India Fact file : The Republic of India, whose capital is Delhi, is bordered by Afghanistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to the east and Pakistan to the west. It's the seventh-largest country, covering more than three million square kilometers, and second only to China in terms of population, at over 1.1 billion. Seventy-three percent of males are literate, compared to 48 percent of females.
Visa : Almost everyone needs a visa before travelling to India. Tourist visas are valid for six months from the date of issue. Go for a multiple entry visa just in case you are visiting neighboring countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Srilanka along with your India trip. All Individual visa seekers are requested to apply for the Indian Visa through Online application on www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/Visa in order to make an application for getting the Indian Visa.
Citizen of eleven countries (Singapore, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Japan, Finland, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia & Myanmar) can avail of the Tourist Visa on Arrival facility at four international airports namely New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai & Kolkata. In addition, foreign tourists in groups of four or more arriving by air or sea can avail of the Collective Landing Facility for a period of not exceeding 60 days.
By the end of the year, visa-on-arrival facility will be extended to citizens of 180 countries at nine airports across the country. Electronic travel authorization will allow foreign travelers to apply for a visa from home and receive an online confirmation in five working days. The extension of visa-on-arrival and electronic travel authorization to citizens of 180 countries will be implemented initially at nine airports including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum. ETA will be available for a 30-day period from the date of the tourist's arrival in India while VOA will also be for the same period for a single entry. A separate website would be set up for extending the facility to foreigners intending to visit India as tourists. To get a visa, they would need to apply on the designated website along with the required fees. They would be granted an electronic version of the visa within three days.
No hand written application form will be accepted by any of the Indian Mission where ever online Visa facility has been implemented. The application form completed in all respect and submitted successfully is to be submitted at the concerned Indian Visa Application Centre ( IVAC) or directly to Indian Mission in absence of IVAC , on the scheduled date of interview along with the requisite supporting documents. The instruction for filling the form and scheduling the appointment can be referred at Instructions for Online Visa Application. Important technical information for filling online India Visa application can be referred at Technical instructions. If you have applied online for Indian Visa online and want to know the status of your application, please follow the link for Visa Enquiry.
Visa Extensions: Medical emergencies or theft of passport just before the applicant planned to leave the country (at the end of their visa). If you do need to extend your visa due to any such exigency, you should contact the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office in Delhi. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa, and if you need your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days (free for nationals of most countries; enquire on application). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo (take two, just in case) and a photocopy of your passport identity and visa pages. Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel and leisure.
Cultural guidelines: Whenever visiting a sacred site, always dress and behave respectfully -do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops both for men and women and refrain from smoking. Public display of affection like kissing is considered inappropriate. Before entering a holy place, remove Shoes and check if photography is allowed. You are permitted to wear socks in most places of worship. Head cover is required at some places of worship -especially in Sikh temples and Mosques. So carry a Scarf. There are some sites that do not admit Women and some deny entry to nonadherants to their faith. Jain temples request the removal of leather items you are wearing or carrying and may also request menstruating women not to enter.
When invited to someone's home it is considered good manners to remove your shoes before entering the home and to wash your hands before and after a meal. Wait to be served food or until you are invited to help yourself. It is customary to use your right hand for eating and other social acts such as shaking hands. When drinking water from a shared water container, hold it above your mouth. Exercise sensitivity when taking photos or people, especially women, who may find it offensive - obtain permissions in advance. Taking photos inside a shrine, at a funeral, at a religious ceremony or of people publicly bathing including rivers can also be offensive.
Customs & Immigration: On arrival the guest must fill up the Disembarkation Card. The tourist is first cleared by Immigration Officer, who retains the immigration portion of the Disembarkation Card. Thereafter the tourist takes the delivery of his/her baggage from the Conveyer belts and passes through Customs. Every tourist entering India has to pass through a Customs Check. Guest flying to India will have to declare prohibited and dutiable goods, along with details of the countries visited prior to coming to India, as mandated By the new Customs declaration form from 1st March 2014. Guests coming to India will also have to declare, in the new Customs Form, Indian currency exceeding Rs. 10000 being carried by them and the number of Check in baggage including cabin baggage. There are two Channels the guest has the option of seeking clearance.
Green & Red Channels
»Green Channel for tourists who have not declared any dutiable goods.
Red Channel for tourists having dutiable goods. However, (i) All the passengers shall ensure to file correct declaration of their baggage. (ii) Green channel passengers must deposit the Customs portion of the disembarkation card to the Customs official at the gate before leaving the terminal. (iii) Declaration of foreign exchange/currency has to be made before the custom officers in the following cases:
(a) Where the value of foreign currency notes exceed US $ 5000 or equivalent (b) where the aggregate value of foreign exchange including currency exceeds US $ 10,000 or equivalent. Tourists walking through the Green Channel with dutiable / prohibited goods are liable to prosecution/ penalty and confiscation of goods. Trafficking of Narcotics and Psychotropic substances is a serious offence and is punishable with imprisonment.
Duty Free Allowance & Entitlements for tourists: www.cbec/gov.in/trvlr-guide.
Electricity: Generally 220V 50Hz AC, though direct current supplies also exist, so check before plugging in. Most sockets are triple round-pin (accepting European-size double round-pin plugs). British, Irish and Australasian plugs will need an adaptor, preferably universal; American and Canadian appliances will need a transformer too, unless multi-voltage. Power cuts and voltage variations are very common; voltage stabilizers should be used to run sensitive appliances such as laptops.
Festivals & Events: Witnessing them for every reason and for every season. Some festival celebrate harvests, other commemorate great historical events, while many express devotion to the deities of different religions. The colorful mosaic of Indian festivals and fairs - as diverse as the land, is an expression of the spirit of celebration that is an essential part of the country. Observed with enthusiasm and gaiety, festivals are like gems, ornamenting the crown of Indian culture. They are round the year vibrant interludes in the mundane routine of life. The most popular festivals and fairs are:
»Kumbh Mela, Nasik (2015) & Ujjain (2016)
»Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan
»Festival of Colors - Holi
»Rath Yatra, Puri, Orissa
»Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Allepey, Kerala
»Dusshera & Durga Puja
»Festival of lights - Deepawali
»Festival of Dance, Khajuraho
Food & Drink : Though it is food, you will discover that India is a banquet expressed in colors, aromas, flavors, textures and personalities. You can try the vegetarian fare of South India, the meaty traditions of the Mughals, the glowing tandoor ( clay oven) of Punjab and the Euro - India fusion of former colonies. It is the heavenly fragrance of the spices, the juice of exotic fruits, fiery curries that will make your taste buds stands to attention. Chai ( tea) the much loved drink of the masses, is made with copious of milk and sugar. A glass of steaming, frothy Chai is the perfect antidote to the vicissitudes of life on the Indian roads. South Indians have long shared their loyalty with coffee.
Insurance: It's imperative that you take out proper travel insurance before setting off for India. In addition to covering medical expenses and emergency flights, travel insurance also insures your money and belongings against loss or theft. Before paying for a new policy, however, it's worth checking whether you are already covered: some all-risks home insurance policies may cover your possessions when overseas, and many private medical schemes include cover when abroad. A typical travel insurance policy usually provides cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and - up to a certain limit - cash or cheques, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey. Most of them exclude so-called dangerous sports unless an extra premium is paid: in India this can mean scuba diving, whitewater rafting, windsurfing and trekking with ropes, though probably not jeep safaris. When securing baggage cover, make sure that the per-article limit - typically under £500 - will cover your most valuable possession. If you need to make a claim, you should keep receipts for medicines and medical treatment, and in the event you have anything stolen, you must obtain an official statement from the police.
Internet: All large cities and tourist towns now have at least a few of places where you can get online, either at cyber cafés or your hotel or guesthouse. Prices typically range from around Rs 50 to Rs 100/hr.
Left luggage: Most stations in India have "cloakrooms" for passengers to leave their baggage. These can be extremely handy if you want to go sightseeing in a town and move on the same day. Make sure, when checking baggage in, that the cloakroom will be open when you need to pick it up. The standard charge is currently Rs100 per 24 hours.
Main Language: Twenty-three official languages are spoken, along with more than a thousand minor languages and dialects; Hindi is the language of over forty percent of the population; English is also widely spoken.
Main Religion : India major religion, Hinduism is practiced by 82% of the population. Islam is India's largest minority religion around 12%. Christians comprise about 2.3% with75% living in South India, Sikhs account for 1.9% mostly found in Punjab, Buddhist with 0.76% and Jains 0.4% live in Bodhgaya pilgrim centers of Gujarat respectively.
Money: India's unit of currency is the rupee, usually abbreviated "Rs" and divided into a hundred paisa. Almost all money is paper, with notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees. Coins in circulation are 1, 2, 5 & 10 rupees. Note that it's technically illegal to take rupees in or out of India, so you might want to wait until you arrive before changing money.
ATMs & Credit Cards : The easiest way to access your money in India is with plastic, You will find ATMs at main banks in all major towns and cities, though your card issuer may well add a foreign transaction fee, and the Indian bank will also levy a small charge. Your card issuer, and sometimes the ATM itself, impose limits on the amount you may withdraw in a day - typically Rs. 10,000-20,000. Credit cards are accepted for payment at major hotels, top restaurants, some shops and airline offices, but virtually nowhere else. American Express, MasterCard and Visa are the likeliest to be accepted. Beware of people making extra copies of the receipt, in order to fraudulently bill you later; always insist that the transaction is made before your eyes.
Changing money : US dollars are the easiest currency to convert, with Euros and pounds sterling not far behind. Major hard currencies can be changed easily in tourist areas and big cities, less so elsewhere. If you enter the country with more than US$10,000 or the equivalent, you are supposed to fill in a declaration form. Changing money with Thomas Cook or American Express is recommended. Major cities and main tourist centers usually have several licensed currency exchange bureau. Wherever you change money, hold on to exchange receipts ("encashment certificates"); they will be required if you want to change back any excess rupees when you leave the country, and to buy air tickets and reserve train berths with rupees at special counters for foreigners.
Mobile Phones: SIM cards are sold through most cell phone shops and network outlets. You need along a photocopy of your passport (photo and visa pages), fill in a form and pay a connection fee depending on the dealer and network. Coverage varies from state to state, but the largest national network providers are best -Airtel and Idea. Once your retailer has unlocked your phone, you pay for an initial charge card, which can be topped up. Indian mobile numbers are ten-digit, starting with an 8 or (more common) a 9. However, if you are calling from outside the state where the mobile is based (but not from abroad), you need to add a zero in front of that.