India offers a range of amazing experiences for every traveller, from the stunning Taj Mahal to the forts of Rajasthan, and the highlands of Ladakh to the Goan coast. Before you pack your bags, here’s a primer on what to expect and some handy do’s and don’ts.
Population: 1.38 billion
Capital: New Delhi
Religion: Hindu (80%), Muslim (14%), plus Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and others
Emergency numbers: 100 (police), 101 (fire), 102 (medical)
- The earliest versions of the games Chess (chaturanga) and also Snakes & Ladders (mokshapat) originated in India.
- Approximately 5,000 Mumbai dabbawalas (“ones who carry the boxes”) deliver about 200,000 lunchboxes (dabba) containing freshly made food from their customer’s home to their offices each day.
- Indian Railways is the 13th largest employer in the world with a workforce of 1.4 million.
- Khari Baoli in New Delhi is Asia’s largest wholesale spice market.
- Chail Cricket Ground in Chail, Himachal Pradesh, is the highest cricket ground in the world.
- India is the world’s second largest English-speaking country
- Vesak Day, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
- Deepavali, or Diwali, the festival of lights – a five-day Hindu festival, which includes the lighting of lamps, plenty of firecrackers and sharing of sweets.
Hot spots and itineraries
Popular destinations include Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Kerala, Goa, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Bangalore. There are more than 30 World Heritage Sites, including Delhi’s Qutb Minar, the churches and convents of Goa, and the Ellora Caves.
Some itinerary ideas:
- “The Golden Triangle”: Delhi – Agra (Taj Mahal) – Jaipur
- Beaches: Mumbai – Goa – Kochi – Allepey – Kerala backwaters
- Mountains: Delhi – Leh – Himalayas
- Culture & Religion: Kolkata – Bodhgaya – Varanasi
Staying safe and healthy
- Malaria is prevalent throughout most parts of the country, and be aware that Chloroquine is not an effective antimalarial drug in India.
- Be careful with food and water. Drink bottled water, be wary of street food and take anti-diarrhoeal medicine.
- If you visit the Himalayan mountains, ascend gradually; adjusting to high altitudes can give you insomnia, headaches and nausea.
- Finally, always check for the latest COVID-19 updates and restrictions.
While you’re there, please don’t…
Eat food or pass objects with your left hand; the left hand is used to perform bathroom functions, and is therefore traditionally considered unclean
Before you go, read…
- A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth – one of the longest books ever to be published, it follows four families over 18-months as a mother searches for a suitable boy for her daughter.
- Life of Pi, by Yann Martell – a fantastical novel with a dark underbelly.
Before you go, watch…
- … at least one Bollywood film! Start with the classic of the genre, Sholay (1975)
- Gandhi – the story of the leader of the Indian revolt against British rule and his philosophy of non-violent protest.
- A Passage to India – based on the novel by EM Forster, the film focuses on doomed friendships and colonial distrust.
They said it
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“In India, ‘cold weather’ is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass doorknob and weather which will only make it mushy.” – Mark Twain, author
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai
Do I need a visa?
Citizens of Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg and also New Zealand are eligible to apply for a tourist visa on arrival. All other nationalities should apply online. Visit the website of the Indian High Commission in Singapore (hcisingapore.gov.in) for further info.
How long will it take me to get there?
Between 4 and 5.5 hours from Singapore. India is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT, and 2.5 hours behind Singapore.
What’s the money situation?
The official currency of India is the Indian rupee (INR); S$1 is equivalent to around 55 rupees. You will find ATMs in most of the large towns throughout India. If you’re travelling out of town, ensure you have enough cash. Major currencies can be changed at banks and private money changers. MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted cards but are limited to mid- to high-end hotels, restaurants and shops.
When’s the best time to visit?
The best time to visit most areas is from October to March, although January to September is a good time for the south, while northeastern India tends to be best between March and August. Kashmir and the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh are most accessible between May and September. Skiing is popular from January through March, while trekking in the Indian Himalayas is recommended from April to November. Beach-goers tend to head to Kerala and Goa from December to May, when the weather is clear and dry.
What’s the lingo?
The official languages of India are Hindi and English. Make a start with these Hindi phrases!
- Hello: Namaste
- What is your name? Aapka naam kya hai?
- My name is __ : Mera nama __ hai
- How much? Kitna
- Thank you: Dhanyavaad
- Yes: Haan (Ha)
- No problem: Koi bhat nahi
Last but not least
Is there anything I should know about meeting the locals?
Press your palms together at chest level while saying “Namaste”. This is often followed by a light handshake. Also, always allow Indian women to initiate contact.
What’s a must-try dish?
Before hitting the restaurants for the huge range of amazing curries and other dishes, try some street food; for example, the ubiquitous chaat comprises dozens of different savoury and sweet snacks that can be eaten on the go.
What should I buy as a souvenir?
Curry powders, carpets and sarees.
Read more about India in our Travel section!
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