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Landscape of Taj Mahal, Agra, India

India Travel Guide

A land of vibrant colours and rich cultural heritage, India offers a kaleidoscope of travel experiences. From the magnificent Taj Mahal to the bustling bazaars of Rajasthan, there is something to enthral every traveller. Explore the bustling streets of Delhi, where ancient landmarks like the Red Fort and Jama Masjid coexist with modern marvels. Immerse yourself in the serenity of Varanasi, where the Ganges River flows, and witness the mesmerizing rituals along its sacred ghats. Embark on a spiritual journey in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, and find inner peace amidst the stunning Himalayan backdrop. India's diverse landscapes beckon adventurers, whether it's exploring the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, trekking in the breathtaking landscapes of Ladakh, or spotting tigers in the dense jungles of Ranthambore. With its captivating blend of history, spirituality, and natural beauty, India offers a travel experience that will ignite your senses and leave you forever changed.

One of the most enticing aspects of travelling in India is its culinary delights. Indulge in the aromatic spices and flavours of Indian cuisine, from delectable street food like chaat and samosas to mouthwatering curries and biryanis. Each region offers its own unique culinary traditions, whether it's the vegetarian delights of Gujarat or the seafood feasts of Kerala. Beyond the flavours, India's hospitality will warm your heart as you connect with locals who are eager to share their culture and traditions. From attending colourful festivals like Diwali and Holi to witnessing classical dance performances and intricate handicrafts, India's rich tapestry of traditions will leave you spellbound. With its boundless treasures and captivating experiences, India promises an unforgettable travel adventure that will ignite your curiosity and leave you longing for more.

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Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT+4.5

Money

Indian Rupee (INR)

Dialing Code

+91

  • India has a long and complicated history with Britain. In the 19th Century and early part of the 20th Century, Britain ruled India, which then included the lands we now know as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir. The British Empire heavily influenced and changed India, sometimes for the good, but sometimes resulting in a negative outcome. For many years most people in India wanted to be free of British rule and after World War 2, in 1947, India was declared an independent country. At that time, Pakistan was created, a divided country to the west and east of India. The east eventually became Bangladesh, and the west simply remained Pakistan. India is steeped in history and is definitely worth visiting on your gap year. 
  • India is the second most populated country in the world and is emerging economically as a real global power.
  • Its population is spread over many thousands of villages and although the poverty rate is very high, so is the literacy rate.
  • There are some magnificent sites to see and visit, such as the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the temple at Amritsar.
  • Like much of Asia, Indian culture is very different from the West. The cow is a sacred animal and it is a normal sight to see white cows wandering among the streets of a town or village, and even in the cities.
  • Big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are a mixture of old and new India, modern, but still with large traces of the old India, and huge areas of abject poverty.
  • Geographically, the country is enormously varied. With the Himalayan foothills in the north, the beaches of Goa in the southwest, the desert in Rajasthan in the west and the flat lowlands in the east, there is so much to see and do.
  • Probably India’s most famous figure is Mahatma Gandhi, who led a peaceful campaign to gain independence against the British and whose life story was transformed into a film by David Attenborough.

The capital is Delhi, which is split into two, Old Delhi and New Delhi. The estimated population of the combined Delhi is 15 million. There are three other incredibly populated cities: Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta, as well as 19 other cities with a population of more than a million.

  • Taj Mahal – one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an unmissable sight! Make sure you visit this moving and extraordinary monument to love. Completed in 1653, this stunning temple was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife who died in childbirth. Breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly poised, the sight of this architectural accomplishment will live with you forever.
  • Go on a camel safari – a real tourist treat. Head down to Thar and ride camels through the desert. Stay overnight and pitch your tent amongst the sand dunes by the light of an open fire. 
  • In Mumbai, you can see the legacy of India’s colonial past at every turn. Huge buildings and monuments are set in striking contrast to the slum areas made famous by films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Check out the Bollywood scene, sample amazing food, or just soak up the atmosphere with a spot of people-watching. Shop in the famous Chor Bazaar and marvel at the weird and wonderful range of goods for sale, or head to the hectic Chowpatty beach for an evening of fun, food and festivities. Take a boat to the renowned Elephanta Caves and discover the spiritual side of India in this ancient cave complex of shrines and statues. Or just chill out in one of the city’s parks and watch the world go by.
  • Jaisalmer Fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan towers impressively over the sweeping Thar Desert. One of the largest forts in the world it glows a beautiful soft gold in the evening light. 
  • Amber Fort near Jaipur. Set on Maota Lake, this fort boasts spectacular architecture and a fascinating glimpse into the history of India. 
  • The Golden Temple at Amritsar – visit the Sikhs' holiest shrine; a magnificent glittering temple decorated with flowered motifs and gilded with pure gold. This is an architectural treat that is truly spiritual in essence.
  • Trek within the mind-blowing scenery of Himachal Pradesh. This beautiful Himalayan landscape is lush and peaceful and boasts some of India’s finest flora and fauna. 
  • Dharmasala – situated in Himachal Pradesh on the edge of the Himalayas, this stunning, scenic city is home to Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama himself. Engage in a spot of yoga before breakfast while taking in the clean air and mystical mountain views. With its peaceful surroundings, you will be well on your way to enlightenment!  
  • Scuba dive or snorkel at The Andamans, India’s leading dive destination.
  • Visit gorgeous Goa for good beaches, water sports, and fine food. Bewitchingly beautiful beaches, friendly locals and a relaxed vibe, with this combination on offer it’s no wonder Goa is India’s most laid-back location. Sprinkled with colonial architecture and lush vegetation it is a fantastic place to escape and unwind. Or if you’re feeling like letting your hair down, Goa has a range of popular party spots and is a tropical haven for travellers and backpackers alike. 
  • Learn a new skill – how about scuba diving, yoga or Indian cooking?
  • Meander through Kerala’s backwaters from the comfort of a houseboat.

The Brits are no strangers to good curry and when you think of India you immediately think of curry! You won’t be disappointed as India is full of delicious food; mouth-watering meat curries, flavoursome vegetable curries and fiery fish curries – India has them all. Head down to Goa and sample a shark curry on the beach – it’s a unique experience! For non-curry fans, India offers a whole variety of alternative and gorgeous food, ranging from Aloo Tikki (mashed potato patties) to kebabs and mithai (Indian sweets). While you’re there, why not try out an Indian cookery course and impress your friends back home?

India is big and stretches from the north, where there is permanent snow cover, to the tropical south. In between, you’ll find deserts, river deltas, plains, foothills and other diverse types of terrain. Due to the size of the country, India can be divided into four climatic zones, subtropical, tropical, Alpine and Arid. Depending on where you are in the country, you may experience a combination of snowy fields, dry desert plains or heavenly tropical beaches.

From June to October, the rain-bearing monsoon blows from the southwest. In places rainfall is devastating. From November to February it is cooler and drier and from March to May, it is hot and dry. It is best to check the weather for your individual destination before you travel as India is such a huge, diverse country. 

Visa

Visas may be required in order to enter or transit through certain countries depending on your passport nationality, your reason for travel and how long you intend to stay.

Visa, passport and entry rules are subject to change and you should check the most up-to-date information from the relevant embassy or visa specialist.

To make things easier we have teamed up with The Travel Visa Company who are one of the UK’s leading travel visa specialists. You can use their website, alongside embassy websites,  to find out the specific entry requirements for the countries you intend to travel to.

For a fee, their dedicated team of experts can also apply for visas on your behalf, taking away the hassle and streamlining the process for you if you wish. For more details on the services they provide please click here – The Travel Visa Company

Passport

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel. Most countries will also require at least 6 months of validity on your passport from the time you finish your trip.

Further Entry Requirements

Some countries will require proof of certain vaccines, such as yellow fever or covid, in order to gain entry. Please check with the relevant embassy or a visa specialist before travelling.

The official language of the Republic of India is Standard Hindi, with English being the secondary official language. 

The electric current in India is 230V, and the cycle is 50Hz. The plug system varies from place to place and could be the round two-pin European type, or the old-fashioned three-pin round plug, so you definitely need a universal plug adapter.

Using your left hand when eating or greeting is considered impolite. This is generally because the left hand was used as a substitute for toilet roll before it came into common use. There are a variety of different religions practiced throughout India and it is important that you respect their culture and traditions by dressing modestly in non-tourist areas, particularly when visiting temples or religious sites. You may need to cover your shoulders so bear that in mind while packing. Public displays of affection are also frowned upon in some areas. 

E-Cigarettes and Vaping

The Indian government has announced a ban on e-cigarettes and related vaping products. You will be unable to buy e-cigarettes in India or bring them into the country.

We have selected what we believe to be the key points that you should be aware of when travelling in India.

Gap 360 follows advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and we recommend that you frequently check the FCDO for updated travel advice. You can find the website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-development-office

Crime

Avoid travelling alone on public transport, in taxis or auto-rickshaws in India, especially at night. If you have to take a taxi, use one from a hotel taxi rank or use pre-paid taxis at airports and avoid hailing taxis on the street. If a driver is sent to collect you at the airport make sure they properly identify themselves. Mumbai airport has pre-paid taxi facilities. Scams have been reported, involving unofficial taxi drivers who charge high rates once you have got into their cab. Only use either prepaid taxis or metered taxis.

In Mumbai, there have been reports of armed robbers holding up taxis along the main highway from the airport to the city in the early hours of the morning. If arriving at these times, it is best to arrange to travel by coach if possible. The international and domestic airport terminals in Mumbai are far apart and not within walking distance of each other. You can use the free shuttle services if you have an onward connection, but you cannot use the service once you exit the terminal building. Look after your passport and bank cards, particularly on buses and trains. Never leave your luggage unattended on trains.

Handbag snatching has been on the increase, particularly in Delhi, so be vigilant. You should keep a photocopy of your passport, Indian visa and flight ticket separately from the original documents. If your passport is lost or stolen you should notify the police immediately and get a police report. Confidence tricksters operate in India, particularly in Goa, Agra and Jaipur, and they will promise large amounts of cash for delivery of jewellery abroad, which proves worthless, but they will scam you out of an initial deposit, often of thousands of pounds.

Risks of unpredictable violence are higher in rural areas outside the main cities and tourist areas. These included bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping. The British High Commission can provide limited consular assistance in Jammu & Kashmir.

Drink spiking, especially in Goa has led to travellers being robbed or sexually assaulted, with deaths also reported as a result of the misuse of drugs or alcohol. Avoid beaches after dark. Incidents of rape, assault, or attacks by packs of stray dogs have been reported, particularly in Goa.

Advice for Female Travellers

Female travellers should be cautious when travelling in India, as cases of sexual assault against female visitors in tourist areas are rising, particularly in areas such as Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan. Female travellers often receive unwanted attention or verbal and physical harassment. Women travelling in India should respect local dress codes and customs and avoid isolated areas, including beaches, while alone, and at all times of the day.

Political Situation

India frequently sees political rallies and demonstrations, particularly around election times and this may cause disruption to transport and public services at short notice.

Terrorism

There is a significant risk of terrorist attacks by insurgent groups including Lashkar-e Tayyiba, Jaish-e Mohammed and the Indian Mujahideen. Terrorists have been known to target public places such as restaurants, hotels, railway stations, markets, places of worship and sporting venues, so be vigilant and always check for local travel warnings. Unattended baggage should be reported immediately. Security is high at major hotels and transport hubs. National holidays such as Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), Eid (29 July 2014) and Diwali (23 October 2014) can often be the targets of terrorism.

Drugs

Drugs are illegal in India and possession of even a small amount for personal consumption can lead to a minimum sentence of 6 months, with a 10-year sentence for possession of other amounts. It can take several years for a case to come to trial.

Travel

Indian roads can be dangerous, and car and motorbike accidents are one of the biggest causes of injury and death. Avoid travelling at night if possible and always travel in a well-maintained vehicle with seatbelts. There have been some reports of travellers being drugged and robbed on trains, especially on overnight journeys, so never accept food or drink from strangers and take care of your passport and valuables when boarding and travelling on trains. Do not accept tickets or tours offered at railway stations.

We do not recommend hiring motorbikes, scooters, ATV vehicles, quad bikes or other types of motorised vehicles whilst abroad. Safety and quality of vehicles vary considerably and the traffic conditions can be much more dangerous than what UK travellers are used to. Should you wish to go against this advice, you should ensure you are hiring for a reputable company and that your travel insurance covers you for such activities.

Trekking

If you are trekking, you should travel in groups with local guides, and in some more remote areas, you will require special permits. At heights above 3000 metres, there are no commercial mountain rescue services, and in some border areas only the Indian Air Force is permitted to carry out air rescues, although resources are limited and they are not required to undertake a rescue. Check that your insurance policy covers you if you intend to climb to over 2,400 metres.

Swimming

The coastal areas of India often have strong currents and most beaches do not have flags, warning signs, lifeguards or life-saving equipment, meaning there is a higher risk of drowning.

Natural Disasters

The monsoon season can cause flooding and landslides which can make travel in rural areas hazardous and cut off towns and villages. Recent flooding has affected road and train travel in Odisha in Eastern India. Always check your route access before setting off.

Cyclones and tropical storms are common, particularly off the east coast of India. Keep an eye on local and international weather updates and follow local advice. Parts of India lie on highly active earthquake fault zones, with three high-risk areas that commonly experience earth tremors. Landslides can occur in mountainous areas. Limited emergency response and medical facilities mean the impact can be greater in these areas.

Health

Water and food hygiene can be an issue throughout India. Make sure you take extra precautions to prevent suffering from a ‘Delhi belly'. Only drink boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and chikungunya are common so make sure that you seek advice from your GP before travelling to ensure that all necessary vaccinations are up to date and you have the necessary malaria medication with you. Please check our general Travel Advice section for more detailed information and general health and safety advice.

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