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India is known as a land of great spiritual heritage and is a mystery for majority of westerners. Despite numerous myths and misconceptions prevalent in other continents about the country, millions of tourists flock to India all around the year. A trip to India can prove to be an unprecedented and enchanting experience for you, provided you research well and plan your trip properly. From cost calculation to arranging for accommodation, things should be planned well in advance for ensuring your trip is safe and enjoyable.
India being a tropical climate country, the number of foreign visitors takes a nosedive in summer months and the trend in winter is just the opposite. The tourism industry in India has seen growth in last decade though it is still behind other Asian countries like China and Korea. As per the data obtained from UNWTO or United Nation World Tourism Organization, India got 6.65 million tourists last year. The issues like prolonged militancy tussle in the country's northernmost part and sporadic incidents of racial violence are the bottlenecks thwarting growth of tourism in India.
Best Time to Visit
Ideally, the best time to visit India for a foreign tourist would be during the winter months. The period from November to March sees the highest influx of foreigners visiting the country, especially those from Europe and the USA. Not only you will find the weather pleasant, the humidity and dirt will be lower as well. If you plan to visit the desert region and Northern states, winter is a better choice. However, those who have been to countries with tropical climates and can cope with the heat and humidity may also opt for a monsoon trip. Certain states of the country, including Kerala, Goa and Assam don beautiful look during the monsoon months.
How to Reach
A lot of international airlines fly to major Indian airports daily. Most popular carriers include British Airways, Air Asia, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Emirates, etc. However, you may also opt for flights offered by Indian airlines like Air India. A majority of foreigners use the airports in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai. These airports have modern amenities and the cities could be ideal starting point for your India tour. Based on your country and preferred airport, you may also get direct Intercontinental flights to few Indian airports. A number of travel agencies offer airport pickup and accommodation assistance services.
It is prudent that you make arrangements for accommodation well in advance for your India trip. Fortunately, the hospitality industry in India is expanding and chains of premium lavish hotels have sprung up in major cities. For travellers who do not want to compromise on luxury and amenities, opting for hotels belonging to the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Oberoi Hotels and Resorts and Park Hotels makes sense. These groups have hotels in major Indian cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Goa, Chennai, Delhi, etc. You can also savour the exotic taste of royal hospitality in Rajasthan's few palace turned heritage hotels.
India has a vast range of cuisines, each having a unique combination of spices, oil and herbs. While you may find them exquisite, a section of westerners do not cope well with the spicy dishes! Rice is a main staple in meals across major parts of India and breads of different kind are served in northern states. In Kerala and West Bengal, you can savour the regional fish based delicacies. The northern states are known for their tongue tickling pickles and variety of animal meat based gourmets. You will also be able to taste a wide range of desserts, mostly made with cottage cheese and spices. However, it would be best to abstain from relishing the street side snacks sold by food vendors, however alluring they seem.
You need to be careful when you shop for mementoes, decorative items and similar stuffs while touring India. The possibility of buying fake product sold at higher rate is there in many places. It is also commonplace to find a cab driver suggesting you buy such items from his relative's shop Having said that, you may also find some shops in major cities that sell wonderful carpet, handicraft, organic products and textile items you will not find elsewhere. For those who feel the ambience of a shopping mall desirable, a huge number of retail chains have sprung in India in recent years.
In India, you cannot get enough of exploring the popular things and places. For tourists in India, the Taj Mahal remains a major attraction and you should not miss seeing the grand marble mausoleum which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. There are several popular festive events and fairs that take place in various parts of India. However, research well before you want to witness any religious event. The majestic forts in the desert of Rajasthan are also major tourist pullers and you cannot help wondering and thinking how they were built in the first place! Nature lovers can also explore serene backwaters of Kerala or soak in the sprawling beaches in Goa. The awe-inspiring sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora caves also attract many tourists footfall.
While exploring India can be a truly enticing experience for foreigners, caution should be practiced to avoid any mishaps. You need to be particularly careful about eating and drinking. Refrain from drinking tap or un-packaged water and resist the temptation of roadside food stalls. It is necessary to avoid touts and persistent cab drivers in some areas. It is recommended that you get yourself vaccinated to prevalent ailments like hepatitis and malaria before your India trip. Be particular while vesting temples and shrines as regional customs vary widely and in some religious places, foreigners may not be allowed. Women tourists visiting India should be careful about dressing up to avoid hassles.
Cost to Travel
The travelling cost in India will vary based on your priorities and planning. You can find decent budget accommodations along with luxury 5 star hotels in many Indian cities. Naturally, peak season charges will be higher and city wise cost can vary. For visiting some popular tourist spots like the Taj Mahal or Red Fort, foreign tourists are charged considerably more than Indians. For travelling within India, trains are cost effective and you will find AC 3 tier coaches more wallet friendly than flights. For hiring cabs, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore offer more options than other Indian cities.
How Many Days are Enough to Travel
As a matter of fact, India is a vast country and there are several interesting places that you can explore. On an average, you can keep a minimum of two weeks for exploring major tourist spots in the country and more is better. You have to keep in mind that transport in India still does not match up to Western standards, and more so in interior areas. In states like Rajasthan and West Bengal, you will require several days to cover areas of interest. Hence, on an average, 3 week duration should be adequate for your maiden trip to India.
With the increase in number of foreign tourists in the country, number of travel agencies have shot up in India. However, this is one area where you cannot afford to be lenient. You will find any travel agency websites promising at first glance but selecting a reliable one is important. First of all, you should check the tenure of an agency and its legal capacity to offer tour packages in Indian states. It is prudent that you pick an agency affiliated to Travel Agents Association of India or Travel Agents Federation of India. Get your facts clear on cost and taxes before you sign up for an agency service.