India - General Information

Currency Information

The currency of India is the Indian Rupee (1 Rupee = 100 Paise). The import and export of local currency is prohibited. We recommend you take your spending money in Pounds Sterling or U.S. Dollars cash.

You will be able to exchange your money in the hotels. Credit cards are widely accepted in India.

Please note Indian Rupees must be exchanged back before departure from India. Indian Rupees are not usually accepted for payment in duty free.

Means of Payment

When travelling outside of the UK, you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card). Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.

Passports/Identification

If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel. 

If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel. 

Please note it is a requirement in India to be able to show some form of identification at all times, if requested by the police or judicial authorities. In most cases it should be sufficient to carry a photocopy of the data page of your passport. However, you should be prepared to be accompanied by the police to collect the original document if necessary, or to produce it within twelve hours of notification. A driving licence or credit card is not considered sufficient proof of identity.

Tipping

Tipping has not been part of the British way of life but it is a common practice in most holiday destinations.  It is a way of saying thank you to someone who has given good service or for a job well done.  It is also an important source of income for people working in the tourism industry, whether it is the driver, local guide, hotel staff or in local bars and restaurants.  Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you of what an appropriate amount is and when to give it. 

Porters and restaurant staff at your discretion. Please note that tips may also be given in U.S. Dollars.

Tips or gratuities are not included in the holiday cost and are totally at your discretion.

Duty-free allowance

You’re allowed to take into India a maximum of 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. 2 litres of spirits or wine.

If your journey involves a subsequent transit or onward flight and you intend to buy liquid duty free please speak to check-in staff to enquire if your baggage will be checked straight through to your final destination.  If you cannot transfer your duty free into your baggage or check it in again, then it will be confiscated when going through security.  It is worth knowing that duty free staff generally will not advise you of this.

Please check these allowances prior to travel as they are subject to change.

Home shipment

If you purchase larger items such as furniture, carpets, pottery and ornaments it can become costly when they are delivered back to the UK. It generally takes around 10-12 weeks to arrive back into the UK and the necessary taxes and fees can sometimes exceed the actual amount you have paid for the item. We recommend that if you do wish to make such a purchase it should be from a reputable store and always ensure your documentation and payment method is clear before leaving the shop. Please note you may be required to pay VAT/import duty charges upon receipt of your purchase in the UK. All Leisure Holidays cannot accept responsibility for delivery of purchases.

Climate & Clothing

The Indian climate is scorching hot during the summer months. We recommend checking the weather forecast a few days before you travel.

During Spring and Autumn the days are mild and sunny with cool evenings. Winter is cold in northern India, particularly in Shimla. Most of the rain falls between July and September but not heavy tropical rains like coastal India.

Casual lightweight clothes including a sunhat are recommended throughout the tour. You may also wish to take a warm jacket or jumper for the cooler evenings and the winter season. A pair of sensible shoes suitable for walking is also recommended.

Shimla is located on the lower ranges of the Himalayas at an altitude of around 2200 metres and has a pleasant climate throughout the year although it does experience cold winters and even snowfall. We would, therefore, recommend taking warmer clothes when visiting during the winter months of December to February.

Shorts and skimpy tops are not considered suitable when visiting temples and it is also usual to remove your shoes. You may wish to carry a pair of socks to make your visit more enjoyable. Some hotels feature a swimming pool so we recommend you take a swimsuit.

Other suggested items to bring to enhance your stay:

  • Sun tan lotion
  • Sun hat
  • Insect repellent and plug-ins
  • Torch
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer gel
  • Sunglasses
  • Rehydration sachets (available from most chemists)

Altitude (if visiting Shimla)

Altitude sickness (also known as acute mountain sickness - AMS) can occur in healthy adults at heights from 4,900ft/1,500m above sea level. Altitude sickness is more common, and also more severe, at higher altitudes of 8,200ft/2,500m and above. About one in two people going to heights of over 13,100ft/4,000m develop altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness isn't related to physical fitness.

Cause - The lack of oxygen at altitude means that the heart and lungs have to work harder to supply the muscles and brain with oxygen. This increases breathing and heart rate.

Symptoms - headache, tired, feeling or being sick, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, dizziness, difficulty with sleeping and irregular breathing when sleeping.

Symptoms can start immediately upon arrival - especially if flying directly into a region at higher altitude - customers should take their time to walk slowly to the vehicles waiting to take them to the hotels upon arrival. Symptoms usually occur within 24 hours and normally start to ease within about two days as the body gets used to the high altitude, particularly if you don't go any higher.

If symptoms persist or get worse then a doctor should be consulted and you should descend to a lower altitude as soon as possible. 

Altitude sickness is a common condition and is treatable but, in rare cases, it can lead to more serious medical conditions that are potentially fatal. If symptoms worsen or in doubt then a doctor should be called.

If you have any medical condition relating to the heart or lungs or suffer with asthma then you should consult your GP before travelling above 4,000m.

Treatment - rest; drink plenty of water, painkillers for headache and anti sickness medicines to ease the feelings of nausea and dizziness.  Local guides can sometimes take clients to local pharmacies in the high altitude areas where altitude tablets can be personally purchased.

Prevention - drink lots of water (3-4 litres per day), eat light easily digestible meals such as pasta and avoid red meat which is hard to digest and alcohol which has a very intense affect at altitude as well as a dehydrating affect on the body; avoid strenuous exercise or activity for the first few days after arrival at high altitude and have rest days planned if you are ascending further.

Food & Drink

In India, food is an important business. Characteristic of all cooking is the use of spices. Not only are they used for flavour but also as appetite stimulants and digestives.

The various regions produce different varieties; meat dishes tend to be more northern, for example Rogan Josh - curried lamb, Gushtabi - spicy meatballs in yoghurt and Biriyani - chicken or lamb in saffron flavoured rice. Mughlai cuisine is creamy with nuts and saffron. Tandoori is also from the north where chicken meats or fish are marinated in herbs and cooked in clay pots. You will find vegetarian meals throughout India.

Indian desserts are excellent and nobody makes ice-cream quite like them, traditional desserts are Kulfi (like ice-cream), jalebi (cartwheel shaped pancakes with syrup), rasgulla (milkcurd based sweetmeats).

The most popular drink is tea, which is brewed and sold cheaply on each street corner, served sweet with milk. Lassi, a curd-based drink is widely available.

India produces its own beers which are quite good and reasonably priced.

The laws governing alcohol vary from state to state. In particular, you will find that some hotels in the southern state of Kerala do not hold a licence to sell alcohol. Also, dry days are specific days when the sale of alcohol is banned. National holidays such as Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti are usually dry days throughout India. All imported spirits and beers tend to be expensive.

Voltage

The voltage in India is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. We recommend you take an international adaptor plug with you. Plugs used are of the round two- and three-pin type.

Please note that travel electrical equipment such as kettles or irons should not be used in your hotel room as they can be a fire hazard. In most Indian hotels, rooms have hairdryers.

For Your Safety

Problems of pick-pocketing of handbags and passports can be common in India especially in the major cities, as in any major tourist destination. We would warn you always to be careful of your personal belongings and not to carry your passports/extra cash/credit cards etc unless necessary. These should be left in a hotel safe where possible.

You should be particularly careful of handbags and wallets - where you need to carry money and documents it is advisable to use a money belt under your clothes rather than an exposed one.

If you’re exploring on your own we recommend you carry a card or brochure containing the hotel name and address which you can then give to a taxi driver in case you become lost.

Excursions and activities

We recommend you do not purchase excursions from hotels or street vendors as these may not have been safety checked, may not meet required local standards or have adequate insurance cover.

If you choose to partake in an activity you should ensure your travel insurance covers you for that specific activity.

We recommend you heed any additional advice specific to your destination, given to you by your Tour Manager or Local guide.

Immunisations

There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to India however we strongly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse who will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.

Mosquito Advice

As you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are present, we strongly recommend you are adequately prepared before you start your holiday.  While the risk of you becoming infected by a mosquito is extremely small, we would not want your holiday spoiled by a nasty bite or illness that is easily preventable with some simple pre-cautionary steps.

We therefore advise (subject to consultation with a qualified pharmacist or your doctor) you purchase high performance mosquito repellent before your trip and apply this regularly during your holiday, including when you go to bed.  We would also suggest that you take with you a ‘plug-in’ mosquito repellent device for your hotel room as an extra measure. These, along with DEET based repellents, are available from most pharmacies.

The National Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends using DEET based repellents with a concentration of over 20% as these give a longer duration of protection than other types currently available. Repellents with a concentration of 50% DEET have the longest duration of protection and require fewer applications per day. It is extremely important to re-apply throughout the day, particularly in hot or humid conditions or after swimming.  When both sunscreen and DEET are required, DEET should be applied afterwards.

Mosquitoes are active close to any open water, but their biting habits vary between species, so it’s best to assume you are at risk of being bitten at any time throughout the day or night. Remember to adequately cover your arms and legs – long trousers and sleeves are definitely a good idea. You can also spray your clothing with DEET products, but their effectiveness is shorter on clothing than on skin.

If you are bitten by a mosquito and develop a high fever for two consecutive days, you should seek urgent medical assistance.

Planning for your trip

We don’t recommend you rely on pharmacies in India having specific, prescribed medicines so please make sure to pack more than enough for the duration of your holiday.

Prescription medicines are normally required to be declared at check-in and your Tour Manager can help you with this if needed.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea can be caused by many different organisms including bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, parasites such as Giardia, and viruses such as norovirus. All these organisms are spread through the faecal/oral route (eating/drinking contaminated food/water or contact between the mouth and dirty hands, cups, plates, money etc).

Remember loose motions can also result from a change in diet including, for example, spicy or oily foods.

Prevention

This depends upon taking effective food and water precautions. Personal hygiene when eating and drinking is very important including hand washing prior to eating and using clean plates, cups and utensils. It is also advisable to wash your hands after handling money.

Treatment

Rehydration

The priority in treatment is preventing dehydration especially in young children and more mature adults.

Clear fluids such as diluted fruit juices or ideally specially prepared oral rehydrating solutions such as Dioralyte® (which can be purchased at a pharmacy in the UK before travel) should be drunk liberally. All rehydrating drinks must be prepared with safe water e.g. bottled.

Antidiarrhoeal Agents

For mild/moderate diarrhoea only.

Loperamide (Imodium®) or diphenoxylate plus atropine (Lomotil®) can help, particularly with associated colicky pains.

If symptoms persist without improvement after 72 hours medical help should be sought.

Additional Preventive Measures

Most cases of travellers’ diarrhoea are mild and will settle after a few days with simple measures such as rehydration. In certain situations additional measures may be considered to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea developing. This is not a substitute to practicing good food and water hygiene.

Recommended before Travel

Bimuno® TRAVELAID can help support digestive health while abroad. This unique patented formulation has been specially developed for travellers by international experts in digestive health.

Scientific studies indicate that the unique second generation prebiotic Galacto-oligosaccharide formulation of Bimuno TRAVELAID, helps encourage and sustain a healthy level of your gut’s ‘good’ bacteria (Bifidobacteria) while reducing less preferred types of bacteria. If the gut flora is healthy and the good bacteria abundant it forms a natural barrier against troublesome bacteria.

By maintaining a favourable balance of ‘good’ versus bad you can help to support your digestive health while abroad.  Since the benefits of TRAVELAID build over time it is recommended that you take the product for 7 days before your departure and each day whilst you are abroad.

Because of its effectiveness TRAVELAID is recommended by many travel clinicians and Bimuno is an approved Travel industry partner of ABTA. However, please check with your Doctor before taking if you are on any other medication.

Accommodation & Bathrooms

You will find that in some hotels there is not always uniformity of rooms, so size and shape may vary a great deal.  We cannot therefore guarantee that all rooms for our customers will be the same in each property. 

Hotels in India do not always have Coffee and Tea making facilities in the bedrooms.

Tap water

Tap water everywhere contains some bacteria and different minerals. You are used to the tap water back home but when you travel, the water is different and it may upset you. For this reason it is safer to drink the bottled water and it is advisable to ask for drinks without ice.

Hand sanitizers

It may be prudent to carry a hand sanitizer for use overseas, especially after handling money. 

Swimming Pools

Where hotels have their own swimming pools, you may wish to arrange to take your own towels, as some hotels do not provide these.  Always familiarise yourself with the depth of the pool before swimming.  Diving is not recommended.

Time zones

India is 5½ hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Journey times

Distances between sites and cities in India can be extensive. This, coupled with poor quality roads in places and the sheer density of traffic mean than some journeys can be much longer that you would expect of a similar length journey in the UK.

Coaches

Some coaches used on our Long Haul holidays may be equipped with a WC and washbasin however this cannot be guaranteed.  In all cases, regular comfort stops will be made to ensure a relaxing journey.

Please note that smoking is not permitted on any of our coaches.

Extra charges

Please note that payment for any extras such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls and meals other than those included in your tour price, must be made directly to your hotel prior to departure.

Lost property

We will endeavour to trace any lost property and provide you with contact details in order that you may recover your property.

Shopping

Many of our tours take in local shops and markets and some will visit factory shops or outlets, selling a range of goods.  However we cannot accept responsibility for the quality of the goods you have purchased or for any costs you may incur in having them delivered to your home address. 

Please ensure you have a clear understanding of the price you have agreed with the vendor and the conversion rate of local currency to sterling pounds, before signing for the sale either in cash or using your credit card.  Please exercise care when using your PIN number abroad making sure it is not visible to others.

Photographs of Buddha’s

You should avoid posing for photographs in front of a statue of Buddha. The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for posing for such photos.

Begging

Although the poverty in India is sometimes difficult to deal with, we ask that you not give anything to beggars. Simply, handouts are not going to solve anything (apart from maybe assuaging your feelings of guilt) because they decrease the chances of helping these people to become self-reliant. Be prepared for the pressure to give; tourists usually give at least ten times the amount that Indian nationals do, so you will be an appealing target. The following is a common scenario: you decide to give a few rupees / a candy / a pen to a lone child. Somehow, before you know it, ten more children are swarming around you with outstretched hands and pleading voices. Most likely, you will not have enough for everyone, and the memory you will have of the experience is of the children that did not get anything, and the resultant squabbling.