India officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west;[d] China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history.[13] Four world religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.


It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues. Every aspect of the country presents itself on a massive, exaggerated scale, worthy in comparison only to the superlative mountains that overshadow it. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than to be indifferent to India would be to describe or understand India completely.

Location, Geography, & Climate

Set apart from the rest of Asia by the supreme continental wall of the Himalayas, the Indian subcontinent touches three large bodies of water and is immediately recognizable on any world map. It is the huge, terrestrial beak between Africa and Indonesia. This thick, roughly triangular peninsula defines the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian sea to the west, and the India Ocean to the south.

India's puzzleboard of 26 states holds virtually every kind of landscape imaginable. An abundance of mountain ranges and national parks provide ample opportunity for eco-tourism and trekking, and its sheer size promises something for everyone. From its northernmost point on the Chinese border, India extends a good 2000 miles (3200 km) to its southern tip, where the island nation of Sri Lanka seems to be squeezed out of India like a great tear, the synapse forming the Gulf of Mannar. India's northern border is dominated mostly by Nepal and the Himalayas, the world's highest mountain chain. Following the sweeping mountains to the northeast, its borders narrow to a small channel that passes between Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, then spreads out again to meet Burma in area called the "eastern triangle." Apart from the Arabian sea, its western border is defined exclusively by Pakistan.

India can be organized along the compass points. North India, shaped like a throat and two lungs, is the country's largest region. It begins with the panhandle of Jammu and Kashmir, a dynamic area with terrain varying from arid mountains in the far north to the lake country and forests near Sringar and Jammu. Falling south along the Indus river valley, the North becomes flatter and more hospitable, widening into the fertile plains of Punjab to the west and the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh and the Ganges river valley to the East. Cramped between these two states is the capital city, Delhi. The southwestern extremity of the North is the large state of Rajastan, whose principal features are the Thar Desert and the stunning "pink city" of Jaipur. To the southeast is southern Uttar Pradesh and Agra, home of the famous Taj Mahal.

West India contains the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and part of the massive, central state of Madhya Pradesh. The west coast extends from the Gujarat peninsula down to Goa, and it is lined with some of India's best beaches. The land along the coast is typically lush, with rainforests reaching southward from Bombay all the way to into Goa. A long mountain chain, the Western Ghats, separates the verdant coast from the Vindya mountains and the dry Deccan plateau further inland.

Home of the sacred Ganges river and the majority of Himalayan foothills, East India begins with the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, which comprise the westernmost part of the region. East India also contains an area known as the eastern triangle, which is entirely distinct. This is the last gulp of land that extends beyond Bangladesh, culminating in the Naga Hills along the Burmese border.

India reaches its peninsular tip with South India, which begins with the Deccan in the north and ends with Cape Comorin, where Hindus believe that bathing in the waters of the three oceans will wash away their sins. The states in South India are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, a favorite leisure destination. The southeast coast, mirroring the west, also rests snugly beneath a mountain range---the Eastern Ghats.

Because of India's size, its climate depends not only on the time of year, but also the location. In general, temperatures tend to be cooler in the north, especially between September and March. The south is coolest between November to January. In June, winds and warm surface currents begin to move northwards and westwards, heading out of the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Gulf. This creates a phenomenon known as the south-west monsoon, and it brings heavy rains to the west coast. Between October and December, a similar climatic pattern called the north-east monsoon appears in the Bay of Bengal, bringing rains to the east coast. In addition to the two monsoons, there are two other seasons, spring and autumn.

Though the word "monsoon" often brings to mind images of torrential floods and landslides, the monsoon seasons are not bad times to come to India. Though it rains nearly every day, the downpour tends to come and go quickly, leaving behind a clean, glistening landscape.

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What to Expect:

India, it is often said, is not a country but a continent. From north to south and east to west, the people are different, the languages are different, the customs are different the country is different. -  a nation of wonderful people rich in culture, tradition and history with a refreshing warmth and friendliness.

Experience has shown that sometimes minor problems can occur. Whilst our ground staff are always on hand to rectify such occurrences, we do request that you take a patient and broadminded approach to travelling in India.

 

Health

There are no compulsory vaccinations for India. However, it is recommended you consult your doctor or a traveller’s medical centre for advice on recommended inoculations such as typhoid, hepatitis A, malaria and cholera.

 

Currency

The Indian currency is the Rupee and is a fully convertible currency. The Rupee notes are available in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1. Coins are available in the denominations of 5, 2, 1 (rupee) and 50 & 25 paise.  For security we advise taking the majority of your money in Travellers Cheques.

These are easily exchanged in the major hotels and banks. Please note that it is imperative that you retain evidence of your transaction, as this is required when changing back any remaining local currency at the airport on departure from India.  Exchange rates at airports are generally lower so it is best to avoid changing money at the airport on arrival.

Most hotels, restaurants & some shops accept major credit cards such as American Express, Visa, Master Card & Diners Club.

 

Climate

India is so vast that the climatic conditions in the far north have little relation to those of the extreme south. Basically, India has three seasons a year – the hot, the wet and the cool. The best time to visit is during the winter (Nov to Feb).

 

Clothing

The Indian people are informal and casual -Jeans & T-shirts and casual dresses are adequate - you are requested not to wear very brief shorts or revealing clothes.  The best known Indian outfit for women is the “Sari”.

 

Accommodation

First Class hotels are used on all tours and all rooms have private bathrooms. However, standards may vary between different areas in India. In remote areas we use the best available hotels. Mail, international phone and fax services are available in most hotels

 

Train travel

Trains in India are basic but comfortable - we always try and reserve first class or 2nd class air-conditioned carriages. First class is not available on all routes. Overnight train travel on our tours is in 2nd Class Air-conditioned 4 berth bunk-style compartments. Toilets and wash basins are located at the end of each carriage.

 

Food

In the main city hotels this will incorporate European as well as Indian and Oriental cuisine. In the more remote areas and smaller hotels and palaces food is local Indian cuisine. Meat dishes in smaller towns may be of a low standard, so we suggest you request vegetarian meals. The hotels are keenly aware of European reaction to Indian food and they take great care in areas of hygiene. Only drink bottled water, which is readily available throughout the country. Always ensure that the seal of the bottle is not broken.

 

Poverty and beggars

It is an inescapable fact that there are areas of extreme poverty in India and you will encounter sights which are disturbing. India does have a large number of beggars, in part because many Indians give alms to them for religious reasons. Those found by the hotels and tourist sites are professionals and not genuine. We ask that you try to accept that poverty and beggars are not seen as unusual in the Indian culture - we recommend that you do not give money to any beggars. We can advise on a number of charities that exist in India if you wish to help.

 

Baggage

Passengers travelling in economy class are allowed 20 kilos as free baggage allowance per person. Airlines are very rigid with waiving extra kilos and excess baggage rates are very high.

 

Tipping

Hotel porters expect tips of around RS.10.  In a group situation tipping for the coach driver is recommended at RS 20 per person - car driver RS 50 for a couple.  In restaurants or hotels, you are expected to tip 10% of the bill (if dining independently) In smaller places, where tipping is optional, you need only tip a few rupees - rupees 10 to 15 is fine, not a percentage on the bill.

 

Insurance

It is essential that all passengers take adequate insurance coverage.

 

Security
Always keep your passport in a safe place.  You are recommended to make a copy of your passport identity page and keep in a safe,  different place to your passport – this can be presented to Australian embassy officials in the event of a lost passport and it will make the task of obtaining an emergency replacement that much easier.  Never leave your luggage or valuables unattended.  Be particularly conscious when in a crowded place where professional thieves can target you.  If carrying a back-pack, it is better to wear it on your chest in these circumstances.  Wallets should not be carried in back pockets.

 

Embassies

India has a High Commission in Australia at:

High Commission of India

3-5 Moonah Place

Yarralumla  ACT  2600

Phn:  (02) 6273 3999

Fax:  (02) 6273 1308

There are also consulates in most Australian states for issue of Indian visas.

Australian consular assistance is available in India at:

Australian High Commission

Australian Compound

No 1/50 G Shantipath

Chanakyapuri

New Delhi

Phn: (91 11) 6888 223

 

Australian Consulate-General

16th Floor, Maker Towers E,

Cuffe Parade

Colaba

Mumbai

Phn: (91 22) 218 1071

 

It is recommended that you register yourself at one of the consulates during your stay in India.

Official travel advice for India is available from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by calling 1300 555 135 in Australia, or visiting their website www.dfat.gov.au – we recommend you log in and read the latest travel information carefully.

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