Frequently asked questions about India

What is the best time to travel?

Both the spring (February, March and April) and the autumn (middle of September until December) are the ideal times to travel to northern India. The best time to travel to southern India is from October to March.

What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

There are many festivals in India. Here are a few examples of the best festivals:
February: Shivaratri is the festival held in honour of Shivam during full moon in the month of phalgun.
February/March: Holi is a popular festival, especially amongst the lower castes. During Holi, everybody splashes each other with water and colourful powder paint. Holi marks the beginning of the spring.
August: Onam is celebrated with spectacular boat races in Allepey on the second Saturday in August. The long narrow boats carry dragonheads and are manned by hundreds of oarsmen.
End of October/beginning of November: Diwali, the Festival of Light, is celebrated. It is marked by the illumination of thousands of lights, fireworks, baking cakes and making sand patterns outside the front door of each home.

Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes you can pre book transfers (arrival only) and extra nights with Shoestring.You can add these on to your booking form.

 

What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

Do I need a visa?

Entry requirements will vary. For example for UK citizens a single entry visa is required for India. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. Please check with your local Indian embassy to see if you need a visa for India. You can also check here for the current situation. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure so that you do not run into time problems.

It is now also possible for nationals of a number of countries to apply online for their India visa, in advance of travel using the E-Visa facility. Please check the following website for further information and online visa application: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html


Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations or malaria tablets for this country and then contact your GP or a specialised health clinic to make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you arrange this at least six weeks before your tour departs. Two weeks should suffice for people who have already had a few injections. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

What is the recommended currency for India?

The currency in India is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks and authorised bureaux de change. It is currently impossible to obtain rupees outside India but no matter what time you arrive in India there will be an exchange office open at the airport. Major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are widely available.

What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

In India men should wear long trousers and a shirt and women should wear tops with covered shoulders and a skirt that at the very least covers the knees. A coat and a good pair of shoes and flip flops, good hiking socks, underwear, a pair of long trousers, shirts, a windcheater, a rucksack, a waterproof jacket, a cap as protection from the sun, sunglasses, sun cream, toiletries, plasters, a hand towel, soap, toilet paper, a small emergency food supply, a first-aid kit, any prescription medicine, a (video) camera with enough film, spare batteries, a torch, a pen knife, a lighter, an alarm clock, writing equipment, books, your passport and visa, copies of your passport and visa, all necessary travel insurance documents and details, a set of passport photos, a diary with important contact numbers/addresses and the booking papers for this trip, binoculars and maps.

What kind of luggage should I take?

It is best that you carry your luggage in a smallish bag or backpack as opposed to a hard suitcase, as these are difficult to transport. In addition to this, a shoulder bag or another small backpack is useful for daily hand luggage. A thin money belt worn under your clothing is recommended for storage of valuables and important documents. Don’t bring too much luggage. In our experience, any more than 12 kg is an unnecessary hindrance.

What is the electricity situation?

Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are used in India. You may also consider taking a universal electric plug.

Which travel guides and maps?

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet.

What is the accommodation like?

Accommodation will be provided in 2 star hotels in twin rooms with en-suite facilities .

 

How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveller ( from the same sex when possible ) unless you have booked a single room.

Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?

For most of our trips to India, it is not necessary to bring a sleeping bag, though a sleeping bag liner is very convenient. For the colder months, you can always purchase a blanket locally eg for overnights on the train (or you can pack some extra clothes instead).
The exception is the trip to Ladakh (SIB). On this trip a sleeping bag liner and a sleeping bag are absolutely necessary. Sleeping mats in Ladakh are provided by the local agent but please note that usually they are not of super quality. So you may prefer to take your own.

Do I need to take a mosquito net?

A mosquito net is not really necessary. Good-quality mosquito repellents are available in India.

Do they cater for vegetarians in India?

Vegetarians are well catered for in India. Thalis are served in many restaurants and there is always a choice between veg and non-veg dishes. Indians also prepare a good deal of delicious dishes using only vegetables (and sometimes eggs). Traditionally, both Hindus and Buddhists were vegetarian. Even now, a large part of the population is strictly vegetarian. Indeed, even in meat dishes the amount of meat used is minimal compared to what Europeans are used to.

What kind of transportation is used?

We will provide transport in private (mini)buses and there will also be train journeys.

Is India dangerous?

In many ways, India is a safe country. Mugging and other forms of physical violence against tourists occur only sporadically. Still, in the eyes of the local population, each ‘white nose’ is a millionaire and those who come into contact with you will make numerous efforts to share in your infinite wealth in some way. In almost all cases this will take the form of begging. This relative security does not mean, however, that you can afford to be careless with money, valuables and luggage. Cash and travel documents are best worn underneath your clothing. Do not leave anything valuable in your hotel room: it is better not to invite theft. In each hotel, you can leave your valuables at reception in exchange for a token.
 

What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

Here you have some points to take into account:
- Yes or No: Maybe the most confusing cultural difference is the use of yes and no in India. No is a word Indians do not like to say too often.
- Courtesy rules: Indians traditionally greet with a namasté: palms pressed together and held upright in front of the face. The higher you hold your hands, the more respect you express.
- Left and right: The right hand is used to eat. Do not eat or touch anyone with your left hand.
- Dress: Adult men wearing shorts are seen as ridiculous by Indians, and women wearing shorts as outrageous. Swimming naked or topless is prohibited.
- Privacy: staring is not perceived as impolite and most Indians do not have a sense of personal space as we know it.
- Men and women: contact between the two sexes is governed by very different rules to what we are used to.
 

Are there opportunities to swim?

Yes. You can swim in Kovalam, the popular beach resort in India. Goa has many hotels and resorts with swimming pools and beaches. Kerala also has some of India's best coastal resorts.

What other activities and sports could I do?

Other activities include hiking, watersports, shopping, listening to the sounds of Indian music, watching the variety of dance forms and golf.

How are communications in India?

The international access code for India is +91. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code. Area codes are used for Delhi e.g. (0)11. International calls can be quite expensive and there are often high surcharges on calls made from hotels; it is cheaper to use a calling card. Alternatively, there are telephone agencies in most towns which are identifiable by the letters STD for long distance internal calls and ISD for international communication. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Internet cafes are available in the main cities and resorts.

 

What is the time difference?

Please check the world clock in order to find out the exact time difference.

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