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India will sideswipe you with its size, glamour and diversity- but if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload, then India is one of the most intricate and rewarding dramas unfolding on earth, and you will quickly develop an abiding passion for it. Nothing in the country is ever quite what you expect, and the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you. India is a litmus test for many travelers and some are only too happy to leave, while others stay for a lifetime.
Wonderfully different, there is nothing quite like India. No matter how much traveling you have done or how many countries you have visited, when you first arrive in India it will hit you like a gale force wind. A hurricane of sounds, smells and colour where nothing is as it seems. India is mesmerizing, exotic, exciting and mystical but there are times when it can be frustrating, confusing and chaotic. Relax, stay calm, be patient and smile and India will open up herself to you in all her splendid glory.
All foreign tourists to India (barring nationals of Nepal and Bangladesh) must possess a valid visa. Visas are not issued on arrival. The cost of the visa is approx. US$ 30 for upto six months, US$ 50 for upto one year and US$ 100 for more than year and upto five years. Contact the Indian Embassy or consulate in you country with the required documents for issuance of visas. A tourist visa is valid for three to six months. The multiple entry Tourist visas simplify your visits to neighboring countries. You will be required to fill in a disembarkation card on your way to India which is required to be submitted at the Immigration counters at the entry airport.
Collective Visas Foreign tourist traveling in groups of not less than four, through a recognised travel agent, can be granted tourist visas without prior reference, or even granted collective visas for tourism in India. In such cases the procedure may be adopted.
Transit visa are granted by Indian Missions abroad for a maximum period of 15 days.
Exemption from Registration
Foreigners coming to India on tourist visas for 180 days or a shorter period are not required to register themselves with any authority in India. They can move about freely in the country, except to restricted/protected areas and prohibited places unless and until a special permit is obtained to visit these restricted areas. Nationals of Bangladesh are exempt from registration for up to six months. If their stay exceeds six months, they have to register themselves with the concerned authorities. Family passports issued by other governments are recognised without discrimination.
Landing Permit Facility (For group tourists)
Foreign tourists in groups of four or more arriving by air or sea, sponsored by recognised Indian travel agencies and with a pre-drawn itinerary may be granted a collective landing permit for a specified period of time on the written request of the travel agencies at least 06 months prior to the proposed date of travel. The Immigration Officer must have full personal and passport details of the group members, the itinerary, an undertaking to conduct the group as per their itinerary and an assurance that no individual will be allowed to drop out from the group at any place.
Extension of Visa
As a rule, no extension of stay is granted on a Tourist Visa. Tourist visas are available for a maximum period of 180 days. No charges are levied for visa extension within the maximum period of 180 days. Identical passport photographs are required. However, in the case of an extension beyond 180 days, which is allowed only in exceptional cases, an extension fee which varies for different nationalities is charged. In case a foreign tourist has obtained extension beyond three months of stay in India, he/she will have to surrender his/her Certificate of Registration and Residential Permit before leaving India.
Getting to India
India's major international airports are Mumbai (Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta) and Chennai (Madras) and other international airports at Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore and Kochi. Flights from Europe tend to arrive in India in the early hours of the morning, which can be inconvenient if you don't have reserved accommodation or don't like tramping around unfamiliar cities in the dark. Delhi is the cheapest place to buy air tickets in India, followed by Kolkata and Mumbai. International flights to neighboring countries can be very cheap: especially between Kolkata and Dhaka (Bangladesh), Delhi and Karachi (Pakistan) and Tiruchirappalli and Colombo (Sri Lanka).
Customs On Arrival There are two customs clearance channels. The green channel is for travelers carrying non-dutiable items while the red channel is for travelers carrying dutiable items.
Duty-free items which you may bring to India include personal effects like clothing and other articles but not if this is commercial merchandise. All expensive electronic equipment/s must be declared at the Customs on arrival - which will be re-checked on departure. Take care to obtain an Export Certificate for these items if you are traveling to neighboring countries and intend a multiple entry.
You can not bring in gold coins, gold or silver bullion into the country. Weapons brought into the country should be licensed and declared. Any cash or travelers cheques over US$ 10,000 or equivalent must be declared. Possession of narcotics is strictly prohibited. Personal effects which are not used during your stay must be carried back to you. Gift worth Rs. 4,000 for tourists of foreign origin and Rs. 12,000 for tourists of Indian origin 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 gm of tobacco, one litre each of wine and spirits is allowed free of duty.
When to Visit india
India has such a wide range of climatic factors that it's impossible to pin down the best time to visit weather-wise. Broadly speaking October to March tend to be the most pleasant months over much of the country. In the far south, the monsoonal weather pattern tends to make January to September more pleasant, while Sikkim and the areas of northeastern India tend to be more palatable between March and August, and Kashmir and the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh are at their most accessible between May and September. The deserts of Rajasthan and the northwestern Indian Himalayan region are at their best during the monsoon. The trekking season in the Indian Himalaya runs roughly from April to November, though this varies widely depending on the trek, altitude and region. The ski season is between January and March. The dates of particular festivals which may determine the timing of your visit are listed in the events section.
the country’s capital, the Taj Mahal, the Ganges, Holy cities like Varanasi, Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Rishikesh and beautiful Himalayan Mountain.
deserts and beautiful cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Goa, Vibrant and biggest city “Mumbai”, wonderful beaches and Bollywood (Indian film industry in Mumbai.
colorful Hindu temples, tropical forests, Backwaters of Kerala, Beaches and Ghats of Karnataka and Islands.
India’s mostly rural region, its largest city “Kolkata and holiest river “The Ganges”.
The North East
remote and sensitive, the country’ tribal corner, with beautiful landscapes and famous for “Tea Gardens”
Activities to Do while in India
The number of trekkers visiting the Indian Himalaya is small compared to those tramping the tracks in Nepal, so if you want to peacefully experience the world's greatest mountain range, try trekking in Himachal Pradesh or Uttar Pradesh.
The trekking season runs roughly between April and November , but this varies widely and some routes are only open for a couple of months each year. India's main trekking centres are Lahaul, Spiti and the Kullu and Kangra valleys in Himachal Pradesh; north of Rishikesh in northern Uttar Pradesh; Darjeeling in West Bengal; Yuksam in Sikkim; and Leh in Ladakh.
River Rafting River Rafting is usually organized early in the morning until mid or late afternoon when the camp is set up on some secluded area on the beach. Travel agencies have fairly good logistic support and delicious meals are cooked in the camp. River trips are generally safe and can be enjoyed by families and holidaymakers of all ages
The ski season runs from January to March , and there are resorts at Narkanda in Himachal Pradesh and Auli in Uttar Pradesh. Facilitie are rudimentary but that makes it all the more fun. There's usually one lift in working order and a place to hire gear. Après-ski consists of chapatis and a nice cup of ginger tea.
India is not renowned for its beaches, but there arepopular beach centres with acceptable swimming in Goa, just across the Karnataka border in Gokarna and at Kovalam in Kerala. There are also beaches at Diu, and at Puri in Orissa. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal have good beaches and boast India's only diving and snorkelling pportunities.
Religion, customs and conduct
Western visitors to India will find a very traditional and religious society with a culture and customs very different from back home. A relaxed, open attitude and a sense of humour will help you deal with situations and practices that might often seem illogical and bizarre. Indians from all walks of life will be curious about who you are and why you have come to India. Both men and women should dress conservatively with clothing that covers the knees and shoulders at all times. Wearing shorts away from beach areas is considered to be the same as walking around in your underwear and will restrict your entry to public buildings, temples, family homes etc. Public displays of affection between members of the opposite sex is frowned upon and remember that anything connected with activities above the waist eg eating, offering or taking things, and greeting people should be done with the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean. Maintaining a sense of humour and remembering that one of the main reasons for being in India is that things are not the same as at home will help you to cope with the differences in attitude to privacy, public hygiene, service and even the plumbing.
With the innumerable dream destinations, India offers the best of the accommodation facilities to the travellers to the land. There are plenty of hotels in India that cater to the needs of tourists of all kinds. The hotels in India provide high standards of accommodation, facilities and comforts to satisfy the clients at the most reasonable rates. The variety of hotels in India from luxury hotels, standard hotels, beach and spa resorts, budget hotels to the heritage hotels in India. There are several Indian and international hotel chains in India. The services and the facilities are such that the hospitability of India gets revealed always. The tour operators in India can customize the entire itinerary, including accommodation. The reservations of rooms can be made well in advance as per the requirements of the tour.
Some of the major chains of hotels operating in India are
The Ashok Group (ww.theashokgroup.com)
HRH India (www.hrhindia.com)
Le Meridien Hotels (www.lemeridien-hotels.com)
Oberoi Hotels (www.oberoihotels.com)
Taj Hotels (www.tajhotels.com)
However Kipling India has Special contracted rates with all hotels all over India. Some of them are as follows
Food and Drinks
From the simple banana leaf thalis of Tamil Nadu to the mild cream based dishes of the Mughal influenced north each region offers its own specialities giving a huge variety of food within India. With rice a staple in the south it’s chapatti, naan and other forms of bread in the north. While dishes can vary from mild to spicy they are rarely chilli hot unless specifically requested. Vegetarians are also well catered for. The national drink of India is tea or “chai” which is usually very milky and very sweet. All tap water should be considered undrinkable but bottled water is widely available as is Coca Cola and Pepsi which is produced locally. Other soft drinks include Limca and Thums Up as well as a range of very sweet, luridly coloured drinks. Lassi is a refreshing yoghurt drink served either sweet or salty – remember to be careful of any ice that may have been added. Of the hundred or so varieties of beer Kingfisher is highly recommended.
India boasts the biggest network of railway lines in the world, and the rail system is efficient. On the faster day trains there are air conditioned cars which have reclining individual seats. Overnight trains have air conditioned two and three tier sleeper accommodation. On certain circuits, there are luxurious trains like Palace on wheels, Deccan express and Orient Express, which offer world class facilities.
Road network is also very well connected. All major tourist destinations have good roads and connected by public transport service. Tourist transport comprise of luxurious Volvo buses, deluxe air conditioned coaches and deluxe cars. 4x4 drive jeeps are also available to visit high lands and high mountain passes.
Trained English speaking guides are available at fixed charges at all important tourist centers. French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese speaking guides are available at most of the important cities. Since the Language speaking guides are limited in numbers, enough notice should be given to your travel agent to block them for assignments. Unapproved guides are not permitted to enter protected monuments and tourists are, therefore, advised to ask for the services of guides who carry a certificate issued by the Department of Tourism/Archaeological Survey of India.
India is a shoppers paradise. Some of the many beautiful things to buy include: clothing, metal ware, jewellery, carpets, silk, saris, leather ware, woodcarving, shawls, painting, spices…………………the list is endless.