India’s crowded public transport, hectic urban life and variable infrastructure can test even the hardiest able-bodied traveller. If you have a physical disability or you are vision impaired, these factors can pose even more of a challenge. If your mobility is considerably restricted, you may like to ease the stress by travelling with an able-bodied companion.
Accommodation Wheelchair-friendly hotels are almost exclusively top end. Make pre-trip enquiries and book ground-floor rooms at hotels that lack adequate facilities.
Accessibility Some restaurants and offices have ramps; most tend to have at least one step. Staircases are often steep and uneven.
Footpaths Where pavements exist, they can be riddled with holes, littered with debris and packed with pedestrians and parked motorcycles.
Transport Hiring a car with a driver will make moving around a lot easier; if you use a wheelchair, make sure the car-hire company can provide an appropriate vehicle to carry it.
Further advice Consult your doctor about your specific requirements before heading to India.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from https://shop.lonelyplanet.com/products/accessible-travel-online-resources-2017. Other resources include:
- Access-Able Travel (www.access-abletravel.com.au)
- Accessible Journeys (www.accessiblejourneys.com)
- Enable Holidays (www.enableholidays.com)
- Global Access News (www.icdri.org/Travel/globalAccess.htm)
- Mobility International USA (MIUSA; www.miusa.org)
Unless shopping in fixed-price shops (such as government emporiums and fair-trade cooperatives), bargaining is the norm.
Dangers & Annoyances
Travellers to India’s major cities may fall prey to petty and opportunistic crime. Have a look at the India branch of Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree travel forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree), where travellers often post timely warnings about problems they’ve encountered on the road.
- India's roads are lethal places and visitors should approach all road travel with care and definitely avoid any driving or riding at night.
- India has a bit of a reputation for scams and these are indeed common in the tourist hotspots in Rajasthan.
Secure It or Lose It
- The safest place for your money and your passport is next to your skin, in a concealed money belt or pouch. Never, ever carry these things in your luggage or a shoulder bag. Bum bags are not recommended either, as they advertise that you have a stash of goodies.
- Never leave valuable documents in your hotel room. If the hotel is a reputable one, you should be able to use the hotel safe.
- It’s wise to peel off at least US$100 and keep it stashed away separately from your main horde, for emergencies.
- Separate your big notes from your small ones so you don’t display large wads of cash when paying for things.
- Consider using your own padlock at cheaper hotels.
- If you can’t lock your hotel room securely from the inside, stay somewhere else.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advice and information on current hotspots.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
British Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk/en)
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.voyage.gc.ca)
German Foreign Office (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mofa.go.jp)
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.government.nl)
Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (www.eda.admin.ch)
US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)
230V/50Hz. Plugs have two round pins.
Embassies & Consulates
Most foreign diplomatic missions are based in Delhi, but there are various consulates in other Indian cities. Many foreign diplomatic missions have certain timings for visa applications (usually mornings), so phone or check the website for details.
Emergency & Important Numbers
To dial numbers from outside India, dial your international access code, India’s country code then the number (minus the ‘0’ used for dialling domestically).
|International access code (in India)||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering India by air or land is relatively straightforward, with standard immigration and customs procedures.
- Technically, you’re supposed to declare any amount of cash over US$5000 or total amount of currency over US$10,000 on arrival. Indian rupees shouldn’t be taken out of India.
- Officials very occasionally ask tourists to enter expensive items such as laptop computers on a ‘Tourist Baggage Re-export’ form to ensure they’re taken out of India at the time of departure.
- Exporting antiques (defined as objects of historical interest not less than 100 years old) from India is explicitly prohibited. Reputable antique dealers know the laws and can make arrangements for an export-clearance certificate for old items that are OK to export, but it's best to look for quality reproductions instead.
Apart from citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, everyone needs to apply for a visa before arriving in India.
Visa on Arrival
Citizens from more than 100 countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe, can apply for a 60-day, double-entry e-Tourist visa online at http://indianvisaonline.gov.in a minimum of four and a maximum of 120 days before they are due to travel. The fee is US$80 for most nationalities and it's necessary to upload a photograph as well as a copy of your passport, and have at least six month's validity in your passport and at least two pages blank. The facility is available at 26 airports, including Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Bengaluru (Bangalore), Chennai, Kochi (Cochin), Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum) airports, though you can exit through any airport. You should also have a return or onward ticket, though proof of this is not usually requested. If your application is approved, you will receive an email with an attachment, which you'll need to print out and take with you to the airport. You'll then have the e-Tourist visa stamped into your passport at the airport, hence the term 'Visa on Arrival', though you need to apply for it beforehand. It is valid from the date of arrival.
Travellers have reported being asked for documentation showing their hotel confirmation at the airport, though this is not specified on the VOA website.
If you want to stay longer than 60 days, or are not covered by the VOA scheme, you must get a visa before arriving in India (apart from Nepali or Bhutanese citizens, but with the exception of Nepali citizens who are entering via China). Visas are available at Indian missions worldwide, though in many countries, applications are processed by a separate private company. In some countries, including the UK, you must apply in person at the designated office as well as file an application online.
Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. Most people are issued a standard six-month tourist visa, which for most nationalities permits multiple entries.
- Student, business and journalist visas have strict conditions (consult the Indian embassy for details).
- Tourist visas are valid from the date of issue, not the date you arrive in India.
- Five- and 10-year tourist visas are available to US citizens only under a bilateral arrangement; however, you can still only stay in the country for up to 180 days continuously.
- Currently, you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application; these must be in colour and must be 5.08cm by 5.08cm (2in by 2in; larger than regular passport photos).
- An onward travel ticket is a requirement for some visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance).
- Additional restrictions apply to travellers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain Eastern European, African and Central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country.
- Visas are priced in the local currency and may have an added service fee.
- Extended visas are possible for people of Indian origin (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad.
- For visas lasting more than six months, you’re supposed to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi within 14 days of arriving in India; enquire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa.
India is extremely stringent with visa extensions. At the time of writing, the only circumstances where this might conceivably happen are in extreme medical emergencies or if you were robbed of your passport just before you planned to leave the country (at the end of your visa).
In such cases, you should contact the FRRO in Delhi. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa if you need your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Note that regional FRROs are even less likely to grant an extension.
Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days (free for nationals of most countries; enquire on application). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo (take two, just in case) and a photocopy of your passport identity and visa pages. Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel.
To enter India you need a valid passport and an onward/return ticket. You’ll also need a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. If your passport is lost or stolen, immediately contact your country’s representative. Keep photocopies of your airline ticket and the identity and visa pages of your passport in case of emergency. Better yet, scan and email copies to yourself. Check with the Indian embassy in your home country for any special conditions that may exist for your nationality.
Dress modestly Avoid stares by not wearing tight, sheer or skimpy clothes.
Have head cover handy For women (and sometimes men) visiting some places of worship – especially gurdwaras (Sikh temples).
Shoes It's polite to remove shoes before entering homes and places of worship.
Photos Best to ask before photographing people, ceremonies or sacred sites.
Namaste Saying namaste with hands together in a prayer gesture is a respectful Hindu greeting.
Shake don't hug Shaking hands is fine but hugs between strangers is not the norm.
Handy hint The right hand is for eating and shaking hands; the left hand is the ‘toilet’ hand.
Homosexuality in India was decriminalised in 2009, made illegal in 2013, and decriminalised again in 2018. Trans rights have fared better: in 2014, there was a ruling that gave legal recognition of a third gender in India, a step towards increased acceptance of the large yet marginalised transgender (hijra) population. LGBT+ visitors should be discreet in this conservative country. Public displays of affection are frowned upon for both homosexual and heterosexual couples.
There are low-key gay scenes in many larger cities, including Delhi and Mumbai.
Gay Delhi (www.gaydelhi.org) LGBT+ support group, organising social events in Delhi.
Gaysi Zine (www.gaysifamily.com) A thoughtful monthly magazine and website featuring gay writing and issues.
Indian Dost (www.indiandost.com/gay.php) News and information, including contact groups in India.
Indja Pink (www.indjapink.co.in) India’s first ‘gay travel boutique’, founded by a well-known Indian fashion designer.
Queer Ink (www.queer-ink.com) Online bookstore specialising in gay- and lesbian-interest books from the subcontinent.
- Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems (as well as air evacuation) is strongly recommended.
- Some policies specifically exclude potentially dangerous activities such as scuba diving, skiing, motorcycling, paragliding and trekking – read the fine print.
- If you plan to hire a motorcycle in India make sure the rental policy includes at least third-party insurance.
- Check in advance if your insurance policy will pay doctors and hospitals directly or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures (keep all documentation for your claim).
- It’s crucial to get a police report in India if you’ve had anything stolen; insurance companies may refuse to reimburse you without one.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Internet cafes are becoming less common as wi-fi and 3G and 4G phone services increase. Wi-fi access is widely available in hotels and restaurants and it’s almost always free.
- Internet charges vary regionally, falling anywhere between ₹30 and ₹80 per hour and often with a 30-minute minimum.
- Bandwidth load tends to be lowest in the early morning and early afternoon.
- Some internet cafes may ask to see your passport.
- Be wary of sending sensitive financial information from internet cafes; some places can use keystroke-capturing technology to access passwords and emails.
- Avoid sending credit-card details or other personal data over a wireless connection; using online banking on any nonsecure system is generally unwise.
- The simplest way to connect to the internet when away from a wi-fi connection is to use your smartphone as a personal wi-fi hotspot (use a local SIM to avoid roaming charges).
- Alternatively, companies that offer prepaid wireless 3G/4G modem sticks (dongles) include Jio, Airtel and Vodafone. To connect, you have to submit your proof of identity and address in India (get a letter from your hotel) and often provide a passport photo. A local phone number is also essential to receive the modem activation code – the whole thing can take up to 24 hours. Costs are around ₹2000, which can include unlimited data for several months.
- Make sure the areas you're travelling to are covered by your service provider.
- Consider purchasing a fuse-protected universal AC adaptor to protect your device from power surges.
- Plug adaptors are widely available throughout India, but bring spare plug fuses from home.
If you’re in a sticky legal situation, contact your embassy as quickly as possible. However, be aware that all your embassy may be able to do is monitor your treatment in custody and arrange a lawyer. In the Indian justice system, the burden of proof can often be on the accused and stints in prison before trial are not unheard of. Travellers should note that they can be prosecuted under the law of their home country regarding age of consent, even when abroad.
A number of Indian cities have banned spitting and littering, but, as is obvious to everyone, this is hardly enforced.
- Indian law doesn't distinguish between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs; possession of any illegal drug is regarded as a criminal offence, which will result in a custodial sentence.
- Sentences may be up to a year for possession of a small amount for personal use, and up to a minimum of 10 years if it’s deemed the purpose was for sale or distribution.
- Cases can take months, even several years, to appear before a court while the accused may have to wait in prison. There’s also usually a hefty monetary fine on top of any custodial sentence.
- Be aware that travellers have been targeted in sting operations in some backpacker enclaves.
- Marijuana grows wild in various parts of India, but consuming it is still an offence, except in towns where bhang is legally sold for religious rituals.
- Police are particularly tough on foreigners who use drugs, so you should take this risk very seriously.
- You should always carry your passport; police are entitled to ask you for identification at any time.
- If you’re arrested for an alleged offence and asked for a bribe, note that it is illegal to pay a bribe in India. Many people deal with an on-the-spot fine by just paying it to avoid trumped-up charges.
- Corruption is rife, so the less you have to do with local police the better; avoid potentially risky situations.
Newspapers & Magazines Major English-language dailies include the Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Hindu, Statesman, Telegraph, Daily News & Analysis (DNA) and Economic Times.
Current-affairs magazines Titles include Frontline, India Today, the Week, Tehelka and Outlook.
Radio Government-controlled All India Radio (AIR) is India’s national broadcaster with more than 220 stations broadcasting local and international news. There are also private FM channels broadcasting music, current affairs, talkback and more.
TV & Video The national (government) TV broadcaster is Doordarshan. Most people watch satellite and cable TV; English-language channels include BBC, CNN, Star World, HBO and Discovery.
Most urban centres have ATMS accepting Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus cards. Carry cash as backup. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards.
The Indian rupee (₹) is divided into 100 paise (p), but paise coins are rare. Coins come in denominations of ₹1, ₹2, ₹5 and ₹10; notes come in ₹5, ₹10, ₹20, ₹50, ₹100, ₹200, ₹500 and ₹2000. The Indian rupee is linked to a basket of currencies and has been subject to fluctuations in recent years.
- ATMs are found in most urban centres. Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus are the most commonly accepted cards.
- Some banks in India that accept foreign cards include Axis Bank, Citibank, HDFC, HSBC, ICICI, Standard Chartered, State Bank of India (SBI) and Bank of India (BOI).
- Before your trip, check whether your card can reliably access banking networks in India and ask for details of charges.
- Most ATMs have withdrawal limits of ₹10,000 to ₹15,000.
- Notify your bank that you’ll be using your card in India (provide dates) to avoid having your card blocked; take along your bank’s phone number just in case.
- Always keep the emergency lost-and-stolen numbers for your credit cards in a safe place, separate from your cards, and report any loss or theft immediately.
- Away from major towns, always carry cash as backup.
- Black-market moneychangers exist but legal moneychangers are so common that there’s no reason to use them.
- As a rule, if someone approaches you on the street and offers to change money, you’re probably being set up for a scam.
- Major currencies such as US dollars, British pounds and euros are easy to change throughout India. Many banks in Rajasthan also accept other currencies such as Australian and Canadian dollars, and Swiss francs.
- Private moneychangers deal with a wider range of currencies.
- When travelling off the beaten track, always carry an adequate stock of rupees.
- Whenever changing money, check every note. Don’t accept any filthy, ripped or disintegrating notes, as these may be difficult to use.
- It can be tough getting change in India: jealously hoard your ₹10, ₹20 and ₹50 notes.
- Officially, you cannot take rupees out of India, but this rule is laxly enforced. You can most easily change any leftover rupees back into foreign currency at the airport (some banks have a ₹1000 minimum). You may be required to present your encashment certificates or credit-card/ATM receipts and show your passport and airline ticket.
- Credit cards are accepted at a growing number of shops, upmarket restaurants and midrange and top-end hotels; they can usually be used to pay for flights and train tickets.
- Cash advances on major credit cards are also possible at some banks.
- MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted cards.
- Indian law states that all foreign currency must be changed at official money changers or banks.
- For every (official) foreign-exchange transaction, you’ll receive an encashment certificate (receipt), which will allow you to exchange rupees back into foreign currency when departing India.
- Encashment certificates should be able to cover the amount of rupees you intend to change back to foreign currency.
- Printed receipts from ATMs are also accepted as evidence of an international transaction at most banks.
Private money changers are usually open for longer hours than banks and are found almost everywhere (many also double as travel agents). Upmarket hotels may also change money, but their rates are usually not as competitive.
Restaurants A service fee is often already included your bill and tipping is optional. Elsewhere, a tip is appreciated.
Hotel Bellboys appreciate anything from around ₹20 to ₹100.
Train/airport Porters appreciate anything from around ₹20 to ₹100.
Taxi/rickshaw drivers A tip is not mandatory/expected.
Hire car with driver A tip is recommended (around ₹100 per day) for more than a couple of days of good service.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Official business hours are 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, with many offices closing for a lunch hour around 1pm. Many sights are open from dawn to dusk.
Banks 10am–2pm or 4pm Monday to Friday, to noon or 1pm Saturday
Post Offices 10am–4pm Monday to Friday, to noon Saturday
Restaurants 8am–10pm or lunch; noon–2.30pm or 3pm; 7–10pm or 11pm
Shops 9am–9pm, some closed Sunday
For useful tips and techniques on travel photography, read Lonely Planet’s guide to Travel Photography.
- Memory cards for digital cameras are available from photographic shops in most large cities and towns.
- To be safe, regularly back up your memory cards, email and Cloud storage.
- Indian authorities are touchy about anyone taking photographs of military installations – this can include train stations, bridges, airports, military sites and sensitive border regions.
- Photography from the air is officially prohibited, although airlines rarely enforce this.
- Many places of worship, such as monasteries, temples and mosques, also prohibit photography. Taking photos inside a shrine, at a funeral, at a religious ceremony or of people publicly bathing (including rivers) can also be offensive – ask first.
- Flash photography may be prohibited in certain areas of a shrine or may not be permitted at all.
- Exercise sensitivity when taking photos of people, especially women, who may find it offensive – obtain permission in advance.
- When photographing people use your instincts; some people may demand money afterwards.
India has the biggest postal network on earth, with about 155,000 post offices. Mail and poste-restante services are generally good, although the speed of delivery will depend on the efficiency of any given office. Airmail is faster and more reliable than sea mail, although it’s best to use courier services (such as DHL) to send and receive items of value – expect to pay around ₹1500 per kilogram to Europe, Australia or the USA. Private couriers are often cheaper, but goods may be repacked into large packages to cut costs and things sometimes go missing.
- Posting letters to anywhere overseas costs ₹25.
- International postcards cost around ₹15.
- For postcards, stick on the stamps before writing on them, as post offices can give you as many as four stamps per card.
- Sending a letter overseas by registered post adds ₹70 to the cost.
- Posting parcels can be relatively straightforward or involve multiple counters and a fair amount of queuing; get to the post office in the morning.
- Prices vary depending on weight (including packing material).
- An (unregistered) airmail package costs around ₹400 to ₹1000 (up to 250g) to any country and ₹50 to ₹150 per additional 250g (up to a maximum of 2kg; different charges apply for higher weights).
- Parcel post has a maximum of 20kg to 30kg depending on the destination.
- Choose either airmail (delivery in one to three weeks); sea mail (two to four months); or Surface Air-Lifted (SAL), a curious hybrid where parcels travel by both air and sea (around one month).
- Another option is EMS (express mail service; delivery within three days) for around 30% more than the normal airmail price.
- Parcels must be stitched up in white linen and the seams sealed with wax – agents at the post office offer this service for a fee. It's a joy to watch.
- The post office can provide the necessary customs declaration forms and these must be stitched or pasted to the parcel. If the contents are a gift under the value of ₹1000, you won’t be required to pay duty at the delivery end.
- Carry a permanent marker to write on the parcel any information requested by the desk.
- Books or printed matter can go by international book post for ₹350 (maximum 5kg): the parcel has to be packed with an opening so it can be checked by customs.
- India Post (www.indiapost.gov.in) has an online calculator for domestic and international postal tariffs.
There are officially three national public holidays – Republic and Independence Days and Gandhi's birthday (Gandhi Jayanti). Every state celebrates its own official holidays, which cover bank holidays for government workers as well as major religious festivals. Most businesses (offices, shops etc) and tourist sites close on public holidays, but transport is usually unaffected. It’s wise to make transport and hotel reservations well in advance if you intend visiting during major festivals.
Republic Day 26 January
Dr BL Ambedkar's Birthday 14 April
Mahavir Jayanti April
Good Friday March/April
Buddha Purnima April/May
Eid al-Fitr May
Eid al-Adha July
Independence Day 15 August
Gandhi Jayanti 2 October
Guru Nanak Jayanti November
Christmas 25 December
Smoking in public places is illegal, but this is rarely enforced; if caught, you’ll be fined ₹200. People can smoke inside their homes and in most open spaces such as streets (heed any signs stating otherwise). The status of e-cigarettes is in flux, but there are currently bans in several states and this could be expanded at any time.
Useful online resources include the Yellow Pages (www.indiayellowpages.com) and Justdial (www.justdial.com).
Calling India from abroad Dial your country’s international access code, then 91 (India’s country code), then the area code (without the initial zero), then the local number.
Calling internationally from India Dial 00 (the international access code), then the country code of the country you’re calling, then the area code (without the initial zero if there is one) and the local number.
Toll-free numbers These begin with 1800.
Roaming connections are excellent in urban areas, but poorer in the countryside. Local prepaid SIMs are widely available; the paperwork is fairly straightforward but you may have to wait two to four hours for activation.
Indian Mobile Phone Services
- Indian mobile phone numbers usually have 10 digits typically beginning with 9 (sometimes also 7 or 8).
- There’s roaming coverage for international GSM phones in most cities and large towns.
- To avoid expensive roaming costs (often highest for incoming calls), get hooked up to the local mobile-phone network. You'll need to have an unlocked phone to use an Indian SIM card or buy a local handset (from ₹2000).
- The leading service providers include Airtel, Vodafone and Jio. Coverage varies from region to region.
- Calls made within the state or city in which you bought the SIM card are cheap – ₹1 per minute – and you can call internationally for less than ₹10 per minute.
- SMS messaging is even cheaper. Usually, the more credit you have on your phone, the cheaper the call rate.
- Getting connected is inexpensive and fairly straightforward in many areas. It’s easiest to obtain a local SIM card when you arrive if you’re flying into a large city.
- Foreigners need only supply their passport for obtaining photocopies of their passport identity and visa pages. Often mobile shops can arrange the photocopying for you, or you can ask your hotel to help you. It’s best to try to do this in tourist centres, at the airport and in cities.
- You must also supply a residential address, which can be the address of your hotel. The phone company may call your hotel any time up to 24 hours after your application to verify that you are staying there.
- It’s a good idea to obtain the SIM card somewhere where you’re staying for a day or two so that you can return to the vendor if there’s any problem. Only obtain your SIM card from a reputable branded phone store to avoid scams.
- Prepaid mobile-phone kits (SIM card and phone number, plus an allocation of calls) are available in most Indian towns from around ₹250 from a phone shop or grocery store.
- Credit must usually be used within a set time limit and costs vary with the amount of credit on the card.
- The amount you pay for a credit top-up is not the amount you get on your phone – taxes and service charges come off first.
India uses the 12-hour clock and the local standard time is known as IST (Indian Standard Time). IST is 5½ hours ahead of GMT/UTC.
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Noon in Delhi
Public toilets are most easily found in major cities and tourist sites and the cleanest ones (usually with sit-down toilets) are most reliably found at modern hotels, restaurants and shopping complexes. Beyond urban centres, toilets are of the squat variety and locals will use the ‘hand-and-water’ technique, which involves performing ablutions with a small jug of water and the left hand. It’s always a good idea to carry your own toilet paper/wipes and hand sanitiser.
Incredible India (www.incredibleindia.org) The tourism website of the Government of India.
Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC; www.rtdc.tourism.rajasthan.gov.in) Operates Tourist Reception Centres in most places of interest. These vary in their efficiency and usefulness, but most have free brochures and often a free town or city map.
Travel With Children
Fascinating, frustrating, thrilling and fulfilling – India is as much of an adventure for children as it is for parents. Though the sensory overload may be, at times, overwhelming for younger kids, the colours, scents, sights and sounds of India more than compensate by setting young imaginations ablaze.
Best Regions for Kids
- Keoladeo National Park
Here, the kids can let go of your hand and jump on a bike. Let them ride along the car-free road and tick off as many feathered species as they can.
Let imaginations run wild at mighty Mehrangarh; older kids can let fly on the exhilarating Flying Fox.
- Ranthambhore National Park
What kid won’t be thrilled to see a wild tiger? And there’s a mesmerising jungle fortress straight out of Kipling’s Jungle Book to explore.
Climbing up to Amber Fort and learning about the splendid, if tyrannical, lives of the ruling classes is sure to inspire.
- Sam Sand Dunes
Riding a gentle and dignified camel across the shifting sand dunes is a delight for young and old.
Before You Go
Remember to visit your doctor to discuss vaccinations, health advisories and other health-related issues involving your children well in advance of travel. For helpful hints, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children, and the 'Kids to Go' section of Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree).
What to pack
If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, there are several items worth packing in quantity: nappies, nappy-rash cream, extra bottles, wet wipes, infant formula and jars or dehydrated packets of favourite foods. You can get these items in many parts of Rajasthan, too, but brands may be unfamiliar. Another good idea is a baby backpack/carrier; a pusher or pram is superfluous, since there are few places with pavements wide enough to use one. For older children, make sure you bring sturdy footwear, a hat, child-friendly insect repellent and sun lotion.
Rajasthan for Kids
Being a family-oriented society, Rajasthan is a very child-friendly destination. That doesn’t necessarily translate into a travelling-with-children-friendly destination, however. Smaller children, in particular, will be constantly coddled, offered treats and smiles and warm welcomes. And while all this is fabulous for outgoing children, it may prove tiring, or even disconcerting or frightening, for those of a more retiring disposition. Remember, though, that the attention your children will inevitably receive is almost always good natured; kids are the centre of life in many Indian households and your own will be treated – usually for better rather than worse – just the same.
Feeding your brood is fairly easy in the well-touristed parts of Rajasthan and you’ll find Western and Chinese dishes with a bit of searching. Look out for multicuisine restaurants, should your little one be saying ‘not curry again’.
Adventurous eaters will delight in experimenting with a vast range of tastes and textures: paneer (unfermented cheese) dishes, simple dhal (a curried lentil dish), creamy korma (curry-like braised dish), buttered naan (tandoor-baked bread), pilau (rice) and momos (steamed or fried dumplings) are all firm favourites. Few children, no matter how culinarily unadventurous, can resist the finger-food fun of a vast South Indian dosa (rice pancake).
Rajasthan offers such an array of accommodation – from budget boxes to former palaces of the maharajas – that you’re bound to be able to find something that will appeal to the whole family. Hotels will almost always come up with an extra bed or two for a nominal charge. Most places won’t mind fitting one, or maybe two, children into a regular-sized double room along with their parents. Any more is pushing your luck – look for two rooms that have an adjoining door.
On the Road
Travel in Rajasthan can be arduous for the whole family. Plan fun, easy days to follow longer car, bus or train rides, and pack plenty of diversions. An iPod, tablet or laptop with a stock of movies downloaded makes an invaluable travel companion, as do books, light toys and games. The golden rule is to expect your best-laid plans to take a hit every now and then.
Travelling on the road with kids anywhere in India requires constant vigilance. Be especially cautious of road traffic – pedestrians are at the bottom of the feeding chain and road rules are routinely ignored.
Health care of a decent standard, even in the most traveller-frequented parts of Rajasthan, is not as easily available as you might be used to. The recommended way to track down a doctor at short notice is through your hotel. In general, the most common concerns for on-the-road parents include heat rash, skin complaints such as impetigo, insect bites or stings and diarrhoea. If your child takes special medication, bring along an adequate stock in case it’s not easily found locally.
Ranthambhore National Park Tigers, jungles, jeep safaris and an abandoned mountain-top fort.
Keoladeo National Park The chance to go cycling on car-free roads to spot wildlife.
Sariska Tiger Reserve & National Park Numerous deer, monkeys and other wildlife, and just maybe a tiger.
Kichan Beautiful demoiselle cranes in astounding numbers fostered by villagers.
Jhalana Leopard Safari Spot spotted cats on the edge of Jaipur.
Many charities and international aid agencies work in India and there are numerous opportunities for volunteers. It may be possible to find a placement after you arrive in India, but charities and NGOs normally prefer volunteers who have applied in advance and been approved for the kind of work involved.
Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisations that we do not work with directly, so it is essential that you do your own thorough research before agreeing to volunteer with any organisation.
The website www.ethicalvolunteering.org has useful tips on choosing an ethical volunteer organisation.
The Concern India Foundation may be able to link volunteers with current projects around the country; contact it well in advance for information.
Overseas Volunteer Placement Agencies
For long-term posts and information on volunteering, check out the following organisations:
AidCamps International (www.aidcamps.org)
Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (www.ccivs.org)
Global Volunteers (www.globalvolunteers.org)
Voluntary Service Overseas (www.vso.org.uk)
Volunteer Abroad (www.goabroad.com/volunteer-abroad)
Working Abroad (www.workingabroad.com)
Aid Programs in Rajasthan
The following programs may have opportunities for volunteers with specific skills.
Animal Aid Unlimited Volunteers can help rescue, treat and care for injured, abandoned or stray animals (mostly dogs, cows and donkeys) at its spacious premises a few kilometres outside Udaipur. Make an appointment before going to see it. There’s no minimum period, but volunteers are encouraged to stay long enough to learn the routines and develop relationships with individual animals.
Help in Suffering Jaipur-based animal-welfare charity. Welcomes qualified voluntary vets (three-/six-/12-month commitments). Apply first in writing.
Marwar Medical & Relief Society Runs educational, health, environmental and other projects in villages in the Jodhpur district. Guests at its guesthouse in Mandore and other short- or long-term volunteers are welcomed.
Sambhali Trust Organisation aiming to empower disadvantaged women and girls in Jodhpur city and Setrawa village, primarily through textile production, literacy and English-language learning. Volunteers can teach and help organise workshops on topics such as health, women’s rights and nutrition.
Seva Mandir A long-established NGO working with rural and tribal people in southern Rajasthan on a host of projects including afforestation, water resources, health, education and empowerment of women and village institutions. Volunteers and interns can get involved in a wide range of activities.
Urmul Trust Provides primary healthcare and education to desert dwellers in arid western Rajasthan, as well as promoting their handicrafts and women’s rights. Volunteer placements (minimum one month) are available in teaching English, healthcare, documentation and other work.
Weights & Measures
Weights & Measures Officially India is metric. Terms you’re likely to hear are: lakhs (one lakh = 100,000) and crores (one crore = 10 million).
Although Bollywood might suggest otherwise, India remains a largely conservative society. As such, female travellers should be aware that their behaviour and dress code are under scrutiny, particularly away from the more touristed areas.
- Be prepared to be stared at – this is just something you’ll have to live with so don’t allow it to get the better of you.
- Refrain from returning male stares as this may be considered a sign of interest.
- Avoid unwanted conversations by wearing dark glasses or focusing on books or phone.
- Wearing a wedding ring and saying you're married, and due to meet your husband shortly, is another way to ward off unwanted interest.
- Steer clear of sleeveless tops, shorts, miniskirts (ankle-length skirts are recommended) and anything else that’s skimpy, see-through or tight fitting.
- Draping a dupatta (long scarf) over T-shirts is a good way of staving off unwanted stares – it’s also handy if you visit a shrine that requires your head to be covered.
- Wearing a salwar kameez (traditional tunic and trouser combination) will show your respect for local dress etiquette; it’s also surprisingly cool in the hot weather. A smart alternative is a kurta (long shirt) worn over jeans or trousers.
- Going out in public wearing a choli (sari blouse) or a sari petticoat (which some foreign women mistake for a skirt) is rather like strutting around half-dressed – avoid it.
- Most Indian women wear long shorts and a T-shirt whenever swimming in public view.
Health & Hygiene
Sanitary pads are widely available but tampons are usually restricted to pharmacies in big cities and some tourist towns (even then, the choice may be limited). Carry additional stocks for travel off the beaten track.
- Most cases of sexual harrassment are reported in urban centres of North India and prominent tourist towns, and have involved lewd comments, invasion of privacy and sometimes groping.
- Increased use of smartphones means more and more people taking surreptitious photos of you.
- Beware the request for selfies from men – physical contact is usually the aim.
- Exuberant special events such as the Holi festival can be notorious for harrassment.
- Women travelling with a male partner are less likely to be hassled.
- Don't accept any drinks, even bottled water from strangers. Don't drink or eat with local men that you don't know: there have been several cases where tourist guides or hotel employees have allegedly drugged foreign women by offering them a drink or food.
- Keep conversations with unknown men short – getting involved in an inane conversation with someone you barely know can be misinterpreted as a sign of sexual interest.
- Questions and comments such as ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ or ‘You’re very beautiful’ are indicators that the conversation may be taking a dubious tangent.
- Some women wear a wedding ring or announce early on in the conversation that they’re married or engaged (regardless of the reality).
- If you get the feeling that a guy is encroaching on your space, he probably is. A firm request to keep away usually does the trick, especially if your tone is loud and curt enough to draw the attention of passers-by.
- The silent treatment can be very effective.
- Follow local women’s cues and instead of shaking hands say namaste – the traditional, respectful Hindu greeting.
- Avoid wearing expensive-looking jewellery.
- Only go for a massage or other treatments with female therapists.
- Female filmgoers will probably feel more comfortable (and lessen the chances of potential harassment) going to the cinema with a companion.
- At hotels, keep your door locked, as staff (particularly at budget places) can knock and automatically walk in without waiting for your permission.
- Try to arrive in towns before dark. Don’t walk alone at night and avoid wandering alone in isolated areas even during daylight.
Taxis & Public Transport
- Being a woman has some advantages; women are able to queue-jump for buses and trains without consequence and on trains there are special ladies-only carriages. On RSRTC buses there are special ladies' fares.
- Solo women should prearrange an airport pick-up from their hotel if their flight is scheduled to arrive after dark.
- If you get a regular prepaid taxi, make a point of writing down the car registration and driver’s name – in front of the driver – and giving it to one of the airport police.
- Avoid taking taxis alone late at night and never agree to have more than one man (the driver) in the car – ignore claims that this is ‘just my brother’ or ‘for more protection’.
- Solo women have reported less hassle by opting for the more expensive classes on trains, especially for overnight trips.
- If you’re travelling overnight in a two- or three-tier carriage, try to get the uppermost berth, which will give you more privacy (and distance from potential gropers).
- On public transport, don’t hesitate to return any errant limbs, put some item of luggage in between you, be vocal (so as to attract public attention, thus shaming the fellow) or simply find a new spot.
Women & Solo Travellers
There are extra considerations for women and solo travellers when visiting India – from safety (women) to cost (for those travelling alone).