Travel Notes

24/10/08

INDIA in January

January is winter in India and usually dry. Expect daytime average temperatures to be a pleasant 15-25oC in Rajasthan. Evenings can drop to 8oC and early mornings can feel rather cold for the first couple of hours, so come prepared with woollens, jackets or cashmere shawls, hat and gloves. Desert Camops can get much colder at night, even ocassionally below zero. We recommend that you come prepared with thermal underwear, and warm outer clothing. Layering your wardrobe is the wisest option.

Comfortable clothing that suits walking and touring is the mainstay of your wardrobe for a tour. A couple of fancier outfits for special dinners are also necessary. You will find shawls to buy in a number of places and they prove to be very handy. Gentlemen do not need a tie and jacket. Modesty in dress will show your respect for the local culture. Very short shorts or skimpy tee-shirts will attract unwarranted attention, and should be avoided in public places.

There will be a few opportunities for swimming, though by Indian standards it will be cold in the North, but by all means pack your bathers. All Oberoi properties including Raj Vilas and Amar Vilas have heated swimming pools.

Alcohol and Beverages

You will be able to purchase very good quality local beer as well as imported beer wine and spirits.
Local beer like Kingfisher is usually very much liked and suits the food. Local gin, whisky and rum are fine.

Imported spirits in hotels are very much more exspensive than local brands.
New wine companies are emerging all the time, some with reasonable wine, but otherwise imported wines and spirits are very expensive. Also, even when the hotels offer imported wines there is the strongest likelihood they will already be spoiled from incorrect storage and not worth the money.

The most regarded local brands currently are Sula and Grover wines. We strongly urge all our guests to bring duty free liquor with them. For those who are going to feel wine-deprived, we have known guests to pack a few bottles in their hand luggage.

Money Exchange

Amex, MasterCard and Visa are widely used in India, but there is no consistency as to which ones will be accepted from bank to bank or place to place. Diners is used/accepted far less frequently. Money is most conveniently exchanged at your hotel after your arrival into India, and hotels give very competitive rates of exchange.

Smaller cities are often reluctant to accept Traveller's Cheques. It is best to obtain Travellers Cheques from large internationally recognised companies such as Amex or Thomas Cook, though they can rarely be used for direct payment, except in hotels. In banks, encashing TCs can be a lengthy process. Do not expect ready access to ATMs. The most convenient places to change money at favourable rates will be at the larger hotels and/or at the growing number of licensed exchange dealers.

INSIST THAT YOU BE GIVEN AND RETAIN ALL ENCASHMENT CERTIFICATES.

It allows you to change Indian Rupees back to your own currency on departure and enables you to pay any bills (eg at hotels) for which payment in foreign currency is compulsory.

Always check currency exchanges carefully and reject worn or torn notes.

Tipping

You will need lots of 20, 50 and 100 rupee notes when you need to tip and tips are always expected.

When travelling independently in India, the following is a guide to tipping:

room and baggage boys 20-50 Rupee

a driver for the day at least 300 and up to 500 Rupees

a personal guide at least 300 rupees for the day

At the time of writing the exchange rate is approximately US$1 = 40 rupees, AUD$1 = 30Rupees

Etiquette for Entering temples and holy sites

Modesty in dress with covered arms and legs is mandatory. Leather belts will have to be removed and left with an attendant. Shoes are also left at the entrance and we suggest you save your airline socks (kept in your day pack) as marble floors can be very cold underfoot and socks are permitted.

Some Unique & Peculiar habits in India:-

In India, currency notes that are torn/disfigured or soiled are no good. Although the governor of the reserve bank of India guarantees their value and by law it is a crime to refuse to accept the notes, however in practice it is different.

Many hoteliers and shopkeepers/and other people you will deal with may try to pass on such currency to you .YOU are within your rights to refuse to accept such notes the same way as Indians DO.
Traffic conditions are very chaotic and the horn is used all the time. Guests are requested to remain calm and not become agitated.

The drivers of tourist vehicles are specially instructed on road safety. However, you should feel free to ask your driver to go slower if you wish to.
Many Indian people chew betel leaf, which stains their mouth and lips red. Others buy packaged betel leaf dehydrated powder in sachets. Because of this they many times spit after chewing. Please do not consider this spitting to be in anyway against anybody. However it can and does make the surroundings, unclean.
Many times beggars or school children may ask for money, chocolates or pens. Visitors are requested not to encourage or give, as this promotes the wrong tendency.
Our recommendation is that if you wish to give charity you do this in conjunction with your Guide who will suggest a worthy project/school etc.
In case there is anything that you wish to know, please feel free to ask as many questions as you like from your guide.

Water - Only Drink Bottled Water. This is the key to avoiding intestinal distress. Many people now swear by Traveller’s Friend made from grapefruit seed extract that can be purchased at most pharmacies. Further, always carry a waterless antibacterial gel for cleaning hands and use it frequently (after handling money, before eating, during visits to markets etc).
Food - Avoid fruit that is not freshly peeled and salads that you cannot guarantee have been washed in potable water (note: cucumber that has "sat about", even in a Deluxe hotels can be a problem).

Washing hands- This is perhaps one of the gretaest precautions you can take in India. Wash your hands with an anti bacterial freuquently: whenever you have handled money, been in public places, before eating etc.

Day Pack essentials:

wet-ones or antibacterial wipes, waterless soap such as Aquium, tissues and/or toilet paper. It is a good practice to use Aquium frequently during the day.

sunblock, hats,

plenty of batteries and memory cards as anything unusually specific will be very hard to source,

plenty of film, reading material,

the above-mentioned socks, for going inside temples

a small inflatable back-pillow or neck roll for road journeys,

A small day- pack

Communications

As hotels in India charge an exorbitant amount for making overseas telephone calls we recommend you travel with a Telecard credit card which can be charged to your home phone account if you think you will need to make calls home. There are also many opportunities to stop at the small roadside STD and International call booths, and these save a considerable amount of money. Mobile phones with international roaming will function in and near major cities. Otherwise please refer to the hotel contact list if people from home need to reach you (this will be sent with final correspondence, closer to tour departure). Local SIM cards can now be bought more widely and you will need your passport with you to purchase one.

There will be several opportunities for having laundry done, specially as you are at most places for two nights, so we urge you to pack as lightly as possible. Pack an extra soft bag for the inevitable purchases you are likely to make.

For people wanting to use adaptors, the Indian electricity supply is 230-240V AC, 50 cycles. Sockets are of the three round-pin variety, similar (but not identical) to European sockets. Indian plugs are thicker and a Euro connection is not guaranteed. Adaptors available at the airport and also in Singapore.

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