India has forever been a popular travel destination for tourists seeking wellness and spiritual growth. India, today is one the fastest-growing, wellness travel destination, with a projected 22 per cent annual growth rate. While the country is very welcoming to foreign visitors, it helps to be acquainted with local, Indian customs to avoid causing offence or disrespect to your host.
Here are some of our do’s and don’ts, when travelling in India.
Indian summers are unforgiving and the winters are equally severe, especially in the North. South India is normally warm through the year. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka in South India do experience a mild winter between the months of November and February. It is advisable to check the weather before you arrive; including the months you will be staying on.
Avoid revealing clothes and ensure you are modestly dressed at all times. Women can wear comfortable pants and half or full-sleeved tunics. Shorts, mini-skirts and dresses should be avoided, especially in Indian villages and remote tourist destinations. Men are expected to be conservative with their choice of clothing too. Do not bare your torso in public areas and stick to pants or jeans in your travels.
Safety is an important concern for those travelling to India, especially for women. One might find them being ‘stared at’ – it is best to avoid these looks by averting your eyes and avoiding an altercation. However, if you find anyone trying to get too close for comfort, raise an alarm and inform the police or a manager at your hotel/resort. Avoid late night travel, as far as possible, unless you’re accompanied by trusted company. Do not become too friendly with the local guides or young local males to the extent of sharing personal details and trusting them with your money. Always contact the hotel for money related issues, including currency exchange and funds for safekeeping. However, you may find that hotels/resorts tend to give less competitive rates.
Take caution in crowded locations, such as packed buses or trains, in which it is easy for pickpockets to operate. Make sure you do not leave your valuables unattended on the beach; in backpacks in your dormitory accommodation or even in carry-on luggage, when travelling. Take care of monkeys too, they are known to steal things from hotel rooms with open windows, or even to snatch bags from unsuspecting shoulders.
In the event that you fall sick or ill during the course of your stay in the country, check with the hotel staff for an on-call doctor. Avoid walking into a roadside clinic for a consultation or prescription.
Hiring Taxis or Scooters
Do not hire taxis or scooters from unauthorized personnel for local sightseeing or transport to the airport. Most hotels and resorts are happy to arrange for transport, on request. Similarly, do not book air, train or bus tickets from local travel agents – it is best to check with the hotel or resort staff for recommendations. Beware of touts at airports and railway stations. Always hire your taxis from pre-paid booths that are easy to spot.
There may be several touristic places of interest near your wellness center. Take the help of your hotel concierge to arrange for a guide and transport to visit these locations or look out for guided trips.
You may also choose to check with AyurUniverse for help with booking tickets and hiring of taxis.
The food at your wellness center is typically planned according to the treatment or package you select. In most cases, it is likely to be vegetarian, Satvik food. Most Ayurvedic centers or hospitals do not offer alcohol. However, certain resorts that offer wellness programs do offer non veg and alcohol.
If you are travelling outside the resort, avoid spicy Indian food, and road side eateries. Be sure to drink only bottled or mineral water when travelling in India.
Remember that a number of Indians, especially from the South, prefer eating with their hands. Always be sure to eat with your right hand and never offer your left hand to accept food or money from your hosts. The left hand is best left for unsavory functions such as taking off your shoes.
The other rule to watch when eating or drinking is that your lips should not touch other people’s food – jhutha, or sullied food, is strictly taboo. When drinking out of a cup or bottle to be shared with others, don’t let it touch your lips, but rather pour it directly into your mouth. It is customary to wash your hands before and after eating.
Losing your passport
Losing your passport can be a real nightmare but does not necessarily mean the end of your trip. First, report the loss immediately to the police, who will issue you a “complaint form” that allows you to travel around , check into hotels and claim any expenses incurred in replacing your passport from your insurer. Then get in touch with your nearest embassy or consulate in India for a replacement passport. An emergency passport is the cheapest form of replacement but will be valid only for the few days till your return flight.
If you’re not sure when you’re leaving India, you’ll have to obtain a (more costly) full passport; these are issued by high commissions, embassies and larger consulates usually in Delhi or Mumbai, although they can be arranged through consulates in Chennai, Kolkata or Goa.
Hindus make up majority of India’s population. Muslims form the next majority followed by Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains. Most religious centers in most Indians are known to get emotional while discussing their faith. Religion is a topic, best avoided while travelling in India.
In Indian culture guests are given special importance and it is imperative for them to treat visitors with respect and warmth. When meeting with a local, remember to always stretch out your right hand to offer or accept anything. Similarly, do not offer your hand for shaking unless it is offered to you first. A simple Namaste – the joining of your palms in prayer position – will impress your hosts. Do not lean in for a hug or kiss when meeting someone for the first time in India. You will find India full of eager, friendly faces trying to ensure that you enjoy a memorable and pleasant trip to the country.
VISA TO INDIA
India offers the facility of e-tourist Visas for citizens of 150 countries arriving in 16 airports in India. Travelers can easily apply and pay for this visa online and their eTV will be emailed to them. To be eligible for this visa, a traveler’s objective of visiting India must be recreation, sight-seeing, visit to meet friends or relatives, short duration medical treatment or casual business visit. Passport should have at least six months validity from the date of arrival in India. International travelers must also have a return ticket or onward journey ticket, with sufficient money to spend during his/her stay in India.
The e-Tourist visa facility is available for nationals of following countries/territories:
Albania, Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Island, Chile, China, China- SAR Hongkong, China- SAR Macau, Colombia, Comoros, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d’lvoire, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Island, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, Vanuatu, Vatican City-Holy See, Venezuela, Vietnam., Zambia, Zimbabwe.
AyurUniverse offers a meet-and-greet facility at the airport but should you choose to do it on your own, we recommend enlisting a government taxi. A number of wellness centers offer airport pickups too. We strongly recommend avoiding travel in the night, especially for women. And, beware of touts at the airport, and when hiring taxis and scooters. Should you face any kind of problem during your stay in the country, call us on our 24-hour helpline.