Area : 15,005 sq mi km2
Population : 33,000,000 inhabitants
8 hrs 35 mins London-Mumbai (Bombay). Mumbai is 4,477 mi from London.
In Tiruvanantapuram, the airport is located 3.7 miles away from the centre of town. A bus links the airport and the centre of town for just a few rupees. Allow about ?60 to ?90 (£55 to £82) for a taxi ride.
Take care of your most important papers (passport, plane ticket, cash and traveller's cheques...).
Lock your suitcases and keep them together when you take the train. Be careful of pickpocketing on public transportation and in train stations and tourist places.
Drug use, possession and trafficking are forbidden and harshly repressed here.
Beware of poisonous snakes and scorpions outside of the big cities and be careful if you go to Lighthouse Beach, in Kovalam, as there have been many rapes there.
The ministry of Foreign Affairs urges travellers to avoid the border zones between India and Pakistan, from Jammu-Cachemire to Gujarat, and to be vigilant in northern India.
There are 18 official languages and more than 1,600 dialects spoken in India. Hindu is the most spoken language. In the Kashmir valley, people speak Kashmiri, a mix of Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi, Arabic, Dogri, Turkish and even Tibetan language. In Jammu, the main languages are Dogri, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. Ladakhi is the languae most spoken in the Ladakh region. English remains the practical language to communicate throughout the country.
A visa is mandatory to travel to India. Your passport has to be valid for at least six months after your return date. A six-month visa starts from the date of issue and not from your arrival date in India. It is issued at the consulate, where you will need 2 identity photos. To go to Jammu and Kashmir, get information about the political situation in the region, because it can sometimes lead to problems, including a tourist ban. In the Ladakh region, you must have special authorisation to get to the Nubra Valley, Pong-Gong Tso, Tso-Morari and the Dahanu region. This authorisation, valid for a period of 7 days, is available at the District Magistrate's office in Leh for the cost of $20 (£14) and it should always be carried with you as there are frequent security checks.
Most Indians are Hindu (82% of the population). In the Kashmir valley, the population is mostly Muslim, as well as in Suru valley and in Kargil, in Ladakh region. It is also imbued with many features of Hindu society with casts. In Jammu, Hindu is most prevailing, while in Ladakh most inhabitants are lamaist-buddhist with, on one side, the Red Bonnets, and on the other, the Yellow Bonnets, a branch which the Dalaļ-Lama belongs to, the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which consists of 100 Paisas. Exporting and importing Indian rupees is forbidden. Keep the transaction slips when exchanging money, as these are absolutely essential if you want to reconvert Indian rupees back into foreign currencies or buy a plane ticket in rupees.
US Dollars, in cash or travellers cheques, are easier to use than Pounds. Credit cards are widely accepted in larger and mid-range hotels, when buying plane or train tickets, and in many shops. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at a better rate than cash and are accepted in most banks. It is possible to withdraw Rupees using a Visa, MasterCard or Japanese Credit Bureau card in major banks such as the State Bank of India. For Jammu and Kashmir, it is best to exchange money in New Delhi or another major city. In the Ladakh region, go to the State Bank of India in Leh and Kargil. Banks are open from 10:00am to 2:00pm, Monday to Friday, and from 10:00am to 12:00pm on Saturdays every other week.
Try to always keep small amounts of Rupees on you for everyday expenses, such as rickshaw rides, for example.
Whatever the case, avoid being in a hurry.
The aeroplane is very practical and helps to gain a considerable amount of time. Indian Airlines offers a 21-day air pass.
You can easily rent a chauffeur-driven vehicle. This is useful in a country with an archaic code of conduct and the roads are usually in bad condition. Driving is on the left. To explore the Ladakh region, do not hesitate to opt for a Jeep and always keep with you the special authorisation for the regions that require it, before the visit
Local buses are cheap, but often slow and crowded. You should go for private transportation companies, like Deluxe, that sometimes cost the same amount as State buses, but offer more comfort.
The train remains an economic and traditional means of visiting India. There is a very dense network.
No particular vaccine is required, however, it is recommended that you are vaccinated against typhoid and hepatitis A and B, rabies and meningitis. If you are going out of the main cities, follow an anti-malaria treatment and think about taking a mosquito net that is well impregnated with insecticide. There are several precautions to take when you're in India Kerala; do not drink untreated water or tap water (even to brush your teeth) and avoid ice cubes. Peal fruit and vegetables, avoid raw vegetables and ice creams and be careful of juices made of cut up fruit with water. Also, wash your hands, especially before eating.
Upon arrival in Leh, take a couple of days to adjust to the high altitude of the Ladakh region, before starting any physical activity. If you are staying at an altitude of 9,800 ft, it is possible that you will feel mountain sick; the symptoms are headaches, sleeping disorders, a loss of appetite, nausea or even vomiting, dry coughs, irregular breathing and lack of focus. In case of disturbing disorders, come back down a few hundred feet. To avoid this type of situation, drink a lot of water, eat lightly, and ban alcohol and tranquilizers. At high altitude, also think about wearing clothing that are suitable for the mountain climate, and bring glacier glasses. Before you leave, ask for advice from specialists to avoid any trouble when you get there.
Voltage is 220 V in most parts of the country and an adapter is necessary. Electrical outlets are of European type, however, check the voltage before using any electrical appliances.
India welcomed 2.75 million visitors in 2003.
It is common to leave a tip for waiters (about 10% of the bill's total) and to luggage carriers (from 5 to 15 rupees), but it is not essential to leave a tip for taxi drivers or in small restaurants. Be warned, in the street, you will constantly be hassled by beggars.
Since the creation of the Ladhak Autonomaus Hill Council, visitors have to pay an entry tax of $10(£7) to settle at different entry points in the Ladakh region. To visit the Nubra Valley, Pang-Gong Tso, Tso-Morari and the Dahanu region, it is an extra charge of $20 (£14).
To call India from the UK, dial: 00+ 91 (country code) (Delhi: 11 ; Mumbai: 22; Chennai: 44; Tiruvanantapuram: 471; Kochi: 484; Kozhikode: 495) + number you wish to call.
To call India from the UK, dial: 00 + 44 + phone number without the initial 0.
High Commission for India
Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA London
Tel.: 020 78368484 01 40 50 70 70.
20 Augusta Street Jewellery Quarter Hockley Birmingham B18 6JL
Tel.:(0121) 212 2782 01 40 50 71 71.
Government of India Tourist Office
7 Cork St London, W1S 3LH
Tel.: 01233 211999 01 45 23 30 45.
British High Commission
Shantipath, Chankyapuri, New Delhi 110021 Tel: (91-11) 26872161 611 8790.
Tourist Office of India
88, Janpath, Delhi. Tel.: 332 0005.
Jammu and Kashmir Information Centre
201-203, Kanishka Shopping Plaza, 19, Ashoka Rd, Delhi.
Tel.: 334 53 73.
Tourist Reception Centre
Virg Marg, Jammu. Tel.: 548 172.
In Srinagar. Tel.: 452 69091.
In Leh. Tel.: 52297 or 52095.