India’s vast size and population provides an infinite amount of things to see and do. The country has a vibrancy of life and complexity of culture that is simply awe-inspiring. To help navigate the immensity of it all, read our grand list of travel tips.
A visit to India requires a passport and visa. The Indian visa process for U.S. citizens was changed in 2007 and outsourced to a U.S. company called Travisa. Expect a waiting period of 7–9 days if you apply online. Former Indian nationals can expect a longer processing period. Foreigners planning to visit a protected or restricted area in India will also need a Protected/Restricted Area Permit. For more information, visit immihelp.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises travelers to get immunized or updated for Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B and influenza before visiting India. Depending where you travel in India, you might also consider bringing malaria pills. Be sure to pack any prescriptions you’re taking, as well as electrolyte powder and stomach remedies for potential food-borne illness.
Hire a Guide
To get the most out of your travels, connect with a tour or hire a licensed guide in each city or area you visit. India’s Ministry of Tourism requires its guides to have a university degree, be fluent in English and complete a training course before becoming licensed. Whether your tour lasts an hour or an entire day, you’ll come away with knowledge of what to see, learn and avoid. Inquire about guides at your hotel, or search for one online. For luxury tours, consult our travel partner, Amber Tours.
The weather in India is most enjoyable between October and March. During this time, the southern parts of the country are balmy, while temperatures in North India average 65–75°F (19°–23°C), with hotter temperatures (e.g., 90°F/32°C) always possible. Pack light clothing for daytime and a warmer jacket or a shawl for nighttime. Check our selection for a world of options.
Do not drink tap water in India. Drink bottled water instead, and inspect bottles carefully for punctures or insects. Some unethical sellers refill bottles with regular water and then reattach the lids. Ensure that the hard plastic ring around the lid is unbroken, and avoid bottles that are only sealed with cellophane. When dining out, make sure water bottles are brought to your table unopened. Reliable local brands include Himalaya, Qua and Bisleri.
Tips for Staying Healthy
- Wash hands frequently with wet or antibacterial wipes
- Avoid raw vegetables and salads, and fruits that can’t be peeled
- Eat yogurt or take multiflora tablets
- Drink out of bottles rather than glasses; use a straw
- Dry off plates and utensils before use
- Avoid ice in all but high-end hotels and restaurants; drink refrigerated beverages if you need an ice-cold quencher
- Avoid lukewarm or cold foods at buffets; only eat hot buffet food
- Brush your teeth with bottled water
Don't Drive Yourself
According to one Indian saying, when it comes to driving, all you need are “good brakes, a good horn and good luck.” In this densely populated country, an endless stream of people, cars, scooters, rickshaws, taxis, trucks, bicycles, carts, goats, camels, peacocks and cows make their way up, down and across the streets. We highly recommend hiring a car and driver, or taking a train, cab or rickshaw.
Operated by female drivers, this special dial-a-cab service in Delhi and Mumbai is available only to women (and children under the age of 12). The rates are slightly higher than those of other companies, but the cabs are safer and cleaner. They’re also equipped with perks like makeup kits, large mirrors, nail-polish remover and racks of magazines. Look for silver-and-white cars bearing the blue-and-pink logo “Forsche,” a play on Porsche and “for she.” Featuring female drivers clad in all-pink, Priyadarshini cabs in Mumbai also cater specifically to women, but will carry families.
Forsche Delhi: 11/4562-8200
Forsche Mumbai: 22/2432-4161 or 22/2432-4162
Priyadarshini Mumbai: 98-2022-1107
Yield to Cows
Considered sacred to Hindus, cows wander freely around India (much like the roosters on the Hawaiian island of Kauai). Don’t be surprised to find them walking on beaches, grazing on roadsides, roaming city streets or standing on an island in the middle of a jam-packed intersection. Typically, these cows are milked by their owners, who sell the milk. Some temples even have their own cow sheds.
Your first day in India may start earlier than planned. The din of traffic and car horns, street vendors and mosque loudspeakers begins before sunrise. A certain level of noise and activity is constant on India’s busy streets. Bring earplugs to get some solid sleep and recover from jetlag. Some people even use earplugs outside to mute the steady sound.
Respect the culture and be aware of religious practices. Choose modest, loose-fitting attire for visits to Muslim and rural areas. Women should also cover their shoulders and legs to avoid unwanted attention. Don’t forget walking shoes for comfort and sunglasses for protection. Select from our wide array of options for women and men.
Always remove your shoes before entering a temple or place of worship in India. Men and women should avoid wearing shorts, and women should wear pants, skirts or dresses that fall to at least mid-calf. Pack a wrap in your bag every day, just in case. For a small fee, temples often rent material so you can cover shorts or skirts.
The electric current in India is 220V and triple round-pin sockets are the standard. Plug adapters are usually available at most hotels and larger stores in India. North American electrical devices (that operate on 110V) also require a converter. To power up wherever you go, bring your own equipment—see our plug and adapter accessories.
India’s official language is Hindi, but you’ll also hear dozens of other languages, such as Bengali and Urdu. English is India’s official secondary language; it’s widely spoken in most cities, and hotel staff and tourist-industry workers speak it fluently. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to learn a few words and phrases. Indians traditionally greet each other with the expression namaskar or namaste (the divine spirit in me honors the divine spirit in you), with palms pressed together and raised toward the face.
Upper-end hotels (also known as five-star hotels) in India are stellar and provide soothing relief from the intensity of India’s cities. Mid-range hotels are more akin to one-star and two-star establishments in the West. Many smaller hotels are family-owned and can provide an extremely hospitable experience like no other. Always research your options before booking a hotel. Comfort and cleanliness levels vary drastically, as do neighborhoods and clientele.
Taj Mahal Visit
Know before you go:
- Entry fee is Rs 750 (approx. $16.29 U.S.) for foreigners
- Open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days per week; closed on Fridays for prayer
- Open for 30-minute moonlight visits from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the eve of the full moon, as well as two days before and after; tickets for the moonlight visits must be purchased 24 hours in advance
- Avoid crowds by attending moonlight viewings; tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance
- Sunrise provides a unique view of the Taj, which appears to change color as the light changes throughout the day
- If you bring a tripod, you’ll need a permit; apply to the Archaeological Survey of India
- Find a great view just opposite the Taj at Mehtab Bagh, a large Mughal garden complex; entry fee is Rs 100 (approx. $2.17 U.S.)
For more information, visit the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Credit Cards & Traveler’s Checks
Large hotels, restaurants and stores accept credit cards, but many other establishments do not. Traveler’s checks are safer than cash and can be easily exchanged in large cities. You’ll find ATMs in cities and towns, but they may not be compatible with your home bank. Carry small amounts of Indian rupees for local needs, tips and purchases.
Tipping in India is optional and varies by service. The following are general guidelines (five-star tours and services usually require the upper end of the ranges below):
- Restaurants (five-star): 10–15%, unless included in bill; at small restaurants, 5–10%, or Rs 20–30
- Taxis: Round up fare to the nearest Rs 10, or 10% for honest and friendly drivers
- Drivers/guides: Rs 50–200/day (approx $1.07–$4.31 U.S.), or 10%, pending distance traveled, time spent & service rendered
- Porters: Rs 20/bag (approx. $0.43 U.S.)
- Room service: Rs 10–20 (approx $0.22 –$0.43 U.S.)
Queuing (the British term for lining up in an orderly fashion) is not the norm in India, like in many other parts of Asia. People jostle to get to the front or merely step ahead of others as if they weren’t there. With such a large population vying for service, it isn’t any wonder. Take heed and push your way to the front if you plan to get anywhere.
Don't Bug Me
Bring along bug spray or our insect-repelling clothing to keep away mosquitoes. You can also buy coils, sprays and liquid plug-in repellents in Indian shops, local drugstores and supermarkets. See our selection of great insect-repellent clothing.
Many levels of poverty exist within India’s massive population and are difficult to comprehend. Beggary is common, but you shouldn’t give out money on the street. If you’d like to donate money to help the less fortunate, ask your tour operator to recommend a reputable local charity.
Leave Valuables at Home
You should only take the essentials to India, such as your passport, visa, traveler’s checks, credit cards and some cash. To be safe, don’t wear gold or diamond jewelry in dense shopping areas or crowded locales.
TP to the Rescue
If you’re traveling to rural areas or outside tourist zones, bring along toilet paper, which may be scarce or nonexistent. Always carry a roll or a pack of tissues in your bag to be prepared when nature calls. You may even save someone else if you have an extra square to spare.
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