India Practical Information
What to Expect – Day to Day Experiences
We highly recommend visiting India with a relaxed attitude and no preconceptions so you can simply enjoy the huge differences between the West and India. Despite advance preparation, it is still likely that you’ll be baffled by India. Perhaps the best advice we can give is to avoid trying to understand India and just experience it instead.
India is a country which is very different from anything you will have experienced before. Although this means it is not the easiest place to travel, this is also what makes it so special. Pollution, poverty and the crowds can result in initial culture shock but should be seen as an exciting new challenge. This is a large and wonderfully different country, however when travelling, you can expect to encounter some difficulties along the way.
In India there are very different attitudes to time keeping, public cleanliness, privacy and service. Trains will sometimes be late, plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and power will often just vanish. Optimistic menus turn out to have only one dish available and everyone, just everyone, will want to know your name. If you are able to travel with a lot of patience and a huge sense of humor, then we know that you – like all of us – will be captivated by what India has to offer.
India is a vast country and diverse customs are followed in different parts of the country, many of them entirely different from the western world. However Indians are hospitable and usually will accept your different ways by virtue of you being a foreign guest. Nevertheless, there may be certain situations where you’re not following local accepted customs may be seen as a sign of disrespect. It is best to check with your accompanying guide or driver the applicable norms especially when visiting religious places or traditional events or simply when in doubt.
Travel as light as possible. Clothing and laundry are both quite inexpensive. It is better for women to avoid tank tops or short skirts / shorts. The best outfit, especially during the hot summers, is a T-shirt worn with loose cotton trousers. You can purchase them anywhere in India, at very reasonable rates, at any of the shops.
If you give the impression of being from a different country, chances are that you might be stared at, especially in the smaller towns. Don’t be offended – they mean no harm, it is just curiosity.
Beggars – Do not let them hassle you, and do not encourage them by giving them money.
In India, public toilet facilities are few and far between, and those that are there should not be ventured into. Take every opportunity you can to use a clean toilet in places such as hotels and restaurants. Make this a habit wherever you go.
Food and Drink
– Drink only bottled water. In restaurants, insist that they bring a sealed bottle to your table.
– Beef is not served in India. Pork is also not available easily.
– Eat non-vegetarian food only in good restaurants. The meat in cheaper and smaller places can be of dubious quality.
– Good quality vegetarian food is easily available.
– Curd or yoghurt is served with most meals. It is a natural aid to digestion and helps to temper the spicy food.
– To help avoid an upset stomach, on the first day, eat simple foods such as white rice, eggs, yoghurt, fresh cooked vegetables rather than going for a rich Indian meal.
– Avoid salads and do not eat fried food cooked in the streets.
– Wash fruit before eating them. Better to eat fruits you can peel.
– Do not drink from the tap.
– In hotels and restaurants, tips are not normally included in the bill (unless they include service charge) – the standard tip is 10%.
– In hotels, porters can be tipped at an average of Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 per bag.
– Tipping of taxi drivers is not customary.
– Always remove your shoes before entering a holy place such as a temple, Gurudwara or mosque. You may also require covering your head. In general, dress conservatively at a place of worship. Avoid wearing clothes that bare your arms, shoulders and legs
– Some temples do not permit leather articles on their premises.
– Certain areas of temples are not open to Non-Hindus.
– Most museums in India are closed on Mondays and Site Museums, those near archaeological monuments, on Fridays.
– The dry summer heat can drain you completely. Drink lots of water and fluids.
– The sun is strong. Remember to use sunscreen on exposed parts of the body. Wear sunglasses to screen out harmful rays.
– Smoking is not allowed at all public places.
– Photography is not always possible, and at many places it is permitted only at a fee. There is usually a higher fee for using a video camera.
– It is prohibited to photograph places of military importance like airports, bridges and sensitive border regions.
– Certain temples may prohibit interior or exterior photography.
– Inside museums or when photographing art works, flash cameras are prohibited.
– Always drink bottled water.
– Always keep a tube of mosquito repellent with you.
– Always carry a kit of the basic emergency medicines you might need for diarrhea, fever, etc. Also, keep band aids and an antiseptic ointment handy.
– Do wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom. We suggest you carry alcohol with you at all times.
– Do carry tissue or toilet paper with you at all times.
– Everything in India takes time longer than in most places. So always give yourself extra time for whatever you may have to do even if it is just a visit to the post office or changing money. Indians joke about the concept of “Indian Stretchable Time”. Certainly, if you’re a super-punctual sort, India can be frustrating. Make allowances for this.
– Keep extra photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport.
– Taxi and auto-rickshaw fares keep changing, and therefore do not always conform to readings on meters. Insist on seeing the latest rate card, available with the driver, and pay accordingly. Avoid taxis that pick up additional passengers.
– Be wary of impostor porters or guides. Assure they are properly uniformed or identified. Never leave your luggage, briefcase or other items unattended.
– Insist on the taxi / auto meter being flagged down in your presence.
Visas are required for most nationalities. Contact the Indian Embassy for details of how to apply.
Indian Standard time (in New Delhi) is 5 1/2 hours ahead of GMT (4 1/2 against BST)
Currency & Money
The Indian rupee is the official currency of the Republic of India. Bank notes are available in nominal values of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees. Coins of the rupee are available in 1, 2, 5 and 10.
– In cities you can change most major foreign currencies and brands of travelers’ cheques but you’ll widen your options and save yourself hassles if you stick to US dollars or pounds sterling, and either Thomas Cook or American Express travelers cheques.
– Most big cities have ATMs which accept Visa and MasterCard as well as American Express. The ATM network is ever expanding and in some states, you can find them even in some smaller towns. Changing money
Adequate travel insurance is mandatory for everyone who participates in a Pioneer expedition. Please bring a copy of your insurance policy and contact numbers to give to your expedition leader in case of illness or accident.
Environmental & Responsible Travel
We are committed to running our business and tours in a way that is environmentally, culturally and socially responsible.
Safety and Security
Follow the same rules of safety that you follow while travelling anywhere else with respect to using hotel lock boxes and keeping travel documents safe. When in public places, keep them in your hotel or with you all the time when moving about.