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India

Hinduism and its religious rites and red-letter days are woven into the fabric of everyday life. It is also India’s vastness that challenges the imagination, being home to one sixth of the world’s population. Its intoxicatingly rich history can be traced back to at least 2500BC when the first known civilisation settled along the Indus River. There was an influx of Moghuls in the 1520s from Central Asia, who maintained effective control of the north until the mid 18th century. At the end of that century, as the Moghul Empire declined, the British took control of the whole subcontinent, and the whole of India was administered by a single alien power.

Practical Information

Area: 3 166 414 km² (1 222 582 miles²)

Capital: New Delhi. Population: 13.8 million

Population: 1.1 billion

Currency: Rupee (INR symbol Rp) = 100 paise

Government: Republic since 1947.

Tipping: 10 to 15% is usual in restaurants.

Time zone: GMT + 55

Languages: Hindi and english

Additional descriptions

India: Social customs

The Indian Hindu greeting is to fold the hands and tilt the head forward to namaste. Indian women prefer not to shake hands. All visitors are asked to remove footwear when entering places of religious worship. The majority of Indians remove their footwear when entering their houses. Because of strict religious and social customs, visitors must show particular respect when visiting someone’s home. Many Hindus are vegetarian and many, especially women, do not drink alcohol. Sikhs and Parsis do not smoke. Small gifts are acceptable as tokens of gratitude for hospitality. Women are expected to dress modestly. Short skirts and tight or revealing clothing should not be worn, even on beaches. Businesspeople are not expected to dress formally except for meetings and social functions. English-speaking guides are available at fixed charges at all important tourist centres. Guides speaking French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian or Spanish are available in some cities. Consult the nearest Indiatourism office. Unapproved guides are not permitted to enter protected monuments. Tourists are advised to ask for guides with certificates from the Ministry of Tourism or Indiatourism (see Contact Addresses). Photography: Formalities mainly concern protected monuments and the wildlife sanctuaries. Special permission of the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, is necessary for the use of tripod and artificial light to photograph monuments. Photography at many places is allowed on payment of a prescribed fee, which varies. Contact the nearest Government of India Tourist Office.Read more worship. The majority of Indians remove their footwear when entering their houses. Because of strict religious and social customs, visitors must show particular respect when visiting someone’s home. Many Hindus are vegetarian and many, especially women, do not drink alcohol. Sikhs and Parsis do not smoke. Small gifts are acceptable as tokens of gratitude for hospitality. Women are expected to dress modestly. Short skirts and tight or revealing clothing should not be worn, even on beaches. Businesspeople are not expected to dress formally except for meetings and social functions. English-speaking guides are available at fixed charges at all important tourist centres. Guides speaking French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian or Spanish are available in some cities. Consult the nearest Indiatourism office. Unapproved guides are not permitted to enter protected monuments. Tourists are advised to ask for guides with certificates from the Ministry of Tourism or Indiatourism (see Contact Addresses). Photography: Formalities mainly concern protected monuments and the wildlife sanctuaries. Special permission of the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, is necessary for the use of tripod and artificial light to photograph monuments. Photography at many places is allowed on payment of a prescribed fee, which varies. Contact the nearest Government of India Tourist Office.

India: Food and local specialties

Curries are created from the subtle and delicate blending of spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seed although these vary from region to region. Vegetable dishes are more common than in Europe, particularly in southern India. Things to know: Bottled water is essential for visitors but make sure the bottles are properly sealed. Most restaurants serve alcohol with meals and most Western-style hotels have licensed bars. Various states impose prohibition and in some big cities certain days are observed as dry days when the sale of liquor is not permitted. Tourists may check with the nearest local tourist office for the prohibition laws/rules prevailing in any given state. The national specialties are: Dal (crushed lentil soup with various additional vegetables). Kulfi (Indian ice cream). Gulab Jamuns (flour, yoghurt and ground almonds). Jalebi (pancakes in syrup). Pan (betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed and cardamom). Chai (tea) is India’s favourite drink. It will often come ready-brewed with milk and sugar unless ‘tray tea’ is specified. Coffee is increasingly popular. Nimbu Pani (lemon drink). Lassi (iced buttermilk)Indian beer (in many varieties). Read more more common than in Europe, particularly in southern India. Things to know: Bottled water is essential for visitors but make sure the bottles are properly sealed. Most restaurants serve alcohol with meals and most Western-style hotels have licensed bars. Various states impose prohibition and in some big cities certain days are observed as dry days when the sale of liquor is not permitted. Tourists may check with the nearest local tourist office for the prohibition laws/rules prevailing in any given state. The national specialties are: Dal (crushed lentil soup with various additional vegetables). Kulfi (Indian ice cream). Gulab Jamuns (flour, yoghurt and ground almonds). Jalebi (pancakes in syrup). Pan (betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed and cardamom). Chai (tea) is India’s favourite drink. It will often come ready-brewed with milk and sugar unless ‘tray tea’ is specified. Coffee is increasingly popular. Nimbu Pani (lemon drink). Lassi (iced buttermilk)Indian beer (in many varieties).

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