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Do`s and Don’ts in India

The following is a list of the do's and don'ts for tourists visiting India

Do's:

  • All foreign nationals must pay hotel bills in foreign currency (cash or travellers cheques). This can be paid in rupees if the visitor has a bank receipt as proof of currency exchange
  • Exchange money only through authorised banks or moneychangers
  • Insist on a receipt when exchanging money
  • Retain all receipts to facilitate re-conversion of unspent money on departure from India
  • Shopping is recommended from Government Emporia and suggested shops on the list of the Department of Tourism. Information on these can be obtained from tourist offices in India
  • Shopping is recommended from Government Emporia and suggested shops on the list of the Department of Tourism. Information on these can be obtained from tourist offices in India
  • Export of most wildlife and their products is either banned or strictly regulated. Export of the few permissible items - even as passengers' personal luggage - is allowed only under an appropriate export permit
  • Insist on getting a certificate for the legitimate sale of a particular animal product and permission for its export to avoid inconvenience on departure
  • Taxis and auto-rickshaws in cities do not all have meters, but where they do, insist on the meter being flagged in your presence. If the driver refuses to cooperate, seek the assistance of a policeman
  • In addition, the above fares change from time to time and so will not always conform to readings on the meter. To avoid confusion, insist on seeing the latest fare chart and pay accordingly
  • If you wish to visit any prohibited or restricted areas, check with the nearest Government of India Tourist Office to ascertain details of the formalities required
  • Check with the nearest Government of India Tourist Office the rules regarding photography at archaeological monuments
  • Try to avoid the touts and brokers of shopkeepers
  • It is obligatory to cover your head before entering Sikh shrines.
  • In case of any difficulty contact the nearest tourist office or police station.
  • Concessionary tickets such as Indrail Pass on Railways, Youth Fare, Discover India Fare and Air Fare (Indian Airlines) are to be purchased in foreign exchange only

Don'ts:

  • ARE YOU COMMITTING A CRIME ?
  • Think before you BUY !!
  • Can't resist that Shahtoosh Shawl or those Ivory bangles? Think Twice before buying that exquisite coral showpiece! Illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of many species. You might be violating the law and also endangering wildlife.
  • Most of the trade in wild animals, plants and their derivatives is illegal in India under the wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which covers over 1800 species. Under the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES), trade in over 830 Species of wildlife is banned internationally while trade in over 33,000 species is strictly regulated
  • DON'T BUY TROUBLE!
  • When you buy or acquire an illegal wildlife product or souvenir, you may actually be buying trouble for yourselves.
  • Hunting of protected species of wildlife or possession of and trade in them or their derivatives is illegal and severely punishable under law. Wildlife products made from endangered species bought outside India would require permits for their import to India. Your souvenirs could be confiscated on your return and you could face strict legal action.
  • BUYERS BEWARE!
  • WHEN IN DOUBT - DON'T BUY. Ignorance of law is not an excuse. Given below are some of the most widely traded illegal wildlife products.
  • Marine Products: Reef building Corals, Organ-pipe Corals, Black Corals, Fire Corals ans Sea Fans are some of the highly endangered marine species offered on sale in our coastal regions and islands. Many endangered species of Molluscs such as Nautilus, Horse’s Hoof and Horned Helmet may also be offered.
  • Ivory Items: Ivory figurines, carvings and jewellery may be offered for sale at the tourist spots.
  • Live Birds: All trade in wild Indian bird species is prohibited. Species on offer may include parakeets, falcons, Hill Myna, Great horned Owl, and munias. For every bird that reaches its final destination, several die en route.
  • Reptile Skin: trade in skins and other products of protected species of reptiles such as Marsh and Salt Water Crocodiles, Yellow Monitor Lizard, Cobra and Rock Pythons is banned. Handbags, belts, wallets and other products made of these reptile skins mat cost you much more that you bargained for.
  • Shahtoosh Shawls: These shawls are tainted with the blood of Chiru, a highly endangered antelope. Three to Five Chirus are slaughtered to obtain the wool for one shawl.
  • Skins, bones, derivatives and products fashioned from them: All trade in skins, bones, claws etc. of leopard Tiger and other endangered species, and derivatives such as bear bile and musk pods is banned.
  • Medicinal Plants and Orchids: International trade in 29 species of orchids, timber species and medicinal plants in the raw form such as logs, whole plant, crude drugs, oil extract and resinoid is prohibited under the EXIM policy. One value - added products such as medicines derived from a cultivated variety of specified species may be allowed for export.
  • Collection or sale of plants or derivatives of Scheduled Species such as Kunth (Saussurea costus), Red Vanda, Blue Vanda, Ladies Slipper Orchid, Pitcher Plant and Beddomes Cycad is prohibited under the wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Also
  • Don't get lured by shopping bargains on the street.
  • Don't exchange money except with an authorized money-changer
  • Don't purchase travel tickets through strangers or unauthorized travel agents or tour operators
  • Don't encourage beggars by giving them money or other articles
  • Don't buy silver/ivory articles or peacock feathers in bulk
  • Don't wear any footwear inside Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jain places of worship. Some temples do not permit leather articles to be taken in

Important Information for Tourists

  • Come with an open mind
  • Stay healthy
  • Avoid crowds
  • Be careful with your money
  • Wear modest clothes
  • Drink bottled water
  • Avoid booking taxis from hotel
  • Although no vaccinations are required for entry to India however consider taking the hepatitis A, Typhoid and malaria vaccinations. Other health risks could include dengue fever, bird flu, polio, meningitis, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, diphtheria and rabies
  • Do not show or flash your money in public
  • Don’t wear too much gold that will attract attention
  • Try not to take too much luggage with you; you can find what you need in India
  • Don’t eat too much if you are not used to spicy food
  • Take it easy and slow down. India is not a day trip, you need months. So tailor your trip accordingly
  • Always carry a handkerchief
  • Take care of children to avoid abduction
  • Learn how to use the Indian toilets
  • Beware of scams and touts
  • Always carry a bar of soap with you. You might consider taking anti-bacterial wipes or gel and toilet paper
  • Wear a cap to avoid the heat on you head
  • Be calm, India is a hot, crowded place and tempers can easily boil. Stay calm
  • Be prepared to wait. India has more than 1.21 billion people, be prepared to wait at cues
  • Acknowledge that Indians and foreigners have to pay different tariffs and entry fees at historical monuments and museums
  • Learn some Hindi or the local language. India has 22 official languages. Think of it this way, each Indian state has a different Indian language. Hindi is the official language and spoken by 60% of the population. English is common across India. Here’s my Hindi book for your travels in India
  • Always wash your hands before you have your food
  • Learn salutations used in India, such as Namaste (Hindi), Vanakkam (Tamil) although “Hello” or “Hi” is fine
  • You might consider becoming a veggie in India. Firstly, as most Indians are vegetarian and there are great vegetarian food to be had secondly a dodgy meat kebab is more likely to harm you than undercooked vegetables
  • Get more understanding where you are and about the local place
  • Tailor your trip accordingly
  • Walk like a pro, show or pretend that you know the place. Don’t let anyone know that this is your first trip to India
  • Buy from reputable shops. There are fake and counterfeit goods that may look like the real thing but they aren’t, common ones include Ray-Ban sunglasses
  • Avoid local buses (not coaches), take taxis or autos instead
  • Some people say avoid street foods; if you want to test your karma, go ahead
  • Always make hotel reservations in advance. Hotels will take photocopies of your passport and visa
  • Make sure your hotels are air conditioned or at least has a ceiling fan
  • Be alert on trains unless you are on the Maharaja Express
  • Just be safe and watch out if someone is being too friendly
  • Don’t eat or drink anything any one gives you while travelling, it may not be safe
  • Indians in general are very friendly people but crooks take advantage of this. Basically, don’t accept food or drinks from strangers, they could be spiked. Exercise a high degree of caution
  • Tips are acceptable in India usually room service (at the end of your stay not after every service)
  • Keep your passport with you at all times and hide it
  • Keep several photocopies of your passport and tickets
  • Keep your travelers checks with you at all times, don’t just leave them in the hotel room
  • Keep your suitcases locked at all times. This is not to say that everyone are thieves but who knows opportunists might be lurking around
  • Buy some local clothing like a Kurta, a saree or a salwar kameez and blend in
  • Learn dietary habits of Indians. Many are vegetarians. Hindus don’t eat beef, Muslims don’t eat pork. Don’t offer them anything that they can’t eat
  • Remember photography in many places is not allowed such as airports, sensitive controversial religious places such as Mathura and Ayodhya. You might need special permission to take photos or shoot videos. If you are a casual tourist then it will be fine. You might have to pay a “camera fee”
  • When entering shrines and temples remove your shoes. Some temples prohibit the entry of leather goods such as belts and leather wallets
  • Wear sunglasses, look cool and keep the extreme sunlight out of your eyes
  • Many Indian roads are poorly constructed, be prepared for bumpy rides
  • Carry your own medication. Sometimes fakes are sold in India
  • Remember alcohol is available in India except some states such as Gujarat. Kingfisher beer is a popular one in India
  • If you are expecting to eat beef curries and pork sausages, forget it
  • “Holy” cows are revered (not worshipped). Show respect. Stroke her if you can. Mooo
  • No tips for taxi drivers
  • Always use pre-paid taxies from airports and stations (not all stations have pre-booking services). If that’s not available, fix the price before you take the ride
  • Bargain with the guides at historical places. Rupees 100-300 is fine for 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Don’t always trusts travel agents for booking tickets, they overcharge. Book at airports and train stations if you can
  • Never accept a free ride from anyone, use relevant transport
  • Keep money in various pockets so that if you get pick pocketed in one then you’ll have money in the other
  • If you trek mountains, remember there are no rescue services above 3,000 meters. Only the Indian Air Force can rescue you once they know you are there. Don’t hike alone
  • Always buy travel insurance before coming to India
  • Goa is the epicenter of tourism in India. Tourists have been coming to Goa for drugs, stay away from drugs. Drugs are illegal in India
  • There have also been incidents of rape in Goa, women travelers must be careful
  • Tourists leaving India will not be allowed to re-enter India again for 2 months
  • Beware of the weather in India. Weather in India can be severe such as heavy rains during the Monsoon season between June to October
  • If you lose your passport, report to the police station and get a report. Talk to your embassy or consulate for replacement or other travel arrangements
  • Consider emailing images of your passport, tickets, other important documents to yourself just in case you need to retrieve it later
  • Be careful with your hand luggage, snatching do occur. There is very little or no risk of street robbery in India. “India is not Somalia”
  • The electrical supply is 220/240V and 50Hz. Carry the appropriate “round pin” electric connectors similar to European ones
  • Remember Indian Standard Time (IST) is 10 ½ hours ahead of American EST, 5 ½ hours ahead of GMT/UTC and 4 ½ hours behind Australian EST
  • India is not disabled friendly. There are very few facilities at airports, trains, coaches or hotels. However Indian people are generally very helpful in this regard and will be more than willing to help disabled people
  • Carry mosquito repellents or nets with you
  • Have your hip replaced in India for a fraction of a price you would pay in the USA or avoid the 2 year waiting list in the UK. Thousands of medical tourists come to India. One such good hospital is the Apollo Hospital in 20 Indian cities
  • Don’t be alarmed if you get waken up in the early hours of the morning with the sounds of prayers from loud speakers
  • Don’t be surprised to see poverty on the streets
  • Be extremely cautious when travelling alone at night
  • Try to organize money in various ways such as traveler’s cheques, cash, credit cards
  • You cannot buy mobile sim-cards in India without permission. In Jammu and Kashmir, local government does not allow roaming facilities to foreigners. The best thing is to take your own mobile with roaming
  • A daily dose of pro-biotics or yogurt pills a month before coming to India and during your stay can help reduce stomach upsets
  • Politics is big in India. Try to be neutral
  • Remember that it is unusual for the opposite sex to kiss in public
  • Note the emergency phone numbers are: police (100), ambulance (102 or the nearest hospital), medical and fire emergency (101)
  • Can use internet cafes to access the internet. There are only a few Wi-Fi hotspots in India although there are wireless internet services
  • International calling is cheap from India. The country code for India is 91. Use a telephone booth if there are no international calling facilities from your hotel. They are known as a PCO (Public Call Office) and they offer STD/ISD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing/International Subscriber Dialing), or national and international long distance
  • Try not to drive; it’s not safe for the faint hearted. If you must then be prepared to encounter mad truckers, speeding maniacs, honking taxis, wandering cows, suicidal pedestrians, pot-holed tarmacs all at the same time
  • If it’s your first time in India, book a tour. You’ll know exactly where you’re going
  • Don’t be over cautious or be nervous, India is a safe country
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