Visa Information:

You must get a visa before arriving in India and these are easily available at Indian missions worldwide. An onward travel ticket is a requirement for most visas, but this is not always enforced (check in advance), except for the 72-hour transit visa.

Depending on your purpose of visit, you can get a tourist visa (six months), a business visa (6 months, one year or more, multiple entries) or a student visa (up to 5 years). A special 10-year visa (US$150, business and tourist) is available to US citizens only. An Indian visa is valid from the day it is issued, not the date of entry.

As of 1 January 2010, India has introduced a new visa-on-arrival scheme, which is available to citizens of Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Singapore at the airports in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata for a stay of up to 30 days. The visa-on-arrival costs US$60, is valid for a single entry and is not extendable. In addition, there is a minimum two-month gap between the expiry of one tourist visa and the issuance of the next.

In addition, many Indian embassies only offers visas to residents of that country: this means you should get your visa before you leave home, instead of trying to get in a neighboring country (although, as at August '09, non-residents are able to apply for visas through the Bangkok embassy for an additional 400 THB "referral fee").

Rules and validity of visas will differ based on citizenship. This whole process is unlikely to take less than 3 days and can take much longer if you include weekends, numerous government holidays and the inevitable bizarre bureaucratic

requirements. http://www.mha.nic.in/uniquepage.asp?ID_PK=334

Travel permits:

Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by a complicated permit system. A permit known as an Inner-Line Permit (ILP) is required to visit northern parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim. ILPs are issued by regional magistrates and district commissioners, either directly to travelers (for free) or through travel agents (for a fee).

Entering the northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram is much harder – tourists require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which must be arranged through Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) offices. Ultimate permission comes from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which is reluctant to issue permits to foreigners – without exception, your best chance of gaining a permit is to join an organized tour and let the travel agent make all the arrangements.

Most permits officially require you to travel in a group of four (married couples are also permitted in certain areas) and allow travel only to the places listed on the permit, often by set routes, and this is hard to change after the permit is issued.

Customs and immigration:

Clearing customs can be a bit of a hassle, though it has improved vastly over the last decade. In general, avoid the touts who will offer to ease your baggage through customs. If you are a foreign tourist and you aren't entering through Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan, you are entitled to bring in your "used personal effects and travel souvenirs" and Rs. 4,000,- worth of articles for "gifts". If you are bringing any new packaged items along, it is a good idea to carry along the invoices for them to show their value. You are also allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco and 1 liter (2 liters for Indians) of alcohol duty-free. If you do not have anything to declare, you can go through the green channel clearly marked at various airports and generally, you will not be harassed.

Fair & Festivals:

Goa Fair(carnival)-February heralds the carnival at Goa. For three days and nights, the streets come alive with color lasting a week for lively processions, floats, the strumming of guitars, graceful dances and of non-stop festivity. One of the more famous of the Indian Carnivals the Goa Festival is a complete sell out in terms of tourism capacities.

Surajkund Mela-(February 1-15)As spring glides in, full of warmth and vibrancy leaving the gray winter behind, Surajkund adorns itself with colorful traditional crafts of India. Craftsmen from all over the country assemble at Surajkund during the first fortnight of February to participate in the annual celebration known as the Surajkund Crafts Mela.

Holi — The festival of color, in Feb or March. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it's a nationwide water fight combined with showers of colored powder.

Durga Puja, Sept-Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dasara, when locals worship the deity Durga. Workers are given sweets, cash bonuses, gifts, new clothes, etc. In Gujarat, the festival is celebrated by dancing to devotional songs and religious observances like fasts extended over a period of 9 days.

Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov — The festival of lights, celebrates the return of Lord Rama to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Probably the most lavish festival in the country.

Pushkar Mela-Every November, the sleepy little township of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India comes alive with a riot of colors & a frenzied burst of activity. The Occasion: PUSHKAR FAIR. Very few, if at all any, fairs in the world can match the liveliness of Pushkar. Most people associate the Pushkar Fair with the world's largest camel fair. But it is much more than that.

National Parks:

National Parks provide ample opportunities to the visitors to have a close encounter with the wilds. But what is so exquisite about the Indian National Parks is the variance that they are equipped with. Whether it comes to the flora, avifauna, and aquafauna, or witnessing various wild forms in their natural surroundings on an elephant or inside a jeep, wild ventures in are simply amazing!

Bandhavgarh National Park- located in Umaria District, Madhya Pradesh.

Ranthambore National Park-located near Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan.

Kaziranga National Park- located in Bokakhat, Assam.

Kanha National Park-located in Mandla District, Madhya Pradesh.

Royal Chitwan National Park (Nepal)- located in South West Of Kathmandu, Nepal.

Religion and rituals:

In mosques, churches, and temples it is obligatory to take off your shoes. It may also be customary to take off your footwear while entering into homes, follow other people's lead. It is disrespectful to touch or point at people with your feet. If done accidentally, you will find that Indians will make a quick gesture of apology that involves touching the offended person with the right hand, and then moving the hand to the chest and to the eyes. It is a good idea to emulate that.

Books and written material are treated with respect, as they are considered as being concrete/physical forms of the Hindu Goddess of Learning, Saraswati. A book should not be touched with the feet and if it has accidentally touched, the same gesture of apology as is made to people should be performed.

The same goes with currency or anything associated with wealth (especially gold). They are treated as being physical representations of the Goddess Lakshmi (of Wealth) in human form, and should not be disrespected. Avoid winking, whistling, pointing or beckoning with your fingers, and touching someone's ears. All of these are considered rude.

The Swastika is commonly seen in India, as it is considered a religious symbol for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. It is not widely regarded as a symbol for Nazism in India, and in fact, had its origins in Hinduism long before the birth of Nazism, so Western visitors should not feel offended if they see a Swastika in a temple or in the home of a local. It does not mean the person is a Nazi supporter and does not symbolize anti-Semitism. The correlation between Swastika and anti-Semitism is mostly not even understood.

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