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What you need to know about India
Nowhere blows your mind quite like India – it’s a country that assaults your senses in every way, with noise and colour, magnificent landscapes and cultural wonders.
|Currency||INR (Indian Rupee)|
|Languages||Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu + many more|
It’s a truly intoxicating place, whether you’re exploring the vibrant cities of Mumbai or Delhi, or the wealth of natural wonders beyond. Landmarks like the Taj Mahal appear on every postcard, but grand architecture is only a fraction of what India has to offer; it’s a country of stirring spirituality, exquisite temples, dramatic mountains and plenty of unexpected British influences from the period of the British Raj.
The startling poverty gap is in evidence everywhere, and it’s a country that will confound, inspire, frustrate and delight in equal measure. Immerse yourself in this unique and unpredictable country - you’re definitely in for the ride of your life.
Food and drink
Dining in India is an extraordinary adventure through thousands of years of culinary tradition - many of the cooking techniques remain unchanged for centuries, resulting in food that is simple, fresh and truly delicious.
Each region showcases its local specialities, with different techniques and flavours wherever you go.
Rice, meat, fish and vegetables are staples of the Indian diet, but it’s the complex combinations of spices and marinades that make Indian cooking so unique and distinctive.
In the evening the streets come alive with the tempting aromas of street foods, and some of the finest dishes can be found in hole-in-the-wall food vendors or roadside cafes.
It’s a country where you can dine like a king for just a few coins, so loosen your belt and try something new every day.
India is a shopper’s paradise, particularly if you’re looking for local textiles and handmade goods.
There are plenty of tourist shops selling local art, crafts and souvenirs, but you’ll find much cheaper and more authentic shopping if you head for the local markets. Regional goods are well worth seeking out – Rajasthan is known for its embroidered textiles and shoes, Varanasi has wonderful silks and saris, and Jaipur is famous for its blue pottery and gemstones.
Negotiation is part of Indian culture, and Indians will happily haggle over the price of a bag of onions, so don’t be afraid to barter hard to get the price you want.
Indian cultural history spans over 4000 years, and the country is known for its religious diversity – whilst Hinduism is the prominent faith, you’ll also find followers of Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity, each with their own sacred sites, religious festivals and time-honoured traditions.
The Indian film industry, known as Bollywood, churns out the most watched movies in the world, which has created a wave of Indian movie stars and western-style wealth. But in more rural areas, poverty and strict tradition are the norm, with attitudes to women that can be challenging for western visitors.
Whilst it’s been nearly 70 years since India claimed independence from British rule, fascinating British influences can be found everywhere, from the ever-present English language to the structure of the country’s government and railways.
Travelling in India is challenging – the roads are always congested, and the most reliable forms of transport are very much part of the problem. In cities your best bet are taxis and auto rickshaws, but you should fully expect your vehicle to be ancient and your journey to be terrifying.
Both are incredibly cheap, however, and very much part of the India experience! Trains are an option for travelling longer distances, but they tend to be old, run down and overcrowded, and definitely not safe for travelling overnight.
If you want to explore the whole country, the quickest and safest way is to fly – Indian domestic travel is fantastic value, and avoids taking your life in your hands on the roads!
Things to watch out for
India’s tap water is never fit to drink, even if it’s filtered – bottled water is super-cheap and available everywhere. Likewise avoid drinks served with ice or fresh fruit juice served on the street – it’s often watered down, and you may live to regret it!