Going to India – What You Need to Know

Kaspars MisinsAsia, Destinations, India, Travel Tips and Guides, Travels and Adventures Comments

Kid on motorcycle in India

We spent in India 5 months – cycling across India for more than 5000 kilometers. Here are the things you need to know, when going to India.

During our self organised cycling adventure we saw quite a lot from West and South of India. If we would travel all around the country, as we initially were planning to do, our route would be at least two times longer. India is THAT big country. During this adventure we learned how to deal with different kind of situations and learned a lot new about India.

broken bicycle India

That’s my bicycle (upside down and only with one wheel)

And here I’ve created a list of basic things you need to know, when traveling to India.

Visa

Indian e-Tourist Visa is what you need, if you are going to India for a maximum of 30 days.

If you are traveling to India for a longer period of time, you need to apply for Indian tourist visa 2 weeks or better a little bit more in advance. Response is received within 10 working days. The Visa starts with the date of approval, so you will lose some time depending on when you are really arriving to the country.

Tourist Visa is valid for 6 months. Price, in beginning of 2016, is about 60 euros / 70 USD.

How it is with your country? Check it out on the Indian Visa Registration Page before making any plans.

Vaccination

If you plan to visit not only the largest cities and eat not only in fancy restaurants, it’s worth to think about vaccination. The usual recommended kit includes vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever.

It’s possible to get these vaccines in India. But keep in mind, that you can’t take all the vaccines at one time and it also takes some time till the vaccine actually “starts to work”. So better leave for this thing some one and a half month before planned trip.

To lover the risk of getting Malaria (it’s not a big problem in India, though), in India buy mosquito repellent cream. Local creams usually are better than the ones you can get in your home country, and they cost significantly less. Use it in places, where there are mosquitos.

Money

Take your debit card or credit card (Maestro card could be a problem) with you and you are almost ready. At the airport ATM take out rupees and that’s it. Remember, that most probably you will be charged not only for money withdrawal, but also for money exchange. But it depends on what your bank chooses to charge you for.

There are a lot of ATMs in India. If one is not accepting your card, go to another. In large cities it may not be a problem to pay with credit card in quite a lot of places (especially shopping centres and restaurants), but in rural areas cash is what you need.

If travelling like we did – eating like locals and using cheap hotels – you may end not using your bank card for payments at all. Just for cash withdrawals.

money - India

Hotels

If looking for cheap one, search for them near bus station or railway station. Or near city center. There usually are a lot of them in these places. And so the prices there are the lowest.

Cheap room, not in a total hole, for two people costs around 500 – 600 rupees. Very often for such a price we were living in nice and neat rooms. But expensive hotels here are not expensive if comparing to Europe – usually around 1500 – 3000 rupees (20 – 45 euros) per night.

There are also hotels, usually cheap ones and usually in bigger cities, where they do not accept foreigners. Most probably they will say “no rooms, no rooms”. Even if the hotel will be empty and you will see wall full with keys hanging behind the receptionist. That might be a problem time after time and you may end up walking for hour or two from one hotel to next one.

But only once for us it ended the way, that we took shitty room for triple price. There just was no any other options.

Interesting fact: sign hotel not always means, that it’s hotel there. In fact, we must have passed by at least thousand such places, which were just restaurants.

Food

Is Indian food tasty or not? Is it too spicy or not? There are Indian dishes, that I like, and there are quite a lot of dishes, that I don’t like. We all are different. To understand, if you like Indian food in India, you will need to try it first. What I can say is, that in most of the places, especially ones where locals are eating, it differs from what you may tried in Europe or America.

Outside the major cities more likely you will not have a choice between Western and Indian food. But in big cities you can find almost anything.

Prices in different places with totally different level of service may be almost the same. So even searching for some cheap dinner it’s more than worth to check out prices also at that hotel restaurant over the street. Even in more beautiful and nice places Indian food usually costs the same 100 to 200 rupees (1,5 to 3 euro).

For safety reasons – choose places, where more locals are eating.

South Indian thali

South Indian thali

You can get everything in India

It seems, that in India they produce everything locally and thus can sell it at lower prices. For example, medicals are cheap, hygiene products are cheap, but brands are the same as you are used to in Europe.

The only thing, that was hard for us to find, was specific mountain bike part. This was the case when “nearest store you need is in 1000 kilometers”. It’s so just because 99% of bicycles here in India are single speed.

Prices

Everything that is packed has a price written on it (it’s MRP – maxium retail price). In most cases, it’s the right price. With discounts price may be even lower.

But if someone asks you for more money, show them MRP on it and pay it. Mostly it will work. Nice surprise was to find out, that this way everything has the same price also at most of touristy places and in budget class restaurants.

Mobile services

Be ready to spend 2-3 working days to get prepaid SIM card. You need to go to operators customer service center, fill the form, show your passport and VISA, give 1 document sized photo, may need local address and local reference person. As a reference person may be your hotel administration, but it also may not work out, so local friend (stranger from the street? Coucshurfing friend?) is much better option.

After you get SIM, you need to wait while it’s activated.

Vodafone India and Airtel are the best choices with widest network coverage, but prices for all operators are similar and low comparing to Europe. You can check prices on their websites – Vodafone India, Airtel.

Read about our experience obtaining mobile numbers & losing the mobile service in India!

Indian mobile numbers not working

Do you still have some questions about traveling to India? Ask me on Twitter – @kasparsmisins or send us a message on Facebook!

Author: Kaspars Misins

Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.

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