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Before Leaving for India

What to put in your suitcase?

It is first necessary to know if you are taking a suitcase or a backpack. If you are planning to opt for a driver provided by Shanti Travel, then you should take into account only the plane and car ride, and thus take a suitcase! If you’re more like a trekker/traveller who prefers to walk and travel by train, then take a backpack: Indian roads are not a paradise for wheeled suitcases! You will have to labour in order to drag or carry them.

As for clothing, there’s no mystery there! You are entering a hot country, so choose to pack covered and light-weight clothes. Depending on the season, consider keeping a sweater for the cool evenings (or sometimes to shield you against the excessive air conditioning in buildings). You could also use a scarf during rickshaw rides to protect you from the pollution and dust of big cities. Some advice to the fairer sex: avoid tank tops and mini shorts, as well as clothes that attract looks.

CAUTION: Ladakh is rather cold, so take warm clothes if going there! It also gets chilled in India during the winter months of December, January and February.

Essentials to carry to India: Earplugs (to spend those quiet nights), mosquito repellents (even if you’ve taken anti-malarial vaccination), sunscreen (the sun is very strong). Opt for closed shoes. Finally, the mandatory medical kit: medicines for headache and stomach ache as well as anti-diarrheal!

When to go to India

India is a land so large that its climate differs from coast to coast. Overall there are three seasons in India: dry, hot, and humid. Depending on the topography, there are of course regional specificities in these three seasons as well.

The Dry Season in India

The dry season in India extends from October to March, this is when to go to India. Meanwhile, the Himalayan region of Ladakh rescinds into an extremely cold season with negative temperatures. In the northern plain, the months of December and January are the coldest season in India, in Delhi and Agra for example. The fog may cause delays in planes and trains and sometimes cause a lack of visibility around the monuments. It is, rather, the ideal time to visit South India and the Andaman islands, as the temperatures there are always idyllic. Exercise caution, hotels are often fully booked between Christmas and New Year’s day, so make sure to book well in advance. A small monsoon is experienced along the Southeast coast from mid-October to mid-December, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu. For a trip to Rajasthan, opt for the months of November and February, at this time of the year this princely state is packed with some lively festivals.

The Hot Season in India

The hot season in India extends from April to June, which is the period before the monsoon. Temperatures in North India can climb up to 45 degrees. It is nevertheless possible to visit Rajasthan, but we advise against Jaisalmer, where you can be hit by sandstorms due to the high winds. In all cases opt for an air conditioned vehicle and hotels. Despite the heat, it’s a great time to see tigers in the national parks of Madhya Pradesh. During this season, this is when to go to North India, the Himalayan foothills in Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the rafting season on the Ganges begins. Go hiking in cooler places, the magnificent tea plantations of Darjeeling for example!

The Wet Season in India

From June to September is the wet season in India, and is when the monsoon sets in. It first begins in southern India before moving to the north of the country where the rains usually arrive in early July and end in late September. Beware, because the temperatures are not that cool even at this time. Several areas are also adversely affected by heavy rains, such as the North-east of India, Varanasi and its ghats (which get submerged underwater) or the Himalayan foothills (which are sometimes victims of landslides). We advise thats this is when to go to Ladakh in North India, at this time. Located about 3500 m above sea level, the Himalayan barrier protects the region from the monsoon. The climate is dry, and summer temperatures and trekking paths await you. June is slightly more preferable, because then you can still admire the snow-capped mountains. Our suggestion is also for the Rajasthan region, which experiences a weaker monsoon than elsewhere. Everything is beautified by the rains: the landscape is greener, there are fewer travellers, and thus bigger discounts! The heat, however, remains prevalent, so make sure to opt for a hotel that also has a pool. Warning: National parks are closed at this time of the year. The ideal route is to combine Ladakh and Rajasthan, so you will have the feeling of accomplishing two trips in one.

Healthcare Advice

You will find hordes of more or less alarming advice on health problems in India. What you must remember is that there is no risk to your health if you are well prepared beforehand and are careful once you’re there. There is no vaccination mandatory, but some are simply recommended: talk to your doctor on an individual basis about it. The major communicable diseases are spread by mosquitoes; good protection with powerful mosquito-repellents ensures your safety.
Indian food is known for its food poisoning problems: it is however not a generality. Be careful and do not eat anywhere outside. Avoid street vendors and meat. The only imperative we recommend to you is to drink only bottled water.
India is the world’s largest supplier of doctors, and all big cities are very well equipped with medical facilities. Hoping you’d be reassured by now.

Electrical outlets

The voltage in India is generally 220 volts and plugs are of the European format, so you can easily connect your devices. But this is not always the case. Therefore, investing in an adapter will not cost you much (around ten Dollars) and will be useful in all your travels.
Power cuts are frequent here, often short and sometimes longer too - do take this into account! Finally, a typical Indian feature is that each outlet has a switch! So, if your outlet does not work, make sure that you have pressed hard on the switch.

Money

La roupie est l’unité monétaire de l’Inde. 1 roupie = 0.017 euro ! Le taux de change varie beaucoup, surtout en ce moment avec la chute de l’euro et la montée de la roupie : aujourd’hui, vous pouvez espérer 70 roupies pour 1 € environ.

N’hésitez pas à emporter des euros avec vous, mais changez-les à l’hôtel plutôt qu’à l’aéroport, le taux de change y est souvent plus intéressant. Les cartes de crédit sont généralement acceptées dans les hôtels et les grands magasins. Vous pouvez facilement retirer des espèces avec votre carte de crédit dans des ATM (distributeur de billets), mais n’oubliez pas les charges que votre banque prendra certainement (environ 4€ pour chaque retrait).

Shopping

In India, there is no dearth of stores or street vendors. The lovers of shopping and crafts of all kinds will be thrilled by the variety of fabrics, silk, jewellery, leather etc. Of course rigorous haggling is the norm in all the little shops. The state stores (Emporium) have fixed prices, and will give you an idea of the prices of common items. Such products as bottled water, biscuits, shampoo have their price indicated on the packaging. Take your shopping trip in India to be a game. Approach it with a sense of humour, have the air of detachment, and always divide the price by 4 to begin negotiations. The important thing is not to exceed the price you’re willing to shell out without your heart stroking!

Telephone

On some basic numbers :

  • From UK, USA and Australia to India: 0091 + the state’s code without the initial 0 + the number of your correspondent.
  • From India to USA: 001 + the number of your correspondent without the first 0.
  • From India to UK: 0044 + the number of your correspondent without the first 0.
  • From India to Australia: 0061 + the number of your correspondent without the first 0.

You can choose the option of roaming for your laptop, but ATTENTION! While there is good network coverage in cities, the same is rarely the case in the countryside. Same goes for Internet connections: they can be rapid or very slow, depending on where you are.
Many phone booths allow you to make cheap calls. Prefer these instead of the hotel phones, because they make you pay more taxes.

Festivals not to miss

Once you’ve chosen the right season for your visit, try to plan your stay in India according to one of the many festivals that mark the season. These festivities will make your trip even more authentic and leave you with high memories in full colour. In view of the cultural and religious mosaic that characterises India, the festivities are immensely rich and varied. It can be anything, right from the great Hindu festival of Holi or a wedding ceremony with dances and a local band, to a traditional music festival in Rajasthan.

Pongal and Tamil New Year in Southern India: A harvest festival, it marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring. This is the largest festival in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Kumbh Mela : This huge religious gathering is held every three years alternately in one of the four holy cities: Allahabad, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjain. Millions of Hindu pilgrims come together for a collective sacred bath during the mela. This festival is a rare and indescribable experience.

Holi : This festival of colours heralds the beginning of spring. This splendid aesthetic spectacle is usually celebrated in March. Everyone is welcome to play with coloured powder and water. It is a unique opportunity for Indians to mix, regardless of their religions, origins or castes. Holi is most widely celebrated in North India and Rajasthan.

Sufi Music Festival : It takes place in February in the cities of Nagaur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The festival brings together artists such as musicians, dancers and poets from around the world, who come to revel in Sufi culture in an enchanting setting!

Hemis : It is a famous Buddhist festival held every June in the largest monastery of Ladakh. With a great number of monks wearing costumes and colourful masks and dancing, the monastery comes alive for the two days of festivities.

Durga Puja : In October the great festival of Dussehra is celebrated in north India. It is called Durga Puja in Calcutta. Festivities take place for about three weeks in honour of the goddess Durga, the destroyer of demon king Mahisasura. This is the time for giant colourful sculptures to be erected in the streets. Many kinds of entertainment take place until the last day, when the statues of Durga are immersed in the water.

Pushkar Fair : Held in November, this fair for cattle, horses and camels, is the opportunity for you to discover Pushkar and Rajasthan in a completely different light. It is an open-air fair held for a week, bringing in thousands of visitors (pilgrims or merchants). Camels are prettied up in splendid finery and contests of all kinds take place!

Diwali : The Festival of Lights announces the beginning of winter (late October-early November). It’s the perfect time to do spring cleaning, to buy new clothes, and offer all kinds of goodies to one’s relatives and neighbours. The tradition is to light thousands of small oil lamps made of clay. The show is striking, but often quite noisy too, as bursting firecrackers is also part of the festival.

Most of these festivals’ dates are determined by the lunar calendar, so they can vary from one year to another. See our full calendar of festivals in India :
https://www.shantitravel.com/en/travel-info/festivals-calendar

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