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About India

India Background and Travel Essentials

India is a country of diversity and a land for all seasons. The world's highest mountain chain, the Himalayas, borders the country to the north and offers a range of exciting adventures such as trekking, skiing, and white water rafting or spectacular retreats for those looking to experience the more quiet side of life.

IndiaSun glazed, palm lined beaches encapsulate the tropical jungles and arid deserts of the south where balmy weather and wildlife abound. Everywhere across India's 26 states you will experience the diversity in its language and culture, reflecting over 5000 years of history and evolution. The royal cities, temples and regal palaces present a beautiful backdrop to the countries rapid technological progress. Exotic and inviting, you can live the life of the Maharaja, visiting the royal forts and palaces of the country while wrapping yourself in the luxurious, colourful silks available everywhere.

People

India is a land of great diversity and its over 1 Billion people descend from varying ethnic backgrounds. Over 80% of the population adhere to the Hindu religion, one of the oldest and continuous faiths in the world. India also houses the world's second largest population of Muslims at 12% of the population and is equally a land of other popular faiths such as Christianity, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi.

Travel

All the major and some of the more unusual types of travel are available in India. The most popular forms of transport within the large cities are taxis and auto rickshaws. It is best to check the fare with the driver before you go, as many taxis or rickshaws do not have working meters and the fares often change from time to time.

Unmetered, chauffer-driven tourists cars can also be hired from tourist centres within large cities. They run at a slightly higher fare than regular taxis but they are also approved by the Department of Tourism. For those who are brave and have taken out tons of life insurance, self-drive cars can be hired within the major city centres.

For travel around the country, one of the best and most interesting ways to get around is by rail. The Indian international railway system is the largest in Asia and second largest in the world. Travel is relatively inexpensive and there is a special Indrail Pass that allows tourists to travel on any train within the valid period. A tourist travelling on Indrail Pass is exempted from paying the reservation fees, sleeper charges or supplementary charges of travelling by express trains. These passes can be bought from travel agents in your home country before you go to India.

For those with a bigger budget and less time, Indian Airlines operates domestic air services between all the major cities in India. Special tourist fares are available here as well.

Food

As diversified as its people, India boasts an astounding array of cuisine. The country is divided into a patchwork of highly seasoned flavours with the North featuring rich, delicate dishes and the South more pungent concoctions. North Indian cuisine has a heavy Persian influence with grilled lamb kebobs, cheese (paneer) dishes, yoghurt (dahi) and creamy braised meat dishes called kormas.

Bread accompanies each meal to scoop up the meats and sauces and comes in many different varieties such as deep-fried poori, thin chapatis or flaky paratha. Garam Masala is the popular spice, which is a blend of black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin and coriander.

By contrast, in the South, dishes are flavoured by red chillies, tamarind, ginger, lime and turmeric, combined together to create the popular tongue scorching vindaloos. Food staples include rice, bananas, seafood and coconut milk. Dosas (pancakes) filled with spicy potatoes and vegetables are popular feasts for breakfast.

India's cuisine is influenced by its various religions. Hindus do not eat beef, with many totally vegetarian, and Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. Vegetarian food is quite common usually comprises dhal (pulses), vegetables and chutneys.

Bottled Water, fizzy drinks or even beer are the safest things to drink and are easily available throughout India. Tea and coffee are the favourite drinks with tea or chai more popular in the North and coffee in the South.

Language

There are fourteen official languages of India: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout Northern India but is not an official language.

English continues to be the official working language and for many people, English is their readily used second, if not first language.

Climate

India is basically known for its hot, tropical weather. In general, April to June provides the hottest and most uncomfortable weather. The Monsoon rains come shortly after and last through September. The cooler weather lasts from November to mid-March, with fresh mornings or evenings and nice dry, sunny days in-between.

Dress

Since the weather is usually hot, lightweight cottons and linens are recommended for the summer months and slightly warmer clothes for the winters or cooler evenings. Waterproof clothes are a must during monsoon season.

Religious places have different requirements for clothing such as obligatory head covering in Sikh shrines and no footwear or leather articles allowed inside Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jain places of worship. Shorts, sleeveless tops or any revealing clothing should never be worn in any place of public worship and it's more dignified for men to keep their legs covered and for women to dress moderately modestly, covering the shoulders and chest.

Health

Food and waterborne disease are the number one cause of illness in people travelling to India. All areas of India, including the cities of Delhi and Mumbai also prevent the risk of malaria. Travellers are recommended to take one of the three antimalarial drugs: mefloquine, doxycycline or Malarone.

The Centre for Disease Prevention also recommends the following vaccinations at least 4-6 weeks before your trip: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG), Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis (if you plan to visit rural areas for four weeks or more) and typhoid.

In order to stay healthy on your trip:

Visas

Indian visas are necessary for all foreigners wanting to visit India, with many different types available (Entry visa, tourist visa, business visa, etc.) Applications for multiple and single entry visas are accepted at any Indian Consular Office around the world. Tourist visas are available for a maximum of 180 days.