India in a word: diverse. From snow-capped mountains to exotic jungles and lush paddy fields; chaotic, bustling cities to sun-bleached shores; devoted religions to sacred monuments, you will be taken on the trip of your life on holiday in India. Ride an elephant, see tigers, explore tea plantations, taste the explosive cuisine, but whatever you do, get to India. We love how the country lingers with us and all we want to do is go back for more.
Read all about India in the digital edition of Footprints, including personal accounts from our destination specialists, photographs from a trip to Rajasthan, the best places to spot tigers in India and much more!
The world-famous Taj Mahal looms above the Jamuna river banks in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. This beautiful monument is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was built as a mausoleum by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal as an ode to his love for her. The stunning architecture and white marble are magnificent. Watch the colours change with the light of day.
With its rich history and diverse melting pot of religions, rulers, and empires, it is unsurprising that India has so many temples and shrines. The Cave Temples at Ajanta were fashioned out of rock with hand-held tools by Buddhist monks in the second and seventh centuries. Khajuraho is proof of the Indian origin of the Kama Sutra. See 20 temples dedicated to sexuality, sex, and erotic sculptures. Then head to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in South Asia, where this temple city is filled with an array of temples.
India's vast coastline offers miles of white sand beaches backed by mangrove forests. Goa, on the southeast coast, has a 75-mile coastline offering some of the most popular beaches in the country. Follow the dream beaches of the 1960s hippie trail in North Goa or head south to find miles of empty, uninterrupted sand and sea. The beaches of Lakshadweep Islands, India's coral islands, offer turquoise waters and coral beaches set against a backdrop of swaying palms. Relax on Mangalore's beautiful beaches or head to Kochi for a serene, relaxing atmosphere.
Explore Kerala’s Backwaters on a traditional kettuvallom (houseboat). Enjoy boating through the lush, tropical waterways, lagoons, lakes, and rivers past palm-fringed jungles and bucolic landscapes. Many of these cruises include visits to the villages, temples, churches, markets, beaches, tea shops, and paddy fields in the area.
If you are looking to experience the press of humanity and the rush of the crowds, as well as historic sites and authentic culture, head for India's cities. See the glistening skyscrapers rising from Mumbai's notorious slums or head for the rushing rickshaws, elephants, and old world charms of Old Delhi, standing next to modern, contemporary New Delhi.
India's Golden Triangle is formed by Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, which roughly forms a triangle. The triangle is called golden for the wealth of cultural and historic sites available to see. India's capital, New Delhi, is large and diverse, while Jaipur is home to some fantastic bazaars. Head to Agra to see the ethereally beautiful Taj Mahal.
There are a number of carriers to offering flights to India from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Delhi and Mumbai can be reached on direct services with Jet Airways, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic. Thomson offer a direct service to Goa.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates, Qatar Airways and Ethiad offer indirect services to Mumbai and Delhi via the Middle East. Sri Lanka Airlines features both cities via Colombo. The beach areas of Goa and Kerala can be reached via the main cities.
Departure Taxes: An international departure tax of 500 Rupees must be paid when departing India. This is usually included in your air ticket so please check before travel or plan in advance to have 500 Rupees upon departure.
British Citizens are required to have a visa to enter India. You can find further information about how to apply on the Indian High Commission website. Or contact the Indian Embassy on 0207 836 8484.
Holders of passports endorsed ‘British citizen’ who meet the eligibility criteria can apply for an e-Tourist Visa (e-TV) to enter India at certain designated airports. You can find more information about the eligibility criteria on the government of India’s e-Tourist Visa website.
You should check carefully whether or not you’re eligible for an e-TV before you apply. British subject, British protected person, British overseas citizen, British national (overseas) and British overseas territories citizen passport holders aren’t eligible to apply for an e-TV.
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee. India has a closed currency, meaning you cannot take Rupees in or out of the country. This of course means you cannot exchange your UK Pounds prior to arriving in India. There are numerous currency exchanges located throughout the airport and all major stations.
We recommend you withdraw Indian Rupees from a cash machine upon arriving in India, or bring cash to exchange. Cash machines are found at airports, major stations, and throughout India’s larger cities and towns. Make larger transactions less often to incur fewer fees. You cannot convert your Indian Rupees back to UK Pounds after leaving India, so be sure to do this prior to your departure date. Major credit cards are generally accepted, although smaller shops will not accept them.
While tipping in India is not compulsory and you can do so at your discretion, it is usually expected. Most restaurants include a 10 percent surcharge, although you can add more if the service was good. Priests are tipped, porters and attendants at hotels are tipped, guides are tipped, boatmen are tipped, and auto rickshaw and taxi drivers are tipped if they did a good job.
May - September
All travellers should be up to date on routine immunizations. Tuberculosis, Meningitis, Typhoid and anti-Malarial protection is recommended. Please ensure you consult with your GP for up to date vaccination requirements for the area that you are travelling to.
What you pack for a holiday in India will depend on what season you are travelling in and where you are going. India is vast and the climate varies from region to region, but generally it is defined by three seasons: hot, cool, and wet (monsoon). When these seasons take place depends on where you are in India. Winter (November to March) has pleasant temperatures. Summer (April to June) is sweltering through much of the country. Monsoon season (June to September) drenches most India.
Shawl or scarf to keep you warm in the winter;
Socks to wear into the temples
as you are required to take your shoes off;
Cotton T-shirts and shorts that will keep you cool in the summer;
Closed-toed shoes for the cities
which often have a lot of pollution and rubbish on the roads;
Sarong or hat to cover your head when it is sunny;
Travel adapter to convert a UK three pin plug to the rounded pins that India has;
Mosquito repellent with DEET;
Swimming suit if you are heading to the coastal regions;
Sunscreen and sunglasses if you are heading to Goa's beaches;
Hiking shoes if you are heading inland or to the Himalayas;
Umbrella and lightweight
plastic rain poncho in the rainy season;
Brace yourself—while on holiday in India you are in for a treat. Indian cuisine has a spectacularly diverse range of regional dishes. With explosive flavours running the gamut from spicy to tangy to sweet to sour, Indian cuisine has become a much-loved fare throughout the UK. The diverse, multicultural heritage of India and its easy access to exotic spices such as aniseed, cassia leaves, ginger, turmeric, and saffron, as well as herbs such as coriander, mint, and curry ensures you will enjoy a wide range of flavours in India.
Most Indian food served in the UK is Mughlai (or Punjabi). When in India, you will experience much more than this, with numerous regional cuisines available, such as Awadhi, Goa, and Kerala. Most Indian dishes are vegetarian, although some may include lamb, goat, chicken, or fish. Most dishes do not have beef, as cows are sacred in much of India, and many people tend to be vegetarian.
Indian curries are wonderfully varied from region to region, some having a sour flavour, some having a sweet flavour. Curries have gained popularity throughout the UK, and indeed the world, for their lip-smacking flavours. Around 25 spices are used to make Indian curries, often in various combinations. Spices include turmeric, chilli, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, caraway seeds, and cumin seeds, to name a few. The sauce is often supplemented with lime juice, tamarind, tomatoes, coconut milk, or yoghurt and added to sautéed onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes.
Very popular, much-loved tandoori chicken is a super easy dish to make. The tandoori masala spices include cumin and coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, ginger, garlic, red chilli, turmeric, and mace powders, and a pinch of salt. The spices are mixed with yoghurt and smeared over chicken pieces, marinated, then baked or grilled. It tastes delicious with hot naan bread.
Butter chicken is similar to tandoori chicken, but with a simple butter, tomato, and garam masala spiced sauce simmered with cream until rich and velvety. This popular Indian dish can be adjusted to be hot or mild and is often served with kaali daal (black lentils), naan bread, and a green salad.
Kaali daal is a wholesome and delicious vegetarian dish often served as a side dish, but popular as a main as well. This dish combines black lentils with various spices such as ginger, coriander, cumin, and red chilli powder for a spicy, delicious dish.
Street food is one of the best ways to experience India’s cultural and regional diversity. Try wada pav and pav bhaji in Mumbai, jhal mudi (puffed rice) in Calcutta, or mutton biryani in Hyderabad. From makeshift roadside stalls to small carts, street food is everywhere here. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean and fresh, as well as cooked right in front of you.
Chaat is a small, savoury snack served just about everywhere in India, from roadside stalls to street vendors to hurriedly assembled carts and is perhaps Northern India’s most popular treat. There are numerous variants, some of which include potatoes, others fried bread, and still others chickpeas. Try the delicious variations of this dish, including papri chaat, aloo chaat, dahi puri, and dahi vada.
This popular Indian snack is filled with a ball of spiced potato, peas, and chilli that is divided and stuffed into dough and then deep fried for an explosion of mouth-wateringly delicious flavours.
Aloo vada is much loved in India on a rainy day. Essentially, it is a potato coated with a floury batter and deep fried. It is served with various chutneys such as date and tamarind chutney or green chutney. Sometimes it is stuffed in a sandwich or bun and eaten for lunch.
This roadside favourite is high in taste and low in cost. It combines potatoes and vegetables simmered with butter and spices. It is served as a meal or as a side.
You will find on your holiday in India that prices are much less than you are used to at home. A dinner at a restaurant costs around 500 to 800 Indian Rupees, while street food costs a fraction of that. A 1.5 litre bottle of water costs about 20 Indian Rupees while a bottle of wine costs about 500 Indian Rupees.
The national dress of India varies quite a lot, as is fitting with its vast ethnic, geographic, climate, and cultural traditions. Traditional costumes are worn in daily life in some regions, while only worn for festivals or celebrations in other regions. Many people in urban areas wear western-style clothing or combine western and Indian styles, for example leggings with long tunics or saris.
The traditional dress for women are saris (an unstitched piece of cloth worn in different styles), salwar kameez (a pair of loose pyjamas held together with a drawstring around the waist) or ghaghra cholis (a long, embroidered gypsy skirt worn with a cropped, fitted blouse that shows the midriff). Men wear a dhoti (a long piece of unstitched white cloth which is wrapped around the waist and between the legs), lungi (a piece of cloth sewn in a circle and worn around the waist like a sarong), or kurta (the ethnic pyjama).
You will experience all manner of customs and traditions on your holiday to India. This geographically and culturally diverse nation differs greatly from east to west, north to south. This diversity means customs and traditions vary greatly between ethnic, religious, and geographic groups.
In regards to etiquette, however, there a few things to bear in mind, including:
• Indians dress conservatively and it is important to keep your legs covered.
• When entering mosques, temples, or churches take off your shoes, dress conservatively, and cover your head.
• The traditional greeting in India is called the namaste, placing your hands together and raising them below your face.
• Good manners in India require you take your shoes off before entering someone’s home and sometimes even shops. If you see shoes at an entrance, you should take yours off as well.
• Feet are considered unclean, so be careful not to touch people or things with your feet or point with your feet.
• Confusingly, perhaps, it is considered respectful to bend and touch an elderly person’s feet.
• Indians often touch their head or eyes to apologise.
• Indians eat Indian food (although not other cuisines) while seated on the floor and with their hands, using their right hand to eat and their left to serve.
• Cows are holy in the Hindu religion and it is taboo to eat beef in many Indian states.
• Refusing holy food can cause offense.
• Flower garlands are offered as a sign of respect and honour.
The rich and varied geography of India, ranging from the rugged Himalayas to the tropical rainforests, provides a wide variety of animals. Many of these animals are preserved in the country’s 89 national parks, 13 Bio Reserves, and more than 400 wildlife sanctuaries. India is home to lions, tigers, black panthers, cheetahs, wolves, crocodiles, rhinoceroses, monkeys, and the mighty Asian elephant. The term used to describe the wilderness of India is jungle, a name made popular by the movie The Jungle Book. There are over 1,300 species of birds throughout India, of which 42 are endemic and 26 are rare.
India is home to about 50 to 60 percent of Asia’s elephants. Many national parks have Elephant Safari’s where you can ride an elephant through jungle trails to see other animals, such as tigers. Ride elephants through Corbett Tiger Reserve, at the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Kerala, in Mudumalai National Park, or in Thekkady.
India has between 3,500 and 4,000 tigers spread throughout 39 tiger reserves. Bandhavgarh National Park, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, has Asian tigers, as well as the beautiful white tiger. See the park and the tigers from the back of an elephant or by taking a jeep safari into the jungle. Other tiger reserves include Darrah in Rajasthan, Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh, Kudremukha in Karnataka, and Nameri in Assam.
The arid desert landscape in the northwest of India offers opportunities for camel safaris. These tours take you on the back of a camel to see the beauty and desolation of the desert and give you a glimpse of traditional Indian life in the desert. For an authentic cultural experience, book an overnight trip where you will stay in a primitive thatched mud hut and eat traditional food.
India’s rich habitat and climate variety provide for a plethora of birds. Over 1,300 of the world’s 8,650 species can be seen in India. From the coastal mangrove forests to the Sub-Alpine forests, the tropical deciduous forests, to the dense evergreen forests, you will see birds of every size, shape and colour. For truly spectacular bird watching, head to Keoladeo National Park (also called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary). There are around 300 species of birds that live here. Hire a rickshaw driver to take you through the park and point out birds.