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Travel in India

Rural India Tourism
By:Noelle Carver

Rural India's diverse historical, social, spiritual and environmental landscapes appeal to the adventurous and thoughtful traveler. While rural India proffers dynamic and rich visual and spiritual experiences, the traveler must keep in mind that witnessing third-world poverty from an outsider's perspective can shock and overwhelm an unprepared explorer. Research the destinations in India you would like to travel to for a better understanding of what to expect upon entering these surprising human territories.

India hosts some of the world's most beautiful and ancient architecture.

Travelers who enjoy learning about ancient civilizations, religions, evolving traditions and agricultural trends can seek them in rural India. While trips to these regions educate travelers about the history of the country, travelers also witness the living cultures--people who call these lands home. Travelers should not disassociate ancient and modern India but learn from both at once.

Cultural Basics
Traveling to rural India demands a lot from even the most experienced travelers. Dress for men and women in rural Indian areas should not expose the knees or shoulders even in the hottest weather. When meeting a stranger for the first time, a tourist should greet the other with the "namaste" hand gesture---hands placed in a prayer-position at the face---and bow. When meeting elders, travelers should gesture toward touching the elders' feet as a sign of respect.

The hot and humid climate, rainy seasons, sometimes destitute living accommodations and poverty will take some adjustment on the traveler's part. However, people in rural India are, in general, accepting of visitors, especially those who have come to learn about the richness of their culture as well as those on agri-tourism and eco-tourism missions.

According to India Online, as of 2010 India's population is approximately 1.15 billion. By 2030, experts expect India's population to rise above China's as the most populous nation in the world. India's major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad house the densest populations, while rural destinations are home to a few hundred citizens. Rural villages include Khimsar and Osiyan on the edge of the vast Thar Desert, Bishnoi in the northern Rajasthan district and Arasinamakki near Mangalore in southern India.

Agri-tourism and Eco-tourism
Agri-tourism brings travelers to rural India with the mission of improving or just lending a hand to rural farmers. Travelers may search for agri-tourism programs online or through the official India tourism website, Incredible India. Eco-tourism is similar to agri-tourism but appeals to travelers interested in conservation, health and wildlife protection. Rural villages in and around the Himalayas can be fruitful destinations for eco-tourism.

When to Travel

Depending on your taste, travel to avoid or enjoy monsoon season.

According to Lonely Planet's India feature, choose when to travel to India based on whether your destination lies in the north or south of the country. Climatic conditions in the north differ significantly from those in the south. In general, India's climate falls into three seasons--hot, wet (monsoon season) and cool, which fluctuate in length in the north and south. Visiting most of the country in November through mid-February offers cooler temperatures. If a traveler visits in the hot summer months or the wet monsoon months (April to June), tourists and locals alike find respite in the northern Himalayan region. Decisions can be made when to travel based on Indian festivals and special events throughout the year.

Travel Planning
While traveling to rural villages by local train, small planes or private cars is possible, it is not advisable to do so as an independent traveler. Because village traditions and religion reign in these smaller regions, it is difficult for a traveler to prepare enough in advance for the cultural differences and sensitivities. Because housing can also be difficult in a village with no hotels or public accommodation, a tour or guided trip generally proves a safer and more efficient way to tour rural India. Tour groups give travelers the option of traveling by local trains or more luxury sleeper trains or by a car and driver. Tourism-Delhi and Pratap Tours, for example, offer tours that traverse the Indian countryside, stopping in small villages or traveling into cities and back into rural destinations.

Hindi is the official language of India and English is the second official language. However, individual local languages throughout the India subcontinent reach into the hundreds, according to the Ethnologue Languages of the World website. Prepare to travel to rural India by learning some Hindi expressions and phrases to get by if you want to engage with the locals. If you know of a particular rural village's language, research the local dialect before traveling to give yourself a head start.

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