Kolkata Travel Information
240 volts, 50Hz. A variety of power outlets are used in India, but most plugs have two or three round pins.
Although English is generally used for official and business purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. Urdu is the language common with the Muslim demographic. India has a total of 22 official languages
There are many health risks associated with travel to India and although no vaccinations are required for entry into the country travellers should take medical advice on vaccinations at least three weeks before departure. Outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya virus occur, both transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria outbreaks are common in areas above 6,562 feet (2,000m), particularly in the northeast of the country. Outbreaks of cholera occur frequently. Travellers from an infected area should hold a yellow fever certificate. Rabies is also a hazard, and should you get bitten by a dog, cat or rat it is best to consult a medical practitioner immediately. Travellers to the Himalayan Mountains should also be aware of the risks of altitude sickness.
Food poisoning is a risk in India: all water and ice should be regarded as contaminated, and visitors should drink only bottled water and ensure that the seal on the bottle is intact. Meat and fish should be regarded as suspect in all but the best restaurants, and should always be well cooked and served hot. Salads and unpeeled fruit should be avoided. Diarrhea is common among travellers to India and is best treated with re-hydration salts; however, if symptoms persist for more than two days visiting a private hospital is recommended.
Health facilities are adequate in the larger cities, but limited in rural areas. Travellers should have comprehensive medical insurance, and carry a standard first-aid kit complete with a course of general antibiotics.
In India, taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped; however, tipping is expected for other services (porters, guides, hotel staff and waiters in small establishments). In tourist restaurants or hotels a 10 percent service charge is often added to bills. 'Baksheesh' is common in India: more a bribe than a tip, it is given before rather than after service.
Travellers in India must be aware of, but not paranoid about, the threat of terrorism. Recent attacks in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Agra and Bangalore occurred in popular tourist haunts like hotels, railway stations, markets and temples. There is the threat that public places frequented by Western tourists in the metropolitan centres (Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai) may be targeted in future. Tourist areas such as Goa are also at risk. Travellers visiting large religious events are advised that these ceremonies, which attract hundreds of thousands of people, can result in life-threatening stampedes. Generally speaking it is best to avoid big crowds, but this is very difficult to do in India.
On a more everyday level, there is a risk of minor property left, such as pick-pocketing, but incidents of violent crime in India are low. Travellers using India's vast railway network are advised to lock their baggage, and to keep it as close to them as possible. There are also always stories about India involving scam-artists - so be on your guard, and if someone offers you a 'business opportunity' that seems too be good to be true, remember that it probably is.
Female travellers should note that rape is a problem in India, and there have been incidents of rape and assault on public transport. Women should avoid travelling alone after dark and avoid travel to secluded rural areas.
India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educate themselves about the countries religious and social customs so as not to cause offence: for example, smoking in public was banned in 2008. When visiting temples visitors will probably be required to remove their footwear and cover their heads. Generally, women should dress more conservatively than (perhaps) they are used to doing at home, both to respect local sensibilities and to avoid unwanted attention. Topless bathing is illegal. Indians do not like to disappoint, and often instead of saying 'no', will come up with something that sounds positive, even if incorrect. Social order and status are very important in Indian culture - remain respectful and obliging with elders. Avoid using your left hand, particularly when eating.
Business in India is conducted formally, with punctuality an important aspect. Suits and ties are appropriate, and women in particular should dress modestly. If it is very hot, jackets are usually not required and short-sleeve shirts are deemed appropriate. It is customary to engage in small talk before getting down to business, and topics can range from anything from cricket to politics. Business cards are usually exchanged on initial introduction, using the right hand only. Handshakes are fairly common, though one should wait to see if greeted with a hand, or a 'namaste' - a traditional Indian greeting of a small bow accompanied by hands clasped as if in prayer. Visitors should return the greeting as it is given. It is common for women to participate in business meetings, and hold high positions in companies, and foreign businesswomen are readily accepted. Business hours are usually from 9.30 to 5.30pm (weekdays) with a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm, and Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm.
The international access code for India is +91. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Delhi. International calls can be quite expensive and there are often high surcharges on calls made from hotels; it is cheaper to use a calling card. Alternatively, there are telephone agencies in most towns which are identifiable by the letters STD for long distance internal calls and ISD for the international service. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Internet cafes are available in the main cities and resorts.
Travellers to India over 17 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; one bottle of alcohol; medicine in reasonable amounts; 59ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette; and goods for personal use. Prohibited items include livestock, bird and pig meat products.
Become our Kolkata Travel Expert
We are looking for contributors for our Kolkata travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Kolkata or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.
Camels and castles in Rajasthan. Sleep on a Kerala houseboat and try a Himalayan homestay trek. Build your own India adventure.