Top events in India

April
28

GoMissing Expeditions invites you to visit the Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal! See millions of rare flowers including the Blue Poppy and Cobra...

May
01

Usually held over the month of May when the gardens are in full bloom, visitors are invited to the Gardens of Gangtok to enjoy the visual feast of...

May
03

Buddha Jayanti celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha in different years. Buddhist sites in Delhi, most notably the Buddha...

Taj Mahal, India
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Taj Mahal, India

© 123rf.com / Ashwin Kharidehal Abhirama

India Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

3,287,263 sq km (1,269,219 sq miles).

Population

1.2 billion (2013).

Population density

371.4 per sq km.

Capital

New Delhi.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Pranab Mukherjee since 2012.

Head of government

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since 2004.

Electricity

230-240 volts AC, 50Hz. Some areas have a DC supply. Plugs are of the round two- and three-pin type.

India is a beautiful and bamboozling place, an endlessly fascinating country that is often challenging and always surprising.

Stretched between the golden beaches of the Indian Ocean and the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountains lies an incredible tapestry of natural and man-made wonders – astounding temples, mystical monasteries, frenetic cities, pristine national parks, lavish palaces, lost kingdoms, mesmerising markets and some of the world’s most iconic monuments.

Visiting India is an assault on the senses. Sights, sounds, smells and sensations are all experienced at maximum intensity. On day one, it can feel intimidating, but by the end of the first week, the noise and chaos will seem like an ordinary part of life. The sensory stimulation becomes strangely addictive.

India is one of the world's great melting pots, where an incredible diversity of cultures, religions and ethnicities live in surprising harmony. Presided over by an extraordinary array of gods and deities, one-sixth of the planet's population can be found here, living in anything from high-rise apartments and inner city shantytowns, to simple huts in remote villages where life has hardly changed in centuries.

You could spend a lifetime exploring the relics left behind by ancient empires and the country's dramatic landscapes, which range from tiger-filled jungles to frozen Himalayan deserts. On the first trip, almost everyone finds time for the so-called Golden Triangle, zipping from the colonial capital, Delhi, to the Taj Mahal at Agra, then on to Jaipur, the colourful capital of Rajasthan. With more time to spare, you can discover 32 UNESCO-listed sights, from creaking mountain railways and ancient fortresses to mangrove forests and temples overflowing with multi-armed deities.

Don’t expect to absorb all India has to offer in one visit; the country is best appreciated like a buffet table, with repeat visits to sample the next tantalising platter. And with India’s legendary cuisine, rest assured that on every trip, you’ll eat like a Maharaja.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 18 April 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Women should use caution when travelling in India. Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk. British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan and women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men. Serious sexual attacks involving Polish, German and Danish women travellers were reported in 2014. In January 2015, a Japanese woman was kidnapped and sexually assaulted close to Bodh Gaya and a Russian woman was seriously assaulted by an auto-rickshaw driver in the Vasant Kunj area of New Delhi. Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India even if travelling in a group.

If you are a woman travelling in India you should respect local dress codes and customs and avoid isolated areas, including beaches, when alone at any time of day. See these travel tips for women travellers.

Avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night. If you have to use a taxi get them from hotel taxi ranks and use pre-paid taxis at airports. Try to avoid hailing taxis on the street. If you’re being collected at the airport by a hotel driver make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off. If you are the victim of abuse call 100 for police assistance (112 from mobile phones).

If you are the victim of a sex crime see Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad.

Take care of your passport and bank cards, particularly when travelling by bus and train. Do not leave your luggage unattended on trains at all. There has been an increase in handbag snatching in Delhi.

Keep a photocopy of your passport, Indian visa and flight ticket separately from the originals when travelling. If your passport is lost or stolen notify the police immediately and obtain a police report.

Be wary of confidence tricksters, particularly in Goa, Agra and Jaipur, who promise large amounts of cash for delivery of jewellery abroad in return for an initial deposit. The jewellery is worthless and the deposit, often amounting to thousands of pounds, is lost.

Local Travel

Jammu & Kashmir

The FCO advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of (i) travel within the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (ii) travel by air to the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (iii) travel between these two cities on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, and (iv) travel within the region of Ladakh. Please note that the tourist destinations of Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg fall within the areas to which the FCO advise against all travel.

There has been an overall decline in violence in the state in recent years and an increase in the numbers of Indian and western tourists. There have been no recent reported attacks on visitors in the cities of Srinagar or Jammu.

Foreigners remain vulnerable in rural districts and outside the main population centres and tourist areas. There is a risk of unpredictable violence, including bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping. The long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The level of consular assistance that the British High Commission can provide in Jammu & Kashmir is extremely limited.

In July 2012, there was a grenade attack on a minibus carrying tourists at Bijbehara. Three people were killed, including 2 British nationals, and four were injured.

Other Northern States

The FCO advise against all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan other than travel across the international border at Wagah. Rocket attacks launched from Pakistani territory landed near Attari in 2009.

The border between India and Pakistan in Rajasthan is unmarked in some areas. Approaching the border away from an official crossing point could be dangerous, and where unmarked could lead to a visitor straying into Pakistan.

The FCO continues to receive reports of foreigners going missing in high and remote parts of the country. Trekkers should travel in groups and engage local guides. For the more intrepid climbers you will need special permits.

There are no commercial mountain rescue services operating above 3,000 metres. In some border areas only the Indian Air Force is permitted to carry out air rescues. However, they are under no obligation to perform air rescues and have limited resources to do so. Make sure your insurance policy covers you for altitudes over 2,400 metres.

East and North East India

The FCO advise against all travel to Manipur and against all but essential travel to Imphal, the state capital of Manipur. If you plan to travel to Imphal then do so only by air. There is a risk from insurgent groups, mainly in rural areas. Although foreigners have not been targeted, attacks can be indiscriminate.

There are sudden strikes called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in Darjeeling and the surrounding hills in North Bengal. If you intend to visit the region contact your local tour operator and hotel before travelling. Any strike action may affect the roads to Sikkim that run through the Darjeeling Hills.

Although the overall security situation in the north-east of India has improved, some areas within the north-eastern states, especially in Manipur and Assam, still experience sudden and random outbreaks of violence. Review your security arrangements carefully, seek advice from the local authorities and avoid large crowds.

There have been several recent incidents of violence in Assam including grenade explosions in Lakhimpur, Karbi Anglong and Guwahati which resulted in the deaths of 2 people. The Indian Home department has put Assam state on high alert. The Guwahati area is generally thought to be a ‘natural target’.

Violent extremist groups are active in the rural areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Odisha, and in remote parts of Bihar and West Bengal. There is a risk of violent crime in the rural areas of Bihar and Jharkhand. There have been skirmishes on the India/Bangladesh border. The Orissa government has imposed severe restrictions on the movement of tourists, especially foreign tourists, inside areas inhabited by tribes people.

Indian government permits are required for travel to Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. You should apply well in advance (at least 3 months). In India, you should apply at the liaison office of the state for which you require a permit or the Foreigners Regional Registration Office. Permits for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be issued on arrival in Port Blair but this is not the case for the other states. Permit regulations can change at any time. Contact the respective state liaison office or the Bureau of Immigration – India for the latest guidance.

Western Region

The FCO advise against all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, except for travel across the international border at Wagah.

On 1 August 2012, there were a number of small explosions in Pune. One person was injured.

The India/Pakistan border in Gujarat is unmarked in some areas. Approaching it away from an official crossing point could be dangerous and where unmarked could lead to you straying into Pakistan illegally.
There continues to be some inter communal tension in Gujarat which can lead to isolated incidents of violence.

In Mumbai, there is a risk of armed robbers holding up taxis along the main highway from the airport to the city in the early hours of the morning. If you are using this route during these times, arrange to travel by coach where possible or seek advice at the airport on arrival.

In Mumbai, the international and domestic airport terminals are a large distance apart and it is not possible to walk from one to the other. If you are transiting between international and domestic flights you can use the free shuttle services if you have an onward connection on your ticket. You will not be able to use the service once you exit the terminal building. Both terminals also have pre-paid taxi facilities. At the international terminal, these can be reached from inside and outside the terminal building. At the domestic terminal, prepaid taxi facilities are accessible only from inside the terminal building. There have been reports of scams at both terminals with unofficial taxi drivers demanding exorbitant sums of money once you are inside the cab. Only use either prepaid taxis or metered taxis.

After you clear customs and immigration at Mumbai airport, be wary of approaches by thieves posing as Government officials.

Southern India

Following the announcement, on 31 July 2013, of the intention to divide Andhra Pradesh into two separate states, there are ongoing, sporadic demonstrations and agitation, both in Hyderabad and the surrounding region. In Hyderabad, the areas surrounding the Secretariat, Khairatabad, Tank Bund, Indira Park, Osmania University and LB Stadium are most affected. Other cities including Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Anantapur are also affected. In some areas outside of Hyderabad, transport and other essential services are subject to ongoing disruption as a result of associated strikes. Avoid demonstrations and check your travel plans in advance to avoid disruption. You should also monitor local media for updates.

Goa

If you’re staying in a hotel on the smaller roads in the Candolim-Calangute belt, take particular care when walking to or from the main road. There have been reports of bag-snatchings on these roads since the beginning of 2012. The thieves are usually on motorbikes, with headlights on full-beam to blind their victims.

Throughout Goa there have been reports of drinks being spiked and travellers, including British nationals, subsequently being robbed, sexually assaulted or dying. In 2012, 29 British nationals died in Goa. Some of these deaths were attributed to drug/alcohol abuse. There has been a series of high-profile incidents in Goa of alleged rape against foreign nationals, including Britons. Avoid beaches after dark. There is a risk of being attacked by packs of stray dogs, robbed or sexually assaulted. Female travellers should observe and respect local dress and customs.

Road travel

Car and motorbike accidents are one of the biggest causes of injury and death overseas. Several British nationals die each year on Indian roads. If possible, avoid travelling at night. Always travel in a well-maintained vehicle with seatbelts. If you travel by motorbike, wear a helmet and proper footwear.

Sea travel

Tourist boats and other small crafts rarely carry life-saving equipment.

Although piracy has not so far affected India’s territorial waters, it poses a significant threat in parts of the Indian Ocean, especially for shipping/mariners that don’t take appropriate precautions or follow agreed shipping industry best practice guidelines. Mariners should be vigilant.

Swimming

There are strong currents off many coasts. Most beaches don’t have warning signs, flags or life-saving equipment. Drownings are common.

Rail travel

Don’t accept food or drinks from strangers. There have been reports of travellers being drugged and robbed on trains often on overnight journeys. Take particular care of your passport and valuables when boarding and while on the train. Avoid individuals at railway stations offering tickets and tours.

Air travel

In December 2014 SpiceJet, India’s fourth biggest airline, cancelled over 400 flights and grounded their planes. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has allowed SpiceJet to sell advance tickets for the next 3 months. There may be further disruptions and cancellations. Check the SpiceJet website for updates.

Following strike action in May 2012, Air India continues to experience disruption, including long delays and cancellation of up to 10% of scheduled flights. Check the Air India website for updates.

User Development Fees (UDF) apply at many airports. The fees are around Rs. 1,000 per international passenger and Rs.150 to 260 per domestic passenger. This should already be included in the cost of airline tickets. If for any reason the fee is not included in your ticket it will be collected at the airport check-in counter in Indian rupees.

Political situation

Political rallies and demonstrations are occur frequently throughout the country and can turn violent, particularly around elections. Transport and public services may be disrupted at short notice.

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