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Travel Tips

Tips and Tweaks for Added Fun

  • Airport Security Checks in India
  • Airport security checks can be lengthy, and at certain airports you may be asked to identify your checked luggage on the tarmac prior to boarding. It is wise to keep your baggage claim tickets handy until you are seated on the plane. Indian airport security procedures vary, so unfortunately there is no way to outline the exact procedure.

    Your pocketknife, spare AA & AAA batteries, and sharp objects should be packed in your duffel bag or suitcase, not your carry-on bag. These security rules are followed strictly within India. Technically, batteries include those in cameras and other electronics, but these are seldom checked. Sharp objects include metal nail files, scissors, and similar items. You know the drill!

  • ATM and Credit Cards
  • ATM machines are available to obtain cash during your time in India as ATM in all cities and many small towns. Credit Cards can be used at major hotels, restaurants and stores.

  • Baggage
  • Checked-in Baggage: Between points in India your total baggage allowance is 33 pounds (15 kg) plus your carry-on bag. If you exceed 33 pounds, you may be charged a fee. To avoid fees, once your bags are packed, weigh them. If you are over, try to lighten up and travel with less. Remember that you will want some room for purchases along the way.

  • Carry On Bags
  • You should always hand-carry any essential items such as your passport, your money (including traveler’s checks), and prescription drugs. It is prudent to wear your primary walking shoes. Carry-on baggage usually is not weighed.

  • Cultural Courtesies
  • We need to remove our shoes and in many cases our socks also before entering temples. People other than of Hindu faith are not allowed to visit the sanctum sanctorum of some of the temples. We are not allowed to photograph the main deity of the temple or point our camera towards the sanctum sanctorum. Photographing the cremations is not allowed in Varanasi. One should walk clock wise around Buddhist monuments. One should cover shoulders and knees at a Muslim monument.

  • Currency
  • There is no advantage in exchanging money before you arrive in India. Indian Rupee: The units of Indian currency are rupees, which are divided into 100 paise. There are coins of Rs 1, 2, 5, 10. Notes come in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000.For latest exchange rates, we recommend to use www.xe.com. We recommend that you use a combination of cash, traveler checks, or ATM

  • Electricity
  • Electricity in India is 230 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to India with a device that does not accept 230 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Most computer and camera chargers are dual voltage. If you are using an AA battery charger please make sure it is dual voltage. Outlets in India are usually D type.

  • Food
  • Do not eat uncooked vegetables or fruit that cannot be peeled. In addition, do not eat food from vendors at markets. The food you will encounter will range from interesting and satisfying to repetitive. Almost every meal in hotels will be a buffet, so it is possible to choose what you like. Please note, at many buffets you will see a cold salad of artistically arranged tomatoes and cucumbers, etc. STAY AWAY FROM ANY COLD SALAD IN ASIA! These are normally rinsed in tap water before or after being sliced and are a major cause of travelers’ gastro-intestinal distress. It is not uncommon for people to get mild diarrhea from the change in diet so bring some PeptoBismal and Imodium. It is only possible to have the opposite problem, so please also bring some Ducolax.

  • Hygiene
  • This is an important subject that is of great concern to everyone who travels to this part of the world. While we do our best to ensure that all hotels we stay at maintain the strictest norms of hygiene, it pays to be prudent. The following are some general guidelines that will help you remain healthy while traveling in India. Drink only bottled water, sodas, beer, coffee or tea. In towns, stick to bottled drinks or water you purify yourself throughout your trip. Please remember to ask for NO ice in your drinks and do not brush your teeth with tap water or open your mouth in the shower. As a general rule, be mindful of anything you put in your mouth (i.e., licking stamps may even be a culprit). Wash you hands frequently. Please bring and use anti-bacterial towelettes and a small bottle of PURELL that kills germs without water, which you can have with you throughout the day. Use these two or three times a day, especially after handling local produce and handicrafts, or after visiting a school, temple or monastery. While you should not be overly concerned or let it affect the enjoyment of your trip, be aware that hand to mouth transmission of germs and bacteria is one of the most common causes of illness while traveling.

  • Internet
  • Many of the hotels on the tour will have wireless Internet (some charge, some don’t), or there might be a business center. Moreover, at some hotels we will not have any Internet service so please make sure that your family, friends, and business understand that you will not be reachable every day.

  • Lost Baggage
  • If your bags are not found on arrival, immediately report the loss to the ground staff of the airline you arrived on. You must fill out a lost baggage form. Ask that messages be sent to all the airports you have been through since you last saw your bags. Next, request that your bags be sent to your hotel. Write down all the names of the officials you speak with. Record the number of your baggage claim check. Indian officials are usually competent and knowledgeable, and will be as friendly and polite to you as you are to them. Their weak point is perhaps communication and you may find yourself wondering what is going on. The best approach is to be positive, patient, and polite at all times. If you raise your voice, use sarcasm, or show that you are angry, you will almost surely not get anywhere with the officials.

  • Political Situation
  • We continually monitor the specific political issues that pertain to the areas we travel. Let us point out that your safety is of paramount importance to us. We will make sure that you do not go anywhere close to what we feel is a volatile situation, and we will be certain to err on the conservative side. We remind you that it is important to be discreet when talking politics with the people you will encounter. Your local guides will advise you as to appropriate and inappropriate behavior. If a security situation deteriorates in the areas you will be traveling to, we will not hesitate to amend or cancel our arrangements before or during the trip if we feel it necessary. India is more like a continent than a country, with many different peoples, languages, religions, and customs from north to south and east to west. India, a secular state (allowing full freedom to pursue any religious faith), is also the largest democracy in the world. As you can imagine with all this diversity, it is a very active and sometimes volatile democracy. The political climate can change rapidly and demonstrations, strikes, etc., can arise on short notice. This has sometimes happened in Kolkatta and other major urban centers. Travelers to India should not be worried about this, but it is wise to be aware, as we cannot project when political activity might arise. We take all Public Announcements and Travel Warnings from our State Department very seriously and, as of today, it is our assessment that it is currently safe to travel to India.

  • Road Conditions
  • India is a developing nation and road conditions are not at par with the first world. A distance of 200 km may take5-7 hours in remote areas. The yearly monsoon creates a lot of pot hols. There is dust every where.

  • Safety
  • Incidents of mugging are fortunately rare, as is other violence against tourists. Use the hotel safe in your room or lock large items in your suitcase. Do not leave money lying on the desk. Close your purse when you are walking down the street; a shoulder bag you can tuck under your arm is best. A money belt or neck pouch that can be worn under clothing is the best place to carry passport, cash, and credit cards. Do not put a wallet in your back pocket. Pay attention when you use an ATM machine; cover the keyboard with your hand when keying in your PIN number, and make sure no one is peeking over your shoulder or lurking nearby. To avoid being a crime target, leave expensive jewelry at home and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards. Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Leave the rest, and at least one credit card, in the hotel safe. Keep copies of your passport, from the originals. It is useful to always have photocopy of your passport with you. (Leave your passport in the hotel safe.)

  • Shopping and Shipping
  • India offers an interesting array of items for shoppers--gems, clothing, silver, textiles, fabrics, tea, and many other handicrafts. Shopping anywhere in the world can be a source of pleasure or frustration, and to help protect you, here are a few suggestions: Please be forewarned that local guides/drivers may wish to take you to a “special shop” after your sightseeing tour. These stores are often owned by a relative or may offer the guide some form of commission. If you do not want to go to the shop, just be firm and say you are not interested in buying things. You have no obligation to go to these stores. On the other hand, you may want to look and the shops may have something you are interested in. These referrals are in no way our endorsement of the shop nor its merchandise. Nor will we take any responsibility for following up if the merchandise you purchase and ship does not arrive or arrives in unsatisfactory condition. If there is a particular item you are interested in it is wise to price it in a few shops and then bargain. Also, make sure you watch the shop owner wrap the item you have purchased. To avoid disappointment:

    • We recommend that you purchase only what you can carry home; do not plan to ship purchases. It is a good idea to bring an additional fold-up bag for purchases. If you do opt to ship something back, be aware that we cannot assume responsibility or assist you in case the item does not arrive as expected.
    • Never buy anything “valuable” or “old” unless you will still like it just as much if it does not turn out to be as valuable or old as you were told. Remember that old thangkas and bronzes are forbidden for export if they are more than 100 years old. Certificates are required to prove their younger age if there is any doubt.
    • Watch the item you have bought being wrapped, and check that it is that same package that is given to you.
    • If you are using a credit card for your purchase, make sure that the merchant does not disappear in a back room with your card. Ask the merchant to please charge your card within sight. Carefully review the receipt or credit card slip before you sign it and leave the shop - to verify the amount paid and the item bought. If the receipt/slip is written in a language other than English, take a few moments to confirm what it says (your guide can help you if he/she is there), and write the details of the purchase on the receipt in English, for your own records and for U.S. Customs if necessary. Keep all sales receipts safe, and have them ready to show to Customs if necessary.
    • And when you are shopping, remember to bargain! It's part of the fun, and it helps keep prices reasonable for you and your fellow, future travelers.

  • Time Zone
  • Time Zone of India is -9h 30min from Eastern Standard Time (EST) and +5h 3min Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

  • Tips While Traveling
  • Lock your luggage to avoid its accidentally opening due to rough handling or cabin pressure and carry the keys in your hand luggage. Identify your luggage both inside and outside with your name, personal address, and telephone number and make sure the outside tag is securely fastened to your luggage. This will help if your luggage is lost or stolen and will save time when you are picking up your bags at the claim area. A copy of your itinerary with your personal address and your destination should be included in your luggage in the event you and your bags get temporarily separated. This information will help minimize delays in retrieving lost luggage. Make 2 copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport. Also, make copies of insurance details and other important travel documents and keep them separately from the originals. Check-in your luggage early to ensure that your bags not only make your originating flight but your connecting flight (if you have one) as well. Report lost luggage immediately before you leave the airport. Make sure you have a complete list of the contents of your bags as well as a detailed description of the luggage in question.

  • Toilets
  • We will be using mainly Western, but perhaps some Asian-style, toilets. The drivers will stop at suitable points on the trip or at your request. A small supply of toilet paper should be taken along for these “au naturel” breaks.

  • Visa
  • A visa is required to visit India which must be obtained prior to arrival in India. Citizens of the following countries are granted visa on arrival (unless they are of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin) for a single stay up to 30 days in India when travelling as tourist or visiting family or friends:

    • Burma
    • Cambodia
    • Finland
    • Indonesia
    • Japan
    • Laos
    • Luxembourg
    • New Zealand
    • Philippines
    • Singapore
    • Republic of Korea
    • Vietnam
    This is applicable at the following airports: Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. Visa on arrival allows only a single entry and is issued maximum of two times in a calendar year, with a minimum gap of 60 days between each visit. It takes from 60 minutes upwards to obtain a visa on arrival. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of intended departure.