India – Things to know before visiting the country
A visit to India forms a part of everybody’s travel bucket list. If you are no exception, let us tell you that there can be only one outcome out of these two – you would either like India or hate it. Though depending on how well prepared you are, your notion may change. Nadine, a Great Barrier Reef snorkelling instructor cum personal attendant of a ship in Cairns, Australia, summed up her experience of visiting India with one sentence – India is infested with cockroaches and mice. That had happened because her trip to India was neither well-planned nor well-researched.
Someone aptly said, “Patience is the key to manage in India”. Right from your arrival at the airport, you will feel the need of it. The over-eccentric noise and bustling of the over populated city life will greet you while the continuous blabbering of the touts may get on your nerves. From the click happy youth’s camera pointed towards you to the sweaty traffic jams, you have to remember that the keyword to survive this mayhem is “patience” indeed. There are many visitors of India who fall in love with just that – a different kind of life of the Indians.
The “foreigners” here are not only treated specially, but at some places are charged so too. Some of the tourist attraction under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India charge “special foreigner rates”. At these sites you may find the details of such “special” rates by the ticket counters at the entrance. You may find the numerical differences between the local and the foreigners’ rates however chances are that such rates would be comparatively cheaper than your country of residence. Many hotels as well as airlines too have special charges for tourists in India.
Every tourist has one or two instances to share about the touts they encountered while visiting India. The guardians of dupery – the touts have a knack of sniffing out tourists from the most unexpected spots and you, as tourists, may find them at every junction of your journey. The thumb rule to deal with them is to “ignore them”.
We are here to help you avoid summing up your journey to this incredible land as a nightmare. Here’s presenting you the “to dos” and “not to dos” while visiting and experiencing India – one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of geography, ethnicity, cuisine, arts, culture and tradition.
What to do:
- Check that you are applying for the right Visa from the Indian embassies or consulates in your country. Different countries have different Visa norms.
- Be prepared to pay an “application fee” for your Visa application in case your Visa is being done by third party outsourced companies and not the embassies.
- Apply for the Protected Area Permit (PAP) along with your Visa application. [The PAP is required if you are visiting North-East India (Assam is exempted from this) and a few other parts like Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal.]
- Choose the Multiple Entry Visa as they are more flexible than the others.
- Check the website of ‘Central Board of Excise and Customs’ beforehand to know what you are permitted to and what you are not permitted to bring from your country.
- Chalk out different areas of your interest beforehand and target the main festivities in one part of the country during your tour.
- Take the help of your friends in India (if you have any) to arrange a trustworthy tour guide who can take you to the places of your interest. If you don’t have a friend in India for that, you can trust your hotel concierge. The local tourism departments can be of help in this case.
- Connect through Gulf countries as this provides you with plenty of options to reduce your airfare. [Air Arabia, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways are some of the options.]
- Book your tickets as early as possible.
- Look for the airlines which do not charge extra from foreigners (non-residents).
- Keep plenty of buffer time in hand for the in-between journeys through the congested streets and lanes of the big Indian cities.
- Look for cheap domestic airlines for intercity travelling. Apart from the government airlines, there are plenty of private competitors (Indigo, Jet Airways, Spicejet etc.) too.
- Just ignore the touts. Go on with your business. Tell them a firm “NO” for whatever they are offering.
- Always carry your drinking water along.
- Take care of your belongings while in a crowded public place.
- Always consult your hotel concierge before going anywhere alone.
- Buy a local sim card for your cell phone for easy communication.
- Keep photocopies of your passport in the hotel locker.
What not to do:
- Don’t overstay your Visa tenure. Violation will cause hefty fines. [Keep in mind that Indian Visas are validated from the date of issuing and NOT the date of entering the country.]
- Don’t go for the airlines which apply separate charges for non-residents of India.
- Don’t go for street food stalls unless you are into experimenting.
- Don’t argue with the touts, just ignore them.
- Don’t let your tour planner do the research for you as they might miss many local attractions in their packages.
- Do not eat at open food stalls.
- Do not trust over friendly people.
- Do not take lift from unknown people.
- Do not give anything to the beggars.
- Do not buy any ticket from a third person. Always buy ticket from the correct counter by following the correct procedure.
India is rightly symbolised by its national flower – the Lotus. Here, amidst the filth, dirt, pollution and poverty, revolves of the wheel of life. The spirit of the nation spreads its diverse beauty to the world. People come here as guests and travellers, but with time and a strange bonding or attachment they gradually become one of the nation’s own. Each experience in India has something to cherish. Be well-prepared and India will give you whatever you have come here for.