Incredible India: An Essential Guide for First-Time Visitors (2023)

Incredible India: An Essential Guide for First-Time Visitors (1)
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India remains one of the greatest and most challenging travel experiences in the world. It is also, without a doubt, the most attractive, colourful, chaotic, spiritual and vibrant country in the world.

Even regular visitors to India are struck by the beauty of its cultural treasures, with temple sculptures and palace murals to rival the bestthe Italian Renaissance, to the artistic skills of ordinary people in a country where much is still made by hand.

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It's something Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reportedly encountered during his recent official visit to India, where he was feted by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

Incredible India: An Essential Guide for First-Time Visitors (2)

His official visit, along with the long-awaited tour of Australia's cricket team, highlighted a country with which we have long-standing Commonwealth and sporting ties. Australians of Indian descent make up the largest group of permanent immigrants to the country today.

Extensive use of English, a legacy of the British Raj, also means India is an easy place for first-time visitors to navigate and communicate.

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Nonetheless, it still isIt's not a country for the faint of heart, something of which Albanians themselves and current and former Australian cricketers in the subcontinent were well aware, having first traveled there as a backpacker.

There are many things that are shocking: the poverty, the noise and pollution, the overloaded vehicles dodging the streets, and the complete lack of personal space.

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But in a country of 1.4 billion that is aiming to overtake China as the world's most populous country, it's important to recognize that looks and questions are often just a demonstration of polite hospitality to foreigners who have left the protection of their families.

Delhi is the best place to start for a first-time visit: the clean, tree-shaded streets of monumental New Delhi, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s, offer a soft landing and the chance to wander around the Khan Market take loose cotton clothing with you to the Mall before diving into the whirlpool of modern India.

It's a mistake to cover too much on a first visit. A leisurely exploration of a small corner that combines some of the Golden Triangle's top tourist attractions with stays at rural palace hotels and game reserves will avoid the fatigue of forts and temples and preserve your sense of humor.

Nobody moves fast on the roads of India. Expect speeds of just over 50 kilometers an hour, even on dual carriageways between cities, as there are constant stops to avoid running over stray cows and unwary pedestrians.

Trains are slow with shared facilities, even in first class, but the scenery is more interesting on the train than on the road (excellent article by UK rail travel expert Mark Smith).asiento61.comTrain Travel website explains everything you need to know).

Incredible India: An Essential Guide for First-Time Visitors (3)

For couples and groups of friends, the best way to experience India is by chauffeur driven vehicle. Qualified and experienced drivers are usually knowledgeable and take wonderful care of their air-conditioned cars.

There is a wide range of guided tours for solo travelers, from small group adventures to classic bus tours of the Golden Triangle.

What follows is an essential guide to everything else you need to know for a successful first time visit to amazing India.

Incredible India: An Essential Guide for First-Time Visitors (4)

to where

Arid and dusty, the plains of northern India are dotted with extraordinary cities built by Mughal emperors and Rajput princes. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur should be on every newbie's itinerary, but they are all crowded places that can easily become overwhelming.

Alternate forays into the cities with field days. Plan a few nights in Ranthambore National Park, where tigers are now easier to see, and a stay in one of the magnificent owner-run palaces or fort hotels that will introduce you to the wonders of India.

Life in the lush green hills and valleys of southern India is much slower and less crowded, the countryside dotted with the ruined capitals of long-gone medieval empires and bustling Hindu pilgrimage shrines.

Many visitors travel to the well-governed state of Kerala. Unfortunately, Keralan's beaches are far from clean and most are home to large fishing communities; They are not places to hang your towel or swim in the sea.

After a visit to Kochi on the coast and perhaps a night on a rice barge in the backwaters, head inland to Munnar or Thekkady in the Western Ghats, wooded hills where wild elephants roam and tea and spice estates grow you offer nice family houses in the colonial era. bungalows

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From here, head to Tamil Nadu to explore the communities of Madurai, Chennai and Pondicherry before flying to the Andaman Islands for a few days on a white sand beach.

For sun and sand in mainland India, Goa is the best place to go. The beaches north of the capital, Panjim, are popular for nightlife, although they tend to feel unkempt and overdeveloped during the day.

For cleaner, whiter and quieter sandy beaches head south to Colva and Benaulim - Alila Diwa Goa and St Regis (formerly Leela Beach Resort) are notable accommodation options.

when and with whom

The best time to travel to India is from late October (end of the monsoon season) to mid-March, with April and May often being hot and muggy.

Daily highs of over 40 degrees are regularly recorded on the north Indian plains, although it's a good time to visit the Himalayan foothills and the hill stations of Shimla and Darjeeling. Meanwhile, summer in Kashmir and Ladakh is comfortable.

The monsoon rains begin in the south in late May and gradually move north over the next six weeks, although timing varies and it does not rain all day every day.

If you like a quiet hotel, avoid the 10 days surrounding the Diwali festival in November, when Indian families party en masse and stay up late. The best time to find rooms available at short notice is in the first two weeks of December.

As this is your first trip to India, you might prefer the security and peace of mind of traveling as part of a group tour with a trusted tour operator. There are several experienced and reputable tour operators in Australia that offer regular tours to India.

This includes the quality and value of Bunnik Tours ( Wendy Wu Tours ( for the adventurous, cost-conscious and environmentally conscious Australian-based global group Intrepid Travel( suits her.

For travelers looking for a more personalized and exclusive experience that combines adventure, comfort and style, consider small group or independent tours offered by Classic Safari Company (

What you need and what to bring

Australians, likemost nationalities, need a visa to visit India. However, in order to encourage more tourism in the country, the Government of India has simplified the process of applying for an Indian Visa from Australia.

The availability of an e-Visa means that Australians can apply for an Indian Tourist Visa online without having to travel to the nearest Indian Consulate or Indian High Commission.

Prospective Australian travelers to India are encouraged to apply through the official government site

Please be prepared to provide all required personal, educational and professional information as well as the places you plan to visit in India, your points of entry and exit and the countries you have visited in the last ten years.

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A passport photo of a certain size and other requirements is also required, with the eVisa approval processing time, at a cost of US$80 (US$120), usually between two and three business days. Please note that there is a four day minimum application period before leaving Australia.

Start packing with a wheeled holdall, which is much easier to stow on trains and coaches than a large hard suitcase.

The other must-pack for India is a universal sink plug; a flashlight (preferably a small headlamp); slip-on shoes or sandals for temples and for entering houses; Sunscreen with a high sun protection factor and a sun hat. insect repellent with DEET, ear plugs and visors for trains and city hotels; Bird and wall binoculars and a bottle of filtered water to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

Staying healthy in India

An Indian tour guide reports that his clients' illness rates have decreased since the spread of hand sanitizer. It pays to travel with an antiviral hand foam.

Drink at least a liter of safe bottled water daily. If you succumb to Delhi belly, follow a diet of rice and yogurt and drink plenty of fluids for 24 hours.

The Sydney-based Travel Vaccination Clinic ( advises travelers to India to ensure all children's vaccinations are up to date, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid or ensure you are up to date with these vaccinations.

Before you leave, consider getting a COVID-19 booster shot, getting the annual flu shot and following strict hygiene procedures when eating and drinking locally sourced food and water, and avoiding mosquito bites whenever possible.

Malaria risk in India varies seasonally in winter, with low risk outside of the states of Orissa and Assam.

This cover story is adapted from the Travel section of the Telegraph UK and is reproduced with permission.

Ten more things you should know for a first visit

get ready

As a beginner, prepare to be shocked, appalled, and approached (for food and money) in a disturbingly unequal society. Be kind, respectful, caring and generous, fully aware that you cannot solve all the problems of an earth so crowded and complex.

Watch your modesty

In India, avoid tight-fitting tops, knee-length shorts and see-through skirts (these are considered underwear by Indians). Outside the beach it is forbidden to show a lot of cleavage.

Only use your right hand

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When visiting India, always use your right hand when eating and handing money or goods, even if you are left-handed. (As an explanation: the Indians use the left hand for their ablutions, which is why it is considered dirty).

Be prepared to tip

Many places have a tip box for staff, and local guides expect a reasonable tip of around $15 for a full day's work. Tip good drivers about $20 a day and ask them to skip unsolicited shopping stops.

Don't skimp on your stays

If you're not backpacking, don't skimp too much on the quality of your accommodation (look elsewhere for savings). bets

Greet the day and beat the crowds

Getting up early in a crowded India has its rewards. For example, instead of taking a day trip to the Taj Mahal, spend the night in Agra, the city that houses the white marble mausoleum, and see the building from dawn before the tourist crowds arrive.

First Aid (First Aid) first thing

Pack a small, portable first aid kit just in case. Grab a packet of doctor-prescribed antibiotics for serious illnesses (you most likely won't need them, but you'll be glad if you do), as well as those electrolyte pouches to stay hydrated.

Ask before your snap

Indians love nothing more than posing for photos at famous locations, preferably with an exotic westerner in their family circle. But they don't like being photographed in everyday clothes doing housework. Always ask beforehand and respect their wishes.

Survive in the Hall of Fame

Delhi is notorious for smog, with the worst months being November to February, coinciding with the peak tourist season. Practically two cities in one (Old Delhi and New Delhi), the capital has a lot to recommend it, but it packs a decent mask.

take a leaf

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Please read before you go and while you are there.City of Geniusesby William Dalrymple is cleverly reminiscent of Old DelhiHoly cowby Sarah Macdonald is an entertaining quest for spiritual India. by Amitav Ghoshsea ​​of ​​poppiesand Vikram Setha real boyare also recommended.


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