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India

A land of colours and contrasts

aadarshgupta

Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, India

Since Siddhartha's Journey to The East, seekers of truth have traveled India. In the 1960's hippies called India home hanging out in this tropical paradise. Today the hippy hangouts have become fashionable and affordable holiday resorts with services and amenities to rival any in the English speaking world. For the modern visitor, India may be a place of learning, or a fantastic and affordable holiday destination.

History

India has a rich history, it has been invaded by successive armies including the Mongols to Alexander (the not so Great) and then the British, but India has survived them all. Kings and Maharajah's have ruled, the British left their language, bureaucracy and railways yet a unique and distinctly Indian civilization remains strong today.

Landscape

The sub continent of India is spread over 3.28 million square kilometres and the landscape moves from the towering Himalayan mountains in the north, to desert regions of Rajasthan and the tropical beauty of Kerala in the south.

People

sariWith a population of around 1.3 billion, you will find the complete spectrum of humanity with a wealthy aristocracy, a rising middle class and beggars in the streets. But rich or poor, the Indian people have a ready smile and friendly nature.

As you travel, local customs and languages can change every 50 kilometres or so, so you get an amazing diversity all connected by Sanatana Dharma.

Indians are in general a conservative people and there are a number of 'sky clad' sadus, however it is not legal to be nude in a any public place including beaches. However Goa and Karnataka with their miles of beautiful secluded beaches do have some beaches where clothing is optional.

Clothing

India is hot in summer and hot all year around in the south. For women, the sari is a delightful garment to wear.  For visitors, please cover up well when visiting temples and on formal occasions.  For women, this means a long skirt with arms and shoulders covered. A sari is ideal.  Men will need smart casual clothes with trousers and sleeved shirts on some occasions. But in the beach, regular bathers are okay.

Language

The official languages of the Republic of India are Standard Hindi and English, however around popular tourist destinations, vendors often speak other European languages. India has more than a hundred regional languages, and most Hindus speak several languages.

Money

The Indian rupee is the currency of India, but many stores and traders welcome US$ or Euros. Indian banknotes have the note value written in 17 languages, (Hindi, English and 15 of India's other languages). Those willing to embrace local culture can live very inexpensively. In the 1980's, US$2000.00 would be sufficient for all living and travel expenses for a year. Converted today US$1000.00 gives R45,309.71 which is more than a years salary for many Indian workers.

Attractions

There is so much to see, it's hard to know where to begin. But as arrival points include Delhi, Mumbai and other cities it's best to arrive near to what interests you. In the south, arrival points include Chennai and Coimbatore which are convenient to explore the souther temple cities and Eastern Ghats. Mumbai is convenient to visit Goa, Rajasthan and move on to Delhi and many visitors list the Taj Mahal as an architectural marvel. You can go camel riding, mountaineering, visit Ashrams and Holy places.

Getting about

Undoubtedly the best way is by train and there are many great rail journeys from the boutique Himalayan Queen from Kalka to Shimla or trans-continental journeys. Trains come with comfort options from 1st class aircon sleepers to older trains that are naturally ventilated.

Trekking

The trekking season in the Himalayas starts around April and ends in November and the ski season run roughly between January and March. Buses and trains depart from Delhi to Himalayan regions from Assam to Nepal, Kashmir and Ladakh.  When trekking it's vital to let friends and family know your intentions and update them regularly. Most mountain towns operate trekking and guiding services and inexperienced trekkers are advised to use these services to avoid being eaten of getting lost.

Shopping

India is a great place to shop as crafts people produce a wide range of beautiful works including hand made carpets and jewellery.

Food

Indian food is colourful, aromatic and the third most popular cuisine in the world. A large percentage of the Indian people are vegetarian and for the traveler, a typical vegetarian meal of Rice, dhaal and vegetables with a little pickle and yogurt is simple and inexpensive.

Safety

India is safer than most countries despite the sensationalised media stories. By using common sense and courtesy, there are few dangers.  There are a few no go areas at night and when arriving in a new place, ask the locals for advice, they are usually very hospitable.  As a general rule, never drink tap water without first treating it, do not eat meat except from select restaurants, never eat uncooked vegetables, and only eat fruit that you peel yourself. Carry a good first aide kit and a water sterilizer.

india_kids

Kids on the beach

Health

Allopathic medicine is overtaking the traditional Ayurvedic medicine, however Avurveda is widely practised and there are many traditional nature care centres in India based on the Vedic approach to health. If you have prescription medicines, carry a copy of the prescription with you.

"Delhi Belly" or diarrhoea commonly affects visitors and the simplest way to minimize this risk is to only eat a cooked vegetarian diet, and if affected, drink only bottled, boiled or sterilized water, boiled rice and fresh yogurt for a few days.

Getting there

India is well connected with all parts of the world by air and sea and there is no best time to go although in the northern hemisphere summer, it can be very hot, in the monsoon season, very wet and humid and a winter in the north may include snow.

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