If you are planning on visiting or travelling to India, here are some general travel tips for tourists in India.
- Clothing - Travel as light as possible. Try and avoid wearing tank tops, short skirts and shorts. During the hot summers, the best outfit is a cotton T-shirt worn with loose cotton trousers. You may also try out comfortable Indian wear such as kurtas, salwar kameezes and sandals. These are available all over the country at very reasonable rates.
- Toilets - In India, public toilet facilities are few and far between. Take every opportunity you can to use a clean toilet in places such as hotels and restaurants.
- Beggars - In India, beggary is a profession indulged in by unscrupulous gangs to make a quick buck. Do not encourage them by giving them money.
- Food And Drink - Drink only bottled water. When in a restaurant, insist on the waiter bringing a sealed bottle to your table. Beef and pork are not served in many parts of India. Curd or yoghurt is served with most meals. It is a natural aid to digestion and helps temper the spicy food.
- Shopping - Try to shop only in government handicraft shops as they offer goods of a certified quality at a fixed price. Bargaining is standard at most private shops. It helps to take a local person with you to get a better bargain.
- Tipping - Tipping is virtually unknown in India, except in swanky establishments in the major cities. In hotels and restaurants, tips are not normally included in the bill. Some hotels include a service charge of 10 per cent with their bills. In such cases tipping is not necessary. In smaller places, where tipping is optional, you need only tip a few rupees, not a percentage of your bill. The standard tip is 10 per cent.
Waiters, room service boys, housekeepers, porters, and doormen all expect to be tipped. Railroad porters should be paid Rs. 5 - Rs. 10 per bag, depending on the weight. Set the rate before you let him take your bags. Taxi drivers don't expect tips unless they go through a great deal of trouble to get you to your destination. However, if you hire a car with a driver, tip him about Rs.50 to Rs. 100 per day, depending on the distance travelled. If you hire a local guide, tip him or her Rs. 40 for four hours or Rs. 80 for a full day.
- Sightseeing – Most tourist attractions and shopping centres are closed on national and religious holidays. Gazetted holidays are all India centric while restricted holidays differ from State to State.Most museums in India are closed on Mondays. Site Museums, which are those museums located near archaeological monuments are closed on Fridays. Certain temples are not open to Non-Hindus.
- Timings - Most government and private banks are open on weekdays from10:00 am - 2:00 pm and on Saturdays from 10:00 am - 12:00 noon. Post offices are open Monday to Friday from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm and on Saturdays from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. They are closed on Sundays. The business hours of market places, shops, bazaars and malls vary from place to place.
- Photography - Photography is not permitted at some places. In some places it may be allowed for a small fee. There is usually a higher fee for using a video camera.
- Weather - The dry heat in summer can be very strong. Drink plenty of water and fluids to avoid dehydration. Use sunscreen on exposed areas of your body and wear sunglasses to screen out harmful rays.
- Communication - English is spoken at almost all tourist centres. You may also request for government-trained and approved guides who speak languages like German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Russian.
- Local Travel – Try and use prepaid taxis and autorickshaws as much as possible. Insist on the taxi/auto meter being flagged down in your presence. Taxi and auto-rickshaw fares are changed often and may not conform to the reading displayed on the meter. Insist on seeing the latest rate card (available with the driver) and pay accordingly. Keep extra passport size photographs and photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport. This is required for Indian permits to certain tourist areas.
- Money - You can change most major foreign currencies and brands of travellers' cheques in major cities. India has a large network of ATM’s that accept Visa and Mastercard and American Express cards.
- Safety - Never leave suitcases unattended at airports or train stations. Lock your bags when leaving them in hotel rooms. Be alert in crowds for pickpockets. Wear a money belt.
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