An indispensable guide for first-time visitors (2023)

An indispensable guide for first-time visitors (1)

India remains one of the greatest and most challenging travel experiences in the world. It is also, without a doubt, the most attractive, colourful, chaotic, spiritual and vibrant country in the world.

Even regular visitors to India are struck by the beauty of its cultural treasures, with temple sculptures and palace murals to rival the bestthe Italian Renaissance, to the artistic skills of ordinary people in a country where much is still made by hand.

It's something Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reportedly encountered during his recent official visit to India, where he was honored by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

An indispensable guide for first-time visitors (2)

His official visit, along with the long-awaited tour of Australia's cricket team, highlighted a country with which we share long-standing sporting and Commonwealth ties. Australians of Indian descent are now the largest permanent immigrant group in the country.

Extensive use of English, a legacy of the British Raj, also means India is an easy place for first-time visitors to navigate and communicate.

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Nonetheless, it still isIt's not a country for the faint of heart., something Albanese himself and current and former Australian cricketers in the subcontinent would have been well aware of since he first backpacked there.

There are many things that are shocking: the poverty, the noise and pollution, the crowded vehicles dodging the streets, and the complete lack of personal space.

But in a country of 1.4 billion that's poised to overtake China as the world's most populous country, it's important to recognize that looks and questions are just polite hospitality for foreigners who have left the protection of their families.

Delhi is the best entry point for a first-time visit: the shady, tree-lined streets of monumental New Delhi, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s, offer a soft landing and the chance to pack loose cotton clothes when visiting Khan Market Mall before immersing yourself in the maelstrom of modern India.

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It's a mistake to cover too much on a first visit. A leisurely exploration of the corner, combining some of the Golden Triangle's top attractions with stays at palatial country hotels and game reserves, will avoid the fatigue of forts and temples and preserve your sense of humor.

Nobody moves fast on the roads of India. Expect to travel a little over 50 kilometers an hour, even on dual carriageways between towns, as there are constant stops to avoid stray cows and unwary pedestrians.

Trains are slow with shared facilities, even in first class, but the scenery is more interesting on the train than on the road (great article by UK rail travel expert Mark Smith).asiento61.comTrain Travel website explains everything you need to know).

For couples and groups of friends, the best way to experience India is by chauffeur driven vehicle. Qualified and experienced drivers are usually well informed and take very good care of their air-conditioned cars.

There is a wide range of guided tours for solo travelers, from small group adventures to classic bus tours of the Golden Triangle.

What follows is an essential guide to everything you need to know for a successful first visit to amazing India.


Arid and dusty, the plains of northern India are dotted with extraordinary cities built by Mughal emperors and Rajput princes. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur should be on every newcomer's itinerary, but they are crowded places that can easily become overwhelming.

Offset incursions into the cities with days in the field. Plan a few nights in Ranthambore National Park, where tigers are now easier to see, and a stay in one of the magnificent owner-run palaces or strong hotels that will introduce you to the wonders of India.

Life in the lush green hills and valleys of southern India is much slower and less crowded, the countryside dotted with the crumbling capitals of ancient medieval empires and bustling Hindu pilgrimage shrines.

Many visitors travel to the well-governed state of Kerala. Unfortunately, Keralan's beaches are far from clean and most are home to large fishing communities; They are not places to lay out a towel or swim in the sea.

After a visit to Kochi on the coast and perhaps a night on a rice barge on the backwaters, head inland to Munnar or Thekkady in the Western Ghats, forested hills where wild elephants roam and tea and spice farms grow. in colonial times. bungalows

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From here, head to Tamil Nadu to explore the communities of Madurai, Chennai and Pondicherry before flying to the Andaman Islands for a few days on a white sand beach.

For sun and sand in mainland India, Goa is the best place to go. The beaches to the north of the capital, Panjim, are popular for their nightlife, although during the day they can feel a bit scruffy and overdeveloped.

For cleaner, whiter and quieter sandy beaches head south to Colva and Benaulim - Alila Diwa Goa and St Regis (formerly Leela Beach Resort) are highly regarded accommodation options.

EVERYTHING ON TIME I When and with whom

The best time to visit India is from late October (end of the monsoon season) to mid-March, with April and May generally being hot and humid.

Daily highs of over 40 degrees are regularly recorded on the north Indian plains, although this is a good time to visit the Himalayan foothills and the hill stations of Shimla and Darjeeling. Meanwhile, summer in Kashmir and Ladakh is comfortable.

The monsoon rains begin in the south in late May and gradually move north over the next six weeks, although the weather varies and it does not rain all day every day.

If you like a quiet hotel, avoid the 10 days surrounding the Diwali festival in November, when Indian families party en masse and stay up late. The best time to find rooms available at short notice is in the first two weeks of December.

As this is your first trip to India, you can choose the security and peace of mind of traveling as part of a group tour with a trusted operator. There are several experienced and reputable tour operators in Australia that offer regular tours to India.

This includes the quality and value of Bunnik Tours ( Wendy Wu Tours ( for Australian-based, cost-conscious, eco-friendly and adventurous global group Intrepid Travel( suits her.

For travelers looking for a more personalized and unique experience that combines adventure, comfort and style, consider small group or independent tours offered by Classic Safari Company (

PACKING MENTALITY I What you need and what you should bring with you

Australians, likemost nationalities, need a visa to visit India. However, in order to encourage more tourism in the country, the Indian government has simplified the application process for an Australian Indian visa.

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The availability of an e-Visa means that Australians can apply for an Indian Tourist Visa online without having to travel to the nearest Indian Consulate or Indian High Commission.

Prospective Australian travelers to India are encouraged to apply through the official government website

Be prepared to provide all the necessary personal, educational and professional information as well as the places you plan to visit in India, your points of entry and exit and the countries you have visited in the last ten years.

Also required is a passport photo of specific size and other requirements, with eVisa approval processing time, at a cost of US$80 (US$120), usually between two and three business days. Please note that there is a minimum application period of four days before leaving Australia.

When packing, start with a roller bag, which is much easier to stow on trains and buses than a large, rigid suitcase.

The other must-have pack for India is a universal kitchen sink plug; a flashlight (preferably a small headlamp); slip-on shoes or sandals for temples and entering houses; Sun cream with a high sun protection factor and sun hat. Insect repellent with DEET, earplugs and visors for suburban trains and hotels; Bird and wall binoculars and a bottle of filtered water to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

Well, I can say that I stay healthy in India

A leading Indian tourism company reports that the incidence of illness among its customers has decreased since the spread of hand sanitizer. It pays to travel with an antiviral hand foam.

Drink at least a liter of safe bottled water daily. If you succumb to Delhi belly, follow a rice yogurt diet and drink plenty of fluids for 24 hours.

The Sydney-based Travel Vaccination Clinic ( advises travelers to India to ensure all childhood vaccinations are up to date, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid or ensure they are up to date on these vaccinations.

Before you leave, consider getting a COVID-19 booster shot, an annual flu shot, following strict hygiene procedures when eating and drinking locally sourced food and water, and avoiding mosquito bites whenever possible.

Malaria risk in India varies seasonally in winter, with low risk outside of the states of Orissa and Assam.

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This cover story is adapted from the Travel section of Telegraph UK and is reprinted with permission.



As a newcomer, prepare to be shocked, appalled, and approached (for food and money) in a disturbingly unequal society. Be kind, respectful, thoughtful and generous, fully aware that you cannot solve all the problems of an earth so crowded and complex.

watch your modesty

In India, avoid tight tops, over-the-knee shorts, and see-through skirts (these are considered underwear by Indians). Outside the beach it is forbidden to show too much cleavage.

Only use your right hand

During your visit to India, even if you are left-handed, always use your right hand to eat and deliver money or goods. (For explanation, the Indians use their left hand for their ablutions, so it is considered unclean).

Get ready to tip

Many places have employee tip boxes, and local guides expect reasonable tips of around $15 for a full day's work. Give good drivers about $20 a day and ask them to skip unsolicited shopping stops.

Don't skimp on your stays

If you're not backpacking, don't skimp too much on the quality of your accommodation (look elsewhere for savings). bets

Greet the day and beat the crowds

Waking up early in crowded India has its rewards. For example, instead of taking a day trip to the Taj Mahal, spend the night in Agra, the city where the white marble mausoleum is located, and witness the construction early in the morning before the tourist crowds arrive.

First Aid (First Aid) first thing

Pack a small portable first aid kit just in case. Grab a packet of antibiotics that your doctor has prescribed for you for serious illnesses (you probably won't need them, but you'll be happy if you do), as well as the electrolyte pouches to stay hydrated.

Ask before the snap

Indians love to pose for photos in famous places, preferably with an exotic westerner in the family. But they don't like being photographed doing housework in ordinary clothes. Always ask first and respect their wishes.

Survive in the Hall of Fame

Delhi is known for its smog, with the worst months being November to February, which coincides with peak tourist season. Practically two cities in one (Old Delhi and New Delhi), the capital has a lot to recommend but packs a decent mask.

take a sheet

Please read before you go and while you are there.City of Geniusesby William Dalrymple is skillfully reminiscent of Old DelhiHoly cowby Sarah Macdonald is an entertaining quest for spiritual India. by Amitav Ghoshsea ​​of ​​poppiesand Vikram Setha real boyare also recommended.

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