Reasons to Visit
India's central parks are home to a vast range of species - on any game drive you might see spotted and barking deer, sloth bears, Indian gazelle, numerous bird species and of course the majestic tiger. But India can boast a lot more than this - visitors to the Chambal Sanctuary might spot the rare Gangetic dolphin and the elusive Asiatic lion can be found at Sasan Gir.
Whether it's the bright saris and traditional jewellery worn by Indian women, the colourful mounds of spices adorning market stalls, or the soft, pastel pink of a sunset over Agra, every way you turn in India you are confronted by vivid and beautiful colours.
As Brits we are famously fond of a curry, but anyone who has been to India will tell you that traditional Indian food is in many ways very different. The subtle and expertly blended herbs and spices create an incredibly tasty meal and the variation of flavours and ingredients between each region is remarkable.
India has perhaps the greatest diversity of landscape of any country; from the mighty Himalaya range to arid lunar landscapes in Ladakh, forested foothills, tea and spice plantations, deserts, mangrove forests, vast plains, tropical backwaters and remote islands. You won't have to travel far to feel like you are in a completely different world.
From the Mughal forts of Jodhpur and Gwalior to the palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur, there are majestic buildings in every major city. There are also numerous smaller forts and palaces which have been carefully restored, providing an excellent place to stay and experience regal Indian life as it once was.
India is the meeting place of several different world religions. We can suggest the most important places to visit to enjoy the beauty of ancient Buddhist sculptures or marvel at Hindu temples adorned with the pantheon of colourful gods. Our guides will point out the intricacies of mosque design or explain the meaning of a ceremony in a Sikh gurdwara.
Any trip to India should include at least one journey by train. Rail travellers will experience a glimpse of a bygone era, and an overnight journey offers the excitement of waking in your private car to a new and vibrant landscape beyond the window.
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Our India specialists are experienced and passionate about the country - between them they have spent many weeks a year researching new experiences and ensuring everything is of the highest standard. They know India inside out.
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Our huge enthusiasm for India stems from its endless diversity, and we use our knowledge of the different states, sites and hotels to plan the most rewarding experiences for you based on your own preferences.
We recommend focusing on one or two areas at a time, spending a couple of nights in each place so you have time to explore with your private guide and by yourselves.
Away from the main routes we know a number of families who will invite you into their homes, where you can learn about everything from the price of tea to cooking chapattis.
Its rich history has bequeathed India with a wonderful choice of hotels, and our regular visits allow us to find the best accommodation to enhance your experience.
Many of the royal families of Rajasthan have opened their doors, and converted palaces in the cities as well as those throughout the Aravalli Hills allow you to absorb the regal atmosphere. Such has been their popularity, 'new palaces' have been constructed - largely by the Oberoi group - with an emphasis on luxury and high quality service.
As well as the luxury hotels there are boutique spas, converted tea planters’ cottages, hill station retreats and beach bungalows.
The official language is Hindi which is spoken by about 30% of the population. English is often used for official or commercial purposes. In addition, there are 17 regional languages which include Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati and Oriya which are widely used in the north and Tamil and Telegu which are common in the south. Other regional languages are Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam. The northern Muslim population largely speak Urdu.
There is a huge variety of dishes across India, with combinations of spices giving each region its own distinctive flavour. Seafood is a speciality in the coastal areas and coconut is used in many Keralan dishes in the south. A variety of European and Chinese dishes can usually be found at 4-5 star hotels. Local brands of drinks are widely available and international brands in larger hotels although these can be expensive, so you might like to bring additional duty free to combat this. Alcohol is not available in certain holy towns such as Pushkar and Hampi and the first day of each month is a 'dry' day in Cochin.
Tipping for good service is expected in India and should preferably be paid in local currency. As a general rule we recommend the following tipping guidelines. All are per couple: guides around 300-500 Rs per half day tour, or 300-700 Rs per day. Accompanying tour escort 500-1000 Rs per day. For a driver who accompanies you throughout your tour we recommend 400-600 Rs per day and 200-500 Rs for a local driver.
In national parks: naturalist 200-500 Rs per game drive, driver 150 Rs per drive, government guide 100 Rs, mahout 200-400 Rs for a 30 minute elephant ride. All suggestions are per couple.
Hotel porters are usually given around 20-50 Rs per bag (more in luxury hotels). A 10% tip is appreciated in restaurants and for room service, when no service charge is added to the bill. In some hotels, particularly in Kerala, and at homestays a communal Tip Box is often provided, usually in Reception. At homestays/camps house staff can be tipped around 500 Rs per day between a couple. Please give your tip to your host to distribute fairly if a Tip Box is not provided.
Obviously this is very much a rough guide and you are completely free to give whatever you feel is appropriate. You can also tip in US dollars if you need to, please check the exchange rate at time of travel.
Rupee (Rs). Notes are in denominations of Rs1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. The 500 and 100 notes are similar in colour. Larger notes can be difficult to change outside of big cities. Coins are in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, and also 50 and 20 paise (100paise = 1 rupee). Currency can only be changed at banks or authorised money changers in India, including hotel cashiers. Try and obtain some low denominations for small purchases and tips. Both US dollar and GB sterling cash and travellers' cheques are accepted. ATMs are available in major cities and credit cards can usually be used for payment at larger shops and hotels. Allow about £10-30 a day for meal expenses.
The Prohibition Of Smoking in Public Places Rules came into effect from October 2, 2008; smoking is banned in all public areas of hotels including restaurants and bars. Anyone found violating the rule faces a punishable offence and is likely to meet with a monetary penalty.
Scant, tight clothing will draw unwanted attention and offend local sensibilities. Displays of intimacy are not considered acceptable in public. Visitors to all religious places should be dressed in clean, modest clothes; shorts and vests are inappropriate.
Always remove shoes before entering a temple or mosque (and all leather items in Jain temples) It is a good idea to carry a pair of socks to wear on hot stone floors.
In Buddhist shrines, turn prayer wheels in a clockwise direction. In Sikh gurudwaras, everyone should cover their head, even if it is just with a handkerchief. Tobacco and cigarettes should not be taken in.
Do not take pictures of people without asking permission. Photography within airports, of military installations, bridges and at "sensitive" border areas are not permitted.
'A Suitable Boy' by Vikram Seth: a prize-wining novel of modern Indian life. 'Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India' by Lawrence James: A compelling and informative book that charts the entire British colonial experience in India.
'The Essential Ravi Shankar' - Ravi Shankar: Seen as one of the world's great sitar musicians. Listening to this really does conjure up images of India. 'Rough Guide to Bollywood Gold' - various artists: Nothing encapslates modern India mare than the glitz and glamour of Bollywood music.
'Slumdog Millionaire' - A teenager who grew up in Bombay's slums suprises everyone with his answers to questions on TV's 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' 'Gandhi' - Winner of 8 Acadamy Awards, Richard Attenborough covers Mahatma's story from the beginning while telling the tale of India's struggle for freedom and all along showing some wonderful Indian scenes. 'A Passage to India' - EM Forster's tale of cultural mistrust during the time of the British Raj is brought to life in film'
North India - Punjabi murgh makhani (butter chicken) and Kashmiri rishta (meat-balls in saffon and aniseed flavoured yoghurt sauce), delicious dishes from the tandoor (a clay oven) - grilled paneer (cottage cheese) and murgh tikka (grilled boneless chicken); South India: Don't miss the Parsi dish dhansak (meat and lentil casserole) in Bombay, masala dosa (crisp pancake with spicy sauce and chutney) in Tamil Nadu and meen moilee (coconut based fish curry) in Kerala.
Kingfisher beer, Gin & Tonic, or a refreshing fresh lime and soda, mango lassi (yogurt based drink) or a cup of 'chai' or Indian tea: very sweet with milk and lots of sugar!
Namaste/Namaskaar (Hello, Good Day, Goodbye) and Shukriyaa/danyavaad (Thank you).
Diversity and variety, forts and palaces, Taj Mahal, sand dunes and deserts, tigers and elephants, ancient civilisations, the British raj, snowcapped Himalayas, temples and monasteries, coconut groves and paddy fields, rainforests, backwaters.
Handwoven textiles, carpets, carvings, spices, tea, leatherwork and gems.
Start planning your tailor-made holiday to India by contacting one of our specialists...
Our offices are open during the following hours:
Further reading:Tours in IndiaRegions of IndiaWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasTrain journeys in IndiaPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationCountry Guides
Other countries in The Indian Subcontinent:BhutanNepalSri LankaThe Maldives
Condé Nast Favourite Specialist Tour Operator 2010
Wanderlust Travel Awards Tour Operator 2013
Which? Recommended Holiday Company 2012
Sunday Times Value For Money Awards 2011
American Travel Trade Association
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