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What to expect
If you haven’t been to India before, expect to experience some culture shock. India can be loud, chaotic, crowded and confusing for a first-time traveller. But don't let that put you off! India is also one of the most colourful, vibrant and surprising destinations on Earth. Every day brings something new and exciting: a cultural discovery, a dish you've never tried before, a different landscape, another way of seeing the world, or of understanding your place in it.
Cultural roots are deep here, and even in the cities you will encounter traditional ways of living; yet, the middle class is growing fast, tech industries are booming and modernity is having a bigger impact year on year. You will encounter both extreme wealth and poverty, and these extremes can be confronting.
As with other developing nations, you cannot expect that service levels and facility standards will be on par with those in Australia. Be prepared to exercise patience, tolerance and flexibility and you are sure to be bedazzled by all that India has to offer: from stunning Himalayan peaks and atmospheric temples, to fascinating street-life and time-worn villages.Find a tour
approximately 13 hours
From Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne
approximately 17 hours
Indian festivals and holidays can be a highlight of your holiday, but may also involve possible disruptions to travel plans, and significant crowds at popular tourist sites. In addition to those events listed below, there are many regional pilgrimages, and events like the Kumbh Mela, that only occur every few years.
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites are usually closed on public holidays. Some events are set according to the lunar calendar, so dates vary. Please check with our Australia-based Asia specialists for details.
, Republic Day. In Delhi there is a military parade. Road closures could lead to delays.
, Holi. This major Hindu festival is celebrated throughout the country by throwing coloured water and powder. Don’t wear your best clothes!
, Bakrid (end of Ramadan). Monuments remain open.
, Independence Day. The Red Fort in Delhi is closed to visitors for two weeks prior.
, Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday.
, Dussehra. A Hindu festival that celebrates the defeat of the demon king by Lord Rama. Most tourist sites remain open.
, Diwali. The five-day ‘festival of lights’ is one of the most important festivals of the year. A time of gift-giving and fireworks.
Health & Fitness
As with travelling to other parts of Asia, you need to take precautions when visiting India. The following diseases are all known to exist in India: tetanus, tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis A and B, malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We strongly recommend you consult your doctor with regards to vaccinations and up-to-date health advice at least a month before you depart.
You can expect to find medical care facilities of an international standard in major cities including Delhi and Mumbai, however facilities in rural areas are more basic.
Australian citizens need a valid tourist visa in order to gain entry into India. It is essential that your visa is arranged before you leave Australia. You can apply for your Indian visa through VFS Global online, or at a local office here in Australia. Visas normally take 3-5 working days to process but you should allow at least two weeks in case of delays.
To apply online you will need the following: A passport that is valid for six months beyond your return date from India, and has at least two blank pages. An outline of your travel plans. Dates and main destinations should be enough.
Travel permits: If you are travelling to border areas in the north and north-east, you may need additional travel permits. Contact your local consulate or embassy for full details.
Travelling to West Bengal (including Kolkata & Darjeeling): The state government requires you to supply a passport-sized photo on check in to hotels in this area.
Note: Indian visa regulations are subject to change. We strongly advise that you check with the Indian embassy or consulate closest to you in Australia prior to travel. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa.
Safety and security
India is a generally a safe country to travel in; however, petty crime can be an issue in tourist areas. You should apply common sense as you would when travelling anywhere. Make sure your spending money is out of sight and near your body and keep jewellery to a minimum. You may wish to use a money belt, especially if you are travelling on trains during your stay.
Streets in Indian cities are often poorly lit so we recommend you travel by taxi at night rather walk. Make sure your driver activates the meter. It is always a good idea to carry a hotel address card, in case you have trouble communicating.
While on holiday in India, always keep a photocopy of your essential documents i.e. passport, airline tickets, credit cards and traveller’s cheques separate from the originals in a safe place. Most hotels have room-safes or deposit boxes at reception where you can store valuables.
If you would like to know more about staying safe when you travel with Travel Indochina, you can read our safety guidelines.
India: A History by John Keay
chronicles five thousand years of South Asian history, including insights from a range of scholars on the area's people, culture and religions.
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald
is an entertaining account of an Australian radio personality's two year stint living in India, and her exploration of the country and its many and varied religions.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
is a novel set in Indian in the mid-1970s, following four people whose lives become intertwined during a period of political upheaval.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
is an epic love story - a tale of life and love involving four extended families set in the early 1950s in newly independent India.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
is an account of the author's escape from prison in Australia and subsequent ten years on the run, living in Mumbai. From gun running and working for the Bombay mafia to acting in Bollywood films, this is an extraordinary tale of a man's life on the edge of society.
God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
is a fictional account of a family living in Kerala, focussing on the lives of young twins and their childhood amongst a sometimes turbulent backdrop.
Useful words & phrases
Hello (or hi)
How are you?
Ap kaise hain?
What is your name?
Aapka naam Kya Hai?
My name is…
Where do you come from?
Kahan se aate hain?
I come from...(male/female)
Main...se aa rahaa/rahiihun
How much is this?
Iskaa daam kyaa hai?
Mujhe maaf kiijiiye
Arrival and departure transfers
Arrival transfer:If you have booked an arrival transfer for your holiday in India, you will find your driver waiting for you at the airport. He or she will be wearing a Travel Indochina t-shirt and carrying a Travel Indochina signboard with your name on it.
Road: For six travellers or more, we use air-conditioned Hyundai with 25-40 seats when travelling by road in India. If you are travelling in a smaller group, travel will be by air-conditioned minibus, by modern sedan car or Ambassador car.
Air: There are a number of airlines that operate domestic flights within India. Schedules can sometimes change at short notice and could affect your travel plans.
Train: India has an fantastic rail system and travelling by train can be a wonderful way to get around. If you are travelling by day, expect to travel in a comfortable reclining seat similar to on an aircraft. Overnight train travel will be in a shared four-berth compartment with clean linen and either fans or air-conditioning (depending on the class booked).
Other: Boats, camels, bicycles, auto-rickshaws and your feet.
Internet: You can find an internet café almost anywhere in India and while service quality varies, it is usually inexpensive. Wi-Fi access is limited.
Phone: If you have roaming activated, you will be able to use your mobile phone in India. If your phone is unlocked, you may prefer to purchase a local sim. To make international landline calls, look for the STD/PCO/ISD yellow sign, which is displayed outside many local businesses. This is much cheaper than making calls from your hotel. It is also possible to make reverse charge calls to Australia from India.
Mail: Postage is cheaper than Australia and letters and postcards will take up to two weeks. If you are posting a parcel, you will need to have the contents inspected by a local customs official at the post office before you seal it.
Food & drink
Most of our travellers will have some familiarity with Indian cuisine before they travel, yet are still pleasantly surprised by the depth and variety of dishes available.
Northern India: In the north-western states of Punjab and Rajasthan, expect a robust, full-flavoured style similar to what you may have tasted at home. Delicious tandoori chicken, breads such as naan and roti, and rich curried lentils (dal) and lamb are highlights.
Southern India: Expect more spice – and chilli! – less meat and more seafood than in the north. Coconut milk is a common feature in curries, tropical fruits and chutneys are abundant, and rice is staple, rather than bread. Delicious dosai – a crispy pancake served with sambar and a variety of fillings – is a popular dish in the south.
Vegetarians are very well catered for in India, but vegans should be a aware that many dishes use ghee (clarified butter) as a base. Minor stomach upsets are common in India so it is advisable to only eat food that has been freshly prepared.
In rural areas, options may be limited to your hotel restaurant and a few basic local eateries. Do not drink the tap water; bottled water is cheap and available everywhere and should be used even to clean your teeth.
Tipping is a personal matter, and you should never feel obligated to tip. However you may find that a tip is often the most appropriate way to show your appreciation for great service you may receive during your trip.
If you are joining one of our Small Group Tours to India, your Western tour leader or local guide or will ask for a small sum at the beginning of your stay in India. This will be used to tip hotel porters and boat crews during your trip. This means that you do not have to worry about having small change on hand, and helps to prevent over-tipping. You may also choose to show your appreciation for Travel Indochina guides, drivers and tour leaders with a tip; however, it is not compulsory to do so.
Depending on your itinerary in India, there may be an opportunity to swim during your holiday. Bear in mind that modesty is appreciated even when swimming; revealing swimwear should be avoided.
In the southern states of Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, there are some fine stretches of palm-fringed beaches. However, they may not be as clean as beaches in Australia, and are rarely patrolled. Some of our hotels also feature swimming pools. Swimming in rivers and lakes in India is not recommended.
Travel Indochina is committed to responsible travel in India and when you join us on one of our Small Group Tours you may have a chance to stay in some unique eco-lodges, partake in traditional cultural activities, and/or support sustainable projects and small-scale, local operations.
Purkal Youth Development Society: Travel Indochina has sponsored school uniforms, a library, and a school-wide drama and performing arts program at this centre for educational and personal development of disadvantaged youth in Northern India.
Read more about our responsible travel policies in India and the rest of Asia.