Capital: New Delhi
Religions: Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%
Area: 3,287,263 sq km
Government: Federal Republic
Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday
Dussehra (Vijaya Dashami)
Guru Nanak's Birthday
Eid al-Adha (Bakrid)
Prophet Mohammad's Birthday (Id-e-Milad)
The following Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar:
Day of Ashura- 10th Day of Muharram
Mawlid - Prophet's Birthday
Shab-e-Barat - Mid-Sha'ban
Birthday of Ali ibn Abi talib
Jumat-ul-Wida - Last Friday in Ramadan
Eid ul-Fitr - End of Ramadan
Eid al-Adha - Feast of the Sacrifice
In India, people speak Hindi, which have various dialects, and English. English is spoken widely in cities and villages alike.
Visa - Do I need a visa to travel to India?
All visitors need to obtain visa for India prior to arrival. Citizens of neighboring Nepal and Bhutan do not need a visa. Citizens of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar get visas on arrival in India.
Currency / Exchange rate / Banking
The national currency is the Indian Rupee and controlled by the Reserve Bank of India. As of 2012 banknotes of the denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 are in circulation; coins with face-value of 50 paisa, 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupees.
Currency exchange shops are available in all cities. Local shops will offer much better rates than international shops. The best and cost effective way to obtain foreign currency in India is to withdraw money from the ATM’s.
Banks in India operate from 10:00 to 16:00. There are 14 nationalized banks in India offering a variety of international services.
Tipping in India is typically referred to as 'baksheesh' and is generally just a small token of your appreciation for good service. Although it is not compulsory, it will most likely ensure better service. Anyone who carries your bag will expect to be tipped. It is also customary to tip drivers, whether taxi drivers or those of the tour company. You could simply opt for them to keep the change for the rice. Any person providing direct service such as beach and spa staff, barbers and hairdressers will appreciate a small tip for their work done.
India is IST (India Standard Time, that is to say four and a half hours ahead of the UK
Throughout the year, apart from Festivals, businesses in India are open at the following hours:
Government Offices: Mondays to Fridays: 09.30 - 17:30.
Offices: Mondays to Fridays: 09.30 - 17:30 (on Saturdays until 14:00)
Banks: Mondays to Fridays 10:00 - 15:00 (on Saturdays until 13:00)
Shops and supermarkets: Mondays to Saturdays 09:00 - 19:00
Although the weather in India varies dramatically, bargain on the specific areas one plans on visiting.
In summer, which is March to May, the temperatures reach up to 40 deg C (105 deg F). The southern parts of the country will experience temperatures ranging from 35 deg C (95 deg F) and it becomes increasingly humid. During May, the monsoon season starts appearing, bringing with it thunderstorms and dust storms.
June to October is the actual Monsoon season. Although it does not appear all at once, it makes its way up to the northern parts by June.
During November to February, it is winter season in India and that is when you hit the beaches. It never gets cold in the south which makes for day after day of beach weather.
Travelers should always consult a doctor before traveling and request the following vaccines; Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. Malaria, Rabies and Yellow fever is also recommended depending on the area you will visit in India. The Northern parts of India is at times affected by the latter diseases due to the Monsoon and heat.
India uses 230 Volts, 50 Hz alternating current as the power source. Plugs and sockets have either grounded / earthed 3 Pin connections (Type D) or ungrounded 2 pin connections (Type C). This is also known as the Europlug.
When packing for India, keep modesty in mind. It’s considered to be indecent to show very much leg or to wear an open neckline. Go for conservative dresses, pants and jeans. Clothes should be lightweight as the humidity takes its toll when wearing heavy clothes.
Have at least two or three pairs of comfortable shoes in the bag. Sandalds aren’t always recommended unless you don’t mind getting your feet dirty. Don’t pack too much to make space for amazing Indian clothing. Long tunics and leggings called churidars are priced very low and are simply beautiful. Every woman should buy a sari when in India.
Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bajra), rice, whole-wheat flour (atta), and a variety of lentils, especially masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon pea), urad (black gram), and moong (mung bean). Many Indian dishes are cooked in vegetable oil, but peanut oil is popular in northern and western India, mustard oil in eastern India, and coconut oil along the western coast. Most used spices include chilli pepper, black mustard, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, coriander and garlic.
In the south, seafood plays a major role in cuisine. Briyani, made with rice, yogurt and meat, is one of the top dishes in India. Naan bread always accompanies meals. Tandoori chicken which is cooked in an oven is another famous dish. The lentil dish called Dal is also one of the most served dishes as well as Rajma which is made from kidney beans. There are also a wide variety of vegetable dishes and stews that are cooked with curry and various hot spices.
Finger foods such as samosas (pastry filled with meat or vegetables folded in triangles, spring rolls, pakoras (chicken friend in batter) and bhajia (onion fritters), are widely available and make for easy eating when you don’t want to sit down.
Indian food is generally very spicy and when a waiter offers a mild curry, it will be as if eating strong curry back home. For the less enthusiastic over spicy foods, always order a vegetarian flavored curry as it will still have that kick, but will definitely be edible.
All restaurants will serve a variety of the most famous dishes that Indian cuisine has to offer. There will always be vegetarian variants of all dishes. Lamb meat is used more regularly than beef. Chicken is only used in specific chicken dishes.
Spiced rice and naan bread will accompany just about every meal. One can easily buy snack sized food such as samosas, mutton rolls, spring rolls and sheesh kebabs.