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 widely 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. 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 raja protected the Jewish community of Goa from the Inquisition after the Portuguese captured that port.
Also if you observe carefully, the indian swastika points are drawn opposite to the nazi swastika i.e. one is clockwise and the other is anti clockwise
As a rule India is quite safe for foreigners, apart from instances of petty crime and theft common to any developing country, as long as certain basic precautions are observedi.e. women travellers avoiding travelling alone at night. However, you can check with your embassy and ask for local advice before heading northeast India Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur, as both areas have long-running insurgencies. Also take extra caution when traveling at night in downmarket districts of large cities.
Unfortunately theft is quite common in places visited by tourists, but violent thefts hardly ever occur. More likely a thief will pick your pocket see pickpockets or break into your room. There is little risk of street robbery in India.
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; some people go as far as to write them on paper. Being told that you can pay "as you like" is a sure warning sign. Don't give more than agreed, no matter what explanation is offered at the time of payment. Just take your belongings, pay what was originally agreed and walk away. The first time this happens, on your first taxi ride in India, this may be awkward, but the fifteenth time it happens, on your fifteenth taxi ride, it will be second nature. When travelling by autorickshaw, never ever get into the vehicle if there is another person accompanying the driver. This always spells trouble for unwary travellers.
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 behavior. 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.
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, 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 they are 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
Historically, homosexuality has been illegal in India, with a maximum penalty of 10 years. Actual prosecutions were rare. There is a vibrant gay nightlife existing in metropolitan areas and some but very few openly gay celebrities. On the other hand, the law was used as a tool by policemen to harrass gays cruising on the streets. In July 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled the anti-gay law unconstitutional. This presumptively decriminalizes homosexuality in India, unless other state high courts disagree or the Supreme Court rules otherwise. Whether this will actually lead to an end to harrassment is to be seen.
Whereas Indian men can be really eager to talk to travellers, women in India often refrain from contact with men. It is 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 putting her on the defensive usually, 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.
Black people may encounter prejudices from the police and general public about being drug dealers. They should keep their passport handy at all times and maintain contact with their embassy and, if possible, other support groups that can vouch for them.
Depending on your purpose of visit, you can get a tourist visa six months, a business visa 6 months, one year or more, multiple entries or a student visa up to 5 years. A special 10-year visa US$150, business and tourist is available to US citizens only. 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. There is a minimum two month gap period between consecutive tourist visas. 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.
As of 1 January 2010, India has introduced a new TOVA Tourist-visa-on-arrival scheme, which is available to citizens of Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia and Philippines at the airports in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata for a stay of up to 30 days (http://www.immigrationind...). It can take some time no set period, allow between 1 - 6 hours to process the application once you have arrived at the Airport. The TOVA Visa costs US$60, is valid for a single entry and is not extendable. In addition, there is a minimum two month gap between the expiry of one tourist visa and the issuance of the next. Please contact the local embassy/consulate for more information.
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 Travisa (https://indiavisa.travisa...), 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 neighboring country although, as at August '09, non-residents are able to apply for visas through the Bangkok embassy for an additional 400 THB "referral fee".
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 neighboring countries. However, even on multiple entry visas, there is supposed to be a two-month gap between leaving India and coming back into the country. If attempting to reenter the country before two months have passed, you will be asked for details of your flight home and be made to pay a bribe up to US$50 to get them to sign you back in to the country. This is true at smaller land entry points. More convenient is simply to visit the Indian embassy in the country from which you plan to enter India and complete the paperwork authorizing the early entry. The embassy will then paste a cool endorsement sticker in your passport, and you'll be set to reenter India. However, you may not need a re-entry authorization sticker if you are following a exact itinerary for example, if you're travelling to a neighboring country before re-entering India and present it to Immigration at each entry.
There are other categories for specialised purposes (http://passport.nic.in/vi...). The missionary visa is mandatory for anyone who is visiting India "primarily to take part in religious activities". This rule is meant to combat religious conversion, particularly of Hindus to Christianity. There have been cases where preachers have been deported for addressing religious congregations while on a tourist visa. You don't need to be worried if you are just on a religious tour of churches in India.
If you are on a Student, Employment, Research or Missionary visa, you need to register within 14 days of arrival with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office where you will be staying. If the place you are staying at doesn't have one, you need to register at the local police station (http://www.airportsindia....). All visitors who intend to stay more than 180 days also need to be registered.
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.
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 â¹2 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 â¹7.20 per minute. Calls to other countries, particularly to the Middle East, can be more expensive.
India has 22 official âscheduledâ 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 commonly spoken as a second language by Indians from outside the "Hindi Belt", it is by no means a lingua-franca for all of India. 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. 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 Scandanavian 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.
Kissing in India
India can trace kissing back thousands of years in their 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 your nationality/ies. Kissing can lead to finesâan Israeli couple was fined US$22 for kissing at their own weddingâor even arrestâas in a notorious incident involving actor Richard Gere. 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.
Avoiding Delhi belly
Four quick tips for keeping your stomach happy:
Go vegetarianat least for the first week or two. Meat spoils quickly.
Avoid raw leafy vegetablesThey are hard to clean properly.
Avoid ice and unbottled waterBoth the water in it and the way it's transported are suspect. Try to use only commercially available sealed bottled water.
Wash hands before eatingwith soap. Otherwise the dirt of India's streets will find its way onto your chapatis and into your mouth. In addition, keep nails cut short and clean.
Going to India, you have to adapt to a new climate and new food. Most travellers to India will become at least slightly ill during their stay there - even Indians returning from abroad can become ill as their bodies readjust to the food, bugs, 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 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.
Tap water is generally not safe for drinking. However, some 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, Kinley are popular and safe brands. But if the seal has been tampered, it could be purified tap water. So always make sure that seal is intact before buying. On Indian Railways, a particular mineral water brand is generally available known as "Rail Neer", which is safe and pure.
Fruits that can be peeled such as apples and bananas, as well as packaged snacks are always a safe option. Eat grapes only after thoroughly washing and soaking them for atleast 3 to 4 hours in warm water.
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 of Delhi and Mumbai, and at altitudes of less than 2000 metres in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, and Sikkim; however, the risk of infection is considered low in Delhi and northern India. Get expert advice on malaria preventatives, and take adequate precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Use a mosquito repellent when going outside particularly during the evenings and also when sleeping in trains and hotels without airconditioning. A local mosquito repellent used by Indians is Odomos and is available at most stores.
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.
There are reports ofGetting vaccinations and blood transfusions in low quality hospitals increases your risk of contracting HIV/AIDS- for e.g. in some government clinics., But this this not confirmed and to be on the safer side you can got to private hospitals or clinics.
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 almost invariably fatal otherwise.
If you need to visit a hospital in India, avoid small government hospitals. The quality of treatment cannot be to your expectation. Private hospitals provide better service.
If you have asthma India can be difficult, as incense is burning everywhere, even in restaurants and No Smoking areas.
Internet kiosks are everywhere nowadays and they charge as low as as â¹10-20 per hour the cost being a compromise for speed. Beware of using your credit cards online as many cases have come forward regarding credit cards 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 â¹2-5 per minute.
Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around â¹60-100 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. GPRS datacards/USB modems are widely used, but some of these require signing contracts with operators and thus not a practical option for short-term visitors without a residential address in India. The better companies such as Airtel GSM and Tata indicom CDMA do not rent datacards, 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 datacard/USB modem. The cheap price also means a 256 kbps connection, by the way. Airtel are the cheapest 3G 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 and free India wide data roaming, but the drawback is particularly poor customer support, that often manage 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.
police and other emergency services
Unfortunately, corruption and inefficiency are present in all Indian police forces, and the quality of the police force varies by officer. 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.
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.
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.
Driving in India is generally considered to be a dangerous undertaking. Irresponsible driving habits, insufficient highway infrastructure development, wandering livestock and other hazards make travelling on the country's roads a sometimes nerve wracking undertaking.
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. 765 in a more developed country like the United States. A first encounter with a typical Indian highway will no doubt feature a traffic mix of lumbering trucks, speeding maniacs, blithely wandering cows and suicidal pedestrians, all weaving across a narrow, potholed strip of tarmac. To minimise your risk of becoming a grim statistic, use trains instead of buses, use government bus services instead of private ones which are more likely to force their drivers into inhuman shifts, use taxis instead of autorickshaws, avoid traveling at night, and don't hesitate to change taxis or cars if you feel your driver is unsafe.
Of significant concern is that much of the road network is significantly underdeveloped. Most roads are very poorly built and they are full of rubble, large cracks and potholes. Most road signs are not very reliable in the country, and in most cases provide drivers very confusing or inaccurate information. If you are in doubt, ask the locals, normally 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.
India is a mostly conservative country esp. in the Northern, Central, Western and Southern parts of India some Western habits can be perceived as dishonorable for a woman. But India is coming out of its conservative image rather quickly especially in big 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 Hindus is to bring your palms together in front of your chest, or simply saying 'Namaste', or 'Namaskar' Avoid using Namaste and Namaskar in Tamil Nadu, there it is better to say Vanakkam instead. This form of greeting is, however, not necessary. Both forms are equally polite and correct, if a little formal. Almost all the people even if they don't know English do understand a "Hi" or a "Hello". Kindly note, however, when unsure, that in most parts of northern India and cities, it is quite acceptable to offer a "Hello" or "Good Day" followed by a handshake, regardless of gender.
Outside of cities and only in trendy places or in high society women do not smoke. Though in some rural areas women do smoke, but discreetly. A woman who smokes/drinks is associated with loose moral character in much of the rest of the country's growing middle class. But doing so in private is not frowned upon.
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. 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. With certain exceptions, especially coastal cities, clothing like shorts and modest versions of tank tops are acceptable, Mumbai being a prime example of this.
It's not so safe to walk on the street in the metropolitan cities exception is Kolkata if you are solo female traveller. Sex crimes against tourists occur in some tourist spots. If you have to walk alone, you should dress modestly. Never walk on the street or take a taxi or auto-ricksaw with provocative clothes such as tight shorts, a miniskirt, sports bra, tanktop, 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.
In local/suburban trains, there are usually cars reserved only for women and designated as such on their 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. In many parts of the country, women will not share a seat with a man other than her spouse. 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 unsafe for women to attend these festivities alone. Best to avoid these altogether unless you're part of some group which has Indians.
Friendly conversation with men you meet on trains is often confused with flirtation / availability. In some scenarios, this can 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 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 comfortable 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. 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. Avoid confrontation if at all possible. Sticking to the area is not recommended.
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 give a reason such as stomach trouble or medication to avoid these situations.