India

Getting there

British Airways fly direct from London Heathrow to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. Virgin Atlantic have daily flights to Delhi and Jet Airways fly direct to Delhi and Mumbai. Emirates, Oman Air, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways also have excellent connections via their respected hubs to Kolkata, Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode, Goa, Jaipur and Lucknow and fly from airports all over the UK.

Flying times from UK

Direct flights from the UK take between 8 and 10 hours depending on the destination. Flights with stops en-route take between 12 and 14 hours.

Time zone

India is +5½ hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

Holders of British Citizen passports are able to apply for an e-Tourist Visa (eTV). The eTV is valid for 30 days from the date of arrival and is for single entry only. It is also possible to arrange an Indian visa prior to travel if your holiday is longer than 30 days, requires multiple entry or visits restricted or protected areas.

Climate and weather

India is a year-round destination but, in general, the best time to visit the country is from late September to early April when temperatures are comfortable and the risk of rain low. Mid-April to June see a rise in temperature and as foliage dies back are the perfect time for viewing wildlife. The monsoon arrives by the end of June and lasts until early September. Showers tend to be short and heavy but the lower temperatures and fewer tourists make this a good time to travel. Conversely, the monsoon months are the best time to visit the northern region of Ladakh.

Do’s and don’ts

Smoking and drinking in public places is prohibited in India – with smoking this includes public areas in hotels, restaurants and bars.

Always ask permission before entering a temple and remember to remove your shoes and any leather objects such as bags, belts or wallets. It is fine to wear socks.

When in a Buddhist temple you should always walk in a clockwise direction with the main building to your right.

Modest, loose-fitting clothing is preferable and is essential when visiting religious places. When visiting a Sikh Gurudwara the head needs to be covered.

Permission should always be asked before taking a person’s picture.

When eating, only the right hand should be used. Indian culture considers the left hand to be unclean.

Money

The currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR) and comes in notes and coins. Exchanging money is easy and can be done at international airports, most hotels or banks and it is always a good idea to ask for some small denomination Rupee notes. ATMs are now common and reliable in all main cities and credit cards are widely accepted by most hotels, shops and restaurants. In rural areas or wildlife reserves ATMs and money exchange facilities are limited so having cash is essential. Pound Sterling and US Dollars are accepted but INR are preferred.

Tipping

This is left to your discretion, however, tipping for good service in India is part of everyday life. In restaurants and for room service a 10% tip is appreciated and at smaller hotels and homestays a communal ‘tip box’ is common. For drivers and guides, hotel staff and at national parks, the following amounts should act as a guideline:

Tour driver                          INR/350 per person per day

Local driver                         INR/250 per person per day

Tour guide                          INR/400 per person per day

Tour guide                          INR/300 per person per half day

Hotel porter                        INR/50 per suitcase

Housekeeper                      INR/200 a night

Naturalist                            INR/300 per person per safari

Jeep driver                         INR/100 per person per safari

Mahout                               INR/150 per person

Food and drink

India is known the world over for its food and especially its vegetarian cuisine. Spice plays an important role in dishes throughout the country as do breads, rice, pickles and chutneys. Although nearly every region has its own speciality and there is a divide between the cuisine of northern and southern India – the north with its meat dishes influenced by the Mughals and the lighter, fruitier, coconut based dishes of the south. Desserts are common in India with kulfi ice cream and gulab jamun two of the best known and most popular. Nearly all tend to be very sweet, milk based or fried.

The most common drink in India is chai tea which can be bought on nearly every street corner. The yoghurt drink lassi – whether sweet, salty or fruity – is also easy to find. The popularity of coffee has spread from the south whilst Indian beer is well-respected. There is also a fledgling wine industry centred on Nashik in Maharashtra.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Secular holidays including Republic Day, Independence Day and Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday are observed throughout India and fall on set dates. Dates for religious festivals change each year and tend to be the most colourful, vibrant and reflective. Holi, with its dancing, singing and colour marks the coming of spring, whilst Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrates the victory of good over evil and is usually observed in November. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times over the course of twelve years with the Great Kumbh Mela of 2001 attracting over 60 million worshippers. Other popular melas include the Pushkar and Sonepur livestock fairs. Local celebrations include the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland and the Rajasthan International Folk Festival held in Jodhpur.

Accommodation

There is a vast range of accommodation on offer in India. There are luxurious palaces, contemporary hotels, boutique properties and atmospheric family run homestays. Wildlife lodges range from the rustic to the salubrious, there are hotels with a focus on Ayurveda or yoga and some on working tea and coffee estates. There are houseboats on the Keralan backwaters and in Kashmir on Nagin Lake, both offering authentic accommodation, while cruises run on the Brahmaputra between Dibrugarh and Guwahati and follow the Hugli linking Varanasi, Patna and Kolkata.

Shopping

With wholesale markets and bazaars, innumerable shops and stores, India is a shopper’s paradise. The country is best known for carpets and dhurries with Rajasthan, Kashmir and Leh best for these. There is also a bewildering range of clothing, fabric and leatherwear found not only in the smallest of villages but also the largest cities. Gems, silver and jewellery (valuable or costume) are popular throughout the country but especially in Jaipur and Hyderabad whilst Kochi is noted for its antiques. Spices can be bought all over India but purchased straight from plantations in the south. Darjeeling, Assam and the Western Ghats in south India are all known for tea.

Suggested reading

Footprint, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Bradt have excellent guide books whilst Nelles Maps have comprehensive and up to date maps of the Indian subcontinent. There is also a wide range of literature including from famed authors such as RK Narayan, Vikram Seth, Paul Scott, VS Naipaul, Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie. Other good books on India include:

‘India: A History’ by John Keay

‘The Great Arc’ by John Keay

‘No Full Stops in India’ by Mark Tully

‘India in Slow Motion’ by Mark Tully and Gillian Wright

‘City of Djinns’ by William Dalrymple

‘White Mughals’ by William Dalrymple

‘Chasing the Monsoon’ by Alexander Frater

‘The Tears of the Rajas’ by Ferdinand Mount

‘Plain Tales from the Raj’ by Charles Allen

‘Mughal Architecture and Gardens’ by George Michell

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on India the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We will also be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Suggested Journeys for India

We are pleased to offer the following selection of suggested itineraries based on our personal experiences. By combining these itineraries with your thoughts and ideas we can tailor any journey to make it special, unique and designed around you.

CENTRAL INDIA

Sacred Places and Natural Beauty of Madhya Pradesh

15 days starting from £3795 per person

Despite being one of India's most rural states, Madhya Pradesh is the cradle of Indian civilisation with a strong Hindu-Buddhist culture, abundance of historical sites and plethora of wildlife unrivalled throughout the subcontinent. After an exploration of Delhi, fly to Bhopal and visit the...

Classical India - A Journey from Mumbai to Agra

18 days starting from £3980 per person

As one of the world's great nations, India has an unrivalled historic tradition with this itinerary exploring the ages of Indian history through religion, architecture and people. Leaving the Victorian grandeur of Mumbai, journey to central India, home to the cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora,...

India is renowned throughout the world for its exceptional wildlife and this itinerary covers four of the country’s finest nature reserves. The national parks of Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna are home to a staggering and diverse array of animal and birdlife including leopard, jackal,...

Tigers, Temples and Distant Palaces of Central India

20 days starting from £4680 per person

Visiting India's central states is a hugely rewarding experience. Rich culture, spectacular scenery, exceptional wildlife and a strong tribal heritage combine to make travel worthwhile to parts of an India few ever get to see. After admiring Kolkata's architecture, travel by air to Raipur in the...

EASTERN INDIA

Land of the Buddha

17 days starting from £3235 per person

The Buddha's life and history play an important role in Indian society and form an integral part of the country's religious tapestry. This itinerary covers some of the Indian subcontinent's key Buddhist centres and incorporates the four places pivotal to the life of the Buddha - Lumbini in Nepal,...

Return to Darjeeling and Sikkim

18 days starting from £3540 per person

A relaxed and scenic journey, this itinerary represents an excellent introduction to the eastern Himalayan region. Starting in Kolkata, the cultural heart of India, continue on to the old Raj hill station of Darjeeling before travelling further north to explore some of the many monasteries of...

KATHMANDU

Himalayan Kingdoms

16 days. Price on Request

The Himalayan landscape becomes more exotic the further east you travel and this unusual tour provides the opportunity to explore this rich diversity. Journey through jungle-covered foothills up into rhododendron forest and within sight of some of the world's highest peaks. Himalayan cultures...

KERALA

Rural Images of Kerala

15 days starting from £3100 per person

This tropical state is, for many, the essence of south India. A land of swaying palms and rustic wooden villages, famous trading cities and the idyllic backwaters, this is a relaxed itinerary exploring the rural heart of Kerala. Begin your journey in two homestays, the first at Olavipe, a century...

Beautiful Kerala

18 days starting from £3790 per person

Kerala is rightly one of India's most popular destinations. A region of staggering scenic beauty encompassing jungle and beach, tea hills and historic towns, this journey encapsulates the best of Kerala using small and unique hotels. Commencing in the coffee plantation retreat of Tranquil, travel...

A Journey through South India

23 days starting from £3985 per person

Distinct to the north, exotic South India is a melting pot of cultures and religion. Starting in historic Kochi, join the Nilgiri Mountain Railway to Ooty then on to the wonderful coffee plantation retreat of Tranquil. Visit the sandalwood city of Mysore then fly to Tamil Nadu - a land of dusty...

NORTH EAST INDIA

Nagaland and the Hornbill Festival

14 days starting from £3780 per person

One of India's last remaining frontiers, travel to the eastern tribal state of Nagaland is challenging but hugely rewarding. A land of spectacular beauty and timeless history indelibly linked to the colourful indigenous tribal groups which form such an important part of the region, this itinerary...

The Defence of Kohima and Imphal

16 days starting from £3970 per person

For many the North East of India is synonymous with World War II and the battles of Kohima and Imphal which turned the tide of war in Asia. Combining both locations this itinerary begin in Kolkata, former capital of the Raj, before flying to Kohima where visits will be made to the Kohima War...

The National Parks of North East India

16 days starting from £4110 per person

Wild and remote, India’s north east is a wildlife lover’s paradise. From the spectacular Dibru-Saikhowa National Park close to Arunachal Pradesh and isolated Nameri National Park to world-famous Kaziranga National Park, home of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, this journey highlights the...

Arunachal Pradesh and the Reh Festival

16 days starting from £4175 per person

Arunachal Pradesh is not only North East India's largest and most remote state but is also one of the least densely populated. Stretching from the foothills of the eastern Himalayas to the mountainous peaks of the north, the state has a truly rich tribal heritage with strong links to neighbouring...

Journey through Assam

18 days starting from £4690 per person

Assam is defined by the mighty Brahmaputra River, boasts two out of India’s five UNESCO environmental World Heritage sites and remains one of India’s main tea producing regions. Combining these strands, this itinerary includes visits to both Manas and Kaziranga National Park, a short Assam...

The Enchanted Frontiers - India and Bangladesh

18 days starting from £4760 per person

The neighbouring countries of India and Bangladesh have a shared history and many similar cultural traditions and this itinerary combines both with a unique journey through North East India and rural Bangladesh. Flying to Dibrugarh, visits are made to Dibru Saikhowa and Kaziranga National Parks...

NORTHERN INDIA

The Vale of Kashmir

10 days starting from £2515 per person

The enchanting Kashmir valley is the perfect summer retreat. Soft mountain air, pine forest, serene lakes and spectacular Himalayan mountain scenery offer a direct contrast to the sapping heat of the north Indian plains. Dividing the visit into two parts, this itinerary begins with three nights...

The Indian Mutiny

12 days starting from £3300 per person

The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was the bloodiest insurrection in the history of the British Empire when, for a time, the very fate of British India hung in the balance. This unique journey covers the three main centres of resistance - Old Delhi, Lucknow and Kanpur as well as Agra where the British...

From the magnificent Golden Temple of Amritsar, heart of the Sikh religion, to the quintessentially British hill station of Shimla, this tour incorporates the best of India's beautiful and the evocative Himalayan foothills. Stop en-route in the colourful Tibetan enclave of Dharamsala, home of the...

One of the great journeys of the subcontinent, this tour is centred on the spectacular Manali to Leh road - one of the highest in the world and a route only briefly open for travel from July to September each year. Starting with three nights in the charming British hill station of Shimla, travel...

Images of India - From the Himalayas to the Taj Mahal

17 days starting from £3395 per person

Squeezed between Tibet, Nepal and the lowland plains of India the state of Uttarakhand sits in the shadow of the mighty Himalayas. Travelling by train to Haridwar, time is spent in this holy pilgrimage city and neighbouring Rishikesh before continuing to fabulous Corbett National Park, India's...

Land of Discovery - Ladakh and Kashmir

14 days starting from £3540 per person

Jammu and Kashmir is India's most northerly state. It is also a region characterised by its strong diversity - geological, cultural and religious. This itinerary joins Ladakh with the Kashmir valley and, in doing so, creates one of the finest journeys of the Indian subcontinent. Starting in...

Highlights of Gujarat

18 days starting from £3595 per person

India's westernmost state, Gujarat is a time-honoured desert land of historic cities and indigenous cultures with a fauna unique to the region. Starting in Ahmedabad, drive to Dasada, via the magnificent sun-temple of Modhera, then bird-watch in the Little Rann of Kutch. Travel on to Bhuj and...

Call of the Jungle - The Wildlife of Northern India

16 days starting from £3810 per person

India is synonymous with wildlife and the country is blessed with numerous excellent reserves. This itinerary combines three of the best with a break en-route in Agra to visit the wonderful Taj Mahal. Starting in Delhi, travel by road to Corbett National Park which is named after the legendary...

RAJASTHAN

A Trek through the Aravalli Hills in Rajasthan

14 days starting from £2520 per person

Stretching over 350 miles from Gujarat to Delhi, in southern Rajasthan the beautiful Aravalli Range is heavily forested and is the source of several important rivers. This journey, perfect for keen walkers, explores the region around the Aravalli Hills and includes a unique three day trek from...

The Golden Triangle and Beyond

15 days starting from £3320 per person

Home to some of India's most recognisable sights, northern India is a region defined by splendid architecture, pulsating cities, grand scenery and traditional rural life. Start your journey in Delhi, where there will be ample time to explore the city. From Delhi, travel by rail south to Agra,...

Taj and Tigers - From Ranthambore to Corbett

14 days starting from £3435 per person

The Indian subcontinent is home to a number of excellent wildlife reserves but the national parks of Corbett and Ranthambore remain two of the best and most popular. This itinerary combines both, whilst also incorporating comprehensive visits to Old and New Delhi, Agra for the Taj Mahal and two...

Historic Rajasthan

20 days starting from £3920 per person

Exploring the diversity and heritage of India's most iconic state, this itinerary is a comprehensive itinerary covering the region's key cities. A land of immense forts and breathtaking palaces, the journey begins in Delhi before heading to Nagaur and the remote desert cities of Bikaner and...

Rural Rajasthan

18 days starting from £3940 per person

A unique opportunity to experience the rural towns and villages of princely Rajasthan, this itinerary focuses on the many ancestral homes for which this state is famous. From palaces to colonial bungalows, forts to hunting lodges, this is a leisurely journey through traditional India. From Delhi...

North India - A Journey to the River Ganges

18 days starting from £3970 per person

No journey to northern India is complete without a visit to Varanasi – India's holiest city. An itinerary offering a cross–section of Indian society, the first half of this journey starts in Delhi, visits elegant Udaipur and Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur. Watch sunrise over the Taj Mahal...

Rajasthan - Land of Kings

19 days starting from £4980 per person

Covering some of the most significant sites of northern India, this itinerary encompasses the main highlights of this colourful and historic region. Based, where possible, around luxurious heritage hotels, begin your journey in the historic city of Delhi before travelling south to Agra, home of...

SOUTHERN INDIA

Undiscovered Karnataka and Kerala

14 days starting from £3030 per person

Despite the region's popularity, certain parts of both Karnataka and Kerala remain relatively underexplored. This journey combines culture, scenery and relaxation to highlight the best of southern Karnataka and northern Kerala. Starting in Mysore visit the city, nearby Somnathpur and...

The Wildlife of Southern India

14 days starting from £3035 per person

Southern Karnataka and northern Kerala form part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area in southern India. Within this reserve are Nagarhole and Bandipur national parks – arguably the region’s finest reserves which support a range...

Karnataka's Hidden Treasures

16 days starting from £3265 per person

Karnataka is India for the aficionado - a land of endless tree-lined roads leading to spectacular historical remains. A microcosm of Indian history, the state is blessed with a mix of influences which this journey aims to capture. Starting in Mysore undertake a specialist heritage walk in the...

Hidden Treasures of the Deccan Plateau

16 days starting from £3340 per person

Standing separate from the regular tourist-trail, the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are at the centre of a staggeringly diverse region few visit. A heady mix of culture and history, this novel itinerary represents a journey of rediscovery with visits to Mysore, spectacular Hampi and the...

Spices and Sandalwood - A Journey from Mysore to Kochi

17 days starting from £3990 per person

Traversing arguably one of the most beautiful and historic regions of India, this itinerary is a memorable journey from princely Mysore, home to a grand City Palace and monumental Nandi Bull, to the fascinating spice town of Kochi. Time is spent in Nagarhole National Park - arguably the finest in...

Customer Testimonial

We have nothing but praise for everyone involved on our tour. When things didn’t go to plan, the problems were caused by us. Everyone was helpful, caring and above all, very professional.

MS - North India and Kolkata - January 2017

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