India Travel Info
India is quite simply bamboozling. Home to a billion people, it is a multi-cultural melange. With its in-your-face attitude and diversity, from snow-capped summits to sun-drenched beaches, peaceful temples and riotous festivals, traditional villages and cutting edge contemporary cities, it is quite probably the world's most multi-dimensional destination. With the help of an India travel guide, this nation will never cease to awe, inspire, frustrate and fascinate the visitor. Ultimately, it's a place you'll never forget.
What to see
An almost biblical landscape: dust roads populated with carts pulled by loping camels, and rickshaws; fields dotted with women working in vivid saris and men squatting outside small villages where cow pats, used as fuel, dry on the roofs. Explore forts and palaces in the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and the ‘blue city’ of Jodhpur . The ‘golden city’, Jaisalmer , perches on the edge of the Thar Desert . Romantic Udaipur captivates with fine architecture and a scenic lake palace.
The picturesque town of Cochin with its traditional Chinese fishing nets, lies at the coastal fringe of this verdant landscape of idyllic backwaters. Explore spice bazaars and wildlife sanctuaries.
Beuatiful and peaceful McLeod Ganj , or ‘Little Lhasa’ is surrounded by snow covered peaks and home to exiled Tibetans including the Dalai Lama. Catch the Himalayan Queen, also known as the ‘toy train’ from the very English hill station retreat of Shimla . Cool down in the vast tea plantations of Darjeeling and Assam .
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
The chaotic city of Agra is the unlikely home of one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. The glistening marble façade of Shah Jahan’s monument to love shines under the moonlight like ‘a tear on the face of eternity’.
Experience religious fervour in perhaps India’s most holy city, on the banks of the sacred River Ganges . Take a boat at sunrise and row past funeral pyres at the burning ghats, and pilgrims washing in the dirty but divine water.
Deserted capital of the last great Hindu empire, scattered over a bizarre landscape of giant golden-brown boulders.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Deep in the eastern tracts of Madhya Pradesh, this park is rich in animal and birdlife, including leopards and tigers.
Take in the latest Bollywood blockbuster at one of Mumbai’s mega movie houses, which feature huge screens, wrap around sound and rowdy audiences.
When to go
Weather & Seasons: India has three seasons: hot, cool and wet. Heat starts to build in February, peaking in June. In May there is high humidity prior to the monsoon rains, which start in the south in June and spread north throughout July, ending in October.
Important dates and festivals: Among the manyfestival highlights is Holi , the Festival of Colours, held in March. It’s chaotic and fun with waterfights and coloured dye being hurled everywhere. In Autumn the Festival of Lights, Diwali, is celebrated with particular enthusiasm in Northern India, where fireworks are lit along with candles and oil lamps. The atmospheric camel fair at Pushkar, the largest livestock market on earth, is held in October/November.
Getting there / around
Flights: There are international airports in Mumbai , Calcutta , Delhi , Chenna i. The domestic airline network connects over 70 cities.
Rail: India has the second largest rail system in the world. Always chaotic but surprisingly organized at the same time, it is the best way to experience the country. Express, deluxe and sleeper buses also cover long distances.
Road: Cars can easily be rented with or without a driver (international driving permit required).
Other transport for getting around urban areas includes cycle and auto-rickshaws bargaining is essential.
City Breaks: India is vast, and although it has a decent transport network, getting about takes time. Far better that you focus on an area than try to cram too much into too short a period of time.
The Golden Triangle: Travelling from Delhi to Agra and Jaipur before returning to Delhi, is the all-time classic India quick trip. Slightly longer is the circuit through Rajasthan from Delhi to Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur and back to Delhi.
Longer Trips: For a smattering of the north and a taste of the south, take in Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan before flying south to Cochin and the beaches of Kerala. If you have more than a month to spare, you can investigate the north or south more fully, tackle a Himalayan route from Srinagar to Kargil, Ladakh, Leh, Keylomg, Dhanakar and Shimla, or explore Sikkim and the northeast states.
Language Guides: Indian English Language & Culture from Lonely Planet provides a portable introduction to the country. The Lonely Planet India Phrasebook contains excellent sections on language basics
Overall Country Guides: India travel guides from Lonely Planet , Rough Guides , Berlitz Handbook and Time Out offer excellent country coverage.
Country Maps: Gizimaps , ITMB and Reise Know-How produce reliable, accurate India maps.
Regional Maps: Reise Know-How have a series of excellent regional maps and Leomann have a series covering the Himalaya.
Trekking maps: Editions Olizane provide good coverage of Ladakh.
The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters for an excellent introduction to a series of subjects, presented here in an anthology of short articles;White Mughals and The Last Mughal for insights into India’s history;
City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi for an account of daily life in Delhi orNine Lives for an examination as to how India reconciles its sacred, traditional past and its vibrant, pioneering present.
Look out too for India In Slow Motion , No Full Stops in India and India's Unending Journey by Mark Tully
A Fine Balance is a compelling novel focusing on two friends who leave their lower caste rural lives for the urban opportunities. is a sprawling, gritty saga telling the story of an escaped Australian convict who settles in the Bombay slums and immerses himself in life there. See also The White Tiger and Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga, or Under the Banyan Tree by RK Narayan, The Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.
Indian food is different from the rest of the world, not only in taste but also in cooking methods. Influenced by various civilizations, it reflects a perfect blend of various cultures and ages. Dishes are particularly known for their spiciness.
Food in the north reflects strong Central Asian influences. Kashmiri cuisine uses rice as a staple whilst Punjab and Uttar Pradesh rely on chapatis. In west India the desert cuisine is famous for its flavour, with Rajasthan and Gujarat known for their variety of dals and achars (pickles and preserves). Along the coastline of Mumbai a wide range of fish is available and celebrated dishes include Bombay Prawn. In Goa there is a distinct Portuguese influence with typical dishes including vindaloo, sorpotel and egg molie. In the east, Bengali specialities include a delicacy called Hilsa, which is wrapped in pumpkin leaves and then cooked. In the south the states make use of spices and coconut. Local dishes to try in Kerala include lamb stew and appams, Malabar fried prawns and dosas. Simply delicious!
Sight & Sound
Film: For an introduction to India watch the films Slum Dog Millionaire, Monsoon Wedding, Ghandi or Earth, Water and Fire.
Music: Listen to The Rough Guide to the Music of India and Pakistan. Keep an ear open also for Asha Bhosle, one of Bollywood’s most prolific and eclectic singers, Nikhil Banerjee, one of the finest sitar players of his generation and Ravi Shankar, India’s most famous musical export.
Hindi is the national language. There are, however, 14 other official languages.
Rupee (INR) made up of 100 paise
UK and US citizens require a visa before entering India.
Innoculations for BCG, Cholera, Hep A, Hep B, Diphtheria, Typoid and Yellow Fever are recommended. Malaria is also present in parts of the country.
Safety, FO travel advice
Stable and safe if you’re sensible - beware of petty scams and opportunistic theft though.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Indian country representatives can be found
in the UK atIndia House, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA. Tel:- 020 7836 8484
and in the US at2107 Massachusetts AvenueNW, WashingtonDC, 20008. Tel:- 202 939 700
There is a tourist board
in the UK at7 Cork Street, London, W1S 3LH. Tel:- 020 7437 3677
and in the US atSuite 1808, 1270 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Tel:- 212 586 4901
For more information visit www.incredibleindia.org or www.indiatraveltimes.com .