BasicsTime: GMT +5.5
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of power outlets are used in India, but most plugs have two or three round pins.
Money: The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks, and authorised bureaux de change. It is illegal to exchange money through the black market and it is advisable to refuse torn notes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. It is best to change money into small denominations. Major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are available in large cities and airports but are not generally available in rural areas.
Currency Exchange Rates
Language: Although English is generally used for official and business purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. Urdu is the language common with the Muslim demographic. India has a total of 22 official languages.
Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).
Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India. E-visas can be obtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa for the first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visa pages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a visa and a passport that is valid for their period of intended stay. E-visas can be obtained before departure, with a printed confirmation of their purchase, along with two unused visa pages, needing to be presented on arrival.
Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India as tourists. Australian citizens can apply for visas online before travel provided they have a printed copy of the e-Toursit visa confimation that was applied for online, a passport containing at least two unused visa pages, and return or onward tickets.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for their period of intended stay, and a visa, to enter India. South African citizens can apply for visas online before travel, provided they have a printed copy of the e-Toursit visa confimation that was applied for online, as well as a passport containing at least two unused visa pages.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: Citizens of New Zealand must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay, and a visa, to enter India. New Zealanders can apply for visas online before travel provided they have a printed copy of the e-Tourist visa confirmation that was applied for online, a passport containing at least two unused visa pages, and return or onward tickets. e-Tourist visas can only be issued a maximum of two times per calendar year.
Passport/Visa Note: Visa extensions are not possible for tourist visas. Other visas may be eligible for extensions, which are applied for through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Holders of multiple-entry Tourist Visas (visa type code "T"), with a validity ranging from above three months and up to 10 years, are no longer required to leave a gap of at least two months between visits unless they are nationals from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh. Indian law does not permit dual citizenship for nationals of India. An Indian national holding dual nationality should contact their embassy or consulate for further information. Passengers in possession of an "Overseas Citizen of India" card or a "Person of Indian Origin" card, however, are liable to enter the country without a visa. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in India within six days of leaving or transiting through heavily infected areas. Also note that the following areas of India are restricted, and require that visitors obtain a permit BEFORE entering them: (Protected Areas) parts of the state of Manipur, parts of the state of Mizoram, parts of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the whole state of Nagaland, the whole State of Sikkim, parts of the state of Uttaranchal, parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of the state of Rajasthan, parts of the state of Himachal Pradesh; (Restricted Areas) the whole of the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, part of the state of Sikkim. If surface travel is involved, and nationals travel via restricted areas, they require a "pass" issued by either the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (located in each major Indian city), or the Superintendent of Police (located in each Indian district), or the diplomatic representation of India in Bhutan or Nepal. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health: There are many health risks associated with travel to India. Although no vaccinations are required for entry into the country, travellers should take medical advice on vaccinations at least three weeks before departure. Outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya virus occur, both transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria is common, particularly in the northeast of the country. Outbreaks of cholera occur frequently. Travellers coming to India from an infected area should hold a yellow fever certificate. Rabies is also a hazard; travellers should get immediate medical advice if bitten. Food poisoning is the most common problem among travellers to India. Visitors should only drink bottled water and ensure that the seal on the bottle is intact. Avoid ice, as it's often made from tap water. Meat and fish should be eaten with care in all but the best restaurants, and should always be well cooked and served hot. Salads and unpeeled fruit should be avoided. Health facilities are adequate in the larger cities, but limited in rural areas. Travellers should have comprehensive medical insurance, and carry a small first-aid kit complete with a travellers diarrhoea kit and a course of general antibiotics.
Tipping: In India, taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped. However, tipping is expected for other services (porters, guides, hotel staff and waiters in small establishments). In tourist restaurants or hotels a 10 percent service charge is often added to bills. 'Baksheesh' is common in India: more a bribe than a tip, it is given before rather than after service.
Climate: Kolkata experiences a tropical climate, with wet and dry seasons. Kolkata arguably has three seasons: summer, winter and monsoon. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures soaring as high as 104ºF (40ºC) during the months of May and June. The summer months are often punctuated with dusty squalls, followed by hail or thunderstorms, bringing slight relief from the humidity and heat. Winters are short, lasting only about two to three months, with temperatures dropping to 54°F (9°C) during the day between December and January. There are occasional showers in winter but the wet season is brought by the monsoon between June and September, when the city receives a lot of rain. Visiting during the monsoon season is not recommended. The best time to visit Kolkata is in the cooler months between October and April. February is probably the best month of all from a weather perspective. Kolkata has a problem with pollution and there is regularly haze and smog in the city reducing visibility. In winter the mornings are often hazy and misty, but there is usually sunshine in the afternoons.
Safety Information: Although the vast majority of trips to India are trouble free, there are some risks that travellers should be aware of. As in many countries, there is a threat of terrorism; in the past there have been attacks in popular tourist haunts like hotels, markets and temples. Travellers should take caution at large religious events, where huge crowds can result in life-threatening stampedes. On a more everyday level, there is a risk of minor theft, such as pick-pocketing, but incidents of violent crime in India are low. Travellers using India's vast railway network are advised to lock their baggage, and keep it close. Visitors should be on guard; if someone offers a 'business opportunity' that seems too be good to be true, it probably is. Female travellers should note that there are rare incidents of rape and assault. Women should respect local dress codes and customs, and avoid travel to secluded rural areas, including beaches, at any time of day.
Local Customs: India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educate themselves about the countries religious and social customs so as not to cause offence: for example, smoking in public was banned in 2008. When visiting temples visitors will probably be required to remove their footwear and cover their heads. Generally, women should dress more conservatively than they may be used to doing at home, both to respect local sensibilities and to avoid unwanted attention. Topless bathing is illegal. Indians do not like to disappoint, and often instead of saying 'no', will come up with something that sounds positive, even if incorrect. Social order and status are very important in Indian culture - remain respectful and obliging with elders. Avoid using your left hand, particularly when eating.
Business: Business in India is conducted formally, with punctuality an important aspect. Suits and ties are appropriate, and women in particular should dress modestly. If it is very hot, jackets are usually not required and short-sleeve shirts are deemed appropriate. It is customary to engage in small talk before getting down to business, and topics can range from anything from cricket to politics. Business cards are usually exchanged on initial introduction, using the right hand only. Handshakes are fairly common, though one should wait to see if greeted with a hand, or a 'namaste' - a traditional Indian greeting of a small bow accompanied by hands clasped as if in prayer. Visitors should return the greeting as it is given. It is common for women to participate in business meetings, and hold high positions in companies, and foreign businesswomen are readily accepted. Business hours are usually from 9.30 to 5.30pm (weekdays) with a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm, and Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm.
Communications: The international access code for India is +91. International calls are expensive and there are often high surcharges on calls made from hotels. Buying a local SIM card is a good option, as international roaming fees can be high. Free wifi is offered at cafes and hotels in major cities.
Duty free: Travellers to India over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 100 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 125g tobacco; two litre bottle of alcohol; medicine in reasonable amounts; and goods for personal use. Prohibited items include livestock, bird and pig meat products.