India travel guide: everything you need to know

Taj Mahal, India

Disclaimer : This information is general in nature only. While Budget Direct has endeavoured to ensure the information we’ve relied on is accurate and current, we do not guarantee it. Budget Direct accepts no liability for this information.

India is a vibrant country of exquisite natural beauty and cultural opulence.

You could travel for months from one vibrant city to a rural village—and everywhere in between—and still not be able to explore all of the sacred sites, centuries-old majestic monuments, ancient religious ritual sites and extraordinary places.

India is a vast world in its own right, coloured by stunning landscapes, relentless cultural spirit and enthralling urban centres. Also, as the birthplace of yoga, India offers spiritual reawakening and meditation retreats with its various yoga centres and ashrams. Incredible India is a great resource to plan your trip within India.

Yet, among spectacular temples and romantic palaces, there exists poverty, slums and evidence of the diverse country’s glaring disparities. No traveller can afford to go unprepared, physically, emotionally or intellectually.

Your trip to India requires advanced planning including safety awareness, protective measures (like insurance coverage for travelling and medical vaccinations), cultural expectations and, most importantly, adventures to embark upon.

Quick Travel Notes

Etiquette & Customs: Indian etiquette is quite formal, a mix of both Western and Asian culture. India was part of the British Commonwealth for many years and as a result of that connection a considerable volume of the Indian population have been influenced by the British style of etiquette – formal and somewhat conservative.


Always greet the eldest person in a group first, and when leaving make sure to bid farewell to each person individually. Although shaking hands is customary, handshakes between a man and a woman are seldom because of religious beliefs.

If you’re invited into someone’s home, take off your shoes before entering, dress modestly and politely turn down the first offer of food or drink. (The host will ask again.) Also, it’s not necessary to bring a gift when you’re invited to an Indian home.

Indian etiquette considers it important to use a person’s title wherever it is possible, titles such as doctor or professor etc. Use courtesy titles such as “Mr”, “Mrs”, or “Miss” for those without professional titles and wait to be invited to use first names.

Try ‘Sir/ Ma’am’ for strangers and ‘Uncle/ Aunty’ (or Chachaji, Mausiji etc) for familiar people. For a stranger who is not so old, it is better to suffix the name with ‘ji’, as a mark of respect.

Ecotourism: Visit to learn about eco-responsible hotels in India that are dedicated to preserving the environment and supporting local communities. The Indian-based online guide provides sustainable and responsible accommodation options in India’s most popular places and undiscovered destinations.

Search by destination, select a price and choose a category to find homestay hideaways, beach villas, beach resorts, mountain retreats and more.

Transportation: Most of India’s population uses public transportation, especially since transportation is a major part of the country’s economy. India’s rail transport is the fourth largest railway network in the world and the most common way to travel long distance. Indian locals and tourists can also get around by bicycles and rickshaws.

Along with railways, public transport includes buses, taxi, auto rickshaws and automobiles.

Temperature & Weather: The country’s weather vastly ranges from tropical in the south to snowy in the north and hot and dry in central India. The country is also divided into seven distinct climatic regions, including the Himalayas, Assam and West Bengal, Indo-Gangetic Plain/North Indian Plain, Western Ghats and coast, Deccan Plateau and Eastern Ghats and coast.

Winter, summer and monsoon make up India’s seasons. Summer starts in February and reaches its peak in April. Signs of monsoon season start in late May to October. In November, the sunny skies and relatively cool temps of winter move in and attract travellers, marking it as India’s peak tourist season.

Do, See & Explore

To help narrow down your Indian excursion, here are 10 discernible destinations embellished with cultural accolades and natural ornate beauty that make up the heart and soul of India.

  • Delhi: Delhi, the nation’s capital, is a cultural metropolis thriving off beautiful urban chaos and rich history. During your Old and New Delhi excursion, include Red Fort on the itinerary to see the ancient walls of powerful Mughal emperors who once ruled India. Make stops at Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, the Baha’i Temple, also known as the Lotus Temple, and Qutab Minar, the world’s largest brick minaret.
  • Agra: This northern Indian city is home to the Taj Mahal, an architectural masterpiece and one of the stunning Seven Wonders of the World. The fabled magical Mausoleum signifies the exotic splendour of India and its beguiling historical origins.
  • Udaipur: Udaipur charms the world as one of the dreamiest destinations and most romantic cities in the world. Allured by luminous Rajput palaces, picturesque lakes, museums and gardens, travellers from across the globe visit India to see Udaipur, also known as “the city of lakes” and “Venice of the East.”
  • Orchha: Orchha is an architectural wonder and medieval city adorned with palaces and temples of epic grandeur. While exploring Orchha, tour Fort Complex where you can visit the admired Raj Mahal, Jahangir Mahal and Rai Praveen Mahal palaces.

  • Varanasi: The Shiva-founded City of Life resides along the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. Travellers wander the streets of this old Hindu holy city to experience the colourful city’s spiritual rituals. For instance, ghats lining the Ganges is where pilgrims flock to wash away their sins or cremate deceased loved ones.
  • Jodphur: Rajasthan’s Blue City dazzles with vibrant colours, from the blue-painted houses of the old city to the vibrant colours of Indian garments and bazaars. Besides admiring the city’s vivid hues, tour the ancient fortress Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan palace.
  • Gangotri: The Gangotri village and Hindu pilgrim town in Uttarakhand resides along the Ganges river. After visiting the Gangotri Temple, adventurers can trek the 19 km of Gaumukh, the heart of the Hindu faith, in the Gangotri Glacier and Himalayas.
  • Jaisalmer: To experience the true aesthetic opulence of India, make a stop in Rajasthan’s majestic Golden City, a magical sand oasis among the great Thar Desert. Travellers will find Jaisalmer Fort, one of the biggest fortifications in the world and tourist monuments made of sandstone walls. A desert camel trek at sunset could also be an unforgettable highlight of your trip.
  • Palolem: The crescent-shaped Palolem Beach of Canacoa, Goa, offers unspoiled sandy shorelines and gorgeous scenic views. Beach huts (of varying price points) are the most popular type of accommodation. Escape from the fast-paced metropoles of India to the tranquil Palolem beaches and lounge among towering coconut palms and tropical gardens.
  • Darjeeling: This Himalayan hill town in West Bengal attracts tourists for its tea production, incredible Kanchenjunga vistas and Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Happy Valley Tea Garden, Tiger Hill and Dhirdham Temple are all notable stops to make during your stay.

Health & Safety

Vaccines & Medicines
Health officials recommend visiting your doctor four to six weeks prior to travelling to get routine vaccines including:

  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Polio
  • Yearly flu shot

Most travellers should get Hepatitis A and Typhoid as protection from contaminated food and water.

Also, prevent bug bites from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas to reduce the risk of disease while travelling in India. Travellers may be susceptible to dengue fever and mosquito-borne diseases. Wear clothes that cover exposed skin and use insect repellent. Stay in air-conditioned or screened rooms, and use a bed net if you’re sleeping outdoors. Seek medical attention for any signs of a fever.

Food & Drink

Food and drink awareness is a traveller’s first defence against illness and disease.

  • Never drink tap water, filtered water, well water or ice.
  • Only drink sealed bottled or disinfected water and ice as well as carbonated drinks, hot coffee, hot tea and pasteurised milk.
  • Eat cooked food served hot.
  • Don’t eat food served at room temperature or from street vendors. Avoid raw, undercooked or rare meat or fish, unpeeled or unwashed fruits and vegetables, unpasteurised dairy products, bushmeat, fresh fruit juices and salads.
  • Visit the Department of Health website for more information on vaccines and medicines, outdoor safety, germ exposure and other tips for staying safe during travel in India.

Medical Care

Although India has great medical facilities available but it can be very expensive. Protect yourself with travel insurance in case of an emergency that requires immediate health care or a medical evacuation.

According to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “Healthcare agreements are no substitute for travel insurance. They won’t cover you if a doctor recommends medical evacuation back to Australia.”

Even the healthiest and fittest travellers can’t afford to travel to India without a comprehensive policy. Keep in mind malaria is high-risk in India. Talk to your doctor about prescription medicine to prevent the disease, and verify that any prescription drugs are legal to bring into the country.

If you need to take prescription drugs while abroad, bring extra medication and carry a card identifying all of your medical information.

Crime & Civil Unrest
Because of terrorist attacks and security threats in India, use extreme caution and practice personal security at all times. Give attention to any public alert warnings about terrorist activity issued by the Indian Government. The DFAT offers safety and security guidance on the following:

  • Protests, demonstrations and communal violence
  • Major secular and religious holidays, ceremonies and gatherings
  • Indian regions, states, cities and rural areas to avoid

Women Safety
Female foreigners are highly encouraged to exercise vigilance at all times. Use common sense, travel with heightened attention and follow your instincts, even in major cities, tourist spots and during group travel. For the most positive experience, women travellers should do the following:

  • Research extensively. Learn about the country’s customs and mentally prepare for a major cultural adjustment
  • Wearing Indian attire like a kurta or salwar kameez can help women adopt respectful and traditional Indian dress
  • Discern situations carefully, use judgment in revealing too much or too little about yourself and be assertive
  • Book an upper berth on train trips for extra privacy and security
  • Avoid travelling on foot and public transportation at night, as well as arriving and departing at night

A Country of Beauty, Bewilderment & Brilliance

India is undoubtedly a country that has no rival. It proudly lives with audacious spirit and unparalleled beauty. It’s unapologetic for its materialistic-driven society or arguably dysfunctional, perhaps misunderstood, ways of life.

India is a country of paradoxical existence, oscillating between ancient architectural grandeur and world-class technologies to perilous political strife and dismaying social conflict.

The country can perplex or fascinate from one instance to another, which is why it’s a destination for epic adventures and unforgettable experiences. Treat the country with respect, embrace the culture, be flexible and have an open heart.

Plan to have the best trip imaginable and prepare for the worst case scenario. But also don’t neglect to protect yourself during your adventures abroad by taking the necessary pre-trip precautions and purchasing travel insurance.

Equipped with coverage and other indispensable safety measures like vaccinations and security info, travellers can embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience to India.

This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Travel Insurance

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