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India Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +5.5

Electricity

230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of power outlets are used in India, but most plugs have two or three round pins.

Language

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.

Travel Health

There are many health risks associated with travel to India. 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 is common, particularly in the northeast of the country. Outbreaks of cholera occur frequently. Travellers coming to India from an infected area should hold a yellow fever certificate. Rabies is also a hazard; travellers should get immediate medical advice if bitten.

Food poisoning is the most common problem among travellers to India. Visitors should only drink bottled water and ensure that the seal on the bottle is intact. Avoid ice, as it's often made from tap water. Meat and fish should be eaten with care in all but the best restaurants, and should always be well cooked and served hot. Salads and unpeeled fruit should be avoided.

Health facilities are adequate in the larger cities, but limited in rural areas. Travellers should have comprehensive medical insurance, and carry a small first-aid kit complete with a travellers diarrhoea kit and a course of general antibiotics.

Tipping

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.

Safety Information

Although the vast majority of trips to India are trouble free, there are some risks that travellers should be aware of. As in many countries, there is a threat of terrorism; in the past there have been attacks in popular tourist haunts like hotels, markets and temples. Travellers should take caution at large religious events, where huge crowds can result in life-threatening stampedes.

On a more everyday level, there is a risk of minor theft, 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 keep it close. Visitors should be on guard; if someone offers a 'business opportunity' that seems too be good to be true, it probably is.

Female travellers should note that there are rare incidents of rape and assault. Women should respect local dress codes and customs, and avoid travel to secluded rural areas, including beaches, at any time of day.

*General elections are taking place in India between 11 April and 19 May 2019. Visitors are advised to exercise caution and avoid large gatherings associated with the election process.

*On 17th April, Jet Airways announced the cancellation of all domestic and international flights. Affected passengers can contact Jet Airways directly for information on alternative arrangements. For more information, passengers can also go to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website

Local Customs

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 they may be 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

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.

Communications

The international access code for India is +91. International calls are expensive and there are often high surcharges on calls made from hotels. Buying a local SIM card is a good option, as international roaming fees can be high. Free wifi is offered at cafes and hotels in major cities.

Duty Free

Travellers to India over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 100 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 125g tobacco; two litre bottle of alcohol; medicine in reasonable amounts; and goods for personal use. Prohibited items include livestock, bird and pig meat products.

Our Travel Expert

Philippa was born with the wanderlust gene, and is always looking for the next exciting destination to explore. Nothing makes her happier than travelling the world, and her favourite country, the one she keeps coming back to, is India.

>Read Philippa's tips on India
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