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Top India Hotels


India Awesome India is one of the ultimate travel experiences. Surely no other country possesses the diversity and depth of this mesmerizing land. The engrossing culture is stunningly exotic and rich. The land varies wildly, from sweltering tropics to the unforgiving icy extremes of the mighty Himalayas. And the turbulent wake of ethnic variation, eventful history and political strife has led to an equally disparate people, filling every possible niche of human existence. India overflows with beauty and toil. The sights, sounds, smell and tastes will push your senses to their very limits. India as we know it was bo rn of the legacy of British colonial rule. Formerly a patchwork of feuding princely states, the subcontinent became the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The independence movement led by world-shaker Mahatma Gandhi sounded the death knell for European colonialism around the globe, and the partition that accompanied the forced British withdrawal still drags on today. The largest democracy on the planet is barely holding together a most complicated nation, and the traditional caste system, although formerly outlawed, has ingrained the social strata. The miniscule elite's vast wealth is contradicted by overwhelming poverty. Age-old religious tensions are fuelled by fundamentalism and irresponsible elements in the political arena. Although immensely rewarding travelling around India is hard going. The nation grapples with widespread illiteracy, poor infrastructure and a distinct lack of services. Unless backpacking (and India is one of the most fascinating backpacking destinations), then flying is the only comfortable and practical way to traverse the subcontinent. The rail network takes most of the strain, but has seen slow modernisation. Car provides an acceptable alternative but take a driver, as the roads will test even the steeliest nerves. With a population of more than a billion, India is second to China as the most populous country on earth. Yet you will hear few investors referring to India as "the world's second-biggest market" with the same salivating optimism as with China. Business practices can be frustrating with corruption undermining what ought to be an industrial powerhouse. International hotel chains often invest in new properties only to have local partners sneakily edge them out. Standards inevitably slip and the result is that the quality of the hotels varies wildly. Star ratings are not always reliable and, relative to the rest of Asia, are typically inflated, so it pays to do your research before you check-in. Generally speaking Indian hotels are bad(some are horrendous!) but glowing exceptions do exist. A few prominent chains are fittingly represented and India's better heritage hotels possess a magic that you cannot get elsewhere. Despite the challenges and head-scratching contradictions, the country is laden with wondrous sights to captivate the visitor. It is liberally dressed with incredible temples and forts and inspired colonial structures. Spirituality courses through the nation's veins, not surprising as India gave rise to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Sprawling Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) are traditional gateways but both are worth escaping for the jewels that lie within. Agra hosts the exquisite white marble Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and to the south are the striking spires of Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai. The golden shores of Goa were first colonised by the Portuguese, then later by long-haired hippies, and although it is slowly heading upmarket it retains much of its original appeal. Rajasthan, though, is most visitors' highlight - Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaiselmer, Udaipur and Puskar provide an enthralling variety of palaces, forts, havelis and bazaars. The Indian climate is as diverse as the country itself, from the searing heat of Chennai (Madras) to the cool hill stations of Shimla. The seasons are loosely divided into the hot (February to May), the wet (June to October) and the most temperate season, the cool (November to January). With a slice of humour, adventurous travellers who are willing to invest a little time and effort will find India to be one of the pinnacles of travel. And the gentle, unflappable Indians, with their alternative outlook on life have the inane ability to make you laugh, or at other times, cry. More...

Visas

All visitors to India require a passport that is valid for 6 months. Visas must be obtained prior to arrival from an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad and are issued for stays of varying lengths depending on the needs of the visitor.

Certain areas, such as the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Lakshadweep Island and Sikkim, have restricted access and special visas are required. Current information should be confirmed with your nearest Indian Embassy or Consulate.

Customs

The import and export of local currency is prohibited and local currency can only be converted back into foreign currency if exchange receipts are produced. Foreign currency cash amounts in excess of US$2,500 must be declared on arrival and the completed declaration forms must be kept for display on departure.

Visitors can take the following into India duty free.

  • Alcohol - 1 litre
  • Tobacco - 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco

Penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs are severe.

Time

Indian time: GMT + 5 hours

Currency

  • Indian Rupee (Rs) - Check current exchange rates
  • 100 paisa (p) = 1 Rupee (Rs)
  • Notes issued: Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20, Rs10, Rs5, Rs2, Rs1
  • Coins issued: Rs5, Rs2, Rs1 and 50p, 25p, 10p, 5p

Tipping

Tipping remains optional but is common practice. There are two kinds of tipping in India: the usual optional leaving of a 10% tip for service provided and the form referred to as "baksheesh". In the latter case, a tip is given beforehand in order to ensure good service.

Banking Hours

Monday to Friday 10.00am to 2.00pm

Language

The national language of India is Hindi but there are also approximately 17 other regional languages including Punjabi, Bengali, Gujerati and Oriya (which are widely used in the north); Tamil and Telegu are common in the south and Urdu is largely spoken by the Muslim population. English is widely understood in major cities and tourist areas.

Telephone

The international dialling code for India is 91

When making international telephone calls from India, first dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number

Local Telephone Codes

Agra 0562
Ahmedabad 079
Ahmedabad 079
Ajmer 0145
Alleppey 0477
Amritsar 0183
Bangalore 080
Bhopal 0755
Bogmalo 0830
Calcutta 033
Hyderabad 040
Jaipur 0141
Jodhpur 0291
Madras 044
Manali 01902
Mumbai (Bombay) 022
Mysore 081
New Delhi 011
Ootacamund 0423
Pune (Poona) 020
Shimla 0177
Surat 0261
Tirupathi 08574
Udaipur 0294
Varanassi 0542

Electricity

220-240V AC at 50Hz.

Standard sockets are small rounded 2 or 3 pin, therefore a universal adapter is an important travel item.

Water

Do not drink the water and avoid using ice cubes. Stick to bottled water and ensure that the seal is intact.

Health

Be aware that once outside major cities in India the standard of health care is low. Make sure that your health insurance is comprehensive and covers evacuation. Think seriously about being inoculated against, hepatitis A, polio and typhoid and also consider a pre-exposure rabies vaccination and anti-malarials.

It is essential that you check the current situation with respect to all potential health hazards and any vaccination requirements with your doctor when planning your trip.

International Airports

  • Calcutta
  • Cochin
  • Delhi - Indira Gandhi
  • Madras - Chennai
  • Mumbai (Bombay)

International Airport Tax

  • Rs150 on flights to neighbouring countries (i.e. Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka)
  • Rs500 to all other international destinations

Domestic Airports

India has over 80 domestic airports linking all regions around the country; some of the more popular destinations include those listed above plus the following:

  • Ahmedabad
  • Amritsar
  • Bangalore
  • Bhopal
  • Dehradun
  • Hyderabad
  • Jaipur
  • Madurai
  • Mysore
  • Pondicherry
  • Raipur
  • Shimla
  • Udaipur
  • Varanassi

Domestic Airport Departure Tax

None

Etiquette/Dress Code

Dress in India is mostly casual except in business circles. Women should dress with particular care and avoid wearing revealing clothes. Shoes should be removed before entering a place of worship or a home.

A handshake is an acceptable form of greeting in most circles, although Indian women prefer not to shake hands. A traditional way to greet someone in India is to say "namaste" - hands are placed in front of the body with palms pressed together as if in prayer and the head is bowed forward.

Diplomatic Missions

Many countries have representative offices and consulates in India.

Useful Sources of Information

Further information on Indian culture and tourist attractions:

  • Tourist attractions in India

Weather

India experiences a range of climatic variations across its vast expanse.

  • Monsoon - July to September when monsoon rains sweep across the country with daily torrential downpours and a high possibility of flooding making travel difficult in all areas except the northwest. Duration of monsoons may vary in different regions by several weeks.
  • Cool - The months from October to February are some of the best times to visit as the weather is very pleasant with minimal rainfall in most places.
  • Hot - March to June witnesses temperatures that can soar above average making the hot season unbearable and the hazy, dust-laden air can hamper views. Many people head to "hill stations" which provide a welcome relief from the extreme heat of the lowlands.
  • Cyclones - June to September can suffer from these fierce tropical storms, which mainly affect the east coast of India, cause high winds, intense rain and a possibility of tidal waves.

Carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings during hot weather.

Northern India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 14 - 20°C 79mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 15 - 20°C 300mm
Cool Season (October - February) 5 - 13°C 39mm

Himachal Pradesh, Punjab

Mostly due to its high elevation, the far north experiences milder weather than elsewhere in India and extra layers are necessary at all times of the year.

Waterproofs are essential during the Monsoon Season when rainfall is heavy.

The Cool Season can experience relatively cold weather with snowfall further north - warm clothes are essential at this time of year.

Best time to visit: The Hot Season when the weather is reasonably warm and rainfall is minimal - although waterproofs are useful. Warmer clothes are essential for the evenings.

Northeastern India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 12 - 18°C 240mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 15 - 20°C 451mm
Cool Season (October - February) 7 - 13°C 36mm

Sikkim, West Bengal

The northeast experiences high rainfall/humidity during both the Monsoon Season and the tail end of the Hot Season. Views of the lush hillside, famous for its tea plantations, can be hampered during these wet periods. Waterproofs are an absolute necessity and a few warm layers are useful too.

Best time to visit: Although it can be cold (especially during the evenings), days tend to be clear, fresh and dry in the Cool Season.

Northwestern India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 24 - 38°C 11mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 26 - 37°C 48mm
Cool Season (October - February) 12 - 29°C 36mm

Gujarat, Rajasthan

This region of India is predominantly dry and arid, with the Thar Desert occupying the far western expanse. The monsoon bears little or no effect on the weather and rainfall is minimal throughout the year.

The heat can be extreme and if visiting this area during the hotter months, lightweight clothes are best.

Best time to visit: The Cool Season, although it can get cold at night and warm clothes are necessary.

Many cities in Rajasthan are built around sacred lakes and these are at their best during the slightly wetter Monsoon Season.

Central India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 24 - 36°C 20mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 26 - 34°C 178mm
Cool Season (October - February) 11 - 26°C 17mm

Delhi, Madhya Pradesh

The temperature rises to oppressive levels during the Hot Season - daytime temperatures can reach the 40's(oC) and night-time temperatures can remain in the high 20's(oC). Pollution levels can also be alarmingly high during this time.

The Monsoon Season can begin as early as late June but generally the effects are not felt until mid-July. Rain tends to be intermittent but torrential. An umbrella is essential if travelling at this time as waterproofs would be too hot.

Best time to visit: During the Cool Season as days are warm, dry and pleasant, however nights can be surprisingly cold and temperatures can drop below 10 oC - take a few extra layers to pile on after the sun goes down.

Eastern India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 25 - 35°C 112mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 26 - 32°C 272mm
Cool Season (October - February) 18 - 29°C 47mm

Bengal, Orissa

The end of the Hot Season is quite wet and both temperatures and humidity are high.

The Monsoon Season suffers a large amount of rain and flooding is common. Humidity levels also remain high and the heat can get quite uncomfortable. An umbrella is essential as the weather is too hot for waterproof clothing, although sturdy shoes are a must.

Best time to visit: During the Cool Season when temperatures are quite pleasant and rainfall is low.

Western India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 25 - 32°C 55mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 25 - 30°C 482mm
Cool Season (October - February) 21 - 30°C 23mm

Maharashtra, Goa

During the Hot Season in western India, temperatures can rise above the average, although it does not tend to get as hot as in central India. Humidity is high and lightweight clothes are necessary.

Sturdy shoes and an umbrella are vital during the Monsoon Season as very heavy rain falls and flooding is commonplace. The hot, humid climate makes this rather an unpleasant time to be travelling in the west and the wearing of waterproofs extremely uncomfortable.

Best time to visit: Showers dry up during the Cool Season, making these months a far more agreeable time to visit.

Southern India

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot Season (March - June) 25 - 32°C 101mm
Monsoon Season (July - September) 23 - 31°C 181mm
Cool Season (October - February) 23 - 30°C 118mm

Kerala, Tamil Nadu

The climate in southern India experiences only slight seasonal variations. Temperatures and humidity remain relatively high all year round. Rainfall is common at any time of the year and the Monsoon Season has only marginally more precipitation than at any other time.

Lightweight clothes and an umbrella are required throughout the year. A few extra layers of clothing may also be useful during the cooler months, as temperatures may drop slightly in the evening.

Best time to visit: The Cool Season and the beginning of the Hot Season are the best times to visit when rainfall is marginally lower.

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India Travellers Tales

krishnan varma
8/9/2005
Stayed at:

Visited Taj-hotel provided golf cart for transportation; Agra Fort and most other sites. Tour guide recommended by hotel was very informative. Did shopping for wool carpet, handicrafts etc.


Anonymous
7/30/2005

Madras is a good starting point for visiting South India. Many shops and malls. Famous are the silks of Kanchipooram which are sold in Madras too.


michael labertew
6/5/2005
Stayed at:

Rickshaws and taxis in front of hotel can take you to more distant locations, otherwise shopping and dining is literally steps away. A fun upscale bowling alley and arcade immediately behind hotel, as well as movie theater 1.5 blocks away, make up somewhat for lacking pool, if looking for entertainment options.


victor bull
5/15/2005

Don''t hire a car in Chennai unless you have a driver with it, the traffic is mad. If there is an inch of space on the road, someone will claim it and rules of the road do not exist, unless its ''first come first served!''


jyoti prakash das
5/9/2005

If you are planning to visit the temple please procure entry cards well in advance or you may have to spend more days than you have planned for. A number to tourist attractions are available in and around Tirupati. The travel service at the hotel can assist you to organise tours.


peter barratt
5/9/2005

Went to the Wagah border post betwean India and Pakistan. Great fun !! Its about 30 Kms. Booked through the reception at the hotel. ost about 1000 rupees each.They run the tour every evening at dusk. Hundreds of people there. Singing, chanting etc. The golden temple is the main reason for visiting Amtitsar. We went on a Sunday and as you would expect it was packed. Got a TukTuk which was fun.We were the only westerners that we saw. Worth visiting the Food Hall where upto 30,000 people are fed every day for free.Just to see the process. Where they prepare the food and clean up all the plates is amazing. Worth going just to see that. The temple is quite small but beautiful surrounded by a moat within white ornate buildings. Just down the road within walking distance is the place where the British massacre took place.( Jallianwala Bagh) Being British I felt very uneasy here. Don''t think I would go again. As the only westerners we got a lot of hostile looks. As you would expect. I thought it was just a memorial garden but it turned out to be much more than that. In fact we got quite a lot of hostile looks at the Golden Temple as well as if we weren''t welcome there. It was the only place in India that I felt this and I was pleased to leave Amritsar. There were very few westerners that we saw and I''m not sure if they get too many tourists other than Indians. There aren''t any 5 star hotels there so that may say something. Eating out was difficult. We ate in the hotel for two of the nights and it was very good. The other place that we found was a Pizza Hut in Lawrence St (a 10 minute walk away)which was very good and the staff were so pleased to see us. As were the customers. We were quite a novelty. After 3 weeks in India a Pizza was great. There are a lot of internet places which are very cheap (25 rupees per hour) about 30 pence. You can also phone from these places and to the UK it was only 4 rupees per minute. At the time we were there we got 89 rupees to the pound.


peter barratt
5/6/2005

We were in Khajuraho for 2 days. The town was perhaps the most touristy of all the places that we have been. We got pestered constantly and it was a relief to get back to the hotel. Went to Raja''s Cafe as recommended in the lonely planet,don''t bother. It said it was owned by a Swiss woman. Possibly a long time ago,dirty and grim.There didn''t seem like too many places to eat apart from the hotels unless you want the cheapest places. We were there for a short time so just ate in the hotel. It''s so cheap anyway, approx £2-3 for a main course at a 4-5 star hotel. I''ve been to India 5 times and found the safest way is to eat in the best hotels unless you are a backpacker. The overall cost is minimal. We went to the light show at the Temples at 7.30 pm. It lasted for about an hour but half that time would''ve been better. The temples are right in the town centre (its a very small town-a village really)I thought they were fantastic. Architecturally and visually. Mostly in very good condition.In a lovely park setting, a complete contrast to the town. You can easily walk around them in a couple of hours. We walked round the town in about an hour tops. Mostly small shops (tourist types) and tailors. You could get most things made here. I ordered a dress and blouse from the hotel shop before coming into the town. In the hotel there was no hassle I probably paid more but I was happy with the result. The rickshaw drivers were the most persistent of anywhere that I''ve been but probably the poorest I have seen. There weren''t too many tourists but it still doesn''t make it very pleasant to walk around with the constant hassle.


albert thambiratnam
4/12/2005
Stayed at:

Agra and in particular the Taj Mahal were beautiful. However, there isn''t much else to do in Agra so don''t spend more than a day here. Also don''t waste your money getting a guided tour for the day - the only attractions worth seeing are the Taj Mahal are perhaps the Agra Fort (if you haven''t already seen the Red Fort in Delhi).


albert thambiratnam
4/7/2005

Mumbai was stinky, dirty and on the whole we found it not to be the most interesting place in India. There are much nicer places in India to spend your time and money in. Ellora caves and Ajanta caves which are about 6 hours from Mumbai are beautiful.


stefan dorn
4/6/2005

Jaipur is a great place and a must visit for anyone going to India. It is worth taking a tour as there is many sights to see. I organised a tour through the RTDC, which can be booked at a couple of RTDC offices and RTDC hotels. It only cost 100 rupees for a half day tour and 150 rupees for a full day tour, both with an english speaking guide. I found a great vegetarian restaurant called "The Parantha Hut'' in the new city, which served clean and very tasty food (I went back several times).


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