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 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 ₹4,000,- worth of articles for "gifts". If you are an Indian citizen or are of Indian origin, you are entitled to ₹25,000,- 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 ₹7500,- maximum, but on trips to Nepal, this cannot include ₹500 and ₹1000 notes.
Tour in India By Bus is possible. Research around. While most of the Indian states have their own Transport Departments registered online for internet booking of the tickets, private bus bookings can also be made at www.redbus.in (http://www.redbus.in/). Under this website one can make a booking for private bus tickets. Buses vary from ultra modern Volvo or Mercedes Benz to plain vanilla non air-conditioned buses run by private bus operators.
From Nepal buses cross the border daily, usually with connections to New Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Varanasi. However, it's cheaper and more reliable to take one bus to the border crossing and another from there on. The border crossings are India/Nepal side Sunauli/Bhairawa from Varanasi, Raxaul/Birganj from Patna, Kolkata, Kakarbhitta from Darjeeling, and Mahendrenagar-Banbassa from Delhi.
The Royal Bhutanese Government runs a service to/from Phuentsholing. These buses depart from Kolkata's Esplanade bus station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and from the Phuentsholing Bhutan Post office at 3PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey takes around 18 hours and costs ₹300. The buses are comfortable, but because much of the highway to Kolkata is like the surface of the moon, don't bank on getting much sleep on the way.
There is frequent service between Siliguri and Phuentsholing.
From Pakistan the only land crossing is from Lahore to Amritsar via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. Despite tensions between the two countries, there is a steady trickle of travellers passing this way. The immigration procedures are fairly straightforward, but note that neither Pakistan nor India issue visas at the border. Expect to take most of the day to go between Lahore and Amritsar on local buses. Normally it's possible to get a direct bus from Amritsar to the border, walk to the other side and catch a direct bus to Lahore, although you may need to change at some point on route. Amritsar and Lahore are both fairly close to the border about 30-40 minutes drive, so taxis are a faster and easier option.
The direct Delhi-Lahore service has restarted, though it is far more costly than local buses/trains, not any faster, and would mean you miss seeing Amritsar. You will also be stuck at the border for much longer while the bus is searched and all of the passengers go through immigration.
There is now a bus service across the 'Line of control' between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, however it is not open to foreign tourists.
From Bangladesh there are a number of land entry points to India. The most common way is the regular air-conditioned and comfortable bus services from Dhaka to Kolkata via Haridaspur India/Benapole Bangladesh border post. Bus companies 'Shyamoli', 'Shohag', 'Green Line', and others operate daily bus services under the label of the state owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation WBSTSC and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation BRTC. From Kolkata 2 buses leave every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The journey usually takes around 12 hours with a one-way fare of ₹400-450 or BDT600-800, roughly US$8-10.
Another daily bus service by 'Shyamoli' and others under the BRTC label from Dhaka connects Siliguri, but the buses in this route do not cross the Changrabanda/Burimari or Burungamari border post. Rather, passengers reaching the border have to clear customs, walk a few hundred yards to cross the border and board the awaiting connecting buses on the other end for the final destination. Ticket for Dhaka-Siliguri-Dhaka route costs BDT 1,600, roughly US$20-25 depending on conversion rates. Tickets are purchased either in Dhaka or in Siliguri.
There is also a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of Tripura . Two BRTC buses daily from Dhaka and the Tripura Road Transport Corporation plying its vehicles six days a week with a round fare costing US$10 connect the two cities. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey.
Other entry points from Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati/Haldibari, Banglaband border posts for entry to West Bengal; Tamabil border post for a route to Shillong in Meghalaya, and some others with lesser known routes to north-eastern Indian regions.
India has 4 major airports known as Gateway Airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. The airports at these cities are either new or undergoing development. Delhi has unveiled its brand new international Terminal 3, is one of the largest in the world. Mumbai's swanky new Terminal 2 T2 was inaugurated on January 10. The other major entry points in the country are Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Kochi. There are many non-stop, direct and connecting choices to these cities from Europe, North America, Middle East & Australia. Africa is also connected to Delhi and Mumbai.
For secondary points of entry to India, consider Goa, Trivandrum, Kozhikode, Ahmedabad and Pune. 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 and 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 and Thai Airways.
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 New York-JFK and Chicago and Mumbai from Newark. 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. In India, all trains are managed by Indian Railways IRTC.
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.For checking Multiple Train you could use the official government site.
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.