India General Information
India’s major religion is Hinduism and is practised by approximately 80% of the population. There are many minor religions practiced in India, including Islam (the largest minority religion), Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism.
English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the national language and primary tongue of 30% of the people; there are 14 other official languages: 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.
Area (sq. km):
3,287,590 square meters
India is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of GMT.
When To Travel
The climate in India varies from tropical monsoons in the south to more temperate climates in the north. October to March are the most pleasant months to visit and it can get very hot during the summer months. Rain in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur is quite likely during the monsoon season June to September.
Late September through to early May.
Useful Travel Facts
Major gateways include; Indira Ghandi International Airport in New Delhi, Chennai International - 20km from city, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai - 14km from city, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata - 18km from city
The international dialling code for India is +91. Phone cards are best value for local or international calls. Local SIM cards are also an option but can be harder to obtain for foreigners in India post 2012. Phone calls from hotels often incur a significant service charge and are at very high rates.
Voltage in India is 220 volts (50 cycles). You will need an international adaptor. Electricity supplies are subject to occasional disruption.
The basis of any Indian meal is grain - rice in the south and wheat in the form of bread (roti) in the north. These are generally eaten with lentils (dhal), vegetables (sabzi) and chutney (chatni). There is a huge range of restaurants, both local and international in the major cities, and the regions provide for many differing tastes.
Travel in India is not always easy. Buses and trains are often late and at times they can be overcrowded. A good deal of patience is required to get the most out of your journey. Travelling by road and rail is an excellent opportunity to meet the locals and can be a rewarding experience. Generally, overnight train travel is in non-air-conditioned sleeper class which offers three tier sleeping berths. A mattress is provided however bedding is not always supplied. For this reason we recommend you bring along a lightweight sleeping bag as the nights can be chilly at times. Toilet facilities on Indian trains are also quite basic to say the least. Travelling on the roads in India is also quite an experience. Road rules are not always followed and traffic in some of the larger cities has to be experienced to be believed. Particular care should be taken when crossing roads. Follow a local across if you are not sure!
India is a veritable shopper's paradise, offering a wide range of handicrafts, carpets, cotton and silk clothing, miniature paintings, wooden carvings, marble inlay, cast metal statues of gods and goddesses, gems (some real, some not), fake watches and Ray Ban sunglasses. Our main advice is to please be careful in all your transactions. Indian salespeople can be very, very persuasive and you must expect to bargain for most items. Most tour guides will offer to show you the best emporium for purchasing gifts and souvenirs; this is particularly so in Agra and Jaipur. Our policy is that after the completion of a tour those who wish to return to the hotel are taken directly back there, and then those who wish to view souvenirs can accompany the local guide to an emporium. Please be polite and very firm if you do not wish to go shopping.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance OR on arrival*
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
There is NO visa on arrival in India for most nationalities. Indian visas can NOT be obtained in Nepal. Tourist visas are available in Single and Multiple Entry. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip.
*Visa on arrival is available for select nationalities, including New Zealanders provided that specific criteria can be met. See link below for more information.
Useful Words & Phrases
1000: Ek hazaar
Do you speak English?: Kya aap angrezi samajhte hain?
Excuse me/sorry: Kshamaa kijiyeh
How are you?: Aap kaiseh hain?
How much?: Kitneh paiseh?
Please: Meharbani she
Thank you: dhanyavaad/shukriyaa
India Lonely Planet-Sarina Singh
A Passage to India-EM Forster
A Suitable Boy-Vikram Seth
Chasing the Monsoon-Alexander Frater