Travel Tips - India:

Domestic flight luggage: Prior to boarding your domestic flights in India as you leave the main terminal, please ensure that you "identify your checked baggage". To do so, ask the airline representative where you need to actually identify the baggage that you have checked for your specific flight. Failure may mean that your checked baggage will not be put on the flight. Unfortunately, this process is not followed by all airlines and at all departure points, so make it a good and safe practice to ask for where you should identify your checked luggage just prior to boarding any flight. Please be aware of this procedure, but it is not followed everywhere and everytime.

Currency and Exchange Rate: The local currency in India is a Rupee abbreviated as Re. or Rs. The Rupee is further divided into 100 paisa, but since the value of the paisa is so small, it is hardly ever used. Internationally, within currency transactions, it is also abbreviated as INR. The exchange rates floats and has recently been varying between Rs. 40 and Rs. 50 to a US Dollar. For sake of first approximation and ease of calculation, consider assuming that the rate is Rs. 50 to a US Dollar, and thus Rs. 10 is 20 US cents, and Rs. 100 is US $ 2.

Clothes: If you are planning to wear full length clothes during your walking tours, then make sure that they do not drag on the floor since streets can be dirty and wet. You should not wear clothes that are very loose because they can get caught in protruding stones and surrounding bushes. Bring light rain gear. Consider bringing, as a minimum, one "Tee" shirt, one "heavy" flannel type shirt and one light jacket. This will allow you to wear layered clothing for a variety of ambient temperatures.

Shoes: When you visit places of worship, you will need to take off your shoes prior to entry. You are free to wear your socks, but may find that the floor is wet, thus it may be prudent to take off your socks also. Make sure that you bring comfortable and well supporting walking shoes. You will be walking a lot in the ruins of old temples and forts, and they normally do not have a clean and clear path with upturned stones, and steep narrow and broken steps.

Telephones: It is best to make local, national and International telephone calls from manned public booths, marked “STD/ISTD”, and all identified with a right yellow sign. Amount payable is presented in an electronic form. You would pay cash (any denomination, since it is not a machine) at these locations. Do not make phone calls from your hotel as they have exorbitant phone-call rates. The country code for making calls into India is +91. If you decide to bring your own phone, then read Telephones in India.

Leather-wear: There are some Hindu temples that demand that you do not take any leather goods such as belts, wallets and leather bags inside the temple. Therefore it is customary to take off ones belt and certainly not wear a leather jacket.

Gurudwaras: Both men and women will need to cover their heads prior to entering a Gurudwara (Sikh place of worship). Such covering can be in the form of a large handkerchief for men or a shawl for women. As a mark of respect it is NOT advised to cover ones head with a cap or a hat.

Accessories: Consider bringing your swimming trunks, air brush to clean the dust from your cameras and lens, a telephoto lens if your camera supports one, lots of clean wipes for your face and hands because of the dust. Traditional 35 mm film is available in plentiful, however you are advised to bring your memory cards for your camera, as these might not be freely available.

Document safety: Prior to start of your journey, send yourself an e-mail with all important passport and other numbers. Thus should you loose any documentation, then you can retrieve your mail and have all necessary information.

Batteries: Due to security reasons, you are not allowed to carry batteries in your hand luggage on flights. All batteries that you need should be in your booked luggage, otherwise, security officials will confiscate them and you may or may not get them back.

Electricity: The electrical supply is 220/240V, 50Hz. The connectors are similar to the European (not British) round pin.

Camera Fee: You will have to pay a fee for using a still and/or a video camera in most monuments, national parks and game sanctuaries. This fee, which ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 500, depending on the place and the type of camera used, is payable at the entrance gate. Please ensure you carry sufficient funds with you to cover this charge, as this is NOT included in the tour price.

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Special Permits: Even with a visa foreign nationals are not allowed everywhere in India. Check with us if you are planning to journey on your own.

Time: Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 ½ hours ahead of GMT/UTC, 4 ½ hours behind Australian EST and 10 ½ hours ahead of American EST.

Travelers Cheques: While one may get the best rate from a bank, banks have limited opening hours and one will find the process time consuming and laborious. You will find that your hotel will encash your checks and the rate, which is government controlled, is within reasonable norms. Encashing the cheques in shops will yield the most unfavorable rate.

Homosexual Travelers: Men holding hands in public is a sign of affection. Generally, Indian society does not accept homosexuality, and Indian homosexuals do not generally declare their orientation. Homosexual relations between men is illegal in India.

Medical Preparation: We suggest you contact your personal care physician who will assess your personal history and advise what you need to take with regard to preventative medication accordingly.

Disabled Travelers: Very few special arrangements exist for people with disabilities at airports, railway stations or hotels. However, people are very helpful, and if you don't mind receiving their help, then this will ease your travel difficulties.

Food and Drink: Street food should NOT be consumed. Do not eat any cold (unprepared) food or which has been prepared previously, such as salads, cut fruit, cut vegetables. Also do not eat any yogurts or cold milk products unless they are from an established and good quality restaurant. Feel free to eat fruit and vegetables which you peel yourself. Do not drink water from any source unless it is from a sealed water bottle purchased from a reputable shop (and NOT from a street vendor). It is common for street vendors to re-fill discarded water bottles with normal water. Do not consume any ice.

Tipping and Gratuities: Tipping is an important part of travel in India. Unless specifically stated, your tour does not include tipping as we feel that such a personalized reward is benefactor to you, the traveler. First the easy part: You do not need to tip regular taxi drivers. However, you will have a number of other opportunities of tipping: To your waiters in restaurants, to your car driver, to your guide and to the bell-hops at the hotels. For the waiters, leave anything from Rs. 20 to Rs. 100 unless you are a part of a very large group, in which case the total amount you may wish to leave behind is Rs. 500 or so. Consider Rs. 100 or so per day for your car driver. Again if you are in a bus with a number of other people, this could be increased to Rs. 200 or so. Bell-hops could be given Rs. 50 (in a small hotel) to Rs. 100 (in a more grand hotel) per trip.

Train Journeys: Your itinerary may include either a day or an overnight train journey. As you enter the railroad station, you will be faced (literally!) with the masses of the Indian populace which will reflect the entire social status, from the very poor to the very rich. Study, appreciate and memorialize this experience, as this is true India, and not what you encounter at expensive hotels. Your day journey will be in a class titled "Sitting Chair, AC" which are upright chairs, where depending on duration of the journey, you might be served food. Your overnight journey will be in a class titled: “Two-Tier AC”, which means that you will have reserved accommodation of your seat within an air-conditioned bogie (rolling stock). Our representative will show you to your seat. The arrangement of your Two-Tier AC compartment will be such that there will be four seats, and these, together with a second tier mattress, will convert to four beds at night. Keep your valuables in your largest case and then keep this case such that it is difficult to remove without waking you up. Do not show high value equipment to your fellow passengers. Under no circumstances, accept any food or drink from your fellow passengers and equally do not offer your food to any other. This is normal practice, and no offence will be taken if you decide to eat or drink without offering to others. Use of a clean pillow, pillow cover, two sheets and a blanket for each of you for your overnight journey is included in your ticket. Use these, and leave them when you disembark. Feel free to drink water which you buy in sealed bottles from the on-board train staff. Eat hot food only.