Taj Mahal, India

India tourism


At first sight, this huge country will seem to have people and people everywhere you look, each busy in his own world, yet chatting away with whoever’s next to him. An Indian would advise you that it would take more than a year to visit all parts of the country, just skipping through villages, towns and cities. It is home to over 1.1 billion people, which is why you may have heard that you could possibly see a sleek Mercedes overtaking a human rickshaw-puller while swerving to avoid a buffalo on the road. Foreigners have often been so enchanted by this country that they have made it their personal abode.

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India is very different from the mental image most people have of the country. It is certainly not the land of snake charmers and mendicants, with tigers roaming free. You could be in the snow one day, on a dune buggy in a desert the next, plodding your way through a marshy game reserve the third day, scuba diving next, white-water rafting thereafter or tanning yourself on a beach! The cultural diversity across this country is unbelievable. There are over 400 listed languages, with close to 2,000 dialects. Surprisingly, English is spoken across the length and breadth of the country and the Internet is available everywhere. Weather patterns are inconsistent. It could be raining in Northern India, but tourists could be sunning themselves in Pondicherry, on the Southeastern tip of the country, near Chennai (the erstwhile Madras). Summer can be hot in Central and Northern India, at 45º C and over between May and August, overlapping the rainy season, the ‘Monsoons’, from mid-June to end September.

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India manages to provide subsistence to over 85% of her population and the Government is doing its utmost to provide the basic necessities of life to one and all. After all, India is the world’s fourth largest economy by purchasing power parity, and is in the midst of an economic boom. As a secular country, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Jews rub shoulders every day in peaceful co-existence.

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Before visiting India, you must decide what it is that you want to see. For snow, white-water rafting, trekking, rock-climbing and flora and fauna, Northern India is where you would want to be. For fresh-water fishing, game sanctuaries, tribal practices and quaint rituals like the Bamboo Dance, the Northeast suggests itself. For backpackers and beach lovers, both coasts would provide the necessary warmth, especially between October and mid-April. Goa; Mandvi and Sanjan in the State of Gujarat; Kovalam in the State of Kerala; Pondicherry, Chennai and Digha on the Eastern coast are popular tourist resorts for this category of tourists.

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India is at UTC +5.30. Travel is easy, but it would be advisable to book seats in advance. The rail network is awesome, as are the bus services. Prices are amazingly low, at a fifth of costs prevailing abroad. What you need to watch out for is sanitation, food and water. You need to drink bottled water and eat grilled low-spice chicken, fish or lamb. Beef is taboo in most of the country, where Hindus consider the cow to be a mother or even a deity.

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The main tourist spots are the capital city of India, Delhi, which is steeped in Mughal and British history and which will occupy the tourist for anything between three to five days. Agra with the Taj Mahal is a three-hour drive and a private taxi is preferable to trains or aircraft, as you can also visit Fatehpur Sikri and the neighbouring city of Mathura, where Lord Krishna, a widely worshipped deity, was born and brought up. Gwalior is another two hours from Agra, with the largest fort in the world prominent on its skyline. Jaipur is a three-hour drive from Delhi, and is called the Pink City, as it mainly built of sandstone. Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are desert fortresses and interesting places to explore on camelback. Chandigarh, Chail, Simla, Dehradun, Uttarakhand and Kashmir are excellent destinations, between 5-12 hours north of Delhi.

Kushinigar, India

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Mumbai and Pune are prominent industrial cities in Central India; Pune is also the gateway to hill resorts like Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala, Khandala and the Karla Caves. Further South are the twin cities of Secunderabad-Hyderabad, the latter being the seat of the erstwhile richest man in the world, the Nizam. Bangalore, the Garden City of India and now her Silicon Valley, and Mysore, with its famous Brindavan Gardens, a two-hour drive from Bangalore lie even further South, as do Kodaikanal and Ootacamund, both at 7,000’ above sea level. Chennai and Trivandrum are worth a visit.

Markha Valley, India

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In general terms, the best time to visit India would be from October to March. If still in Northern India, you could stay up to end April. You would also witness a number of festivals, like Dussehra, Divali, Christmas, Id and Lohri or Makar Sankranti among others. You could fly across to the coral reefs of Lakshadweep and Port Blair, if you are the atoll type.

The best places to visit in September and May, if you would like to stay far from the madding crowd, are Leh, Sikkim, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram. Today, all places that interest tourists are accessible by air, rail and road. Accommodation is readily available, though five-star luxury is steep. Four-star accommodation is what most tourists look for and there is little problem finding it. A parting tip-If you want to buy something, no matter from where, be prepared to haggle.

The Indian currency is the Rupee (INR). At today’s rates, 1U.S.$=46 INR.

Date posted: 16th July, 2018

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