There is no place on earth like India and no two places in India are the same. India's sheer size and diversity are staggering. It is difficult even to find an adequate metaphor for this mystical and wild, yet delicate country.
Geographically, it is set apart from the rest of the Asia by the still evolving Himalayan mountain chain and Nepal - its neighboring country in the North. It is the South Asian subcontinent that touches the three large water bodies and is immediately recognizable on any world map. This thick, roughly triangular peninsula defines the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian Sea to the west, and the Indian Ocean to the South.
India is an inspiration that you can find in the glimmer of the eyes of every Buddhist Lama and Hindu Pilgrims. The temples that were raised in the ancient times to house the Gods and Goddesses became the focal point for the community’s daily life - a quality you can see in the magnificent architecture of the countless temples and even in the monasteries, mosques and churches.
Being the home of the sacred River Ganges and the majority of Himalayan foothills whether your quest is to follow the holy Ganges to the sea or you are searching for Nirvana, or trekking around Ladakh & Sikkim, India's spirituality is unavoidable. An abundance of mountain ranges and national parks provide ample opportunity for eco-tourism and trekking.
In a country as diverse and complex as India, it is not surprising to find that people here reflect the rich glories of the past, the culture, traditions and values relative to geographic locations and the numerous distinctive manners, habits and food that will always remain truly Indian based on its five thousand years of recorded history.
India holds virtually every kind of landscape imaginable and the states in South India such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala all promise you a favorite leisure destinations, lending harmony and beauty to the garden – India!
Its sheer size stores something really for everyone. Come! See! and Explore! -this country enthralling your traveling spirits with us!
Area: 3,287,263 sq. km
Geography: Situated between Pakistan to the West, China and Nepal to the North, Bhutan to the Northeast, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the East
Capital: New Delhi
Population: 1,210,193,422 (2011 Census)
Climate: varies from tropical monsoon in south to temperate in north
Language: Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%
Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
Political System: Federal Republic
In India, it rains only during a specific time of the year. The season as well as the phenomenon that causes it is called the monsoon. There are two of them; the Southwest and the Northeast, both named after the directions the winds come from. The Southwest monsoon is the more important one, as it causes rains over most parts of the country, and is the crucial variable that decides how the crops will do. It lasts from June to September. The Southwest monsoon hits the west coast the most, as crossing the Western Ghats and reaching the rest of India is an uphill task for the winds. The western coastline is therefore much greener than the interior. The Northeast monsoon hits the east coast between October and February, mostly in the form of occasional cyclones, which cause much devastation every year. The only region that gets rains from both monsoons is North-Eastern India, which consequently experiences the highest rainfall in the world.
India experiences at least three seasons a year, Summer, Rainy Season (or "Monsoon") and Winter, though in the tropical South calling the 25°C (77°F) weather "Winter" would be stretching the concept. The North experiences some extremes of heat in summer and cold in winter, but except in the Himalayan regions, snow is almost unheard of. November to January is the winter season and April and May are the hot months when everyone eagerly awaits the rains. There is also a brief spring in February and March, especially in North India.
Opinions are divided on whether any part of India actually experiences an Autumn, but the ancients had certainly identified such a season among the six seasons (-Vasanta - Spring, Greeshma - Summer, Varsha - Rainy, Sharat - Autumn, Shishira - Winter, Hemanta - "Mild Winter") they had divided the year into.
You must get a visa before arriving in India and these are easily available at Indian missions worldwide. Most people travel on the standard tourist visa, which is more than adequate for most needs. Student visas and business visas have strict conditions and also restrict your access to tourist services such as tourist quotas on trains. An onward travel ticket is a requirement for most visas, but this is not always enforced (check in advance), except for the 72-hour transit visa.
Six-month multiple-entry tourist visas (valid from the date of issue) are granted to nationals of most countries regardless of how long you intend to stay.
*** Visa update: Any holder of a tourist visa who wishes to visit another country during their stay in India must wait at least two months before re-entering. This time will be factored into the total duration of your visa (usually either 90 or 180 days). Obviously, this new condition reduces the number of times you can come and go from India, however it is possible to apply for a more flexible arrangement through your nearest Indian Mission/Post. See the FAQ section of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs website for more information.
There are additional restrictions on travellers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain Eastern European, African and Central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country.
Visas are priced in the local currency; Brits pay UK£30, Americans pay US$60, Austra¬lians pay A$75 (an extra A$15 service fee applies at consulates) and Japanese citizens pay just ¥1200.
Extended visas (up to five years) are possible for people of Indian descent (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad. Contact your embassy for more details.
For visas lasting more than six months, you need to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within 14 days of arriving in India; inquire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa.
Fourteen-day visa extensions are theoretically possible at the discretion of the Ministry of Home Affairs (011-23385748; 26 Jaisalmer House, Man Singh Rd, Delhi; inquiries 9-11am Mon-Fri) but don’t get your hopes up. The only circumstances where this might conceivably happen is if you were robbed of your passport just before you planned to leave the country at the end of your visa. If you run low on time, consider doing the ‘visa run’ over to Bangladesh or Nepal and applying for another six-month tourist visa there.
If you do find yourself needing to request an extension, you should contact the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO; 011 26195530; firstname.lastname@example.org ; Level 2, East Block 8, Sector 1, Rama Krishna Puram, Delhi; 9.30am-1.30pm & 2-3pm Mon-Fri), just around the corner from the Hyatt Regency hotel. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa if you’ve had your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Regional FRROs are even less likely to grant an extension.
Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days, free for nationals of all countries except Japan (Rs 390), Sri Lanka (Rs 135 to 405, depending on the number of entries), Russia (Rs 1860) and Romania (Rs 500). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo and a photocopy of your passport (information and visa pages). Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel.
Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by a complicated permit system. A permit known as an Inner-Line Permit (ILP) is required to visit northern parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that lie close to the disputed border with China/Tibet. Obtaining the ILP is basically a formality, but travel agents must apply on your behalf for certain areas, including many trekking routes passing close to the border. ILPs are issued by regional magistrates and district commissioners, either directly to travellers (for free) or through travel agents (for a fee).
Entering the northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram is much harder – tourists require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which must be arranged through Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) offices. Ultimate permission comes from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which is reluctant to issue permits to foreigners – without exception, your best chance of gaining a permit is to join an organized tour and let the travel agent make all the arrangements.
Most permits officially require you to travel in a group of four (married couples are also permitted in certain areas). This is enforced in some places, not in others – travel agents may have suggestions to help solo travellers get around these restrictions. Note that you can only travel to the places listed on the permit, often by set routes, and this is hard to change after the permit is issued.
It’s not a bad idea to double-check with tourism officials to see if permit requirements have undergone any recent changes before you head out to these areas.
Entering by Sea
There are several sea routes between India and surrounding islands but none leave Indian sovereign territory. There has been talk of a passenger ferry service between southern India and Colombo in Sri Lanka but this has yet to materialise. Inquire locally to see if there has been any progress.
Entering by Land
Although most visitors fly into India, the overland route from Nepal is extremely popular and smaller numbers of travellers enter India from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
If you enter India by bus or train you’ll be required to disembark at the border for standard immigration and customs checks. You must have a valid Indian visa in advance as no visas are available at the border. The standard Indian tourist visa allows multiple entries within a six-month period.
Drivers of cars and motorbikes will need the vehicle’s registration papers, liability insurance and an International Driving Permit. You’ll also need a Carnet de passage en douane, which acts as a temporary waiver of import duty. To find out the latest requirements for the paperwork and other important driving information contact your local automobile association.
Entering by Air
India has four main gateways for international flights, and international flights also land in Bengaluru (Bangalore), Guwahati and Amritsar. India is a big county so it makes sense to fly into the nearest airport to the area you want to visit.
India’s national carrier is Air India (www.airindia.com) and the state-owned domestic carrier Indian Airlines (www.indian-airlines.nic.in) also offers flights to 20 countries in Asia and the Middle East (though it has a poor safety record). The more reliable private airlines Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) and Air Sahara (www.airsahara.net) offer flights to Colombo, Kathmandu and the Maldives. Jet has recently started longhaul flights to London, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Money and Costs
On the financial front, India pleases all pockets. Accommodation ranges from simple backpacker lodgings to sumptuous top-end hotels, with some appealing midrange possibilities that won’t bust the bank. A delicious array of eateries at all prices means you can fill your belly without emptying your moneybelt, and it’s possible to zip around economically, as well thanks to the country’s comprehensive public transport network.
As costs vary considerably nationwide, the best way of ascertaining how much money you’ll require for your trip is to peruse the relevant regional chapters of this book. Be prepared to pay more in the larger cities such as Mumbai and Delhi, as well as at popular tourist destinations during peak season.
In relation to sightseeing, foreigners are often charged more than Indian citizens for entry into tourist sites (admission prices for foreigners are sometimes given in US dollars, payable in the rupee equivalent), and there may also be additional charges for still/video cameras. When it comes to bedding down, hotel tariffs are usually higher in big cities (especially Mumbai) and tourist hot spots and may also be influenced by factors such as location, season and festivals. Given the vast differences nationwide, it’s misleading for us to pinpoint a countrywide average accommodation price. If you’ve got cash to splash, some of India’s top-end hotels are among the world’s finest, but be prepared to fork out at least US$200 per night at the better properties before even getting a whiff of room service. Surf the Web for possible internet discounts.
So how does this all translate to a daily budget? Given the vast accommodation price differences across India, it’s impossible to arrive at one neat figure. However, as an example, in Rajasthan you can expect to pay roughly between US$20 and US$25 per day if you stay in the cheapest hotels, travel on public buses, do limited sightseeing and eat basic meals. If you wish to stay at salubrious midrange hotels, dine at nicer restaurants, do a reasonable amount of sightseeing and largely travel by autorickshaw and taxi, you’re looking at anywhere between US$40 and US$65 per day.
Eating out in India is sizzling-hot value, with budget restaurant meals for as little as Rs40 (even less at the more basic street eateries), and usually from around double that for a satiating midrange restaurant feed. At the more suave urban restaurants, main dishes generally hover between Rs150 and Rs350 to which you’ll need to add the cost of side dishes, such as rice, and (usually) a tax of 10% to 12.5%.
Regarding long-distance travel, there’s a range of classes on trains and several bus types, resulting in considerable flexibility vis-à-vis comfort and price. Domestic air travel has become a lot more price competitive over recent years thanks to deregulation and good internet deals. Within towns there’s inexpensive public transport, or perhaps you’d like to hire a car with driver, which is surprisingly good value if there are several of you to split the cost.
Experience the excitement and adventure.
Experience the excitement and adventure.