even the humblest restaurant can offer a fork and spoon if you need it. Indians typically share their food with each other, even with strangers. It is slightly offensive to refuse a bite if offered, but that is up to you. Sharing is also common at restaurants, so expect to enjoy a taste of all the dishes ordered.

The only taboo to try and remember is the concept of jootha, which is based on the idea of hygiene. While sharing your food is considered excellent manners, drinking from another person’s glass, using their spoon to take a bite of curry, or taking a bite directly from someone’s roti is considered very bad form (jootha). If you aren’t sure what to do simply ask how it’s done and your host will gladly educate you on dining etiquette.  

Visa and Passports

Visitors will need to arrange a travel visa before arriving in India as they are not issued upon arrival. Most people will get the standard six month multiple-entry visa regardless of how long you plan to stay. These can be purchased at Indian embassies with two passport photos and a small fee. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry.

Tourist Information Offices

Every major city and town has a government-operated tourism office offering travel advice and information on transport and attractions. Indiatourism is the main entity of this tourism ministry, and there are branches in many countries. 

Indiatourism New Dehli
88 Janpath, New Delhi, 110 001
Phone: +91 11 2332 0342