Did you know?
India is the world's largest producer of tea.
Hindi is the official language but 17 other languages are recognised by the constitution. English is the unofficial business language and is still widely spoken, especially in the south.
A six-month tourist visa is necessary and is valid for multiple entries within that period. Ask your travel agent for details.
Most flights from London
land in the capital New Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai (Bombay). Internal connecting flights can then be taken to cities all over the country. Flights are increasingly being offered from London
Heathrow to New Delhi is nine and a half hours.
Indian Airlines and a number of smaller carriers operate a huge number of internal flights. With such a large country to explore, prices are reasonable considering time saved. The Indian rail system is extensive, running more than 7,000 passenger trains a day, ranging from the incredibly luxurious to the incredibly uncomfortable. The bus network is also well-developed, but can be crowded and take a great deal of time to cover long distances. Both rail and bus travel are good for experiencing the sights, sounds and sometimes, unfortunately, smells of India close-up. Bicycles are best for local transport and are easily rented.
Rupee. You are not allowed to bring Indian currency into the country, so change it when you arrive.
This is a very cheap country to visit. Litre of petrol 25p; bottle of beer 70-80p; moderate restaurant meal 60p; roll of camera film £1.25; four-mile taxi ride 20p. Prices jump when you head into tourist centres.
Climatic conditions vary hugely across such a vast country. In general there are three seasons: hot, wet and cool. In the north, Delhi starts to warm up in February and can be in the high 40s - over 110F - and bone-dry by May. Then comes monsoon season, which is still hot but also wet and humid. Finally, around October, comes the cool season, with temperatures from 20-30C (68-86F), dropping to as low as 8C (46F) in December and January. The pattern is similar elsewhere but within a different range of temperatures.
Five and a half hours ahead of GMT.
International dialling code from the UK
230-240V, 50Hz AC. Sockets take plugs with three round pins; you will need an adapter for European appliances.
Official business hours are 9.30am-5.30pm - unofficially 10am-5pm - but banks close by 2pm and travellers' cheque transactions usually cease 30 minutes before closing time. Apart from Pondicherry, Sikkim and Goa,
which have no restrictions, licensing hours are from 11am-3pm and 5-11pm, unless you're also eating.
Health - before you go
Take medical advice two months before you travel. Immunisations you should consider include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever. Make sure tetanus and polio jabs are up to date. Malaria is also a risk in certain areas. Take out adequate health insurance to cover emergency costs. Be aware of the risk of outbreaks of disease in areas of southern India and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
affected by last December's tidal waves. Seek medical advice about endemic diseases.
Health - when you are there
Diarrhoea is common due to change in food and climate but need not be serious. Replenish lost fluids. Drink bottled water and avoid ice and ice cream. Try to eat only cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables. The embassy or any five-star hotel will be able to recommend a doctor or clinic.
Keep valuables with you at all times and take extra care to protect your belongings on trains. Women travellers should take extra care in Goa.
The Foreign Office (Tel: 020 7238 4503. Website: fco.gov.uk/travel
) advises against travel to Jammu and Kashmir, apart from Ladakh, where it is advisable to avoid the border areas. Visitors to Delhi are also advised to take extra care as there has been some terrorist activity targetting public transport, and the north-east is described as a 'disturbed' region. Check for the latest information before you travel. See Foreign Office advice before booking your holiday to the Tamil Nadu coast, the Andhra Pradesh coast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
following last December's tidal waves which caused damage in these areas.
The national police emergency number is 100. British High Commission, 50 Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 1100021. Tel (00 91) 11 687 2161. Deputy High Commissioner: 1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta, 700 071. Tel (00 91) 33 282 5171/75. Deputy High Commissioner in Southern India: 111 Floor, Kakani Towers, 15 Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Madras 600 006. Tel (00 91) 44 8273136/7. British Deputy High Commissioner, Maker Chambers IV, 222 Jamnalal Bajaj Road (PO Box 11714), Nariman Point, Bombay 400 021. Tel (00 91) 22 2830517.
Use your right hand for all social interactions, whether passing money, food or any other item. Use only your right hand for eating. Bargain, and bargain hard.
Pets returning from India will have to spend six months in quarantine.
In tourist hotels a service charge of 10% is normally charged; elsewhere 5-15 rupees is generally enough. Such a baksheesh, or tip, is expected, and will help to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.
Government of India Tourist Office, 7 Cork
W1S 3LH. Tel 020 7437 3677. 24-hour brochure line: 01233 211999.