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General Information - India

Location

India is flanked by the borders of Pakistan, Myanmar, China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The Himalayas form the northern part of the country while the southern part lies on the coasts of Arabian sea in the west, Indian Ocean in the south and Bay of Bengal in the east.

Climate

India is so vast that the climate will vary enormously from the far north to the extreme south. There are three main seasons  – the hot, the monsoon and the cool. All of these seasons can vary in duration depending on the location within India.  The most popular time to visit is during the cool season which is generally from November to February. The northern Himalayn region can be a good time to visit during the hot summer season

Religion

India has more diversity of religions and sects that any other county on earlth. Nearly all the world’s great religions are represented with 80% of the population practicing Hinduism. Sadhus are the colourful spiritual seekers found wandering around India and cities such as Varanisi draw Hindu devotees from all over the world. Muslims make up India’s largest religious minority. Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism are all practiced and accepted within India.

Language

The principal official language of the Republic of India is Standard Hindi and English is the second official language. The major language families are the Indo-Aryan languages which are spoken by over 70% of Indians and the Dravidian languages spoken by over 20% of Indians.

Population

Currently the population of India is 1.22 billion with 1,000 males for every 940 females.

Money, currency and exchange

The currency is the Indian Rupee which is divided into 100 paise, but paise coins are rarely used. Notes range from 10 – 1000 rupees. ATMs are widely available. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus. Cash or travellers cheques in US dollars are a good back up in case of power cuts.

Major currencies such as US dollars, UK pounds and euros are easy to change throughout India, though some bank branches insist on travellers cheques only. A few banks also accept Australian, Canadian and New Zealand dollars, and Swiss francs. Credit cards are accepted at growing numbers of shops, upmarket restaurants, hotels and travel operators.

Visas

A visa for India should be applied for before arriving in India and generally an onward travel ticket is a requirement for most visas. Six-month multiple-entry tourist visas (valid from the date of issue) are granted to nationals of most countries regardless of how long you intend to stay. Tourists who wish to visit another country during their stay in India must wait two months before re-entering India, for more information on this or for visas for more than six months, check with your nearest Indian Embassy. Visas are priced in the local currency; Brits pay UK£30, Americans pay US$60, Austra­lians pay A$75 (an extra A$15 service fee applies at consulates) and Japanese citizens pay just ¥1200.

Insurance

Never travel without health insurance – illness and accidents can occur anywhere and emergency evacuation is horrendously expensive. Check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered for whatever activities you intend to participate in on your trip and declare any existing medical conditions.

Health & Safety

Pack medications in their original, clearly labelled containers and make sure you bring a letter from your doctor explaining the necessity for your medication and usage. It is advisable to bring double your ordinary needs of medication just in case of loss or theft and although many medications are available in India without a prescription, it may be difficult to find your particular medication.

Time

India is 5 ½ hours ahead of GMT, 4 ½ hours behind Australian Eastern Standard time and 10 ½ hours ahead of American Eastern Standard Time