India Basic Information
If you visit India in mid-January, head to Sagar Island for Ganga Sagar Mela and witness tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims meet at the point where the holy Ganges River meets the ocean. Here, the Hindu faithful believe one swim in these waters will cleanse them of a lifetime of sins. In February and March, it’s the Holi festival of colour where a walk on the streets will surely result in being covered head to toe in a rainbow of coloured powders. Embrace the tradition. For more must-know info before you go, here’s some more tips.
Australians must obtain a visa before travelling to India or the Indian Government will most likely refuse you entry. If you’re planning to stay in India for more than 180 days, you are required to register within 14 days of arrival with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office - branches are in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. There are heavy penalties, including jail sentences, for overstaying your visa. Make sure your passport has at least 6 months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Please be aware that this information is only a guideline. For up-to-the-minute visa information, contact your local Embassy or Consulate of India.
India’s currency is the Indian Rupee. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and the Indian Rupee changes constantly, so keep an eye on the exchange rate and purchase Rupees when the rate is at its best. For safe spending while overseas, consider using a credit or debit card.
For many, your most memorable Indian meals were eaten in places that would make a food inspector’s head spin! Fear not, in India if it’s being made in front of your eyes, it’s fresh and it’s authentic! India has more than 5million street vendors serving incredible delicacies left, right and centre. For a classic snack, try bhel puri - a cold, sweet-and-sour mix of puffed rice, chopped onion and potato with and tamarind chutney – this crunchy treat has to be mixed and eaten on the spot. Vada pao is India’s answer to the burger. A beloved staple food, these fried potato dumplings are served in a bun topped with chutneys and chillies. For breakfast, grab a paratha – the traditional Indian flat bread. In Mumbai, you’ll see hoards of dabbawalas – every day these dedicated souls carry thousands of homemade tiffin lunchboxes from the hands of wives and deliver them to their respective husbands in offices all over the city. An extraordinary feat in logistics, it’s reported dabbawalas make just one mistake in every 8 million deliveries daily. On the streets in India, you won’t find many alcoholic beverages (Hindus don’t drink) but they make a mean substitute - their amazing lassis feature anything from mango to fresh coriander seeds, rosewater and arrowroot with homemade ice-cream and milk.
The drinking age varies across the different states in India. In New Delhi, it remains at 25 years; however India's party state of Goa, along with Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, has the lowest legal drinking age of 18 years. Elsewhere, it's generally 21 years. Traditionally, drinking isn’t part of India’s culture, but dancing certainly is! Mumbai and Delhi have the biggest selection of places to party, but most clubs close around 1:30am. In Kolkata however, there’s no curfew so feel free to party to the break of dawn. In Mumbai, head to the Lower Parel neighbourhood - at Tryst you’ll get popular dance anthems with more LED lights than you can poke a stick at, or try Blue Frog for eclectic live music. In New Delhi it’s all about the arty Hauz Khas Village. Head to the The Living Room for a chilled-out night that could see you wind up in the middle of an impromptu party or an open mic night. In Kolkata there’s something for everyone – for a pub vibe, hit up Someplace Else on the ground floor of the popular The Park boutique hotel. Also at The Park is Tantra – a 2-storey nightclub where the hottest DJs play the latest dance and hip hop tunes.