Traveling to India – What You Should Know - Part2

Friday, July 27, 2012

In our first post in this series we have discussed what you need to feel yourself well prepared for the trip to India and covered such important topics as climate, safety, and money. In this post we will discuss language, clothing, Indian cuisine and you will also find out how to connect to the rest of the world from India.

The Language and Communicating With Locals


While India has approximately 23 different languages, English is accepted and apart of the Indian tongue. Here is a list of the most widely known languages spoken:
  • Assamese -  Assam is spoken by nearly 60% of  the population
  • Bengali – The official language of West Bengal
  • Gujarati - The official language of Gujarat, spoken by 70% of the population
  • Hindi – The national language of India
  • Kannada – The language of Karnataka, spoken by 65% of the population
  • Kashmiri – 55% of the state's population speaks Kashmiri
  • Malayalam - The state language of Kerala
  • Marathi – The official language of Maharashtra
  • Oriya - The official language of the State of Orissa
  • Punjabi – The official language of the State of Punjab
  • Sanskrit - Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world
  • Sindhi – Sindhi is used in the Northwest frontier of South Asia which consists of India and Pakistan
  • Tamil - The State language of Tamil Nadu
  • Telugu – The language of Andhra Pradesh
  • Urdu - The language of Jammu and Kashmir is Urdu
Locals are usually pretty friendly and can be curious.  Don’t be surprised if you’re bombarded with a variety of questions from Indian residents such as: where you’re from and the reason for your visit.

Attire While in India


No matter what part of India you visit, dressing conservatively is best.
Meaning, if you decide to go with t-shirts, short skirts, spaghetti straps and shorts, it will garner you lots of curious stares, possibly disgruntled looks and attention.
While visiting the larger cities such as: Bombay, Bangalore and Delhi; you may be able to bare a bit of your shoulders and knees but not much more. While visiting holy sites, ALWAYS dress conservatively.
Female Attire - Once in India, head to the local shops and invest in: a sari, choli, ghagra or lehanga, Salwars, kameez, churidar,and  kurtas.
Male Attire - Men in India are more often found in westernized clothing.  It’s always best to pick up the traditions:  kurtas, lungis, dhotis, and lengas.

Indian Cuisine


Wheat, rice and hints of chana, are mainstays of Indian cuisine. Depending upon the area in which you’re visiting, the food is always diverse, filled with spices and unique in taste.
Depending upon the region, you’ll experience:  Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Mughlai, Punjab, and Rajasthan cuisines.
The best way to experience the many spices and dishes that India has to offer is to receive an invite into an Indian home.  This can be arranged by your hotel or travel guide.
Restaurants in India also offer traditional and modern Indian cuisine.

Communicating Outside of India


You will be able to communicate with your business, friends, family and loved ones while in India.  Whether you’re using a cell phone or land line, it’s important to understand the proper international codes.
In terms of toting a laptop to communicate, unless it’s a business trip and your computer is essential in conducting business, it’s best you leave your laptop behind.
If you need to check email or other computer related tasks, you can do so via your cell phone if you have the appropriate application.  Contact your local cell phone provider to assist you.
Otherwise, India has numerous Internet Cafes in all major cities.  They’re not the attractive looking locales, but they get the job done!  

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Traveling to India – What You Should Know -Part1

Tuesday, June 26, 2012



India which is considered South Asia, is the largest country within that region.  India defines itself with an ancient backdrop filled with rich culture, incredible cuisine, many languages, religions, and within the country, over a billion people. 
While visiting India, especially first time travelers, it’s essential that you plan your trip wisely, keeping in mind, religious principles, controversial territories, traditional customs, language and your safety. 
Here’s an overview to assist you in planning a trouble-free and pleasant trip to one of the most diverse and vibrant places on earth!

Preparing For Your Trip

All travelers visiting India will need to possess a Passportand Indian Visa
It is vital that you contact your local consulate so that they may advise you on the proper application process as it may vary depending upon the country in which you reside. 
In addition, once a foreigner to the country visits, you will not be able to return for two months, afterwards.
Malaria and/or sickness can be a problem in any foreign country so it is important that you visit your private physician or travel health clinic to receive the necessary shots, preferably 4-8 weeks prior to travel.


Here are recommended vaccinations you should consider prior to travel:  Meningococcal, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio, Yellow fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and Tetanus-diphtheria.
It is also recommended that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance.  If you have insurance, check with your provider to see what your policy covers while you are visiting a foreign country.  



Climate

India is vastly open to four seasons: winter (January and February), summer (March to May), monsoon (rainy) season (June to September), and a post-monsoon period (October to December.)
Most of the region consists of a warm to hot climate.  

Safety

Prior to visiting any foreign territory it’s beneficial to research the current temperament of the region. 
In certain parts of India, there exists civil unrest.  According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, travel alerts have been issued in these areas:  Rural areas of Jammu; Kashmir; areas bordering with Pakistan; Manipur; Srinagar; and Imphal.


If you are hiking or trekking in the areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, always do so within a group.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also suggests that you take precaution while visiting during Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), Eid (20 August) and Diwali (13 November.)
In addition, while visiting India be sure to secure your Passport, and ATM/Credit cards.  Make a copy of your Passport, Visa and flight itinerary, and secure it separately from the originals. 
Never leave your baggage unattended; always eat and drink from well established Points of Interest (POA);be careful to walk in streets alone at night.


Currency, Credit Cards and ATMs

The Reserve Bank of India controls India’s currency which is called “Indian Rupee” also known as INR. 
When exchanging currency, always do so at an authorized dealer such as a well known bank.  You can also exchange currency within the Airport. 
There are a few different booths which will assist you.  Also, be sure to request a currency exchange receipt.  This will establish your currency exchange within India. 
Currency exchange rates will vary depending upon who exchanges your currency.
Major credit cards and traveler’s checks are broadly received in India, specifically in tourist friendly locations. 
Though, it’s best to exchange your foreign traveler’s checks into Indian Rupee.
Generally, ATMs available in cities, big towns as well on most of the tourist destinations.
If you are planning to travel ruler areas as well some
interiors area's make sure to carry sufficient cash as ATM's are available in very less numbers.

In the second part  we will try to cover  Language, cuisine and ways of communication.


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Night Viewing of Taj Mahal

Monday, June 18, 2012



There is hardly anyone in the world who has not heard of Taj Mahal, a marvel of architecture, a UNESCO world heritage site, one of the world’s wonders and above all a true symbol of eternal love.
When you visit India, Taj Mahal is definitely on your must-see sights. Depending on the time of your visit you can discover a very different Taj Mahal for yourself.
One color melts into the other throughout the day. In the morning the colors of Taj Mahal are pinkish, the afternoon shines with milky white and in the night, when the moon shines, Taj Mahal is all golden.
Taj Mahal is open to visit on any day except for Friday. But the most unique experience is to visit this beautiful marble mausoleum in the night. However, you should plan your trip accordingly if you don’t want to miss this opportunity.
Night viewing of Taj Mahal is available only 5 days each month, i.e. in the night of the full moon night and two nights before and after that.
Tickets for the night entrance are available only 24 hours (1 day) before the night viewing itself.
You can purchase tickets between 10.00 am and 6 pm at

Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I)
22, Mall Road
Agra (Uttar Pradesh)

Phone: +91-562-2227261, 2227263
Fax:  +91-562-2227262
E-mail: [email protected]

Night viewing is allowed from 08:30 pm to 12.30 am. Usually only 8 batches of people (max. 50 persons) are let inside. You can stay there for not more than half an hour.
Full moon dates are calculated by the Archaeological Survey of India based on the Astrological data. This information is published well in advance for your convenience so that you can plan your unforgettable experience by checking with the latest updates on their website. 
Detailed information about times of Taj Mahal visits (as approved by the UP Tourism State Tourism Department) you can find here.
Things to Remember:
  • Night viewing will not be allowed on Friday as well in the month of Ramadan so plan your trip accordingly.
  • You can either purchase your tickets independently (use the contact data provided above) or you can use assistance of a numerous travel agents (in and around Agra), though in this case you will have to pay an extra fee.
We are sure you will enjoy your visit to Taj Mahal (day or night) and feel the power of true love while you are there. In any case share your experience with us!

For more information abut Taj -Mahal, read  our other article Taj Mahal

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Top 5 Destinations to Visit While in India

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


India, a land filled with festivals, vivid colors, spices, and holiness is a world filled with extraordinary history and culture.  This country’s never ending splendor, serene backwaters, and picturesque vistas, continue to wow travelers.

While there is a tremendous amount to enjoy while visiting India, by starting with these top 5 destinations, you’ll be able to sample a taste of this captivating region and marvel at its extraordinary traditions.

Goa


Famous for its gorgeous beaches, Goa is a visitor’s paradise.  This part of India offers over 4,500 miles of coastline.  Bask in the sun and enjoy the many water sports and leisure activities. 

There are numerous churches to visit along the coastline – most are well-liked for its amazing architecture and religious meaning.

The region also offers incredible safari opportunities.  Travel through the jungle to discover wild bengal tigers, roaming freely in its habitat.  

Goa is also famous for its mountain treks, camping, rafting, and skiing!

Taj Mahal

Located on the river banks of Yamuna in Agra, this stunning structure is the epitome of India.
 
Built entirely of marble at the request of Emperor Shah Jahan, this magnificent edifice was constructed in remembrance of the Emperor’s wife and queen, Mumtaz Mahal 

Read our other article about  Taj-Mahal.




New Delhi

New Delhi is the capital of India and is a hot spot for travelers.  The city is popular for its fashionable shopping, fivestar hotels, and amazing cuisine.

Be sure to take in the many attractions offered here such as: India Gate, Red Fort, Raj Ghat, Akshardham Temple, Humayun’s Tomb, Birla Mandir, and the Parliament House. 

Backwaters of Kerala

Kerala is extremely pleasurable for any sightseer.  This heavenly oasis offers beaches, rolling hills, palaces, and world-renowned monuments.
The backwaters are stunning and it places you in a total state of relaxation and serenity.  There are also beautiful beaches in this region, palm trees, coconut trees, and picturesque rice fields as you cruise through its soft rivers and lagoons.



Mumbai

Mumbai represents the infamous Bollywood, the Hollywood of the Americas.  This is the entertainment and business capital of India.

There is much to take in here, such as the many museums and shopping!  While in Mumbai it is almost customary to have a traditional silk shirt tailored to fit, for just under $30.

Browse the streets for unique finds such as extravagant leathers and distinctive jewelry, only found in India. 

Most of all, indulge your taste buds with India’s many spicy and authentic food dishes!

Honorable Mention

It is worth noting that Gangtok is a destination worth adding to your itinerary.  In fact, it is one of the most visited places by travelers in all of India. 

Located on the slopes of the Himalayas within the southern region, this historic city is famous for its charming Kanchenjunga mountain range views and world-renowned monasteries.

Other well known attractions include, Tsangu Lake, which is near the Tibetan border.  You will need a special permit prior to visiting this wonderful bed of serene water.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure, relaxation, or a spiritual retreat, you will find it all within the many wonders of India!

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Barot - A Hidden Treasure of Mountains

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life sometimes makes us very busy and we hardly find time for other things, but we at Travellingrants always try to find time out of our busy calendar for our ever-going expedition of exploring this magnificent planet. We wish all our readers a Happy New Year.

2012 was welcomed by nature with snow in hilly areas. Hills and vallies covered with white sheet of snow give a  view as if the nature is showing canvas at its best. Driving through the snow covered hills is always refreshing and one tends to forget all their anxiety, stress and busy programmes.
We decided to give a break and started to prepare ourselves to explore a small but a very scenic valley in the lap of mountains  -- Barot, a small place in the state of Himachal Pradesh under district Mandi, situated along  the Uhl River and surrounded by Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas.



Snow-capped peaks, a small river running through the lush green valley, chirping of birds, fresh wind flowing through valley, it seems like nature has blessed Barot with all grace. We found this valley as one of the most beautiful place we have traveled so far.
Barot is not a big tourists destination, only those few who love to be close to the nature know about this beautiful valley.


How to Reach
To reach Barot, one has to take a diversion at a village named Ghatasani, situated on national Highway No 20 (Pathankot-Manali). Barot is about 25Km from Ghatasani. Nearest main places from this are Mandi (District) and Jogindernagar.
There are a few buses  operated by State Roadways and private operator running between Palampur, Mandi, Jogindernagar to Barot.

The nearest railway station is Jogindernagar, a narrow gauge railway line connecting Jogindernagar to Pathankot.
If you want to take the aerial route, two nearest airports are Gaggal (Dharmshala Himachal) and Kullu.

Road Condition
Road from Ghatasani to Barot is a link road, so do not expect  a good or pleasant road, but driving through the splendid landscapes, changing colors of nature at every turn will make you refreshed and delighted.



Where to Stay
Barot  is not a big or popular tourists place, so do not expect a very luxury place to stay. There are two rest houses, one being operated by state PWD department and other by the state Forest department for official purpose, but based on the availability they are open for general public for very nominal charges. We suggest our readers to first give a try for these places.
PWD rest house is situated at Barot itself while Forest rest house is at Murthan, only 1KM away from Barot. Beside these, one has the option of home stay at very nominal charges.

What to Do
No big tourist markets, no malls, no popular tourists point, it seems to be a place for few who love such places. Beauty is in every part of this valley so every  spot in itself is a tourist spot. First light of sun  reflecting from water gives a wonderful experience. Sound of breeze passing through the thick forests gives feelings like nature is singing a welcome song for you.


Taking a walk around the valley will make you  forget all your concerns, anxiety and you will keep on admiring a never ending beauty of nature. Sounds of river water splash around the stones, calmness of the nature, chirping of birds, clouds playing around with sun is something you will keep recalling. Barot is a place for all those who want to spend time close to nature and want to rediscover themselves. Barot is not a place for one who is expecting a place full of people with lots of happening around them.
Barot provides a good amount of trekking options for backpackers. Many trekking trails pass through Barot, including trek to Bada Bhangal, Manali and Kullu.
This area is also popular for its trout fish farming, so you can enjoy trout fish if you love it.

Best Season
Best time to go Barot is an individual preference and choice. On papers Summer is the best time to go there, but if you love to see the clouds covering the Valley, sun rays coming out of the clouds, rainy season (July-September) is a good time.
For all those who love to see a white blanket covering the valley, reflection of sun rays from snow, winters are your best bet.


Precautions
Due to heavy rains, the area tends to encounters heavy land slides and can be closed for any uncertain numbers of time, so we suggest our readers to plan accordingly in the rainy season, In winter heavy snow fall can also create the same situation.
Beside some primary health center, one needs to go Mandi or Jogindernagar for any emergency medical situation. State government provides facility for 24X7 Medical ambulance and can be reached at the following telephone number - 108, keep this number with yourself for any such case.
For one who is on medication, please carry sufficient amount of medicines with you as you will not find any good medical shop in this area.

Temperature during the winters can go very down, so its advisable to keep enough woolen clothes with you,

Mobile Communication
All major service providers have there coverage in Barot, besides one can find number of STD/ISD telephone booth there. Still we suggest our readers to get a connection from BSNL as this state own service provider is giving services in all such remote areas also.



Route Map:
One of the most comfortable and direct route to reach Barot
Delhi  ->                 Ambala
Ambala->             Chandigarh
Chandigarh->        Kiratpur Sahib
Kiratpur Sahib->   Swarghat
Swarghat->           Bilaspur
Bilaspur->             Mandi
Mandi->              Ghatasni
Ghatasni->           Barot
We are sure that you have made up  your mind to explore this small yet beautiful valley, so don't wait, start your packing, we at Travellingrants wish you a happy and safe journey.

If you still have any questions about Barot, leave us a comment and we will be happy to help you to make your journey a memorable experience. 

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