Most important list of FAQs and travel safety tips
Here is a list of FAQs and travel safety tips- a must read if you are traveling to India. These FAQs will address many of your questions about how, when and why to travel to India. They include tips and safety advice for women travelers, especially solo women travelers.
However, do go through my blog on "Top travel tips and recommendations for women travelers to India" for more on that subject.
This list of FAQs is ever growing but do feel free to send me any questions I may have missed!
Please use the comment section below or write to me.
India is geographically a very large country, with many starkly varying cultures, histories and people. If you like to explore in-depth rather than merely touching upon places, then I recommend spending time in one region during one visit. I can help you select places that will give you a good insight into the country, especially for the first-time traveller. On an average, I suggest at least 15 days, but those with less time can in an excellent experience in 10 days too.
It is well worth it to come back to see another region, which will be like visiting another country altogether.
India has unfortunately been in the news for the wrong reasons and while it is true that women must take more care of their safety here, it certainly would be incorrect to call it unsafe for women. And really it is should not be a reason to avoid India. (only the worst news always makes it abroad everywhere in the world!)
However, safety remains a major concern for women anywhere in the world. One of the compelling reasons to travel to India with the help of a travel consultant is safety. A pre-planned tour with all the bookings in place, safe and reputed hotels, reliable guides and drivers ensure that women travellers are never exposed to any risks, without missing out on any fun.
Women, especially those who travel solo, should read up thoroughly about Indian culture, how to dress, how to interact with Indians and identify safe localities etc. before arriving here. I will write more on this subject, so look out for that article soon!
Not necessarily. And let me tell you, it is a myth that everyone gets Delhi Belly in India. Infact there have been very very few people who have actually fallen sick on my tours.
While there is never any guarantee about these things, my mantra for guests is start slow and light with the food, let the tummy get accustomed to the spices, flavours and ingredients. Drink lots and lots of (bottled) water, and always eat a little less than you need to feel full. Although, this last bit of advice is an exercise in will power when you are looking at mouth-watering food three times a day.
Ofcourse, the major piece of obvious advice here is: eat in restaurants that are reputed and have a good number of people eating there. These will always be hygienic and safe. Roadside joints should be avoided. All the food 4 to 5-star hotels is safe including cut fruits, fresh juices, milk and any non-vegetarian dishes, but can be avoided in lower category hotels or where you have a doubt.
If you feel iffy about meats, India has plenty of vegetarian variety on offer. But if you really like your meats then don’t miss out on goat meat mutton and tandoori chicken!
All my guests travel on customized and pre-planned tours. This means they always have the benefit of eating at places that vetted and recommended by me. [ Do read "7 reasons to travel pre-booked and have a perfect holiday to India."
Mosquitoes are a problem at certain times of the year and in certain regions, so, it is always a good idea to take precautions while you are here.
It is recommended that travellers look up the recommendations of their country’s health departments, not just for malaria, but for all health issues and diseases. This is especially so if you are travelling off the usual tourist circuit and going to spend in rural areas or such.
However, for those restricting their visit to the usual tourist destinations/regions, simple but important precautions should be taken.
I always recommend that you wear full covering and light-coloured clothes especially early morning and evening. Also use mosquito repellent spray or cream (these are available locally too).
If you are eating outdoors and feel there is a mosquito risk, ask the management to light a mosquito repellent under your table. Hotel rooms have electric plug-in repellents, so ask for those. These steps are adequate to prevent getting bit and keeping you safe.
I have here the links of the health departments of the USA, Australia and UK which give advice on all health issue.
The internet makes it amazingly convenient to simply research and book online. That works very well for many destinations.
India, however, is a vast land with stark differences in quality standards. It is difficult to know if a hotel is actually as good as it seems on the internet. It is difficult to often figure out logistics and actual travel time by road because the most recent road conditions can never be known on the internet. You wouldn’t want to arrive in a city to realize that you have booked a stay that is too long for that city, or too short. Also, you don’t want to turn up without bookings because you will spend precious time figuring out places and quite possibly not getting any rooms at all. Getting stuck with an inadequate guide or realizing that you have missed some must-see things can leave one feeling frustrated. And in the unfortunate scenario of illness, a car breakdown or any other such emergency, it can become very difficult without support.
Traveling with the help of a travel consultant (like me!) saves you time, energy and the hassle of re-inventing the wheel.
With years of experience, tried and tested products and a reliable on-ground team, you can get straight to the business of enjoying a stress free, comprehensive, tailor-made and safe tour though India. Want to know more about how I can help you custom-design and book your trip? Write to me with your query for free consultation.
Depending on which part of the country you visit I would recommend slightly different times of the year. The weather in India is extremely varied.
Summers begin around April-May and are extremely intense and dry for the most part. The monsoons follow (collective sigh of relief) by the end of May, hitting the south-western coast in Kerala on arrival. Southern India gets lashed with torrential rain and high wind speeds. By the time the monsoon gets to the north, end of June, the fury is mostly spent, and the rains are heavy but intermittent. The humidity and heat are severe. Then the monsoon eventually retreats in September, hitting the south once again on its way out.
By October, it is quiet and dry again (sigh of relief, again). North India now heads slowly into winter and gets cooler and cooler. The Himalayas receive snow and the north Indian plains get icy breeze coming from those snowy mountains. December and January are outright cold and foggy (yet very nice to travel). Although we don’t have a proper spring (we just hurtle into summer) February and March are pleasant and perfect. South India, however, remains unmoved, and continues to be warm, and humid in parts.
SO, the idea is to come to India when the weather is cool and dry which is between October and March in north India. Most first-time visitors come to north and northwest India (that is where Taj Mahal, Delhi and Rajasthan are, to mention some known places). Many of my travellers have come in months outside this time frame, for example in September or April….this is not a bad time either, but somewhat warmer than what is considered ideal. Southern India is best visited in December and January.
Hotels in India are usually categorized by star ratings (even if such a rating has not yet been officially ratified). But on the whole, we talk about 5-star hotels as being a luxury, 4-star hotels as being very good with everything a discerning traveller expects, 3-star hotels are also good but with more basic amenities. Any quality lower than that often means compromising on a lot in terms of cleanliness, food, service and location.
Travellers looking for luxury will be pleased to find the very best in India. What surprises most of my clients is the high quality of service, rooms, food and facilities. India certainly set the bar very high when it comes to hospitality and luxury.
For the very discerning, luxury traveller there are very high-end hotels, which are even more exclusive than the 5-star hotels. These are the very best in service, (usually offering butler service), dining, rooms and spa facilities…and just about everything you can imagine.
Big cities and towns which see high footfall have the largest variety of hotels, from inexpensive to the very best of luxury. Many of these belong to chains with standardized hotels around the world. These are excellent but are considered by many to be impersonal and without character.
Those looking for more to the room than a good clean bed, will love the heritage hotels in India. These are located in regions where wealthy princely families once ruled (these happen to also be the regions that get the most tourists). After independence, they had the foresight to convert their lovely palaces, forts and mansions into hotels. These are typically charming, beautifully located, furnished with period furniture and fittings and offer warm personalized service. Many are being run as luxury hotels, which are in themselves destinations. Others are less expensive but nonetheless quaint and comfortable. One can usually find the owner (erstwhile rulers) also living there and personally overseeing the day to day affairs.
Cities like Delhi offer bed and breakfast stays or home stays. These are a fabulous way to have a homely feel, get to know local people and save money. Most are run very professionally by well-educated and internationally travelled hosts.
Yes, tourists coming to India must apply for a visa prior to arriving in the country.
You can apply for this at the Indian Embassy or consulate in your country, but now you can do that much more easily with an electronic visa or e-visa. Citizens of 161 countries may apply in this manner. This has made travel much easier for tourists who, once upon a time, would have to go through a lot of stress just getting their visas.
Apart from the visa, it is important that your passport is valid for 180 days from the date of arrival in India, that is has 2 blank pages, and that it is machine readable.
You should read up on the subject before applying so that there is no problem later. You may find these 2 links useful: