Back

Always consult your Doctor or Health Service well before travelling, and make sure you have adequate insurance. In the unlikely event of a guest falling ill, Chinkara Journeys will do everything possible to help, but cannot be responsible for medical expenses. Good English-language medical services are available in all cities but less so into the interior. In India you are, however, never far from an experienced medical practitioner.

Chinkara Journeys vehicles carry a basic First Aid kit for use in emergencies, together with a list of emergency medical facilities within reach of the route being travelled.

Malaria (P. vivax - recurring but usually nonfatal and P. falciparum - sometimes called 'cerebral malaria') is endemic in this as in many regions of the low-altitude tropical world. Protection against malarial mosquitoes is as much (if not more) a matter of careful common sense as chemo-prophylaxis (preventive pills). All our collaborating outlets take great care to reduce the threat and irritation of flying insects with traditional natural and modern means, and, where appropriate, with nets.

Excellent health advice is to be had from the US Centers for Disease Control website,which has section on Indian Subcontinent. Also check web-pages from the World Health Organization's International Travellers' Health section.

Guests with special medical needs must inform Chinkara Journeys at the time of booking and we will make every effort to accommodate them.

Twenty-first century India is a different country from the one known by most foreign travellers for the last couple of centuries. A major reason for this is the ubiquity of bottled 'mineral water', such as Bisleri and Aquafina which has removed much of the once constant risk from aggressive microbes and bacteria thriving sadistically on pampered alien systems.

Standards of hygiene and sanitation, at least in areas most visitors reach, have also improved exponentially. This is, however, no cause for complacency. Bus stands and roadside dhabas (food stalls and mini-restaurants) should still be treated with utmost gastric caution by the short-term traveller. Methods of refrigeration and modern storage attitudes have not reached far beyond big cities.

There is also a thriving business in 'pirated' mineral water, where a respectable bottle is refilled from tap or ditch. Always get a knowledgeable local to advise on the real thing, and never accept unsealed bottles. When in doubt about water or soft drinks, drink the local hot tea from which most impurities have been boiled and which is, as often than not, more refreshing in a hot climate than any cold drink.

Reputable companies now supply ice in cities, while we make sure your lodges/hotels or home stays provide you ice cubes made from either bottled water or highly purified RO water. Psychologically, the importance of all this is that it is now possible to travel in India without the expectation of falling ill.

That said, we would still advise you to carry an anti-diarrhoeal like Imodium, though not a whole pharmacy. Add some rehydration sachets too, for one of the most enervating effects of even simple gastric upsets is loss of fluids and salts, which in a hot climate can turn easily nasty. However Chinkara Journeys tour leader and vehicle always carry first aid which is equipped with necessities.

For those determined to conquer the hotter chillies and masalas and who then suffer an urgent sense of auto-combustion in the area of the palate, we recommend a simple and rapid technique to relieve passing agonies: a well-heaped teaspoonful of dry sugar and aniseed, served everywhere as after meal mouth freshener.

This is true for travellers coming to India as most Indians are quite attuned to the travel conditions in the country.

Avoid drinking water at all costs unless it is bottled water from a reputed company (eg. Bisleri.)

Food-wise anything that is boiled, cooked or fried is a safer bet then anything cold or raw. So avoid cold salads, raw vegetables, etc.

Carry a mosquito/insect repellent wherever you go to avoid diseases like malaria or simply even the itchy discomfort.

Always carry a kit of the basic emergency medicines you might need for diarrhoea, fever, etc. Also, keep band aids and an anti-septic ointment.

Use a sunscreen at all times to prevent sunburn. Try and wear a hat if you're going to be in the sun.

Initially, at least, avoid excessive alcohol and strenuous activity to stave off heat stroke

India is home to countless vegetarians, so visitors of a similar bent fare well. Their carnivorous cousins often have a slightly harder time.

Diabetes is also sadly common in urban India, so appropriate diets are today almost commonplace. Eons of time are expended on dietary discussion with a multitude of formal and less formal methodologies vying for your adherence. You will meet fully-fledged dietary experts of every persuasion in trains, buses, airplanes, hotel receptions or just walking along the road. Expect to enter into the most intimate details of your inner workings with complete, and completely charming, strangers.

A general rule of thumb is that every imaginable special diet is manageable in India at fairly short notice, unless it involve caviar, Krug or T-bone steaks.

If you plan on serious trekking, bring strong walking shoes or boots. Trainers will not do. Bear in mind that feet expand in heat. Otherwise, light shoes or sandals are suitable for interior use. Anything that can be easily slipped on and off is ideal, since you should always remove shoes when entering someone's home or the inner areas of most religious sites (see Social and Religious Customs).

Light clothing in natural fabrics is recommended (in muted neutral colours if you want to spend time watching wildlife), with jackets, sweaters or shawls for evening use in winter months (late November to February).

A cotton scarf is an invaluable piece of kit – keeps off dust and sun, adds a bit of cover in more modest areas and doubles up as a hand towel. Tropical sunlight and nocturnal insects make the wearing of long sleeves and long trousers highly preferable. 

Men and women are advised to cover exposed flesh at all times specially when visiting religious sites or travelling in remote areas. It is quite possible for locals to have seen a foreigner for the first time in their life and that too with little cloths on their body. This can create an embarrassment for the on lookers. For women it is a good idea to throw in a scarf or shawl that you can use to cover your head and shoulders if required. It is strongly suggested to cover your body at least with a knee length trouser, while avoid anything shorter than sleeveless shirt of a natural fabric.

Use your best judgment about how few clothes you wear, but bear in mind that you will always get a better feel of a place by trying to blend in unobtrusively.

Laundry services are available at most overnight accommodation points. Garments requiring sensitive chemical-mechanical dry-cleaning processes should be saved for return to a five-star metro hotel or arrival back home. Indian Cities boast authentic dry-cleaning, but this is not all are yet an overnight service.

Tailoring and facilities for minor repairs are available in all towns, as is shoe-cleaning. Most such services are of very acceptable quality and exceptional value.

Dust is a perennial problem, so a small well-zipped bag for general belongings is very useful, with either shoulder or back straps and if possible with a small padlock.

A waist-fitting secure bag for valuables is also recommended.

A small torch (and batteries) can be very useful in places where there is no electricity (most jungles) or elsewhere when (rather than if) the mains power fails. Power outages are less frequent than they were (especially in Chattisgarh, now a power-surplus state) but still inexplicably do occur, often at inconvenient moments.

A small battery-powered radio with shortwave facility will help you keep in touch with world events. Reception in most areas is generally excellent.

For other recommended items, see also: Health and Medical, Connectivity and Photography.

The Indian currency is the Rupee, divided into one hundred paise. US Dollar or Pound Sterling Travellers Cheques are the safest instruments of exchange. Banks and Thomas Cook have exchange facilities at international airport terminals. Delhi and Mumbai domestic terminals also have exchange booths. Large metro hotels will usually change travellerscheques into Rupees at competitive rates, which can be very convenient. Outside large cities the only exchange facility tends to be the State Bank of India, which can be seriously time-consuming.

Rupees are generally available in notes of 10, 20 (now rare), 50, 100, 500 and 1000. (There are coins of 1, 2, 5 and 10 Rupees). The 500 and 1000 Rupee notes are quite difficult to tell apart at a glance - beware! Always ask for a mixture of large and smaller notes. (You may have to politely insist!)

Credit cards are widespread in metro cities and are becoming better known outside. American Express, Master Card, Diners Club and Visa are generally accepted. ATMs for international cards are are also widely available.

Although India is thoroughly metric, big spenders and amateur demographers will frequently encounter two unusual expressions:
lac (or lakh) and crore. One lac (or lakh) means one hundred thousand and is commonly used in English. One crore is equivalent to ten million, as befitting a truly populous country. ('Million' is a relatively recent alien term rarely used when 10 lac will do.) One wildly popular television show - Kaunbanega Crorepati? - thus translates as "Who Wants to be a Ten-Millionaire?". One billion, which India's population passed at the turn of the millennium, is one hundred crores

Tipping, in India, has a rather different connotation than in the West. The term baksheesh, not only encompasses tipping but 

a lot more besides. You 'tip' not so much for good service, but to get things done. Baksheesh, used judiciously, can open 

closed doors, find missing letters and perform other small miracles for you. Tipping is not necessary for taxis nor for 

cheaper restaurants, but if you're going to be using something regularly, a tip to begin with will give you a smooth pleasant 

hassle-free and unhindered service. Service is usually tacked-on in tourist restaurants or hotels. In this case, you can use 

the normal 10% figure. In smaller places, where tipping is optional, you need only tip a few rupees, not a percentage of the 

bill.

India is the home of languages with 17 major regional languages with its own script and literature. The lingua franca of the 

region, and the official language of India, is Hindi. Hindi and its dialects, derived from Sanskrit with many Persian, Arabic 

and even English loan words, belongs to the Indo-European language group.
English is widely and well spoken in major centres and by all senior officials in public service (albeit often rather 

reluctantly). Although the 'Hindi heartland' does not like to admit it, English is alive and well and indeed flourishing in 

India and is a vital linguistic bridge between North and South India.

Tomes can and have been written on the myriad social customs of a land as complex and variegated as India. For the visiting 

foreigner only a few simple guidelines can be mentioned, most of which are a matter of simple common sense.
Taking off shoes is mandatory when entering temples, mosques and other religious centres and should be observed when visiting 

inner rooms of people's homes, though in this latter case the host or hostess may vociferously discourage the practice. A 

quick glance to see if the denizens are shod or otherwise will help decide your course of action (When in Rome....).
As in many countries, if eating with the fingers (a most practical habit), always wash your hands before the meal (ask if 

facilities are not obviously available) and try not to use your left hand at all (certainly never in taking food from a 

shared dish). If you are not offered a finger bowl after the meal, ask for facilities to wash again.
In some houses, you may find yourself eating off, or drinking from, different crockery from the host's. Don't be offended; 

you happen to have been born in different circumstances. Likewise, a family, and especially the ladies, may not join you for 

a meal which they have prepared and served. Husbands, uncles, grandfathers and guests come first.
A clue in the previous paragraph rests in the use of the word 'ladies'. This is how women are commonly referred to in Indian 

English and hints at the special status they have in the ideal, if not in everyday reality. Worship of the mother goddess is 

never far beneath the surface.
India is a land of the warmest hospitality and interest in you, your marital status, numbers of children and a host of other 

intimate personal details is commonplace, frequently expressed by complete strangers. If you are not further armed with 

stunning conversational gambits covering the latest cricket series, nuclear fusion, chaos theory or the whereabouts of the 

Mars curiosity rover, we recommend you resort to the one universal language understood by all true civilisations, and smile.

If tomes are needed to begin to cover social customs in India, whole libraries are required to deal with religious ones, 

which often are synonymous with the social, only more complex and diverse and likely to cause offence.
Even in a secular state, religion can be a volatile issue, needing tact and circumscription. All Indian religions are 

extraordinarily welcoming of non-adherents. With very few exceptions, outsiders are not only permitted into religious places, 

but actively encouraged to visit, often with comprehensive though not always comprehensible descriptions of the rites, ritual 

and icon representations involved.
At the same time, it should be recognised that religion is a very private matter (however publicly it is often expressed) 

demanding special respect. A sense of that respect should be enough guide you in matters such as appropriate dress for 

visiting religious centres, and in asking permission before taking photographs.
In tribal areas, where there are no (or few) convenient delineations such as religious buildings to guide you, the best 

advice is to stay in the background and quietly observe. Try not to wander at will unaccompanied over village and surrounding 

land. Only those who are born there know where the spirits reside and it is easy to commit an unwitting but serious 

transgression of sacred territory. Some dervish-like rituals and subsequent trances can seem quite alarming; if your presence 

seems to be causing discomfort to the assembled believers, quietly leave.

Electric current is (notionally) 230-240v AC at 50 cycles. Sockets are mostly three-pinned and round-holed, though there is 

not universal consistency. Most round two-pinned plugs can be persuaded to connect with the Indian system. Square or other 

exotic varieties cannot, so consider bringing a mutli-adaptor.
Local batteries outside big cities are not of high quality. Bring your own, though you risk a performance with airport 

security who hate it when they find batteries in your luggage prior to check-in and then try to temporarily confiscate those 

batteries you have carefully removed to your cabin baggage (though you are returned them on landing, in principle).
Telephones are one of the many new boons of 21st century India: most of them now actually work, frequently with international 

dialling facilities. The country code for India is 91. To dial direct out of India, you typically need to dial 00 before the 

country code of your choice. Countless tiny businesses in towns and cities proudly display streetside boards announcing STD. 

These are not clinics treating unsocial diseases, rather telephone cabins (often with fax machines) for the use of the paying 

public. Mobile phones are spreading apace, though network connections are by no means yet universal. If you are carrying a 

mobile, don't expect it to function away from the big cities.
Time: Indian Standard Time is 5½ hours ahead of UTC (GMT) all year round.
Post: (snail mail) The Indian Post Office is a great institution which (like the railways) sometimes works well; sometimes 

not.
Internet connections are now commonplace in all cities and most large towns, although connectivity speeds can be slow at 

times. For guests needing Internet access, Chinkara Journeys can always arrange a connection at short notice.

Experienced wildlife photographers will not need advice here.
Photography in India offers magnificent opportunities to amateur and professional alike. Bear in mind, given the latitudes 

and flesh tints, that your best work will probably be achieved in the morning and evening hours. Before 9 am and after 5 pm a 

light blue colour correction filter (85A) is recommended, as are UV filters all the time.
Repairs to SLR cameras are quite possible in cities, though digital cameras may take time to repair. Common memory cards are 

easily available in the cities. High speed UDMA, SD cards though easily available in the cities but not in outside. You may 

want to carry twice than you think should be sufficient.
Some National Parks and tourist locations a small charge is levied for still cameras, and a slightly higher one for video 

appliances. Don't use flash or artificial lights inside a Park or Sanctuary.
For wildlife photographers, we are working on the bean bag to fit on 4x4 railings to rest their telephoto comfortably. For 

bigger lenses which require tripod, we make special seating arrangements, usually for two, in safari cars to make enough room 

to spread tripod legs.
The greatest enemy of the photographer in India is dust. Bring some cleaning materials (including if possible a small 

compressed air spray) and spare lens hoods and caps. Although humidity is not a serious factor except in the monsoon months 

(Mid-June to September) you are recommended to keep a sachet or two of silica gel in your equipment bag. Click here to learn 

more about the climate of India.
Always ask before photographing people or religious objects close up. It is sometimes, but not always, appropriate to make a 

small donation.
Given the omnipresent crowds (more so on festival occasions) a telephoto lens is invaluable, as are the ubiquitous rooftop 

vantage points whose owners will most often be happy to let you use, sometimes for a modest fee.
Photography of airports, railway stations and other sites with manifest security implications is prohibited.

Outside major cities and world-renowned tourist sites the postcard industry is not world-class. For Chinkara Journeys, we are 

working to rectify this, but it will still take time.
Meanwhile, nothing will match your own first pictures of the TajMahal or that elusive tiger.
Fine Souvenirs, on the other hand, abound, in particular the traditional handicrafts of the tribal areas in wood, bell metal, 

terra-cotta, wrought iron and bamboo.

India's English-language press is vast and vastly informative with equal number of online publication. Newspapers and 

magazines are available at countless bookstalls in airports, railway stations, hotels, and downtown markets. You may not get 

your favourite international publication every time, but you'll never be short of well-written and eclectic news and 

opinions.

FM is currently riding on the waves in urban India, most of them playing Bollywood but occasionally you can also tune in to 

the latest Justin Bieber no # 1. In rural area, the staid tones of All India Radio still dominate the sound waves.
We grandly assume that you are not coming to India to watch television. If you should, however, be caught waiting for a 

delayed flight or for an unseasonable rain shower to stop, you will be spoilt for channels - delivered by satellite and 

monopolistic and sometimes curmudgeonly local cable operators. If not CNN, then BBC World is generally available, together 

with standard sports, movie and general interest channels. The largest choice, quite naturally, is left to the home market, 

with countless channels operating in a Babel of local languages. Inevitably, the farther you journey from the city, the less 

TV - though even that is changing fast.

Theft :- Anyone who's had anything stolen in India will tell you that it can be quite a hassle getting the items replaced. 

Never leave your valuables (passport, tickets, health certificates, money, travellers' cheques) lying around in your hotel 

room or elsewhere.
Stolen Travellers' Cheques :- If you're unlucky enough to have things stolen, some precautions can ease the pain. All 

travellers' cheques are replaceable. But for immediate relief, it's a good idea to keep an emergency cash-stash in a totally 

separate place. In that same place you should keep a record of the cheque serial numbers, proof of purchase slips and your 

passport number.

Much of the obvious content for this section has either been touched on in other Travel Tips or would be no different from 

what you would do with guests in your own home.
India, country of endless contrasts and not a few apparent paradoxes, has limited resources in most areas except people, 

which however, is changing rapidly. Obviously you don't want to add to any difficulties, whether tossing unnecessary litter 

or running the bathroom tap too long.
In Wildlife Parks, codes of behaviour are a little more formalised. Follow the instructions and advice of the Guide at all 

times. Try to be as quiet as possible and don't use a camera flash. Respect the animals for the living natural wonders they 

are; don't feed or touch them - they have rights to privacy too.
In Tribal Areas, remember that these hardworking people may consider you more 'exotic' than you consider them. Mostly, you 

will be met with great courtesy everywhere in India. There can be no greater compliment than to return a measure of the same.