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India - Info & Facts

Suggested length of stay

Due to the sheer size of the country it is impossible to take in all of India’s sites and cultures in one trip, you would need months if not years to fully explore all that India has to offer! Here at Oasis Travel we recommend choosing a region to explore for example Rajasthan, Southern India or the Himalaya.  If you are looking to get a good overview of one particular region, taking in the major cities as well as getting away from the typical tourist trail and visiting some of India’s stunning rural areas then we recommend that you spend between 10-14 days as a minimum including flying time. Of course this can be extended indefinitely as there are so many points of interest throughout the country.  

Modes of transport
Rail
India has some of the most spectacular and unforgettable rail journeys in the world and travelling by train is a great way to explore the country. Whether it be just a single journey to get you from A-B or embarking on one of the country’s iconic luxury tourist rail journeys that offer the whole touring experience like the Palace on Wheels or the Indian Mahajara. Traveling by train is one of the great experiences of India, It's a system, which on first glimpse looks like chaos, but it generally works. Please refer to the rail travel section to discover more about particular rail journeys.

Boat
There are some delightful river boat journeys in Eastern and Southern India, from extended cruises along the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers to small houseboats cruising through the backwaters of Kerala - a wonderful way to discover areas which are otherwise almost inaccessible.

Road
Private transfers between nearby destinations (2 – 8 hours drive time) are usually undertaken by road in a private air-conditioned vehicle accompanied by an English speaking guide. Road conditions are variable and some journeys can take a whole day however regular stops are taken both for comfort and sightseeing en-route.

Taxis/Rickshaws
Taxi’s and rickshaws are a cheap and reliable form of local transport, remember to check that the meter is on before you start your journey or agree on a fixed price before you get in. The auto-rickshaw, is the front half of a motor-scooter with a couple of seats mounted on the back, these three-wheeled vehicles are by far the best way to get around the larger cities and part of the whole Indian experience!

Air
The vast distances between regions are generally best travelled by air especially for those tight on time. The internal air network in India is relatively safe and reliable. Air travel between major cities is particularly recommended for those on a tight schedule that want to see as much of the country as possible. However road and rail journeys can easily be incorporated into the itinerary for those wanting to experience overland travel as much as possible.

Bicycle
Cycling excursions can be incorporated into our itineraries mainly for the more rural areas as cycling in India’s big cities is a scary experience!

Trekking – Northern India
The mountain ranges of India offer breathtaking, enthralling trekking routes with the most well known being the Indian Himalayas. There are also great trekking opportunities in the regions of Garhwal and Kumaon In central India.

Climate
India is such a vast country that climatic conditions in the far north have little relation to those of the extreme south. India’s climate is dominated by the great wind system known as the Asiatic monsoon which reverses direction at certain times of the year, for some months it will blow steadily from the southwest; for other months, from the northeast. Generally speaking, the country has a three-season year – the hot, the wet and the cool, with variations from region to region.

The coolest, driest time over most of the country is from December to February, when light northerly winds bring clear skies and very little rain. From March to May the climate becomes hotter and hotter with the southwest monsoon arriving in southern India around June time, heading north about a month or so later and continuing till October

North and Central India experiences an extreme range of temperatures with the mercury pushing 40 degrees on some summer days during April-June but winter nights from November to March can be almost freezing! The monsoon rains occur from May to September with heavy rain usually occurring in the morning or late afternoon.

Southern and Western India does not have a “cool season” as such, the summer is hot and humid with the rains coming in June and continuing through till September. The region also experiences winter rains from November onwards, although they are not as heavy as the monsoonal rains. From October onwards, the weather becomes pleasant with highs around 30 degrees Celsius and lows of around 25 degrees with minimal humidity making it an ideal time to travel.

India is an all year round destination; however, peak times to travel would be October through to April when the weather is generally cooler and dry. The abundance of spectacular colourful festivals in February and March makes this a great time to visit Rajasthan where as November and December is a great time for bird watchers with the return of the migratory birds.

Geography
India is the seventh largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, comes a close second to China in population stakes. India’s geography can be divided into three main regions, the first is the rugged, mountainous Himalayan region in the northern part of the country, while the second is called the Indo-Gangetic Plain and the region where the majority of India's large-scale agriculture takes place. The third geographic region is the plateau region in the southern and central areas of the country.

Covering a total area of 3,387,263 square kilometres, India is divided into 29 states which are subdivided into districts. The world’s highest Mountain range – The Himalayas denote the Northern Border with China. India is the largest country in the subcontinent and shares borders with Pakistan to the west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan to the north-east and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia lie to the south-east in the Indian Ocean.

The river systems of India can be split into four groups – Himalayan rivers, Deccan rivers, Coastal rivers and rivers of the inland drainage basin. Himalayan rivers are snow fed and maintain a high to medium rate of flow throughout the year. The Ganga River basin, India's largest, includes approximately 25 percent of the nation's area; it is bounded by the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhya Range to the south. The Ganga has its source in the glaciers of the Greater Himalayas, which form the frontier between India and Tibet in north-western Uttar Pradesh. The Brahmaputra has the greatest volume of water of all the rivers in India because of heavy annual rainfall levels in its catchment basin. Rising in Tibet, the Brahmaputra flows south into Arunachal Pradesh after breaking through the Great Himalayan Range and dropping rapidly in elevation. In regards to its bordering seas and oceans India is bounded to the southwest by the Arabian Sea to the southeast by the Bay Of Bengal and to the south by the Indian Ocean.

Food
Indian food is an institution all over the world with all cities and the majority of towns being host to at least one Indian restaurant! However you will not have experienced true Indian food until visiting the country itself. Like rice in China no meal in India is complete without a generous serving of roti or chapatti, available in all kinds of variety and the perfect accompaniment to mop up any delicious curry. Rice does still play an important part in Indian food and is served with most main courses. In regards to meat, staples include goat, lamb and chicken, due to religious belief beef is forbidden to Hindus and pork to Muslims. A popular meal and a great way to try out a number of different dishes is to order a thali – a combination of curries, relishes, poppadums, rice and bread. India is the perfect destination for Vegetarians with many dedicated restaurants offering a tantalising range of Vege and vegan meals.

Drinking water
Do not drink the tap water anywhere in India, also avoid any food that may have been washed in it, at all times -  no ice, no salads and no fruit you haven’t just peeled yourself. Bottled water is cheap and readily available in most areas just make sure that the bottle have proper seals. Bottled water will be provided during all Oasis Travel transfers and excursions.

Money
The currency used in India is the rupee (RS) which is divided into 100 paise, but paise coins are increasingly rare.
Foreign currency, including the Australian dollar, can be exchanged in banks or licensed moneychangers. In the big cities credit cards are widely accepted in major establishments such as restaurants, shops and hotels. In smaller cities they are not always usable – so please keep a reserve of local cash.

Time zone
India operates on GMT + 5 hours. Despite its size, every place in India falls under one time zone.

Inoculations & health precautions
Please consult with your doctor at least 6 weeks before travel to India. Health care in India is varied, a lot of the larger cities now have clinics/medical centres dedicated to assisting travellers and expats, this is obviously more expensive than using local facilities however it is worth it as the standard of care you receive will be far superior. Charges are usually settled in advance before any treatment, including for emergency care, so good medical insurance is essential. If you become seriously ill India it is worth contacting the Australian Embassy as they should have a list of recommended facilities. Essential medicines should be taken with you as they may not be available locally, although most towns even the small ones will have a pharmacy.

Visas
All Australian citizens must get a visa before arriving in India, these can be obtained through the embassy or consulate or the Oasis visalink service. Australian passport holders are also now eligible to apply for visas online through https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html  for applications at least four days before departure and a maximum of 32 days from intended arrival date.Your passport must be valid for at least twelve months after the duration of your intended stay, have at least two clear visa pages and you must also be able to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket. Most people travel on the standard tourist visa - Six-month multiple-entry tourist visa (valid from the date of issue) which are granted to nationals of most countries regardless of how long you intend to stay.

Indian Embassy & Consulate contacts in Australia

Consulate General of India in Sydney
Level 10, 190 George Street,
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel (02) 9223 9500
Fax (02) 9223 9246

High Commission of India in Canberra
3 - 5 Moonah Place
Yarralumla, ACT  2600

Tel  (02) 6273 3999
Fax:  (02) 6273 1308

Consulate General of India in Melbourne
344, St. Kilda Road,
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel (03) 9682 7836
Fax (03) 9696 8251

Consulate General of India in Perth
Lots 70-74, Level 6
12 St. Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6000
Tel (08) 9221 4205

There are also six IP&VSC offices in Australia located in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. All applicants for Passport, Visa, PCC, IDLV and OCI services are requested to approach IP&VSC office in their area - Indian visa information. However, the High Commission in Canberra and the Consulates General in Sydney, Melbourne & Perth will continue to provide miscellaneous consular services and emergency visa services in extreme compassionate cases.

Australian Embassy & Consulate contacts in India

Australian High Commission Delhi
1/50 - G, Shantipath
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 21
P.O. Box 5210
New Delhi 110021
Telephone: +91 11 4139 9900

Mumbai Consulate-General
Level 10, A Wing
Crescenzo Building
Opp MCA Cricket Club
G Block, Plot C 38-39
Bandra Kurla Complex
Mumbai 400 051
+91 22 6757 4900

Chennai Consulate-General
9th Floor, Express Chambers
Express Avenue Estate
Whites Road
Royapettah
Chennai 600014
Tel: +91 44 4592 1300

Electricity
The electric current in India is (220VAC/50Hz
India has standardised on a plug which was originally defined in British Standard 546 (the standard in the United Kingdom before 1962). It is rated at 15 amps and is also used in Nepal, parts of Southern Africa, and other areas electrified by the British.

Getting there (stopovers)
There are currently no direct flights between Australia and India since Air India ceased flying to Australia. The best flight options from Australia to India are with Singapore Airlines, Qantas/Jet Airways and Malaysia Airlines with total flight times including transit time in either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur ranging from 14.5 to 19 hours.
En route stopovers can be arranged, in either direction, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to name but a few. Beach extensions to Goa, Sri Lanka and the Maldives can also be included in itineraries.

Tipping
Tipping remains optional but is common practice in India. A guideline would be US$15-20 per full day of touring for your guide and $5-10 dollars a day for your driver (this would generally be given on completion of your tour as you would have the same driver for the whole itinerary – unless visiting more than 1 region). In India it is quite common and greatly appreciated to tip general staff in your hotels, usually an individual tip comprises of 1-2 USD per person, however it is at the discretion of the guest and is a personal choice. 

A brief history
India’s first major civilisation is known to be the Indus Valley civilisation around 2500 BC, which makes it one of the oldest in the world and along with China, one of the founding civilizations in human history. It is also one of the strongest, being the only civilization to beat back both the Mongols and Alexander the Great. After the collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation a new wave of people entered India – The Aryans, a semi-nomadic race of pastoralists who originated from central Asia and are thought to have entered India through Afghanistan after 1500 BC.

It was during the third century BC, known as the Mauryan dynasty which lasted from 323 to 185 BC that the country united under Asoka the Great – during a time that was called India’s Golden Age and was part of the Gupta Empire. During this time India made great advances in mathematics, art, language, astronomy and religion and it was around this time that the faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism really evolved and started a strong following and devoted worshipers.

The Delhi Sultanate followed the Gupta Empire from 1206-1526 and consisted of several Muslim dynasties which ruled from Delhi including the Khilji dynasty, The Tughlaq dynasty, The Sayyid dynasty and the Lodi dynasty. In 1526 the Mughal dynasty was founded when Babur invaded parts of northern India and defeated the ruler of Delhi. The Moghul Empire stretched from Afghanistan in the west and to Assam in the east. It was during this era in 1631 that the emperor Shah Jahan built the now iconic monument the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz, who died during childbirth.

India was able to remain an independent nation for a long period of time, however by the start of the 16th century, European countries including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Portugal began to establish themselves in and around India, causing great disruption to the country. By 1856, the entire country became part of the British East India Company (EIC), essentially making it part of the British Empire. From this point on, for almost 100 years, the country was under the direct rule of the British Empire. India tried to fight against Britain in its first war of Independence - The Rebellion of 1857-58, which started as a protest from Indian soldiers who were discontented with life inside the army sought to restore Indian supremacy, in addition to a protest against "white" and colonial racism. The rebellion was unsuccessful and with the subsequent crowning of Victoria as Empress of India, the incorporation of India into the British Empire was complete.

By the early part of the twentieth century, a nationalist movement had emerged; and by 1919-20, the now legendary figure, Mohandas Karamchand ('Mahatma') Gandhi had emerged as the leader of this movement and led millions of Indians towards independence by driving the British out of India in 1947. In 1950, India became a republic and created its own constitution. Even with new independence, India still had problems with its neighbours, with a a dispute China in 1962 that resulting in the Sino-India War,  several wars also ensued over the years with Pakistan with the most recent being  in 1999.
India is also a member of the United Nations and it is also one of the few nuclear nations in the world. In addition, the country has transformed itself through economic reforms and is now becoming a superpower along with China. Currently, the country has one of the fastest growing economies on Earth and it is expected that India will be one of the major countries of the 21st century, along the lines of how Russia and the United States dominated the 20th century.