How do you even start to summarise a country as large and diverse as India?
Maybe you begin with the highlights everyone knows: the Taj Mahal, just as spectacular as you thought it would be, or the pink roofs of Rajastan’s Jaipur. But that neglects the hidden treasures – the diverse cultures of north-east India, or cosmopolitan Kochi, in southern Kerala. And you have to discuss one of the world’s best cuisines, ranging from North Indian biryani to South Indian dosa through sugary desserts such as gulab jamun. Perhaps the answer is that you’re just going to have to visit to even begin to capture India’s complexity – we promise you won’t regret it.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Public transport is the main form of transport for Indian citizens, and is therefore very heavily used. India’s rail network is the third longest in the world, but suffers from infrastructure issues and lack of investment. Taxis, richshaws and buses are also an option, though prices are variable. It is advised to agree on a fixed price prior to boarding.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Health & Safety
Personal safety, particularly for women and girls, can be a concern in India, including in tourist destinations. Women travellers should take particular care and avoid travelling alone on public transportation, especially at night. We recommend respecting local dress codes and customs and avoiding isolated areas. Petty crime, including pickpocketing and bag-snatching, is common, particularly in crowded areas such as markets, airports and on buses, metros and trains (including overnight and long-distance trains). During the winter months, air pollution in some parts of India can spike to hazardous levels and those with pre-existing medical conditions, the very young, or the elderly may be particularly vulnerable. If you intend to travel or live in India during the winter months, you may wish to seek medical advice in advance of your trip.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply runs at 230V, 50Hz. India uses plugs of Types C, D and M.
Icons of Delhi
Ethnic villages in India
Indian Standard time (IST) is the time observed throughout India, with a time offset of UTC+5:30. India does not observe daylight saving or other seasonal adjustments.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services. Most of the time, especially in large restaurants, a service charge or gratuity is already included in the bill. If not, it is fine to tip 10% of the total cost of the bill. If you want to make sure they do receive the money, it is best to give it to the staff directly or leave small change on the table. Tipping at hotels can be confusing at times. It is customary to tip service providers at hotels. It is also best to give bellboys a small gratuity of around 20-50 (about $1.00) rupees per bag. Do not allow someone to grab your bags if you do not want to tip them. A small tip for housekeeping is also perfectly acceptable.
Internet access is fairly accessible, and most hotels will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in India. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for India
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of Rupee in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.