INDIA

INDIA

INDIA

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Name: Taj Mahal
Location: Agra, India
The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.

Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (U.S. $827 million). The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India's rich history.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal
Name: Amer Fort
Location: Amer, India
Amer Fort is a fort located in Amer, Rajasthan, India. Located high on a hill, it is the principal tourist attraction in Jaipur. It is known for its artistic style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake, which is the main source of water for the Amer Palace.

Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas, or "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace. The palace was the residence of the Rajput Maharajas and their families. At the entrance to the palace near the fort's Ganesh Gate, there is a temple dedicated to Shila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult, which was given to Raja Man Singh when he defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amer_Fort
Name: Kerala backwaters
Location: Kerala, India
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast of Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both man made and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.

The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways. In the midst of this landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and end points of backwater cruises.

Many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants, and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs, various leafy plants, and bushes grow alongside the backwaters.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala_backwaters
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COUNTRY INFORMATION GUIDE
PLEASE SEE BELOW FACTS, USEFUL US GOVERNMENT TRAVEL LINKS AND BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES, FOR TRAVEL TO INDIA.
FACTS:
Official Languages: Hindi / English
Currency: India Rupee (INR)
Time zone: IST (India Standard Time) (UTC +5:30)
Drives on the right
Calling code: +91
Local / up-to-date weather in New Delhi (and other regions): BBC global weather – click here
US GOVT TRAVEL LINKS:

For more useful information on safety & security, local laws / customs, health and more, please see the below official US travel.state.gov web link for India travel advice. NB: Entry requirements herein listed are for US nationals only, unless stated otherwise.

You can also find recommended information on vaccinations, malaria and other more detailed health considerations for travel to India, at the below official US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weblink.

BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES*:
Activities you may undertake on a business visa / as a business visitor:
PERMISSIBLE
ATTENDING MEETINGS / DISCUSSIONS: TBC
ATTENDING A CONFERENCE: TBC
RECEIVING TRAINING (CLASSROOM-BASED): TBC
NON-PERMISSIBLE
AUDIT WORK: TBC
PROVIDING TRAINING: TBC
PROJECT WORK: TBC
*This information does not constitute legal advice and is not an exhaustive list. For a full legal assessment on business visitor activities, please revert to your internal company legal team / counsel.
TRAVEL INFORMATION**
It is highly recommenced that you access the above official US travel.state.gov web link and read all safety & security information prior to making your travel arrangements / planning your trip.
PLEASE CLICK / TOGGLE BELOW FOR USEFUL TRAVEL INFORMATION TO INDIA.

The currency in India is the Indian rupee (sign: ₹; code: INR) (रुपया — rupaya in Hindi and similarly named in most Indian languages, but taka in Maithili, Taakaa in Bengali and Toka in Assamese). The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise (singular: paisa). “5 rupees 75 paise” would normally be written as “₹5.75”. The new rupee symbol ₹ was introduced in July 2010 to bring the rupee’s symbol in line with other major currencies. Previously, “Rs” was used (or “Re” for the singular rupee). It is very likely you will continue to see the previous nomenclature in your Indian travels, especially with smaller businesses and street vendors.

Common bills come in denominations of ₹5 (green), ₹10 (orange), ₹20 (red), ₹50 (purple), ₹100 (blue), ₹200 (yellow), ₹500 (brown) and ₹2,000 (pink). It is always good to have a number of small bills on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small bills (₹10-50) in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger bills separate. Then, it will not be obvious how much money you have. Many merchants will claim that they don’t have change for a ₹100 or ₹500 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large bill. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.

The coins in circulation are 50 paise, ₹1, ₹2, ₹5, and ₹10. Coins are useful for buying tea (₹5), for bus fare (₹2 to ₹10), and for giving exact change for an auto-rickshaw.

Indians commonly use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Though these terms come from Sanskrit, they have been adopted so deeply into Indian English that most people are not aware that they are not standard in other English dialects. You may also find non-standard, although standard in India, placement of commas while writing numerals. One crore rupees would be written as ₹1,00,00,000, so first time you place a comma after three numerals, then after every two numerals. This format may puzzle you till you start thinking in terms of lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.

Changing money:

The Indian rupee is not officially convertible, and a few government-run shops will still insist on seeing official exchange receipts if you are visibly a foreigner and attempt to pay in rupees instead of hard currency. Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor although places with significant Indian populations (e.g. Dubai, Singapore) can give decent rates. You may typically carry up to ₹25,000 across the Indian border, details can be found in an official statement of the Reserve Bank of India.

Outside airports, you can change your currency at any one of the numerous foreign exchange conversion units including banks.

Most ATMs will pay out ₹10,000 in each transaction. State Bank of India (SBI) is the biggest bank in India and has the most ATMs. ICICI bank has the second largest network of ATMs and accepts most of the international cards at a nominal charge. International banks like Citibank, HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro and Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Indian cities. It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank or simply does not work work at a particular ATM.

In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.

BY PLANE:

India’s large size and uncertain roads make flying a viable option, especially as prices have tumbled in the last few years. Even India’s offshore islands and remote mountain states are served by flights. Due to the aviation boom over the last few years, airports have not been able to keep up with the air traffic. Most Indian airports continue to function with one runway and a handful of boarding gates. Check in and security queues can be quite long, especially in Delhi and Mumbai. India has built two new international airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore, which are modern and well-equipped. Mumbai and New Delhi airports have been upgraded. The newly constructed terminal 3 in the Delhi airport is the 8th largest terminal in the world.

In northern India, particularly Delhi, heavy winter fog can wreak havoc on schedules, especially during Christmas Season and January, leading to massive delays across the country. Flights to small airports up in the mountains, especially to Leh in Ladakh (which is reachable only by plane for most of the year), are erratic at the best of times.

Airlines:

At one time, domestic flights were the monopoly of the government-owned Indian Airlines, but things have changed dramatically and now there are quite a few competitors, with prices a traveller’s delight.The main operators are:

  • Air India, India’s state owned carrier. Air India has the largest network in the country and provides excellent regional connectivity. Service is generally below par. Their services have been quite a few times in the past been affected by pilots’ strikes. Air India also operates low-cost carrier Air India Express, which flies mainly on trunk routes and to international destinations in the Gulf and South-East Asia, and Air India Regional, which flies small aircraft to obscure places.
  • IndiGo Airlines – low cost airline, connecting around 33 cities throughout the country. Their planes are new A320s purchased directly from Airbus a few years ago at most.
  • Go Air, another low cost carrier connecting around 22 cities across the country. Mostly flies from their Mumbai base.
  • SpiceJet, a third low cost airline, serves around 34 domestic destinations.
  • Air Asia India, new launched low cost service airline
  • Vistara ,new launched full service airline

In India, air connectivity is not that good considering its vast size, so flying to a city and taking a train is not a bad idea.

Fares:

The earlier you book, the lower you pay. You will hear a lot about air tickets at ₹500, but those are promotional rates for limited seats which are sold out within seconds. In some other cases, the advertised fare may not include charges such as passenger service fees, air fuel surcharge and taxes which will be added subsequently. Nonetheless, you do get good rates from the budget airlines. Tickets for small cities will cost more than those for the metros, because of the spotty coverage noted above. Indian ticket pricing has not attained the bewildering complexity that the Americans have achieved, but they are getting there. You don’t have to worry about higher prices on weekends, lower prices for round-trips, lower prices for travel around weekends.

There are two complications for non-Indians trying to buy plane tickets:

  1. Many airlines have higher fares for foreigners than for Indians. Foreigners (“non-residents”) will be charged in US dollars, whereas Indians will be charged in rupees. In practice, you can simply pretend to be Indian when booking online as the check-in desk will rarely if ever care, but you are still running a small risk if you do this. When possible it’s best to patronize those airlines that do not follow this practice.
  2. Many online booking sites and some of the low-cost carriers reject non-Indian credit cards. Read the small print before you start booking, or book directly with the airline or through a bricks-and-mortar travel agency instead.

BY TRAIN:

Railways were introduced in India in 1853, more than one and half a century ago by the British, and today India boasts of the biggest network of railway lines in the world, and the rail system is very efficient, if rarely on schedule. Travelling on Indian Railways gives you the opportunity to discover first hand the landscape and beauty of India, and is generally more economical than flying domestic. It is one of the safest ways of travel in India. With classes ranging from luxurious to regular, it’s the best way to get to know the country and its people. Most train passengers will be curious about you and happy to pass the time with a chat. If you are on a budget, travelling on an overnight sleeper train will reduce a night’s stay at a hotel.

Regular trains:

Trains come in many varieties, but the broad hierarchy from luxurious to normal is as follows:

  1. Rajdhani Express
  2. Shatabdi Express
  3. Duronto Express
  4. Jan Shatabdi Express
  5. Garib Rath Express
  6. Superfast Trains
  7. Mail/Express Trains
  8. Fast Passenger Trains
  9. Passenger Trains
  10. Local/suburban trains
  11. Vande Bharat express

The ‘Rajdhani’ & ‘Shatabdi’ trains are the most luxurious and fastest trains on Indian Railways. They are completely air-conditioned and have breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner included in your ticket price. The food is served at your seat during travel. Most of these trains also have modern German designed LHB coaches which are extremely comfortable and luxurious The ‘Rajdhani’ Express trains are fast long distance overnight that connect regional state capitals to the national capital New Delhi. The ‘Shatabdi’ Express trains are fast short distance daytime intercity trains that connect important cities in a region, for example two adjacent states’ capitals. The ‘Duronto’ Express (introduced in 2009) are fast long-distance “point to point” non stop trains that directly connect, without stopping, two important cities that are far apart. These trains have no commercial halts on their way but only operational halts for maintenance and crew changes. The ‘Garib Rath’ literally means the chariot of the poor, and it is a good option for those who want to use good facilities at low cost.

Luxury trains:

Although the history of luxury train travelling in India dates back to the time of maharajas during the days of British Raj, the modern history of this mode of transportation dates back to 1982 with the introduction of India’s first luxury train Palace on Wheels. Palace on Wheels was introduced as a joint venture of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways to promote Rajasthan as a global tourist destination. The venture turned out to be a great success among overseas travellers and a few decades later more such train journeys followed.

At present there are 5 trains offering 12 signature journeys across major tourist destinations in India. Operated jointly by Indian Railways and respective state tourism departments, luxury trains in India offer a wonderful way to experience the sights in India without having to worry about the hassles of travel and accommodation. Journeys on board these trains are all inclusive of accommodation, dining, sightseeing, transportation and porter charges. Each of these luxury trains are equipped with state of the art amenities such as live television, individual climate control, restaurant, bar, lounges and cabins with electronic safe and attached bathrooms.

Mentioned below is the brief overview of the Indian Luxury Trains:

  • Palace on Wheels, — The Palace on Wheels offer 7 nights/8 days itinerary starting from US $520 and carry the guests on a weeklong voyage across royal destinations in Rajasthan. All destinations included in the itinerary happen to be former princely states of Rajputana. The destinations covered in Palace on Wheels train itinerary are Jaipur, Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Agra and Delhi and includes sightseeing of forts, palaces along with a dash of wildlife, heritage and cultural interactions.
  • Maharajas’ Express, — Dubbed as the most luxurious train of Asia, Maharajas Express is an internationally acclaimed and award winning luxury train in India. Maharajas’ Express also happens to be the latest luxury train to be introduced in India. It has created significant buzz in the global luxury travel segment owing to its refined interior, intricate decor, world class facilities and impeccable service. It is the only luxury train which offers accommodation in presidential suite spanning over an entire carriage. Redefining the art of elegant travelling in India, Maharajas’ Express train offers 5 rail journeys across tastefully selected tourist destinations in India,. The itineraries include 3 pan-Indian programs along with 2 golden triangle short tours. The journeys offered by this Indian luxury train are classified as the Heritage of India, The Indian Panorama, The Indian Splendor, Treasures of India and the Gems of India. State of the art amenities, elegant interiors, refined luxury and impeccable service along with technology such as pneumatic hydraulic suspension system add to the pampering and class of this marvelous rail tour in India.
  • Deccan Odyssey, — Second luxury train to be introduced in India after the Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey train journey covers destinations across two Indian states of Maharashtra and Goa. The Deccan Odyssey train offers a weeklong journey which crisscrosses through the fascinating terrains of Western Ghats and the Konkan Coast. Included in the itinerary is the trip to coastal fortress town of Sindhudurg, Ajanta and Ellora rock cut caves, Tarkali Beaches and Old Goa and Vasco among others. The all inclusive tariff of the Deccan Odyssey starts from US $425 per person per night on triple occupancy basis during the peak season and US $315 for the same during lean season (April and September run).
  • The Golden Chariot, — The Golden Chariot is the only luxury train offering two train tour itineraries in South India. The itineraries are named the Pride of the South and The Splendor of the South. Whereas the Pride of the South tour itinerary covers destinations in Karnataka along with a halt the India’s most prominent beach destination Goa, the Splendor of the South Itinerary offers tours to tastefully selected destinations across South India. Destinations covered during the 8 days itinerary of the Splendor of the South aboard the Golden Chariot include Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey and Kochi. Both journeys include a dash of cultural sights, World Heritage Sites, local interactions and wildlife.
  • Royal Rajasthan on Wheels — Equipped with modern amenities such as Wi-Fi internet, direct dial phones, Spa and satellite television, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels offer royal ride across destinations in Rajasthan along with stops in Varanasi, Khajuraho and Agra.
  • The Indian Maharaja — This train happens to be the India’s first privately managed luxury train. Winner of the coveted World Travel Awards in the category of Asia’s Leading Luxury Train, the Indian Maharaja takes guests on a weeklong adventure through several exotic destinations covering the vast expanse of Western, Central and North India. Destinations included in the itinerary of this luxury train are Mumbai, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Sawai Modhopur, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. The train is equipped with two dining cars serving fine Indian and Continental cuisine and catering and hospitality on board is managed by the prestigious Taj Group of hotels. To add to the luxury of the journey facilities such as a library, gymnasium and beauty parlour along with Wi-Fi internet and large screen live TVs are available on board.

Classes:

Most countries offer two classes of service, but India has no less than seven to choose from. In descending order of cost & luxury, they are:

Long-distance:

  • AC First (1A)
  • AC 2 Tier (2A)
  • AC 3 Tier (3A)
  • Sleeper Class (SL)

Short-distance:

  • AC Chair Car (CC)
  • Second Class Chair Car (2S)

Unreserved:

  • General compartments (GS)

Not all classes are available on all trains: for example, Chair Cars are usually found only on short-distance daytime trains, while the sleeper classes are only found on overnight journeys.

Different types of trains:

Basically there are five types of trains:

  • Passenger Trains are slow trains that stop in all stations including very small stations.
  • Fast Passenger Trains are passenger trains that skip smaller stations and offer the same fare structure.
  • Express Trains stop only at major railway stations and charge higher than Passenger trains.
  • Superfast Trains skip some of the major stations and charge even higher than Express Trains.
  • Rajadhani and Shadabdhi Trains are elite trains that offer only air conditioned coaches. They stop only at selected stations. The fare is quite high because all food is included.

Train fare:

The average fare for a 200 km distance for different classes is given below:

  • First Class AC: ₹1,200
  • Two Tier AC: ₹617
  • Three Tier AC: ₹430
  • AC Chair Car: ₹203
  • Sleeper Class: ₹120
  • Second class seat in Express train: ₹70
  • Second class seat in Passenger train: ₹30

Ticketing:

Trains tend to fill up early. Tickets can be reserved up to 4 months in advance. School summer vacation time — mid-April to mid-June — is peak season for the railways, which means that you may need to book well in advance. Other festival days, long weekends or holidays may see a similar rush.

Booking tickets from the railway website has vastly improved over the years. A lot of work has gone into the usability and responsiveness of the web site. Try not to book normal tickets during 9AM to noon, as traffic to the website would be much higher due to tatkal reservation time and cause much higher failure rate.

Tickets are also available from counters at most railway stations. Rail passes are also available, and are called Indrail passes. Details of facility available for tourists from abroad are available at the official website of the Indian Railways

One day before the departure date of a train the Tatkal quota seats become available. Tatkal accounts for about 10% of the total number of seats. This allows tourists who like to plan a trip as they go to book seats closer to the day of departure, for an extra fee. However booking for this service online or in person is an even more fraught experience.

It is sometimes difficult to book Tatkal tickets online because of excess amount of traffic on Indian railway website. Indian railway has launched E-wallet facility which enables user to keep money on Indian railway website for faster booking of tickets. This facility reduces the time of ticket booking because users skips the payment gateway processing time. It is very fast to book tickets using E-wallet facility. You may also need IFSC Code to transfer fund to Ewallet, but now you can also pay using your debit cards, credits cards, internet banking, etc. IFSC Code generally stands for Indian Financial System code which uniquely identifies bank branches in India, IFSC code is required to transfer money online in India. You can easily find IFSC Code using IFSC Code finder

Meals:

Most long distance night trains(though not all) have a pantry car and if you are in the sleeper or air-con classes, you can buy meals on board the train. The pantry staff will visit your seat before meal timings to take down your order. However mostly the pantry car meals aren’t really good in quality or taste. The Railways are concerned about the bad quality of pantry car meals and efforts are underway to improve things, but do not count on it as yet. If you are finicky, bring enough food for the journey including delays: bananas, bread, and candy bars are good basics to have. You can purchase bottled waters, colas, packaged snacks or biscuits from the pantry staff, who keep circulating them going from one coach to another. At most stations hawkers selling tea, peanuts, and snack food and even complete meals will go up and down the train. Most stations will have vendors selling all kinds of edible stuff. So you can also get down on the station platform to look for food , but make sure you know well, the stoppage timing of the train at that station. In the most luxurious ‘Rajdhani’ & ‘Shatabdi’ trains, meals are included in your ticket price and served at your seat during travel. There are no dining cars in Indian Railways except in select luxury trains.

BY TAXI:

There was a time when the metered taxi was unheard of outside India’s largest cities, and when it could be found, getting one that would take you to your destination and charge you the right rate was a rare event. This situation has undergone a drastic change for the better in the past few years, with many online companies offering taxi services. Prominent among these are Meru, Ola, Taxi for sure, Picntic and Easy Cabs & TravelODesk. Uber too can be found in some cities of India. If you want to book it for short distance, it’s highly recommended that you book your cab with OLA & UBER because these companies can save cost of your travel but for outstation there are many cab companies, which are good options for your travel in India by taxi.

In central locations of big cities like airports or stations reliable pre-paid taxis are available and will save you money as well as the bargaining hassle. These pre-paid taxi booths are managed by local traffic police officials, prefer to use this facility where ever available to avoid inconvenience. However, beware of touts who would claim themselves to be running pre-paid taxis. Always collect the receipt from the counter first. The receipt has two parts – one part is for your reference and the other part you will need to handover to the taxi driver only after you reach your desired destination. The taxi driver will get his payment by submitting or producing this other part to the pre-paid taxi counter. Be aware that the taxi driver may not know how to get to your destination, and will not tell you this beforehand. This may result in the taxi stopping at various points during the journey as the driver gets out to ask for directions. Insist on being taken to your original destination, and not a substitute offered by the driver (e.g. a different hotel).

Normal taxis running by meter are usually more common.

BY BUS:

While you can’t take a cross-country bus ride across India, buses are the second most-popular way of travelling across states and the only cheap way of reaching many places not on the rail network (e.g. Dharamsala).

Every state has its own public bus service, usually named “X Road Transport Corporation” (or XRTC) or “X State Transport Corporation” (or XSTC) which primarily connects intrastate routes, but will also have services to neighbouring states. There are usually multiple classes of buses. The ordinary buses (called differently in different states, e.g. “service bus”) are extremely crowded with even standing room rarely available (unless you’re among the first on board) as reservations are not possible and they tend to stop at too many places. On the upside, they’re very cheap, with even a 5-6 hour journey rarely costing over ₹100.

In addition to ordinary public buses, there are luxury or express buses available, and most have air-conditioning these days. Some state transport corporations have even introduced Volvo buses on some routes and these are extremely luxurious and comfortable. These better class “express” or “luxury” buses have assured seating (book in advance), and have limited stops, making them well worth the slight extra expense. But even these better-class buses rarely have toilets and make occasional snack and toilet breaks.

Private buses may or may not be available in the area you are travelling to, and even if they are, the quality could vary a lot. Be warned that many of the private buses, especially long-distance lines, play music and/or videos at ear-splitting volume. Even with earplugs it can be nerve-wracking. Restrooms are available in large bus stations but are crowded. The bus industry is extremely fragmented and there are few operators who offer services in more than 2 or 3 neighbouring states. Travel agents usually only offer seats on private buses.

However, long distance bus operators such as Raj National Express and KPN Travels are rolling out their operations across the country modelled on the lines of the Greyhound service in the United States. Their services are good and they provide entertainment on board.

Regardless of class of travel, all buses have to contend with the poor state of Indian highways and the havoc of Indian traffic which usually makes them slower, less comfortable and less safe than trains. Night buses are particularly hazardous, and for long-distance travel it’s wise to opt for sleeper train services instead.

BY CAR:

Driving on your own:

In India driving is on the left of the road — at least most of the time. You can drive in India if you have a local licence or an International Driving Permit, but unless you are accustomed to driving on extremely chaotic streets, you probably will not want to. The average city or village road is narrow, often potholed and badly marked. National Highways are better, but they are still narrow, and Indian driving discipline is non-existent. In the past few years the Central government has embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade the highways. The Golden Quadrilateral connecting the four largest cities of Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata with four-laned highways has been completed and is of a reasonable standard. Some of it is of an international standard but that cannot be said for all of it. However, improving the quality of the roads does not improve the way in which people drive and it is very dangerous to drive on the roads in India as people drive as they like without regard to any rules (rules do exist but are almost never enforced).

Hiring driver with car:

Instead, you can opt for a driver while renting a car. Rates are quoted in rupees per kilometer and you will have to pay for both ways even if you are going only one way. The driver’s salary is so low (typically around ₹100-150 per day) that it adds little to the cost of renting the car. The driver will find his own accommodation and food wherever you are travelling, although it is customary to give him some money to buy some food when you stop somewhere to eat. A common rental vehicle is the legendary Hindustan Motors Ambassador, which is essentially an Indian-made copy of the 1956 Morris Oxford: it’s large, boxy, with space for 5 passengers (including driver) and a decent-sized boot. However, the Tata Indica (a hatchback) and Tata Indigo (a small saloon) are now replacing the Ambassador as the cheap car of choice. Imported international models may be available at a premium. If the number of people travelling together is large, popular rental vehicles are Tata Sumo, Mahindra Xylo and Toyota Innova. The larger vehicles are suitable if you are travelling in larger groups or have excess luggage. Many vehicles come equipped with a roof carrier, so one may opt for a smaller vehicle for 2-3 passengers even with excess luggage. (You may need to specifically ask for a vehicle with a roof carrier.)

There are numerous advantages to having a car and driver.

  • A good local driver is the safest means of car travel.
  • You can keep your bags and shopping goods with you securely wherever you go.
  • The driver will often have some knowledge of local tourist destinations.
  • A car is the quickest and most reliable means of going from point to point. After the initial agreement you needn’t spend any time finding further transport, or haggling over price.
  • You can stop anywhere you like, and change plans at the last minute.
  • Driving around India is chaotic as traffic rules are routinely violated, and it is best that someone with experience of driving in India drives you around.

It is rare to find a driver that speaks more than a few words of English. As a result, misunderstandings are common. Keep sentences short. Use the present tense. Use single words and hand gestures to convey meaning.

Make sure you can trust your driver before you leave your goods with him. If he shows any suspicious motives or behavior make sure you keep your bags with you. Conversely, if your driver is very friendly and helpful, it is a nice gesture to buy him a little something to eat or drink when stopping for food. They will really appreciate this.

Your driver may in some cases act as a tout, offering to take you to businesses from which he gets baksheesh (a sort of commission). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – he may help you find just what you’re looking for, and add a little bit to his paltry income at the same time. On the other hand, you should always evaluate for yourself whether you are being sold on a higher-cost product than you want. Also, many times, these places that supply commissions to the driver (especially restaurants) may not always be the best or most sanitary, so use your judgement. Avoid touts on the road posing as guides that your driver may stop for because he gets a commission from them; supporting them only promotes this unpleasant practice. The driver might ask for a tip at the end of the trip. Pay him some amount (₹100/day is generally sufficient) and don’t let him guilt-trip you into paying too much.

If you rent a car for a trip to a remote destination, make sure before getting out that you will recognize the driver and write down the license plate number and his phone number (nearly all drivers have mobile phones). Touts at tourist areas will may try to mislead you into getting into the wrong car when you leave; if you fall for this you will certainly be ripped off, your car may be stolen and you may be sexually assaulted.

Be wary of reckless driving when renting a car with a driver. Do not be afraid to tell the driver that you have time to see around and that you are not in a hurry. Indian highways can be extremely dangerous. Make sure also that your driver gets enough rest time and time to eat. In general as you visit restaurants, the driver may eat at the same time (either separately at the same restaurant or at some other nearby place). He may be willing to work nonstop for you as you are the “boss”, but your life depends on his ability to concentrate, so ensure that your driving demands are reasonable; for example, if you decide to carry your own food with you on the road, be sure to offer your driver time to get a lunch himself.

Avoid travel at night. Indian roads are dimly lit if at all, and there are even more hazards on the road after dark — even highway bandits if you get far enough off the beaten track.

BY MOTORCYCLE:

Some people point out that the best way to experience India is on a motorbike. Riding a motorbike and travelling across India you get the closer look and feel of India with all the smells and sounds added. There are Companies which organise packaged tours or tailor made tours for Enthusiastic bikers and adventurous travellers for a safer motorbike experience of India. Blazing Trails tours, Wild Experience tours and Extreme Bike tours are the known names in the market.

Another choice, popular with people who like taking risks, is to buy a motorcycle. Not for the faint of heart or inexperienced rider. India boasts the highest motor vehicle accident rate in the world.

The Royal Enfield is a popular (some would say, the only) choice for its classic looks and macho mystique. This despite its high petrol consumption, 25 km/litre to 30 km/litre, supposed low reliability (it is “classic” 1940s engineering after all and requires regular service adjustment; you can find an Enfield mechanic who has worked on this bike for ten, twenty, thirty years in every town in India, who will perform miracles at about ₹100 an hour labour cost), and claimed difficulty to handle (actually the bike handles beautifully, but may be a wee heavy and seat high for some).

Or, one can opt for the smaller yet quicker and more fuel efficient bikes. They can range from 100 cc to the newly launched 220 cc bikes. Three most popular bike manufacturers are Hero, Bajaj and Honda. The smaller variants (100-125 cc) can give you a mileage exceeding 50 km/litre on the road, while giving less power if one is opting to drive with pillion on the highways. The bigger variants (150-220 cc) are more powerful and one can get a feel of the power especially on highways – the mileage is lesser for these bikes anywhere between 35 km/litre to 45 km/litre.

Preferably tourists should go for second hand bikes rather than purchasing new ones. The smaller 100 cc variants can be purchased for anywhere between ₹15,000-25,000 depending on the year of make and condition of vehicle. The bigger ones can be brought from ₹30,000 onwards.

BY AUTO-RICKSHAW:

The auto-rickshaw, usually abbreviated and referred to as auto and sometimes as rickshaw, is the most common means of hired transportation in India. They are very handy for short-distance travel in cities, especially since they can weave their way through small alleys to bypass larger cars stuck in travel jams, but are not very suitable for long distances. Most are green and yellow, due to the new CNG gas laws, and some may be yellow and black in color, with one wheel in the front and two in the back, with a leather or soft plastic top.

When getting an auto-rickshaw, you can either negotiate the fare or go by the meter. In almost all cases it is better to use the meter—a negotiated fare means that you are being charged a higher than normal rate. A metered fare starts around ₹13(different for different areas), and includes the first 1 to 2 kilometres of travel. Never get in an auto-rickshaw without either the meter being turned on, or the fare negotiated in advance. In nearly all cases the driver will ask an exorbitant sum (for Indian standards) from you later. A normal fare would be ₹11-12 for the first km and ₹7-8 per km after that. In most of the cities, auto-rickshaw drivers are provided with a rate card that elaborately describes the fares on per kilometre basis. A careful tourist must verify the meter-reading against the rate-card before making a payment. Auto-rickshaws carry either digital or analog meters wherein the analog meters may have been tampered with. It may be a better option to go for a negotiated fare when the auto-rickshaw has an analogue meter.

Ideally, you should talk with a local to find out what the fare for any estimated route will be. Higher rates may apply at night, and for special destinations such as airports. Finally, factor in that auto drivers may have to pay bribes to join the queue for customers at premium location such as expensive hotels. The bribe will be factored in the fare.

Make sure that the driver knows where he is going. Many autorickshaw drivers will claim to know the destination without really having any clue as to where it is. If you know something about the location, quiz them on it to screen out the liars. If you do not know much about the location, make them tell you in no uncertain terms that they know where it is. This is because after they get lost and drive all over the place, they will often demand extra payment for their own mistake. You can then tell them that they lied to you, and wasted your time, so they should be happy to get the agreed-upon fee.

EAT:

Indian cuisine takes its place among the great cuisines of the world. There is a good chance that you’d have tasted “Indian food” in your country, especially if you are a traveller from the West, but what India has exported abroad is just one part of its extraordinary range of culinary diversity.

Indian food can be spicy: Potent fresh green chilis or red chili powder will bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated, and can be found in unexpected places like sweet cornflakes (a snack, not breakfast) or even candies. The degree of spiciness varies widely throughout the country: Andhra food is famously fiery, while Gujarati cuisine is quite mild in taste with the exception of Surti food (from Surat).

To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Don’t try everything at once. After a few weeks, you can get accustomed to spicy food. If you would like to order your dish not spicy, simply say so. Most visitors are tempted to try at least some of the spicy concoctions, and most discover that the sting is worth the trouble. Remember, too, that while “spicy” is a convenient short-hand for “chili-laden,” the spiciness of food in India doesn’t always mean lots of chili: Indian cuisines often use a multitude of different spices and other aromatic ingredients in highly creative and flavourful ways.

Cuisine:

Cuisine in India varies greatly from region to region. The “Indian food” served by many so-called Indian restaurants in the Western hemisphere is inspired by North Indian cooking, specifically Mughlai cuisine, a style developed by the royal kitchens of the historical Mughal Empire, and the regional cuisine of the Punjab, although it has been Britainized and the degree of authenticity in relation to actual Mughlai or Punjabi cooking is variable at best and dubious at worst.

North India is a wheat-growing area, so you have Indian breads (known as roti), including chapatti (unleavened bread), paratha (pan-fried layered roti), naan (cooked in a clay tandoor oven), puri (deep-fried and puffed up bread) and many more. A typical meal consists of one or more gravy dishes along with rotis, to be eaten by breaking off a piece of roti, dipping it in the gravy and eating them together. Most of the Hindi heartland of India survives on roti, rice, and lentils (dal), which are prepared in several different ways and made spicy to taste. Served on the side, you will usually find spiced yogurt (raita) and either fresh chutney or a tiny piece of exceedingly pungent pickle (achar), very much an acquired taste for most visitors — try mixing it with curry, not eating it plain.

A variety of regional cuisines can be found throughout the North. Tandoori chicken, prepared in a clay oven called a tandoor, is probably the best-known North Indian dish, innovated by a Punjabi immigrant from present-day Pakistan during the Partition. For a taste of traditional Punjabi folk cooking, try dal makhani (stewed black lentils and kidney beans in a buttery gravy), or sarson da saag, a yummy gravy dish made with stewed mustard greens, served with makke di roti (flatbread made from maize). There are also the hearty textures and robust flavours of Rajasthani food, the meat-heavy Kashmiri dishes from the valley of Kashmir, or the mild yet ingratiating Himalayan (pahari) cuisine found in the higher reaches. North India also has of a variety of snacks like samosa (vegetables encased in thin pastry of a triangular shape) and kachori (either vegetable or pulses encased in thin pastry). There is also a vast constellation of sweet desserts like jalebi (deep-fried pretzel with sugar syrup- shaped like a spiral), rasmalai (balls of curds soaked in condensed milk) and halwa. Dry fruits and nuts like almonds, cashews and pistachios are used a lot, often in the desserts, but sometimes also in the main meal.

Authentic Mughal-style cooking, the royal cuisine of the Mughal Empire, can still be found and savoured in some parts of India, most notably the old Mughal cities of Delhi, Agra and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. It is a refined blend of Persian, Turkic and Subcontinent cooking, and makes heavy use of meat and spices. The names of some Mughal dishes bear the prefix of shahi as a sign of its prestige and royal status from a bygone era. Famous Mughal specialties include biryani (layered meat and rice casserole), pulao (rice cooked in a meat or vegetable broth), kebab (grilled meat), kofta (balls of mincemeat), rumali roti (flatbread whirled into paper-thin consistency) and shahi tukray (saffron and cardamom-scented bread pudding).

In South India, the food is mostly rice-based. A typical meal includes sambhar (a thick vegetable and lentil chowder) with rice, rasam (a thin, peppery soup), or avial (mixed vegetables) with rice, traditionally served on a banana leaf as a plate. Seasoning in South India differs from northern regions by its ubiquitous use of mustard seeds, curry leaves, pulses, fenugreek seeds, and a variety of souring agents such as tamarind and kokum. There are regional variations too — the coastal regions make greater use of coconut and fish. In the State of Kerala, it is common to use grated coconut in everything and coconut oil for cooking, while someone from the interior could be surprised to learn that coconut oil can be used for cooking. The South also has some great breakfast dishes like idli (a steamed cake of lentils and rice), dosa, a thin, crispy pancake often stuffed with spiced potatoes to make masala dosa, vada, a savoury Indian donut, and uttapam, a fried pancake made from a rice and lentil batter with onions and other vegetables mixed in. All of these can be eaten with dahi, plain yogurt, and chutney, a condiment that can be made from practically anything. Try the ever popular masala dosa, which originated from Udupi in Karnataka, in one of the old restaurants of Bangalore like CTR and Janatha in Malleswaram or Vidyarthi Bhavan in Basavangudi or at MTR near Lalbagh. South Indian cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, though there are exceptions: Seafood is very popular in Kerala and the Mangalorean coast of Karnataka; and Chettinad and Hyderabad cuisines use meat heavily, and are a lot spicier. Coffee tends to be the preferred drink to tea in South India.

To the West, you will find some great cuisine groups. Gujarati cuisine is somewhat similar to Rajastani cooking with the heavy use of dairy products, but differs in that it is predominantly vegetarian, and often sweetened with jaggery or sugar. Gujaratis make some of the best snack items such as the Dhokla and the Muthia. Mumbai is famous for its chaat, as well as the food of the small but visible Irani and Parsi communities concentrated in and around the city. The adjacent states of Maharashtra and Goa are renowned for their seafood, often simply grilled, fried or poached in coconut milk. A notable feature of Goan cooking is that pork and vinegar is used, a rare sight in the rest of India. Vindaloo originated in Goa, and is traditionally cooked with pork, and in spite of its apparent popularity in Indian restaurants abroad, it is not common in India itself.

To the East, Bengali and Odishan food makes heavy use of rice, and fish due to the vast river channels and ocean coastline in the region. Bengali cooking is known for its complexity of flavor and bittersweet balance. Mustard oil, derived from mustard seeds, is often used in cooking and adds a pungent, slightly sweet flavour and intense heat. Bengalis prefer freshwater fish, in particular the iconic ilish or hilsa: it can be smoked, fried, steamed, baked in young plantain leaves, cooked with curd, aubergine and cumin seeds. It is said that ilish can be prepared in more than 50 ways. Typical Bengali dishes include maccher jhal, a brothy fish stew which literally means “fish in sauce”, and shorshe ilish (cooked in a gravy made from mustard seed paste). Eastern India is also famous for its desserts and sweets: Rasgulla is a famous variant of the better-known gulab jamun, a spherical morsel made from cow’s milk and soaked in a clear sugar syrup. It’s excellent if consumed fresh or within a day after it is made. Sondesh is another excellent milk-based sweet, best described as the dry equivalent of ras malai.

A lot of food has also filtered in from other countries. Indian Chinese (or Chindian) is far and away the most common adaptation: most Chinese would barely recognize the stuff, but dishes like veg manchurian (deep-fried vegetable balls in a chilli-soy-ginger sauce) and chilli chicken are very much a part of the Indian cultural landscape and worth a try. The British left fish and chips and some fusion dishes like mulligatawny soup, while Tibetan and Nepali food, especially momo dumplings, are not uncommon in north India. Pizza has entered India in a big way, and the chains such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s have Indianised the pizza and introduced adaptations like paneer-tikka pizza. There is an Indian chain called Smokin Joe’s, based in Mumbai, which has mixed Thai curry with pizzas.

It is, of course, impossible to do full justice to the range and diversity of Indian food in this brief section. Not only does every region of India have a distinctive cuisine, but you will also find that even within a region, castes and ethnic communities have different styles of cooking and often have their signature recipes which you will probably not find in restaurants. The adventurous traveller is advised to wangle invitations to homes, try various bylanes of the city and look for food in unlikely places like temples and Gurudhwaras in search of culinary nirvana.

Fruits:

While a wide variety of fruits are native to India, including the chikoo and the jackfruit, nothing is closer to an Indian’s heart than a juicy ripe mango. Hundreds of varieties are found across most of its regions — in fact, India is the largest producer, growing more than half the world’s output. Mangoes are in season at the hottest part of the year, usually between May and July, and range from small (as big as a fist) to some as big as a small cantaloupe. They can be consumed in their ripe, unripe and also a baby form (the last 2 predominantly in pickles). The best mango (the “King of Mangoes”, as Indians call it) is the “Alphonso” or Haapoos (in Marathi), in season in April and May along the western coast of Maharashtra. Buy it from a good fruit shop in Mumbai or Mahatma Phule market (formerly Crawford market) in South Mumbai. Dushheri Mangoes are also popular in north india. Other fruits widely available (depending on the season) are bananas, oranges, guavas, lychees, apples, pineapples, pomegranates, apricots, melons, coconuts, grapes, plums, peaches and berries.

Vegetarian:

Visiting vegetarians will discover a culinary treasure that is found nowhere else in the world. Owing to a large number of strictly vegetarian Hindus and Jains, Indian cuisine has evolved an astonishingly rich menu that uses no meat or eggs. The Jains in particular practice a strict form of vegetarianism based on the principles of non-violence and peaceful co-operative co-existence: Jains usually do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, cassava, sweet potatoes and turnips, as the plant needs to be killed prior to its end of normal life cycle, in the process of accessing these . At least half the menus of most restaurants are devoted to vegetarian dishes, and by law all packaged food products in India are tagged with a green dot (vegetarian) or red dot (non-veg). Veganism however is not a well-understood concept in India, and vegans may face a tougher time: milk products like cheese (paneer), yogurt (dahi) and clarified butter (ghee) are used extensively (in particular, ghee can be hard to spot as it can be mixed into curries before they are served), and honey is also commonly used as a sweetener. Milk in India is generally not pasteurized, and must be boiled before consumption.

Even non-vegetarians will soon note that due to the Hindu taboo, beef is generally not served (except in the Muslim and Parsi communities, Goa, Kerala and the North-Eastern states), and pork is also uncommon due to the Muslim population. Chicken and mutton are thus by far the most common meats used, although “buff” (water buffalo) is occasionally served in backpacker establishments. Seafood is of course ubiquitous in the coastal regions of India, and a few regional cuisines do use duck, venison and other game meats in traditional dishes.

Etiquette:

In India eating with your hand (instead of cutlery like forks and spoons) is very common. There’s one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban India: Use only your right hand. The left hand is reserved for unhygienic uses. Don’t stick either hand into communal serving dishes: instead, use the spatula with your left hand to serve yourself and then dig in. Needless to say, it’s wise to wash your hands well before and after eating.

For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Rice is more challenging, but the basic idea is to use four fingers to mix the rice in curry and pack a little ball, before you pop it in your mouth by pushing it with your thumb.

Most of the restaurants do provide cutlery and its pretty safe to use them instead of your hand.

Eating by hand is frowned on in some “classier” places. If you are provided with cutlery and nobody else around you seems to be doing it, then take the hint.

Restaurants:

Indian restaurants run the gamut from roadside shacks (dhabas) to classy five-star places where the experience is comparable to places anywhere in the world. Away from the big cities and tourist haunts, mid-level restaurants are scarce, and food choices will be limited to the local cuisine, Punjabi/Mughlai, “Chinese”/”Indo-Chinese” and occasionally South Indian.

The credit for popularizing Punjabi cuisine all over the country goes to the dhabas that line India’s highways. Their patrons are usually the truckers, who happen to be overwhelmingly Punjabi. The authentic dhaba serves up simple yet tasty seasonal dishes like roti and dhal with onions, and diners sit on cots instead of chairs. Hygiene can be an issue in many dhabas, so if one’s not up to your standards try another. In rural areas, dhabas are usually the only option.

In South India, a “hotel” is local restaurant serving south Indian food, usually a thali or plate meal—a full plate of food that usually includes a kind of bread and/or rice and an assortment of meat or vegetarian dishes—and prepared meals.

Although you may be handed an extensive menu, most dishes are served only during specific hours, if at all.

DRINK:

One of the sweetest and safest beverages you can get is tender coconut water (naryal paani). You can almost always find it in any beach or other tourist destinations in the south. In summer (Mar-Jul), you can get fresh sugarcane juice in many places and even a lot of fresh fruit juice varieties.

India is famous for its Alphonso variety of mangoes, generally regarded as the King of Mangoes among connoisseurs. Frooti, in its famous tetra-pack, is the most popular processed drink, followed by Maaza (bottled by Coca-Cola) or Slice (bottled by PepsiCo), both of which contain about 15% Alphonso mango pulp. Both cost about ₹30-50 for a 600 ml bottle.

As for bottled water, make sure that the cap’s seal has not been broken; otherwise, it is a tell-tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Kinley (by Coca-Cola) are widely available. Local brands like Bisleri are also acceptable and perfectly safe. Tastes may vary due to the individual brands’ mineral contents. In semi-urban or rural areas, it may be appropriate to ask for boiled water as well.

Tea:

One can get tea (chai in most North Indian languages) of one variety or the other everywhere in India. The most common method of preparing chai is by brewing tea leaves, milk, and sugar altogether in a pot and keeping it hot until it’s all sold. It is sweet and uniquely refreshing once you get the taste for it. Masala chai will have, added to the above mix, spices such as cardamom, ginger or cinnamon etc. For some people, that takes some getting used to.

While Masala chai is popular in Northern and Central India, people in Eastern India (West Bengal and Assam) generally consume tea without spices, the English way. This is also the part of India where most tea is grown.

Coffee:

In South India, filter coffee replaces tea as the standard beverage. Indian filter coffee is a coffee drink made by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the decoction obtained by brewing finely ground coffee powder in a traditional Indian filter.

Alcohol:

Drinking alcohol can either be frowned upon or openly accepted, depending on the region and religion of the area within which you are drinking. For example, Goa, Punjab, and Pondicherry tend to be more free-wheeling (and have low taxes on alcohol), while a few southern areas like Chennai are less tolerant of alcohol, and may even charge excessive taxes on it. Some states such as Gujarat and Bihar are legally “dry” states and alcohol cannot be bought openly there, although there is a substantial bootlegging industry. Bootleg alcohol is unregulated and could kill you or make you sick, and you could also be in legal trouble if you are caught while drunk in a dry state.

Favourite Indian tipples include beer, notably the ubiquitous Kingfisher (a decent lager), and rum, particularly Old Monk. Prices vary by state, especially for hard liquor, but you can expect to pay ₹50-100 for a large bottle of beer and anywhere between ₹170-250 for a 750 ml bottle of Old Monk. Mumbai tends to be the most expensive, due to local taxes, which can be three-times as much as Meghalaya.

Indian wines, long a bit of a joke, have improved remarkably and there’s a booming wine industry in the hills of Maharashtra. The good stuff is not particularly cheap (expect to pay around ₹500 a bottle) and selections are mostly limited to white wines, but look out for labels by Chateau Indage or Sula.

Illegal moonshine, called tharra when made from sugar cane and toddy when made from coconuts, is widely available in some states. It’s cheap and strong, but very dangerous as quality control is nonexistent, and best avoided entirely. In the former Portuguese colony of Goa you can obtain an extremely pungent liquor called fenny or feni, typically made from cashew fruits or coconuts.

As of April 2017 it is illegal to sell alcohol within 500m of a highway. This is controversial as it has hit restaurants, bars and hotels hard so check latest rulings before booking your hotel for any changers.

Make sure to bring the passport wherever you go, as most hotels will not rent out rooms without a valid passport. Two important factors to keep in mind when choosing a place to stay are safety and cleanliness. Malaria is present in most areas of India – one of the ways to combat malaria is to choose lodgings with air conditioning and sealed windows. An insect-repellent spray containing DEET will also help, or consider Permethrin-treated fabrics.

Overcharging of foreigners is widespread and you will have to bargain hard. Many hotels listed on western booking websites (booking.com etc.) are also set at the “tourist price”; try local booking sites like Goibibo, redBus or OYO rooms, as these have much better coverage of local hotels and in rural areas.

Choices vary widely depending on budget and location. Good budget hotels in India are easy to find. Cheap travelers’ hotels are numerous in big cities where rooms are available for less than ₹450. Rooms at guest-houses with a double bed (and often a bathroom) can be found in many touristic venues for ₹150-200. accommodation in clean dormitories for as little as ₹50 is also available. Bed and breakfast service providers are coming up offering standard services that can be expected from B&Bs outside India. The basics include: air-conditioner or air cooler, free food, and free wi-fi internet.

Most Indian train stations have rooms or dormitories, just ask. They are cheap, relatively well maintained (the beds, sheets, not the showers), in demand and secure. There are also the added bonus of not being accosted by the rickshaw mafia, getting the bags off quickly and, for the adventurous, high likelihood to jump on a cheap public bus back to the train station. Keep in mind you must have an arrival or departure train ticket from the station where you intend to sleep and there could be a limit on how many nights you may stay.

Midrange options are plentiful in the larger cities and expanding fast into second-tier cities as well. Dependable local chains include Treebo, Country Inns, Ginger and Neemrana, and prices vary from ₹1,000-4,000 per night. Local, unbranded hotels can be found in any city, but quality varies widely.

If the wallet allows it, you can try staying like royalty in a maharaja’s palace in places like Udaipur or modern five-star hotels which are now found pretty much all over the country. The top-end of Indian luxury rests with hotel chains like Oberoi, Taj, The Leela and ITC Welcomgroup, who operate hotels in all the major cities and throughout Rajasthan. The usual international chains also run major 5-star hotels in most Indian metropolises, but due to India’s economic boom availability is tight and prices can be crazy: it’s not uncommon to be quoted over US$300/night for what would in other countries be a distinctly ordinary business hotel going for a third of the price. Also beware that some jurisdictions including Delhi and Bangalore charge stiff luxury taxes on the rack rate of the room, which can lead to nasty surprises at check-out time.

One way of meeting interesting Indian travelers is by staying at an Dak bungalow. Also, called travellers’ bungalows or inspection bungalows, they were built by the British to accommodate travelling officials and are now used by the Central and state governments for the same purpose. They exist in many towns and some rural locations. Most will take tourists at a moderate fee if they have room. They are clean, comfortable and usually in good locations, but plain with ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, shower but no bath. Typically the staff includes a pensioned-off soldier as night watchman and perhaps another as gardener; often the gardens are lovely. Sometimes there may be a cook; his or her services will be free but you should buy ingredients.

Reliable electricity supply is present mainly in upmarket hotels. Brownouts are frequent, and many buildings have unsafe wiring. If you like having a beer at the bar or expect alcohol in the room fridge then make sure the hotel is more than 500 m (1,600 ft) from a highway.

  • Wood Carvings: India produces a striking variety of carved wood products that can be bought at very low prices. Examples include decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture and miscellaneous items that will surprise you. Check the regulations of your home country before attempting to import wooden items.
  • Clothing: It depends on the state/region you are visiting. Most of the states have their speciality to offer. For example go for silk sarees if you are visiting Benaras; Block prints if you are in Jaipur
  • Paintings: Paintings come on a wide variety of media, such as cotton, silk, or with frame included. Gemstone paintings incorporate semi-precious stone dust, so they have a glittering appearance to them.
  • Marble and stone carvings: Common carved items include elephants, Hindu gods/goddesses. Compare several of the same kind. If they look too similar bargain hard as they are probably machine made.
  • Jewellery: Beautiful necklaces, bracelets and other jewellery are very inexpensive in India.
  • Pillow covers, bedsets: Striking and rich designs are common for pillows and bed covers.
**All travel information has been sourced from wikivoyage. However like wikipedia, wikivoyage is an open platform editable by any member of the public. Therefore, although very useful, all above information IS INDICATIVE ONLY and must be verified prior to personal use. Moreover, if you wish to see more information please visit: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/India
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Name: Taj Mahal
Location: Agra, India
The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.

Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (U.S. $827 million). The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India's rich history.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal
Name: Amer Fort
Location: Amer, India
Amer Fort is a fort located in Amer, Rajasthan, India. Located high on a hill, it is the principal tourist attraction in Jaipur. It is known for its artistic style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake, which is the main source of water for the Amer Palace.

Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas, or "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace. The palace was the residence of the Rajput Maharajas and their families. At the entrance to the palace near the fort's Ganesh Gate, there is a temple dedicated to Shila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult, which was given to Raja Man Singh when he defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amer_Fort
Name: Kerala backwaters
Location: Kerala, India
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast of Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both man made and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.

The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways. In the midst of this landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and end points of backwater cruises.

Many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants, and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs, various leafy plants, and bushes grow alongside the backwaters.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala_backwaters
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