India has 22 official ‘scheduled’ languages, namelyAssamese,Bengali,Bodo,Dogri,Gujarati,Hindi,Kannada,Kashmiri,Konkani,Maithili,Malayalam,Manipuri,Marathi,Nepali,Odia also known as Oriya,Punjabi,Sanskrit,Santhali,Sindhi,Tamil,Telugu and Urdu.Of these, Hindi is recognised as the main Official Language of the Union Government there is no National Language of India, since it is a multi-lingual country, with English acting as a subsidiary official language.
There are also hundreds of other less prominent languages like Tulu, Bhojpuri and Ladakhi that are the main spoken language of some places.
A good rule of thumb, each Indian state = different Indian language.
Hindi, natively spoken by about 40% of the population, is the native tongue of the people from the "Hindi Belt"including the capital, Delhi in Northern India. Many more speak it as a second language. However, these figures include dialects like Bhojpuri Bihar and the Pahadi dialects of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand that may differ significantly from standard Hindi. However, the prestige dialect of Hindi used in media and education is generally homogeneous and is based on the dialect of the Delhi and Western UP. If you can only afford only one phrasebook, pick up the Hindi one as it will allow you to get by in most of India.
While Hindi is the main working language of the Union Government, and also sometime spoken as a second language by Indians from outside the "Hindi Belt", it is by no means a lingua-franca for all of India. Majority of the people in Southern and North Eastern states cannot understand Hindi. Avoid speaking Hindi in places such as Tamil Nadu and the Northeast, as Hindi is met with hostility from most of the locals there. Also do not refer to the other languages as dialects of Hindi; they are separate languages, mostly mutually unintelligible with different writing systems, and some like the Dravidian languages are completely unrelated to Hindi.
Code-switching between English and the native language often in the same sentence is very common among youngsters and is widely used in daily conversation, SMS in Roman script, TV advertising, FM radio and Bollywood.
While fluency in English varies vastly depending on education levels, occupation, age and region; it is generally not a problem getting by with English in urban areas. English is compulsory in all schools, and is widely spoken in major cities and around most tourist places, as well as in most police stations and government offices, and acts as the lingua franca among educated Indians. English is also the second language for most of the Indians. However, if possible, you are better off picking up as many words of the local language of the place you are going to - people are proud of their state's or region's culture and language and will appreciate it if an outsider makes an attempt to communicate in it. English has been spoken by Indians long enough that it has begun evolving its own rhythm, vocabulary, and inflection, much like French in Africa. Indeed, much has recently been made of subcontinental writers such as Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, and Salman Rushdie. The English you are likely to hear in India will be heavily influenced by British English, although spoken with the lilting stress and intonation of the speaker's other native language. Indians may be able to recognize the native language of another countryman by the accent Bengali accents are very different from the South Indian accents, for example.
Generally speaking, most official signs are bilingual in the state language and English. Signs at railway stations are generally trilingual outside the Hindi-speaking belt.
One of the most delightful quirks of Indian English is the language's adherence to Pre-1950s British English which to speakers in North America and Britain will sound oddly formal. Another source of fascination and intrigue for travelers is the ubiquitous use of English for cute quips in random places. One relatively common traffic sign reads, "Speed thrills, but kills". On the back of trucks everywhere you'll find "use dipper at night" or "Sound Horn". However, only standard British English is considered correct. Interestingly, keyboards in India are based on the US-standard, so American spelling is also used.
Indians are adopting more and more native words into their English. A lot of these are already well known to speakers elsewhere. Chai tea, Guru learned teacher/master, cummerbund literally waist-tie, Nirvana extinction of the separative ego and avatar God in human form are words that have left their original subcontinental home. However, Indians are using English loan words in their native languages at an even more rapid pace. As India modernizes blazingly fast, it has taken from English words for modern objects that simply did not exist a few decades ago. However, more importantly, bilingual Indians in informal conversation will often switch unpredictably between English and their native language when speaking to similar polyglots, thus effectively communicating in a hybridized language that relies on the listener's ability to speak both languages. A bilingual speaker in Delhi, might for example, say "mera fever bahut bad hai" my fever is very bad which mixes English with Hindi 50-50 in spite of the fact that perfectly good words exist for both 'fever' and 'bad' in Hindi. This hybrid is sometimes referred to as 'Hinglish.'It seems that English and Hindi are indeed converging among the bilingual sections of society. While English, as a distinct language, is here to stay for now, it appears that it will eventually over hundreds of years be absorbed into the vast cultural fabric of the subcontinent.
Most Indian languages lack a word for please, just like the Scandinavian languages. Instead, verbs have many forms denoting levels of politeness and formality. As there is no such distinction in English, Indians may also seem commanding to a westerner. You may here phrases like come here which may sound commanding to Anglophones from Western cultures, but this is not meant to be rude.
There are plenty of English language TV shows that air in India without dubbing on Zee Cafe, FX, Star World, BBC Entertainment, AXN, Warner Bros and BIG CBS Prime. However, with the exception of BIG CBS Prime, shows are usually a season behind. Nearly all shows are American except for the ones on BBC Entertainment. There are many other TV channels in English; in fact, there are more English TV channels than in any other Indian language. English language films in cinemas are generally shown in their original language with subtitles in the local language.
Cartoon Network, Pogo, Nat Geo, and Discovery may be dubbed in Hindi, Telegu or Tamil in their respective areas. However, this can be changed to English by changing the audio settings.
Non-verbal communication is also important. Much has been made of the confusing Indian head nod for yes and no, but the only important thing to understand is that Indians have different nods for yes, ok and no.
If they are nodding their head up and down, they mean yes or I agree, as in a standard nod.
If they are shaking their head in a tilting motion from right to left and back like a figure of eight, they mean I understand or I get what you said.
If they shake their head sideways left to right to left, they mean no.
There are differences in the way these signs are used in northern and southern India. The back to forth is yes and a vigorous left-right shift is no in northern India, though latter may be construed for yes in southern states like Tamilnadu. Look for verbal cues that accompany these sounds like 'aaan' for yes in southern India to get the correct meaning.
As a rule India is quite safe albeit mentally draining for foreigners, apart from instances of petty crime and theft common to any country, as long as certain extra precautions are observed i.e. women travellers avoiding travelling alone at night. However, you should check with your embassy and ask for local advice before heading to northeast India specifically Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, areas in Eastern India with significant Maoist threat presence and Jammu and Kashmir, as these areas have long-running local insurgency problems, though these are currently on the decline in recent years. Also take extra caution when traveling at night in downmarket districts of large cities. Generally there is much difference in the cultural behavior of people from different regions of India.
Unfortunately common theft is quite common in places visited by tourists, but violent thefts or armed robbery hardly ever occur. More likely a thief will pick your pocket see pickpockets or break into your room.
Some people handling your cash will try to shortchange you or rip you off. In Delhi particularly, this is a universal rule adhered to by all who handle westerners' cash. This does not exclude official ticket sellers at tourist sites, police employees at prepaid taxi stands, or merchants in all but the most upscale businesses. Count your cash before handing it over, and be insistent on receiving the correct change.
Agree on all fares and payments for services clearly in advance. Being told that you can pay "as you like" is a sure warning sign. For "tour guides" who refuse to leave you alone, ignore them - do not give them any money.
Taxis and auto-rickshaws are unfortunately where you'll be most commonly ripped off - and dealing with them can be incredibly tiring. While many taxis and auto-rickshaws will charge you by the meter or the tariff card, don't be surprised if the drivers refuse to carry you by the proper way and insist on receiving a flat rate for travelling a fixed distance. If an auto-rickshaw driver demands for extra money/above the meter reading, report to the nearest police station and they shall help you. While the former is more preferable, it is in the latter situation, that people new to a city both Indians and foreigners are most likely to be overcharged by a large extent. When travelling by meter, drivers will also tell you that the destination is "very far away" while they could be actually within walking distance from your origin. When travelling on a fixed rate basis, negotiate thoroughly and don't give a rupee more than what was initially agreed, no matter what explanation is offered at the time of payment "A/C costs extra", "I said one hundred fifty, not fifty", and some fake taxes are common ones. Just take your belongings, pay what was originally agreed and walk away. The first time this happens, on your first taxi/auto-rickshaw ride in India, this may be awkward, but on subsequent instances, it might appear as second nature. Your driver may also make unscheduled detours to shops - refuse to get out and firmly tell them that you do not want to go to any shops - they will always be overpriced and are not worth the time and effort.
Auto-rickshaw travel in Indian cities are generally of two types. These are Sharing and Reserve. In the latter, the traveler has the whole auto-rickshaw for self and can go directly to the destination of his/her choice after deciding the mode of paymentTariff based or Flat rate. In such a kind of booking, never allow any other person to accompany the driver, even if he insists. This could spell trouble for unwary travellers. It is costlier, faster and more comfortable to travel this way as compared to the other option, in which the auto-rickshaw is shared by a couple of more passengers for fares as cheap as Rupees 5 or 10 each. In this option the auto travels on a fixed route and makes multiple stops en route to the final destination, picking and dropping passengers on the way. In some cities and towns, both the modes are available to chose from while in the rest only one of the two is on offer.
Nowadays, with advent of technology GPS enabled modes of transport such as radio taxis are becoming very popular in the bigger Indian cities. These taxis can be pre-booked to report at a given location, for a certain time, have GPS maps for display to comfort the traveler that he is not duped, have professional drivers with background details made available and do not short change the occupant. The only flip side is that it is relatively costlier to hire for such a cab service as compared to a usual one although not by a very significant extent.
Overseas visitors, particularly women, attract the attention of beggars, frauds and touts. Beggars will often go as far as touching you, and following you tugging on your sleeve. It does little good to get angry or to say "No" loudly. The best response is to look unconcerned and ignore the behaviour. The more attention you pay to a beggar or a tout -- positive or negative -- the longer they will follow you hoping for a payback. Giving money to beggars in public is not safe as it will result in a stampede of beggars from all directions. As always in India, patience is required. Wearing local clothes will decrease the amount of attention you receive. Never give any money to children - they are being exploited by adults and begging is keeping them out of school.
Travellers should not trust strangers offering assistance or services; see Common scams. Be particularly wary of frauds at tourist attractions such as the temples of Kanchipuram, Kalighat etc. where they prey on those unfamiliar with local and religious customs. If a priest or guide offers to treat you to a religious ceremony, find out what it will cost you first, and do not allow yourself to be pressured into making "donations" of thousands of rupees; simply walk away if you feel uncomfortable. However, don't get too paranoid: fellow travelers on the train, or Indian families who want to take your picture on their own camera, for example, are often just genuinely curious.
Travellers should be cautious when visiting villages and rural areas in the night. Bandits occasionally abduct and rob tourists, as it is assumed they possess large amounts of wealth. But this is rare and happens most often in remote areas. Ask at your hotel to see if this is an issue in your area. Also, think twice about taking night buses or driving at night in these areas. Bandits are said to stop night buses with fake checkpoints and rob everyone inside. The frequency of this occurring is extremely low and the state governments are working hard to arrest these bandit groups, but take extra care nonetheless.
While travelling in public transport trains, buses do not accept any food or drink from any local co-passenger even if they seem to be very friendly or polite. There have been instances where very friendly co-passengers offer foods, drink, including tea or coffee containing substances that render the victim to sleep whilst all their possessions, including even their clothing go missing
While Indian men can be really eager to talk to travellers, most women in India often refrain from direct communication with men. This is however changing in the cities and you can now find many women approachable for help too. That said it is indeed an unfortunate fact that if you are a man and you approach a woman in India for even an innocuous purpose like asking for directions, you are likely probable to put her on the defensive, especially the one's dressed traditionally. It is better to ask a man if one is available there usually will be, or be extra respectful if you are asking a woman.
People of African descent may, at times, encounter less than warm behaviour from the police and general public. This is not always necessary but the reactions stems from the fact that more often than not, foreign born drug peddlers in India have been found to be of Nigerian nationality. As Indians find it hard to differentiate between Nigerians and other Africans or Afro-Americans, this behaviour is common to the whole race and not just to any specific country. That said, this behaviour is still considered publicly unacceptable when Indians are confronted by Indian themselves. It is hence wise to keep passports handy at all times, avoid going to areas notorious for illegal activities and maintain contact with respective embassies and, if possible, with other support groups that can vouch for them.
Do you need a visa?
Electronic Visa An online E-tourist Visa facility was introduced on 27 November 2014. This visa allows a single entry through the airports in Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tirchy, Trivandrum and Varanasi within 30 days of issue. The online E-Tourist Visa must be obtained at least four days in advance, costs USD60 paid online, and permits a stay not to exceed 30 days in India. A copy of the ETV printout should be carried and presented to Immigration at the port of entry. The visa cannot be adjusted or extended and is not valid for Protected or Restricted Areas. Only two visits with E-Tourist Visas are permitted in a calendar year. Citizens from these countries are eligible:
Antigua and Barbuda
Papua New Guinea
St Kitts and Nevis
St Vincent & the Grenadines
Turks & Caicos Islands
United Arab Emirates
United States of America
Note: The previous visa-on-arrival program was discontinued on 27 January 2015 and replaced with the E-Tourist Visa system.
Maldives max. stay of 90 days as a tourist only
A visa obtained in advance is required by all other nationalities other than those mentioned above.
Depending on the purpose of your visit, you can get an online E-Tourist Visa 30 days, a tourist visa 6 months or more, depending on nationality, a business visa 6 months, one year, five years, or ten years, multiple entries or a student visa up to 5 years. A special 10-year visa is available only to select nationalities, including US citizens USD100 for tourists, USD 240 for business. An Indian visa is valid from the day it is issued, not the date of entry. For example, a 6-month visa issued on January 1 will expire on June 30, regardless of your date of entry. A tourist visa valid for 6 months can have maximum duration of stay of 90 days per visit, depending on citizenship. Make sure to check maximum duration per visit with your local embassy. Other visas including Student, Employment, Research, Missionary, and Overseas Citizen of India visas are also available for those who qualify, with varying validity periods and stay limitations.
The E-Tourist visa on-line application process is detailed and somewhat cumbersome, especially for those with weak computer skills. Allow at least an hour per visa for the process if it is your first time. You will be required to upload a photo of yourself and a scan of the first two pages of your passport. Make sure you write down the visa application number or print it out as it will be necessary if you decide to return to the visa application process. One incorrect letter or number in the temporary application ID number will result in the loss of your application and you will have to start again. Certain minimum and maximum file sizes and other specifications are required for the uploads. A useful photo cropping tool is provided on the visa application site. A standard scan of the passport pages may be too large to meet the requirements and custom scanner settings may have to be used. The E-Tourist visa applications are required to be submitted several days ahead of time, but the actual processing time for two recent visa applications was only about 24 hours.
Many Indian embassies have outsourced visa processing in full or in part to third party companies, so check ahead before going to the embassy. For example, in the USA, you must submit your visa application to Cox & Kings Global Services, not the embassy. Applications through these agencies also attract an application fee, above that which is detailed on most embassy websites and should be checked prior to submitting your paperwork. In addition, many Indian embassies only offers visas to residents of that country: this means you should get your visa before you leave home, instead of trying to get in a neighbouring country since August '09, non-residents were able to apply for visas through the Bangkok embassy for an additional 400 THB "referral fee", but this has changed: since august/september 2015 this is, for the time being, no longer possible: only Thai nationals can apply for a visa.
Rules and validity of visas will differ based on citizenship. Check the website of the Indian embassy, consulate or high commission in your country (http://goidirectory.nic.i...) or contact the local office (http://meaindia.nic.in/cg...).
It's wise to ask for a multiple entry visa even if you aren't planning to use it - they cost the same, are handed out pretty liberally and come in handy if you decide last minute to dip into one of the neighbouring countries.
Overstaying a visa is to be avoided at all costs as you will be prevented from leaving the country until you have paid some fairly hefty fines and presented a large amount of paperwork to either the local immigration office or police station. This whole process is unlikely to take less than 3 days, and can take much longer if you include weekends, numerous government holidays and the inevitable bizarre bureaucratic requirements.
Kissing in IndiaIndia can trace kissing back thousands of years in its literature. Indeed, the well-known Kama Sutra has an entire chapter devoted to kissing. However, in most cultures of the subcontinent, kissing has traditionally been seen as part of sex, and in recent years many have unknowingly gotten into serious trouble for kissing, regardless of relationship or marriage or nationality. Kissing can lead to fines — an Israeli couple was fined USD22 for kissing at their own wedding — or even arrest. This is not a universal opinion, as many Indians find kissing acceptable, but common enough that avoiding kissing in public is a good idea while in India.
Pakistanis a sensitive subject about which many Indians will have strong views. Take care when discussing the issue, and avoid getting into a conversation about the whole issue. It's fine to have a chat about your visit to Pakistan, the people, and Indo-Pak cricket matches. But it is far better to avoid all together the political disputes with Pakistan or the Jammu and Kashmir Conflict - Indian government must support a large number of refugees that have been internally displaced by the ongoing conflict. Likewise, bitterness and often intense dislike may be expressed concerning Pakistanis or the nation of Pakistan.
Chinais a quite sensitive topic in the country as well. The territorial conflict between the two countries has led to disputes. If you are talking about business then talk on China could be a preferred thing for the Indians.
Be cautious when discussing the caste system, since Western viewpoints on this topic are often either antiquated or inadequate, or both. Recent changes in society have meant that in some urban areas, caste prejudice is non-existent.
The country code for India is 91. India is then divided into area codes, known locally as STD codes. See individual city guides for the area codes.
In acronym-happy India, a phone booth is known as a PCO Public Call Office and they usually offer STD/ISD Subscriber Trunk Dialing/International Subscriber Dialing, or national and international long distance respectively. These are usually staffed, and you dial yourself but pay to the attendant after the call is over. Metering is done per pulse and a service charge of ₹2 is added to the bill. Larger cities also have Western-style unmanned public phones, which are usually red in colour and accept one rupee coins.
Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9' or '8'. The following table explains how to dial:
|Same STD code||Local||number||12345678|
|Cellphone||Local||STD code of the town you are in number||011-12345678|
|Cellphone||STD to Cellphone||number||012345678|
|Different STD code||STD||0-area code-number||022-12345678|
Toll-free numbers start with 1-800 , but are usually operator-dependent: you can't call a BSNL/MTNL toll-free number from an Airtel landline, and vice versa. Often, the numbers may not work from your cellular phone. Other National Numbers that starts with 18xx or 19xx may attract special charges.
To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00. E.g a US number will be dialed as 00-1-555-555-5555. Calling the USA/Canada/UK over the normal telephone line will cost you about ₹7.20 per minute. Calls to other countries, particularly to the Middle East, can be more expensive.
India uses both GSM and CDMA and mobile phones are widely available, starting from ₹120 with ₹90 credit on the SIM. 3G networks are available in most of the cities. Major operators with India-wide networks include Bharti Airtel,Vodafone,BSNL,MTNL, Reliance Mobile both GSM and CDMA,TATA DOCOMO GSM,TATA IndicomCDMA,Idea Cellular, Uninor,Aircel,MTSCDMA, and Videocon Mobile. Not all operators have Pan-India operations but have tie-ups with other operators to provide pan-India coverage via roaming, though roaming charges are higher. You will not be able to use your mobile in Jammu & Kashmir since the local government does not allow any roaming and restricts foreigners from buying SIM cards there due to terrorism. Local calls could cost as little as ₹0.10 per minute typically ₹0.50, although going to a different state within India is considered roaming and additional charges of ₹1-3/min for both incoming and outgoing calls may apply. International calls are comparatively cheap, with most destinations under ₹10/min, the same as you'd pay at a PCO booth.
Fully loaded prepaid starter kits are available for around ₹500 or less, including several hundred rupees of call time. Plain SIM cards are sold for as little as ₹10-15 while they are given out for free in many cases. You will need identification including a photocopy of your visa and passport and a passport size photo. Shops can often do this for you for a small fee. Some shops will also insist on a local address in India; try the next one if they're not accommodating, but usually a bill from your hotel is fine. The best option is always buying a SIM card from the phone company's own store, that way you can verify the SIM card is working and you have been allocated your credit before you leave. They may require a minimum tourist visa validity of 3 months which can be a problem for those on a 30 day Visa-On-Arrival visa, which you will have to try your luck on the smaller vendors who may not require your passport. Buying from smaller vendors will often mean a delay of a few hours to a few days before they call to get the SIM working, and you risk your SIM being cancelled if they never send in your identification paperwork.
Beware that talk time unexpired minutes of talk time and validity the date that the SIM card expires are considered separate and you have to keep both topped up, or otherwise you may find the ₹500 you just recharged disappearing in a puff of smoke when the one-month validity expires. Usually, when you extend the validity, you will also get extra minutes but you can buy minutes for less without extending the validity. Alternatively, if you are in India for a reasonably long time, you can buy a prepaid SIM with lifetime validity and then topup with talktime as per your needs. Please note that in most such cases, you will need to topup atleast once every six months to keep the SIM active. And the term lifetime is slightly misleading as it refers to the life of the license issued to the operator by the Government of India to provide mobile services. If the license is renewed, your services shall continue without any additional charges but if the license is not renewed, your lifetime SIM also becomes defunct. Licenses are awarded to operators for a period of 20 years.
Beware that whilst large telecommunications companies, such as Airtel are technically the same company throughout India, and your SIM card will work anywhere have reception or a partnership, their sales and support teams are often outsourced and franchised. Meaning a SIM bought in one state even from an official store does not only attract a roaming charge when used in other states, it will also mean that your support numbers will not work. For example, if you buy a SIM in Goa and something goes wrong whilst you are travelling in another state, local stores will not be able to help you, nor often will your support number that came with your SIM. They will simply tell you to go back to the state you bought it in for support, or give you other numbers to try and call back in your purchase state.
This also impacts recharging when you're outside the state you bought your SIM card. Due to local taxes and company pricing, recharge cards or the amount people pay to get the same about of talk time differs from state to state - even though your per minute call costs will be the same state to state. Take note of the recharge options and prices in the state that you originally bought your SIM, because as you move to other areas in India, the local recharge options vary and will not apply to you they'll only apply to SIM's bought in that state. For example, if you bought your SIM in Goa and to get Rs100 talk time credited to your account, you actually paid Rs120 Rs100 talk time + Rs20 local taxes, but then travelled to another state where they had a promotion where Rs100 talk time only costs Rs100, you are not eligible. You still have to pay the rates of where you bought your SIM, even if local signage says differently. The important thing to remember is that you always recharge based on where your SIM card is from, so take a note of the recharge options when you buy your SIM, and use them not the local rates to recharge. As an added complication, many local vendors do not like to recharge out of state SIM's which they can tell from your number. This is because the way they recharge phones is by crediting a certain amount of rupees to your account, and then your carrier recognises the amount and transforms it into a service. For example Rs120 rupees may mean your account is recharged with Rs100 talk time, whereas Rs121 may mean you get a cricket SMS updates pack. Consequently, because local recharge shops do not know the prices to recharge in the state your SIM is from, they may not want to risk giving you something you do not want. The way to get around this is to, as mentioned, make a note of your recharge options when you buy your SIM and politely insist to local recharge merchants that you know that amount works.2G and 3G Internet prices are usually the same from state to state, making this process slightly easier. Airtel and Vodafone seem to have the best reputation for 3G. Airtel gives you 2GB for Rs499 on a 3G only plan. Tata DoCoMo have a prepaid plan with unlimited 3G for Rs250, but their coverage is limited to a small number of cities. Be aware that no one company provide 3G in the whole country. It is best to choose the company that has 3G coverage in the state you will be traveling to or you will be stuck on 2G speed.
Travellers should be aware of the fact that Indians generally dress conservatively and should do the same. Shorts, short skirts knee-length or above and sleeveless shirts are frowned upon in smaller cities and rural areas, but are commonly accepted in large metros. Cover as much skin as possible. Both men and women should keep their shoulders covered. Women should wear baggy clothes that do not emphasize their contours. However, if you move to metropolitan cities, there is much more liberalism of wearing western outfits and skimpy clothes though still they may become a centre of stare from men. But they should avoid moving alone at night.
Keep in mind that Indians will consider themselves obliged to go out of the way to fulfil a guest's request and will insist very strongly that it is no inconvenience to do so, even if it is not true. This of course means that there is a reciprocal obligation on you as a guest to take extra care not to be a burden.
Never use profanity, even when someone does something that warrants it. Never swear during an argument. You will lose the argument immediately as they will act offended that you swore and claim that you are "abusing" them.. Profanity makes you look bad in India so avoid it when you can.
There is a huge difference between how Indians treat one another on the street and at home. Indian culture is inward thinking. In their homes everyone is a guest and treated incredibly well. Strangers on the street however are treated with complete indifference and without what westerns call "common courtesy." Personal space is not respected, people shove you, cut you off while driving, cheat, cut in line, spit and urinate in public. So be prepared for that and try not to take it personally and if you are female be careful & watchful. On the streets of India nothing is personal. But in the home you can expect great treatment.
Note that most Indians are not aware that the term "Negro" is now considered offensive, and they may use it with no intent to offend. An Indian is usually not aware of the other "N" word.
It is customary to put up a token friendly argument with your host or any other member of the group when paying bills at restaurant or while making purchases. The etiquette for this is somewhat complicated.
In a business lunch or dinner, it is usually clear upfront who is supposed to pay, and there is no need to fight. But if you are someone's personal guest and they take you out to a restaurant, you should offer to pay anyway, and you should insist a lot. Sometimes these fights get a little funny, with each side trying to snatch the bill away from the other, all the time laughing politely. If you don't have experience in these things, chances are, you will lose the chance the first time, but in that case, make sure that you pay the next time. and try to make sure that there is a next time. Unless the bill amount is very large do not offer to share it, and only as a second resort after they have refused to let you pay it all. The same rule applies when you are making a purchase. If you are purchasing something for yourself, your hosts might still offer to pay for it if the amount is not very high, and sometimes, even if it is. In this situation, unless the amount is very low, you should never lose the fight. If the amount is in fact ridiculously low, say less than ₹10, then don't insult your hosts by putting up a fight. Even if by chance you lose the fight to pay the shopkeeper, it is customary to practically thrust in a nice way, of course the money into your host's hands. These rules do not apply if the host has made it clear beforehand that it is his or her treat, especially for some specific occasion.
Bring a few spare coins from your home country - Indians often ask if you have any and they really appreciate it if you do! Pens are also often appreciated by school children.
Try to avoid political statements like 'India does not have Drainage system even when they have send Rockets to Mars' in common public as it is not considered a good mannerism.
Avoiding Delhi bellyFour quick tips for keeping your stomach happy:
Prefer vegetarian optionsduring your stay or at least for the initial weeks as meat risks getting spoiled quickly in Indian conditions.
Ensure raw leafy vegetables are cleaned properlyIf in doubt, avoid consuming them.
Avoid ice if unsureIce served at upscale or relatively well off establishments will not pose any harm but avoid consuming ice if you are unsure about its origins.
Avoid unbottled waterTry to use only commercially available sealed bottled water. Even most Indians prefer using only bottled water when travelling.
Wash hands before eatingwith soap. Otherwise the dirt of India's streets will find its way onto your chapatis and into your mouth.
Going to India, you have to adapt to a new climate, new food and hence Some travellers to India might become slightly ill during their stay there. Even Indians returning from abroad can at times become ill as their bodies readjust to the food, climate and sanitation conditions. However, with precautions the chance and severity of any illness can be minimized. Don't stress yourself too much at the beginning of your journey so as to allow your body to acclimatize to the country. For example, take a day of rest upon arrival, at least on your first visit. Many travellers get ill for wanting to do too much in too little time. Be careful with spicy food if it is not your daily diet.
No vaccinations are required for entry to India , except for yellow fever if you are coming from an infected area such as Africa. However, Hepatitis both A and B, depending on your individual circumstances, meningitis and typhoid shots are recommended, as is a booster shot for tetanus. The CDC has a list of recommended vaccines when traveling to India.
Tap water is generally not considered safe for drinking at many installations, even by local populace. However, many establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water may be safe to drink. Packed drinking water popularly called "mineral water" throughout India is a better choice. Bisleri and Kinley among others are some of the more popular and safe brands. However, please check for whether the seal is intact or not as on some occasions, if the seal has been tampered, it could be nothing but purified tap water or worse, unfiltered water. On Indian Railways, a particular mineral water brand is generally available known as "Rail Neer", which is considered to be safe and pure.
Fruits that can be peeled such as apples and bananas, as well as packaged snacks are always a safe option. As is the practice with the native population, always wash the fruits and vegetables prior to cooking, with water. Municipality provided running tap water is generally considered safe to do so and this should not pose any later harm.
Diarrhea is common, and can have many different causes. Bring a standard first-aid kit, plus extra over-the-counter medicine for diarrhea and stomach upset. A rehydration kit can also be helpful. At the least, remember the salt/sugar/water ratio for oral rehydration: 1 tsp salt, 8 tsp sugar, for 1 litre of water. Most Indians will happily share their own advice for treatment of illnesses and other problems. A commonly recommended cure-all is to eat boiled rice and curd yoghurt together for 3 meals a day until you're better. Keep in mind that this is usually not sound medical advice. Indians have resistance to native bacteria and parasites that visitors do not have. If you have serious diarrhea for more than a day or two, it is best to visit a private hospital. Parasites are a common cause of diarrhea, and may not get better without treatment.
Malaria is endemic throughout India. CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/travel...) states that risk exists in all areas, including the cities and at altitudes of less than 2000 metres in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, and Sikkim. However, the risk of infection is considered to be low in the more touristy spots as these are attempted to be kept clean. Get expert advice on malaria preventatives, and take adequate precautions to prevent mosquito bites. You can choose to use a mosquito repellent when going outside particularly advised in small towns and villages and relatively less necessary in bigger cities. When sleeping at night, you can use a mosquito net or an electronic mosquito repellent, depending upon the need and your convenience.
India is home to many venomous snakes. If bitten try to note the markings of the snake so that the snake can be identified and the correct antidote given. In any event, immediately seek medical care.
It is very important to stay away from the many stray dogs and cats in India, as India has the highest rate of rabies in the world. If you are bitten it is extremely urgent to get to a hospital in a major urban area capable of dealing with Rabies. You can get treatment at any major hospital. It is very important to get the rabies vaccine after any contact with animals that includes contact with saliva or blood. Rabies vaccines only work if the full course is given prior to symptoms. The disease is invariably fatal otherwise. There's no known cure for rabies once infected - except a immediate vaccine. There were also unconfirmed sporadic reports that getting vaccinations and blood transfusions in low quality hospitals increases your risk of contracting HIV/AIDS- for e.g. in some government clinics. For people with asthma, it is advised to avoid visiting areas with high dust and pollution levels as a precautionary measure or instead use a mask.
As a thumb rule, it is considered safer to visit private hospitals or the largerand more popular ones in cities government hospitals in case of an emergency.
Do not get a tattoo while in India! All tattoo parlours in India are unlicenced, so there is a risk of the tattoo artist not changing needles and thus putting you at risk of contracting HIV.
religion and rituals
In mosques, churches and temples it is obligatory to take off your shoes. It may also be customary to take off your footwear while entering into homes, follow other people's lead.
It is disrespectful to touch or point at people with your feet. If done accidentally, you will find that Indians will make a quick gesture of apology that involves touching the offended person with the right hand, and then moving the hand to the chest and to the eyes. It is a good idea to emulate that.
Books and written material are treated with respect, as they are considered as being concrete/physical forms of the Hindu Goddess of Learning, Saraswati. A book should not be touched with the feet and if it has accidentally touched, the same gesture of apology as is made to people see above should be performed.
The same goes with currency, or anything associated with wealth especially gold. They are treated as being physical representations of the Goddess Lakshmi of Wealth in human form, and should not be disrespected.
Avoid winking, whistling, pointing or beckoning with your fingers, and touching someone's ears. All of these are considered rude.
The Swastika is commonly seen in India, as it is considered a religious symbol for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. It is not regarded as a symbol for Nazism in India, and in fact, had its origins in Hinduism long before the birth of Nazism, so Western visitors should not feel offended if they see a Swastika in a temple or in the home of a local. It does not mean the person is a Nazi supporter, and does not symbolise anti-Semitism. The correlation between the Swastika and anti-Semitism is mostly not even understood in India. Most of the population do not even know that Swastika is associated with Nazism in the west. And in point of fact, India is a land where Jews have lived for thousands of years and always had good relations with their non-Jewish neighbors. It is notable but not surprising, for example, that the local Hindu king protected the Jewish community of Goa from the Inquisition after the Portuguese captured that port.
Internet kiosks are everywhere nowadays and they charge as low as as ₹10-20 per hour the cost being a compromise for speed. Beware of using your credit cards online as many cases have come forward regarding credit card thefts using keyloggers. More reliable chains include Reliance World formerly Reliance Web World and Sify iWay.
Calling overseas is also very cheap if you use the many booths that advertise Net2Phone service. The quality ranges from tolerable to excellent, and the price is very good, with calls to the USA ranging from ₹2-5 per minute.
WiFi hotspots in India are, for the most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid WiFi at around ₹60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent WiFi coverage.
Most internet users in India do not rely on WiFi too much. 3G data cards/USB modems are widely used, but some of these require signing contracts with operators and thus are not a practical option for short-term visitors without a residential address in India. The better companies such as Airtel GSM and Tata DoCoMo do not rent data cards, which means that you have to buy them outright. As per prepaid mobile phones, this is doable as long as you have copies of your ID and a hotel bill. Reliance charges Rs650 per month 1GB downloading free, Rs2/mb for a data card/USB modem. The cheap price also means a 256 kbps connection, by the way. Airtel are one of the cheapest 3G HSDPA data for phone or data card providers, at 10GB valid for a month for Rs1250, 2GB for Rs499 and also much lower quantities. They have one of the largest networks with the best coverage, but the drawback is particularly poor customer support that often manages to make the problem worse. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you can just get the SIM card and tether with your phone if you need to. Tata DoCoMo are even cheaper, with unlimited 3G for Rs. 250 - however, their coverage is not India-wide, so make sure you check. Most, if not all phone companies, offer free data roaming India-wide i.e. between different states. You will need to enable this option on your smartphone.
The India-Pakistan conflict, simmering for decades in Pakistan, has in recent years manifested in terrorist attacks on India's main cities: since 2007, there have been bombings or coordinated shootings in Delhi, Bombay, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. The targets have varied widely, ranging from hotels and restaurants to markets and train stations, and with the notable exception of the November 2008 attack in Mumbai, have been aimed squarely at locals, not foreigners. Realistically speaking, there is little you can do to avoid random acts, but do keep an eye on the news and any travel advisories.
India follows the left hand driving system. Driving in India is generally considered to be a dangerous undertaking by non residents. Irresponsible driving habits, insufficient highway infrastructure development, wandering livestock in urban areas are some of the hazards that make travelling on the country's roads a sometimes nerve wracking undertaking. Though the quality of roads and highways have improved significantly in the previous decade, much needs to be done to attain road standards of western countries.
More than 118,000 people died on Indian roads in 2008, the highest figure in the entire world, and that's despite having only 12 cars per 1000 people vs. 572 in a more developed country like Germany. However, adjusted for India's larger population, the accident and fatalities rates are similar to major economies. Of significant concern is that much of the road network is significantly not very well developed. The national highways are good though. Most country roads are very poorly built and they are full of rubble, some cracks and potholes. City roads depend from patch to patch. Road signs at times are not very reliable in the country, and can end up providing the driver with very confusing or inaccurate information. If you are in doubt, ask the locals as they are very helpful and willingly provide people with appropriate guidance to a location. Of course the quality of information and willingness to provide it varies, especially in the larger cities.
police and other emergency services
The Indian Police department is quite an able department in the country, well, sometimes. Corruption does exist. However, that is not the case with every officer, there are numerous who take their duty seriously and respect their duties. Police is a common term among public, until you end up in a completely remote village with no traces of English. In Hindi, the word for police is policepronounced 'Pulis', but in South India, police is the commonest term. You may hear the word 'Kaaval' for police in the state of Tamil Nadu. In general, police in Southern states are more efficient and much more accountable for their actions than in the rest of the country. The efficiency of police depends upon the state till quite a high level.
The police have become very strict in the recent days. They catch hold of offenders and punish them. Punishment does not mean legal fine everytime, but money is taken even if it is in the form of bribe. However, it takes effect on the public as no one likes to give cash, irrespective of if it is a fine or bribe. Bribery is common in the rural parts of India where policemen demand money without a bill. in such cases, demand a bill and be firm and confident. In extreme cases, persuade the officer to be taken to a police station and pay the money in form of fine. But such cases are extremely rare.
If you are told to pull over by a police officer, be polite. Indian police officers give respect to those people who respect them. Even if it wasn't your mistake but he/she told you to pull over, NEVER be rude and above all NEVER swear. Swearing at an on-duty police officer is illegal in India and can lead to heavy fines, or if you are out of luck, you may be taken to a police station to be dealt with.
You will see many police patrol jeeps at night. They stop in some places, wait and start moving again. Therefore, police on night duty and the highway police are considered efficient. They are always present for citizen safety. The traffic police will also tell you to pull over in the night if you are driving to check your papers and/or if you are driving in the influence of alcohol.
Most police officers are helpful towards foreign tourists. Generally, police officers from the central civil services cadres are posted higher up in the hierarchy and are considered to be more upright and honest. For emergencies, throughout most of India, you can dial 100 for police assistance. For non-emergencies, go down to the police station to report a crime.
The emergency contact numbers for most of India are: Police dial 100, Ambulance 102 or dial the nearest hospital and Fire dial 101. In Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kochi and several other cities throughout India, you can dial 108 for all emergencies. Outside of those cities, you will not be able to find an English-speaking operator.
People rarely touch each other, except unexpectedly. Under circumstances where you find somebody annoying you or getting close to you, ask the nearest female for help. You would be surprised to find they would pick the fight for you.
India is a mostly conservative country esp. in the Northern, Central and Eastern parts of India and some alien habits can be perceived as dishonorable for a woman. But India is coming out of its conservative image rather quickly especially in urban areas and more so in large cities.
Outside of the larger cities, it is unusual for people of the opposite sex to touch each other in public. Even couples married or otherwise refrain from public displays of affection. Therefore, it is advised that you do not shake hands with a person of the opposite sex unless the other person extends his/her hand first. The greeting among Indians and more so among Hindus is to bring your palms together in front of your chest and simply say 'Namaste', or 'Namaskar'. When speaking to Muslims, it is more likely to hear the opposite person say Salaam Alekum, which is an Urdu translation of the same greeting. Residents of Punjab and followers of Sikhism are equally likely to say Sat Sri Akaal and those from Tamil Nadu could be heard saying Vanakkam instead. That said, it is not necessary that the above mentioned forms of greeting are the only acceptable forms. Almost all the people even if they don't know English do understand a "Hi" or a "Hello". Kindly note, however, when unsure, that at least in cities, it is quite acceptable to offer a "Hello" or "Good Day" followed by a handshake, regardless of gender.
Smoking in any public place is illegal in India. But it is rarely enforced except in the Southern state of Kerala where police will fine you at the spot. Smoking is still considered a taboo when associated with women but things are slowly changing and one is more likely to spot a woman smoking in Indian cities today than ever before. Even in larger cities, it is becoming much more common to find women smoking outside offices, in universities, in pubs and discotheques than in most other places. Outside of large cities, probability of spotting a women smoking is rare and decreases sharply. Though in some rural areas women do smoke, but discreetly. Since ages, a woman who smokes/drinks was associated with loose moral character in much of the country's growing middle classby both men and women and this thought process has not yet disappeared completely, especially outside of major cities. Surprisingly, Indians are relatively more relaxed regarding women of foreign origin consuming liquor or smoking in public as compared to Indian women themselves.
Places such as Discos / Dance clubs are less-conservative areas. It is good to leave your things at a hotel and head down there for a drink and some light conversation. Only carry as much change as you think you would require since losing your wallet or I.D. means that you will waste a considerable time trying to get any kind of help in that regard.
People are fully-clothed even at the beach. There is no law prohibiting women from wearing bikinis. As with women smoking, wearing bikinis, especially by Indian women, was thought of to be completely unthinkable until some time back. This has begun to change with more media exposure but is still significantly prevalent somewhat and there is a clear difference between family beaches and tourist beaches. Most tourist beaches have bikinis as part of beach culture. So, be sure to find out what the appropriate attire is for the beach you are visiting. In some rare places like Goa, where the visitors to beach are predominantly foreigners, it is permissible to wear bikinis on the beach but it is still offensive to go about dressed in western swim wear away from the beach. There are a few beaches where women mostly foreigners sunbathe topless but make sure there it is safe and accepted before you do so. Clothing like shorts and modest versions of tank tops are more acceptable for a visit to the beach.
It's not so safe to walk on the street in the metropolitan cities during odd hours if you are a solo female traveller. Sex crimes against tourists could occur in some tourist hot spots. If you have to walk alone, you should dress modestly. Never walk on the street or take a taxi or auto-rickshaw with provocative clothes such as tight shorts, a miniskirt, sports bra, tank-top, or other clothes which expose a lot of skin. This holds especially true if you are travelling at night. Tourists are easily distinguishable and hence targeted during night time. If at all possible, refrain from areas that other tourists avoid or visit only during day time.
In local/suburban trains, there are usually cars reserved only for women and designated as such towards the front. This reserved car is usually but not always the third-to-last compartment.
In most buses private and public a few seats at the front of the bus are reserved for women, Usually these seats will be occupied by men and, very often, they vacate the place when a female stands near gesturing her intention to sit there. If you sit near a man, he may stand up from the seat and give the place to you; this is a sign of respect, NOT rudeness.
Street parties for holidays are usually filled with crowds of inebriated men. During festivals such as Holi, New Year's Eve, and even Christmas Eve, women can be subjected to groping and sexually aggressive behaviour from these crowds, particularly in the northern and some western parts. It is considered unsafe for any woman to attend these festivities or travel alone after 10PM, by which time commercial establishments begin to close and the crowd begins to thin. It is hence best to attend these celebrations as part of some group which has local Indians or a significant female population. However, cultural celebrations in India are as much a part of the culture as are the many languages. Hence, it would be important not to miss them completely if you are present in India during the festive season but observe it from a distance or participate selectively, if there are any limitations. Many Indians would be equally rejoiced by the fact that a foreigner has chosen to join them in their celebrations.
Because of the historically rigid social structure, friendly conversation between strangers from different sexes is still not very common outside of cities and hence don't expect an Indian to initiate a conversation with you. Too much of conversation with men you meet in public places can at times be misunderstood as flirtation / availability and in rare scenarios could also lead to unexpected sexual advances; this happens to Indian women as well as Westerners. Befriending Indian women, however, can be a wonderful experience for female travelers, though you might have to initiate the conversation. An easy topic to get things going is to talk about clothes.
It's not disrespectful for a woman to tell a man eager to talk to her that she doesn't want to talk - so if a man's behaviour makes you uncomfortable, say so firmly. If he doesn't seem to get the hint, quietly excusing yourself is a better answer than confrontation.
Dressing in traditional Indian clothes, such as salwaar kameez more comfortable and equivalent to smart formals or saree more formal and difficult to wear will often garner Western women more respect in the eyes of locals. Show some enthusiasm for the traditional Indian way of life and you may find that men will treat you more like a 'lady' than an object. The idea is to portray yourself as a normal person, instead of a distanced tourist.
"Eve Teasing" is the most common term used in Indian English to refer to anything from unwanted verbal advances to physical sexual assault. The simplest way to avoid this remains the same as in your home country. Avoid confrontation, if at all possible, and move to a different location quickly to loose the guy. Anything overt should be treated in a firm manner and if needed, ask the local populace women in particular to try and get the message across. In extreme cases, report to the nearest policeman available.
While hospitality is important in India, it is not common to see people offering to share food or cookies while they eat. Some such offers are genuine and some not, especially in trains. So to be safe, it is best to to politely refuse or give a reason such as stomach trouble or medication to avoid these situations.
It is important to walk cautiously while walking in India. You may not not find footpaths or very well developed ones in the rural areas and will have no option but to walk on the road. The urban areas do have well developed footpaths, but Indians generally prefer walking on the road instead. Jay walking is very common in India and it is very rare to find any pedestrian signal in crossings. Even if you find a pedestrian signal, it is rarely followed. The zebra crossing system is common, but without a signal. You still have to be careful while crossing even from a zebra crossing. But again, pedestrian safety has been taken under consideration and has improved quite a bit, but still, be safe.