Know more about India
India is a land of extreme diversity, one where your senses are likely to go on overdrive and you must let go of everything you ever knew to open up to an unprecedented experience of life itself. It is called “Incredible India” by its Ministry of Tourism for good reason. Read on to know more about India.
What to expect
If ever there was a delightful organised chaos, India is it. Your eyes will feast on the myriad of colours of saris, market stalls, homes, temples, festivals, forts and cities. Unfamiliar smells of perfumes, incense and fresh spices mingled with cooking smells and city smells will fill your nostrils yet leave you curious. Food flavours differ considerably from state to state, as does people’s attire, culture and tradition. Songs, mantras, bells and calls to prayer emerge simultaneously from temples, monasteries, churches and mosques, equally respected, all for the love of God. Meanwhile, Bollywood music blares out from every shop and mobile phone as young Indians romantacise being in love while being destined to an arranged marriage.
India is indeed a land of contrasts and a fine example of humility, tolerance, respect and harmony in diversity. It is home to 1.2 billion people of different religions and social standing, while each of the twentynine states possesses its own unique character, so remarkably different from the others. It would take years to see all of India and even longer to comprehend it, where old and new coexist in an inexplicable defeat of time itself; where luxury hotels lie alongside slums; where a home built from scrap wood, cardboard and plastic can house a 26 inch colour television; and where barefoot children with sparse clothing and matted hair are wearing the brightest smiles you’ve ever seen.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, expect to be mesmerised by the paradigms of experience at the most enchanting show on the planet.
Indulge ● Experience ● Explore
India has never ceased to fascinate. While the Rajasthani desert and Himalayas are known to provide a quiet retreat for the soul and rural villages offer insight to a sweet and simple life, most cities are bustling with crowds of people and vehicles – from cycle rickshaws to elephants – filling the streets, with chatter and horns ever rising in chorus. India is so diverse it has something to charm everyone.
Whatever you are looking for, you can find it here. Explore various religious traditions coexisting side by side, practice yoga, experience rituals, meet holy babas, go on pilgrimage, and meditate. Learn to play an instrument, a skill, a philosophy or an art – the options are endless. Go climbing, whitewater rafting or trekking, if that is your thing. Enjoy the good life on exotic beaches. Immerse yourself in local culture. Whatever your interests may be, India is for you.
Travel and accommodation
Visiting India no longer means having to rough it. Rickshaws, buses and trains, guest houses and homestays are still an option and, because in Indian culture, “the guest is God,” you will find a humble welcome and good service no matter how you choose to travel or where you choose to stay. But cars, first class train carriages, domestic flights and luxury accommodation have done a lot to expand the tourism market, while guided tours offer insider knowledge and an extended sense of safety to explore this wonderful country.
Guided tours of India
India’s charm is prevalent whether you are immersed in city madness, the peaceful Himalayan mountains in the north, the amazing Rajasthani desert, or the lush, tropical south. While it is impossible to illustrate the extent of all of India’s iconic destinations, here are some recommended tours by Namaste Nomad – your local guide based in Ireland – to start you off:
Holistic Kerala Tour
Travel to beautiful Kerala in the south, “God’s own Country”, to enjoy a relaxing, calming experience in a lush environment. Feel rejuvenated with Yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic healing massage treatments. Explore the hills of Kerala with its spices and tea plantations. Relish a houseboat experience in the back waters. Kerala is easy going and perfect for a first time visit.
Kerala and Goa
Combine a cultural experience in Kerala with a retreat to glorious Goa. Goa is the mecca of holiday-making in India, with wonderful beaches catering to all kinds of visitors. Get ready for sea, sun, entertainment and shopping in a wonderful environment dominated by coconut palms and sand.
Goa and the Golden Triangle
You want a little taste of everything? Combine the attractions of Goa with the ancient culture of the north this time. Experience the coexistence of traditional and modern Indian city lifestyle in Delhi, marvel at the Taj Mahal and go shopping in Agra, and be charmed by the pink city of Jaipur in the Rajasthani desert.
The Golden Triangle and Varanasi
Do you want to experience spiritual India as well as exploring its diversity? Take the Golden Triangle tour which combines Varanasi in its itinerary. Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, with traditions lasting millennia and an environment that will have you wondering just which epoch in time you’re really in.
The Golden Triangle including Rajasthan Safari
The Golden Triangle may be the main tourist circuit, and with good reason – it provides a great cultural overview of India. Include a Rajasthan Safari with an authentic camel driver out in the desert and you also take home a unique experience of life out in the desert.
The Golden Triangle and Ladakh
Are you curious about the life and culture in the Himalayas? Do you want an insight into Hindu, Mughal and Buddhist history in India and explore how these cultures live on today? Explore Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Ladakh, or Little Tibet.
The Golden Triangle and Markha Valley Trek
Immerse yourself in the Himalyan lifestyle with a wonderful trek departing from the Ladhaki city of Leh, which lies deep in the mountains. The trek takes you through a large diversity of landscapes, scattered high villages and crops of barley, wheat and mustard.
Exclusive Indian Village Tour – Delhi, Rajasthan and Mumbai
Experience authentic Indian culture by totally immersing yourself in the lives and environment of local people. Journey through villages, stay in people’s homes, eat local food and gain insight to local skills and crafts to experience real India off the beaten tourist trail.
When to go
There is no single time of year that’s perfect for everywhere in India. The country is huge and includes mountains, rainforests and a desert. When to go largely depends on where you want to go. If your holidays are fixed at a particular time of year, there will always be something to discover in certain parts of the country.
In general, the cool dry season stretches from November to March. The monsoon affects most regions during the summer, yet the Manali-Leh highway deep in the Himalayas is only accessible during the summer months. For trekking and northern tea plantations, August to September offer the best climate.
Allow Namaste Nomad specialist travel agents to inform you about the best time to visit which destination.
Know before you go
Due to the British colonisation, English is a national language in India and it is widely spoken. You should have no trouble at all in tourist areas, shops and other services you may require.
A visa is required to travel to India and it must be acquired in advance. This can be done via the Indian embassy or consulate in your respective country or through a travel agent for a fee. You may also be eligible for an E-tourist visa, which can be acquired online.
You must obtain travel insurance in order to obtain a visa. This is also advisable in any case, as it offers peace of mind in case of sickness, accident and theft or loss of belongings.
It is recommended you get vaccinated against hepatitis, typhoid and tetanus and your doctor may also recommend additional inoculation. Anti-malarial medication is usually unnecessary, but do protect yourself with mosquito repellent and cover up at dawn and dusk.
Do not get overly concerned about “Delhi belly.” Tourist restaurants, hotel restaurants and gourmet restaurants know to tone down the chili and maintain good food hygiene standards. Avoid drinking local water and keep your hands sanitised to help you keep risks to a minimum. Enjoying street food is part of the experience (choose well), but avoid it if you think it could make you sick. Inability to digest the India experience is just as likely to give you an upset stomach as anything you put in it.
The currency in India is the Rupee, which is not available to exchange outside India. ATMs are easily available in cities but travellers cheques can be useful in more remote areas or ensure you have enough cash before you go. Currency exchange from dollars and euros is easily available.
The usual precautions regarding your passport and valuables apply. A culture of honesty prevails so there is no need to be over cautious. Beggars and touts will pester you for what they want as opposed to stealing.
Dealing with beggars
In India, for many, begging is a profession by choice. It is recommended not to encourage it by giving money. If you do not wish to turn a blind eye, keep a bag of bananas and offer one – if a beggar is really hungry, he or she will accept it.
Wearing local attire always wins favour with Indian people as they respect your desire to conform with their customs. In general, ladies should dress discreetly and avoid exposing shoulders and legs, as these are generally covered up by Indian women’s traditional clothing.
Customs and Etiquette
As a visitor, you are not expected to comply with the myriad of customs which vary from place to place. Your guide will offer you the essentials so that you don’t inadvertently offend anyone.
There is so much to take in that it can be overwhelming. You are also likely to encounter the aspects of India that are dirty, smelly and poverty stricken, although this is not as widespread as some would have you believe. When there are so many flowers in the garden, try not to focus on the pile of rubbish. If you are susceptible to impression and do not enjoy leaving your comfort zone, luxury tourism may provide the balance you need to remain captivated by the colour without succumbing to the challenges of thick immersion in local Indian lifestyle.
Now that you know more about India, contact Namaste Nomad to discover it yourself.
Check our next group departure to Kerala – www.namastenomad.ie