India, with its 5000 years of human history, is one of the world’s most fascinating travel destinations. Truly an immense and well-populated nation, it is multicultural in the extreme, with hundreds of diverse languages and customs, and many religions. To visit India, one must be prepared for the exotic and everything from beggars to cows in the streets.
India is the largest democracy in the world, seventh largest country and the second most populous. India is a picture of diversity seen in her peoples, cultures, colourful festivals, dress and costumes, religions, flaura and fauna and varying landscapes. Her history dates back to the Indus Valley civilization of about 2500-1700 BC. She is, as Mark Twain intones “ the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, grandmother of legend, and great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” She gave the world the knowledge of counting that transformed the scientific faculty of man. She was and arguably is the spiritual seat of the world.
India is located in the Asia continent in northern hemisphere. The Himalayan ranges crown the northern boundary of India. It is bounded on the north by Afghanistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan; on the east by Bangladesh, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and the Bay of Bengal; on the south by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar (which separates it from Sri Lanka) and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Arabian Sea and Pakistan. The country is divided into 28 states (three of which are recently formed) and 7 Union Territories. New Delhi is the capital of India and one of its largest cities.
India is gradually modernising and moving into the first world, but it’s still a country that has many different social castes and wide economic stratification. Even as it moves forward into the future, churning out some of the most talented professionals in medicine, engineering and high technology, it leaves behind its poor and uneducated pockets, which only adds to the colourful chaos that this land of mystery is known for.
As one might imagine, the country’s sheer size affords any many of holiday, be it relaxing on the beach, climbing impressive mountains, cycling through the countryside, riding a camel through one of its deserts, or walking around the streets one of its teeming metropolises. India’s old cities, themselves well-known and iconic, offer a challenge for visitors who can expect to be, by turns, frustrated and amazed, annoyed and humbled. Visitors can expect to find a plethora of cultural and historical offerings, and no end to religious and archeological treasures to explore.
Accommodation in India is almost as varied as its culture, with wide choice available. From gleaming, modern luxury hotels in the big cities to posh resorts along its extensive coasts, one is spoilt for choice. Everything in-between is offered in plenty of styles, and at prices to suit every budget.
Don’t forget to include India’s great cities when plotting your visit to India. Mumbai is its largest city, once called Bombay and surely its most legendary mega-city. New Delhi is considered to be the gateway to India, with many cultural attractions, museums, galleries, shopping, dining and entertainment. Finally, Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, offers its own special mixture of culture, industry and sights. The city is a treasure trove of architectural styles the have made it known as the ‘Jewel of the East’, given its East-meets-West nature.
India is a superlative country in almost every way. It continues to awe even seasoned return travellers with its extreme contrasts of class and colour, opulence and poverty, filth and beauty. This is the land of one of Humanity’s oldest and most fascinating cultures, where vast empty deserts melt into subtropical backwaters. India’s list of world-class sights, monuments, temples and cities is rivalled by few other nations on earth. Here, religion and class mix in a way that seems impossibly sustainable. Yet India has endured for millennia.
Don’t expect an easy ride when you visit India. Its ability to frustrate and annoy is equally matched by its reliability to amaze and humble. A little mental and emotional preparation is suggested before attempting to visit the home of more than one billion souls. India’s heart-wrenching poverty is impossible to ignore, and visitors will be confronted with it at every turn. Yet beyond the desperation lies a culture of true hospitality, regardless of class. Whether you want to soak in the ubiquitous spirituality, chill out on a beach, ride a camel though the Rajasthan desert sands or brave the streets of Mumbai or Old Delhi, India offers something for everyone.
It’s impossible to cover the entire subcontinent of India in one go. A wise traveller will choose a region or two and spend time absorbing each distinct subculture. The north is home to imposing fortresses, the snowy Himalayas and endless sand deserts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The south has the wonderfully chilled-out Backwaters of Kerala, Tamil Nadu culture and lovely beaches along the Malabar coast. In between are marvels like the Taj Mahal, the Ganges River, Jodhpur’s Blue City, and the hill stations of Darjeeling.
Accommodation in India ranges from five-star palatial hotels set in castles and the like, to budget friendly hotels with a homely atmosphere. It pays to do book ahead before you go to ensure you get a room that suits your needs. No matter where you stay or when you visit India, it will leave an indelible impression on your soul. Just be prepared.
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Dating back at least 5000 years, civilization in India has been a rich and complicated mix of peoples and religions. Harappa and Mohenjodaro were ancient Indian cities which existed between 3000 to 1500 BC. Excavated remains suggest that these were well planned with brick structures, wide streets, and underground water system. Many copper, bronze, and pottery items were recoverd as well as gold and silver jewelry. There was some writing system as well but archeologists could not interpret these writings.
Brahminism, Buddhism, Jain, Hinduism all developed here in a series of kingdoms and empires. The Gupta dynasty ruled over a golden age for north India for about two hundred years (320-544 A.D.). In the 600s, the Indus River Valley was invaded by Arabs, who brought with them Islam, which took hold in northern India.
The Indus Valley has been home to a major civilisation since 2,500 BC when Hinduism rose to prominence through power-wielding priests. When Aryan invaders from the north pushed the Dravidians south, India began its multicultural life. Though the Aryans brought their own gods and traditions, they were eventually assimilated into the original caste system controlled by the priests around 900 BC. Buddhism arrived around 500 BC, condemning the entrenched caste system and driving the first of many wedges between the countless kings, princes and priests who controlled various parts of India.
Empires rose and fell while Buddhism and Hinduism competed for dominance. Hinduism revived itself during the first 500 years of the common era until the first Muslims arrived in the 10th century. Though outside empires tried to control the subcontinent, Hinduism remained the dominant religion. In modern times, the Maratha Empire took over traditional Mughal territory, and the Maratha leaders were the last of the kings to rule until the arrival of the British in 1803. The East India Company had been trading in India since 1612 and became immensely rich off its resources. Thankfully they left the culture, traditions and religions alone to continue as they had for centuries.
By the turn of the 20th century, opposition to British colonial rule began to escalate. Gandhi arrived in 1915 promoting passive resistance. But it was really WWII that dealt the final blow to British colonialism. The nation’s next transition came when the Muslims and Hindus broke into two factions, which resulted in the creation of Pakistan. India continues to progress with its democratic government currently led by Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party. Tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir, the issue of the caste society, and its rise as a global power make India a fascinating country. Despite its modernisation, India holds tightly to its deep cultural and religious traditions. But it’s this tenacity that keeps it at the top of many travellers’ short list of destinations.
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India's total land mass is 2,973,190 square kilometers and is divided into three main geological regions: the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the Himalayas, and thePeninsula region. The Indo-Gangetic Plain and those portions of the Himalayas within India are collectively known as North India. South India consists of the peninsular region, often termed simply the Peninsula.
On the basis of its physiography, India is divided into ten regions: the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the northern mountains of the Himalayas, the Central Highlands, the Deccan or Peninsular Plateau, the East Coast (Coromandel Coast in the south), the West Coast (Konkan, Kankara, and Malabar coasts), the Great Indian Desert (a geographic feature known as the Thar Desert in Pakistan) and the Rann of Kutch, the valley of the Brahmaputra in Assam, the northeastern hill ranges surrounding the Assam Valley, and the islands of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Several major rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus, flow through India. Arising in the northern mountains and carrying rich alluvial soil to the plains below, these mighty rivers have supported agriculture-based civilizations for thousands of years.
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India is such a huge country that all kinds of climate exist. The deserts in the north are bone dry while the Himalayan mountains icy cold. Assam is one of the wettest spots on earth, and the southern Kerala state rarely cools off. India has three seasons: hot, rainy or cool. Where you travel determines what kind of weather you’ll experience, when you should go, and what you should pack.
The annual monsoon plays a big part in the weather throughout India. The hottest time of year is the summer, from April until June. The heat begins to build up in February, and by April temperatures regularly top 40C. Relief comes in May when the monsoon arrives, bringing afternoon thunderstorms. From June until October expect plenty of rain and humidity. This is India’s low travel season, but in the northern mountains it’s a wonderful time of year.
India’s high season is during the winter months of November to March, when temperatures are pleasantly warm in the central and southern regions but freezing in the north. This is when most tourists flock to the beaches of Goa or explore the deserts of Gujarat. An ideal time to travel in India is during September, October, March and April. Fewer travellers are around and the weather is accommodating. Since every region has its own climate, dress appropriately for where you plan to travel.
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Banks: 09:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday; 10:00 to 12:00, Saturdays
Post Offices: 10:00 to 17:00, Monday to Saturday
Department Stores and Shops: 09:00 to 19:30, daily
Museums: 09:00 to 18:00, Tuesday to Sunday; closed Mondays
Business Offices: 09:30 to 18:00, Monday to Friday; 09:30 to 14:30, Saturdays
India is one of the planet’s most populated and impoverished countries. Desperation and survival instincts often bring out the worst in people, so there are several cautions to consider while travelling around India. Thankfully, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be the victim of violent crime, but petty theft and scams are a daily occurrence. Tourists make natural targets, so it’s likely you’ll encounter at least one scam artist or tout during your visit.
Most of the trouble revolves around theft. If you flaunt your wealth you will attract unwanted attention. Pickpockets are rife in crowded cities and sightseeing spots where tourists congregate. Leave a bag unattended and it will disappear in a heartbeat. Don’t walk alone at night and do your best to blend in as an average type of visitor.
Scams are taken to new heights of creativity in India. Being a tourist makes you the number one target since most Indians know all about the common scams. Touts wanting to be your “guide” can be avoided by simply ignoring them until they give up. Their persistence makes this difficult and frustrating, but if you stick to your emphatic “No” they’ll eventually move on. Every young man in India is a tour guide, and you really don’t need one to enjoy the sights. Many even carry I.D. cards stating they are ‘government-approved’, but they are definitely not approved by anyone but their families.
Taxi drivers can also be a problem in India, as they occasionally insist that your hotel no longer exists or is closed. If they try this common scam (suggesting an even better hotel) then ask to be let out and hail another taxi. The police aren’t always helpful (though many are). Expect to pay a bribe if they catch you doing something illegal like drugs.
Tourist Police: 103
Electricity: 220V AC, 50Hz; all plugs are round two-pin types.
Society and Culture
The Indian society is not a uniform one. This is a natural corollary to the fact that diversity is a part of Indian way of life. From region to region, diversity in the social structure is prominently seen. The north Indian social traditions and customs are markedly different and so those of the eastern India from those of other parts of the country. And here lies the tentalising element of mystery associated with India.
The diversity factor notwithstanding, there is a common thread running through the Indians. Unity in diversity is best seen in India in a maze of seemingly disparate peoples. One social unifier is the Indian system of casteism adhered to by all racial groups belonging to the Hindu religion fold. Lambasted by many as a retrogressive social tradition, this system has also given the Indians a sense of belongingness to a shared way of life. Though caste rigidity was prevalent in the olden times, now it has become flexible to a large extent. It is not an uncommon to come across families of so called incompatible castes entering into matrimonial alliance.
The gender inequality is a phenomenon causing concern in the Indian society. The Indian society is highly prejudiced against the female gender. Basically a male dominated society, decision making at family and political level is almost single handedly handled by the men. Customs such as Dowry are worsening the process of subjugating women in the society. Of late, with social awareness about women’s vital role in the development of a community or the country, there has been a change in the perception of gender equations in favour of women. Education of women, giving the women a greater say in decision making in the family and the governance are emphasized. With the liberalization of economy women are in top managerial position at par with the best men.
India does not require vaccinations to enter the country, but it’s highly recommended to get booster shots for hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid and cholera. Malaria exists in India, but the best protection is to simply wear long pants and shoes after dusk to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Anti-malarial pills make most people nauseous.
Hygiene and sanitation are the major health concerns for visitors. Nearly every traveller to India gets a case of upset stomach at some point. This can occur from consuming contaminated food or water, or simply because your stomach isn’t used to the rich and spicy cuisine. Usually, however, stomach problems arise from dirty food and water. Never drink the tap water in India. Don’t use it to brush your teeth, and try to keep it out of your mouth when you bathe. Stick to bottled water for everything, as it’s cheap and readily available. Just be sure the seal on the bottle is intact.
Indian food can also easily upset your stomach. Start with mild dishes and work your way up the spice ladder. Be particularly careful when eating street food. Even vegetarian items can be prepared by dirty hands, and the glass you drink your tea in may have been washed in old dirty water. Remember that this is India, so don’t expect anything to be sanitary unless you’re at a 5-star restaurant. Luckily, medicine for upset stomachs and most other minor illnesses are available at the local pharmacy.
Hindi is the main language in India, spoken by 30 per cent of the population. English is widely used thanks to the British colonial era, especially in the tourism industry. There are 17 other regional languages officially recognised by the government.
India uses the Indian Rupee, which comes in denominations of Rs1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 notes. There are 100 paise in a rupee. Coins come in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, as well as 50 and 25 paise.
Economy and Infrastracture
India is the seventh largest and second most populous country in the world. A new spirit of economic freedom is now stirring in the country, bringing sweeping changes in its wake. A series of ambitious economic reforms aimed at deregulating the country and stimulating foreign investment has moved India firmly into the front ranks of the rapidly growing Asia Pacific region and unleashed the latent strengths of a complex and rapidly changing nation. India's process of economic reform is firmly rooted in a political consensus that spans her diverse political parties. India's democracy is a known and stable factor, which has taken deep roots over nearly half a century. Importantly, India has no fundamental conflict between its political and economic systems. Its political institutions have fostered an open society with strong collective and individual rights and an environment supportive of free economic enterprise.
India's time tested institutions offer foreign investors a transparent environment that guarantees the security of their long term investments. These include a free and vibrant press, a judiciary which can and does overrule the government, a sophisticated legal and accounting system and a user friendly intellectual infrastructure. India's dynamic and highly competitive private sector has long been the backbone of its economic activity. It accounts for over 75% of its Gross Domestic Product and offers considerable scope for joint ventures and collaborations.
Today, India is one of the most exciting emerging markets in the world. Skilled managerial and technical manpower that match the best available in the world and a middle class whose size exceeds the population of the USA or the European Union, provide India with a distinct cutting edge in global competition.
Since Indian rupees cannot be obtained outside of India, visitors will have to exchange money once they arrive. Banks are the best place to use, though some hotels and shops will also do this at a lower rate. ATMs make an excellent choice for withdrawing a daily amount of rupees. Most ATMs accept Cirrus and PLUS cards, and can be found in almost every large Indian town. Make sure you keep all your currency exchange receipts, as they are sometimes needed to make large purchases.
Credit cards are typically accepted at the larger hotels, upscale restaurants and established shops. Always keep some cash on hand, because most merchants don’t accept credit cards. Also keep a supply of small bills with you such as Rp100s as small shops can rarely change big bills. Another thing to remember is that merchants won’t accept torn or badly worn banknotes. Don’t accept them if they are offered in change, as this is a common trick to dump them on tourists. Only accept banknotes that are in decent condition.
Visitors over 17 are allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, 2 litres of alcohol and up to 60ml of perfume without incurring a duty tax. All visitors to India bringing laptop computers or special video and camera equipment are required to fill out a Tourist Baggage Re-Export Form provided at the airport. When you depart India this form proves that you didn’t purchase the equipment in India.
The first Hindi word you should learn is namaste, which means hello. Some Indians may try to offer a handshake, but most greet each other by putting their palms together at their chest, thus avoiding touching. Indians have serious issues with the left hand, so never use it to touch anything or anyone as it is traditionally used in the toilet and considered unclean. The feet are also an unclean part of the body, so never touch someone with your foot, use it to point, or prop your feet up on the table.
The way you dress says a lot about your status in class-conscious India. The more flesh you expose indicates you aren’t wealthy enough to cover your body or you have no shame. Either way, it’s best to cover up as much as possible (men and women) with loose, lightweight clothing. When visiting a temple you will need to cover up more than usual and always remove your shoes. Footwear is also removed when entering someone’s home. A small gift is appropriate when invited to an Indian’s home. Just get some advice on what to bring, as some Indians are vegetarian or have religious issues.
Indians love a good conversation and even a heated debate, but they rarely lose their temper. If you feel like learning more about this rich and varied culture, put yourself on the listening end and don’t offer too many potentially critical comments about things like their caste system, poverty, religion or cricket. As in all cultures, the rule of thumb is to do as the locals do. If you make a social mistake, a sincere apology goes a long way to quickly diffuse a sticky situation.
When eating out in India, remember that the left hand is used exclusively for bathroom activities so don’t use it for anything involving food. Most Indians eat with their right hand, which is an interesting experience that should be tried at least once. But even the humblest restaurant can offer a fork and spoon if you need it. Indians typically share their food with each other, even with strangers. It is slightly offensive to refuse a bite if offered, but that is up to you. Sharing is also common at restaurants, so expect to enjoy a taste of all the dishes ordered.
The only taboo to try and remember is the concept of jootha, which is based on the idea of hygiene. While sharing your food is considered excellent manners, drinking from another person’s glass, using their spoon to take a bite of curry, or taking a bite directly from someone’s roti is considered very bad form (jootha). If you aren’t sure what to do simply ask how it’s done and your host will gladly educate you on dining etiquette.
Visa and Passports
Visitors will need to arrange a travel visa before arriving in India as they are not issued upon arrival. Most people will get the standard six month multiple-entry visa regardless of how long you plan to stay. These can be purchased at Indian embassies with two passport photos and a small fee. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry.
Tourist Information Offices
Every major city and town has a government-operated tourism office offering travel advice and information on transport and attractions. Indiatourism is the main entity of this tourism ministry, and there are branches in many countries.
Indiatourism New Dehli
88 Janpath, New Delhi, 110 001
Phone: +91 11 2332 0342
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India has so many highlights it’s simply impossible to touch on them all. Each region has dozens of world-class historical sites, religious temples and fascinating cities worth exploring at length. The best strategy for travelling in India is to allow plenty of time and focus on one or two regions. Whether it’s the Taj Mahal in the north or the Kerala Backwaters in the south, you are guaranteed the journey of your life.
These ancient Buddhist caves dating back to 200 BC are one of India’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located in Ajanta, the temples - cut out of the rock face - are in incredibly good condition considering their age. The walls are adorned with pristine religious paintings depicting various aspects of early Buddhism in India. The caves are a bit out of the way, but that’s what makes them so special.
Behind the startling veneer of Delhi's poverty-stricken streets littered with cows, traffic jams and heart-wrenching beggars is a city rich in cultural diversity, intriguing architecture and great food. Old Delhi is the place to find the most adventure wandering its labyrinthine streets and gawking at its ancient temples and colourful bazaars. New Delhi, by contrast, is a land of gleaming skyscrapers and broad orderly boulevards.
India’s liveliest fortress was built in 1156, but around 25 per cent of Jaisalmer’s local population still resides within its mazelike streets, giving it a special feel. Massive stone gates provide entry into a timeless world of colourful shops bedecked with brilliant cloth, mirrored tiles and amazing handicrafts. Head to the top of the fort and you’ll get panoramic views of entire valley.
India’s third-largest city is a seething metropolis on the rise. The capital of West Bengal is a fascinating city to explore for its crumbling British colonial architecture, chaotic markets and heady community of artists, writers and political activists. If you can handle the snarling traffic, suffocating pollution and depth of poverty you will find many hidden treasures in this culture-heavy Indian city.
The home of Bollywood is everything you’d expect it to be. Shopping malls featuring the latest fashions rise out of a surprisingly Victorian cityscape dotted with green parks, some of the most interesting street life in India, and an incredible array of traditional bazaars. Head down to Chowpatty beach on the Arabian Sea to and watch families enjoying a day off, or catch a cricket match at the legendary Oval Maiden grounds. This is modern India at its finest.
One of the world’s most perfectly designed structures is as surreal as you’d imagine. Built as a monument to love by Shah Jahan in 1631, the symmetry of the architecture is perfect. Although it’s always crowded, the best time to visit is at sunset, when the white marble gradually fades from gold to pink and then blue. The Taj Mahal is located in Agra.
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Explore the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur and get a true feel for the culture of Rajasthan. Jaipur gets its name from the pink hues of its buildings, but there’s plenty of colour to lend contrast to the city. At the heart of Jaipur is the City Palace complex, where the highlight is the striking Palace of the Winds where the royal ladies once watched street life from the privacy of their amazing little windows. There are dozens of other historical highlights, addictive bazaars and fascinating locals. At dusk when the whole city glows with the fading light you know you’re in a magical place.
Give yourself a break from the crush of humanity and visit one of India’s wildlife parks. There are more than 400 wildlife sanctuaries, 70 national parks and 24 tiger preserves in India. Every region has its own highlight park, but a couple really stand out. Birders will want to explore Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to nearly 400 species of amazing birds. Bharatpur National Park in Rajasthan is a popular site for Indian tigers and other big beasts, while West Bengal’s Sundarban National Park is famous for Asiatic elephants, tigers, rhinos and just about every other big game creature.
Hit the beach for a reminder that India isn’t all just heat and dust. India is a giant peninsula, with thousands of kilometres of coastline and some of the world’s finest beaches. The southern regions are where most of the action is found, especially at the renowned beach town of Goa. Despite its hip and laid-back reputation, Goa boasts some of India’s most exclusive seaside resorts such as Aguada. Kerala’s best beach is Kovalam, while Chennai’s Marina Beach is the second-longest in the world. Near Mumbai you can escape to Juhu or Chowpatty.
Revel in the incomparable religious fervor that envelopes the Ganges River at Varanasi. The scene along the banks of the sacred Ganges is indescribable. Varanasi is India’s holiest city, and is always thronged with Hindu pilgrims and holy men performing rituals and prayers. As bloated dead animals float in the river and the charred funeral pyres of Indians line the shore, devotees bathe in the water to purify themselves. At night candles are released into the river against a background of droning prayers and beautiful singing. It’s truly one of the world’s most inspiring places.
Sip a cup of tea in the cool climes of one of Darjeeling’s hill stations. Built by the British as a restful retreat, Darjeeling is a wonderful blend of green tea plantations, Buddhist monasteries and towering Himalayan mountain peaks. This is a great place to chill out from the bustle of lower India. The Zoological Park has red pandas, snow leopards and Siberian tigers, while the distinctly British Gymkhana Club is just what you’d expect with your cup of afternoon tea. Take the 10-hour miniature train from the plains up to Darjeeling for a real adventure.
Take a cruise on a traditional kettuvallam boat in the Backwaters of Kerala. This beautiful and fascinating region of southern India is one giant web of rivers, canals and lagoons that spill out into the sea. There is a thriving riverside scene all over the area as people eek out a living raising crops and livestock along the few patches of dirt that exist. The traditional boats are a great way to see a unique side of Indian culture. Trips can last a few hours or a few days, as some boats are equipped with bedrooms and kitchens.
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India has several major international airports which service every corner of the globe. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai are the main air hubs in each major geographical region of India. International flights also arrive at Bangalore, Amritsar, Kochi and Ahmedabad, though these offer fewer international flights. Mumbai’s airport receives the most traffic, but its facilities are poor. Delhi’s airport has a much better reputation, and is ideal for exploring the northern regions. Kolkata ’s airport should only be considered if you want to travel east India exclusively.
Air India and Indian Airlines are the two traditional national carriers, though nearly every other international airline flies somewhere into India. Newcomers Jet Airways and Air Sahara are quickly gaining pace for their quality of service, particularly in the domestic market where Jet Airways is now regarded as India’s best airline. Since land travel in India is exhausting and time-consuming, domestic flights are a good way to move around.
India has the world’s second-largest train network, but it’s by far number one when it comes to chaos. Train journeys consume huge amounts of time and are frustrating, but they are an integral part of the Indian travel experience. There are several classes of train ticket, but unless you want to immerse yourself in a sea of people pay for the first-class air-con sleeper and not a second class free-for-all bench seat. Second class seats guarantee enough stories to write a book, but it’ s never a comfortable ride. Booking a ticket is also a challenge, so consider having a travel company arrange things for you.
Unless you’re a glutton for punishment or have a budget befitting your average Indian traveller, don’t use buses. They are overpacked, unreliable, dangerous and use some seriously punishing roads. Renting a car and driver is an option if you need to get to a smaller destination, but driving yourself should only be considered if you an excellent driver with nerves of steel.
Within most cities and towns the local transport consists of taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and horse-drawn carriages called tongas. Public buses ply the streets of larger cities and are always an adventure, but the private taxis and rickshaws do a fine job at a decent price. Auto-rickshaws are half the cost of a taxi but subject you to the suffocating exhaust fumes ubiquitous in the large cities. Whatever mode of taxi you use, always negotiate the fare before getting into the vehicle.
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