Travel Agents
ITINERARY FINDER

The Republic of India (locally known as Bhārat), is a sovereign country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by geographical area, the second most densely inhabited country, and the most heavily populated liberal democracy in the world.

Full Name:  Republic of India
Capital City: New Delhi
Largest City: Mumbai
Area : 3,287,590 sq km/ 1,269,338 sq miles
Population (2016): 1,326,801,576
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +5.5
Currency: Indian Rupee (Rs)
Electricity: 230-240V 50HzHz

 

Electric Plug Details:

South African/Indian-style plug with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin. 
European plug with two circular metal pins.

 

Country Dialing Code                      : +91

Internet TLD                                       : .in

Weather in country

India has a three-season year – the hot, the wet and the cool. The heat starts to build up on the northern plains around February and by April it becomes unbearable – expect 35-45°C (95- 113°F) days in most places. The first signs of the monsoon appear in May, with high humidity, short rainstorms and violent electrical storms. The monsoon rains begin early in June in the extreme south and sweep north to cover the whole country by early July. The monsoon doesn’t really cool things off, but it’s a great relief – especially to farmers. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the south-eastern coast is affected by the short and surprisingly wet north-eastern monsoon, which brings rain from mid-October to the end of December. The main monsoon ends around October, and India’s northern cities become crisp at night in December. In the far south, where it never gets cool, the temperatures are comfortably warm rather than hot.

 

Etiquette and culture

Only those who really want to experience India will enjoy their visit. Above all, it is important to cast aside any thoughts of one’s own culture for a time. Famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore once said that “he who respects differences, wins unity”. Great caution should be taken before forming a definitive opinion of India and its people. India is a continent which is full of contrasts and rich in unusual customs.  Indian society is affected by strong religious beliefs The importance of different religions and their effect on daily life and the culture of the country over the centuries have meant that Indians and Westerners often find it extremely difficult to communicate and understand one another.

Respect for Elders – Respect for elders is a keystone of Hindu culture. This genuine acknowledgment of seniority is demonstrated through endearing customs, such as sitting to the left of elders, bringing gifts on special occasions, not sitting while they are standing, not speaking excessively, not yawning or stretching, not putting one’s opinions forward strongly, not contradicting or arguing, seeking their advice and blessings, giving them the first choice in all matters, even serving their food first.

Touching feet as a sign of respect – One touches the feet of holy men and women in recognition of their great humility and inner attainment. A dancer or a musician touches the feet of his or her teacher before and after each lesson. Children prostrate and touch the feet of their mother and father, grandparents and elders at festivals and at special times, such as birthdays and before departing on a journey.

Clothing – Female tourists should be aware of the offence which may be unwittingly caused by wearing certain western clothing – therefore it is best advised to avoid shorts and skimpy t-shirts, unless you are on the beaches. Men should also wear long trousers as a mark of respect when visiting certain areas. Anyone visiting a holy place should observe tradition: in other words, no shoes in temples or mosques, appropriate clothing and no photographs. Also, covering your head when visiting Sikh temples is necessary.

Greeting – Due to the abundance of the languages and dialects, visitors are advised to use English as virtually everybody will understand the word “hello”. If you are able to learn and practice a few words in Hindi as a gesture of courtesy you will find that this will be welcomed.

One may try one of the following greetings:

  • for Hindus: “namaste” or “namaskar” (pronounced as nah-mahs-tay/nah-mahs-kar)
  • for Muslims: “salaam alaykum” (pronounced as sah-lahm ah-lay-kuhm)
  • for Sikhs: “Sat sri akal” (pronounced as Saht-shree ah-khal).

Hindus usually place their palms together, in front of their chest, as a form of greeting. Then, they bow their head and say “namaste” or “namaskar”. The higher the hands are held, the greater the respect being shown. Touching an elderly or respected person’s feet and then touching your head is particularly venerable. As feet are generally considered unclean. Hindus do not practice the European habit of shaking hands. A kiss on the cheek is almost

considered offensive. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Modern Indian women have no qualms about shaking hands with Western women. They may not want to shake hands or engage eye contact with men who are not known to them.

Christians greet each other in the same way as in the West.

On greeting Muslims one should exercise the usual constraint used in all Muslim countries. One should never address, touch or stare at a veiled woman. Non-Muslims should always wait until his or her Muslim counterpart offers to shake hands.

Overall the best policy is to be polite and friendly. No one was ever offended by a smile it is a universal language!

 

Gestures, Etiquette and Taboos –

  • The most striking movement of the body in India is the head shaking. Most Westerners would take this to mean “no”, but, in actual fact, it means the complete opposite. However it can also mean, “lets see”. “No” is expressed by a short, sideways movement of the head, accompanied by a discharging movement of the hand.
  • Displays of affection between men and women are not usual in public.
  • One should never pass anything with one’s left hand, as this is the unclean hand, used after the visit to the bathroom.
  • It is very rude to point at people. This gesture is only used for animals in India. It is best to use the whole right hand when pointing somebody out.
  • The words “please” and “thank you” do not exist in most Indian languages. It is true that there are expressions for these terms, but they are rarely used. As a result, foreigners often find the way in which Indians ask for things very impolite.
  • The lowest, dirtiest part of the body are the shoes, as one walks on the dirty streets in them. For this reason, one should always remove one’s shoes before entering a temple, mosque or a person’s home.
  • There is nothing unusual about going barefoot in India, and it is very rare to see anyone wearing shoes in their own house. Visitors should remember this when visiting an Indian home.
  • Hospitality is still an important part of the life in India. Guests are offered at least a glass of water or a cup of tea.
  • Guests should always turn up for a private invitation a little later than planned. As the socialising takes place before dinner, it is often very late before food is served. Guests should leave soon after dinner.
  • One should only ask a Hindu about his caste if one knows him very well indeed.
  • One should always take one’s shoes off before entering a Hindu temple. If one prefers not to go barefoot socks are permitted.

Conversation: Most nationals are proud of their country and are very happy that you are visiting India. They enjoy talking about the famous sights, such as monuments, temples and palaces, and about the five thousand years of history which the Indian subcontinent has experienced. You will find that you will be embraced with questions about your family and your thoughts on India. Sport in all forms but especially cricket is of great national pride. Visitors should be aware of sensitive topics, such as the caste system, the reasoning behind the “holy cow”, arranged weddings, poverty and religious conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. These are not taboo subjects but need to be discussed with consideration.

 

Language – Short Phrases for Everyday Situations

 The official language in India is Hindi, although English is the language used in business circles. Fourteen languages are officially recognised by the constitution, although India boasts a further 200 language groups and almost 700 dialects.

Some useful Hindi phrases include :

Thank you   Shukriya

(pronounced shoe-kre-ya)

 

Don’t mention it koi baat nahi

(pronounced Ko-ee baht neh-hee)

 

Yes   Hahji

(pronounced Hah-jee)

 

No   Ji Nahi

(pronounced Jee neh hee)

 

Excuse me Maaf kijiye

(pronounced mahf kee-jee-yay)

 

Culinary Delights

Indian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. In the north of India, it tends to be somewhat similar to Arabic cuisine whereas in the south the food is generally spicier, and more vegetarian dishes are eaten. The ingredients used in these dishes depend on the religious background of the people and on the region in question. Rice is eaten with every meal.

 

A great deal of time is needed to prepare an Indian meal. All dishes are made with fresh foodstuffs only. The various spices are ground into a paste everyday. It is interesting to know that curry powder frequently used in the west is never used in India. This rather flavourless mixture is a legacy of colonial times.

 

  • A curry is a stew, made with meat, poultry, vegetables, eggs or fish and spiced accordingly.
  • Pullao is a rice dish, made with meat vegetables or even fruit.
  • Naan  is a staple part of any menu in an Indian Restaurant. This is elongated, flat bread. Another popular bread is chapati, which is thinner and often seasoned with spices.
  • A small, flat bread, called roti, is eaten in northern India, where wheat is the staple ingredients of foods. Roti are spread with ghee, which is clarified butter.
  • Tandoori Chicken is a great favorite with anyone who likes chicken. Pieces of chicken are marinated in a spicy (but not too hot) sauce and then baked in a huge clay oven, the tandoor.
  • Another popular chicken dish is murg masala, which consists of chicken pieces in a thick, spicy tomato sauce.
  • Dhansak, or phodni, is a mixture of oil and spices, such as cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger. This is much used by the Parsis.
  • Daal is a dish made from lentils, which can be prepared in a variety of ways. Daal, to the Indians, is like “Eintopf” (thick stew like soup) to the Germans.
  • Biryani is another dish which can be made with a wide variety of ingredients. It is basically a rice dish, mixed with chicken, mutton or vegetables.
  • Southern cooking is generally spicier than that of the northern provinces. Rasam, a hot pepper stock, or sambhar, a spicy vegetable sauce, are eaten with rice and other dishes to give them the special southern flavour.
  • Aniseed helps the stomach to cope with very hot food. Yoghurt is often served with spicy foods, as it also helps to cool down the burning sensation.
  • Samosas are delicious little snacks. They are small triangles of pastry, filled with vegetable or meat and then deep-fried. For a particularly delicious snack they can also be dipped in a chilly sauce.
  • Eastern India is well known for its delicious sweet -meats, made with plenty of sugar and condensed milk. One example is rasgullas, which are small, sweet cottage cheese balls, served in an even sweeter sugar syrup.
  • Another popular sweet, from the north India, is halwa, which is a sweet, made from Sugar, semolina and nuts or coconut.
  • The most popular drinks in India are iced water (boiled), chai (tea with milk, cardamom and lots of sugar) and, in the South coffee. Yogurt drinks, known as lassi, are also common. Purely for health reasons, however, foreigners should try to avoid water, milk and lassi. Bottled water and other soft drinks are more advisable.
  • Beer is also popular nowadays, but the local brew tends to contain a high proportion of glycerin, which causes headaches.  Kingfisher, Fosters, Golden Peacock, Kalyani Black Label are some popular brands.

 

Section 2 Pre Departure information

 

Health

There are medical facilities in most large cities and the better hotels and lodges have doctors on call.  There are no compulsory vaccinations required for visit to India. However as a sensible precaution, the following vaccinations are recommended: Cholera, Typhoid, Tetanus, Hepatitis, Meningitis (particularly if trekking) plus Malaria protection.

We recommend that you check with your doctor for individual requirements.

 

Visas

All nationals require a visa for entry into India. Normal tourist visas are valid for six months and are multiple entry. The visa is issued from the embassy in your country and can be done in one day. You require 2 passport photos, application form and your passport valid for at least six months from the return date of travel. Please allow 10 days for processing.

 

Documentation

In addition to your clothing and equipment, please ensure that you also bring the following:

a) INSURANCE CERTIFICATE. Please ensure you have given us details of your travel insurance and ensure that you are fully covered for wilderness walking by your insurers.

b) AIR TICKETS. Please check and ensure they are as required, on the dates specified to fit with the confirmed itinerary and that you have contacted us at Discovery Initiatives for any questions.

 

Valuables: Note that expensive items are at risk, especially in the towns, from thieves and from the weather if they are not waterproof. Please be careful with your luggage at all times. A money belt is recommended. The serial numbers of watches, cameras and other valuables should be noted in case of loss or theft.

Labelling: Wherever possible mark items with your name and initials.

Packing: It will help to know where everything is in your pack, and ensure that it is immediately available to you should you need it. When flying out, carry all valuables and 48 hours’ worth of gear in the hand luggage in case the main baggage is delayed.

 

Fitness

Our tailor-made programmes are best enjoyed if you are reasonably fit and healthy. Some of your most enjoyable experiences will be walking in wilderness and tribal areas and to appreciate this in warm climates it is good to be reasonably fit.

 

Currency

The Indian rupee is the official currency. Obtaining rupees outside India before your departure is not possible and unnecessary. We would advise carrying from approx about $300 to $500 cash per person – in small denominations and a credit card (most well known cards are acceptable) for supplementary monies. On arrival we advise changing a small amount of money for your immediate needs at airport or hotel.  (There is hardly any difference in rate of exchange between Banks, Hotels, Money Changers.)  Indian currency notes circulate far longer than in the West and the small notes in particular become very tatty. You may occasionally find that when you try to pay for something with a ripped note, your money is refused. You can change old notes for new ones at most banks. However, it is best to refuse tatty notes from shops/vendors.  Keep a supply of smaller denomination notes – there is a perpetual shortage of small change. It is also useful to keep lower denomination notes as tip money.

 

Luggage allowance (internal flight in India)

There is a luggage allowance in full service airlines like  Indian airlines  is  approximately 23 kg per person on most Economy Class flights. The Business Class allowance is about 30kg. The allowances can vary, depending on the airline, and we can advise the exact amount when you book. Low cost airlines like Spice Jet, Indigo, Goair and Jetlite have only 15 Kg allowance and they charge approximately four US dollars per kg of extra luggage.  Hand luggage is usually restricted to one piece per person and should not be larger than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm and should not weigh more than 7 kg. Luggage can get thrown about a little so make sure you carry any breakables in your hand luggage and they all should be lockable. Also make sure you allow plenty of space to pack in all those gifts and curios you will buy on your holiday.

 

Photography notes

India presents some stunning opportunities for photographers with even the most basic cameras.

Bring fast prime lenses for low light photography.  A general principle in photography is that the light is best 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset everyday. This is particularly true in India because the sun is very intense. The midday sun will generally cause very harsh shadows and not very ideal lighting. These times of day are also the best for being outdoors and for going on a nice stroll.  Please respect the privacy of the local people, especially in remote areas, and DO NOT intrude unduly with your camera. Use discretion and you will return with some marvellous photographs. For digital cameras, there are shops in major cities of tourist interest that sell data cards. Shops also offer services to download photos to CDs.  There is a separate charge for still and video cameras at most monuments and national parks.

 

Travelling tips

Make travelling less stressful and minimise the chances of being left with only the clothes you are wearing by following a few simple precautions:

  1. If you are travelling with others, spread your clothes around different cases. If one case goes missing, you will still have something to wear.
  1. Put your home address inside your case and your away address on a label outside. This will help the airline to trace you if your luggage gets lost.
  1. Carry essentials, e.g. prescription medicines and wash bag, along with a change of clothes in your hand luggage, in case your main luggage gets lost.
  1. For travelling by air, you must carry electrical goods and in your hand luggage, not in a suitcase which will go in the hold.
  1. All sharp objects should be placed in the main hold.
  1. It may sound obvious, but make sure you read up as much as possible about the destinations you are looking to travel to. Not only will this give you a much better understanding of the people and their history, but will also make the countries come to life much more when you are actually out there!

 

Air travel tips

In order to make the flight more comfortable and arrive feeling refreshed, we suggest you drink plenty of water as it is easy to become dehydrated, particularly if drinking alcohol. Fizzy drinks can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Take an inflatable neck pillow to help you sleep. Make sure you regularly walk around the plane to encourage good circulation and reduce swollen feet and ankles and avoid the risk of DVT. Exercise your legs and calves regularly during the flight and consider wearing support stockings.

 

Reading List – Key wildlife and other reference books

General

Collins L. &

Lapierre D

 

Freedom at Midnight First class book on the last days of the Raj and India’s

independence. Essential reading.

 

Gayatri Devi. A Princess Remembers. The memoirs. Wonderful book to read about the dynamic lady and of the Maharani of Jaipur, the last days of the great Maharajas.

 

Gascoigne B. The Great Moghuls Excellent for the history of the Moghuls in Indian

history; the ‘greatest masters of precious stones that

inhabit the earth’ as described by one traveller during

the 17th Century. It illustrates not only the lives and

personal conflicts of the leaders but also provides an

education in the development of their architectural

heritage.

 

Tully M. No Full Stops in India A very distinguished BBC journalist who was born in

India and who lived and worked there for many years.

He still comments regularly on the creation of Indian

society.

 

Mehta G. Snakes and Ladders A series of short essays, combining reminiscence,

reportage and reflection, take on politics, economics,

autobiography, history, race the arts and caste.

 

Bumiller E. May You Be The Mother of a Hundred Sons  A wonderfully written, fascinating portrayal of Indian women from Indira Gandhi to movie stars and prostitutes. It’s an insightful portrait of the country as seen through the eyes of its women.
Gandhi   M. K. An Autobiography, Or the Story of My Experiments With Truth

 

 There is no substitute for reading Gandhi in his own, simple, direct prose. A highly recommended glimpse into the personal life of this remarkable figure.
Oxtoby Willard G. World Religions: Eastern Traditions  A clear and insightful introduction to Eastern religions by a team of scholars, covering Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and East Asian traditions. Scholarly, but still rewarding for the general reader.
Richard Blurton T. Hindu Art A beautifully large paperback of excellent quality, this book is a good introduction to the complexities of Indian painting, sculpture and sacred architecture.

Wildlife/Birdlife

Various

 

Indian Wildlife Insight Guide Covers mammals, main parks and Indian wildlife in reasonable depth.

 

Grimmett R. Pocket Guide to Birds This is a pocket version and companion to “Birds of the

Indian Subcontinent ” covering all the bird species found in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Ali S. The Book of Indian Birds For nearly fifty years “The Book of Indian Birds” has

been a close companion of the recently inducted bird-

watching enthusiast as well as of the seasoned

ornithologist in India. The book remains an

indispensable field guide for everyone who wishes to

enjoy the rich and varied bird life of the country

Kazmierczak K. &

Van Perlo B.

A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent This guide covers all the species of birds found in the Indian subcontinent. It provides a companion for anyone travelling in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and should also be useful in peripheral regions for which few guides exist.

 

Jaleel Jerry A.

 

Under the Shadow of Man-eaters : The Life and Legend of Jim Corbett of Kumaon Cleverly weaving narrative with excerpts from legendry big game hunter turned naturalist, writer, photographer and humanist Jim Corbett’s books and drawing on in-depth interviews with Corbett’s friends. It is another biography of a truly incredible man.
Sankhala, K. Tiger! The Story of the Indian Tiger Tiger! is a book not just of a remarkable animal, but the story of a very remarkable man Kailash Sankhala, founder of Project Tiger.
Schaller Dr. G.

 

The Deer and the Tiger

 

With his meticulous research and the resulting scientific

treatise on India’s wildlife, Dr. George B. Schaller

significantly influenced India’s first major conservation

policies.

 

Thapar V. The Secret Life of Tigers Documents the family life of three tigresses and their

cubs from soon after birth to adulthood. An

extraordinary account, it records for the first time the

active role the male tiger plays as a father.

Gurung K. K. Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent

 

A good informative guide to Indian wildlife.

 

Geoffrey C. Ward and Diane Raines Ward Tiger-Wallahs – Saving the Greatest of the Great Cats This book is not as much about tigers as it is about “tiger people,” referred to by the authors as tiger-wallahs—”…tiger-men, who devoted their lives…to the struggle to save the Indian tiger from extinction….”

 

 

Section 3 During your stay in India

 

Arrivals

 

Airport: At the international airport, after you have completed the emigration formalities and have come through customs, head to the meeting lounge. The representative of Royal Expeditions will be waiting with a name placard in his hands that reads the name of Royal Expeditions and YOUR NAME.

In case you don’t spot him in the first go, as there may be many hotel or travel agency representatives, look again slowly he will definitely be there.  Traffic in India can be unpredictable and there is the tiniest chance the representative is delayed – but he will be there for you so please wait a little or call the mobile phone numbers of Royal Expeditions personnel. Their names and numbers are Mr. Aditya Vikram 9810514045, Mr Vishal Singh (Director) 9810028849. If the numbers are dialled from outside Delhi a (0) has to be affixed before the numbers. If dialling from out side India prefix (00 91).  There is a telephone facility in this arrival lounge, and money changing facility also.

 

Destinations: From the moment you arrive in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, you will assisted by our extensive ground network. At each destination our local representative will meet you at the airport or railway station, escort you to your private vehicle and driver and help you check into your hotel or lodge. When you arrive by car too, our representative will be awaiting you to help you check into your hotel or lodge and brief you on activities scheduled for you.

 

Our representatives:

Will advise the pick-up time for any tours you have booked.

Will be available at most times, in case you need to contact him/her for any reason.

Will confirm your on-going airline booking. However it is your responsibility to make sure the representative carries out this job.

Will advise on the exchange rate and where to exchange money.

Will suggest the best places to eat and shop.

Will suggest and book any additional tour you may wish to take.

Will re-arrange your itinerary should there be a strike or airline schedule change or any other change beyond your control.

 

The guides you have will be licensed guides chosen for their abilities and knowledge. They will meet you at your hotel in most instances. From there, the guide will accompany you in your car or walk with you for the tour.

 

Getting around the Indian Subcontinent

Air Travel

Air networks are extensive in India and are often the best way to quickly move from one region to another and allow itineraries to see the vastly different geography of India. There are many internal airlines operating in India. The most common airlines, however, are Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Vistara, Indigo, Goair.  The aircraft are typically Boeing 737’s or Airbuses A320 and ATR.

In the tourist routes India has many multi-stop flights (or hopping flights) on key North Indian tourist routes (e.g. Delhi – Varanasi – Khajuraho – Agra – Delhi,  Delhi – Jaipur – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Mumbai). These are flights that may on and off-load passengers at several destinations before arriving at the final stop. If you are joining these flights anywhere other than the city of origin, you will experience ‘free seating’ which means that there are no pre-allocated seats and you just choose a seat as you board the aircraft.

In India some times there are delays, schedule changes and cancellations with little or no warning. Should this happen to you, our staff will do their best to ensure as small a deviation as possible from the original itinerary. They will discuss the best possible solutions with you and will do all they can to get you to your destination on the correct day. This may involve a route change or destination change in some instances. This can be trying, but it is important that you bear these possibilities in mind when flying in our Indian Sub-Continent.

Most internal flights will serve a hot drink and a small snack, unless under 45 minutes. Please note that while travelling on domestic flights you should remove all batteries from cameras/electronic goods and pack these separately in your checked luggage, while precious cameras etc should be carried in hand baggage. Photography is prohibited at all Indian airports.

In most cases our representative or staff will check you in for your flight and take you as far as “Security”. From here it is a short journey through hand baggage X-ray to the departure lounge. Check in for a domestic flight is one to two hours prior to departure.

 

Road Travel

Using a private car and driver is one of the best ways to see India. It allows your itinerary great flexibility and having a driver on stand-by allows you to go where you want, when you want without having to deal with the compulsory haggling over the price with a taxi, rickshaw etc.

Most of the time your car is likely to be a Toyota Innova, Maruti Dezire, Toyota Etios etc.  If you would like to travel by Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Prado,  Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes Benz cars, this can also be arranged in most areas at additional cost which is high.

For first time visitors, road travel can be pretty hair-raising, as the roads are poor compared to western countries! The new highways like Delhi to Agra and Delhi to Jaipur, Mumbai to Pune, Jaipur to Udaipur are comparable to western standards and have duel carriage ways. Some country roads have no central marking and there are no restrictions on vehicle types, pedestrians, livestock, cycles, camels, elephants or any other form of transportation. However, after some time you will realise there is an order between the different roads. It is the best way to get around and we supply excellent local drivers used to these unique conditions. Our cars have ice boxes well-stocked with soft drinks and bottled water. On long drives, the drivers will know of good quality hotels to stop at for meals and amenities breaks.

 

Train Travel

The Indian Railway System is the world’s fourth largest with a route length of over 60,000 km. Every day over 7,000 passenger trains run carrying over 10.5 million passengers and connecting 7,100 stations. It is also the world’s single largest employer with over 1.6 million employees. A train journey is recommended as part of an itinerary as it offers an insight into the way most Indian locals travel.

A factor to consider with Indian trains is that getting there is not always half the fun, but it is certainly 90% of the experience. Indian rail travel is unlike any other sort of travel in any other place on earth. At times it can be uncomfortable or incredibly frustrating (since the trains are not exactly fast) but an experience it certainly is.

 

Indian train classes are usually the following:

The First-class A/c – is the most expensive and the highest train travel class in India. The fare is nearly as much as air travel. It is a comfortable way to travel. It has private four or two person compartment with a locking door in an air-conditioned carriage. Only people that have reservation are allowed on the carriage. Unfortunately you cannot pre-book or pre-reserve the accurate cabin configuration, so we cannot tell you exactly the configuration you will have.  Bed linen (Hand towel, pillow, two bed sheets and one blanket) is provided. There is a common western style toilet at both ends of the carriage.  Fixed Indian Meals can be ordered which will be served in the compartment. The order taker visits each compartment every few hours before each meal. Breakfast orders are taken at night. Payment for meals is made at the end of the journey. At regular intervals, tea/coffee, bottled water and aerated drinks’ vendors visit the carriage.   First class air-conditioned is definitely the best bet for long distance trains. Unfortunately not all trains have this class.

 

The Second-class A/c – is the second highest category of train class in India. It has two seats of two beds facing each other with two seats in the hall, in an air-conditioned carriage. There are curtains that you pull to get some privacy. The big advantage of the Second class A/c over normal Second class besides being air-conditioning and getting bed linen is that no one without a prior reservation is allowed on the carriage. There is a common Indian and a western style toilet at both ends of the carriage. Fixed Indian Meals orders are taken and served in the compartment. The order taker visits each compartment every few hours before each meal. Breakfast orders are taken at night. Payment for meals is made at the end of the journey. At regular intervals tea/coffee, bottled water, aerated drinks’ vendors visit the carriage.  Most of the Indian middle class travel in this class.

 

Executive chair car – this is available on the Shatabdi express trains that run between Delhi and Agra, Jaipur, Chandigarh, between Bombay and Ahmadabad, and between Bangalore and Mysore, Madras. Travelling by executive chair is similar to taking business class flight. You have a wider seat, more leg room, complimentary mineral water and tolerable food (although we would recommend you take your own with you for the journey to be safe).

 

Air-conditioned chair car – this is the standard class available on the Shatabdi express trains mentioned above and also on the intercity trains such as the one between Jaipur and Jodhpur.

 

Time

India is 5.5 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

General health

Visitors are advised to bring any supplies of specialised medication they may require with them. Medicine may be purchased at pharmacies and emergency pharmacies are open at night.

It is important to realise that when you are travelling you may not always feel completely well. The change of climate, food, water, altitude and routine may bring about colds and flu, headaches, diarrhoea or constipation. When deciding what it is that ails you, please be aware that these may be reasons influencing the way that you feel. In most properties, the staff is aware of symptoms and occurrences of problems in the area and can be of great help to make you feel better.

Remember to cover up between dusk and dawn and use a good insect repellent. Make sure you take your malaria tablets, even if you think you haven’t been bitten, and continue to take them for the recommended length of time after leaving the malaria zone.

We recommend the following inoculations: typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and polio. Malaria is endemic in India, expert advice is therefore essential.

Safety

Your safety is paramount at all times and it is important to ensure you do not wander far from guides unless escorted by a member of staff when walking in wilderness areas on the borders of parks, particularly Kanha. It is quite normal for animals to wander into these areas. You will be given a full briefing about safety when on elephant back and the very best way to see and appreciate Indian wildlife on elephant back, on foot and by Jeep.

We will keep you informed of all security issues that may affect you in the region. You can look up the latest information on our website under Travel Advice or that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the latest foreign office advice.

Weather conditions

Our trips are specially planned to optimise your chances of seeing tigers and other Indian wildlife, depending which area of the country you are planning to visit. Generally the “wildlife season” is between November and April. This period is ideal as the colder November is lush and green after the monsoon rains and normally the parks open about a month after the last rains. As the season extends the hotter weather (between 25°C to 40°C) and drier ground brings Indian wildlife including tiger to water. December and January are mid-winter in India and early mornings and evenings and nights can be cold so do pack accordingly, especially for the early morning game drives. Climate conditions due to certain geographical areas. Specific areas ie: Himalayas for trekking have particular seasons too – ie: May to September. During the summer months the monsoon makes it difficult to travel in the country.

Electricity and appliances

The electricity voltage in India is 220 AC 50 cycles. It is advised that you bring a universal travel adaptor. India uses 2 pin round plugs that may vary in size. Power cuts can be common, and back up generators provide essential cover when this happens.

Laundry

A laundry service is available in most of the major hotels and lodges. It is normally priced per item and taken early morning to be returned the following day. Express laundry ie: the same day– is normally available on request.

Banks

If you cash sterling, dollars, or travellers’ cheques please check your currency amount. The State Bank of India and several others in major towns are authorised to deal in foreign exchange. When changing currency through a bank or authorised dealer, you should be given a foreign currency encashment certificate. Ask for one if it is not automatically given. It allows you to change Indian Rupees back to your own currency on departure, so ensure that you have a valid one at this time. It also enables you to use Rupees to buy air or train tickets for which payment in foreign exchange may be required. The certificates are only valid for three months.

Credit cards

Most of the larger hotels in India will accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Diners Club. Some of the smaller ‘Heritage Hotels’ do not accept Visa cards. There is a growing number of ATM machines in the major cites which is a useful and relatively quick way to draw cash.

Water

It is wise not to drink the tap water; use bottled water instead, or boil water before drinking. We would also recommend you to take water purification tablets with you as a precaution if you are travelling to more remote areas. Avoid taking ice in cold drinks, and do not eat salad vegetables unless you are eating in a major international hotel or restaurant.

Food

You can expect a delicious and sumptuous fare, both very Indian and also Europeanised when in specific lodges. There will be delicious brunches on days when early mornings will be spent on elephants or from the Jeep by safari. Drinks will not be included in the costs but bottled water will always be provided. Please ensure you do not drink any other water, not even for brushing your teeth! Vegetarians will be easily catered for. Indian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. In the north of India, it tends to be somewhat similar to Arabic cuisine whereas in the south the food is generally spicier, and more vegetarian dishes are eaten. The ingredients used in these dishes depend on the religious background of the people and on the region in question. In the south rice is eaten with every meal, but in the north breads predominate.

A great deal of time is needed to prepare an Indian meal. All dishes are made with fresh foodstuffs only. The various spices are ground into a paste everyday. It is interesting to know that curry powder frequently used in the West is never used in India. This rather flavourless mixture is a legacy of colonial times. Curry leaves on the other hand are often used and impart a wonderful aromatic flavour.

 

Accommodation and facilities

Within India you will find you can be staying in a variety of accommodation as myriad as the landscape, from a humble home stay with a local family, a tented jungle camp or a heritage hotel to luxurious and historical palace. We use a variety of places and those we have personally visited to ensure your stay is as comfortable and wonderful as possible. Apart from the very luxurious chain of hotels, most of the accommodation Royal Expeditions uses will be privately run and often owned and passed down from generation to generation. You will find yourself most welcomed by your hosts throughout your stay.

Facilities therefore will vary– but one can expect en suite facilities and all essentials as standard in most places. In remote or rural areas electricity from the grid can be sporadic at night. Normally a generator is used as back up at most of the wildlife camps and some of the luxury camps now have hotel-like facilities including internet connection and air conditioning.

We advocate using places with environmentally and ecologically sound sustainability where possible.

Departure tax

Departure tax is included in the cost on all International flights out of India.

Medical care

It is essential that you have comprehensive medical cover and travel insurance while you are away. If for any reason you fall ill in the country and need to visit a doctor then please contact our office or local agent or accommodation provider to arrange this for you. The medical services in large cities are good and private health care is affordable by western standards. If you are in remote areas you may find that if you need emergency medical assistance then it could take time and expense to reach facilities or a hospital.

Gratuities (TIPS)

Tipping is always a concern for travellers. In India, tipping is very common and expected, but there are no fixed rules for the amount of the tip. If someone is providing an extra service or favour for you, a tip would be expected and welcome.

 

The expectations are quite high when they see a foreigner.  Waiters, room-service attendants, housekeepers, porters, and doormen all expect to receive one.

 

You should tip with the quantity that you feel comfortable with.  We have provided some tip guidelines that should help get you started.

 

We advise you to ask for some small change in the denomination of rupees ten, twenty and fifty when you change your money into Indian rupees.

 

Hotels – In city hotels a tip of Rs 100-200 (Approx. US $ 2 to 5 ) to a bell-boy carrying luggage or the Door Man would be appropriate. Small heritage hotels / Jungle Lodges / Camps have a central tipping box where you can leave tip at the time of check-out. Do not hesitate to ask the hotel reception/lodge manager about the tipping rules in case of any doubt.

 

Restaurants – In up-market restaurants, a 10% tip is acceptable when “service charge” is not already included, while in places serving very cheap meals, round off the bill with small change.

 

Porters – Airports and railway stations often have a fixed rate but when it comes to foreign tourists they charge more specially in railway stations in larger cities, approximately  Rs.100 to Rs.200 (Approx US $ 2 or 5 ) to carry luggage till car parking.

 

Drivers – For short journeys like arrival and departure pick up, day sightseeing Rs.500 to 1000 per day (Approx US $ 10 to 15 ) is appropriate. Long journeys when the driver is with you for few days it is customary to tip at the end of the journey Rs. 1000 to 1500 per day (Approx US $ 15 or 20 ) would be appropriate and Rs. 2000 per day is generous. (Approx US $ 30)

 

Local Guides – Individual Travelers a total tip of PER DAY Rs 2000 to Rs. 2500 (US $ 20 to 30 ) and for group travelers from each member of a coach group  Rs 500 (US $ 8-10) is appropriate and a tip of per person of Rs. 1000 (US $ 15-30) per day can safely be regarded as generous.

 

Wildlife Holidays – Lodge naturalist, Jeep driver, local park guide and elephant mahout expect to be tipped if they have done an exceptional job.

 

Lodge naturalists are sometimes also your Jeep driver and your host at the Lodge.  Local park guide is the person who gets on at the entrance gate. For lodge naturalist, Rs. 1000 per day (Approx US $ 15) would be appropriate and Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 per day is generous. They can be given tip at the end of your stay at the lodge.

 

Jeep driver and local park guide can be tipped Rs. 200 to Rs 500 (US $ 2 to $ 5) each per jungle excursion. This is a collective sum, to be shared between all the members traveling in the jeep.

 

Wilderness Holidays – Camp staff, porters, pack horse / mule / yak keeper expect to be given a tip if they have done an exceptional job at the end of the tour. Rs.500 to Rs. 1000   (US $ 8 to 15) per person per day would be appropriate.

 

Group Tour’s – We recommend you follow a collective tipping system on a day to day basis.  For the full time accompanying Indian escort (Tour Manager) and coach drive and helper, tip at the end of the tour. We recommend you pass the envelope among the group members for contribution. It should be given after a thank you speech by one of the group members at the end of the service.

 

These are only guidelines and you. Give more if you are happy with their services give more.

 

Charitable giving

Begging is commonplace in both the larger cities and train and bus stations. Many tourists can be targeted as generally speaking those visitors travelling will be considered financially better off and able to give. Visitors may find this distressing. Whilst the giving of money is a matter of personal preference or conscience, Royal Expeditions feels that it is best to give a donation to a proper charitable entity, as opposed to freely giving cash to individuals. If you want to give, then small amounts in local currency is advised. There are syndicates of organised begging – which often use children and will take their “begging money” from them. Sometimes giving food can be an option. It is common for those seeking alms at religious sites to receive money from Indian worshippers as a gesture of their faith and humility.

Shopping

There will be opportunities to buy souvenirs and gifts while on the trip and we would encourage you to do this along the route from local trade cooperatives and rural communities where possible. There is a fixed price at Government emporiums in most major sites. On the other hand, private shops and markets on do not advertise costs normally. Therefore you may want to indulge in a spot of bargaining. Most retailers will be happy to barter, and this is usual practice. It is best to bargain with humour and avoid taxi /rickshaw or tourist touts that may be earning commission from your visit. Where possible, we will have given you a driver on your organised tours that will be able to take you to various shops. In the cities there are shopping malls dedicated to clothing lines and designer goods.

Telephones

International Direct Dialling from STD booths can be a cheap way to phone out and within the country. The time and cost of your call is displayed while you are on line. Telephone calls from hotels are normally rated and will be more expensive. The country code for India is 91. Ringing tone is a double ring. Engaged tone is an intermittent on and off tone of equal length.

 

Mobile phones

The mobile service has seen phenomenal growth and the number of mobile phone connections have passed fixed-line connections. Currently there are an estimated 159 million mobile phone users in India compared to 40 million fixed line subscribers. The dominant players are Airtel, Reliance Infocomm, Vodafone, Idea cellular and BSNL/MTNL. International roaming agreements exist between most operators and many foreign carriers. You can buy a local “pay as you go” card if you expect to be making a lot of calls. They are available at international airports in arrival hall and in phone shops. However you need to fill in an application form to get the phone GSM SIM card, a passport size photograph and a copy of your passport main page with photo and local address is required to be attached with the form.

 

Internet

Access is increasingly available in major cities and tourist centres, and the web is spreading wider to reach remote areas. Most hotels will allow you to use their systems, but rates tend to be pretty high compared to cyber cafes and Public Call Offices. Some of the wildlife lodges have internet facilities – but do be aware that services might be sporadic.

 

Section 4 What to pack

Recommended clothing and equipment list

Below, for your guidance, is a list of items that we recommend you bring with you on your trip to India. You will have your own ideas from past experiences regarding your personal list of ‘utterly indispensables’ and favourite items, so the following are our suggestions to supplement your own packing list.

 

Documents

  • Documentation pouch
  • Credit cards/cash
  • Concealed money pouch
  • Airline tickets & photocopy
  • Passport and photocopy
  • International vaccination certificate
  • Itinerary and joining instructions
  • Copy of insurance policy
  • Travellers’ cheques and record of purchase
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Please keep your photocopies separate from your originals.

 

General equipment

  • Sports bag or side-loading rucksack between 45-60 litres
  • Torch with spare batteries and bulb
  • 20-litre daypack, for keeping everyday items handy
  • Penknife
  • Field Guides/pocket language guide
  • Water bottle – 1 litre
  • Good quality sunglasses, preferably polarised
  • Binoculars – essential
  • Camera, film, digital memory cards, cleaning materials, spare batteries
  • Wash-kit
  • Diary, note pad, pens, reading material
  • Good camera bag
  • Drawstring bags and plastic re-sealable bags to protect items from dust
  • Small travel alarm/watch

 

Clothing

  • Base-layer: T-shirts
  • Outer-layer: wind/waterproof
  • Woollen Clothes
  • Comfortable walking shoes or boots
  • Rafting sandals/flip flops
  • Swimwear/wide-brimmed sun hat
  • Sarongs/shorts
  • 2/3 Long-sleeved neutral-coloured shirts for general wear – useful with pockets
  • Extra T-shirts
  • 2/3 Long neutral-coloured trousers – protection from mosquitoes
  • Socks/underwear

 

N.B. It is advisable not to wear black or blue as this attracts flies and mosquitoes.

 

Medic Medical equipment

  • Personal medical travel kit (i.e. ‘Lifesystems’ Emergency Medical Pack)
  • Contact lens’ cleaners etc.
  • Rehydration sachets
  • Insect repellent
  • Lip salve, sunscreen – SPF20 or higher recommended
  • Anti-malarial tablets
  • Antihistamine tablets if you suffer from any allergies
  • Tissues/moist hand & body wipes
  • Spare prescription glasses in case you get irritation from the dust
  • Personal prescription medicines

 

Section 5 Emergency contact details

Royal  Expeditions

26 Community Center (II Floor),

East of Kailash,

New Delhi – 110065

Tel: 91-11-41088330,  91-11-41622245

 

web: www.royalexpeditions.com

Email: tours@royalexpeditions.com

Email: info@royalexpeditions.com

Mobile:  Vishal  (+91) 98 100 28849

Aditya   (+91) 98 105 14045

Nirmal  (+91) 8826116887

Sangita  (+91) 9891062399

Amar     (+91) 9560207530

Waseem (+91) 9810677745

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