Travel Information

Passport & Visa:  You must have a valid passport and Indian Visa to enter India.  Download a Visa form from the Indian consulate in your area.  Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months.  You usually will be applying for a tourist visa.     Journalist visas are given to professional journalists and photographers for up to 3 month stay in India. You want a journalist visa when you require access to a particular region, a particular person or you intend on working in a sensitive place.  The journalist visa is advisable if you are intending to be anywhere or do anything that involves officialdom or the military.

Money & Valuables:  Leave your valuables at home.   Only bring what you are willing to carry with you at all times.  The currency in India is the rupee (Rs).  You can order Rs from your local financial institution so that you have some when you arrive in India.  It is not necessary to bring all of the money that you will need as most banks have ATM machines that will give Indian rupees when you use your USA, Canadian  or European ATM card.  However,  most ATM’s will not take a pin number over 4 digits.  There are ATM’s and currency exchange in the arrival hall of the New Delhi airport.  It would be a good idea to get rupees here.  Any foreign exchange should only be done in at a currency exchange, bank or at your hotel.  The commission will be higher at a hotel, but the exchange rate is so good that a few rupees won’t matter and the convenience will be worthwhile.  If someone approaches you and says they can give you a higher rate that the banks, do not do business with that person. It is called exchanging on the black market and is highly illegal.  You can be arrested for doing this.

Luggage:    Check with your airline regarding how many pieces of luggage you are allowed and the maximum weights.  It is good to have locks for you luggage once we are in India and on the road.  Try to pack as light as possible and remember to leave some room for shopping.

Clothing:  India is a modest society and it is appropriate to dress accordingly.  It will be hot in Delhi and will cool off as we head north to Anandpur Sahib, Rishikesh, Dharmshala and Kashmir.  It is acceptable for men to wear tank tops and long shorts but not for women.  No tank tops, undershirts, low cut shirts, tight tee shirts, sheer shirts or pants, or short skirts.  If you can see any of your undergarments in any way, it’s inappropriate in India.  Yoga pants and t-shirts or tunics are perfect.  Ready made Indian clothing will be available for purchase at reasonable prices.  Bring a long scarf that you can drape over our shoulders.  Please note that head coverings are required for entering temples and Gurdwaras.  It’s a good idea to bring a head covering that you’re used to and that will stay on your head.  In India shoes are taken off frequently, so sandals and slip-ons are the most convenient footwear.  Remember, your feet will get very dirty wearing sandals.  Though it is not very fashionable, sandals and socks are a good combination.  Flip flops are considered more of a shower shoe, so not so good to wear them in public,  Tevas with straps are a good call.

Medical Supplies:  You may experience a bout of sickness while in India.  There are many strange bacteria and amoebae to which your body has never been exposed and for which you do not have antibodies.  It will probably be diarrhea (or ‘loose motions’ as it is referred to there).  There are some things that you can take as a preventative measure such as the vaccine Dukoral, but once it hits, it is best to go straight for the allopathic medicines like Imodium.  Please see below for recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and a list of what some people take to India with them.

The Center for Disease Control recommends a shot for Hepatitis A one month prior to going, pill vaccination for Typhoid one week before going.  They recommend malaria pills starting one week before going.  Hepatitis B is recommended if you predict blood exposure, but we don’t.  None of there are requirements for going.  Talk to your doctor about it.  Everyone’s health requirements and sensitivities are different.  You can check out the CDC website at:

Talk to your doctor about bringing a supply (at least 6-500mgm pills) of the antibiotic Cipro or its equivalent, for the treatment of traveler’s diarrhea.

Taking along some insect repellant (DEET 30% is the most effective) for mosquitoes and some sun block is a good idea.

Other recommendations:  Oral re-hydration solutions, electrolyte replacement crystals,  anti-nausea medicine ( Compazine, Gravol, etc), homeopathic first aid kit, bandages, blister pads, Bacitracin ointment, Tylenol or Advil, decongestants, anti-histamines, Immodium.

Bring any other medications you require.  Keep a list of your medications, so that in the event you lose them, they can be replaced.  Allopathic medicines are available in India but often under other names.

Natural Prevention:  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and in light of that adage, here is another list to consider:

Do not eat anything that has not been cooked, peeled or washed properly in filtered water.

Drink only bottled or filtered water .. stay away from ice.

7-R herb caps (good for sleep)

96-R herb caps – (great flu remedy)


anything green, like Chlorella (if you are used to salad this will help compensate)

arnica cream

Vitamin B (great for stress)

Constipation remedy

Echinacea and Golden Seal

Emergen-C packets

Grapefruit seed extract (Biotin – this is a great natural antibiotic)

Oil of Oregano (supports prevention of inflammatory, respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions)

Natural throat lozenges

Melatonin (to adjust you internal time clock)

It is recommended that you make packets of your daily supplements so you do not have a lot of bottles and jars to carry.

Jet Lag:   There is a 12 hour time difference between India and Los Angeles.  One of the hardest adjustments to make it just getting your body’s time clock on schedule.   Everyone has their special remedies to combat jetlag.  There are homeopathic jetlag pills available.  Some people drink only liquids for the entire flight.   Some say that if you take something to make you sleep on the plane, it helps to adjust things quicker.  Others say that if you immediately adjust your watch to the time of your destination and use sleeping pills and then caffeine to sleep and wake at the appropriate times that it helps.   Ask around and find out what you can do to help yourself adjust.

Water:  To prevent sickness, do not drink anything other than filtered or bottled water.  Do not drink anything with ice in it unless you are in a hotel and they have filtered water.  Always ask.

Food:  Street food in India is not subject to any health code; therefore it is best to simply avoid it.  Food served in hotels, restaurants and homes is generally safe to eat.  If you have special dietary needs you will be best off bringing them with you.  The natural food movement has not yet hit India.  A staple in India is ‘Chai’, black tea.  They drink it morning, noon and night.   All sweets in India contain sugar.  if you need alternatives to sugar, you will need to bring them from home.

Breakfast is usually yogurt, fruit and parantha (stuffed flat bread).  Lunch and dinner will generally be Indian food, usually beans or lentils, rice, a vegetable dish, yogurt and flat bread, roti.  Suggested items to bring with you are: packets of miso soup, instant oatmeal, power/granola bars, trail mix, and anything else you can make with hot water or carry with you for snacks.

Phone Calls / Time Difference /Electricity:  International phone calls can be made from an STD (public telephone) office in order to avoid avoid the hotel surcharge. You will see signs for these phones everywhere.  You give them the number you need to call and they dial it for you and the meter starts running.  People have not had much luck using phone cards on the systems in India.  if you are calling from within India to the US, you will dial 001 then your area code and number.  If you are calling from Indian city to city you will dial a “0”  before the city code.   The best thing is to buy an inexpensive phone there ($25.00) or bring an international phone that takes Indian phone chips (sim cards).  You buy the sim card and prepay in rupees for the minutes you need.

For use of appliances and recharging anything, the electrical voltage is 220v and you will need to bring a voltage adapter and possibly a convertor.  Laptops usually have the capacity to run on both 220v or 110v and you will at least need to bring a plug adapter.

Personal Security:  Theft is not uncommon.  It is essential to take good care of personal valuables both when you are carrying them and when you have to leave them in hotels or other places.  You cannot regard any place as automatically safe.  it is best to leave valuables at home.  Keep your passport, cash, bank card, credit cards with you at all times.  Money belts worn under clothing are one of the safest options.   Purses and handbags should be made of material that is not easily cut.  External pockets (both on bags and clothing ) should never be used for carrying either money or important documents.  It is a good idea to have a photocopy of your passport in your luggage.  There is no way to control who is in a crowd.  Groping is possible.  Always take a partner or go with a group if possible.

Beggars: There can be many beggars on the streets, some of who may be physically handicapped.  This can be very distressing, but remember a coin given to one child or to a seemingly destitute woman on the street will make you the focus of a lot of demanding attention from a vast number of beggars before long.  It is best to give donations to an organization rather than to individuals.

Gender:  India is a very male-based society.  Women are only just now starting to take on careers of their own, more so in the big cities than in the villages.  Indian men have the impressions of Western Women that they are loose and easy.   They have gotten this idea from American movies where there are displays of sex and nudity.  There is no such thing in Indian films.  If you dress modestly and conduct yourself gracefully there will be no problem  Do not feel like you have to talk to anyone who approaches you.   If someone does grope you, feel free to yell very loudly at them.  Even a slap is not unexpected.

Toilets:  Due to the huge population of India and the great diversity of the people and cultures, creating a working infrastructure has been a great jumble.   Make sure to carry a tissue packet with you where ever you go.  Be prepared to use squat style toilets, which are ground level.  Please be prepared for unsanitary conditions.  At times we will need to take advantage of the sugarcane fields.

Air Pollution:  The majority of the vehicles in the cities are two stroke engines.  This has caused some severe pollution problems.   New Delhi once was quite horrendous but they have passed some laws and actually implemented them and now all the 3 wheelers and taxis are run on natural gas and the situation is much improved.

Laundry Service:  The hotels will have laundry service and small villages often have a laundry service available.   You will at times have a sink in your room and it is advisable to bring a universal sink stopper.

Shopping:  Most shopkeepers expect you to bargain with them, so the first price they tell you is not what they expect you to pay. In New Delhi there are government emporiums with fixed prices for artifacts and fabrics.  For high-end items, like carpets and jewelry you should know the market value before buying.  Credit cards are taken in many shops.   Some charge an extra 2-3% extra.  Master Card and Visa are usually preferred but they often do take American Express and Diner’s Club.

Taboos in India:  Here are some things considered unacceptable by the Indian Society (Just a FYI):

Smoking in sacred & religious areas.

Shoes in a sacred & religious area (even if they are hidden in your backpack)

Head exposed in a sacred & religious place.  (covering the head is a sign of respect)

Public displays of affection


Use of the left hand to eat or serve (since it is used in the toilet in India)

Touching someone’s head

Rudeness to elders.  All elder gentlemen can be referred to as “Babaji” and all older women as ‘Bibiji”

Mouth germs … if you are sharing a bottle of water it is polite not to touch it to your lips.

Pointing your feet towards someone or something sacred or touching your feet to someone else’s body.

Recommended books:  For a general introduction for a first time traveler The Lonely Planet Guide to India is pretty comprehensive.    Check your local bookstore for fiction and non-fiction by contemporary Indian writers to get into the spirit of things:

A Fine Balance … by Rohinton Mistry .. if you would like a scary realistic view of India … this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

Shantaram … by David Gregory Roberts .. a novel of high adventure, great storytelling and moral purpose, based on an extraordinary true story of eight years in the Bombay underworld.

Holy Cow … by Sarah MacDonald … a hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sihks, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars.  From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs … a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life – and her sanity – can survive.

Autobiography of a Yogi .. by Paramathansa Yogananda   … with unforgettable sincerity and incisive wit, he explains with scientific clarity the subtle but definite laws by which yogis perform miracles and attain self-mastery

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  … DVD … witty romantic comedy … 7 cash-strapped Brits journey to a retirement resort in India, friendship and romance blossom as they touch each other’s hearts in the most unexpected ways.  In the end, they will all discover that life and love can begin again when you embrace today and let go of the past.

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