Do you need a visa?
Tourist Visa on Arrival TVOA
All other nationalities other than those mentioned above
Many visitors expecting maharajas and fabulous palaces are shocked when their first impressions are dominated by poverty instead. Prepare for the following:
AttentionSome people will unabashedly stare at foreign tourists, who can also be magnets for persistent touts and beggars. Men will routinely shove their mobile phone in your face and take pictures, they never ask, either ignore or turn your head when you see this happening. Beggars, especially malnourished children and the badly deformed, can be particularly disturbing.
FilthDirt, garbage and insects abound in the cities. Roadsides can sometimes be a urinal.
NoiseDrivers lean on horns, radios and TVs blare Bollywood tracks, even temples, mosques and churches use loudspeakers to spread their message.
PollutionAll Indian cities suffer badly. Exhaust combined with dust can make the drier seasons a nightmare for asthma sufferers.
CrowdsIndian streets, markets, and bazaars are jam-packed with people, vehicles and at certain times, animals, and streets tend to be narrow.
Most visitors get inured quite fast and start seeing the good sides too, but take it easy on your first few days and schedule some time to get away from it all.
Customs And Immigration
Clearing customs can be a bit of a hassle, though it has improved vastly over the the last decade. In general, avoid the touts who will offer to ease your baggage through customs. There are various rules regarding duty-free allowances — there are differing rules for Indian citizens, foreign "tourists", citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, non-citizens of Indian origin and people moving to India. Cast a quick glance at the website of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (http://www.cbec.gov.in/cu...) for information about what you can bring in. Foreign tourists other than Nepalis, Bhutanese and Pakistanis and those entering through Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan, are entitled to bring in their "used personal effects and travel souvenirs" and â¹4,000,- worth of articles for "gifts". If you are an Indian citizen or are of Indian origin, you are entitled to â¹25,000,- worth of articles, provided of course you aren't entering through Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan. The other rules are on the web site. If you are bringing any new packaged items along, it is a good idea to carry along the invoices for them to show their value. You are also allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco and 1 litre 2 litres for Indians of alcohol duty-free. If you do not have anything to declare, you can go through the green channel clearly marked at various airports and generally you will not be harassed.
Importing and exporting Indian rupees by foreign nationals is theoretically prohibited, although in practice there are no checks. Indian nationals can import or export up to â¹7500,- maximum, but on trips to Nepal, this cannot include â¹500 and â¹1000 notes.
The major points of entry are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. The airports at these cities are either new or undergoing development. Delhi has unveiled its brand new international Terminal 3 in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games & Bangalore launched its new airport in 2008. The Hyderabad airport is rated as one of the top 5 airports in the 10-15 million category. There are many nonstop, direct & connecting choices to these cities from Europe, North America, Middle East & Australia. Africa is also connected to Delhi & Mumbai.
For secondary points of entry to India, consider Goa, Kolkata or the Malabar coast. There are many connections to the Malabar coast region to cities like Kochi, Kozhikode & Thiruvananthapuram from the Middle East. Most of the major Middle Eastern carriers offer one stop connections to the coast from their Gulf hubs. Goa is a favourite European tourist destination & thus is connected by many European charter operators like Condor, Edelweiss, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines & Thomson Airways. Kolkata is currently served by Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines & Thai Airways.
India has homegrown international airlines like Air India (http://www.airindia.com/) (http://indian-airlines.nic.in/) the merged airline formed by merging Air India and Indian Airlines. These provide good connectivity within the country. In recent years, the government has allowed Indian private airlines like Jet Airways (http://www.jetairways.com), Indigo (http://www.goindigo.in) and Kingfisher (http://www.flykingfisher.com/) to go international. There are daily flights to major hubs around the world from Delhi and Mumbai.
Air India often offers the lowest rates for long haul flights to India. In recent years, it has steadily improved and had even been invited to join the Star Alliance, but there is still some ways to go until it can be considered world-class. Air India suffers from inconsistent customer service & its online booking/telephone reservations facilities are sub-standard.
From the United States, United Airlines (http://www.continental.com) offers nonstop daily service from Newark Airport to Delhi and Mumbai; Air India offers daily non-stop service to Delhi from JFK and ORD and Mumbai from EWR. American Airlines (http://www.aa.com) offers nonstop daily service from Chicago to Delhi. Various European airlines offer connecting service through their European hubs from most major US cities and various Asian airlines offer connecting service from West Coast cities to India through their Asian hubs. Jet Airways (http://www.jetairways.com) also flies from New York to Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai via Brussels.
Entries from Europe and Northern America are possible using many European airlines such as Lufthansa (http://www.lufthansa.com), Finnair (http://www.finnair.com), British Airways (http://www.britishairways.com), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (http://www.klm.com), Air France (http://www.airfrance.com) and Virgin Atlantic (http://www.virgin-atlantic.com). For long-term visitors 3-12 months, Swiss airlines (http://www.swiss.com) often have good deals from Switzerland with connecting flights from major European and some American cities as well.
To save on tickets, consider connecting via Gulf countries, by Air Arabia (http://www.airarabia.com) Sharjah-based low cost carrier having some connections in Europe, Etihad (http://www.etihadairways.com) especially if you need one-way ticket or going back to Europe from another Asian country via Abu Dhabi, as well as Emirates (http://www.emirates.com) via Dubai or Qatar airways (http://www.qatarairways.com) via Doha. Obviously, these airlines are also the easiest way to come from the Gulf countries themselves, along with Air India and Air India Express.
From East Asia and Australia, Singapore which is served by Air India, it's low-cost subsidiary Air India Express (http://www.airindiaexpress.in, Jet Airways, as well as Singapore Airlines (http://www.singaporeair.com), it's subsidiary Silk Air (http://www.silkair.com) and low-cost subsidiary Tiger Airways (http://www.tigerairways.com)) has arguably the best connections to India with flights to all the major cities and many smaller ones. As about the cheap way from South-East Asia or vice versa, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia (http://www.airasia.com) is usually the best choice if booked well in advance, one-way ticket price is normally below US$100, sometimes being less than US$50, they have connections from China, Australia and most of South-East Asian countries. They fly from Kuala Lumpur into New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi and Tiruchirapalli. If you're going from/to Thailand, Air India Express flies from Chennai and Kolkata to Bangkok. Jet Airways, Air India and Thai Airways (http://www.thaiair.com) fly from there to the wider range of Indian cities also. Most Recently, Silk Air (http://www.silkair.com) started its direct flights from Singapore to Hyderabad as well. Recently, IndiGo, an Indian low-cost-carrier, has started service to Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, and Muscat.
India has several international ports on its peninsula. Kochi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai are the main ones handling passenger traffic, while the rest mainly handle cargo. However, due to the profusion of cheap flights, there no longer appear to be any scheduled ferry services from India to the Middle East.
Some cruise lines that travel to India include Indian Oceans Eden II and Grand Voyage Seychelles-Dubai.
There are two links from Pakistan. The Samjhauta Express runs from Lahore to Attari near Amritsar in Punjab. The Thar Express, restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service, runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province; however, this crossing is not open to foreign tourists. Neither train is the fastest, safest or the most practical way to go between India and Pakistan due to the long delay to clear customs and immigration although the trains are sights in their own right and make for a fascinating trip. Ths Samjhauta express was the victim of a terrorist strike in February 2007, when they set off bombs that killed many people. Should you want to get from one country to the other as quickly as possible, walk across at Attari/Wagah.
From Nepal, trains run between Khajuri in Dhanusa district of Nepal and Jaynagar in Bihar, operated by Nepal Railways. Neither is of much interest for travelers and there are no onward connections into Nepal, so most travelers opt for the bus or plane instead.
Train services from Bangladesh were suspended for 42 years, but the Moitree Express started running again between Dhaka to Kolkata in April 2008. The service is biweekly: A Bangledeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday, returning on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.
You can see what trains are available between stations at the following sites: (http://www.indiarail.gov.in). However, for booking of rail tickets through the internet you should use the Government of India's website (http://www.irctc.co.in). For booking through this site, you have to register which is free and you need a credit/debit card. It is better that you book your own tickets than fall prey to touts.
From Pakistan the only land crossing is from Lahore to Amritsar via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. See Istanbul to New Delhi over land. You will need a Carnet de Passage if crossing with your own vehicle. The process is not particularly lengthy - crossing with your own vehicle from/to Pakistan should take a maximum of 3 hours to clear both borders for you and your vehicle. There are also crossing points with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
There is one open border crossing between India and Myanmar at Moreh, Manipur, but special permits are required to reach the border from either side.
The Nathu La pass in Sikkim, which borders Tibet in China is the only open border crossing between India and China. For now though, only traders and pilgrims are allowed to cross the border, and it is still not open to tourists. Special permits are required to visit the pass from either side.