Barmy Andy's blog

What you need to know for India

As you are heading out to India in the near future I thought I would pass on some tips that may be worth noting. I'm aiming primarily at those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of setting foot on the sub continent before. It will be my seventh visit to this amazing country and though I would never profess to know everything, you may find some of it useful.


Visas


Any one visiting India for less than 30 days qualify for the eTourist Visa (eTV) available via https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html BEWARE of third party websites! You will need to upload a passport style photo and a scan of your passport details page to complete the process. Make sure you print out the resulting document and keep it with your passport.


On arrival in India you will see a separate queue for eVisa holders at Immigration. When you get to the counter the miserable looking official will scan your fingerprints and stamp your passport. I understand there were teething problems and long queues when they first started this process but I when I flew into Mumbai earlier in the year I went through quickly and smoothly. The important thing is to try and stay calm and be patient if things are going slowly. Dealing with officialdom in India can sometimes be frustrating and take seemingly forever. Losing your temper or raising your voice, easily done when tired from travelling, won’t make them go any quicker, they just shut down and stare at the floor.


If you are connecting to a non international airport such as Rajkot, Vizag or Chandigarh you will need to clear customs and immigration and recheck in your hold bags before proceeding to your internal flight. There are likely to be further security checks before you board so if you’ve bought Duty Free alcohol in the UK I would stow it in the hold bags or it is likely to be confiscated.


Airport Security etc.


You will find that security is very stringent in India for obvious reasons and is done by the regular Indian Army. Make sure your hand baggage has a airline tag attached when you check in because this will be stamped after your first body search, which you will be even after you have gone through the metal detectors. Expect to be searched sometimes more than once and usually in sight of hearing of the person that has just searched you! They also stamp your boarding pass so keep it on you when you go through the detectors. Don’t put it through the scanners with your hand luggage as this will hold everyone up while you retrieve it. Oh and they aren’t very friendly so don’t expect a cheery welcoming smile. They will also check the bag tag when you board the aircraft.


If you are not being met then it’s likely that you will be accosted by taxi drivers and porters when you emerge from the Airport. My advice is to firmly decline any offer and take charge of your own bags at all times. Where available prepaid taxis are the way forward. You will see booths in the Arrivals hall. There will be a fixed rate to your hotel and you will be given a voucher to pass on to the driver. High end hotels may have a complimentary shuttle service but it’s more likely to chargeable, and expensive.


Hotel Security


The medium and high end hotels in India, particularly in Mumbai often have airport style scanners outside the front entrance so expect to have your luggage scanned and empty your pockets of change, phone etc. and pass through the standard airport style metal detectors.


Currency

As you will probably know the India Rupee (INR) is a closed currency so you are not supposed to take it in or out of the country. There are Bureau de Change at the airport so you can change sterling or US dollars on arrival. I personally find the most convenient way to get cash is to carry a preloaded currency card available from the likes of Travelex which you can top up online via internet banking if necessary. You pay a small percentage fee for loading but then there are usually no fees to use an ATM and you get the rate on that day. Most hotels will also change sterling for you but you won’t necessarily get the best rate. Going to a Bank is also an option but you will find it very bureaucratic and slow.


Hygiene


It is really easy to fall victim to “Dehli-belly” so you definitely need to take precautions. Carry a bottle of hand sanitiser and use it regularly, especially after shaking hands (discreetly of course). Try and avoid putting your fingers in your mouth which sometimes you do automatically e.g. when you are counting out cash. My view on ice in drinks is that hotel ice is made from purified water so will be fine. They also wash fresh fruit and vegetables in it. If you buy street food (a must) just make sure you see it cooked and its piping hot. In the week leading up to leaving for India I drink a probiotic yoghurt daily supposedly to help build up your ‘good bacteria’. I’ve no idea if this really helps by the way and no, I don’t have shares in Actimel!


Plug sockets


Many medium and higher end hotels have English sockets alongside the Indian 2 or 3 round pin ones but its always useful to have an adaptor on hand.


Malaria


The areas we are going are low risk and its a matter for you whether you take medication. I personally don’t as I find it upsets my stomach. I choose anti insect spray and plenty of Gin and Tonic instead! I use Avon Skin So Soft spray which I was put on to a few years ago. Technically it isn’t a anti-mossy spray but it works for me.


Mobile Phones


It is possible to buy a local SIM but it can take up to a week to actually get it connected. Charges to use your UK phone are very steep so be careful and definitely switch off your mobile data roaming!


Cricket Grounds


Security around the venues is tight and many everyday items such as larger cameras, lighters and your own food is supposedly banned. I find they start Day One with thorough searches but if you are friendly with the staff they start to recognise you and as the match progresses they get less strict. The stadiums are also alcohol free unless you are in hospitality. There’s every chance a nearby venue will soon be identified as suitable a lunchtime libation and word soon passes. I’m personally hoping I can find the Fish bar in Chennai again!


The list is far from exhaustive but I hope you find it helpful. India is often referred to as a challenging place to tour but personally I find it very rewarding and above all fun.


Finally I wish you all safe travels and hope you are looking forward to what promises to be a very tough series for the England boys.


Barmy Andy


Twitter: @AndyBarmyArmy




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