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The following is a set of "tips" based on the observances of American travelers to India. Because of the infinite size and scope of Indian "cultural factors", the tips are followed by Fa suggested reading list which may help the American traveler form his/her impressions of India. Be sure also to read the Country Specific Information (India).

Greetings: When meeting an Indian, do not automatically stick out your hand - if they initiate a handshake, fine, but don't be offended if they don't. The Indian greeting is to put your hands together in front of your chin (as for praying) and incline your head forward, saying "Namaste".

Dress: Visitors to India should keep the weather in mind when arranging their travel. In New Delhi, climate alternates between extremely hot summers, humid monsoons, and surprisingly chilly winters. Lightweight, loose, yet covering cotton clothing is suitable for 8 months of the year. Sweaters, jackets, wool skirts, wool suits, sweatsuits, hats, scarves, and even gloves will be welcome during the winter. Wintertime excursions to the mountain regions in the north or to hill stations require warm clothing, including heavy sweaters and coats. Light raincoats or windbreakers may come in handy at most times of the year. Bring umbrellas for the monsoon season. Washable fabrics are the most convenient for maintenance, but drycleaning services are also available. Cotton, silk, and wool are the most comfortable fabrics.

Indians dress modestly. To respect Indian sensitivities when in public Western women should wear skirts below the knees or longer or relatively loose slacks, avoiding sleeveless blouses, tight pants, and shorts. Young women and teenage girls, especially those dressed in tight or short Western dress, may attract undesirable attention. Western men should avoid going shirtless; trousers are preferable to shorts. These suggestions are especially important when visiting rural areas or tradition-bound urban areas.

Eating: In India, people often eat with the hand - the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean and generally not used to eat, or to handle food and money.

Tourists should consume only bottled drinks, without ice, or boiled water. The surface of vegetables and fruits should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use. Food (meat in particular) should be well cooked. When eating out, avoid restaurants which appear unsanitary. Most Americans find food to be relatively inexpensive in India so paying a little extra for a meal under sanitary conditions could prove safer in the long run.

Religious Places: Most temples and mosques prohibit shoes inside the building and signs are sometimes posted when this is the case. Some Hindu temples do not permit non-Hindus to enter. A visitor should ask if there is any doubt and observe other visitors. In Sikh temples, called gurdwaras, white/saffron head coverings for both men and women are required (and sometimes provided). Priests in gurdwaras also offer the visitor blessed food, which should be accepted WITH THE RIGHT HAND to avoid giving offense (not necessarily to be eaten or drunk). The food should either be eaten or given to someone else. Enter any religious place with the head slightly bowed.

Garlands: If you are given a garland of flowers, remove it after several minutes to demonstrate your humility.

Feet: The soles of shoes are considered offensive, so take care not to sit with your soles facing someone. Do not put your feet up on furniture. If you accidentally touch someone with your foot, apologize. Many Indians remove their shoes when entering a dwelling (see Religious Places above).

Personal Space: India is a densely populated country and the people are accustomed to being crowded. However, except for the packed buses, strangers avoid touching each other. Cross gender touching is especially offensive, although it is not uncommon to see same-sex friends holding hands or hugging.

Restrooms: While in India, it is usually best to avoid use of public rest-rooms. Most hotels catering to foreigners provide Western style restroom facilities. If forced to use accommodations in unknown surroundings, it is important to know what to expect. Indian -style toilets will most likely consist of a hole in the ground in place of a western-style toilet and will substitute water in place of toilet paper. If you are fastidious, carrying toilet paper and soap or some sort of hand sanitizer at all times may prove to a psychological as well as a hygenic benefit.

Eve Teasing: "Eve-teasing" is an all inclusive term referring to a wide range of actions, from those which insult women to those which constitute actual physical assault against women. Though there is no specific law which uses the term, two primary penal codes which are used to prosecute persons accused of the act are:

Indian Penal Code 509, which punishes the "intent to insult the modesty of any woman by use of words, sounds, gestures, or the exhibition of any object in such a way as to intrude upon the privacy of a woman;"and Indian Penal Code 354, which punishes the assault or use of criminal force with any woman with the intention or knowledge that her "modesty will be outraged."

American travelers in India are encouraged to take precautions to avoid unwanted attention. Such actions might include:

  • Avoiding eye contact with strangers 
  • Avoiding unlit areas after dark 
  • Traveling in groups 
  • Being alert to and avoiding suspicious behavior and activities 
  • Dressing modestly and conservatively

As it is more blatant in Northern India, female travelers to Delhi and/or other areas in the north should be particularly cautious of eve-teasing. Should you become the victim of unwanted attention, you are advised to shout or scream loudly, thereby alerting others to your predicament and exit the area. You are encouraged to report such incidents to the nearest police station.

GETTING HELP IN SMALLER CITIES OR RURAL AREAS

We recommend that you register with the embassy or a consulate. If this is not possible, call the consular section of the nearest U.S. mission and inform them of your whereabouts and travel plans
.

  • Avoid traveling alone or with small children to remote areas 
  • Before going, find out the telephone number, address and exact location of the nearest hospital, police station and consulate. 
  • When traveling to very isolated areas, be sure to have adequate transportation to and from the area, i.e. reliable car and driver and inform others about your travel plans. 
  • Try to have at least one reliable local contact who can help you in case of emergency. 
  • Inform the Consular Section of your travel plans. 
  • Use common sense: avoid eating exotic foods in strange locales; avoid what appear to be dangerous situations. 
  • When possible, carry a cellular phone. 
  • Otherwise, locate the nearest STD (telephone long distance) booth immediately upon arrival
  • Carry an adequate amount of cash with you for emergency purposes.
  • Never leave sight of your baggage. 
  • Safeguard your U.S. passport and do not leave it in a handbag or luggage. When you are traveling within India, consider leaving your passport secured in a safe or locked container in your hotel or local accommodation.

AUTOMOBILES AND DRIVING IN INDIA

The Indian Government currently recognizes only carnets issues by the Alliance Internationale de Tourisme (in Geneva) for the purpose of bringing privately-owned vehicles into India. Without a valid Geneva-issued carnet, the owner of a vehicle must arrange for a bank bond through an agent in India for the duty chargeable if the vehicle is not re-exported following the visit. This guarantee amounts to 2-1/2 times the declared value of the vehicle. The bond should be released after the vehicle leaves India and after a clearance certificate from the Indian Customs authorities at the port of departure is obtained. This procedure is generally cumbersome, frustrating and time-consuming, and travelers are advised toobtain the proper carnet before coming to India.

The International Driver's License (IDL) is recognized in India. However, it is almost impossible to rent a car without a driver, and it is not necessarily cheaper than renting a car with driver. It is also safer to rent a car with a professional driver. The Embassy recommends that tourists have cars with drivers rather than drive themselves. Car rental, inclusive of driver, is inexpensive by U.S. standards.

Those who plan to reside in India for an extended period of time and who hold a valid driver's license (not an IDL) issued by a competent authority of any country outside India are eligible to apply for a local license to drive a car or motorcycle. The written part of the exam is obligatory but the actual driving part of the test will (sometimes) not be required for the issuance of an Indian driver's license.

If the IDL expires, a local driving license can be obtained by submitting the expired license and a letter of introduction from the Embassy.


If a tourist is involved in an automobile accident, he/she should generally wait until the police arrive and make a report. However, if a crowd gathers and appears hostile, the tourist should leave and immediately go to the nearest police station to file an accident report.

A drivers' manual providing information about the driver's license test and traffic laws isavailable from the Automobile Association of Upper India, f-14 Connaught Place, New Delhi 110001 (Tel: 2331-4071 and 2331-2323), South Delhi: 26965397, 26864521, 26852052.

Health Issues: Adequate to excellent medical care is available in the major population centers, but it is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC'S Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov. It is important to note that Indian health regulations require all travelers arriving from Sub-Sahara Africa or other yellow fever areas to have evidence of vaccination against yellow fever. Travelers who do not have such proof are subject to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow fever quarantine center. Americans who transit through any part of sub-Sahara Africa, even for one day, are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.

EMPLOYMENT: It is the policy of the Government of India not to approve any visas for purposes of employment unless the need is established by a government or private organization in India. Clearance in this respect should be obtained from the Reserve Bank of India. According to the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act (FERA), 1973, Section 30(1), no national of a foreign state may take up any employment or practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business in India without the previous permission of the Reserve Bank of India.


EDUCATION: Admission to schools with instruction in English is difficult. Some schools in New Delhi where resident foreigners send their children include: St. Columbus School; St. Xavier's School; Convent of Jesus and Mary; Delhi Public School; British School; and the American Embassy School. Several good colleges are affiliated with the University of Delhi. The Delhi School of Economics and Jawaharlal Nehru University admit foreign students for postgraduate studies and Ph.D. programs. Admission for studies in medicine, engineering and hotel management is difficult because seats are reserved for certain groups of Indian citizens and for applicants from Third World countries. Applications to study at institutions of higher learning in India should be submitted from the United States at least nine months ahead of time. Additional questions can be addressed to the United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI, 12 Hailey Road, New Delhi; Tel: 2332-8944).

Please note that the American Embassy does not recommend or sponsor applications of U.S. citizens who wish to study at colleges or institutions in India, although it will provide a letter of introduction.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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