Tips for travelling to India

India offers a multitude of sights, sounds and aromas to entice the senses of the avid traveller. According to travel company Trafalgar, from the colourful bazaars to ancient stone forts, each city’s astonishing fusion of heritage and culture will leave a lasting impression.

Theresa Szejwallo, managing director for Trafalgar, says: “When you first visit India you can be overwhelmed by the experience as you journey through the extraordinary cities and take in the cultural insights, but take a deep breath and enjoy everything this incredible country has to offer.”

If you are planning a trip to India here are some tips to help you through the prepping and enjoy the experience.

Get your documentation sorted in advance

According to Trafalgar, getting a tourist visa for India is easy for South African passport holders. If you apply through visa processing firm VFS Global, for instance, your visa could be ready within four to five working days. However, as the visa is valid for up to six months, it might be best to give yourself more time to get your visa in the event that there is a problem and your visa isn’t ready within five days.

The documents required when apply for a visa include:

  • An original passport valid for a minimum of six months from date of return and having at least three blank pages.
  • Two passport sized colour photographs. Contact the Indian embassy for details on specifications.
  • An online application form submitted to the correct Indian Mission.
  • Return airline reservation with detailed itinerary.
  • A certified copy of the passport.
  • Proof of residence in South Africa, such as utility bill/ FICA document.
  • Three months bank statement with your name on it.
  • Applicants of Indian origin require proof of surrendered documentation (if previous nationality was Indian).
  • Original proof of payment for the visa.

There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to India, however, there are recommended ones. For example, Malaria medication may be required depending on which region you are visiting. Check with your local travel clinic about any health travel notices that may be relevant to you, as well as if there are any vaccines that you should get before going.

Be prepared for the time difference

Szejwallo highlights that India is about three and a half hours ahead of South Africa. While this is not enough for you to have to adjust for jet lag, you must prepare for the time difference.

“It’s always a good idea to start fitting in with the local time immediately and I always set my watch to my destination’s time once I board the plane, even if it means having dinner at the time that would be breakfast back home,” says Szejwallo.

Tantalizing your senses

India is well known for its aromatic food, as well as its colourful atmosphere. With something to entice all of your senses, there will be a lot to experience. The food incorporates a range of fragrant herbs and spices and full flavours.

“It’s a dream destination for vegetarians and if you’ve ever considered trying a meat-free diet, this is definitely the place to do it,” notes Szejwallo. India is also well known for its vast array of sweet treats, and each town has its own local speciality, so ensure you try the local favourites.

Enjoying the local cuisine is part of the experience. This includes rice as a staple with most meals, as well as possibly a cup of chai tea in the morning. While alcohol is not traditionally a part of Indian culture, many restaurants offer it on the beverage menu.

It is advised that you avoid drinking tap water while in India, as well as ice (which would be made from tap water), unless you’re assured it has been made with filtered water. “And steer clear of any food that may have been washed in tap water. Bottled water is generally always readily available to purchase and many international hotels also have good filtered water systems,” advises Trafalgar.

A vibrant country

India offers a host of experiences for travellers, from a new culture and customs, to enjoying the local music, architecture and dance. Szejwallo reveals: “My favourite thing about India is that it is the home of Yoga, which I’ve been practising for over 20 years. I am so enamoured with Yoga that I studied to become a teacher of this incredible discipline.”

Furthermore, Trafalgar suggests embracing the local customs and traditions of whichever part of India you are travelling in and try to learn a few words of Hindi before you arrive. A ‘Namaste’ with your hands pressed together as a salutation is a very common form of greeting In India and is always well-received. ‘Shukran’ is thank you in Hindi and Arabic, something that may come in handy on your travels.

You also need to consider the culture and climate in India when deciding what to pack. Szejwallo points out that India has a relatively modest culture, and covering your shoulders, arms and legs can be a simple way to respect this. If you plan to visit any temples during your stay, remember that you will be required to remove your shoes. Women will also be required to cover their head, so pack a few scarves to keep on hand.

Remember to keep the season in mind. As India is a large country, the weather may alter drastically from one region to another. Do your homework to ensure you pack the right clothing. Summer is from March to June, while the monsoon season generally between June and September but Delhi and Rajasthan receive comparatively less rain.

“In summer, cotton is the ideal material and loose and lightweight clothing will make your experience more comfortable when facing the high temperatures. It’s worth packing a jacket for the evenings and definitely don’t forget a light rain coat or umbrella if you’re visiting during the rainy season,” says Trafalgar.

Trafalgar offers the Leisurely Rajasthan with Mumbai trip starting at R54 000 per person. The trip is 13 days and includes 10 cities.


Further reading: