India

From Halal Explorer

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India is the largest country in the Indian subcontinent and shares borders with Pakistan to the northwest, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan to the northeast, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. Nearby island countries in the Indian Ocean are Sri Lanka to the southeast and the Maldives to the southwest.

India is the seventh largest country in the world by area, and the second most populous country with over a billion people, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth. It's an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language and ethnicity.

Contents

An Introduction to the regions of India

India is administratively divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. The states are broadly demarcated on linguistic lines. They vary in size; the larger ones are bigger and more diverse than some countries of Europe. The union territories are smaller than the states—sometimes they are just one city—and they have much less autonomy. India has two island chains off the mainland – the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea.

The states and union territories are grouped by convention into the following regions:

  Himalayan North (Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand)
Mountainous and beautiful, a tourist destination for the adventurous and the spiritual. This region contains some of India's most visited hill stations and religious places.
  The Plains (Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh)
The plains, India's breadbasket, are watered by the holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna and their tributaries. The region also features the nation's capital, Delhi, Agra of Taj Mahal fame and the holy cities of Allahabad, Mathura, Varanasi and Bodha. Many of the events that shaped India's history took place in this region.
  Western India (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan)
Home to the vast Thar Desert; the colourful palaces, forts and cities of Rajasthan; the nation's most vibrant and largest city, Mumbai; the mesmerising rock-cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra; pristine forests; the wonderful beaches of Goa; the Asiatic lions of Gujarat in Gir jungles; and the rapidly developing cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Jaipur and Pune.
  Southern India (Andaman and Nicobar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Telangana)
Features famous and historical temples, tropical forests, backwaters, beaches, hill stations, and the vibrant cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad. The city of Mysore is world renowned for its palaces, especially the Mysore Palace. The island groups of Andaman & Nicobar (on the east) and Lakshadweep on the west, included in this region for convenience, are far from the mainland and have their own unique characteristics.
  Eastern India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, West Bengal)
Economically less developed, but culturally rich and perhaps the most welcoming to outsiders. Features Kolkata, once the capital of British India, and the temple cities of Puri, Bhubaneswar and Konark. The region stretches from the mountains to the coast, resulting in fascinating variations in climate. It is also the mineral storehouse of India, having the nation's largest and richest mines.
  North-Eastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura)
Insular and relatively virgin, this is the nation's tribal corner, with lush, beautiful landscapes, endemic flora and fauna of the Indo-Malayan group and famed tea gardens. Consists of seven states popularly known as the "Seven Sisters". The state of Meghalaya is depicted as the "Scotland of India" because of its mesmerizing environment.

Other Muslim friendly Cities in India

  • Delhi — the capital of India and the heart of Northern India
  • Bangalore (Bengaluru) — the beautiful garden city, once the sleepy home of pension takers, now transformed into an IT hub for high-technology companies and sprouting pubs.
  • Chennai (Madras) — the main port in Southern India, cultural centre, automobile capital of India and a fast emerging IT hub
  • Hyderabad — known for pearl and diamond trading, now with major manufacturing and financial institutions and a growing IT sector
  • Jaipur — the Pink City, a major exhibit of the Hindu Rajput culture of medieval Northern India
  • Kochi (Cochin) — the Queen of the Arabian Sea, historically a centre of international trade, now the gateway to the sandy beaches and backwaters
  • Kolkata (Calcutta) — the cultural capital of India, known as the City of Joy, and home to numerous colonial buildings
  • Mumbai (Bombay) — the largest city and the financial capital of India and the city that never sleeps, home of "Bollywood" and the Hindi film industry
  • Varanasi (Banaras or Kashi) — considered the most sacred Hindu city, on the banks of the Ganges, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in India

India has many outstanding monuments and areas of outstanding beauty. Here are some of the most notable.

  • Ellora — spectacular rock-cut cave monasteries and temples, holy place for the Buddhists, Jains and Hindus
  • Golden Temple Sikh holy site in Amritsar
  • Hampi — the awesome ruins of the empire of Vijayanagara
  • Khajuraho — temple complexes famed for their erotic sculptures
  • Konark — Sunday Temple, a unique example of Kalingan architecture, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Meenakshi Temple — a spectacular Hindu temple in Madurai
  • Taj Mahal — the incomparable marble tomb in Agra, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World

India Halal Explorer

Mumbai 03-2016 11 Haji Ali Dargah

India's legacy and culture is a rich amalgam of the past and present. This vast and populous country offers the traveller a view of fascinating religions and ethnography, a smorgasbord of languages, and architectural masterpieces that were built millennia ago that are in tact today. As the nation opens up to a globalised world, India still has a depth of history and intensity of culture that awe and fascinate the many who visit there.

One thing that foreign travellers need to know is that India is, in many ways, heterogeneous. If they experience one set of behaviours from the local residents in one part of the nation, it does not mean that the same behaviour is common in another area. To give a very simple example, a taxi driver in Mumbai will without saying a word drop his meter flag and return the exact change, while in Delhi you have to tell the driver to use the meter and hope you get your change, and in other areas taxi drivers or auto drivers don't even have meters and have fixed the rates for even short distances – and you just pay the amount demanded; if you do get an honest driver, consider yourself lucky. India shows extreme variation in most things, and one needs patience and luck to find the best. Never assume you know everything about any aspect of India; be prepared to see completely new things every day.

History of India

Humans are thought to have first migrated into the Indian subcontinent around 70,000 BCE and there are some archaeological sites for stone age India. One important one is at Mehrgarh (Pakistan), with the oldest known evidence of agriculture in the subcontinent, around 7000 BCE.

The Indus Valley Civilization (3300-1300 BCE) was one of the world's first Bronze Age civilizations and very advanced for its time. At its peak (2600-1900 BCE) it covered most of what is now Pakistan, plus some of northern India and eastern Afghanistan. The two biggest archaeological sites, both in Pakistan, are Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.

Some time after 2000 BCE and the Aryans, herdsmen from somewhere to the northwest, migrated into the region. At about the same time, related groups invaded Greece (Hellenic Greeks displacing Minoans), Anatolia or Türkiye (the Hittites), Persia and other areas. It is believed that all these tribes spoke related languages and many modern languages, including most of those spoken in northern India and in Europe and some in Central Asia, are descended from them. Linguists classify them all in the Indo-European language family.

The Vedic Period is dated to roughly 1500-500 BCE. This was the period when the Vedas and the oldest and holiest books of Hinduism, were compiled. They were in an Indo-Aryan language, Sanskrit. Many rituals of Hinduism took shape during that period.

The Vedic civilisation influences India to this day through the dharmic religions. Present-day Hinduism traces its roots to the Vedas, but is also heavily influenced by literature that came afterwards, ranging from the Upanishads and Puranas, to the great epics — Ramayana and Mahabharata. By tradition and these texts are claimed to only expand and distill the knowledge that is already present in the Vedas.

A section of the Mahabarata called the Bhagavad Gita is among the most widely read works. It is a dialogue, just before a great battle at Kurukshetra, between the hero Arjuna and the God Krishna who serves as his charioteer. Today Kurukshetra is a destination for both pilgrimage and tourism.

In the 1st millennium BCE, various schools of philosophical thought developed, enriching Hinduism greatly. Most of them claimed to derive from the Vedas. However, some of these schools, two of which were Buddhism and Jainism, questioned the authority of the Vedas, and they are now recognised as separate religions.

Many great empires arose between 500 BCE and 500 CE. Notable among them were the Mauryas and the Guptas, both with their capital in the city of Pataliputra, now called Patna. Further west and the Gandharan civilisation (an independent kingdom, later part of the Maurya Empire) ruled much of what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their city Taxila was a great center of Buddhist and other learning.

Over time there was a gradual decline of Buddhism and Jainism. The training of Buddhism, in particular, disappeared from India's heartland, though Buddha himself was incorporated into the Hindu pantheon. Jainism continues to be trainingd by a significant minority who are ambivalent about whether they consider themselves Hindus or not. Hinduism itself went through major changes. Vedic deities such as Indra and Agni became less important while Puranic deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and their various Avatars and family members gained prominence.

Islam started in the 8th century. Gradually the raiders started staying as rulers, and soon much of North India was ruled by Muslims. The most important Muslim rulers were the Mughal Empire that at its peak covered almost the entire subcontinent (save the southern and northeastern extremities), while the major Hindu force that survived in the North were the Rajputs. The bravery of the Rajputs in resisting invasion of their land is legendary and celebrated in ballads all over the forts of Rajasthan. Prominent among the Rajputs was Maha Rana Pratap and the ruler of Chittorgarh, who spent years in exile fighting Akbar and the third of the Mughals. Eventually, however and the Rajputs were subdued, and the Rajput-Mughal alliance remained strong until the end of the empire. This period of North India was a golden age for Indian art, architecture, and literature, producing the monumental gems of Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal. Hindi and Urdu also took root in medieval North India. During the Islamic period and there were Hindus that converted to Islam. Today, around 14% of India's population follow Islam.

Sikhism, another major religion, was established in Punjab during the Mughal period. Relations between Sikhism and the Mughals varied over time. The Golden Temple at Amritsar was built and recognised all over the world as Sikhs major pilgrimage centre. By the time of its tenth Guru however, Guru Gobind Singh, relations were hostile, primarily due to the antagonism of Aurangzeb and the most intolerant, brutal and bigoted of the Mughals. Conflict between the Sikhs and the Mughals was one of the causes for the eventual decline of the Mughal Empire. Another reason was the rise of the Maratha Empire in Maharashtra, which was started by Shivaji and carried on by the Peshwas. The Marathas established a short-lived confederacy that was almost as large as the Mughal Empire. Marathas lost their command over India after the third battle of Panipat, which in turn paved a way for British colonialism.

South India followed a different trajectory, being less affected by Islamic rule. The period from 500 to 1600 CE is called the classical period and was dominated by great South Indian kingdoms. The most prominent empires included the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Vijayanagara who ruled from present day Karnataka and the Pallavas, Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas who ruled from present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Among them and the Cholas, who ruled from various capital cities including Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram, are widely recognised to be the most powerful of the South Indian kingdoms, with their territory stretching as far north as Pataliputra and their influence spreading as far east as Sumatra, Western Borneo and Southern Vietnam at the height of their power. Some of the grandest Hindu and Jain monuments that exist in India were built during this time in South and East India.

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Northeast India was also fairly isolated from the rest of the nation until the colonial period. The largest and longest kingdom to rule over the Northeast were the Ahoms who, from the 13th to 19th centuries, successfully defended Assam and neighbouring regions from Mughal expansion.

European invadors started visiting India beginning in the late 16th century. Prominent among these were the British, Dutch, French and the Portuguese. The British East India Company made Calcutta their headquarters in 1772. They also established subsidiary cities like Bombay and Chennai|Madras. Calcutta later went on to become 'the second city of the empire after London'. By the 19th century and the British had, one way or the other assumed political control of virtually all of India, though the Portuguese and the Dutch and the French too had their enclaves along the coast. The British would send Indian labourers, policemen and soldiers all over the Empire, resulting in the establishment of Indian diaspora communities and the most notable ones in Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Fiji, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom itself.

There was an uprising by Indian rulers in 1857 which was suppressed, but which prompted the British government to take over from the Company and make India a part of the empire. This period of rule by the crown, 1858-1947, was called the British Raj. It was a period in which some Indians converted to Christianity, though forcible conversions ended in British India after 1859, and Queen Victoria's proclamation promised to respect the religious faiths of Indians.

Non-violent resistance to British colonialism led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi led to independence on 15 August 1947. However, independence was simultaneously granted to the secular Hindu-majority state of India and the smaller Muslim-majority state of Pakistan, and the orgy of Hindu-Muslim bloodletting that followed Partition led to the deaths of at least half a million and the migration of 12-14 million people.

India achieved self-sufficiency in food grains by the 1970s, ensuring that the large-scale famines that had been common are now history. However these policies also led to shortages, slow growth and large-scale corruption. After a balance-of-payments crisis in 1991 and the nation adopted free-market reforms which have continued at a steady pace ever since, fueling strong growth. The IT, Business Process Outsourcing and other industries have been the drivers for the growth, while manufacturing and agriculture, which have not experienced reforms, are lagging. About 60% of Indians live on agriculture and around 36% remain in poverty.

Relations with Pakistan have been frosty. The two countries have fought four wars, three of them over the status of Kashmir. The third war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. India continues to experience occasional terrorist attacks, many of which are widely believed to originate in Pakistan and be ordered or assisted by its military-intelligence complex.

China and India went to war in 1962 over a Himalayan border dispute. Current relations are peaceful but edgy. There are no land crossings allowed between the two countries, though one border crossing between Sikkim and Tibet was re-opened in 2006 for trade. Security concerns over Pakistan and China prompted India to test nuclear weapons twice (including the 1974 tests described as "peaceful explosions"). India wants to be accepted as a legitimate nuclear power and is campaigning for a permanent Security Council seat.

India is proud of its democratic record. Constitutional government and democratic freedoms have been safeguarded for most of its time as an independent country.

Time zone

Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC+5.5). Daylight Savings Time is not observed in India.

What is the Geography of India

Mountains, jungles, deserts and beaches, India has it all. It is bounded to the north and northeast by the snow-capped Himalayas and the tallest mountain range in the world. In addition to protecting the nation from invaders and they also feed the perennial rivers Ganga, Yamuna (Jamuna) and Sindhu (Indus) on whose plains India's civilization flourished. Though most of the Sindhu is in Pakistan now, three of its tributaries flow through Punjab (India) | Punjab. The other Himalayan river and the Brahmaputra flows through the northeast, mostly through Assam where it is known by different names.

South of Punjab lies the Aravalli range, which cuts Rajasthan into two. The western half of Rajasthan is occupied by the Thar desert. The Vindhyas cut across Central India, particularly through Madhya Pradesh and signify the start of the Deccan plateau, which covers almost the whole of the southern peninsula.

The Deccan plateau is bounded by the Western Ghats range (which is called Sahyadri in Maharashtra) to the West and the Eastern Ghats to the east. The plateau is more arid than the plains, as the rivers that feed the area, such as the Narmada, Godavari and the Kaveri, run dry during the summer. Towards the northeast of the Deccan plateau is what used to be a thickly forested area that covers the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and the eastern edge of Maharashtra and the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh. This area is still forested, poverty stricken and populated by tribal people. This forest acted as a barrier to the invasion of South India.

India has a long coastline. The west coast borders the Arabian Sea and the east coast the Bay of Bengal, both parts of the Indian Ocean.

How is the Climate in India

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In India, it rains only during a specific time of the year. The season as well as the phenomenon that causes it is called the monsoon. There are two of them and the Southwest and the Northeast, both named after the directions the winds come from. The Southwest monsoon is the more important one, as it causes rains over most parts of the nation, and is the crucial variable that decides how the crops will do. It lasts from June to September. The Southwest monsoon hits the west coast the most, as crossing the Western Ghats and reaching the rest of India is an uphill task for the winds. The western coastline is therefore much greener than the interior. The Northeast monsoon hits the east coast between October and February, mostly in the form of occasional cyclones that cause much devastation every year. The only region that gets rains from both monsoons is North-Eastern India, which consequently experiences the highest rainfall in the world.

India experiences at least three seasons a year, Summer, Rainy Season (or "Monsoon") and Winter, though in the tropical South calling the 25°C (77°F) weather "Winter" would be stretching the concept. The North experiences some extremes of heat in Summer and cold in Winter, but except in the Himalayan regions, snow is almost unheard of. November to January is the winter season and April and May are the hot months when everyone eagerly awaits the rains. There is also a brief spring in February and March, especially in North India.

Opinions are divided on whether any part of India actually experiences an Autumn, but the ancients had certainly identified such a season among the six seasons (or ritus - Vasanta - Spring, Greeshma - Summer, Varsha - Rainy, Sharat - Autumn, Hemanta - "Mild Winter"/"late autumn", Sheet - Winter) they had divided the year into.

Holidays and festivals

There are three national holidays: Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) which occur on the same day every year. In addition and there are three major nationwide festivals with shifting dates to be aware of:

  • Diwali (Deepavali), October - Nov — The festival of lights, celebrates the return of the Hindu God Rama to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years and victory of justice over injustice when Narakasura was killed by Satyabhama with the help of Krishna. Probably the most lavish festival in the nation, reminiscent (to U.S. travellers at least) of the food of Thanksgiving and the shopping and gifts of Christmas combined. Houses are decorated and there is glitter everywhere, and if you wander the streets on Diwali night and there will be firecrackers going off everywhere including sometimes under your feet.
  • Ugadhi, [sometimes also called 'Yugadhi' and various other names is one of the main festivals, which is mainly celebrated as the 1st day of the Hindu Calendar New Year. Which is one of the main festivals and quite widely followed in South India.
  • Durga Puja / Navarathri/Dussehara, September - Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dasara, when local residents worship the deity Durga. Workers are given sweets, cash bonuses, gifts and new clothes. It is also new year for businessmen, when they are supposed to start new account books. In some places like West Bengal, Durga Puja is the most important festival. In the north Dussehara celebrations take place and the slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama is ceremonially reenacted as Ram Lila. In Gujarat and South India, it is celebrated as Navarathri where the festival is celebrated by dancing to devotional songs and religious observances like fasts extended over a period of nine nights.
  • Holi, in March — The festival of colour is a major festival celebrated mainly in North, East and Western India. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it's a waterfight combined with showers of coloured powder. This is not a spectator sport: as a visible foreigner, you're a magnet for attention, so you'll either have to barricade yourself inside, or put on your most disposable clothes and join the fray. Alcohol and bhang (cannabis) are often involved and crowds can get rowdy as the evening wears on.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi, is celebrated all over India. Ganesh Chaturthi is festival of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh Chaturthi is most enjoyed in Maharashtra. It is the best time to visit cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur.DagduHalwai2013 - Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesha Idol during Ganesh Chaturthi 2013
  • Christmas and New Years Day are public holidays across the nation and Bank Holidays as well.
  • Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-uz-Zuha, Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi, Yawm-e-Aashoora and Ramazaan are widely celebrated and observed as public holidays across the nation.

Apart from these, each state has its own major national festival like Onam in Kerala, Makar Sankranti and Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Utarayan in Gujarat, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Baisakhi for Punjab, Bihu for Assam,Rathayatra(Car festival for lord Jagannath) in Odisha,Nuakhai for Western Odisha. India is a diverse nation, and festivals are main part of life for the local residents, and they provide holidays for about a week.

Religious holidays occur on different days each year, because the Hindu and Islamic festivals are based on their respective calendars and not on the Gregorian calendar. Most of them are celebrated only locally, so check the state or city you are visiting for information on whether there will be closures. Different regions might give somewhat different names to the same festival. To cater to varying religious trainings, offices have a list of optional holidays (called restricted holidays by the government) from which employees are allowed to pick two, in addition to the list of fixed holidays. This may mean thin attendance and delayed service even when the office is officially open.

Travel as a Muslim to India

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Buy a Flight ticket to and from India

The major points of entry are Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai. The airports at these cities are either new or undergoing development. The Hyderabad airport is rated as one of the top 5 airports in the 10-15 million passenger category. There are many nonstop, direct and connecting choices to these cities from Europe, North America, Middle East, Africa and Australia.

For secondary points of entry to India, consider Goa, Kolkata or the Malabar coast. There are many connections to the Malabar coast region to cities like Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram from the Middle East. Most of the major Middle Eastern carriers offer one-stop connections to the coast from their Gulf hubs. Goa is a favourite European tourist destination and thus is connected by many European charter operators like Condor, EdelWeiss, Thomas-Cook Airlines and Thomson-Airways. Kolkata is served by Emirates, Qatar-Airways, Singapore-Airlines and Thai-Airways.

India's national airline is AirIndia. Other Indian airlines that operate international flights include Jet-Airways, Indigo and SpiceJet These airlines offer daily Flights to major hubs around the world. You must carry a printed air ticket in order to take many domestic flights.

From the United States, United Airlines offers non-stop daily service from Newark Liberty International Airport|Newark to Delhi and Mumbai; AirIndia offers daily non-stop service to Delhi from New York–JFK, Newark, Dulles Airport|Washington–Dulles, San Francisco International Airport|San Francisco and O'Hare International Airport|Chicago O'Hare and to Mumbai from Newark (and soon JFK). Various European airlines offer connecting service through their European hubs from most major U.S. cities and various Asian airlines offer connecting service from West Coast cities through their Asian hubs.

Entries from Europe and North America are feasible using many European airlines such as Lufthansa, Finnair, British Airways, KLM-Airline, Air France and Virgin Atlantic. For long-term visitors (3–12 months), Swiss Airlines often have good deals from Switzerland with connecting Flights from major European and some American cities as well.

To save on tickets, consider connecting via Gulf countries, with Air Arabia (Sharjah -based low cost carrier with some connections to Europe), Etihad (especially if you need a one-way ticket or are going back to Europe from another Asian country) via Abu Dhabi, Emirates via Dubai or Qatar-Airways via Doha. These airlines are also the easiest way to come from the Gulf countries, along with Indian carriers, AirIndia, AirIndia Express, Indigo, Jet-Airways and SpiceJet.

From East Asia and Australia, Singapore (which is served by AirIndia, its low-cost subsidiary AirIndia Express, Jet-Airways, Singapore-Airlines, its subsidiary Silk-Air and low-cost subsidiary Scoot) has excellent connections with Flights to all the major cities and many smaller ones. As for the affordable way from Southeast Asia, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia is often the best choice (if booked well in advance, one-way ticket price is normally below US$100, sometimes being less than US$50 and they have connections from China, Australia and most South-east Asian countries). They fly from Kuala Lumpur into Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi and Tiruchirapalli. If you're going from Thailand, AirIndia Express flies from Chennai and Kolkata to Bangkok. Jet-Airways, AirIndia and Thai-Airways fly from there to a range of Indian cities as well. Silk-Air flies from Singapore to Hyderabad as well. Indigo, an Indian low-cost-carrier, also offers attractive fares to Singapore and Bangkok and is a pretty good option to consider.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in India

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India has several international ports on its peninsula. Kochi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai are the main ones handling passenger traffic, while the rest mainly handle cargo. However, due to the profusion of affordable flights and there no longer appear to be any scheduled ferry services from India to the Middle East. The southern island of Minicoy in Lakshadweep islands is now a permitted entry point.

Some cruise lines that travel to India include Indian Oceans Eden II and Grand Voyage Seychelles-Dubai.

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in India

There are two links from Pakistan. The Samjhauta Express runs from Lahore to Attari near Amritsar in Punjab (India) | Punjab. The Thar Express, restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service, runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province; however, this crossing is not open to foreign tourists. Neither train is the fastest, safest or the most practical way to go between India and Pakistan due to the long delay to clear customs and immigration (although the trains are sights in their own right and make for a fascinating trip). Ths Samjhauta express was the victim of a terrorist strike in February 2007, when bombs were set off killing many people. Should you want to get from one country to the other as quickly as feasible, walk across at Attari/Wagah.

From Nepal, trains run between Khajuri in Dhanusa neighborhood of Nepal and Jaynagar in Bihar, operated by Nepal Railways. Neither is of much interest for Muslim travellers and there are no onward connections into Nepal, so most travellers opt for the bus or plane instead.

Train services from Bangladesh were suspended for 42 years, but the Moitree Express started running again between Dhaka to Kolkata in April 2008. The service is biweekly: A Bangledeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday, returning on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.

You can see what trains are available between stations at the following sites: However, for booking of rail tickets through the internet you should use the Government of India's website For booking through this site, you have to register (which is free) and you need a credit/debit card. You can also take the services of many travel agents that charge a nominal service fee for booking train tickets.

By car

From Pakistan the only land crossing is from Lahore to Amritsar via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. See Istanbul to New Delhi over land. You will need a Carnet de Passage if crossing with your own vehicle. The process is not particularly lengthy - crossing with your own vehicle from/to Pakistan should take a maximum of 3 hours to clear both borders for you and your vehicle. There are also crossing points with Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.

The Nathu La pass in Sikkim, which borders Tibet in China is the only open border crossing between India and China. For now though, only traders are allowed to cross the border, and it is still not open to tourists. Special permits are required to visit the pass from either side.

Travel on a Bus in India

Tour from bus is feasible from neighbouring nations of Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

From Nepal

  • From Nepal buses cross the border daily, usually with connections to Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Varanasi. However, it's cheaper and more reliable to take one bus to the border crossing and another from there on. The border crossings are (India/Nepal side) Sunauli/Bhairawa from Varanasi, Raxaul/Birganj from Patna, Kolkata, Kakarbhitta from Darjeeling, and Mahendrenagar-Banbassa from Delhi.

From Bhutan

  • The Royal Bhutanese Government runs a service to/from Phuentsholing. These buses depart from Kolkata's Esplanade bus station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and from the Phuentsholing Bhutan Post office at 3PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey takes around 18 hours and costs ₹300. The buses are comfortable, but because much of the highway to Kolkata is like the surface of the moon, don't bank on getting much sleep on the way.
  • There is frequent service between Siliguri and Phuentsholing.

From Pakistan

From Pakistan the only land crossing is from Lahore to Amritsar via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. Despite tensions between the two countries and there is a steady trickle of travellers passing this way. The immigration procedures are fairly straightforward, but neither Pakistan nor India issue visas at the border crossing. Expect to take most of the day to go between Lahore and Amritsar on local buses. Normally it's feasible to get a direct bus from Amritsar to the border, walk to the other side and catch a direct bus to Lahore, although you may need to change at some point on route. Amritsar and Lahore are both fairly close to the border (about 30–40 minutes drive), so taxis are a faster and easier option.

The direct Delhi-Lahore service has restarted, though it is far more costly than local buses/trains, not any faster, and would mean you miss seeing Amritsar. You will also be stuck at the border for much longer while the bus is searched and all of the passengers go through immigration.

There is now a bus service across the 'Line of control' between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir; however, it is not open to foreign tourists.

From Bangladesh

From Bangladesh there are a number of land entry points to India. The most common way is the regular air-conditioned and comfortable bus services from Dhaka to Kolkata via Haridaspur (India)/Benapole (Bangladesh) border post. Bus companies 'Shyamoli', 'Shohag', 'Green Line' and others operate daily bus services under the label of the state owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). From Kolkata 2 buses leave every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey usually takes around 12 hours with a one-way fare of ₹400-450 or BDT600-800, roughly US$8–10.

Another daily bus service by 'Shyamoli' and others under the BRTC label from Dhaka connects Siliguri, but the buses in this route do not cross the Changrabanda/Burimari or Burungamari border post. Rather, passengers reaching the border have to clear customs, walk a few hundred yards to cross the border and board the awaiting connecting buses on the other end for the final destination. Ticket for Dhaka-Siliguri-Dhaka route costs BDT 1,600, roughly US$20–25 depending on conversion rates. Tickets are purchased either in Dhaka or in Siliguri.

There is also a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of Tripura. Two BRTC buses daily from Dhaka and the Tripura Road Transport Corporation plying its vehicles six days a week with a round fare costing US$10 connect the two cities. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey.

Other entry points from Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati/Haldibari, Banglaband border posts for entry to West Bengal; Tamabil border post for a route to Shillong in Meghalaya, and some others with lesser known routes to north-eastern Indian regions.

How to get around in India

Delhi_streets_in_the_morning_vrtmrgmpksk_(2)

India is big and there are lots of interesting ways to travel around it, most of which could not very well be described as efficient or punctual. Allow considerable buffer time for any journey with a fixed deadline (e.g. your flight back), and try to remember that getting there should be half the fun.

Travel in much of the North-East India|North-East (with the notable exception of Assam) and parts of Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand will require obtaining a Protected Area Permit (PAP). The easiest way to get one is to request it along with your visa application, in which case it will be added to your visa. Otherwise, you will need to hunt down a local Ministry of Home Affairs office and battle with bureaucracy.

Buy a Flight ticket to and from India

India's large size and uncertain roads make flying a viable option, especially as prices have tumbled in the last few years. Even India's offshore islands and remote mountain states are served by flights. Due to the aviation boom over the last few years, airports have not been able to keep up with the air traffic. Most Indian airports continue to function with one runway and a handful of boarding gates. Check in and security queues can be quite long, especially in Delhi and Mumbai. India has built two new international airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore, which are modern and well-equipped. Mumbai and New Delhi airports have been upgraded. The newly constructed terminal 3 in the Delhi airport is the 8th largest terminal in the world.

In northern India, particularly Delhi, heavy winter fog can wreak havoc on schedules, especially during Christmas Season and January, leading to massive delays across the nation. Flights to small airports up in the mountains, especially to Leh in Ladakh (which is reachable only by plane for most of the year), are erratic at the best of times.

Airlines

At one time, domestic flights were the monopoly of the government-owned Indian Airlines, but things have changed dramatically and now there are quite a few competitors, with prices a traveller's delight.The main operators are:

  • AirIndia, India's state owned carrier. Formerly two carriers, Indian Airlines (domestic) and AirIndia (mainly international). These merged in 2007.AirIndia has the largest network in the nation and provides excellent regional connectivity. Service is generally below par. Their services have been quite a few times in the past been affected by pilots' strikes. AirIndia also operates low-cost carrier AirIndia Express, which flies mainly on trunk routes and to international destinations in the Gulf and South-East Asia, and AirIndia Regional, which flies small aircraft to obscure places.
  • Indigo Airlines - low cost airline, connecting around 33 cities throughout the nation. Their planes are new A320s purchased directly from Airbus a few years ago at most.
  • Jet-Airways, full service airline with very good coverage. Now services London (LHR) directly from Delhi and Mumbai and Flights to/from Toronto via Amsterdam. Their subsidiary Jetlite, formerly Air Sahara, offers low cost services.
  • GoAir, another low cost carrier connecting around 22 cities across the nation. Mostly flies from their Mumbai base.
  • SpiceJet, a third low cost airline, serves around 34 domestic destinations.
  • Air Asia India, new launched low cost service airline
  • Vistara ,new launched full service airline

In India, air connectivity is not that good considering its vast size, so flying to a city and taking a train is not a bad idea.

Fares

The earlier you book and the lower you pay. You will hear a lot about air tickets at ₹500, but those are promotional rates for limited seats which are sold out within seconds. In some other cases and the advertised fare may not include charges such as passenger service fees, air fuel extra charge and taxes which will be added subsequently. Nonetheless, you do get good rates from the budget airlines. Tickets for small cities will cost more than those for the metros, because of the spotty coverage noted above. Indian ticket pricing has not attained the bewildering complexity that the Americans have achieved, but they are getting there. You don't have to worry about higher prices on weekends, lower prices for round-trips, lower prices for travel around weekends.

There are two complications for non-Indians trying to buy plane tickets:

  1. Many airlines have higher rates for Foreign Muslims than for Indians. Foreigners ("non-residents") will be charged in US dollars, whereas Indians will be charged in rupees. In training, you can simply pretend to be Indian when booking online as the check-in desk will rarely if ever care, but you are still running a small risk if you do this. When feasible it's best to patronize those airlines that do not follow this training.
  2. Many online booking via eHalal Hotels sites and some of the low-cost carriers reject non-Indian credit cards. Read the small print before you start booking, or book directly with the airline or through a bricks-and-mortar travel agency instead.

Check in

Checking in at Indian airports tends to be slow, involving lots of queues and multiple security checks. A few pointers to smooth your way:

  • Arrive at least two hours before departure if travelling from the major airports. (For domestic Flights from minor airports, 60 or 90 minutes before is fine.) The new rule dictates that check-in closes 45 minutes before departure time and boarding gate closes 25 minutes before departure. Though the original boarding might take longer, this rule is now being strictly implemented widely to avoid delays in flight departures.
  • Bring a print-out of your ticket or a soft copy of your ticket and a government-issued id, or else you are not allowed to enter the airport. They are checked and matched compulsorily at the airport entry gate by security guards. If you possess neither a printout or a soft copy, you can get a copy at the airline offices just outside the airport entry gate. Some airlines have started to charge for this privilege.
  • Most older airports require that you screen your checked bags before check-in, usually at a stand near the entrance. In high-security airports like Jammu, Srinagar or anywhere in the Northeast, even carry-on baggage needs to be screened. In fact all carry on baggage will be screened by an X-ray scanner and at the discretion of the security personnel, physically too.
  • Pick up a tag for every item of carry-on baggage and attach it to it. The staff at the security check point will stamp your boarding pass as well as the tags of your carry-on baggage. Do not put your boarding pass on the X-ray belt, bring it with you when you go trough the metal detector. Make sure you received all these stamps before leaving the security check area. Without a stamped boarding pass you will not be allowed to board the plane. You will not be allowed to take any items on board without a stamped tag attached.

Don't hesitate to ask someone if you are unsure. Most staff in airports are very helpful to passengers and will take pains to ensure you catch your flight. There are separate queues for passengers travelling light (without check-in baggage) and these queues are usually less crowded. Different airlines have different standards for what they allow as cabin baggage, so err on the side of caution, especially if you are travelling by a low-cost airline. Usually the allowed free baggage limit is 15 kg on most airlines.

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in India

Highest_rail_station_in_India_Ghum_IMG_7727_1

Railways were introduced in India in 1853, more than one and half a century ago by the British, and today India boasts of the biggest network of railway lines in the world, and the rail system is very efficient, if rarely on schedule. Travelling on Indian Railways gives you the opportunity to discover first hand the landscape and beauty of India, and is generally more economical than flying domestic. It is one of the safest ways of travel in India. With classes ranging from luxurious to regular, it's the best way to get to know the nation and its people. Most train passengers will be curious about you and happy to pass the time with a chat. If you are on a budget, travelling on an overnight sleeper train will reduce a night's stay at a hotel.

Regular trains

Trains come in many varieties, but the broad hierarchy from luxurious to normal is as follows:

  1. Rajdhani Express
  2. Shatabdi Express
  3. Duronto Express
  4. Jan Shatabdi Express
  5. Garib Rath Express
  6. Superfast Trains
  7. Mail/Express Trains
  8. Fast Passenger Trains
  9. Passenger Trains
  10. Local/suburban trains

The 'Rajdhani' & 'Shatabdi' trains are the most luxurious and fastest trains on Indian Railways. They are completely air-conditioned and have breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner included in your ticket price. The food is served at your seat during travel. Most of these trains also have modern German designed LHB coaches which are extremely comfortable and luxurious The 'Rajdhani' Express trains are fast long distance overnight that connect regional state capitals to the national capital Delhi. The 'Shatabdi' Express trains are fast short distance daytime intercity trains that connect important cities in a region, for example two adjacent states' capitals. The 'Duronto' Express (introduced in 2009) are fast long-distance "point to point" non stop trains that directly connect, without stopping, two important cities that are far apart. These trains have no commercial halts on their way but only operational halts for maintenance and crew changes. The 'Garib Rath' literally means the chariot of the poor, and it is an excellent option for those who want to use good facilities at low cost.

Luxury trains

Although the history of luxury train travelling in India dates back to the time of maharajas during the days of British Raj and the modern history of this mode of transportation dates back to 1982 with the introduction of India’s first luxury train Palace on Wheels. Palace on Wheels was introduced as a joint venture of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways to promote Rajasthan as a global tourist destination. The venture turned out to be a great success among overseas travellers and a few decades later more such train journeys followed.

At present there are 5 trains offering 12 signature journeys across major tourist destinations in India. Operated jointly by Indian Railways and respective state tourism departments, luxury trains in India offer a wonderful way to experience the sights in India without having to worry about the hassles of travel and lodging. Journeys on board these trains are all inclusive of lodging, dining, sightseeing, transportation and porter charges. Each of these luxury trains are equipped with state of the art amenities such as live television, individual climate control, restaurant, bar, lounges and cabins with electronic safe and attached bathrooms.

Mentioned below is the brief overview of the Indian Luxury Trains:

Palace_on_Wheels_luxury_train_at_Jaipur_India

  • Palace on Wheels, — The Palace on Wheels offer 7 nights/8 days itinerary starting from US $520 and carry the guests on a weeklong voyage across royal destinations in Rajasthan. All destinations included in the itinerary happen to be former princely states of Rajputana. The destinations covered in Palace on Wheels train itinerary are Jaipur, Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Agra and Delhi and includes sightseeing of forts, palaces along with a dash of wildlife, legacy and cultural interactions.
  • Maharajas' Express, — Dubbed as the most luxurious train of Asia, Maharajas Express is an internationally acclaimed and award winning luxury train in India. Maharajas’ Express also happens to be the latest luxury train to be introduced in India. It has created significant buzz in the global luxury travel segment owing to its refined interior, intricate decor, world class facilities and impeccable service. It is the only luxury train which offers lodging in presidential suite spanning over an entire carriage. Redefining the art of elegant travelling in India, Maharajas' Express train offers 5 rail journeys across tastefully selected tourist destinations in India,. The itineraries include 3 pan-Indian programs along with 2 golden triangle short tours. The journeys offered by this Indian luxury train are classified as the Heritage of India, The Indian Panorama, The Indian Splendor, Treasures of India and the Gems of India. State of the art amenities, elegant interiors, refined luxury and impeccable service along with technology such as pneumatic hydraulic suspension system add to the pampering and class of this marvelous rail tour in India.
  • Deccan Odyssey, — Second luxury train to be introduced in India after the Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey train journey covers destinations across two Indian states of Maharashtra and Goa. The Deccan Odyssey train offers a weeklong journey which crisscrosses through the fascinating terrains of Western Ghats and the Konkan Coast. Included in the itinerary is the trip to coastal fortress town of Sindhudurg, Ajanta and Ellora rock cut caves, Tarkali Beaches and Old Goa and Vasco among others. The all inclusive tariff of the Deccan Odyssey starts from US $425 per person per day on triple occupancy basis during the peak season and US $315 for the same during lean season (April and September run).
  • The Golden Chariot, — The Golden Chariot is the only luxury train offering two train tour itineraries in South India. The itineraries are named the Pride of the South and The Splendor of the South. Whereas the Pride of the South tour itinerary covers destinations in Karnataka along with a halt the India’s most prominent beach destination Goa and the Splendor of the South Itinerary offers tours to tastefully selected destinations across South India. Destinations covered during the 8 days itinerary of the Splendor of the South aboard the Golden Chariot include Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey and Kochi. Both journeys include a dash of cultural sights, World Heritage Sites, local interactions and wildlife.
  • Royal Rajasthan on Wheels — Equipped with modern amenities such as Wi-Fi internet, direct dial phones, Spa and satellite television, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels offer royal ride across destinations in Rajasthan along with stops in Varanasi, Khajuraho and Agra.
  • The Indian Maharaja — This train happens to be the India’s first privately managed luxury train. Winner of the coveted World Travel Awards in the category of Asia’s Leading Luxury Train and the Indian Maharaja takes guests on a weeklong adventure through several exotic destinations covering the vast expanse of Western, Central and North India. Destinations included in the itinerary of this luxury train are Mumbai, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Sawai Modhopur, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. The train is equipped with two dining cars serving fine Indian and Continental cuisine and catering and hospitality on board is managed by the prestigious Taj Group of hotels. To add to the luxury of the journey facilities such as a library, gymnasium and beauty parlour along with Wi-Fi internet and large screen live TVs are available on board.

Classes

Most countries offer two classes of service, but India has no less than seven to choose from. In descending order of cost & luxury and they are:

  • Long-distance
  • AC First (1A)
  • AC 2 Tier (2A)
  • AC 3 Tier (3A)
  • Sleeper Class (SL)
  • Short-distance
  • AC Chair Car (CC)
  • Second Class Chair Car (2S)
  • Unreserved
  • General compartments (GS)

Not all classes are available on all trains: for example, Chair Cars are usually found only on short-distance daytime trains, while the sleeper classes are only found on overnight journeys.

Full information about this classes is Rail_travel_in_India#Classes|here.

Different types of trains

Basically there are five types of trains:

  • Passenger Trains are slow trains that stop in all stations including very small stations.
  • Fast Passenger Trains are passenger trains that skip smaller stations and offer the same fare structure.
  • Express Trains stop only at major train stations and charge higher than Passenger trains.
  • Superfast Trains skip some of the major stations and charge even higher than Express Trains.
  • Rajadhani and Shadabdhi Trains are elite trains that offer only air-conditioned coaches. They stop only at selected stations. The fare is quite high because all food is included.

Train fare

The average fare for a 200 kilometers distance for different classes is given below :

  • First Class AC: ₹1,200
  • Two Tier AC: ₹617
  • Three Tier AC: ₹430
  • AC Chair Car: ₹203
  • Sleeper Class: ₹120
  • Second class seat in Express train: ₹70
  • Second class seat in Passenger train: ₹30

Ticketing

Trains tend to fill up early. Tickets can be reserved up to 4 months in advance. School summer vacation time — mid-April to mid-June — is peak season for the railways, which means that you may need to book well in advance. Other festival days, long weekends or holidays may see a similar rush.

Booking tickets from the railway website has vastly improved over the years. A lot of work has gone into the usability and responsiveness of the web site. Try not to book normal tickets during 09:00 to 12:00, as traffic to the website would be much higher due to tatkal reservation time and cause much higher failure rate.

Tickets are also available from counters at most train stations. Rail passes are also available, and are called Indrail passes. Details of facility available for tourists from abroad are available at the official website of the Indian Railways

India - Indian Railways Kitchen coach - 0989

One day before the departure date of a train the Tatkal quota seats become available. Tatkal accounts for about 10% of the total number of seats. This allows tourists who like to plan a trip as they go to book seats closer to the day of departure, for an extra fee. However booking for this service online or in person is an even more fraught experience.

It is sometimes difficult to book Tatkal tickets online because of excess amount of traffic on Indian railway website. Indian railway has launched E-wallet facility which enables user to keep money on Indian railway website for faster booking of tickets. This facility reduces the time of ticket booking because users skips the payment gateway processing time. It is very fast to book tickets using E-wallet facility. You may also need IFSC Code to transfer fund to Ewallet, but now you can also pay using your debit cards, credits cards, internet banking, etc. IFSC Code generally stands for Indian Financial System code which uniquely identifies bank branches in India, IFSC code is required to transfer money online in India. You can easily find IFSC Code using IFSC Code finder

Meals

Most long distance night trains(though not all) have a pantry car and if you are in the sleeper or air-con classes, you can buy meals on board the train. The pantry staff will visit your seat before meal timings to take down your order. However mostly the pantry vehicle meals aren't really good in quality or taste. The Railways are concerned about the bad quality of pantry vehicle meals and efforts are underway to improve things, but do not count on it as yet. If you are finicky, bring enough food for the journey including delays: bananas, bread, and Candies bars are good basics to have. You can purchase bottled waters, colas, packaged Snacks or biscuits from the pantry staff, who keep circulating them going from one coach to another. At most stations hawkers selling tea, peanuts, and snack food and even complete meals will go up and down the train. Most stations will have vendors selling all kinds of edible stuff. So you can also get down on the station platform to look for food , but make sure you know well and the stoppage timing of the train at that station. In the most luxurious 'Rajdhani' & 'Shatabdi' trains, meals are included in your ticket price and served at your seat during travel. There are no dining cars in Indian Railways except in select luxury trains.

Best way to travel in India by a Taxi

There was a time when the metered taxi was unheard of outside India's largest cities, and when it could be found, getting one that would take you to your destination and charge you the right rate was a rare event. This situation has undergone a drastic change for the better in the past few years, with many companies offering taxi services. Prominent among these are Meru, Ola, Taxi for sure, /cabs Picntic and Easy Cabs]. Uber too can be found in some cities of India.

In central locations of big cities like airports or stations reliable pre-paid taxis are available and will save you money as well as the bargaining hassle. These pre-paid taxi booths are managed by local traffic police officials, prefer to use this facility where ever available to avoid inconvenience. However, beware of agents who would claim themselves to be running pre-paid taxis. Always collect the receipt from the counter first. The receipt has two parts - one part is for your reference and the other part you will need to handover to the taxi driver only after you reach your desired destination. The taxi driver will get his payment by submitting or producing this other part to the pre-paid taxi counter. Be aware that the taxi driver may not know how to get to your destination, and will not tell you this beforehand. This may result in the taxi stopping at various points during the journey as the driver gets out to ask for directions. Insist on being taken to your original destination, and not a substitute offered by the driver (e.g. a different hotel).

Normal taxis running by meter are usually more common.

Travel on a Bus in India

Pathankot Bus

While you can not take a cross-country bus ride across India, buses are the second most popular way of travelling across states and the only affordable way of reaching many places not on the train network (e.g. Dharamsala).

Every state has its own public bus service, usually named "X Road Transport Corporation" (or XRTC) or "X State Transport Corporation" (or XSTC) which primarily connects intrastate routes, but will also have services to neighbouring states. There are usually multiple classes of buses. The ordinary buses (called differently in different states, e.g. "service bus") are extremely crowded with even standing room rarely available (unless you're among the first on board) as reservations are not feasible and they tend to stop at too many places. On the upside and they're very cheap, with even a 5-6 hour journey rarely costing over ₹100.

In addition to ordinary public buses and there are luxury or express buses available, and most have air-conditioning these days. Some state transport corporations have even introduced Volvo buses on some routes and these are extremely luxurious and comfortable. These better class "express" or "luxury" buses have assured seating (book in advance), and have limited stops, making them well worth the slight extra expense. But even these better-class buses rarely have toilets and make occasional snack and toilet breaks.

Private buses may or may not be available in the area you are travelling to, and even if they are and the quality could vary a lot. Be warned that many of the private buses, especially long-distance lines, play music and/or videos at ear-splitting volume. Even with earplugs it can be nerve-wracking. Restrooms are available in large bus stations but are crowded. The bus industry is extremely fragmented and there are few operators who offer services in more than 2 or 3 neighbouring states. Travel agents usually only offer seats on private buses.

However, long distance bus operators such as Raj National Express and KPN Travels are rolling out their operations across the nation modelled on the lines of the Greyhound service in the United States. Their services are good and they provide entertainment on board.

Regardless of class of travel, all buses have to contend with the poor state of Indian highways and the havoc of Indian traffic which usually makes them slower, less comfortable and less safe than trains. Night buses are particularly hazardous, and for long-distance travel it's wise to opt for sleeper train services instead.

It is easiest to book your bus ticket online. For deciding between routes and booking online, use Indian travel portals such as Redbus, Travelyaari, Buskiraya Makemytrip and tbuddy.com myticketbuddy.

By car

Our itinerary article Grand Trunk Road describes one of India's major roads, running east-west through the Ganges valley and west across northern Pakistan to Kabul.

Driving on your own

In India driving is on the left of the road — at least most of the time. You can drive in India if you have a local licence or an International Driving Permit, but unless you are accustomed to driving on extremely chaotic streets, you probably will not want to. The average city or village road is narrow, often potholed and badly marked. National Highways are better, but they are still narrow, and Indian driving discipline is non-existent. In the past few years the Central government has embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade the highways. The Golden Quadrilateral connecting the four largest cities of Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata with four-laned highways has been completed and is of a reasonable standard. Some of it is of an international standard but that cannot be said for all of it. However, improving the quality of the roads does not improve the way in which people drive and it is very dangerous to drive on the roads in India as people drive as they like without regard to any rules (rules do exist but are almost never enforced).

Hiring driver with car

Instead, you can opt for a driver while renting a car. Rates are quoted in rupees per kilometer and you will have to pay for both ways even if you are going only one way. The driver's salary is so low (typically around ₹100-150 per day) that it adds little to the cost of renting the car. The driver will find his own lodging and food wherever you are travelling, although it is customary to give him some money to buy some food when you stop somewhere to eat. A common rental vehicle is the legendary Hindustan Motors Ambassador, which is crucially an Indian-made copy of the 1956 Morris Oxford: it's large, boxy, with space for 5 passengers (including driver) and a decent-sized boot. However and the Tata Indica (a hatchback) and Tata Indigo (a small saloon) are now replacing the Ambassador as the affordable vehicle of choice. Imported international models may be available at a premium. If the number of people travelling together is large, popular rental vehicles are Tata Sumo, Mahindra Xylo and Toyota Innova. The larger vehicles are suitable if you are travelling in larger groups or have excess luggage. Many vehicles come equipped with a roof carrier, so one may opt for a smaller vehicle for 2-3 passengers even with excess luggage. (You may need to specifically ask for a vehicle with a roof carrier.)

There are numerous advantages to having a vehicle and driver.

  • A good local driver is the safest means of vehicle travel.
  • You can keep your bags and shopping goods with you securely wherever you go.
  • The driver will often have some knowledge of local tourist destinations.
  • A vehicle is the quickest and most reliable means of going from point to point. After the initial agreement you needn't spend any time finding further transport, or haggling over price.
  • You can stop anywhere you like, and change plans at the last minute.
  • Driving around India is chaotic as traffic rules are routinely violated, and it is best that someone with experience of driving in India drives you around.

It is common to find a driver that speaks more than a few words of English. As a result, misunderstandings are common. Keep sentences short. Use the present tense. Use single words and hand gestures to convey meaning.

Make sure you can trust your driver before you leave your goods with him. If he shows any suspicious motives or behavior make sure you keep your bags with you. Conversely, if your driver is very friendly and helpful, it is a nice gesture to buy him a little something to eat or drink when stopping for food. They will really appreciate this.

Your driver may in some cases act as a tout, offering to take you to businesses from which he gets baksheesh (a sort of commission). This isn't necessarily a bad thing - he may help you find just what you're looking for, and add a little bit to his paltry income at the same time. On the other hand, you should always evaluate for yourself whether you are being sold on a higher-cost product than you want. Also, many times and these places that supply commissions to the driver (especially restaurants) may not always be the best or most sanitary, so use your judgement. Avoid agents on the road posing as guides that your driver may stop for because he gets a commission from them; supporting them only promotes this unpleasant training. The driver might ask for a tip at the end of the trip. Pay him some amount (₹100/day is generally sufficient) and don't let him guilt-trip you into paying too much.

If you rent a vehicle for a trip to a remote destination, make sure before getting out that you will recognize the driver and write down the license plate number and his phone number (nearly all drivers have mobile phones). Agents at tourist areas will may try to mislead you into getting into the wrong vehicle when you leave; if you fall for this you will certainly be ripped off, and possibly much worse such as sexual assault if you are female traveller.

Be wary of reckless driving when renting a vehicle with a driver. Do not be afraid to tell the driver that you have time to see around and that you are not in a hurry. Indian highways can be extremely dangerous. Make sure also that your driver gets enough rest time and time to eat. In general as you visit restaurants and the driver may eat at the same time (either separately at the same restaurant or at some other nearby place). He may be willing to work nonstop for you as you are the "boss", but your life depends on his ability to concentrate, so ensure that your driving demands are reasonable; for example, if you decide to carry your own food with you on the road, be sure to offer your driver time to get a lunch himself.

Avoid travel at night. Indian roads are dimly lit if at all, and there are even more hazards on the road after dark — even highway bandits if you get far enough off the beaten track.

By motorcycle

Some people point out that the best way to experience India is on a motorbike. Riding a motorbike and travelling across India you get the closer look and feel of India with all the smells and sounds added. There are Companies which organise packaged tours or tailor made tours for Enthusiastic bikers and adventurous travellers for a safer motorbike experience of India. Blazing Trails tours, Wild Experience tours and Extreme Bike tours are the known names in the market.

Another choice, popular with people who like taking risks, is to buy a motorcycle. Not for the faint of heart or inexperienced rider. India boasts the highest motor vehicle accident rate in the world.

The Royal Enfield is a popular (some would say and the only) choice for its classic looks and macho mystique. This despite its high petrol consumption, 25 kilometers/litre to 30 kilometers/litre, supposed low reliability (it is "classic" 1940s engineering after all and requires regular service adjustment; you can find an Enfield mechanic who has worked on this bike for ten, twenty, thirty years in every town in India, who will perform miracles at about ₹100 an hour labour cost), and claimed difficulty to handle (actually the bike handles beautifully, but may be a wee heavy and seat high for some).

Or, one can opt for the smaller yet quicker and more fuel efficient bikes. They can range from 100 cc to the newly launched 220 cc bikes. Three most popular bike manufacturers are Hero, Bajaj and Honda. The smaller variants (100-125 cc) can give you a mileage exceeding 50 kilometers/litre on the road, while giving less power if one is opting to drive with pillion on the highways. The bigger variants (150-220 cc) are more powerful and one can get a feel of the power especially on highways - the mileage is lesser for these bikes anywhere between 35 kilometers/litre to 45 kilometers/litre.

Preferably tourists should go for second hand bikes rather than purchasing new ones. The smaller 100 cc variants can be purchased for anywhere between ₹15,000-25,000 depending on the year of make and condition of vehicle. The bigger ones can be brought from ₹30,000 onwards.

By auto-rickshaw

The auto-rickshaw, usually abbreviated and referred to as auto and sometimes as rickshaw, is the most common means of hired transportation in India. They are very handy for short-distance travel in cities, especially since they can weave their way through small alleys to bypass larger cars stuck in travel jams, but are not very suitable for long distances. Most are green and yellow, due to the new CNG gas laws, and some may be yellow and black in color, with one wheel in the front and two in the back, with a leather or soft plastic top.

When getting an auto-rickshaw, you can either negotiate the fare or go by the meter. In almost all cases it is better to use the meter—a negotiated fare means that you are being charged a higher than normal rate. A metered fare starts around ₹13 (different for different areas), and includes the first 1 to 2 kilometers of travel. Never get in an auto-rickshaw without either the meter being turned on, or the fare negotiated in advance. In nearly all cases the driver will ask an exorbitant sum (for Indian standards) from you later. A normal fare would be ₹11-12 for the first kilometers and ₹7-8 per kilometers after that. In most of the cities, auto-rickshaw drivers are provided with a rate card that elaborately describes the fares on per kilometre basis. A careful tourist must verify the meter-reading against the rate-card before making a payment. Auto-rickshaws carry either digital or analog meters wherein the analog meters may have been tampered with. It may be a better option to go for a negotiated fare when the auto-rickshaw has an analogue meter.

Ideally, you should talk with a local to find out what the fare for any estimated route will be. Higher rates may apply at night, and for special destinations such as airports. Finally, factor in that auto drivers may have to pay bribes to join the queue for clients at premium location such as expensive hotels. The bribe will be factored in the fare.

Make sure that the driver knows where he is going. Many autorickshaw drivers will claim to know the destination without really having any clue as to where it is. If you know something about the location, quiz them on it to screen out the liars. If you do not know much about the location, make them tell you in no uncertain terms that they know where it is. This is because after they get lost and drive all over the place and they will often demand extra payment for their own mistake. You can then tell them that they lied to you, and wasted your time, so they should be happy to get the agreed-upon fee.

What to see in India

To see all the places worth visiting in India, even a 6-month visit is arguably inadequate. There are more tourist destinations in India than can be mentioned in a full-length book, let alone a summary. Almost every state in India has over ten major tourist destinations and there are cities which can barely be tasted in a full week. Several Indian states by themselves are bigger and more populous than most of the countries in the world, and there are 29 states and 7 Union Territories in India, including two island chains outside the Mainland.

That said, below are some highlights.

Historical monuments and forts

Probably the most famous single attraction in India is the Taj Mahal, which is widely recognized as the jewel of Islamic art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the UNESCO World Heritage List|world's legacy.

The Qutb Minar and the impressive Red Fort are the two most prominent historical monuments in Delhi.

Jaipur and the capital of the Western India|western state of Rajasthan, is incredibly rich in forts and palaces, including the tremendous Amber Fort, beautiful Jal Mahal (Water Palace) and unique Hawa Mahal.

Nalanda in Bihar has the remains of a university of Buddhism that was established in 450 CE.

For a rather different and more modern kind of historical monument and the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, founded by the Mahatma himself, is a repository of all things Gandhi.

Houses of worship

No visit to India would be complete without a trip to some of the nation's fantastic temples. All regions of the nation are replete with temples. The city of Jammu and the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, has so many temples that it's called the "City of Temples" and is a major draw for Hindu pilgrims. Bishnupur (West Bengal) | Bishnupur in West Bengal is home to famous terracotta temples. The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is dedicated to Vishnu and is also a major draw for pilgrims. The Tantric temple complexes of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh are much beloved for their thousand-year-old sacred erotic wall carvings, considered by some art historians to be the pinnacle of erotic art. The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is a centre of worship of Parvati and the consort of Shiva. The city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu known for its grand Chola-era temples.

Hinduism is not the only religion represented among the great temples of India. The world headquarters of the Sikh religion are in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab (India) | Punjab. Leh and environs, in the Kashmiri region of Ladakh, are one of a number of areas that have splendid Buddhist temples or monasteries. The Ranakpur Temple in the small Rajasthani town of Ranakpur is an impressive and historic Jain temple.

India's second-largest religion in adherents after Hinduism is Islam, and many parts of India were ruled by Muslim dynasties for hundreds of years, so it's not surprising that India is also home to many magnificent masjids. Some of them, like the mosque in the Taj, are part of historical monuments. One impressive mosque that's very much in use to this day is the lovely 17th-century Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Hyderabad in Southern India|the south has several historical masjids, including Charminar Masjid and Mecca Masjid.

There are also notable churches in various Indian cities, and the dwindling ancient Yahudi community of Kochi, Kerala, continues to use their famous synagogue, which is a tourist attraction nowadays.

Geographical

India is a very geographically varied country. In the north of the nation, one can see the Himalayas and the Earth's highest mountain range. There are hilly areas in many non-Himalayan states, too. In India, hill stations — towns in the cooler areas in foothills or high valleys surrounded by mountains, which were favored by rajas and then the British and now Indian tourists in the hot summer months — are considered sights and experiences in themselves. The largest of them is Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar, but Darjeeling, in view of Mount Kangchenjunga in the North Bengal|northern part of West Bengal, is very famous for its tea. Other famous hill stations include Shimla, Ooty and Gangtok, and there are many others — most states have some.

India is also a country of numerous rivers. Several of them are traditionally considered holy, but especially the Ganges, locally known as Ganga, which brings life to the Plains (India) | Indian Plains, India's breadbasket, and is not just an impressive body of water but a centre of ritual ablutions, prayer and cremation. There are several holy cities along the river that have many temples, but they are often less places of pilgrimage to specific temples than holy cities whose temples have grown because of the ghats (steps leading down to the holy river) and most interesting to visit for the overall experience of observing or partaking in the way of life and death along the river. Foremost among these holy cities is Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, where some 5,000-year-old rituals are still trainingd; other cities worth visiting to experience the Ganges include Rishikesh and Haridwar, much further upstream.

India also has a long coastline. The beaches of Goa, also an interesting former Portuguese colony; Kochi; and the Andaman Islands are among the most appreciated by domestic and foreign visitors.

Finally, India has a vast desert and the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. Several Rajasthani cities including Jaisalmer are good bases for camel safaris.

Wildlife

India is famous for its wildlife, including the Bengal tigers, Asiatic lions and elephants. The Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh and Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan are the most likely places for you to spot an Indian tiger in the wild, though you will still have to have some luck and persistence. Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat is dedicated to the preservation of Asiatic lions. Sundarbans National Park is the largest mangrove forest and delta in the world, home to the famous Royal Bengal tigers and estuarine crocodiles but also fascinating as an overall ecosystem.

Top Muslim Travel Tips for India

Fairs and festivals

Goa Fair (carnival). February heralds the carnival at Goa. For three days and nights the streets come alive with color. Held in mid February the week-long event is a time for lively processions, floats and the strumming of guitars, graceful dances and of non-stop festivity. One of the more famous of Indian carnivals and the Goa Festival is a complete sell out in terms of tourism capacities.

Surajkund Mela (1–15 February). As spring glides in, full of warmth and vibrancy, leaving the grey winter behind, Surajkund adorns itself with colourful traditional crafts of India. Craftsmen from all over the nation assemble at Surajkund during the first fortnight of February to participate in the annual celebration that is the Surajkund Crafts Mela.

Holi. The Spring Festival of India, Holi is a festival of colours. Celebrated in March or April, according to the Hindu calendar, it was meant to welcome spring and win the blessings of Gods for good harvests and fertility of the land. As with all Hindu festivals and there are many interesting legends attached to Holi and the most popular being that of Prince Prahlad, who was a devout follower of Lord Vishnu. It is the second most important festival of India after Diwali. Holi in India is a festival of fun and frolic and has been associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. The exuberance and the festivity of the season are remarkable.

Diwali. The festival of lights, Diwali, illuminates the darkness of the New Year's moon, and is said to strengthen close friendships and knowledge with a self-realisation. Diwali is celebrated on a nation-wide scale on Amavasya – the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin (Oct/Nov) every year. It symbolises that age-old culture of India which teaches to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. The festival of lights still today projects the rich and glorious past of India.

Pushkar Mela. Every November the sleepy little township of Pushkar in Rajasthan comes alive in a riot of colours and a frenzied burst of activity during the Pushkar Fair. Few fairs in the world can match the liveliness of Pushkar. It includes the world's largest camel fair, but is much more than that.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in India

Money Matters & ATM's in India

The currency in India is the Indian rupee (sign: ₹; code: INR) (रुपया — rupaya in Hindi and similarly named in most Indian languages, but taka in Maithili and Taakaa in Bengali and Toka in Assamese). The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise (singular: paisa). "5 rupees 75 paise" would normally be written as "₹5.75". The new rupee symbol ₹ was introduced in July 2010 to bring the rupee's symbol in line with other major currencies. Previously, "Rs" was used (or "Re" for the singular rupee). It is very likely you will continue to see the previous nomenclature in your Indian travels, especially with smaller businesses and street vendors.

Common bills come in denominations of ₹5 (green), ₹10 (orange), ₹20 (red), ₹50 (purple), ₹100 (blue), ₹200 (yellow), ₹500 (brown) and ₹2,000 (pink). It is always good to have a number of small bills on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small bills (₹10-50) in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger bills separate. Then, it will not be obvious how much money you have. Many merchants will claim that they don't have change for a ₹100 or ₹500 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large bill. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.

The coins in circulation are 50 paise, ₹1, ₹2, ₹5, and ₹10. Coins are useful for buying tea (₹5), for bus fare (₹2 to ₹10), and for giving exact change for an auto-rickshaw.

Indians commonly use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Though these terms come from Sanskrit and they have been adopted so deeply into Indian English that most people are not aware that they are not standard in other English dialects. You may also find non-standard, although standard in India, placement of commas while writing numerals. One crore rupees would be written as ₹1,00,00,000, so first time you place a comma after three numerals and then after every two numerals. This format may puzzle you till you start thinking in terms of lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.

Number English Format Indian Format (In English) Indian Format (In Hindi)
100 Hundred Hundred Sau
1000 Thousand Thousand Hazaar
1,00,000 Hundred Thousand One Lakh Ek Lakh
10,00,000 Million Ten Lakhs Das Lakh
1,00,00,000 Ten Million One Crore Ek Crore

Changing money

The Indian rupee is not officially convertible, and a few government-run shops will still insist on seeing official exchange receipts if you are visibly a foreigner and attempt to pay in rupees instead of hard currency. Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor although places with significant Indian populations (e.g. Dubai, Singapore) can give decent rates. You may typically carry up to ₹25,000 across the Indian border.

Outside airports, you can change your currency at any one of the numerous foreign exchange conversion units including banks.

Most ATMs will pay out ₹10,000 in each transaction. State Bank of India (SBI) is the biggest bank in India and has the most ATMs. ICICI bank has the second largest network of ATMs and accepts most of the international cards at a nominal charge. International banks like Citibank, HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro and Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Indian cities. It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank or simply does not work work at a particular ATM.

In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.

Maximum Retail Price - MRP

When buying factory packaged food or drinks (e.g. lemonade, cola, etc.) always have a look for a stamp on the packaging. It will tell you the MRP (short for maximum retail price) and you can always insist on paying not more than that.

What is the living cost in India

Costs in India can vary widely from region to region, and even in the same city, depending on the quality of service or product, brand, etc. But usually, India is not very expensive for the foreign traveller.

Mid-range to high-range travellers

₹ 5000, at least, needed for a decent room in a good hotel offering cable TV, air conditioning and a direct telephone; however, this price doesn't include a refrigerator. Food will cost at least ₹150 for a decent meal (at a stall, not a hotel), but the sky is the limit. While bus transportation will cost roughly ₹5 for a short distance of about 1 km, a taxi or rickshaw may cost ₹22 for the same distance without air conditioning. There are radio taxis that are available at ₹ 20 to 25 per kilometers in key Indian cities which have GPS navigation, air-conditioned and accept debit/credit cards for payments. They are a very safe mode of travel. So the total for one day would be about as below:

  • Hotel US$60 for a good place per day
  • Food: US$10 for a good meal per day
  • Travel: US$10 taxi and bus together

Total: US$80 for a couple, US$70 for a person alone

Muslim Friendly Shopping in India

In India, you are expected to negotiate the price with street hawkers but not in department stores and the like. If not, you risk overpaying many times, which can be okay if you think that it is cheaper than at home. In most of the big cities and even smaller towns retail chain stores are popping up where the shopping experience is crucially identical to similar stores in the West. There are also some government-run stores like the Cottage Emporium in Delhi, where you can sample wares from all across the nation in air-conditioned comfort. Although you will pay a little more at these stores, you can be sure that what you are getting is not a affordable knockoff. The harder you bargaining|bargain and the more you save money. A few tries later, you will realise that it is fun.

Often and the more time you spend in a shop and the better deals you will get. It is worth spending time getting to know the owner, asking questions, and getting him to show you other products (if you are interested). Once the owner feels that he is making a sufficient profit from you, he will often give you additional goods at a rate close to his cost, rather than the common "foreigner rate". You will get better prices and service by buying many items in one store than by bargaining in multiple stores individually. If you see local people buying in a store, probably. you can get the real Indian prices. Ask someone around you quietly, "How much would you pay for this?"

Also, very often you will meet a "friend" in the street inviting you to visit their family's shop. That almost always means that you pay twice as much as when you had been in the shop without your newly found friend.

Baksheesh was originally a Persian word for charity, but it has spread to many Asian languages including most of those in India plus several European ones. Depending on context, its English translation might be any of donation, gift, tip, bribe, alms or commission. Having Indians you deal with want baksheesh is a fairly common phenomenon. While this is sometimes a problem, doing it can ease certain problems and clear some hurdles. Baksheesh is also the term used by beggars when they want money from you and may refer to tips given those who provide you a service.

Packaged goods show the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) right on the package. This includes taxes. Retailers are not supposed to charge more than this. Though this rule is adhered to at most places, at tourist destinations or remote places, you may be charged more. This is especially true for cold drinks like Coke or Pepsi, where a bottle (300 ml) cost around ₹33-35 when the actual price is ₹30. Also, keep in mind that a surprising number of things do not come in packaged form. Do check for the authenticity of the MRP, as shopkeepers may put up a sticker of his own to charge more from you.

What to look for/buy

  • Wood Carvings: India produces a striking variety of carved wood products that can be purchased at very fair prices. Examples include decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture and miscellaneous items that will surprise you. Check the regulations of your home country before attempting to import wooden items.
  • Clothing: It depends on the state/region you are visiting. Most of the states have their speciality to offer. For example go for silk sarees if you are visiting Benaras; Block prints if you are in Jaipur
  • Paintings: Paintings come on a wide variety of media, such as cotton, silk, or with frame included. Gemstone paintings incorporate semi-precious stone dust, so they have a glittering appearance to them.
  • Marble and stone carvings: Common carved items include elephants, Hindu gods/goddesses. Compare several of the same kind. If they look too similar bargain hard as they are probably machine made.
  • Jewellery: Beautiful necklaces, bracelets and other jewellery are very affordable in India.
  • Pillow covers, bedsets: Striking and rich designs are common for pillows and bed covers.

Designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Zara, A & F, all are available in upmarket stores.

Halal Restaurants in India

Indian cuisine takes its place among the great cuisines of the world. There is a good chance that you'd have tasted "Indian food" in your country, especially if you are a traveller from the West, but what India has exported abroad is just one part of its extraordinary range of culinary diversity.

Mutton Qorma

Indian food can be spicy: Potent fresh green chilis or red chili powder will bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated, and can be found in unexpected places like sweet cornflakes (a Snacks, not breakfast) or even Candies . The degree of spiciness varies widely throughout the nation: Andhra Pradesh|Andhra food is famously fiery, while Gujarati cuisine is quite mild in taste with the exception of Surti food (from Surat).

To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Don't try everything at once. After a few weeks, you can get accustomed to spicy food. If you would like to order your dish not spicy, simply say so. Most visitors are tempted to try at least some of the spicy concoctions, and most discover that the sting is worth the trouble. Remember, too, that while "spicy" is a convenient short-hand for "chili-laden," the spiciness of food in India doesn't always mean lots of chili: Indian cuisines often use a multitude of different spices and other aromatic ingredients in highly creative and flavourful ways.

Cuisine

Cuisine in India varies greatly from region to region. The "Indian food" served by many so-called Indian restaurants in the Western hemisphere is inspired by Plains (India) | North Indian cooking, specifically Mughlai cuisine, a style developed by the royal kitchens of the historical Mughal Empire, and the regional cuisine of the Punjab, although it has been Britainized and the degree of authenticity in relation to actual Mughlai or Punjabi cooking is variable at best and dubious at worst.

North India is a wheat-growing area, so you have Indian breads (known as roti), including chapatti (unleavened bread), paratha (pan-fried layered roti), naan (cooked in a clay tandoor oven), puri (deep-fried and puffed up bread) and many more. A typical meal consists of one or more gravy dishes along with rotis, to be eaten by breaking off a piece of roti, dipping it in the gravy and eating them together. Most of the Hindi heartland of India survives on roti, Rice, and lentils (dal), which are prepared in several different ways and made spicy to taste. Served on the side, you will usually find spiced yogurt (raita) and either fresh chutney or a tiny piece of exceedingly pungent pickle (achar), very much an acquired taste for most visitors — try mixing it with Curries, not eating it plain.

A variety of regional cuisines can be found throughout the North. Tandoori Chicken, prepared in a clay oven called a tandoor, is probably the best-known North Indian dish, innovated by a Punjabi immigrant from present-day Pakistan during the Partition. For a taste of traditional Punjabi folk cooking, try dal makhani (stewed black lentils and kidney beans in a buttery gravy), or sarson da saag, a yummy gravy dish made with stewed mustard greens, served with makke di roti (flatbread made from maize). There are also the hearty textures and robust flavours of Rajasthani food and the meat-heavy Kashmiri dishes from the valley of Kashmir, or the mild yet ingratiating Himalayan North|Himalayan (pahari) cuisine found in the higher reaches. North India also has of a variety of Snacks like samosa (vegetables encased in thin pastry of a triangular shape) and kachori (either vegetable or pulses encased in thin pastry). There is also a vast constellation of sweet desserts like jalebi (deep-fried pretzel with sugar syrup- shaped like a spiral), rasmalai (balls of curds soaked in condensed milk) and halwa. Dry fruits and nuts like almonds, cashews and pistachios are used a lot, often in the desserts, but sometimes also in the main meal.

Authentic Mughal-style cooking and the royal cuisine of the Mughal Empire, can still be found and savoured in some parts of India, most notably the old Mughal cities of Delhi, Agra and Luckin Uttar Pradesh, and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. It is a refined blend of Iran|Persian, Central Asia|Turkic and Indian subcontinent|Subcontinent cooking, and makes heavy use of Meat and spices. The names of some Mughal dishes bear the prefix of shahi as a sign of its prestige and royal status from a bygone era. Famous Mughal specialties include biryani (layered Meat and Rice casserole), pulao (rice cooked in a Meat or vegetable broth), kebab (grilled meat), kofta (balls of mincemeat), rumali roti (flatbread whirled into paper-thin consistency) and shahi tukray (saffron and cardamom-scented bread pudding).

In South India and the food is mostly rice-based. A typical meal includes sambhar (a thick vegetable and lentil chowder) with Rice, rasam (a thin, peppery soup), or avial (mixed vegetables) with Rice, traditionally served on a banana leaf as a plate. Seasoning in South India differs from northern regions by its ubiquitous use of mustard seeds, Curries leaves, pulses, fenugreek seeds, and a variety of souring agents such as tamarind and kokum. There are regional variations too — the coastal regions make greater use of coconut and fish. In the State of Kerala, it is common to use grated coconut in everything and coconut oil for cooking, while someone from the interior could be surprised to learn that coconut oil can be used for cooking. The South also has some great breakfast dishes like idli (a steamed cake of lentils and rice), dosa, a thin, crispy pancake often stuffed with spiced potatoes to make masala dosa, vada, a savoury Indian donut, and uttapam, a fried pancake made from a Rice and lentil batter with onions and other vegetables mixed in.All of these can be eaten with dahi, plain yogurt, and chutney, a condiment that can be made from practically anything. Try the ever popular masala dosa, which originated from Udupi in Karnataka, in one of the old restaurants of Bangalore like CTR and Janatha in Malleswaram or Vidyarthi Bhavan in Basavangudi or at MTR near Lalbagh. South Indian cuisine is predominantly Vegetarian, though there are exceptions: Seafood is very popular in Kerala and the Mangalorean coast of Karnataka; and Tamil Nadu|Chettinad and Hyderabad cuisines use Meat heavily, and are a lot spicier. Coffee tends to be the preferred drink to tea in South India.

To the West, you will find some great cuisine groups. Gujarati cuisine is somewhat similar to Rajastani cooking with the heavy use of dairy products, but differs in that it is predominantly Vegetarian, and often sweetened with jaggery or sugar. Gujaratis make some of the best snack items such as the Dhokla and the Muthia. Mumbai is famous for its chaat, as well as the food of the small but visible Irani and Parsi communities concentrated in and around the city. The adjacent states of Maharashtra and Goa are renowned for their seafood, often simply grilled, fried or poached in coconut milk. A notable feature of Goan cooking is that Beef and vinegar is used, a rare sight in the rest of India. Vindaloo originated in Goa, and is traditionally cooked with Beef, and in spite of its apparent popularity in Indian restaurants abroad, it is not common in India itself.

To the East, Bengali and Odishan food makes heavy use of Rice, and fish due to the vast river channels and ocean coastline in the region. Bengali cooking is known for its complexity of flavor and bittersweet balance. Mustard oil, derived from mustard seeds, is often used in cooking and adds a pungent, slightly sweet flavour and intense heat. Bengalis prefer freshwater fish, in particular the iconic ilish or hilsa: it can be smoked, fried, steamed, baked in young plantain leaves, cooked with curd, aubergine and cumin seeds. It is said that ilish can be prepared in more than 50 ways. Typical Bengali dishes include maccher jhal, a brothy fish stew which literally means "fish in sauce", and shorshe ilish (cooked in a gravy made from mustard seed paste). Eastern India is also famous for its desserts and sweets: Rasgulla is a famous variant of the better-known gulab jamun, a spherical morsel made from cow's milk and soaked in a clear sugar syrup. It's excellent if consumed fresh or within a day after it is made. Sondesh is another excellent milk-based sweet, best described as the dry equivalent of ras malai.

A lot of food has also filtered in from other countries. Indian Chinese (or Chindian) is far and away the most common adaptation: most Chinese would barely recognize the stuff, but dishes like veg manchurian (deep-fried vegetable balls in a chilli-soy-ginger sauce) and chilli chicken are very much a part of the Indian cultural landscape and worth a try. The British left fish and chips and some fusion dishes like mulligatawny soup, while Tibetan and Nepali food, especially momo dumplings, are not uncommon in north India. Pizzas has entered India in a big way, and the chains such as Pizzas Hut and Domino's have Indianised the Pizzas and introduced adaptations like paneer-tikka Pizzas. There is an Indian chain called Smokin Joe's, based in Mumbai, which has mixed Thai Curries with pizzas.

It is, of course, imfeasible to do full justice to the range and diversity of Indian food in this brief section. Not only does every region of India have a distinctive cuisine, but you will also find that even within a region, castes and ethnic communities have different styles of cooking and often have their signature recipes which you will probably not find in restaurants. The adventurous traveller is advised to wangle invitations to homes, try various bylanes of the city and look for food in unlikely places like temples and Gurudhwaras in search of culinary nirvana.

Fruits

While a wide variety of fruits are native to India, including the chikoo and the jackfruit, nothing is closer to an Indian's heart than a juicy ripe mango. Hundreds of varieties are found across most of its regions — in fact, India is the largest producer, growing more than half the world's output. Mangoes are in season at the hottest part of the year, usually between May and July, and range from small (as big as a fist) to some as big as a small cantaloupe. They can be consumed in their ripe, unripe and also a baby form (the last 2 predominantly in pickles). The best mango (the "King of Mangoes", as Indians call it) is the "Alphonso" or Haapoos (in Marathi), in season in April and May along the western coast of Maharashtra. Buy it from a good fruit shop in Mumbai or Mahatma Phule market (formerly Crawford market) in South Mumbai. Dushheri Mangoes are also popular in north india. Other fruits widely available (depending on the season) are bananas, oranges, guavas, lychees, apples, pineapples, pomegranates, Apricots, melons, coconuts, grapes, plums, peaches and berries.

Vegetarian

Most Indians who practise vegetarianism do so for religious or cultural reasons — though cultural taboos have their roots in ethical concerns. Indians' dietary restrictions come in all shapes and sizes and the two symbols (see right) do not capture the full range. The Green dot means Pure Vegetarian. Red dot means non-vegetarian, including only eggs (as in a fruit-egg cake). Here is a quick guide:

  • Veganism is practically unknown in many parts of India, because milk and honey are enthusiastically consumed by virtually everyone. But major cities, such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, do have budding vegan societies and items such as tofu, soy chunks (branded Nutrela) and soy milk are readily available in major cities, as well as some minor ones. Eggs are considered non-vegetarian by many, though you are very likely to find people who are otherwise Vegetarian eating eggs. These people are often referred to as eggetarians. That said and there are a number of foods that are vegan by default in India, including standard restaurant dishes such as aloo gobi, channa masala, various types of dal, dosas, and the vast majority of Indo-Chinese dishes. Dishes made with dairy products are usually denoted as such (referencing their use of butter or ghee, in particular). Most restaurants will accommodate dietary restrictions and it is advisable to ask if a dish contains milk, butter, cream, yogurt or ghee. Virtually all Indian desserts, however, are non-vegan, with the exception of jalebi, an orange-coloured fried dough commonly found in western and northern India.
  • The strictest Vegetarian are some Jains and some Brahmin sects - they not only abjure all kinds of Meat and eggs and they also refuse to eat onions, potatoes or anything grown under the soil.
  • Even meat-eating Hindus often follow special diets during religious days or during fasts. Hindu fasts do not involve giving up all food, just eating a restricted diet — some take only fruits.
  • A very small group of Indians are, or used to be pescatarians — i.e. they count fish as a vegetable product. Among these are Bengali and Konkani Brahmins. Such people are increasingly rare as most have taken to meat-eating.

Visiting Vegetarian will discover a culinary treasure that is found nowhere else in the world. Owing to a large number of strictly Vegetarian Hindus and Jains, Indian cuisine has evolved an astonishingly rich menu that uses no Meat or eggs. The Jains in particular training a strict form of vegetarianism based on the principles of non-violence and peaceful co-operative co-existence: Jains usually do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, cassava, sweet potatoes and turnips, as the plant needs to be killed prior to its end of normal life cycle, in the process of accessing these . At least half the menus of most restaurants are devoted to Vegetarian dishes, and by law all packaged food products in India are tagged with a green dot (vegetarian) or red dot (non-veg). Veganism however is not a well-understood concept in India, and vegans may face a tougher time: milk products like Cheese (paneer), yogurt (dahi) and clarified butter (ghee) are used extensively (in particular, ghee can be hard to spot as it can be mixed into Curries before they are served), and honey is also commonly used as a sweetener. Milk in India is generally not pasteurized, and must be boiled before consumption.

Etiquette

In India eating with your hand (instead of cutlery like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban India: Use only your right hand. The left hand is reserved for unhygienic uses. Don't stick either hand into communal serving dishes: instead, use the spatula with your left hand to serve yourself and then dig in. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating.

For breads for all types and the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in Sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Rice is more challenging, but the basic idea is to use four fingers to mix the Rice in Curries and pack a little ball, before you pop it in your mouth by pushing it with your thumb.

Most of the restaurants do provide cutlery and its pretty safe to use them instead of your hand.

Eating by hand is frowned on in some "classier" places. If you are provided with cutlery and nobody else around you seems to be doing it and then take the hint.

Restaurants

Indian restaurants run the gamut from roadside shacks (dhabas) to classy five-star places where the experience is comparable to places anywhere in the world. Away from the big cities and tourist haunts, mid-level restaurants are scarce, and food choices will be limited to the local cuisine, Punjabi/Mughlai, "Chinese"/"Indo-Chinese" and occasionally South Indian.

Menus in English... well, almost|Menus in Indian restaurants are usually written in English — but using Hindi names. Here's a quick decoder key that goes a long way for understanding common dishes like aloo gobi and muttar paneer.

  • aloo or aalu — potato
  • baigan or baingan — eggplant/aubergine
  • bhindi — okra
  • chana — chickpeas
  • dal — lentils
  • gobi — cauliflower (or other cabbage)
  • machli — fish
  • makkhan — butter
  • matar — green peas
  • mirch — chilli pepper
  • murgh or murg — chicken
  • palak or saag — spinach (or other greens)
  • paneer — Indian cottage cheese
  • subzi — vegetable}}

The credit for popularizing Punjabi cuisine all over the nation goes to the dhabas that line India's highways. Their patrons are usually the truckers, who happen to be overwhelmingly Punjabi. The authentic dhaba serves up simple yet tasty seasonal dishes like roti and dhal with onions, and diners sit on cots instead of chairs. Hygiene can be an issue in many dhabas, so if one's not up to your standards try another. In rural areas, dhabas are usually the only option.

In South India, a "hotel" is local restaurant serving south Indian food, usually a thali or plate meal—a full plate of food that usually includes a kind of bread and/or Rice and an assortment of Meat or Vegetarian dishes—and prepared meals.

Although you may be handed an extensive menu, most dishes are served only during specific hours, if at all.

One of the sweetest and safest beverages you can get is tender coconut water (naryal paani). You can almost always find it in any beach or other tourist destinations in the south. In summer (March - Jul), you can get fresh sugarcane juice in many places and even a lot of fresh fruit juice varieties.

India is famous for its Alphonso variety of mangoes, generally regarded as the King of Mangoes among connoisseurs. Frooti, in its famous tetra-pack, is the most popular processed drink, followed by Maaza (bottled by Coca-Cola) or Slice (bottled by PepsiCo), both of which contain about 15% Alphonso mango pulp. Both cost about ₹30-50 for a 600 ml bottle.

As for bottled water, make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken; otherwise, it is a tell-tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Kinley (by Coca-Cola) are widely available. Local brands like Bisleri are also acceptable and perfectly safe. Tastes may vary due to the individual brands' mineral contents. In semi-urban or rural areas, it may be appropriate to ask for boiled water as well.

Tea

One can get tea (chai in most North Indian languages) of one variety or the other everywhere in India. The most common method of preparing chai is by brewing tea leaves, milk, and sugar altogether in a pot and keeping it hot until it's all sold. It is sweet and uniquely refreshing once you get the taste for it. Masala chai will have, added to the above mix, spices such as cardamom, ginger or cinnamon etc. For some people, that takes some getting used to.
While Masala chai is popular in Northern and Central India, people in Eastern India (West Bengal and Assam) generally consume tea without spices and the English way. This is also the part of India where most tea is grown.

Coffee

In South India, filter coffee replaces tea as the standard beverage. Indian filter coffee is a coffee drink made by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the decoction obtained by brewing finely ground coffee powder in a traditional Indian filter.

eHalal Group Launches Halal Guide to India

India - eHalal Travel Group, a leading provider of innovative Halal travel solutions for Muslim travelers to India, is thrilled to announce the official launch of its comprehensive Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide for India. This groundbreaking initiative aims to cater to the diverse needs of Muslim travelers, offering them a seamless and enriching travel experience in India and its surrounding regions.

With the steady growth of Muslim tourism worldwide, eHalal Travel Group recognizes the importance of providing Muslim travelers with accessible, accurate, and up-to-date information to support their travel aspirations to India. The Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide is designed to be a one-stop resource, offering an array of invaluable information on various travel aspects, all carefully curated to align with Islamic principles and values.

The Travel Guide encompasses a wide range of features that will undoubtedly enhance the travel experience for Muslim visitors to India. Key components include:

Halal-Friendly Accommodations inIndia: A carefully selected list of hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals that cater to halal requirements, ensuring a comfortable and welcoming stay for Muslim travelers in India.

Halal Food, Restaurants and Dining in India: A comprehensive directory of restaurants, eateries, and food outlets offering halal-certified or halal-friendly options in India, allowing Muslim travelers to savor local cuisines without compromising their dietary preferences in India.

Prayer Facilities: Information on masjids, prayer rooms, and suitable locations for daily prayers in India, ensuring ease and convenience for Muslim visitors in fulfilling their religious obligations.

Local Attractions: An engaging compilation of Muslim-friendly attractions, cultural sites such as Museums, and points of interest in India, enabling travelers to explore the city's rich heritage while adhering to their values.

Transport and Logistics: Practical guidance on transportation options that accommodate Muslim travel needs, ensuring seamless movement within India and beyond.

Speaking about the launch, Irwan Shah, Chief Technology Officer of eHalal Travel Group in India, stated, "We are thrilled to introduce our Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide in India, a Muslim friendly destination known for its cultural richness and historical significance. Our goal is to empower Muslim travelers with accurate information and resources, enabling them to experience the wonders of India without any concerns about their faith-based requirements. This initiative reaffirms our commitment to creating inclusive and memorable travel experiences for all our clients."

The eHalal Travel Group's Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide for India is now accessible on this page. The guide will be regularly updated to ensure that Muslim travelers have access to the latest information, thus reinforcing its status as a reliable companion for Muslim travelers exploring India.

About eHalal Travel Group:

eHalal Travel Group India is a prominent name in the global Muslim travel industry, dedicated to providing innovative and all-inclusive travel solutions tailored to the needs of Muslim travelers worldwide. With a commitment to excellence and inclusivity, eHalal Travel Group aims to foster a seamless travel experience for its clients while respecting their religious and cultural values.

For Halal business inquiries in India, please contact:

eHalal Travel Group India Media: info@ehalal.io

Buy Muslim Friendly condos, Houses and Villas in India

eHalal Group India is a prominent real estate company specializing in providing Muslim-friendly properties in India. Our mission is to cater to the specific needs and preferences of the Muslim community by offering a wide range of halal-certified residential and commercial properties, including houses, condos, and factories. With our commitment to excellence, client satisfaction, and adherence to Islamic principles, eHalal Group has established itself as a trusted name in the real estate industry in India.

At eHalal Group, we understand the importance of meeting the unique requirements of Muslim individuals and families seeking properties that align with their cultural and religious trainings. Our extensive portfolio of Muslim-friendly properties in India ensures that clients have access to a diverse selection of options tailored to their needs. Whether it's a luxurious villa, a modern condominium, or a fully equipped factory, our team is dedicated to assisting clients in finding their ideal property.

For those seeking a comfortable and modern living space, our condos are an excellent choice. Starting at US$ 350,000 and these condominium units offer contemporary designs, state-of-the-art facilities, and convenient locations within India. Each condo is thoughtfully designed to incorporate halal-friendly features and amenities, ensuring a seamless integration of Islamic values into everyday living.

If you are looking for a more spacious option, our houses are perfect for you. Starting at US$ 650,000, our houses provide ample living space, privacy, and a range of customizable features to meet your specific requirements. These houses are located in well-established neighborhoods in India, offering a harmonious balance between modern living and Islamic values.

For those seeking luxury and exclusivity, our luxury villas in India are the epitome of sophistication and elegance. Starting at US$ 1.5 million and these villas offer a lavish lifestyle with private amenities, breathtaking views, and meticulous attention to detail. Each luxury villa is meticulously designed to provide a serene and halal environment, allowing you to enjoy the finest living experience while adhering to your Islamic principles. For further details please email us at info@ehalal.io

Muslim Friendly hotels in India

Make sure to bring the passport wherever you go, as most hotels] will not rent out rooms without a valid passport. Two important factors to keep in mind when choosing a place to stay are 1) safety and 2) cleanliness. Malaria is present in most areas of India - one of the ways to combat malaria is to choose lodgings with air conditioning and sealed windows. An insect-repellent spray containing DEET will also help.

Choices vary widely depending on budget and location. Good hotels in India are easy to find. Cheap travelers' hotels are numerous in big cities where rooms are available for less than ₹450. Rooms at guest-houses with a double bed (and often a bathroom) can be found in many touristic venues for ₹150-200. Lodging in clean dormitories for as little as ₹100 is also available. Bed and breakfast service providers are coming up offering standard services that can be expected from B&Bs outside India. The basics include: air-conditioner or air cooler, free food, and free wi-fi internet.

Most Indian train stations have rooms or dormitories, just ask. They are cheap, relatively well maintained (the beds, sheets, not the showers), in demand and secure. There are also the added bonus of not being accosted by the rickshaw mafia, getting the bags off quickly and, for the adventurous, high likelihood to jump on a affordable public bus back to the train station. Keep in mind you must have an arrival or departure train ticket from the station where you intend to sleep and there could be a limit on how many nights you may stay.

Midrange options are plentiful in the larger cities and expanding fast into second-tier cities as well. Dependable local chains include / Treebo, Country Inns, Ginger and Neemrana, and prices vary from ₹1,000-4,000 per day. Local, unbranded hotels can be found in any city, but quality varies widely.

If the wallet allows it, you can try staying like royalty in a maharaja's palace in places like Udaipur or modern five-star hotels which are now found pretty much all over the nation. The top-end of Indian luxury rests with hotel chains like Oberoi, Taj, The Leela and ITC Welcomgroup, who operate hotels in all the major cities and throughout Rajasthan. The usual international chains also run major 5-star hotels in most Indian metropolises, but due to India's economic boom availability is tight and prices can be crazy: it's not uncommon to be quoted over US$300/night for what would in other countries be a distinctly ordinary business hotel going for a third of the price. Also beware that some jurisdictions including Delhi and Bangalore charge stiff luxury taxes on the rack rate of the room, which can lead to nasty surprises at check-out time.

One way of meeting interesting Indian travelers is by staying at an Inspection Bungalow/Dak bungalow. Also, called travellers' bungalows and they exist in many towns and were built by the British to accommodate travelling officials and are now used by the Central and state governments for the same purpose. Most will take tourists at a moderate fee if they have room . They are plain with ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, shower but no bath but clean, comfortable and usually in good locations. Typically the staff includes a pensioned-off soldier as night watchman and perhaps another as gardener; often the gardens are lovely. Sometimes there may be a cook to prepare A la carte dishes.

Reliable electricity supply is present mainly in upmarket hotels. Brownouts are frequent, and many buildings have unsafe wiring. If you like having a organic juice at the bar or expect alcohol in the room fridge then make sure the hotel is more than 500m from a highway.

Study as a Muslim in India

There are many things to learn that interest foreigners all over India, but there are a few destinations that have become particularly well known for certain things:

  • Yoga is popular in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mysore.
  • Ayurveda is popular in Kerala.
  • Classical musical instruments in not only the ancient city of Varanasi but many parts of India, especially in Southern States, where they form the most integral part of Core Classicals.
  • Classical vocal music and classical dance forms in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka.
  • Sanskrit at 'Samskrita Bharati' in areas of Udupi, Bangalore in the state of Karnataka and Delhi.
  • Cooking classes are also popular. The most well-known exported type of Indian food are the cuisines such as Idly, Dosa, Biryanis, Dals etc and regional cuisines such as Thalis, South Indian, and Punjab (India) | Punjabi, as the Sikhs have been the most successful in spreading Indian restaurants throughout the western world. However, styles vary a lot throughout the nation, so if you have the time and appetite it's worth checking out courses in a variety of areas such as Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.

There are many Universities imparting education but at the helm are Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) for technical undergraduates, Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) for management postgraduates and National Law Universities/Schools (NLUs) which are world class institutes. Most of the ambitious students who want to get a good high level education strive to get into these institutes through admission processes which are rather difficult ones both due to nature of test and the prevailing competition. For example and the 6 top IIMs (Including the 4 oldest - Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bangalore & Lucknow plus newly established Indore and Kozhikode) together select only about 1,200 students from 350,000 students who appear for CAT exam. But still students have a great desire to get into these institutes. These institutes also offer degrees to foreign students.

Apart from undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses and there are many training and diploma-level institutes and polytechnics that cater to the growing demand for skill-based and vocational education. Besides conventional educational institutes, foreigners might also be interested to study with Pandits to learn Hindi and Sanskrit in genuine settings as well as with Mullahs to study Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. They might also like to live with famed Ustads to study traditional Indian music. Whether people are interested in philosophy or religion, cuisine or dance, India will have the right opportunity for them.

How to work legally in India

Foreigners need a work permit to be employed in India. A work permit is granted if an application is made to the local Indian embassy along with proof of potential employment and supporting documents. There are many expatriates working in India, mostly for multinational Fortune 1,000 firms. India has always had an expatriate community of reasonable size, and there are many avenues for finding employment, including popular job hunting websites.

A living can be made in the traveller scenes by providing some kind of service such as baking Western cakes, tattooing or massage.

Stay safe as a Muslim in India

As a rule India is very safe for Foreign Muslims, apart from instances of petty crime and theft common to any developing country, as long as certain basic precautions are observed (i.e. women travellers avoiding travelling alone at night). You can check with your embassy or ask for local advice before heading to Jammu and Kashmir in northern-most India, and to Northeast India, i.e. (Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh). These areas have had serious law and order problems for a long time, though the situation has improved a lot. The same applies while travelling to what used to be a thickly forested area in East-Central India, which covers the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and the eastern edge of Maharashtra and the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh. Though the problem is only in the remote areas of these states and normal areas to visit in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh are completely safe.

Unfortunately theft is quite common in places visited by tourists, but violent thefts hardly ever occur. More likely a thief will pick your pocket (see pickpockets) or break into your room. So it is better to take precautions to firmly lock the door while indoors, and be on guard while outside.

Some people handling your cash will try to shortchange you or rip you off. In Delhi particularly, this is a universal rule adhered to by all who handle westerners' cash. This does not exclude official ticket sellers at tourist sites, employees at prepaid taxi stands, or merchants in all but the most upscale businesses. Count your cash before handing it over, and be insistent on receiving the correct change.

It is advisable or better to agree on the fare before getting inside an auto or a taxi. This avoids any further unpleasant fare-related arguments. If you can take the advice of a local friend or someone manning your hotel's front desk to know how much it should cost to travel in between two destinations, you will be a smart traveller.

Overseas visitors, particularly women, attract the attention of beggars, frauds and agents. Beggars will often go as far as touching you and following you, tugging on your sleeve. It does little good to get angry or to say "No" loudly. The best response is to look unconcerned and ignore the behaviour. The more attention you pay to a beggar or a tout — positive or negative — the longer they will follow you hoping for a donation. Muslimas are advised not to stay out late and roam on their own, and also to be a little sensitive about how they dress in public. There have been some rapes of foreign women and highly publicised rapes of Indian women, some of whom have been murdered.

Travellers should not trust strangers offering assistance or services; see Common scams. Be particularly wary of frauds at tourist attractions such as the temples of Kanchipuram, where they prey on those unfamiliar with local and religious customs. If a priest or guide offers to treat you to a religious ceremony, find out what it will cost you first, and do not allow yourself to be pressured into making "donations" of thousands of rupees — simply walk away if you feel uncomfortable. However, don't get too paranoid: fellow travellers on the train, or Indian families who want to take your picture on their own camera, for example, are often just genuinely curious.

While travelling in public transport (trains, buses) do not accept any food or drink from any local fellow passenger even they are very friendly or polite. There have been instances in which very friendly fellow passengers offered food or drinks including tea or coffee that contained substances that put the victim to sleep whilst all their possessions, including even their clothing, were stolen.

Black people in general may encounter prejudices from the police and general public about being drug dealers. This reaction stems from the fact that more often than not, foreign-born drug peddlers in India are of Nigerian nationality. Indians find it hard to differentiate between Nigerians and other Africans, Afro-Americans or even their own Siddi (Indians of sub-Saharan African descent) community, and this behaviour is towards the whole race and not just to any specific country. That said, this behaviour is still considered publicly unacceptable when Indians are confronted by Indians themselves. It is hence wise to keep passports handy at all times, avoid going to areas notorious for illegal activities and maintain contact with respective embassies and, if feasible, with other support groups that can vouch for you.

The cow is considered to be a holy animal in Hinduism, and in many Indian states, it is illegal to consume or possess beef. Non-Hindus suspected of eating beef are also known to have been lynched by fundamentalist Hindu mobs.

Police and other emergency services

India - Varanasi policemen - 0691

  • Unfortunately, corruption and inefficiency are present in all Indian police forces, and the quality of the police force varies by officer. For emergencies, throughout most of India, you can dial 100 for police assistance. Try to speak the words slowly so that the policeman/woman on phone does not have a problem in comprehending your foreign English accent. For non-emergency crimes, go down to the police station to report them, and insist on getting a receipt of your complaint.
  • The emergency contact numbers for most of India are: Police (dial 100), Fire (dial 101), and Ambulance (102 or dial the nearest good hospital). In Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kochi and several other cities throughout India, you can dial 108 for all emergencies.

Medical Issues in India

Four quick tips for keeping your stomach happy:

  • Go vegetarian, at least for the first week or two. Meat spoils quickly.
  • Avoid raw leafy vegetables. They are hard to clean properly.
  • Avoid ice and unbottled water. Both the water in it and the way it's transported are suspect. Try to use only commercially available sealed bottled water.
  • Wash hands before eating, with soap or hand sanitizers. Otherwise the dirt of India's streets will find its way onto your chapatis and into your mouth. In addition, keep nails cut short and clean.

Going to India, you have to adapt to a new climate and new food. However, with precautions the chance and severity of any illness can be minimized. Don't stress yourself too much at the beginning of your journey to allow your body to acclimatize to the nation. For example, take a day of rest upon arrival, at least on your first visit. Many travellers get ill for wanting to do too much in too little time. Be careful with spicy food if it is not your daily diet.

Tap water is normally not safe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water should be safe to drink from them. Packed drinking water (popularly called "mineral water" throughout India) is a better choice. Bisleri, Kinley, Aquafina, Health Plus are popular and safe brands. But if the seal has been tampered, or if the bottle seems crushed, it could be tap water being illegally sold. So always make sure that seal is intact before buying. In Indian Train stations, a low-priced mineral water brand of Indian Railways is generally available, known as "Rail Neer".

Fruits that can be peeled such as apples and bananas, as well as packaged Snacks are always a safe option. Wash any fruit with uncontaminated water before eating it.

Emergency Services Ambulance at Welfare Hospital Bhachau Kutch - panoramio - An ambulance in India

No vaccinations are required for entry to India, except for yellow fever if you are coming from an infected area such as Africa. However, Hepatitis (both A and B, depending on your individual circumstances), meningitis and typhoid shots are recommended, as is a booster shot for tetanus.

Diarrhea is common, and can obtain many different causes. Bring a standard first-aid kit, plus extra over-the-counter medicine for diarrhea and stomach upset. A re-hydration kit can also be helpful. In case you run out and cannot get the re-hydration solution widely available at pharmacies, remember the salt/sugar/water ratio for oral re-hydration: 1 tsp salt, 8 tsp sugar, for 1 litre of water. Indians have resistance to native bacteria and parasites that visitors do not have. If you have serious diarrhea for more than a day or two, it is best to visit a private hospital. Parasites such as Giardia are a common cause of diarrhea, and may not get better without treatment.

Malaria is endemic throughout India. CDC states that risk exists in all areas, including the cities of Delhi and Mumbai, and at altitudes of less than 2000 metres in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, and Sikkim; however and the risk of infection is considered low in Delhi and northern India. Get expert advice on malaria preventatives, and take adequate precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Use a mosquito repellent when going outside (particularly during the evenings) and also when sleeping in trains and hotels without air conditioning. A local mosquito repellent used by Indians is Odomos and is available over-the-counter at most medical stores.

If you have asthma, carry enough supplies as dust, pollen or pollution may cause some trouble to your breathing.

It is very important to stay away from the many stray dogs and cats in India, as India has the highest rate of rabies in the world. If you are bitten it is extremely urgent to get to a hospital in a major urban area capable of dealing with rabies. You can get treatment at any major hospital. It is very important to get the rabies vaccine after any contact with animals that includes contact with saliva or blood. Rabies vaccines only work if the full course is given prior to symptoms. The disease is almost invariably fatal otherwise.

If you venture to forests in India, you may encounter venomous snakes. If bitten, try to note the markings of the snake so that the snake can be identified and the correct antidote given. In any event, immediately seek medical care.

Healthcare

Although virtually all Indian doctors speak English fluently, public hospitals tend to be unsanitary, overcrowded, understaffed and underequipped. Consequently and the standard of care leaves much to be desired. There are also reports of vaccinations and blood transfusions in low quality hospitals increasing your risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Therefore, you are highly advised to avoid government healthcare facilities and make use of private hospitals instead. Private hospitals, on the other hand, are usually of an excellent standard and among the best in the world, making India a popular destination for medical tourism. The downside is that they are usually much more expensive than public hospitals, though still reasonably priced by GCC standards. Many private hospitals accept international health insurance; check with the hospital before you go to be sure. Many rich Indians travel to Singapore for more serious issues, such as those requiring major surgery, and you might want to consider that as an option too.

Etiquette

  • It is better to avoid going out on the roads alone. Keeping some company is always advisable.
  • Indians will consider themselves obliged to go out of the way to fulfill a guest's request and will insist very strongly that it is no inconvenience to do so, even if it is not true. This of course means that there is a reciprocal obligation on you as a guest to take extra care not to be a burden.
  • Most Indians are not aware that the term "Negro" is now considered offensive, and they may use it with no intent to offend. An Indian is usually not aware of the other "N" word.
  • It is customary to put up a token friendly argument with your host or any other member of the group when paying bills at restaurant or while making purchases. The etiquette for this is somewhat complicated.
  • In a business lunch or dinner, it is usually clear upfront who is supposed to pay, and there is no need to fight. But if you are someone's personal guest and they take you out to a restaurant, you should offer to pay anyway, and you should insist a lot. Sometimes these fights get a little funny, with each side trying to snatch the bill away from the other, all the time laughing politely. If you don't have experience in these things, chances are, you will lose the chance the first time, but in that case, make sure that you pay the next time. (and try to make sure that there is a next time.) Unless the bill amount is very large do not offer to share it, and only as a second resort after they have refused to let you pay it all.
  • The same rule applies when you are making a purchase. If you are purchasing something for yourself, your hosts might still offer to pay for it if the amount is not very high, and sometimes, even if it is. In this situation, unless the amount is very low, you should never lose the fight. (If the amount is in fact ridiculously low, say less than ₹10 and then don't insult your hosts by putting up a fight.) Even if by chance you lose the fight to pay the shopkeeper, it is customary to practically thrust (in a nice way, of course) the money into your host's hands.
  • Most Indians follow Western naming conventions, with a given name followed by a family name. Modes of address generally follow Western conventions as well.
  • Tamil names, however are an exception to this rule. Tamil names generally follow the convention of given name + father's name, or father's initial + given name. Therefore, someone called Ramasamy Govindasamy would have Ramasamy as his given name, with Govindasamy being his father's name. Alternatively, he might be known as G. Ramasamy. Due to the patronymic nature of the last names, first names are always used when addressing individuals, so the above person would be addressed as Mr Ramasamy.

The foolproof method and therefore, is to ask how the person would like to be addressed.

Sensitive topics

  • Pakistan is a sensitive subject about which many Indians might have strong views. Take care when discussing the issue, and better if you avoid mentioning it, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. It's fine to have a chat about your visit to Pakistan and the people and the culture and the music or Indo-Pak cricket matches. But it is far better to avoid any discussion of the political disputes with Pakistan or the Kashmir Conflict. Likewise, bitterness and often intense dislike may be expressed concerning Pakistanis or the nation of Pakistan.
  • Sri Lanka is a very sensitive subject in the state of Tamil Nadu due to the conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese groups.
  • Operation Bluestar or Indira Gandhi is a very sensitive topic in Punjab. Many people condemned the operation and Indira Gandhi was eventually assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. It is better not to discuss this, as it may invite trouble.
  • It is better not to discuss politics in some regions of India. A light conversation is welcomed by the local residents, but a debate on political parties and their views could spark problems.
  • Be cautious when discussing the caste system, since Islamic viewpoints on this topic are often either antiquated or inadequate.

Telecommunications in India

The country code for India is 91. India is divided into area codes, known locally as STD codes. See city guides for the area codes.

In acronym-happy India, a phone booth is known as a PCO (Public Call Office) and they usually offer STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing - national long distance) or ISD (International Subscriber Dialing - international long distance). These are usually staffed, and you dial yourself but pay to the attendant after the call is over. Metering is done per pulse and a service charge of ₹2 is added to the bill. Larger cities also have Asian-style unmanned public phones, which are usually red in colour and accept one rupee coins.

Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', '7' or '6'. The following table explains how to dial:

Calling from Price Syntax Example
Same STD code Local number 12345678
Cellphone Local STD code of the town you are in number 011-12345678
Cellphone STD to Cellphone number 012345678
Different STD code STD 0-area code-number 022-12345678
Overseas ISD +91-area code-number +91-22-12345678

Toll-free numbers start with 1-800, but are usually operator-dependent: you can't call a BSNL/MTNL toll-free number from an Airtel landline, and vice versa. Often and the numbers may not work from your cellular phone. Other National Numbers that start with 18xx or 19xx may attract special charges.

To dial outside the nation from India, prefix the nation code with 00, e.g. a US number will be dialed as 00-1-555-555-5555. Calling the USA/Canada/UK over the normal telephone line will cost you about ₹7.20 per minute. Calls to other countries, particularly to the Middle East, can be more expensive.

Mobile

India uses both GSM and CDMA, and mobile phones are widely available, starting from ₹500. 4G and 4G spectrum operations are fairly widespread across many cities, but expect 3G networks to dominate the nation. Major operators with India-wide networks include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Mobile (both GSM and CDMA), JIO, TATA DOCOMO (GSM), TATA Indicom (CDMA), Idea Cellular, Uninor, Aircel, MTS (CDMA), and Videocon Mobile. Not all operators have Pan-India operations but have tie-ups with other operators to provide pan-India coverage via roaming, though roaming charges are higher. You will not be able to use your mobile in Jammu and Kashmir since the local government does not allow any roaming and restricts foreigners from buying SIM cards there. Local calls could cost as little as ₹0.10 per minutes (typically ₹0.50), although going to a different state within India is considered roaming and additional charges of ₹1-3/min for incoming and outgoing calls may apply. International calls are comparatively cheap, with most destinations under ₹10/min and the same as you'd pay at a PCO booth.

Fully loaded prepaid starter kits are available for around ₹500 or less, including several hundred rupees of call time. Plain SIM cards are sold for as little as ₹10-15 while they are given out for free in many cases. You will need identification and a passport-size photo, although some shops will also insist on a local address in India; try the next one if they're not accommodating. Although the best option is always buying a SIM card from the phone company's own store, that way you can verify the SIM card is working and you have been allocated your credit before you leave. Buying from smaller vendors will often mean a delay of a few hours to a few days before they call to get the SIM working, and you risk your SIM being cancelled if they never send in your identification paperwork.

Talk time (unexpired minutes of talk time) and validity (the date that the SIM card expires) are considered separate and you have to keep both topped up, or otherwise you may find the ₹500 you just recharged disappearing in a puff of smoke when the one-month validity expires. Usually, when you extend the validity, you will also get extra minutes but you can buy minutes for less without extending the validity. Or, if you are in India for a reasonably long time, you can buy a prepaid SIM with lifetime validity and then topup with talktime as per your needs. In most such cases, you will need to top up at least once every six months to keep the SIM active. And the term "lifetime" is slightly misleading as it refers to the 20-year life of the licence issued to the operator by the Government of India to provide mobile services. If the licence is renewed, your services will continue without any additional charges but if the licence is not renewed, your lifetime SIM also becomes defunct.

Whilst large telecommunications companies, such as Airtel are the same company throughout India, and your SIM card will work anywhere have reception or a partnership and their sales and support teams are often outsourced and franchised. A SIM bought in one state (even from an official store) attracts a roaming charge when used in other states, anr your support numbers will not work. For example, if you buy a SIM in Goa and something goes wrong whilst you are travelling in another state, local stores will not be able to help you, nor often will your support number that came with your SIM. They will tell you to go back to the state you bought it in for support, or give you other numbers to try and call in your purchase state.

This also impacts recharging when you're outside the state you bought your SIM card. Due to local taxes and company pricing, recharge cards (or the amount people pay to get the same about of talk time) differs from state to state - even though your per minutes call costs will be the same state to state. Take note of the recharge options and prices in the state that you originally bought your SIM, because as you move to other areas in India and the local recharge options vary and will not apply to you (they'll only apply to SIMs bought in that state). For example, if you bought your SIM in Goa and to get ₹100 talk time credited to your account, you paid ₹120 (₹100 talk time + ₹20 local taxes), but then travelled to another state where they had a promotion where ₹100 talk time only costs ₹100, you are not eligible. You still have to pay the rates of where you bought your SIM, even if local signage says differently. The important thing to remember is that you always recharge based on where your SIM card is from, so take a note of the recharge options when you buy your SIM, and use them (not the local rates) to recharge. As an added complication, many local vendors do not like to recharge out of state SIMs (which they can tell from your number). This is because the way they recharge phones is by crediting a certain amount of rupees to your account, and then your carrier recognises the amount and transforms it into a service. For example ₹120 rupees may mean your account is recharged with ₹100 talk time, whereas ₹121 may mean you get a cricket SMS updates pack. Consequently, because local recharge shops do not know the prices to recharge in the state your SIM is from and they may not want to risk giving you something you do not want. The way to get around this is to, as mentioned, make a note of your recharge options when you buy your SIM and politely insist to local recharge merchants that you know that amount works.

3G and 4G Internet prices are usually the same from state to state, making this process slightly easier.

Cope in India

The Indian Ministry of Tourism has started a 24/7 Tourist Helpline: 1363 (Toll Free Line) / +91-94900 69000 (Mobile).

Many embassies and consulates can be found in large Indian cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.

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