Welcome to india
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Republic of India, Hindustan, Bharat… the names are numerous, so are the cultures and traditions and the regions and religions, but the soul is one. A country that is home to the largest youth population in the world, the world’s largest democracy, housing one of the ancient civilizations, India as a country provides a perfect balance when it comes to tradition and modernity. There are palaces and forts, but also nightclubs and gastro-pubs, there is street food while there is also molecular gastronomy, deserts and forests, mountains and plains, dosa and butter chicken, name it and the country has it. Rich in culture, India houses so many destinations that one might visit that even a lifetime seems less to explore the wonder that is India. Travelling to India can be an enriching and rewarding experience as long as a few things are kept in mind, perhaps like a little essentials list.
- Currency Unit: Indian Rupee (INR)
- Currency Exchange Rate: I USD equals 69.671 Indian Rupees
- Official Religion: None
- Capital: New Delhi
- Country Code: +91
- Emergency Numbers: dial 100 for police, 101 for fire, 102 for medical, 108 for emergency disaster
- Time Zone: (GMT+5.30)
Visa Policy and Basic Requirements:
All visitors need a visa for India, except the citizens of Nepal and Bhutan. But this also is conditional, as visitors from these countries need a visa if they are entering India through China.
Visitors staying in India from other countries for less than a duration of 72 hours can obtain a Transit Visa, otherwise, for a longer stay than that, an Indian Tourist Visa is necessary. The length of the tourist visa depends upon the nationality of the tourist. The scheme of Tourist Visa on Arrival is available for the citizens of eleven countries, namely, Japan, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Luxembourg, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines and New Zealand and is available at select airports throughout the country. Citizens from SAARC countries are exempt from the requirement of visa and Police Reporting. Some areas in Sikkim, Kashmir, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and others require foreigners to obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP) due to security reasons and these can be applied while applying for a tourist visa or upon arrival in India. A valid tourist visa and all its’ details are available on the website of the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs.
So many languages of the heart, mind and soul…literally. Each state has its’ own language and each language has its’ variations. Though the country does not have any national language and the multi-lingual aspect of the states can make it difficult to pinpoint which language one must be prepared with, the official languages are English and Hindi and almost all people across the country can speak a minimal amount of either. A few words and phrases that may help out while trying to converse with the locals can be:
- Hello- Namastey
- Help- Bachao
- Money- Paisa
- How far is this place?- Yeh jagah kitni door hai?
- How much will it cost?- Iska kitna paisa lagega?
- Please drop me there.- Mujhe yahaan chod dijiye
- Hello, my name is- Hello, mera naam
- Help, I am lost, can you give me directions- Bachao, main kho gayi/gaya hoon. Iss jagah ka raasta bata dijiye.
All major cities have an airport and each and every location of the country is well connected through other means of transportation such as trains, buses, etc. Listed below are a couple of important airports that serve as linking points to other destinations in the country.
- Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi
- Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai
- Chennai international Airport, Chennai
- Kempegowda International Airport, Bangalore
- Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad
- Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata
Must Try Food:
With so many different regions and hence varied options in cuisines, it is difficult to decide which food to try and what to leave. Eating in India is like experiencing a culinary trail across one of the most diverse countries in the world. But, seeing as how even natives of the country do not get to try each and every dish out there, the list must be narrowed to a few must haves.
- Chaat like Paani Puri, Papdi Chaat and others
- Curries like Butter Chicken, Rajasthani Laal Maas, Kahsmiri Gushtaba, Daal Makhani, Bengali Bhapa Ilish, Gatte ki Sabzi from Rajasthan, Malai Kofta
- Indian Breads like Butter Naan, Rumali Royi, Sheermaal, Stuffed Parathas
- Kebabs like the Galouti Kebabs and Tunde Kebabs in Lucknow
- Rice like Hyderabadi Biriyani, Pulao, Steamed Rice, Jeera Rice
- Snacks like Vada Pao from Mumbai, Jhaal Muri from Kolkata, Momos, Dhokla from Gujarat, Pav Bhaji, Samosa, Kaati Roll, Mirchi Vada, Medu Vada
- A few specialities like Idli, Vada and Masala Dosa, Appam and Stew from Kerala, Chole Bhature, Pyaaz ki Kachori and Mawa Kachori from Jaipur, Dal Baati Churma, Makke ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag from Punjab, Upma and Poha as breakfast
- Accompaniments like Pickles, Chutney and Papadam, Vinegar dipped onions.
- Sweets like Rabdi, Phirni, Gulab Jamun, Rasgulla, Imarti, Jalebi, Gajar ka Halwa, Kulfi, Rasmalai, Mishti Doi, Petha, Ghevar, Ladoo
- Drinks like Lassi, Buttermilk, Aam Panna, Shikanji, Rice Beer, Local Brews.
- And the mouth freshener of the nawabs, Paan
Though India is often associated with being deep set in culture and traditions, the country has roots in modernity and hence there are many cities that encapsulate the essence of nightlife perfectly. While not all regions have this sort of culture, places like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Manali, Pondicherry, Shillong, Jaipur and of course Goa are among the places that have unlimited experiences to offer when it comes to a hustling and bustling nightlife, be it in terms of raving, raging parties or live music gigs. The legal drinking age varies from state to state, there are also dry states like Gujarat and Bihar where foreigners must buy a 30-day permit in order to be able to carry alcohol. National holidays including Republic Day (January 26), Independence day (August 15), Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) are dry days and no place serves alcohol on these days especially, so it sure is a better option to stock up beforehand.
Major Tourist Places:
There is no shortage when it comes to places that one must explore and visit in the country. From the north to the south, from the east to the west, there are a plethora of must-visit places and an abundance of natural beauty and cultural artefacts. However, what does one do when on a short trip? Well, to make it easier here are a few places that one must cover, a sort of mini checklist
- The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
- The Taj Mahal, Agra
- Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Amber Palace in Jaipur
- Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, India Gate Nizammudin Dargah, Lotus Temple in Delhi
- The Ajanta and Ellora Caves
- Gateway of India, Elephanta Caves and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai
- Kaziranga National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Jim Corbett National Park, Periyar National Park
- Havelock Island and Cellular Jail
- Rohtang Pass
- Valley of Flowers National Park
- Mysore Palace and Hampi in Karnataka
- The Backwaters of Kerala
- Houseboat in Srinagar
- The toy train in Darjeeling
- The Ghats of Varanasi- the spiritual hub of India
- Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar
- Pangong Lake and Chiktan Fort in Ladakh
- Khajuraho Group of Temples in Madhya Pradesh
- Nalanda and Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar
- The Great Rann of Kutch
- The Great Chola Temples
- The Sanchi Stupa
- Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu
- The beaches of Goa, Pondicherry and Gokarna
- Mecca Masjid, the Charminar and The Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad
- Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
Some general courtesies to be followed:
As in every south Asian country, India too has some general etiquettes that must be followed by tourists for a seamless travel experience. The locals otherwise are friendly and more than happy to guide tourists, but beware of those who charge exorbitant prices. Women must also make sure that they are wearing clothing appropriate to the surroundings to ensure a safe and secure experience, as well as make sure you are only dealing with people who have proper identification on them. It is advisable to not pack on the PDA when in India, ask whether taking your shoes off is required before entering anyone’s house and do take your footwear off while visiting any places of worship. Any questions that you think might be intrusive to your personal space should and can be politely declined. Be careful while crossing roads as Indian drivers don’t have much respect for zebra crossings or even traffic signals, depending upon the city or town you are visiting. On the plus side, you can eat with your hands and can bargain with street vendors all you like. Also make use of your right hand while giving and receiving gifts, especially at the more traditional centres of the country, as dealing with the left might be considered rude. All in all, follow a few etiquettes here and there and you may find that there are few countries that are as hospitable as India. For any further details, you can easily log onto the national portal of India that is india.gov.in