Electricity

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

Language

English and Hindi are the official languages, with Hindi 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.

Money

The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks, and authorised bureaux de change. It is illegal to exchange money through the black market and it is advisable to refuse torn notes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. It is best to change money into small denominations. Major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are available in large cities and airports but are not generally available in rural areas.

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.

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. Travellers should 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 traveller's diarrhoea kit and a course of general antibiotics.

Safety

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 such as 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. Foreign offices advise against travel to Jammu and Kashmir, as there are risks of civil disorder and acts of terrorism in many districts.

Local customs

India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educate themselves about the country's religious and social customs so as not to cause offence. In this regard, smoking in public is banned, and there is a ban on e-cigarettes and related products. Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram, Nagaland and the union territory of Lakshadweep; there is a partial ban in parts of Manipur.

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, so it's important to remain respectful and obliging with elders. Visitors should avoid using their left hand, particularly when eating. Although homosexuality is no longer prohibited by law, Indian society remains conservative and public attitudes towards LGBT people can less tolerant than in the west.

Doing 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 conversation can cover a wide range of topics that may include 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.

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, and e-cigarettes.

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.

Passport & Visa

Indian law does not permit dual citizenship for nationals of India. An Indian national holding dual nationality should contact their embassy or consulate for further information. Passengers in possession of an "Overseas Citizen of India" card or a "Person of Indian Origin" card, however, are liable to enter the country without a visa.

Travellers should note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in India within six days of leaving or transiting through heavily infected areas.

They should also note that the following areas of India are restricted, and require that visitors obtain a permit BEFORE entering them: (Protected Areas) parts of the state of Manipur, parts of the state of Mizoram, parts of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the whole State of Sikkim, parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of the state of Himachal Pradesh; (Restricted Areas) the whole of the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, part of the state of Sikkim.

NOTE: It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay. A visa is required, except for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

UK citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay to enter India. A visa is required, except for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for their period of intended stay. A visa is required, except for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay to enter India as tourists. A visa is required, except for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). Australian citizens can apply for visas online before travel provided they have a printed copy of the e-Toursit visa confimation that was applied for online, a passport containing at least two unused visa pages, and return or onward tickets.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for their period of intended stay to enter India. A visa is required, except for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). South African citizens can apply for visas online before travel, provided they have a printed copy of the e-Toursit visa confimation that was applied for online, as well as a passport containing at least two unused visa pages.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay to enter India. A visa is required, exept for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

Citizens of New Zealand must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay to enter India. A visa is required, exept for passengers with a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet. New Zealanders can apply for visas online before travel provided they have a printed copy of the e-Tourist visa confirmation that was applied for online, a passport containing at least two unused visa pages, and return or onward tickets. e-Tourist visas can only be issued a maximum of two times per calendar year.

Useful contacts

Indian Tourist Office, New Delhi: www.incredibleindia.org

100 (Police), 102 (Ambulance), 101 (Fire)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Indian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 7000.

Indian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7836 8484.

Indian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 3751/52/53

Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6225 4900.

Indian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5392.

Indian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 496 6787.

Indian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 6390/1.

Embassies / consulates in India

United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 8000.

British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 2100.

Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4178 2000.

Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4139 9900.

South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2614 9411.

Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4940 3200.

New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2688 3170.

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