Tour of India from Cyprus
Enjoy a magnificent private tour of India. A truly unique land, from vibrant cities and famous forts to palaces and tantalizing temples. The Indian Experience Tour visits the most famous sites combining Delhi with the Taj Mahal, one of the 7 Wonders of the World and the pink City of Jaipur.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi and transfer by road to Agra for 2 nights at the Jaypee Palace hotel. (204 km) Rest of the day is at leisure. Dinner and overnight
Day 2: This morning visit the world famous Taj Mahal build by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtz Mahal, a masterpiece in marble. Visit the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah and the massive red sandstone Agra Fort. This evening, visit Mehtab Bagh, 400 year-old Mughal garden on the banks of the Yamuna to see the sunset over the Taj Mahal. Dinner at hotel.
Day 3: Morning drive to the deserted sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri and Abhaneri Step well. Continue to Jaipur (236 km). Transfer to Jaipur Marriott hotel for next 2 nights. Dinner at hotel.
Day 4: After breakfast, proceed for a guided tour of the fabulous Amber Fort, ancient romantic fort palace. A one way elephant ride is included. Brief photo-stop en route at Hawa Mahal, a spectacular pyramidal façade with overhanging windows. In the afternoon visit the City Palace, home of the present maharaja. Visit the awe-inspiring stone astrological Observatory. In the evening visit the colourful Jaipur bazaars.
Dinner at hotel.
Day 5: Morning depart by road to Delhi (258 km), transfer to The Grand hotel for 2 night stay. Later visit a Sikh temple Bangla Sahib & Bahai place of worship. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 6: Visit New Delhi to see the India Gate, the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and the Qutab Minar tower. Continue to Old Delhi and visit the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Raj Ghat memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Walk through Chandi Chowk to savour the ambiance of an oriental bazaar. Return to hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 7: Transfer to Delhi airport for departure flight.
INDIA Travel Tips / General Information
All non-residents require visas for India, which must be obtained prior to departure. Tourist visas are usually valid for 6 months from the date of issue. Passports must have at least 2 blank pages and be valid for 6 months after your return from India Two passport photographs are also required at the time of application. In case you are travelling to neighboring country and are coming back to India after that visit again, ensure you have double entry visas.
HEALTH AND VACCINATION
Recommended vaccinations are Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid and Hepatitis. You may need to take anti-malarial tablets. Please consult your doctor or a travel clinic for the latest medical advice at least one month prior to your departure. For advice on vaccinations please visit www.masta.org
Adequate travel insurance is vital. Mountain and other adventure sports enthusiasts should have insurance that covers trekking, climbing and mountain biking. Most insurance offered by credit cards does not provide sufficient cover. Please check before you travel that you are fully covered.
WHAT TO PACK
Modesty in dress is an important aspect of Indian life and, away from beaches, one should respect the local customs. This is especially important when visiting temples and religious sites, where trousers or full-length skirts should be worn and shoulders should be covered and in Sikh temples, your head must also be covered. Shoes that can be slipped on and off easily are also very useful as they must always be removed at all religious sites. For general day wear, we recommend light cottons and loose clothing, with jumpers or fleeces and sturdy shoes for those travelling to hill stations and desert locations.
India is the seventh largest country in the world with a total land area of 3.3 million square kilometers. It is 2933 km wide and the 3214 km long. The Deccan Plateau is the oldest portion of India and was part of the single land mass comprising South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica. As the continents drifted apart, the moving Deccan plate collided with the Tibetan block of South Asia about 50 million years ago. Over the years, the persistent pressure of the Deccan drifting created the Himalayan Mountains in the north which form a formidable barrier between India and central Asia, China and Tibet. They are also the source of India’s three main rivers, the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. The West Coast is bordered by the Arabian Sea, the East Coast by the Bay of Bengal and the Southern tip dips into the Indian Ocean.
The mountain range called The Vindhyas divides the Indo-Gangetic Plain from the Deccan Plateau (Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) while the arid Thar desert covers most of West India.
Flanking the Malabar Coast of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa are the Western Ghats, a north-south chain of mountains which are separated from the coastline by a strip of richly forested coastal plain. The Coromandel Coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are bounded by the Eastern Ghats. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea are also Indian territories.
India has just about every geographical feature. In addition to the mountains, plains, deserts and the seas, are the unique marshlands of Kutch, while on the east where the Ganges drains out into the sea is the world’s largest delta and a unique mangrove forest. All of these unique features ensure that the country has a wide variety of flora, fauna and a climate that ranges from tropical to arctic.
There are fifteen national languages recognized by the Indian constitution and these are spoken in over 1600 dialects. India’s official language is Hindi in the Devanagari script however, English continues to be the official working language. For many educated Indians, English is virtually their first language, and for a great number of Indians who are multi-lingual, it will probably be the second.
The country has a wide variety of local languages and in many cases the State boundaries have been drawn on linguistic lines. Besides Hindi and English, the other popular languages are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya, Telugu and Urdu.
A direct international dialing service is available from the major hotels in India. Both local and long distance calls are metered on a time basis and every second counts in terms of cost. Most hotels also have a fax and internet service. Remember that hotels levy a substantial surcharge on all calls. Most lodges have telephone communication facilities, unless they are in very remote areas, in which case you may have to travel to the nearest town to establish contact. A less expensive way of communicating is from a telephone agency.
There are many telephone agencies in the towns, identifiable by the letters STD for the inland service and ISD for international calls. To make an international phone call, dial 00 and the country code (1 for US and Canada, 44 for UK). The price is indicated on a meter.
Mobile phone coverage is available all over India, barring remote areas and some National Parks, where it may not work. Please check with your mobile provider for network tie-ups.
• The common form of greeting in India is the Namaste. It involves the joining of your palms as during prayer in church, raising them towards the face and bowing the head slightly.
• If you are male introduced to a lady or a grown-up girl, don’t take the initiative of offering a handshake. If she extends her hand, you must reciprocate, but don’t be the first to extend your hand. If you are female and are being introduced to a male, it is up to you, the female, to take the initiative for a handshake. The rule of thumb is that the female extends her hand first, and the male reciprocates.
• The Western practice of a peck on the cheek as a form of greeting a lady or a grown up girl is JUST NOT DONE when you are in India unless you happen to be in ‘Westernized Indian’ circles or in the company of people in the glamour industry such as models and beauty queens (even then, DON’T take the initiative if you are male).
• If you find the lady is not extending a hand shake, go for the Namaste. Even with men, the Namaste can be an excellent little PR gimmick! Follow it up with a kaise hai (how are you?) and you have broken the first block of ice if one there was!
• Be aware that public displays of affection (hugging, kissing) are generally not appreciated. However, it is common to see men showing affection and camaraderie on the roads and in villages throughout the country.
• If somebody has invited you home for dinner, carry with you a bottle of wine accompanied by a bouquet of flowers or at least a box of sweets or chocolate bar for the children.
• The feet are considered to be the lowliest part of the body and shoes are treated as unclean. People usually take their shoes off before entering a house and putting feet on the furniture is considered bad manners.
• Many Indians are in the habit of shaking their head in the course of conversation or taking instructions. Don’t show amusement if you witness this.
• Politics can be freely discussed in India and most people will have an opinion which they will not mind being contradicted, but avoid discussing religion.
• If eating Indian style, with the hands, it is useful to remember that it is considered impolite to use the left hand for eating.
FOOD & DRINK
Beef is not served in many parts of India and pork is also not easily available. Eat non-vegetarian food only in good restaurants as the meat in cheaper and smaller places can be of dubious quality. Good quality vegetarian food is easily available throughout the country. Curd or yoghurt is served with most meals as it is a natural aid to digestion and helps temper the spicy food.
Please take note of the following points:
• Never buy food from roadside stalls or mobile canteens. Not that they are necessarily bad, but one’s system may not be accustomed to such delicacies which may result in an upset stomach.
• Always drink bottled water and ensure that the seal is broken in front of you.
• If unsure, do not eat salads and stick to vegetarian food.
• Only eat fruit you can peel, however if there is no option then wash fruit in bottled water before eating.
Wash your hands before and after eating.
Most national papers are published in Hindi. There are excellent dailies in English, such as the Times of India or the Indian Express, The Economic Times and The Statesman. Weeklies include Frontline and India Today.
Most types of film material, colour slide negatives and video tapes are readily available in all major cities, as are fast, reliable processing services. When photographing always ask people their permission first. Beware using flash photography that may disturb animals and birds.
Stamps can be purchased from post offices. Post cards to be sent abroad require a set stamp, while standard letters differ from country to country and need to be weighed at a post office.
SHOPPING AND SOUVENIRS
Most shop opening times will be from 1000 – 2000 and most will have one closing day per week though this day will vary from place to place. A range of Indian souvenirs are available from handicrafts to garments. As you would expect from a country rich in gold and diamonds, there is an excellent selection of jewelry and the opportunity to watch goldsmiths in action. Also many articles of handcrafted souvenirs made from marble with precious stone inlay (known as pietra dura), crafted woodwork, garments made of special quality silks, handcrafted jewelry etc are available. Should you require specific items or if you would like to have jewelry, clothing etc designed, please contact the Luxe India concierge and he will arrange this for you.
If you are buying from roadside stalls or hawkers be prepared to bargain. Start by offering half the price and settle for 60 per cent. Don’t bargain in proper shops especially those that display “Fixed Price” signs: that will be seen as bad manners.
Dress codes for religious places can include covering your head, being barefoot etc. Ask, so that you don’t unwittingly give offence. Some temples do not permit any leather articles at all on their premises and certain temples are not open to Non-Hindus so please check with the local agents.
Most museums in India are closed on Mondays and site museums, those near archaeological monuments, on Fridays. Photography is not always permissible, and at many places it is permitted only at a fee. There is usually a higher fee for using a video camera.
English is spoken at almost all tourist centres, but you can also request for us to provide you with trained and approved guides who also speak German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian or Russian.
Even in the most cosmopolitan of cities in India the chances are that your different appearance might mean that you will be stared at, though this especially happens in the smaller towns and more remote areas. Please do not be offended no harm is meant, it is just curiosity. However, to minimize this, when in public places please respect local sensibilities and dress codes by covering shoulders and knees.
In India, public toilet facilities are few and far between and outside of the hotels and restaurants can be of dubious cleanliness. We recommend taking every opportunity you can to use a clean toilet in hotels and restaurants and that you carry tissues/wet wipes with you.
On occasion travelling on the road you may see many children waving or coming up to the car window. They do not usually ask for money, however many of our clients have experienced over the years that children usually they ask for pencils. It may be a good idea to have with you some pencils and colour pencils/pens which will make them extremely happy and greatly appreciated.
Frequently asked questions
Q. Will I get ill when I visit India? Food hygiene doesn't seem to be very good.
A. This is probably the most common concern for first-time visitors to India, as unfortunately the country does have a bad reputation for making people ill. However, India is home to some of the world's greatest cuisine and there really is a wonderful range of delicious dishes on offer. Of course travellers must be careful about what they eat and we would warn people about eating shellfish and raw vegetables and salads that may have been washed in tap water. It is also important to stick to bottled water for drinking and also for brushing your teeth, and to wash your hands thoroughly before eating.
Q. Will the poverty be too much for me to handle?
A. It is no myth that there are many areas of extreme poverty in India. Interestingly these areas are often juxtaposed against areas of extreme wealth. The poverty can be a shock to the system, especially for first-time visitors. If your itinerary is to include larger cities such as Delhi or Mumbai, then it is very likely that you will experience something of the poverty. The sheer size of the population puts a tremendous strain on the country's infrastructure, one of the problems being the lack of adequate housing so people often end up living in slums or even on the streets. It is important to realise that these problems won't go away overnight and there is very little that individuals can do to resolve the issue.
Q. What should I do if approached by beggars?
A. Beggars are often found in the cities, which visitors can sometimes find distressing. It is a matter of personal choice as to whether you give any money, however, if you do feel you would like to help then we would suggest you do some research or perhaps speak to your local guide in order to find out a way to help that will make a difference.
Q. Is there much crime in India?
A. Petty crime can sometimes be a problem in the cities, so use common sense and do not wear expensive jewellery etc. and take care of cameras.
Q. Social etiquette, conventions and dress
A. Here are some guidelines to take into consideration when travelling around India to avoid offending the local people:
Scant, tight clothing will draw unwanted attention and offend local sensibilities. Indians are generally conservative and it's important that women are modestly dressed. Adopting local dress is an easy solution, or wear a long scarf or tunic.
Displays of intimacy are not considered acceptable in public. Although it is common for Indian men to hold hands as a symbol of friendship, it does not mean they're gay. Homosexuality is technically a criminal act under the penal code, but there is a growing tolerance in major cities.
Visitors to all religious places must be dressed in clean, modest clothes. Always remove shoes before entering a temple or mosque. It's a good idea to carry a pair of socks to wear on hot stone floors.
Smoking is banned in all public areas, including bars and restaurants in hotels.
India is very photogenic, but always ask permission from people before taking their photo to avoid offending them.
Handshakes are common amongst Indian men, however, it is considered rude to touch an Indian woman and they may feel uncomfortable. Never use your left hand; it is considered unclean. It is customary to remove your footwear upon entering Indian homes.
The headshake: here in the UK we nod up and down to signify yes and side-to-side for no; in India the most famous gesture is a rotational headshake. This can be very confusing as it can mean yes, maybe or I've no idea!
Q. How bad is the transport?
Airports can be quite hectic, security checks can take a while and result in long queues, particularly at Delhi and Mumbai. The smaller airports of Bangalore, Cochin, Calcutta and Chennai are generally easy to navigate but do not have the best facilities.
Taking a train in India is a great way to cover long distances as well as an experience in itself. The platforms are often full of life, with tea vendors ready to quench your thirst, and the aromatic smells of fresh samosas on sale. They can also be chaotic, which is why we will usually provide a guide to ensure you get on the correct train with your luggage. Indian trains are generally not as comfortable as those in the West, they could be cleaner and there is little privacy on the night trains. Delays are not uncommon but the train is probably still the best way to travel.
Always ask a taxi driver to use his meter, though this might be met with various excuses why it isn't working. Mentioning that you will take another taxi sometimes gets it working! If this doesn't work always agree on a price before you start your journey.
Auto-rickshaws / cycle rickshaws
Cheaper and quicker than taxis, auto-rickshaws can be fun, but agree on a price before you set off. If hassled by rickshaw-wallahs whilst wandering around a town, just be firm and say 'no' as you may be taken to several shops en route to your final destination. Tipping is appreciated by cycle rickshaws as it is extremely strenuous work; never accept free journeys as you will end up in a shop, which could be a light hearted adventure or very stressful.
Q. I don't like spicy food - will there be anything I can eat?
A. It is a common misconception that all Indian food is very spicy and there will be nothing to eat but fiery curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Luckily this is not the case. The big cities and larger hotels will cater for all tastes and often serve a wide range of different cuisines. Those keen to try the local food will actually find that there is a big difference between the 'Indian' dishes we know in the UK and those served in India, and dishes do vary from mild to very spicy. You will often be asked how spicy you like your food and hotel staff will be happy to recommend the less hot dishes if you are interested. A top tip is to ask for yoghurt to accompany your meal - not only does it help counter the spice in the dish, it also helps your digestive system.
Visit Pinterest for images on India.
Images taken from staff personal visit to India tour