About India

Location

South Asia

Population

over 1.2 billion people

Official Language

English and Hindi

Indian currency

Indian rupee

Surrounding Countries

Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar

Surrounding Oceans

Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea

Best time to visit

October to March

Religions

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam

Major Terrains

The Himalayas in North, Thar Desert in West, Plateaus in the middle, Oceans in the south

Voltage

Electric voltage in India is 220 volts

Visa Application

https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html

Dos and Don'ts In India

Dos

• If you are attending a function and someone is walking around putting a mark on everyone’s head, feel free to accept it. No one will think you have converted to Hinduism. It’s also fine to refuse if you are not comfortable. Non-Indian women can wear a bindi when they are out (especially if they are attending a function like a wedding), but it is best to only wear it with Indian clothes.

• If you are attending a puja, just stand politely. After the puja is finished, you may be offered some food or someone may want to make a mark on your forehead. Both of these are fine for you to accept or reject as you are comfortable, but your Indian friend would prefer you to accept. Also, since the home is seen as a kind of temple, remember to take off your shoes when entering temples.

• Adopting a special diet Hindus are very accepting of others eating meat, but it will help build rapport if you order vegetarian when you eat with them, especially if you mention the benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle. If you are hosting a Hindu for a meal, check if they are vegetarian before preparing the menu. Eggs, fish, and things cooked in chicken broth are not considered vegetarian.

• You are welcome to visit a temple, but it is best to do it along with your Hindu friend. Some temples do not allow foreigners into certain places, so be respectful and check before doing anything like taking a picture. When someone goes for a pilgrimage, they will often bring back some sweets from that place. Make sure you eat them as it is considered a service to you that they have done this.

• To save you from frustrations about delays, cancellations and other random situations that will pop up, always try to have a “plan B”.Whatever changes will happen in your initial plan, they will build a new experience, which will open a different part of India for you.

• If you are not coming with a tour company with a predefined plan, try to make most of the arrangements for your trip at least 3 weeks before arrival. In India, intercity transport tickets disappear faster than falling stars.

• Learn to bargain: Everyone does it and you should not be an exception. Pricing is generally higher for foreigners since there is a misconception among sellers in India that tourists are rich.

• Go local: Try to build your journey around the festivals to get a better understanding of Indian culture.

Don'ts

• DO NOT be offended by intrusive questions: *It isn’t the most comforting situation when someone randomly pops up a question about impending marriage with your travel partner. In India, asking people about their jobs, income or even family matters is considered a “bonding” exercise. You may find it probing and intrusive back home but consider it to be an ice-breaker here and play along. You may choose to be discreet or silent about the question, but do not get offended as it is not the intention.

• DO NOT wear skimpy clothing:* Indians are conservative by nature and customs are still given priority over comfort. It doesn’t matter, if it’s sweltering hot outside, if women or men (for that matter) have not much to cover them, they will be stared at. Bikinis have found their way to the beaches of Goa and metro cities are gradually opening up to the right to dress, however, these are only a handful of places and it is always better to take precautionary measures. If you are “dressed up” in short or tight clothes, make sure you are travelling in a group of trusted people at all times, better safe than sorry right?

• DO NOT strike up religious/political conversations:* Do not be fooled by the countless Indians you encounter indulging in the same, India may seem united and secular but there are many cracks and crevices and it is best you avoid discussing sensitive topics like Kashmir, religious divide and political affiliation while in India, chances are you’ll either enrage someone, or get a propaganda-like response in an attempt to sway your opinion.

• DO NOT display affection publicly:* India is again, slowly opening up to this, but take your risk and indulge in PDA, and as a result, you would have made people around you angry to the point that they blame your culture, upbringing and what not. In India, some things are best done behind closed doors, remember that. There are a few places where even holding your partner’s hand is unacceptable.

• DO NOT assume 2 men are gay if they are holding hands:* India still is a somewhat homophobic society and yet you will find men holding hands, this is very evident but it isn’t a sign of their sexual orientation, it is a sign of their friendship. While belonging to the LGBT community is okay and a personal choice, in India, it is a taboo that is slowly being uprooted. Assuming someone is gay if they held another person’s hand is like offending them.

• DO NOT think of beef when you see a cow. (You will see many):* Cows are sacred to Hindus, and Muslims don’t like pigs. You are not going to be seen positively if you say you eat beef, typical reactions range from shock to disgust, to anger. Also note that many restaurants in India are vegetarian, pescetarian or may offer chicken. A few offer steak and the like, but it is almost always buffalo meat and not cow meat.

• DO NOT trust people easily:* Like anywhere else in the world, India has it’s a fair share of trustworthy people and those who can’t be trusted. Unfortunately, foreigners with open minds and hearts have had a bad time because they trusted the wrong person. Embrace the inner cynic in you when you come here, people will overcharge you for pretty much everything, you may be duped into something like calling a Redstone college the Red Fort or even be tricked into going to unsafe places. You are going to be better off if you do your research, travel in a group or at least think twice when you are approached by the overly friendly person. They may be genuine and you will come to know in time, but con men are wandering about everywhere and foreign skin is bait.

• DO NOT drink tap water: *Where tap water is safe, like 5-star hotels and the like, it will be explicitly stated. Otherwise, you are safest sticking to bottled water. Be careful though, buy bottled water only from a stall or an established store and not from a hawker on the street. Brands trusted here are Aquafina, Kinley, Bisleri, Himalayan, and Oxyrich.

• DO NOT give “new-age” gifts:* In India, a vast society of so many different cultures, you never know when you offend someone. Alcohol as a gift should be used only when you know the person consumes it, similarly, white flowers are not to be gifted because they are used at funerals in India. Here, your best bet is taking a box of sweets or something related to your culture.

• It is generally considered as good manners to remove shoes and sandals before you enter someone’s temples. In some temples, people are not allowed to enter into holy areas with their shirts on.