India

India Travel Tips to Keep You Safe and Your Exploration of India a Joyful Experience

This is a “Must Read” for all visitors traveling to India on a vacation. Photos and illustrations will help you to understand the Indian culture and how to deal with different things throughout the India trip. (Last updated: May 2022)

By Mini Agarwal
taj mahal agra
Two friends have their picture taken with a foreign tourist in the garden of the famous Taj Mahal, Agra. Around eight million visitors flock to this architectural masterpiece annually. Photo by Pikoso kz

India Travel Tips and Advice

Even the most seasoned globetrotters will tell you that India is a land like none other. The land is mystical and beautiful at the same time, which can be quite intimidating for some. If you are from a western country, the first thing that will strike you is the dense population and of course the pollution and poverty that come along with it. Do not mistake this to be what India is all about. Beyond this urban cover that greets you as you get out of the airport, there is another India that hides some marvelous monuments, spectacular wildlife and fascinating cultural diversity. To know why India has remained a popular destination over the centuries and experience her fully, you need the tips we discuss below. We also give you information on minor issues that you probably did not think of!

We at Vacation India try our best to provide you with a comfortable experience throughout!

What Should I Carry for the Visit?
Train Travel in India – Does it Offer You Great Insight?
Drivers and Road Travel in India – Take Your Travel by Road in the Right Spirit
Your First Journey – Airport to Your Hotel
Currency & Money Exchange
Credit Cards & ATM Services in India
Tipping
Food & Drink
Clothing
Health During Your Stay
Drinking Water during Your India Tour
Photography
Voltage
Laundry
Swimming
Safety – You and Your Valuables
Do Your Bit to Remain Comfortable during Air Travel
Tips to Enjoy a Seamless Hotel Stay

 

welcome to india travel tips

A sign welcoming visitors spans a busy street. In India many different modes of transport usually share the same road space. Photo by Chokchai Suksatavonraphan


 

↳ What Should I Carry for the Visit?

This is the first question that might bother you. For one, it all depends on the trip you’ve chosen. Your ultimate aim must be to travel light. The ideal weight of your bag should be around 10 to 15 kilograms (22 to 30 lb.) You can bring along your suitcase but backpacks or rolling bags are ideal. Try to refrain from getting XXL ones. Also bring along a smaller bag in which to carry the bare essentials like water, camera, etc., during your sightseeing visits.

Checklist / Essentials

✔Original passport with photocopies of passport (front & back), air tickets, & travel insurance (recommended during Covid era)

✔Entry visa (mandatory) and certification of Covid vaccination (mandatory)

✔Travelers checks, debit/credit cards, and cash in USD or Euro; other currencies like AUD, CHF, GBP, UAE dirhams are also readily accepted throughout India

✔Hotel vouchers / flight, train & cruise ship tickets from Vacation India given at the time of arrival

✔Prescribed medicines, basic first aid kit, travel sickness tablets, anti-diarrhea tablets, and a general-purpose antibiotic

✔Insect repellent (can be bought cheaply in India also, Odomos is a good brand) and sun creams with minimum SPF 15

✔Winter clothing if you are traveling India between October and March (months of November to February are especially cold). No winter clothing required for South India Tour, as it remains warm throughout the year.
 

Items of Personal Comfort and Safety

✔Flat walking shoes & sandals and sports shoes (try to avoid leather shoes), as you need to walk a lot during sightseeing in India since monuments in India sprawl over a huge area

✔Day backpack

✔Wet wipes and moist towelettes

✔Flashlight, sunglasses, hat, sunblock

✔Eye blinders and ear plugs for use during journeys

✔Swimwear and towel

✔Women’s sanitary products

✔Light shorts and long trousers

✔Pants and tracks suits for hiking/trekking

 

vacation india banner at agra fort

Our clients from the USA pictured in front of the Red Fort of Agra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site © VacationIndia.com


 

↳ Train Travel in India – Does it Offer You Great Insight?

If you want to meet educated middle-class Indians and enjoy the magnificent views of the countryside, then taking a ride on the train is the best way to do so.

India trains can easily be booked online through the following Indian Railway website irctc. Booking is quite easy and seat occupancy is always up-to-date. Printing the e-ticket is not mandatory and you can use either your email confirmation or SMS (applicable only for phone with Indian SIM cards) to show to the ticket checker during your journey. Booking can also be done offline through any reservation counter at all railway stations in India. The tours of vacationindia.com include all the train tickets as part of the package tour and those will be handed over to you at the time of arrival in India.

India boasts the largest railway network in the world but unfortunately, it’s not the most organized one. Looking at the brighter side, the large network means that it has a reach deep into the heart of India and is among the best ways to explore the country. The fact that India is a highly populous country is reflected in its railway stations. Trains are the preferred mode of transportation in the country as they are the cheapest.

The Indian railway system is very active and has over 12617 trains running on the tracks on any given day. Total passengers on the move and traveling on these trains daily is said to be some 25 million (2.5 crore) which equates to about 1.8% of India’s total population. There are more than 7000 railway stations in India and the Indian Railway employs approximately 1.5 million people, making it the largest employer in the world.

VacationIndia endeavors to bring you a comfortable experience on trains!

For this reason, we make use of AC First Class and AC 2 Tier for overnight journeys. For day journeys, we use of AC chair car seats.

AC1 (AC First Class) consists of four berths in a couchette with a sliding door that locks. AC2 Tier is one lengthy coach with four berths, which all have curtains for privacy (instead of a sliding door as in AC1); it looks like in the image below.

Our Trip Golden Triangle with Ranthambore National Park includes a train journey

Ac First Class India Train

Four berths of AC First Class in a train of Indian Railway. For privacy AC First Class has a slider door. Pillow, blankets, and bedcovers provided free of cost in AC First Class and AC 2 Tier trains. Often the meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are included in AC First Class and AC 2 Tier trains of Indian Railway


india rail travel in air conditioned coach

Four berths with privacy curtains in AC 2 Tier coach of an Indian Train


travel in second ac indian railway

Two girls busy on their mobiles in an AC Two Tier coach of Indian Railway. Photo by Sandhya Mandal


ac 2 tier coach of rajdhani exoress

A porter dressed in typical red uniform carries a passenger’s luggage to a AC 2 Tier carriage at the New Delhi Railway Station. The train is a Rajdhani Express superfast passenger train. Photo by PradeepGaurs


ac chair car indian train delhi to agra

AC Chair Class in the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi to Agra


sleeper class train travel indian railway

Passengers sit on their berths in a sleeper class carriage traveling from Jaipur to Jodhpur. These carriages do not have air conditioning. Photo by Giannis Papanikos


train india

Passengers, in a general unreserved coach, look out the window of a train in Kerala. India has an extensive railway system with around 7400 train stations around the country. Photo by idome


monique hartmann on ac 2 tier with vacation india

Our client Monique Hartmann from Germany during her travel in an AC 2 Tier coach of Indian train travelling from Vapi (Gujarat) to Mumbai © Monique Hartmann


India’s professional class tend to travel on these trains and this is an ideal place to meet one or two of them. In addition to the AC First Class and AC Two Tier, there is also the AC3 Tier which is made up of triple bunks (6 berths), however, these have no privacy curtains. Sleeper Class is similar to AC3 Tier with 6 berths but without air-conditioning. AC3 Tier could be a hotch potch of passengers. So, we recommend AC 2 Tier or AC First Class for travelling longer journeys in India.

Toilets: Toilets may be of particular concern to you. While these AC First Class, AC 2, AC 3 or AC Chairs might not sport pristine toilets according to western standards, you’ll still find them manageable. However, toilets in sleeper class (without air-condition) and second class (AC Chair car seats without air-condition) are a whole new story. In any way, when travelling on Indian trains regardless of the class, you’re requested to bring along your own toilet paper and soap. You will find both western commodes and squat toilets in the trains.

Food: Not all overnight trains have buffet cars or restaurants. However, most long-distance trains usually have a limited menu, and you’d be able place an order with an attendant. Menus consist of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian dishes like Chapati with chicken curry or dal (lentils), fresh cottage cheese curry or mixed vegetables accompanied by rice and yoghurt. Food in trains is normally good especially in flagship trains like Shatabdi, Gatiman and Rajdhani express trains. You’ll also find vendors on the train selling chai (tea), coffee, soft drinks, and packets of snacks like lays (I do not know what this is, do you mean Lays potato crisps), biscuits, Britannia cakes, Cadbury chocolates etc., which are good brands and safe to eat for foreigners as well.

Safety: Trains in India are generally considered safe, even for lone travelers and women (we use only AC First Class and AC 2 Tier for longer journeys and AC Chair car or Executive Class for shorter ones). That being said, you should not throw caution to the wind. During longer journeys secure your luggage with chains and padlocks for your own peace of mind. Chains and padlocks are sold in almost all railway stations. If required, your guide or driver will help you to buy them. Know your stop and prepare yourself in advance to get off. Keep personal valuables close to you, preferably on you. Beware of distractions. AC coaches are guarded round-the-clock by railway police guards specially trained for the safety of train passengers.

Vacation India also offers luxury train journeys like the Palace on Wheels (journey through Rajasthan), a good choice if you dislike changing hotels each night. The best luxury train trips for South India are the Golden Chariot – Pride of South (Karnataka) and Golden Chariot – Jewels of South (Tamilnadu & Kerala), which visit quieter towns that have some of the most impressive medieval palace and temple architecture in India. These journeys start from $3600 per person for a week, including all meals and excursions (flights extra).

 

palace on wheels luxury train travel

Passengers boarding the luxury Palace on Wheels train in Jaisalmer are treated to traditional Rajasthani music. Photo by Mazur Travel


luxury train travel

The luxury Deccan Odyssey train with its plush interior reminiscent of a by-gone era, provide passengers with a unique travel experience


 

↳ Drivers and Road Travel in India – Take Your Travel by Road in the Right Spirit

With Vacation India, when you are on a road journey, we ensure that you travel in the comfort of modern sedan cars like Toyota Etios, Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Innova Crysta or in an air-conditioned minibus. If your group consists of more than five people, the air-conditioned Tempo Traveler is used. Whereas, if there are up to 4 people you will be transported in a roomy Toyota Innova. At Vacation India all our tours are private, and you have access to chauffeur driven cars. Taking a trip on the roads in India will be an adventure that will definitely spike your adrenaline levels. Although most of the major tourist cities in India are well connected with expressways and highways, traveling on the roads between small towns and in the cities is slow. When you drive in the cities, be cautious and move at an average speed of 40-50kph (30mph) because the roads are sometimes shared with pedestrians, animals, and huge vehicles. The average speed on highways is normally between 80 and 120 kph (50-75 mph)Traffic Rules: Don’t expect everyone to follow traffic rules and incessant honking is a part of road traffic in the country. Expect the streets to be in a helter skelter state and somewhat chaotic with beggars and sometimes even children, especially at the traffic lights in the cities. During night driving you’ll be amazed at the number of drivers who simply drive using high beams that blind you.

Travel Time: Expect even short distances to take quite a while. If you’re caught in the monsoon rains, or unpredicted traffic congestion it might take even longer. The secret is to keep calm and find humor in chaos.

Using Local Taxis: Rather than walking down the street and waving at taxis, have one booked through your hotel or through VacationIndia.com. Alternatively, you can use the services of aggregators like Ola or Uber through your smart phone by downloading the app. If you have to take a taxi on the road, go to the nearest taxi stand as only registered ones will be parked there. Keep your belongings by your side and luggage on the seat.

If you decide to go downtown, it’s a good idea to walk with a card from your hotel to assist the drivers who may be having difficulty understanding English.

On the plus side, at Vacation India you’ll be in the safe hands of an experienced driver who knows the “real” traffic rules of India. You can feel confident with our drivers as they are very cautious, honest and polite. We ensure that they receive training on how to drive with sense and not follow the bad local habit of blowing their horn all the time. The important thing is to enjoy the surroundings as you drive through the countryside while not letting the traffic snarls bother you.

If you want to make contact with our travel expert, our drivers are equipped with mobile phones, and they would be delighted to assist you. Unfortunately, you will seldom find drivers in India who have a sound knowledge of the English language and so they cannot have a long conversation with you in English. However, they do have enough knowledge to help you with the basic needs like meals, stops for pictures, shopping or comfort stops. Remember, in India the drivers, guides and representatives perform different roles and are not replacements for each other!

If you wish, you can buy local an Indian prepaid SIM card for calling purpose. Kiosks of national operators like BSNL, Jio, Airtel or Vodafone can be easily found at arrival terminals of all the international airports of India. Our airport representative can assist you in buying a SIM. If you forget to buy a SIM at the airport, do not worry, our driver or guide will help you buy one from the local market on the next day of your trip. The cost of a SIM card includes unlimited free calling within India and around 1-2 GB data per day. If you want to use an Indian SIM card for your mobile phone, you must confirm with your own country’s provider that your phone is unlocked.

When you decide to go on your local excursions and sight-seeing as per the itinerary remember that your driver is available for you. If you will require his assistance after your excursion, please make sure you inform him well in advance so he can make himself available. A daily allowance is given to the drivers for accommodation for every night of their trip. Some drivers may choose to stay at lodgings provided by the hotel that you are at, while others may go elsewhere. In that case it may take a little time for the driver to reach your hotel, so inform him well in advance if you require the car after the sightseeing hours. For example, if your sightseeing is done by 6 pm and you are back in the hotel to rest, but then decide to have dinner at 8 pm in a restaurant outside the hotel and you need a car for the transfer, please inform your driver or your Vacation India Travel expert at least half an hour beforehand. You can send an SMS or WhatsApp message or simply call. Today WhatsApp is commonly used and the best way to connect during your India tour.

At Vacation India, in case you want to visit a place not included in the itinerary (within the city limits), the driver and guide will never refuse to go or waste time trying to clear the trip with head office. We have instructed our drivers to change itineraries and adjust sightseeing timings according to the client’s wishes.

Please Note: Free extra kilometer services are not possible at some selected Indian destinations or itineraries. So please consult our travel advisor at the time of confirming the tour with us!

vacation india clients with innova car

Miguel Angel Ara Allue and his family from Spain in front of a Toyota Innova Crysta. They are pictured with one of the staff of the heritage hotel in Rajasthan © VacationIndia.com


vacation india clients with guide vipul

Our Spanish speaking guide Vipul pictured with one of our clients. In the background is a Maruti Suzuki Dezire © VacationIndia.com


10 seater luxury tempo traveller for tourists

An 8-10 Seater Luxury Tempo Traveller, ideal for 4 or more passengers


mumbai pune expressway india

The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, India’s first six-lane highway travels through tunnels and passes in the Sahyadri Mountains. India has some of the best highways and expressways in the world. In the last 20 years, infrastructure has been one of the top priorities of an Indian government. Photo by Dinesh Hukmani


jammu kashmir highway india

The highway between Jammu and Kashmir circles around a mountain top. Photo by Umar Malik


distance sign boards on indian highway

A sign board spanning the National Highway 52 indicates the distances to various cities. This highway connects a number of major cities like Delhi, Dausa, Ajmer, Jaipur and Bharatpur. Photo by Raj Bhaskar


toll booth on indian highway

A series of toll tax booths on the six-lane highway between the main tourist cities of Agra and Jaipur. Photo by thala bhula


taj expressway between agra delhi

A bird’s eye view of the Taj Expressway crossing a river. It is India’s third longest highway and one of the best expressways in the country with an elevated road for 200 km. Now the journey from New Delhi to Agra takes just 2 hours. Photo by Maneesh Agnihotri


costa coffee on taj express way

Fast food outlets on the Taj Expressway. International fast-food chains like Costa Coffee, McDonalds, Dominos, Subway and Pizza Hut are quite common on the highways and expressways of India. Of course you will find Indian food chains like Haldiram, Bikanerwala and other local cuisine Indian restaurants as well. Photo by PradeepGaurs


metro in delhi india trave tips

Traveler waiting for a train in a metro station in New Delhi. Major Indian cities like New Delhi & NCR, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kochi, Jaipur, Agra, Mumbai, Chennai have world class metro systems. Photo by Gritsana P


cycling in delhi in early morning hours

Cyclists enjoy an early morning ride in India’s capital city, Delhi


↳ Your First Journey – Airport to Your Hotel

All Vacation India Trips include private transfers to and from airports and railway stations, as well as the services of a company representative at airports and railway stations at all destinations in India. However, in some cases travelers book part of the services like hotel bookings or air tickets themselves instead of booking the complete tour package. For such cases, we have laid down certain tips for the travelers, so that they can arrange the transfers on their own!

You’ll be met by a frenzied crowd of touts and taxi drivers once you get out of the airport, and especially at railway stations in India. This can be quite intimidating. Here are a few tips to navigate through these chaotic situations.

Taxi at Airport: Upon landing at the airport, the most convenient way to reach your hotel is by taxi. Most airports have desks where you can pay in advance for taxis into town and avoid having to bargain. Use the one that’s managed by the Delhi Traffic Police in Delhi or Mumbai Traffic Police in Mumbai, as other similar prepaid taxi services might not be legitimate. There are some private taxi counters as well. Once you state your destination at the counter, you’ll be asked to pay a fixed amount in advance and be provided with a printed slip. You will give the printed slip to the driver of the designated taxi only once you reach your destination, even if the driver demands it beforehand. If the driver demands more money, stay calm and politely refuse. Of course, you can tip the driver once you reach the destination but that’s entirely up to you. Rupees 50-100 (USD 1-2) would be an ideal tip.

Tip: Many hotels can also arrange transfers and excursions using their own cars.

Taxi at Railway Station: To your utter surprise, you’ll find that the taxi stands at Indian railway stations teem with taxi drivers or tuk-tuk drivers who will surround you to offer their service. Politely refuse and head straight to the prepaid taxi counter.

Tackling the Touts: Touts are everywhere in the airport vicinity, even at hotel reservation counters. They’ll try and get you to book with them at all costs. The tout may even say that your booking is cancelled, and you’ll have to rebook. Simply ignore such touts. You don’t even have to strike up a conversation or reply to them.

Book an “Arrival Transfer” through VacationIndia: If you’re traveling in India for the first time, it’s highly recommended that you opt for our “Arrival Transfer Services.” You’ll find our representative waiting for you with a placard that has your name and our brand name “VacationIndia.com.” The representative will escort you to the taxi that we have already booked for you. All you need to do after your baggage claim is to look for our representative for a pleasant exit out of the airport. For any emergency or late arrival or flight delay you can email us at info@vacationindia.com or WhatsApp at our 24/7 Number: +91-99274-65808 or call us at our 24/7 Number +91-70600-09787

indira gandhi international airport new delhi

The different mudras of Buddha at the arrival terminal of the Delhi International Airport. Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi is one of the world’s busiest airports as regards to passenger traffic. Photo by saiko3p


victoria terminus in mumbai

The iconic blue and yellow taxis of Mumbai passing by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) of Mumbai, a historic railway station and a World Heritage Site. Photo by saiko3p


taxis at delhi international airport

Prepaid taxis waiting for passengers outside Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. These prepaid taxis are cheap and can be booked through the “Prepaid Taxi Booth” located outside the arrivals terminal. They are run by the Delhi Traffic Police. Photo by Marion Smith – Byers


prepaid taxi booth at delhi airport

A youth books her prepaid taxi at the Traffic Police Taxi Booth at Delhi’s international airport. The booth is situated outside Terminal 3. Photo by PradeepGaurs


meru cabs delhi airport

Meru taxi service desk at Delhi International Airport Terminal 3. Meru is a private taxi provider with desks at Delhi International and domestic airports. Photo by PradeepGaurs


taxis at indira gandhi international airport new delhi

A line of NCR radio taxis parked at Delhi Airport. Run by the Meru Cabs Company, they are a reliable app-based and pre-booking taxi service in India. These taxis are authorized to drop clients not only in Delhi but also in adjoining cities like Noida, Gurgaon, Greater Noida and Gaziabad. Photo by PradeepGaurs


yellow taxis kolkata airport

A symbol of Indian transport since 1921, Ambassador taxis wait for passengers outside the arrivals terminal at Kolkata International Airport. Photo by Phuong D. Nguyen


vacation india tourists

This photograph was taken with our clients from the USA, when dropping them off at Agra Cantt Railway Station for their trip to New Delhi © VacationIndia.com


tuk tuks at railway station agra

India is home to millions of tuk-tuks, the gas-run(CNG) auto rickshaws that transport passengers all over the cities. Here they are waiting for passengers arriving at the railway station at Agra Cantt. Photo by Paulose NK


yellow taxi howarah station kolkata

Howrah Railway Station which serves the Kolkata metropole is the largest and oldest railway complex in India and one of the busiest in the world. A number of the famous yellow taxis wait for passengers to arrive. Photo by Roop_Dey


tuk tuks waiting for passenger delhi railway station

Tuk-tuks and taxis waiting for passengers at the New Delhi Railway Station. Photo by saiko3p


fleischers vacation india

Our client Mr. Fleischer from Germany posing in Namaste posture in front of a tuk-tuk near the City Palace in Jaipur © VacationIndia.com


 

↳ Currency & Money Exchange

Notes in regular circulation are in denominations of rupees (INR) ₹5, ₹10, ₹20, ₹50, ₹100, ₹500 & ₹2000. There are 100 paise in a rupee and there are coins of rupees 10, 5 or less, going down to 1 rupee.

Not every place you visit is going to accept plastic money, although most businesses accept Visa, Master and American Express credit cards. You might find some businesses that charge an extra 2 – 4% for the use of credit cards. It’s vital that you carry some cash with you. You will find ATMs all over the country, so it’s not going to be a major issue. However, we recommend that you carry some cash along with travelers check in US dollars. There are several private money exchanges throughout the urban areas that will readily accept all major foreign currencies like US dollars, Australian dollars, Canadian dollars, euros, pound sterling, etc. We advise you to check the prevailing exchange rates online before conversion. Currently, one USD equates to roughly rupees 75 (June 2022)

Exchanging Travelers Checks or Currency into Indian Rupees?

Exchanging currency could be a time-consuming job during your India Tour. At Vacation India, we have instructed our guides and drivers to assist our clients in getting their currency exchanged into Indian rupees (INR). You will be taken to the right place, where you get the best possible exchange rate.

✔We recommend our clients to exchange money at private firms as exchanging money through Indian banks could be a long-drawn-out process

✔Always have a photocopy of your passport and visa ready at the time of exchanging the currency. You might be asked for it

✔Always ask for the receipt or invoice for the currency exchanged, especially if you have any reservations pertaining to the transaction

✔You may also do currency exchange at the airport at the time of your arrival. Exchange rates at airports are quite low, so you may choose to rather exchange your money in a local exchange shop

✔If you wish to have Indian currency on your arrival in India, just let us know in advance. Our representative or driver will provide you with Indian currency on your arrival when you give him the equivalent foreign currency.

Please inform your Vacation India travel advisor well in advance!

 

new currency notes after demonetisation

New Indian currency notes in circulation after the 2016 demonetization when old currency notes were scrapped, and new currency notes were brought into circulation. Photo by Shrayash Gupta


indian currency 100 rupee note

Old 100 rupee note front and back, which is still valid. Although old currency notes were scrapped in 2016, old notes below the denomination of 500 are still valid. Do not hesitate to accept old currency notes below 500 rupees. Photo by S Creator


indian currency 50 rupee note

Front and back of old 50 rupee note. Old 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 rupee notes are still 100% valid in India even after demonetization and the introduction of new currency notes. Photo by RAMNIKLAL MODI


currency exchange india travel tips

Ten-rupee notes on display at a street exchange office in Srinagar, Kashmir. Since many Indians have adopted digitalization of payment, there is often a huge shortage of small rupee notes in India. Photo by Vlad Karavaev


 

↳ Credit Cards & ATM Services in India

There’s no doubt that credit cards are both safe and convenient, especially during your exploration of big cities in India. All hotels with star ratings of 3 and higher, big malls and shopping centers, large restaurants, supermarkets, and even retailers readily accept foreign credit cards. The same is not true when it comes to smaller cities where acceptance of credit cards is fairly low, compelling you to carry some cash while traveling there.

ATMs conveniently handle this problem, especially when you travel abroad. ATMs are found all over India. Even rural areas have ATMs, although they are fewer in number. In India, there is a limit to the amount that you can withdraw from an ATM in 24 hours. The amount can range anywhere between INR 10,000 and 25,000. A surcharge of 2% to 3% is also charged on each transaction.

Some tips for using ATMs:

✔Always enter the booth alone

✔When you withdraw cash, conceal your pin number while keying it in the machine

✔Count the cash before you exit the ATM booth. The road is not the place to count your cash as you may attract undue attention

✔To remain safe, withdraw money during the daytime. If you are obliged to withdraw money during the night, choose a bright spot

✔At Vacation India our drivers and guides are ready to locate the ATM, if you need any cash withdrawal.

 

icici bank atm tips india

ATM of ICICI Bank in the Indian city of Pune. ICICI is the largest private sector bank in India. Photo by VIVEK PAYGUDE


 

two bank atms adjoining each other

Two men stand at the ATMs of the Indian Bank and Punjab National Bank located at Bangalore Railway Station. Photo by WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS


 

↳ Tipping

Even though we feel that you can tip as an expression of gratitude and appreciation for a job well done, and although it is a practice long accepted in India, we also do not want you to feel obligated to do so. We are sure that our drivers and guides will provide you with the best quality service at all times, for which you may be happy to tip them. However, at Vacation India we do not mandate that tipping for any of our services is compulsory; the choice is always yours.

For waiters: 5% of the total billed amount is considered ideal. At the time of paying the bill, please check for Service Charge (not GST, goods or service tax, which goes to the government) included in the bill. If you find that there is a service charge of 5-10% on the restaurant bill, then you are NOT required to pay any extra amount as tip

For drivers: This tip is for the entire group and not per person. For a half-day service rupee 200-300 (USD 3 to USD 5) and rupees 500-1000 (USD 8 – USD 12) for a full day. If you’ve engaged the driver for multiple days, rupees 600-900 per day (USD 8-12) would be ideal

For local guides: This tip is per group and not per person. A tip that ranges between rupees 250 to 500 for half a day and 500 to 1000 (USD 7-14) for a full day is adequate. The tip should depend on how knowledgeable and communicative the guide is

Porters, coolies at railway stations and bell boys in hotels: Rupees 50 for each bag

Beggars: Avoid giving them money but if you have to, don’t exceed rupees 5-10

Sadhus and swamis (religious ascetic or holy person): If you wish to photograph yourself with them give rupees 20. Else, you don’t require to give them any money

Shoe handlers outside religious places: Pay a maximum of rupees 20 for 2-3 persons together; most display the costs

Pay to use toilets: Price is usually displayed and must not exceed rupees 10-20. Please note that in monuments and restaurants you don’t need to pay any person for the use of toilets. It’s free of charge

Temple offerings: Not compulsory, but if you wish, anything between rupees 10 to 20 would suffice. Moreover, never give any money to temple priests. If you want to donate some money as temple offerings, there is always a donation box in every temple

Representative of your travel agency: The representatives of Vacation India who assist you with boarding at the railway station, on arrival in the airport or check-in at the hotels, may be tipped anywhere between 200-400 rupees (USD 3-6) for two clients traveling together

Tuk-tuk or cycle rickshaw: Rupees 20 to 100 depending on the travel experience and time taken

If you still find yourself wondering how much to tip, feel free to consult our travel advisor or your accompanying guide for advice!

 

guide jantar mantar jaipur

A guide explains the workings of one of the nineteen astronomical instruments in the Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur. These instruments were built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of the city. It is now a World Heritage Site. Photo by Radiokafka


vacation india clients 2

Our client Theodere Schörder from Germany with our driver Madan and guide Rathore next to their private Toyota Innova Crysta car © VacationIndia.com


 

↳ Food & Drink

India’s cuisine is quite varied and does so according to the particular region. Generally speaking, however, fresh wheat breads, rice, vegetables, paneer (fresh cottage cheese), chicken & mutton, aromatic spices and pulses are used throughout the country. During your India Tour in places like Agra, Rajasthan and New Delhi in the north, you will find heavier, thicker and richer curries, with meat, including the popular lamb and chicken. On the other hand, when you venture south in the tropics, tamarind and coconuts can often be found in several dishes and seafood is a favorite.

Vegetarians have very little to worry about when it comes to meals, as they are well catered for in India. However, vegans should note that ghee which is clarified butter is used in many dishes. Normally dishes and curries in good restaurants including restaurants in 5 star hotels are prepared in refined oils and absolutely safe to consume. Butter is also used in many dishes like Dal Makhani (lentil curry) and Butten Chicken).

While in India, it is a good idea to eat meals that are freshly prepared. Truth is that in the smaller towns you really have little choice but to eat at your hotel restaurant with the exception of a few local places to eat. Our drivers and guides will always help you to choose the best restaurant for your meals.

If you love strong beverages, then Indian beer, gin, whiskey and rum are fine. However, we do not recommend that you buy local country/rural liquor. Where there is wine available it can be quite expensive, so before you place your order it’s a good idea to check the price. Indian wines like Sula, Grover La Reserve, Vallonne etc. starts at rupees 700 ($10) and goes up to rupees 3500 ($50). In a restaurant the same wine may cost 2-3 times more. You will also find that imported liquor is very pricey.

The immune system of Indians is considered stronger than that of westerners owing to the environment that they live in. In other words, food that might not make an Indian sick might make someone from the western countries extremely sick. So, exercise caution before consuming street food. Street food is delicious if you buy from places that are popular, where you can see the food being cooked and coming out of the pans, etc. Very few westerners seem to do it and they are missing out on lovely grub! We recommend you try the popular street food joints in Old Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata for an authentic local cuisine experience.

Tip: Eat moderately for the first few days. Allow your system to get used to the changes!

 

mc donalds india

Woman sitting next to the famous McDonald’s mascot in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Indian McDonald’s fast food outlets offer numerous varieties of chicken burgers, the signature fish burgers, fresh India cottage cheese burgers and the all-time favorite of Indians, vegetarian aloo patty burgers (potato filling). As beef is banned in India, you won’t find beef burgers in joints like McDonalds, Burger King or Subway. Our favorite is a double patty chicken McGrill burger with extra mint sauce. Photo by Salvador Aznar


subway dominos india

International food joints like Subway and Domino’s Pizza are quite famous in India. You find them in almost every Indian city. The people of India are slowly replacing traditional Indian cuisine with more junk food like pizzas, burgers. Indian snacks like Samosa, GolGappe, Kachodi, Bread Pakoda, Aloo Tikki, Chhole Bature, Vada pao, Paneer tikka, Momos, Masala dosa……are a few of the famous Indian snacks every foreigner should try. You can try these delicious snacks at various famous and branded food joints like Haldiram and Bikanerwala. There are many local brands also which are equally good. Sweet dishes to try are Ras malai, Gajar Halwa (carrot pudding), Milk Cake, Gulab Jamum, Jalebi with Rabri…… Photo by Abhishek Sah Photography


must try chole bature during india tour

A popular Indian afternoon meal of chole bhature. It consists of chola. a curry made with chickpeas and is usually served with fried bread called poori or bhatura, and pickled onions. Photo by Gaurav Masand. Photo by gaurav Masand


indian delicacies chicken preparations

An array of favorite non-vegetarian Indian dishes served for dinner in a restaurant. Tandoori Chicken with fresh onions, Butter Chicken, Mutton Curry, Veg Biryani (rice with vegetables and saffron) and assorted naans (fresh bread with garlic or butter). Among the favorite vegetarian dishes are Palak Paneer (fresh cottage cheese with spinach curry), Dal Makhani (lentils cooked in butter), Paneer Makhani (fresh cottage cheese in buttery tomato gravy), Dum Aaloo (potatoes and dried fruit curry) . Photo by sundaemorning


street food india travel tips

Locals enjoying traditional street food Bread Pakoda and Vada Pav at one of the many food stalls on the streets of Mumbai. Photo by LMspencer


dosa sambhar south india dish

Crispy South Indian dish called Masala Dosa with sambar and coconut chutney served in an Indian restaurant. It is a thin pancake with lentil and vegetable curry with curry leaves. A must try. Photo by Rainbow_dazzle


indian popular snack samosa with tea

Don’t forget to try samosas with hot Indian Masala Tea. Samosas are a famous Indian snack, and is a triangular dough filled with potatoes and some spices, and then fried in oil. It is served with mint sauce and tangy sweet chutney. Photo by Ephotocorp


haldiram india fast food chain

People eating snacks outside a Haldiram outlet in Chandni Chowk, old Delhi. Haldiram in a popular food chain serving Indian sweets and snacks. They serve takeaways or you can dine in an air-conditioned restaurant. Photo by PradeepGaurs


sweets shop in vrindavan

Peda is a traditional sweet originally from Uttar Pradesh and is made of milk, sugar and flavorings like cardamom, pistachios and saffron. Also on display for sale is yoghurt. Here a vendor sits in his sweets shop in Vrindavan, a sacred, historical city in northern India. Photo by PradeepGaurs


famous mutton curry preparation inlive kitchen

An Indian restaurant chef preparing mutton curry in his open kitchen. Photo by PradeepGaurs


restaurant overlooking taj mahal agra

A woman with hennaed hands enjoying a traditional meal in a rooftop restuarant with views of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Henna has been used for centuries in India as a natural way of staining hair and skin. Photo by Pikoso kz


lassi in varanasi street tour

Different flavors of the popular Indian yoghurt-based drink lassi sold in the streets of Varanasi. Photo by Elena Odareeva


 

↳ Clothing

The attire you wear in India will be primarily determined by the local culture and weather! Generally, the dress code in the hotels in India are not strict; even the ones that are exclusive. They allow you to dress in an elegantly casual manner in the restaurants.

For your comfort we recommend that you wear cottons that are light and easy to wear and of course a good pair of airy comfortable walking shoes. Closed shoes are better because sandals tend to leave your feet dusty and can cause the pebbles on the streets to irritate your skin. Don’t forget your cotton socks, a pair of sunglasses and a shady hat for sight-seeing.

Take note that when you are visiting some of the attractions like temples, mosques and monuments you should try to avoid wearing tops without sleeves and short skirts. In some instances, you may also be asked to take off your shoes; in such cases socks come in handy because by afternoon the stony walkways of some of the monuments can be extremely hot.

In Northern India, including Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan, you will find that at night and early in the morning the temperatures are pretty low, particularly throughout the months of November through February. It can reach as low as freezing point, therefore make sure that you have the appropriate clothing to keep you warm. We recommend you carry a pair of woolen gloves, jackets and sweaters. Thermal wear is most comfortable.

If your travel includes arid place and coastal areas like Mumbai and Goa, including all destinations in South India, we recommend light cotton clothes. Warm clothes are not required on your travel to South India at any time of the year.

Not many heritage hotels in the middle-range or forest lodges have central heating, so travel with sleeping clothes that would keep you comfortable and warm. Wearing slippers indoors is advised as the floors may not be carpeted, although heaters are provided in most of the budget hotels.

In mid-winter it is usually snowy in the majority of the hill stations including Shimla, Mussoorie, Kashmir Leh & Ladakh (The Himalayas), Darjeeling and Manali, and the hill regions are quite cold.

When you are visiting the wildlife parks you may have to dress in different layers of clothing. In the early morning it can be very cold on the game drives in the open back vehicles, so you will need your mittens, mufflers, and different layers of clothing. However, as the day heats up you can adjust the clothing to suit the weather.

The type of shoes you wear in India is very important. We recommend those that are sturdy and comfortable, given the fact that most of the time the ground is dusty, dirty, rocky, and rugged. Avoid wearing leather shoes or shoes with high heels. As you need to walk a lot in monuments and during sightseeing, comfortable sport or casual shoes will be ideal. In some instances, flat sandals are preferred because they give your feet good ventilation in the hot and humid weather of India.

Dress according to Indian sensibilities: Urban areas or cities like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai are less conservative; however, you’ll be more comfortable avoiding low-cut shorts, miniskirts, ripped cloths, and tank tops. Ideal attire for women is loose, non-revealing cloths. You could opt for Indian salwar kameez, which is a combination of trousers and tunic top in the Indian style. If you still choose to go with revealing clothing, know that you will not be allowed inside sacred places, which are often centuries old. In essence, you’d be missing a great visual treat and spiritual experience. Cotton shirts, t-shirts, trousers and tops are ideal.

Tourist posing for a photo sitting on the Diana bench at the Taj Mahal Complex in Agra. Lotus Pool – Names after its lotus-shaped fountain spouts, the pool reflects the tomb. Almost every visitor is photographed sitting on the marble bench here


people india

Mothers in colorful saris gather with their children at a local goldsmith in Jodhpur. Indian women are very fond of gold and silver jewelry and they often keep changing their designs by hiring a local goldsmith. Traditionally women start wearing saris on a daily basis from the age of sixteen. Photo by Yavuz Sariyildiz’s


kovalam beach kerala

A light breeze moves the skirts of two young girls on a beautiful beach of Mararikulam in South India. Photo by Jovana Bila Dobaic


 

↳ Health During Your Stay

Your government would have already issued some health and safety guidelines.

We hope that you have followed the recommended health precautions, which include having the relevant vaccinations and prophylactics for malaria (if required). We bring you certain tips and suggestion in conjunction to those.

Corona vaccination certificate is mandatory to travel to India and should be uploaded to government’s Air Suvidha Portal along with other personal details before taking flight to India.

Meds: Ensure that you are up to date with your immunizations and health checkup. It’s advisable to carry a first-aid kit. If you are on any regular medication, please bring it along as sometimes we travel deep into the heart of India where medical facilities are not as accessible as they are in urban areas. The pharmacies in India may not sell the same brand of medicines that are sold in the West. Therefore, bring the medicine formula and your doctor’s prescription along. In case of any emergency, doctor’s services are available at most of the tourist destinations in India. Vacation India provides full support to our travelers in case of any emergency. Also consider buying health travel insurance, if possible.

abhaneri stepwell india travel tips

Our clients from Colombia and Spain with our company banner at the famous Abhaneri Stepwell. Most of our North India Tour itineraries include a visit to this stepwell, which other companies often miss. This stepwell is 1000 years old and with its thousands of steps is unique. © VacationIndia.com


 

↳ Drinking Water during Your India Tour

Insist on bottled water and check the max retail price on the bottle. If a higher price is demanded, move on to the next store. Completely refrain from drinking water from taps, wells, or glasses served in hotels. The only places that you can drink water from a glass are 4 or 5-star hotels. Famous brands in India are Himalaya (most expensive), Aquafina (Pepsi), Kinley (Coca Cola), Bailey and Bisleri (trusted Indian brands). Don’t buy the brands other than mentioned here. Completely avoid using ice from outside. Using ice in hotels is safe.

At Vacation India, we provide sealed bottles of drinking water of reputed brand names in the car for our clients at absolutely no charge!

Most of the 3-5 star hotels including heritage hotels provide two complimentary 500 ml water bottles per room every day.

col drink and water kiosk delhi

A kiosk near the India Gate in Delhi, selling bottled drinking water and soft drinks. Photo by sravants


mehrangarh fort jodhpur

Rajasthani women in traditional dress collect plastic bottles for recycling at Fort Mehrangarh in Jodhpur. Between 50 and 80% of all plastic manufactured in India is recycled


 

↳ Photography

Normally there is no fee for taking cameras into monuments, but some monuments like the Jama Mosque in Delhi charge a fee for cameras. Video cameras have a fee around 50 cents in most of the monuments. In some private monuments it is higher. The camera and video camera fees are not included in your tour price, and you have to pay directly at the point of entry. Our guides will facilitate the payment on your behalf. Tripods are not allowed in any of the monuments of India managed by the Archaeological Survey of India. But in some cases, prior permission can be acquired from the local office of Archaeological Survey of India. In most Hindu, Sikh, and Jain temples, photography is not allowed at all. Please ask your accompanying guide or driver for more information, when visiting any religious place in India.

photography tips

A young visitor at one of the temple complexes in ancient Hampi takes a picture of the colonnade. This 14th century fortified city is littered with the remains of more than 1600 structures. Photo by Murgermari


kids in jaisalmer

A group of children hold hands as they rush down a sand dune in Jaisalmer in the heart of the Thar Desert. Photo by Bartosz Hadyniak


holi festival

Two local children pictured with foreign visitors at the ancient Holi Hindu Festival. Also called the Festival of Love, it is a colorful, merry event where people drench themselves and others in bright colored powder. Photo by Pikoso kz


 

↳ Voltage

The electric voltage in India is 220 volts. Most English electric appliances work well in India but a universal adapter is needed. This can be bought in India and should also be available at the airport you fly from.

↳ Laundry

While most hotels offer laundry facilities/services at a small extra charge, you might be put up in hotels in some places where this facility is not offered. We urge you to bring along a non-polluting/biodegradable detergent or soap for this purpose.

↳ Swimming

Please note that modesty, even around swimming pools is much appreciated in India. Topless swimming or sun-bathing or very revealing swimwear may cause offense and should be avoided. Please note that due to the cool nighttime temperatures from November to February, most hotel swimming pools in the north will not be comfortable for swimming. Some high-end 5-star hotels have heated swimming pools. For those visiting South India and especially the coastal states of Goa and Kerala (Mararikulam Beach and Kovalam Beach), many beach areas do offer swimming opportunities. However please be very careful about local swimming conditions as most beaches are not properly patrolled and undertows, rips or other dangerous currents may occur.

Tip: Topless swimming or sun-bathing is not allowed on Indian beaches. Refrain from wearing very revealing swimwear to avoid any undue attraction.

yoga at goa beach

Yoga enthusiasts from overseas visit the Arambol Beach in Goa and practice asanas as the sun sets, casting them in a golden light © Otar Gujejiani


fun at beach in 4goa

A group of western tourists enjoying the waves and playing in the sea at one of Mandrem’s two beautiful quiet beaches, Goa, India


 

↳ Safety – You and Your Valuables

We urge all travelers to take their respective government advice seriously. The governments all over the world maintain updated information on their websites.

Valuables: Typically, your valuable items would include cash, debit/credit cards, travelers’ checks, passport, and airline tickets. We advise you to keep them safe in a neck or waist purse. Jewelry is best left behind to avoid the burden of guarding additional valuables. Any valuables that you may have can be safely deposited in the hotel room as most hotels have safety deposit boxes in the rooms.

Personal time and exploration:
You will have leisure time during the trip which you can use for personal exploration of the area or to simply relax. Cities in your itinerary are considered generally safe both during day and night. However, to veer towards caution, we suggest moving in groups and making use of taxis for moving around. Avoid roaming at night!

Adventure: Adventure activities (like elephant rides, camel rides, tuk-tuk rides, Jeep safaris in national parks, etc.) may be a part of your package. We urge you to exercise caution during these activities and remain safe by adhering to the instructions provided by the experts who will guide you through them. At Vacation India, we make prudent decisions to keep you safe at all times.

Water sports and boat rides: Be attentive during the safety briefings, so that you’re prepared for an emergency. If the briefing says “wear your life jacket” do so. It’s wise to keep one hand free so that you can hold on to something. Remember that water is highly reflective, so apply copious amounts of sun protection. If you are a person who gets seasick, have meds handy.

Your documents: Back up all the vital documents (passports and visas) with photocopies and have a scanned copy emailed to yourself. Having a backup makes it easy to get a replacement for your documents through your embassy in case you lose them.

Insurance: Prepare yourself financially for any eventuality with travel insurance and travel cancellation insurance. Remember, every eventuality starts with “I never expected…” So prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

elephant ride amer fort jaipur tips

Visitors enjoy an elephant ride at Fort Amber in Jaipur. This huge palace in marble and red sandstone was built on four levels, each with its own courtyard. Photo by Moroz Nataliya


 

↳ Do Your Bit to Remain Comfortable during Air Travel

In-flight briefing is perhaps the most ignored safety aspect of a flight and we urge our travelers to pay attention. You need to know how to exit quickly and safely during an incident. In an emergency, the visibility and lighting might not be optimal; so, it’s wise to count the number of rows to the emergency exit.

Consuming too much alcohol is never a good idea. For one, it takes away the joy of sightseeing in the early morning hours. Also, since the cabins are pressurized, the alcohol might have a stronger effect than usual. Listen to the flight attendants and fasten your seat-belt to keep yourself safe.

tourist in amer fort jaipur

A tourist at the famous Ganesh Gate of Amer Fort in Jaipur smiles at the camera


 

↳ Tips to Enjoy a Seamless Hotel Stay

Hotels are generally considered safe in India. The hotels usually maintain high standards of hygiene and offer excellent service. Here are a few tips that will make you feel more secure

✔Don’t let your bags out of sight until they are ferried from the taxi/bus to the hotel lobby

✔Even in the lobby, keep an eye on your luggage, especially if it’s pretty crowded

✔Lock your doors after entering your room

✔Know all the internal numbers (reception, housekeeping, restaurant, etc.) of the hotel, including the emergency number

✔To avoid misplacing your key, place it in one specific place every time in every hotel room you stay in

✔If you are provided with a non-slip mat for the bath, make use of it

✔Most of the hotels provide 2 complimentary bottles of water in the room every day. If you are staying more than one night, do not forget to get it replenished every day.

oberoi amar vilas hotels tips

Friendly staff members at the luxury Amarvilas Resort and Spa, one of the luxury Oberoi group of hotels. Photo by Lunasee Studios


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