So you've gotten used to our magical country - it's vibrant colours, melange of smells and humidity. At this point it's safe to say you have settled into student life. The next thing on your to-do list - To explore the many contrasts, the spiritual, the multicultural and the scenic.
Here are some valuable tips to make sure your time in the country is inspiring, wondrous and enlightening.
Be weather wise!
Rain or shine, there's always somewhere worth visiting.
Where to go in summer
Places like Ladakh and Sikkim in the Western Himalayan belt
Darjeeling, Shimla, Dharamshala, Nainital and Mussoorie in the North
Munnar, Kodaikanal, Coorg, Ooty and in the South
Where to go in winter
Popular tourist destinations like Mumbai, Alleppey, Kolkata, Hampi, Goa, Rajasthan, Agra and Varanasi are best suited for this season.
Pack according to where you're going. If you're travelling in summer, light-weight clothes are perfect, but winter conditions vary a lot throughout the country. Eg. Winter in North India is very different from winter in the South. So, pack a light coat/jacket for evenings and an umbrella/raincoat if you're travelling in monsoon.
Always apply and carry a high SPF sunscreen.
Since India has the third largest road network and the largest railway network in the world, getting from place to place is not difficult.
Flights, trains, local buses, taxis, autorickshaws - travelling is smooth and there are always scenic views.
Travelling by train is the most feasible, but remember to book your tickets in advance and carry chains and locks to secure your luggage.
Air-conditioned buses also travel between cities and states every day. Ask a local agent.
Book your tours only through the Ministry of Tourism or Government of India recognized travel companies, not people who approach you in the street. For state-specific tourist information, check out the Ministry of Tourism website.
Getting around in the city
For short trips within the city, use pre-paid taxi services, or the Uber or OLA apps. If you hop into a local taxi make sure you aren't being overcharged.
Another way of navigating within cities is to use auto and cycle-rickshaws. Wearing a scarf will protect you against pollution and dust while travelling.
Traffic in large cities can be time-absorbing and agonizing, so leave your residence early.
Live to eat, Eat well to live
Stay healthy by taking these precautions:
Indian food is delicious but spicy, so it can be common to experience a swirling stomach.
Always eat food that is freshly cooked and drink water only from sealed water bottles.
It's also a good idea to carry medication for diarrhoea, headache and other common ailments. You can find them in pharmacies everywhere.
Get your necessary shots before travelling to India or take your shots here - Talk to your local doctor about what might be necessary for you.
Any time, any place, everywhere
As we've mentioned, India is vast and incredibly diverse. From the Himalayas in the north to the lush green backwaters in the South, the hilly valleys in the East to the arid landscape in the West - India is brimming with places to be explored. We suggest to take it slow because you can't see it all on one trip!
You can start with the classic "Golden Triangle" in the North - Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.
Or go on a temple tour - there are thousands of beautifully carved temples across India.
If you love trekking make a trip to the mountains in the North, or just relax on the sunny beaches of Goa and Kerala.
You could even spot exotic wildlife at the many reserves and parks across India. There's a lot to see and so little time!
When in India, do as the Indians do
Dress according to the place and customs. Some tourist spots, like a mosque, temple or other holy places require you to cover your head with a scarf and take off your shoes before entering.
In big cities you can wear whatever you want, but when visiting small towns, dress modestly. It's good to blend in with the people.
English is commonly used and understood across India. Though Hindi is not the first language to all Indians, it is commonly understood.
Learning a few basic Hindi words will go a long way:
shukriya or dhanyawaad (thank you),
theek hai (alright or OK),
haan/haanji (yes), nahi (no),
garam paani (hot water shower),
aaj (today), kal (tomorrow),
chai (Tea), khaana (food),
chalo (let's go)
You can use travel cards, debit cards, credit cards, traveller's cheques and money wallets for transactions. Get your money exchanged for local currency at the airport, banks or travel companies.
Access to international banks and ATMs is quite easy in Indian cities, less so in small towns and villages. So, always have a reasonable amount of cash. If you need money and for some reason can't get it at an ATM, you can have it transferred to you via Western Union.
Value for money hotels in India are available in a price range of INR 1000 - 1500($13 - $20) per night. Boutique stays and Airbnb vacation rentals are also common though not as economical.
You can also choose to live with the locals. Find out about these "˜Homestays" or "˜Paying Guest" schemes from local tourist offices in Kerala, Mumbai, Rajasthan and several other cities.
Pilgrimage sites offer "dharamshalas", where tourists can stay for a very reasonable price.
Trains and Volvo buses are inexpensive and much cheaper than flying.
Learn the technique of bargaining when out shopping or get a local to accompany you. Don't worry this is customary in India, especially at local markets. This will help you get the best price and stay within a budget.
Now go. find your life-changing experience in our little piece of heaven!
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