It is important to keep in mind some basic facts of a country before planning a trip, to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable holiday. This is especially important when considering a country like India, with its diverse regional and seasonal variations. Here is an overview to help you plan an Indian holiday.
The best time to visit is from October to March, after the rainy season. However, some parts of south and south-eastern India continue to get light showers at this time. North India experiences cold winters, and even snowfall in the higher altitudes. The summer months from April to June are extremely hot and humid in most areas, so it is advisable to avoid this season. The hill stations of north India are popular during the summer, hence, overcrowded!
There are frequent international flights to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore (Bengaluru), Chennai and Kolkata. Other routes to India are overland from Europe, or by cruise ship. The city that you plan to arrive at would depend on the itinerary, based on your interests and time.
Vaccines are not mandatory, but it is best to check with a physician, as sometimes immunization against diseases like hepatitis is recommended. Anti-malaria tablets might also be suggested.
Tourist visas are issued for six months, but it is important to remember that the six months begins from the date of issue, and not the date of entry into India. If you intend to visit the north east, check the official tourism site of India which gives information on the special permits required.
Accommodation ranges from “heritage” (often, former palaces now open to guests) and five star hotels like the Oberoi, to simple guest houses. For a unique experience, stay in a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala (south India) or the Dal lake in Kashmir (north India). Try a “homestay” in places like Coorg in South India to experience the culture and way of life of the local population. Bookings can be made online, but you might get a better bargain from a travel agent. Use your discretion to tip between 10-15%. Big hotels include a 10% service tax, so tipping is optional.
There are a number of ATM outlets where you can withdraw money, so it is safer not to carry too much cash. It is easiest to change currency at the airport. Moreover, Master and Visa credit cards are accepted in most hotels, establishments and shops.
Indian Standard Time is GMT+ 5 ½ hours. To dial from another country, use the international access code, followed by +91 and the Indian number. The currency is Indian Rupees, which varies between Rupees 45-50 to a dollar. The metric system of weights and measures is used. The electric voltage is 220V AC, though DC is also used. There is a wide variety of Indian languages and dialects; the common language is Hindi (though less in the south) but English is widely understood. Moreover, Indians are hospitable and friendly, so communication should not be a problem.
Apart from three national holidays, there are restricted/regional holidays for festivals. Shops usually have a weekly day off, but some remain open every day! International banks like HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered usually function between 10am to 2 pm, with a weekly holiday. Post offices operate until 4pm or 4.30 pm, with shorter hours on Saturdays, and a holiday on Sunday. Courier services like FedEx and DHL are easily available. Public phone booths are widespread, so calling any country is simple and economical. Finally, internet cafes charge roughly $1 per hour for internet access.
India is a vast country, and every part has distinct features and traditions, so you could cover the main destinations, or choose to focus on one part. “Theme” tours like wildlife sanctuary tours, adventure holidays and “health tourism” are gaining in popularity. Special package tours on luxury trains afford glimpses of the country, albeit at higher prices. For example, you might choose the “Palace on wheels”, which winds its way through the erstwhile princely state of Rajasthan, or the “Golden Chariot” which operates in South India.
No matter what the purpose or duration of your trip, remember these basic facts, and plan a wonderful holiday to incredible India!
India: Lonely planet
India: Discovery guide