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Travel in India

How to Plan for Travel to India

India is the second most densely populated place in the world. The huge population invites diversity and flavor in art, music, festivals, food and sports.

Purchase your tickets for transatlantic and domestic Indian flights at the same time. Buy tickets from your home country as early as possible.

Allow time for delays between domestic flights within India. Cancellations and delays occur often on intra-continental flights.

Double-check all flight schedules. Call twice to confirm flights--72 hours before the departure time and again immediately before leaving for the airport. You may lose your seat if you do not confirm it well in advance even though you have a ticket and/or reservation.

Do not expect airports to be full-service in India. Regional airports often lack the services of others around the world. Lack of food services and insufficient waiting areas pose problems. The lack of coordination of services can cause travelers to lose time. If one conveyor belt serves the entire terminal, reclaiming luggage can take an hour. Security measures in India's airports are stricter than those in the U.S. Travelers often go through two security checks including a complete pat down.

Prepay a taxi service for a taxi to meet you in your arrival city (likely New Delhi or Bombay). You will avoid the overwhelming crowds by having a driver holding a sign with your name on it as he waits for you.

Carefully select the car and driver. Either make arrangements through your hotel or pay a bit more money to use a government-approved, licensed operator. Set rates, terms and surcharges in advance.

Research the country. Most newcomers to India discover that the daily life and rich culture in India requires interpreting. Immerse yourself in historical fiction, nonfiction and travel guides to help you anticipate what to expect. The research will help you to be less likely to feel overwhelmed; you will be more likely to enjoy the trip.

Carry toilet tissue and wet wipes with you at all times. Clean restrooms are rare in cities and the countryside. Carry all the medicines you will need as well as diapers, diaper wipes, rash creams, sunscreen and zinc oxide.

Carefully plan where you will stay. Confirm room reservations before arriving in India. Inspect the room before checking in. Do not leave luggage unlocked in your room. Never leave traveler's checks, jewelry, passports or money in a hotel room unless the room has a safe.

Carry spare adapters and batteries for your laptop. New replacements adapters and batteries are rare and expensive. Ask about surge protection before plugging your computer into a socket.

Respect the religious practices in India. Remove shoes before entering all shrines, even if a shrine seems to be in ruins. Don't drink alcohol, smoke or raise your voice at a shrine. Mosques and temples are sometimes off-limits to travelers who do not practice the faith. Resist the urge to try to bribe your way in.

Wear conservative clothing. Only children are allowed to wear short shorts. Men may wear longer shorts or comfortable jeans. Women should cover their heads and dress modestly when visiting sacred places such as a Sikh temple or a mosque.

Expect segregation by gender. Social customs and roles sometimes separate men and women in Indian society. The people of India may expect you to practice the same distinguishing practices. Conduct yourself as the natives regarding rules such as seating arrangements when visiting a traditional Indian home. Men and women often sit separately.

Be careful what you eat. Avoid eating from street vendors. Do not eat cold food, uncooked food or unpasteurized milk and dairy products. Do not eat raw fruit and vegetables including produce that has been peeled. Raw produce served by luxury hotels are usually okay, but many salad bars and buffets kill parasites by soaking produce in an iodine preparation. Drink either bottled water or water that has been boiled for at least 10 minutes. Avoid fruit juices, ice, tap water and drinks to which water has been added. Purchase bottled water from a reputable store. Refuse offers of "aquaguard" or "filtered" water. The water may not have been filtered to kill parasites even though it was filtered to take out particles.

Use only authorized money changers. Insist on getting an encashment slip. Be prepared to pay a small fee for this slip which you will need to pay travel expenses and hotel bills in rupees. You also will need the slip to change rupees into your own currency before leaving India. Do not accept taped, torn, frayed or soiled bills because many hotels, merchants and restaurants will not accept them.

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