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Travel info

Essential Documents

  • All visitors to India must be in possession of a valid passport.  All visitors also need visas, except citizens from Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.
  • Carry your passport with you at all times.
  • Visas can be obtained from the Indian Embassy or High Commission in your home country. Ask for a multiple-entry visa, in case you want to make a quick trip to a neighboring country.
  • Visas are usually issued without much difficulty if you meet the application requirements. These are: sufficient funds for the duration of your stay, a valid passport, ID photos, and a company letter for business travelers. The length of visas varies, allowing visitors to stay in India for anything from 15 days to six months.
  • In addition to a visa, you may need a special permit to visit certain protected or restricted parts of the country, such as areas in Sikkim, Ladakh, the Andaman Islands, Lakshadweep and some northeastern hill states. Permits are available at foreign registration offices, immigration offices, and Indian Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions. For Sikkim you will need a trekking permit. If you have a visa for Bhutan, you'll also need a transit permit to cross the border. This permit is available from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Communications

  • As a general rule, the postal service in India is excellent. Mail to destinations in Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand takes about 10 to 14 days. A Speed Post service is also available, which usually takes just a few days. 

    Post offices are open Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 17:00, and on Saturday morning. Larger post offices may have longer hours. Large hotels sometimes also sell stamps. When mailing something in India, ask the clerk to rank your mail in front of you, as unranked stamps are sometimes removed.

    Poste restante facilities are available at the main post office in most of India's cities. Mail will usually be kept for a month, and then returned to the sender. It is not advisable for anything of value to be sent to you this way.

    Mailing a parcel can be a hassle. Either have it packed by a postal packing service, or ask a tailor to make a linen bag for the parcel and ensure that the seams are sealed with wax. There's a much cheaper rate for posting books and magazines, and these items do not have to be wrapped in cloth.
     
  • The telephone system is usually quite good, but the quality of the telephone lines is dependent on the weather. Local and international calls can be made from 'STD/ISD' (standard trunk dialing/international subscriber dialing) phone booths. These can be found in shops or other businesses. They are quick and easy to use, and are sometimes open all day. Your bill must be paid on completion of your call/s. Many of these booths also have fax machines for public use.
  • Another service available is the 'Home Country Direct' service, which gives you access to the international operator in your own country. This enables you to make reverse charge calls, as well as credit card calls. Telephone calls made from hotels are often quite expensive.


Electricity
The standard electricity supply is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles. Although electricity is widely available throughout the country, breakdowns and blackouts are common. Be sure to pack candles or a torch. Sockets usually have three round pins. European plugs will fit loosely into the sockets, but because they are slightly smaller, bad connections are possible.

Health

  • A good medical insurance policy is essential when visiting India, because medical treatment can be very expensive. Be aware that health care facilities in India are limited. However, there are state-operated facilities in towns and cities, and urban areas also have private consultants and specialists.
  • Most doctors in India speak English. Ask your hotel to help you get a doctor in a medical emergency. Some of the bigger hotels have their own doctor on call. In case of minor medical problems, a pharmacy will usually be able to help you. Pharmacies are easy to locate as almost every market has one. Most medicines can be obtained without prescription, but make sure you check the sell-by date.
  • No vaccinations are legally required. However, it is recommended to have meningitis, typhoid and hepatitis A injections before visiting India. Make sure that you are up to date with tetanus boosters as well.
  • Take an ample supply of prescribed medication, as well as a copy of your prescription. Keep the packaging of your medication showing the generic name. This will make it easier to fill prescriptions, especially if the specific brand name is not available. Take an extra pair of glasses and a copy of your prescription as well, as lost or broken glasses can be difficult to replace. If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing glasses for the duration of your stay in India, because the dust and heat can become quite irritating for contact lens wearers.
  • A basic health rule is not to drink the water! Not even the ice. Unless you're absolutely sure, always assume that the water is untreated. Use water from containers with a proper seal, or purify it by boiling or treating it chemically. The water in Calcutta is extremely polluted. Take special care, because gastric disease is endemic here.
  • If mosquitoes do bite you, try not to scratch the bite as infection and tropical ulcers can easily set in. Also try to stay away from bees, wasps, leeches and snakes!
  • Aids is a problem in India, as in most places, so take the necessary precautions. You may want to carry your own syringes and transfusion kit.

Safety

  • Generally speaking, India is a safe country to visit. Crime levels are well below those of Western countries and violent crime is unusual. However, tourists are always obvious targets for thieves.
  • Bihar is notorious for its absence of law and order. Kidnappings, banditry, murder and rape are common occurrences. Be careful when traveling here, especially at night.
  • It's advisable to make a copy of your passport, visas, airplane ticket and other important documents to make it easier to get replacements if they are lost or stolen. Also keep a record of the serial numbers of your travelers cheques, and a copy of your travel insurance policy.
  • Make sure that your travel insurance policy covers you against theft. If you do get robbed, report it to the police. You will need a police report if you want to file an insurance claim.
  • Be alert to credit card fraud: insist that restaurants and shops process your credit card payment in front of you. Sometimes credit cards are used to make duplicate forms, and the client is then billed for fictitious transactions.
  • Flooding is India's major natural hazard. By early July, the monsoon (seasonal wind) rages throughout the whole country, bringing moisture with it. Usually it comes from the southwest, but the southeastern coast gets the short and very wet northeastern monsoon. This monsoon brings rain from mid-October to the end of December. The monsoon can be very destructive, resulting in floods, homelessness and even death, as well as causing poor road and rail conditions.

Customs

Must/Must not do

On arrival, expensive items, such as video cameras and radios, must be entered into your passport on a 'Tourist Baggage Re-Export' form. This will ensure that you can take these items with you when you leave the country. You must not import narcotics, plants, gold and silver bullion and coins not in current use. If you are transporting firearms, make sure you have a possession License. Indian embassies and consulates issue such licenses abroad, or by a district magistrate on arrival in India. It is strictly prohibited to take antiques, art objects, animal skins (or products made with animal skin), and ivory and rhino horns out of India.

Visitors are not allowed to bring Indian currency into India or take any of it out (except when going to Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Sri Lanka). There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency or travelers' cheques you can bring into the country, but amounts exceeding USD10,000.00 must be declared upon arrival. You may bring the following items into India without incurring customs duties:

1 pint of alcohol 
200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco 
250ml of eau de toilette

Be prepared to pay foreign travel tax on departure. This tax must be paid at a special desk at the airport before checking in your luggage. Foreign currency is accepted as payment.

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