Traveling in India and the subcontinent. The following information is correct and valid at the time of publication, to the best of our knowledge. This advice is a genuine effort on our part to make your stay as pleasant as possible, but we regret we cannot accept any responsibility for any changes to the advice or information given.
Avoid eating spicy foods when you first arrive in India, however tempting. Allow your system at least a day or two to get used to them, introducing one Indian dish with each meal for the first couple of days. After that it is best to stick with cooked foods, and remember to peel fruit before eating it. The best drinks to enjoy with your meals or to quench your thirst are the bottled mineral waters, other bottled drinks, coffee and tea. Indian beer is very good, along with Indian gin and vodka. The whiskey needs an acquired taste, and the imported scotch whiskey is very expensive as is the wine.
India is a shoppers paradise with the promise of some excellent buys! However, as a measure of precaution, always check on the levels of import duty levied for items that you wish to purchase. Many local shopkeepers may claim that there is no duty levied, but this could be incorrect information. Please try and carry back all the goods that you purchase with you to avoid storage charges. If you are planning major shopping, please seek information and advice from customs authorities before departing on your tour. When shopping for expensive items such as precious stones, carpets etc, the shopkeepers may guarantee the authenticity of the item, but expert knowledge is essential to ascertain their true value. For general shopping we recommend the Government Emporiums, and the shops in the hotels where quality and price are a little more reliable. You will find a huge choice of goods, from fashion bags and shoes, to Indian silks and handicrafts. Do not forget that any item that is more than 100 years old is banned from export out of the country, as is ivory, crocodile skin and other wildlife products. We pride ourselves on the quality of our sightseeing guides. However, if at any time you feel pressured by the guides to purchase any goods, we would be grateful if you would bring it to the attention of our local representatives. Please note that bargaining is common in India at most of the establishments except at the Government Emporiums where prices are generally fixed.
In any holiday tour to India dinner is not included please budget for approximately $35/£20 per person for an evening meal without alcohol. You will in general find meals very good value for money with a broad choice of cuisine in most hotels throughout your tour (Western and Asian). In remote and outlying areas of India you will find mainly local cuisine. It is suggested that at these times you order vegetarian food, as it tends to reduce the risk of upset stomachs! Avoid eating highly spiced foods when you first arrive in India, however tempting. Instead, allow your system at least a day or two to get used to them, introducing one Indian dish with each meal for the first couple of days. After that it is best to stick with cooked foods, and remember to peel fruit before eating it. The best drinks to enjoy with your meals or to quench your thirst are the bottled mineral waters, other bottled drinks, coffee and tea. Indian beer is very good, along with Indian gin and vodka. Indian wine is growing in reputation and can be most palatable, especially in the hotel restaurants. We recommend both the Grover and Sula vineyards. Local whiskey needs an acquired taste, and the imported scotch whiskey is very expensive, as is imported wine. Avoid drinking tap water at all costs!! The jugs of water supplied in hotel rooms is purified, but not guaranteed to be safe. Mineral water is very cheap and a far safer option for drinking and even cleaning your teeth, although do check the seal on the bottle is intact.
India is a kaleidoscope of colour just waiting to be photographed, so wherever you travel be sure to carry your camera and an ample supply of colour film. Popular brands and speeds of film, especially the common 35mm format are widely available and not expensive.
With the exception of inside the Taj Mahal, the airports, and other restricted areas, you may photograph to your hearts content although many popular sites will levy an additional charge for the use of your camera, or video camera which may cost a little more. Before you travel to India, please notify us if you plan to bring a tri-pod apparatus with you to India as there are approvals required in advance of travel.
Indian cities are bustling and exciting, and in most areas, quite safe. Please do not be offended if the locals stare at you the Indians are friendly and hospitable people and very curious. Almost all city-dwellers speak and understand English, and you will find that most of the street and shop signs are in English as well.
India is a developing country with an enormous and growing population. Social and economic development continues apace, and tourism income undoubtedly has its part to play, but you will certainly experience many of the inescapable symptoms of poverty during your tour, some of which can be shocking to western eyes. For obvious reasons, beggars will be attracted to tour parties, but we would ask that you do not give to them. Many of the beggars will be operating professionally, and regardless of this, giving to them simply perpetuates the practice. Alternatively, our ground staff, in all locations, will be happy to suggest a charitable institution should you wish to make a direct contribution.
When to Travel
The southern part of Bhutan is tropical and in general the eastern part of the country is warmer than the central valleys. The higher the altitude, the cooler the weather, and with winds blowing off the mountains the valleys can become chilly. The valleys of Punakha, Wangeduephodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuentse enjoy a semi tropical climate with cool winters, while Paro, Thimpu, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate with summer monsoon rains and winter snowfalls. Winter in Bhutan (mid November to mid March) is dry and sunny for the most part with temperatures of 16 to 18 C. The spring season (mid March to mid June) offers warmer temperatures rising to 27 to 29C. The monsoon arrives in mid June. At the end of September autumn suddenly arrives and is a great time for trekking till November.
May to September are the best months to travel.
Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
The Ngultrum is fixed to the Indian rupee. 100 Chetrum=1 Ngultrum. Tourists are advised to carry travellers cheques, preferably in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted in some places but there are NO ATM machines in Bhutan. There are however banks in all major cities.
As for India
Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions it is advisable to dress in layers. Clothes should preferably be made from natural fibres, e.g. silk, wool and cotton. If you are going on a trek you will need to pack really warm tops, a hat, gloves and proper thermal undergarments as well as thick socks and hiking boots. As with India and Sri Lanka modest dressing is essential throughout Bhutan.
At all international airports, a bureau de change is available as you leave customs. You can change money here. Many hotels offer foreign exchange facilities, at a rate on a par quoted by the banks. ATM machines are widely available in cities.
American Express, MasterCard, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted. It is sometimes necessary to have cash (rupees) in hand for smaller hotels, lodges and camps. When making a credit card transaction be sure that slips are completed and validated in your presence.
India is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
The standard is 220/240 volts. 50 Hz. Adaptors for electrical gadgets and laptops must be carried to protect equipment from voltage fluctuations. Triple and double round pin plugs are very useful, though the higher end hotels provide these. If you are travelling off the beaten track a small torch can be useful in temples etc. Power cuts in India are still frequent and though the luxury hotels have back up generators, homestays and budget hotels may not.
India remains conservative. We recommend that women should keep covered. Low cut T shirts and strappy tops are not acceptable, except on the beach. Shorts and bathing costumes are only acceptable by pools and on the beach. We advise women to carry a cotton shawl for temples and mosques.
It is necessary to remove your shoes when visiting temples and mosques, so a spare pair of socks is useful, as is a hat to protect against the sun.
We are happy to advise further on this, especially if you are visiting a mountain region where special warm clothing is absolutely essential.
When to Travel
Nepal enjoys a temperate climate that is highly changeable.
The country is divided into three regions. The southerly plains enjoy a sub-tropical climate, where the summers are warm and the winters chilly. Further north in the Mahabarata range of mountains the climate is still temperate but the winters are cold. In the north in the Himalaya, the climate is alpine with cool summers and extremely cold winters. Nepal also has monsoon rains in the summer but winter rains are also common.
May and June are the best time to travel.
Nepal is 5 hours 45 minutes hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
The Nepalese rupee is tied to the Indian rupee.
As for India.
As Bhutan, but special advice will be needed for those travelling in the north of the country.
When to Travel
Sri Lanka is tropical with distinct dry and wet seasons. There are two monsoons as follows: the Yala monsoon brings rain to the south west from May to August; the Maha monsoon brings rain to the north and east from October to January.
The driest and best seasons in Sri Lanka are from December to March for the west coast, the south coast and the hill country, and from April to September for the ancient cities region and the east coast. This is the best time to travel.
The unit of Sri Lankan currency is the rupee, but this does not have the same value as the India rupee.
(100 Sri Lankan cents = 1 rupee)
Sri Lanka is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
As for India
As for India
When to Travel
The climate is tropical. The Maldives has two monsoons but temperatures of around 28C are fairly constant throughout the year.
The best time to travel is between November and April.
The unit of currency is the rufiyaa.
The Maldives is 5 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
As for India
Beach clothing and some suitable cover ups for protection in the constant sunshine.
Despite being a tropical country the weather in India is as diverse as its regions and varies enormously throughout the year. With clear sunny skies and mild nights October to March is generally considered to be the best time of the year to visit the sub-continent. The southwest coast and the hilly north east receive the heaviest rains and the monsoon season first breaks on the Kerala coastline in May or early June. Moving steadily inland towards the north and the Himalayan ranges the rains reach Delhi in early July where it remains hot and humid until September. During the monsoon the north eastern state of Meghalaya claims to be one of the wettest places on earth. Throughout the monsoon mountainous and coastal regions receive more rainfall than the central plains. April through to July can be extremely hot but regional variation can be huge.
The best time to visit the north is between October and March; temperatures are pleasant, the days dry and sunny. From December through to mid-January early morning fog in and around Delhi can disrupt travel plans with flights often delayed or sometimes cancelled. Night temperatures in Rajasthan and the plains often reach freezing point during the winter and it can be chilly before sunrise. April through to August is extremely hot. Early summer is good for wildlife viewing, the parks are free of visitors, vegetation is dry and game easily spotted. Monsoon offers savvy travelers many benefits, hotels offer amazing value and monuments 40 are free of tourists, rains are not incessant and normally arid areas are green with vegetation. National Parks are closed to visitors from July to the end of September.
Influenced by the Arabian Sea on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other climatic variation across the southern states of India are significant. Generally the winter months of November 10 through to April are regarded as the best time to visit. Throughout the south temperature 5 fluctuation is less extreme than in the north with marginal difference between summer and winter temperatures. April and May are the hottest months of the year and coastal regions can get hot and humid, although afternoon sea breezes help to cool things down. Higher up in the foothills the summer temperatures remain pleasant although during the winter night time temperatures can drop significantly. On the west coast monsoon rains begin in early June and continue through to August. On the East coast the rains last from October through to December. National Parks and Wildlife reserves are open all year round.
Mumbai, Goa, Calcutta (Kolkata) and the areas along the coast are generally hot and humid throughout the year; however temperatures remain fairly constant. During the winter temperatures drop very slightly, especially further in land away from the coast. The Monsoon begins in June and continues through to early October. Cooling slightly after the Monsoon the best time to visit Maharashtra, Orissa and Gujarat is between October and March.
At their best from March through to November the hilly regions of India provide respite from the heat and humidly of the plains during the summer months, in July and August the monsoon rains arrive. In the hill station towns snow is likely from late December through to early February. In the rain-shadow of the Himalayan Mountains the states of Kashmir and Ladakh further north are best visited between June and August when temperatures are at their highest.
This is entirely at your discretion. However, the following may be helpful. If service is not included in the bill, 10% is usually the accepted amount. Hotel and railway porters will expect about 50 rupees for one piece of luggage and about 200 rupees for a trolley full. At the end of your stay if you wish to tip your sightseeing guide and driver, an acceptable amount for the guide would be approximately between 400 500 rupees per day; and for the driver, it would be approximately between 200 400 rupees per day.
All visitors must have an approved visa prior to arrival. A two week visa costs $20 US dollars and is stamped on arrival at Paro airport. We recommend that your visa application should be forwarded to us at least three weeks before you arrive. Please note that your passport MUST be valid for six months from the date of your return.
Every foreign national must have a visa for entry into India. We recommend that you apply for a six month, multiple entry tourist visa.
Please note that your passport MUST be valid for six months from the date of your return from India.
To apply for a visa in the UK:
The cost is £30 sterling
To apply for a visa in the USA:
The cost is $73 US dollars.
Please note that you can use an agency to acquire a visa for you and in the UK we recommend:
Please note that Trailfinders make a charge for this.
All applications must be submitted online. If you are using http://www.trailfinders.com then follow their instructions. You should fill in the form online, print off a copy, and then submit to Trailfinders and pay them. Please note that you need two photographs which are the same and must measure 50mm x 50mm, which is not the normal passport size. Photographs can be obtained from high street photographers, but not from booths in supermarkets or stations.
A visa is available on arrival in The Maldives, valid for 30 days from the date of entry.
It is free of charge.