India Travel Info & Guide

For Foreign Nationals

Passport & Visa

Passports are required for all travellers. You will need a full 10-year passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned return date of tour. Passports may be obtained by post from any Passport Office located in the travellers home country, and also through main post offices. Obtaining a passport may take up to 30 days time, therefore travellers are advised to obtain passports well in time for their travel, bearing in mind additional time may be needed to obtain a visa.

All foreign nationals are required to travel with a valid passport and visa to India. For the purpose of acquiring visa; an application form duly filled and complete in all respects must accompany an original passport (valid with minimum six months period remaining prior to the due date for its renewal) along with correct visa fee, passport size photographs and all necessary documents. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your return from India and have at least 2 blank pages.

The Indian High Commission in the UK has outsourced the Indian visa processing to VFS Global. Visa processing for US citizens has been outsourced to BLS International Services Limited. Likewise Visa processing for Canadian citizens has been outsourced to BLS International Services Limited as well.

Citizens of countries other than the ones mentioned above are advised to apply for visa to the Indian Embassy or the Indian High Commision in their respective countries.

Insurance

We strongly recommend that all travellers purchase adequate trip cancellation, interruption, medical and baggage insurance prior to travel. It is imperative to carry the details of their coverage on tour. During the planning you may wish to check with your private insurance carrier regarding the terms of your coverage (or lack of coverage) outside your home country, including emergency medical evacuation.

Baggage

There are different sets of baggage allowance regulations in effect for international and regional flights. Baggage allowances can vary depending on which airline(s), class of service, and routing is used. Despite the information given here, you are urged to check with your booking agent or airline for the exact baggage regulations pertaining to your specific itinerary. Please be advised that baggage limits are adhered to very strictly on both international and domestic flights.

Every piece of registered baggage should be locked and contain identification inside (as well as outside) stating your home address and phone number. In addition, do not pack valuable items (such as your camera and jewelry) in registered baggage. We strongly recommend the purchase of adequate baggage insurance by each traveler. Liquids, Canned foods, knives, scissors, or other sharp objects that may be considered potentially dangerous should not be part of your hand luggage.

Health & Safety

Pack your personal medications in their original, clearly labelled containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is very useful. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician's letter documenting their medical necessity. If you have a heart condition, bring a copy of your ECG taken just prior to travelling.

If you take any regular medication, bring double your ordinary needs in case of loss or theft. You'll be able to buy many medications over the counter in India without a doctor's prescription, but it can be difficult to find some of the newer drugs, particularly the latest antidepressant drugs, blood pressure medications and contraceptive pills. However, quality medical treatment facilities and medicine required to follow any line of treatment are available in abundance and at a very competitive prices.

Dining

Avoid eating spicy foods when you first arrive in India, however tempting. Allow your system at least a day or two to get used to them, introducing one Indian dish with each meal for the first couple of days. After that it is best to stick with cooked foods, and remember to peel fruit before eating it. The best drinks to enjoy with your meals or to quench your thirst are the bottled mineral waters, other bottled drinks, coffee and tea.

What to Wear?

When visiting places of worship and mausoleums there are certain Indian religious customs to be observed. As a token of respect, it is customary to remove your footwear before entering all temples (a pair of light socks is useful if you prefer not to go barefoot), and dress should be fairly conservative, i.e. shorts are not really acceptable. In Jain and Hindu temples leather goods such as belts, shoes and bags will not be permitted.

Money & Costs

There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travellers cheques you may bring into India, provided a declaration is made in the currency declaration form given to arriving passengers. However, cash, bank notes and traveller cheques up to US $10,000 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry. For safety and convenience we would advise that you take the majority of your money in travellers cheques. It is advisable to change your money through authorized banks and hotels. Hotels are probably the most convenient option, as their rates are usually only a little poorer than the banks. Always keep your receipts, as you will need them at the end of your tour if you wish to convert your rupees back to your own currency. Remember, you must present your passport whenever you change currency or travellers cheques. Commission for foreign exchange is becoming increasingly rare; if it is charged, the fee is nominal.

Modern 24-hour ATMs are found in most large towns and cities, though the ATM may not be in the same place as the bank branch. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus. Banks in India that reliably accept foreign cards include Citibank, HDFC, ICICI, UTI, HSBC, the Punjab National Bank and the State Bank of India. Away from major towns, always carry cash or travellers cheques as backup. These ATMs will give you money in Rupees only. To get cash in Dollars, you will have to go to American Express in Delhi only.

The units of Indian currency are the rupee and the paise. There are 100 paise in the rupee. Paper money comes in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees and coins are available in 50 paise and in rupee coins of 1, 2 and 5. All major credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants and government shops, as are travellers' cheques in US dollars, Pound Sterling or Euros.

Electricity

The electrical current in India is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC). There are two types of wall outlets in India: large, three-pronged ones used for large appliances such as refrigerators and air-conditioners, and smaller ones that take plugs with two round prongs, like those used in continental Europe. European round pin plugs will go into the sockets, but as the pins on Indian plugs are somewhat thicker, the fit is loose and a connection not always guaranteed.

Consider making a small investment in a universal adapter, which has several types of plugs in one lightweight, compact unit. Most laptops and mobile phone chargers are dual voltage (i.e., they operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts), so they require only an adapter. These days the same is true of small appliances such as hair dryers. Always check labels and manufacturer instructions to be sure. Don't use 110-volt outlets marked "for shavers only" for high-wattage appliances such as hair-dryers.

Mobile/Cellular Services

While traveling to India, you will want to stay in touch with your family and friends back home. You might also want to contact fellow travelers whom you met along the way. Using the international roaming services of your service provider can work out quite expensive. A cheaper option would be to buy a prepaid SIM in India. By planning ahead of your arrival into India, you can come armed with the right type of mobile device and the necessary documentation that will help you easily get a prepaid SIM card. Here’s what you need to know.

Phone Specifications

In most western countries, mobile phones are locked to the frequency of a single mobile services provider. If you have a dual, tri band or quad band phone that works on 900 MHz or 1800 MHz, all you need to do is get it unlocked, so that it will work in India. It’s useful to have a dual SIM phone, as then, all you have to do is insert the new prepaid Indian SIM into the additional slot. Most service providers in India don’t offer micro SIM cards, so if your phone comes with only that option, it might be better to get another unlocked phone with the regular SIM.

If you are going to use a mobile phone in India only for voice calls and messaging, without accessing the Internet, then buying a phone in India is another option as a range of affordable GSM phones is available (prices starting from $30). However, make sure that you buy it from the mobile phone services company or an authorized seller. Avoid buying a phone from a street hawker (irrespective of how cheap it is) as it could be stolen property. In addition, it would have no warranty in case it stops working after a day or two.

Documentation

With the Government of India tightening regulations on the sale of prepaid SIM cards to foreigners, you need to be prepared to submit the following documents to the vendor along with an application form.

1 - 2 color passport photographs of yourself.
2 - A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification, after which it will be returned to you.
3 - A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original visa for verification.
4 - A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license or any other Government issued document. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
5 - Proof of where you will be staying in India. A letter from your hotel confirming that you are a guest will suffice.

Where to buy SIM card

On arrival in India, you can buy a SIM card at the international airport from the kiosks of mobile service providers such as Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, Idea, and Aircel, which are located almost immediately after you clear customs. Alternatively, you can also buy the SIM card from the stores of the cell phone vendors in the downtown areas, including shopping malls. The procedure for activation is similar with both options.

If you have the required documentation handy, all you have to do is fill up a form and submit it to the vendor. Once the documents are verified, you can purchase the SIM immediately (approximate costs Rs.550 or $10) and will get a 10-digit mobile number. Usually, the SIM is activated within 24 hours, after a confirmation call is made to your mobile phone for verifying the details provided in your application.

If you plan on traveling to several locations in India, be sure to get roaming activated on your SIM. Otherwise, you will have to buy separate SIM cards at every new place that you visit. As per new regulations, a SIM is valid only for a three-month period after which it will have to be reactivated.

Internet

Internet can be accessed by using your laptop with the help of Wi-Fi i.e. seamless connection in the Hotel room itself or by visiting Internet cafes in the vicinity of the Hotel. Charges for using internet in cafes are based on hourly basis and quite reasonable.

Transportation in Delhi

Taxi

Look for the Delhi Traffic Police Prepaid Taxi Booth to the right just outside the international terminal entrance. It costs about Rs 220 to Central Delhi; there’s a 25% surcharge between 11pm and 5am. You’ll be given a voucher with the destination on it – insist that the driver honours it and, if not, return to the booth. Never surrender your voucher until you get to your destination; without that docket the driver won’t get paid. At the domestic airport, the prepaid taxi-booking counter is inside the terminal. For city travel, your hotel will assist you with a reliable Taxi service.

Metro

Delhi’s outstanding Metro system has extremely efficient services with arrival/departure announcements in Hindi and English.

Shopping

India is a shopper's paradise with the promise of some excellent buys! However, as a measure of precaution, always check on the levels of import duty levied for items that you wish to purchase. Many local shopkeepers may claim that there is no duty levied, but this could be incorrect information. Please try and carry back all the goods that you purchase with you to avoid storage charges. If you are planning major shopping, please seek information and advice from customs authorities before departing on your tour. When shopping for expensive items such as precious stones, carpets etc, the shopkeepers may guarantee the authenticity of the item, but expert knowledge is essential to ascertain their true value.

For general shopping we recommend the Government Emporiums, and the shops in the hotels where quality and price are a little more reliable. You will find a huge choice of goods, from fashion bags and shoes, to Indian silks and handicrafts. Do not forget that any item that is more than 100 years old is banned from export out of the country, as is ivory, crocodile skin and other wildlife products. We pride ourselves on the quality of our sightseeing guides. Please note that bargaining is common in India at most of the establishments except at the Government Emporiums where prices are generally fixed.

Disclaimer

The above information is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief. It is current at the time of publication. We regret we cannot accept any responsibility for any changes on advice or information given. The advice given is a genuine effort on our part to make your stay as pleasant as possible.