Money and Currency
India employs a decimal system where 100 paise equals 1 Indian Rupee (INR). The 15-year average exchange rate is INR 45 per Australian dollar. It’s worth noting that all of our custom made itineraries are priced in Australian dollars; once you have booked you can rest assured that the price will not change, irrespective of any foreign currency fluctuations.
ATMs are widespread in India so withdrawing rupees is the easiest way to obtain local currency. Australian dollars cash and travellers cheques are widely exchanged; there is no need to carry US dollars. Pre-paid travel cards offer security and low fees and are also worth considering.
Smaller shops and eateries only accept rupees and generally do not have credit card facilities; many larger shops (‘emporiums’) accept foreign currency and credit cards; large restaurants and hotels accept cash and credit cards. We suggest you inform your bank that you are planning to visit India to avoid your card being blocked after your first transaction on your card in India.
Shopping in India
India is a shopping paradise. Jewellery, handicrafts, wood carving, marble inlay, carpets, leather goods, ready-made and tailored clothing and textiles and fabrics are among the most popular and best value items for visitors. Some shops are fixed price, while in others and in the bazaars, bargaining is the norm. Bargaining takes a little getting used to, but once you have the feel for it and realise it’s part of the way things work, it can be fun. Remember not to take it too seriously and be prepared to walk away if it’s not good value. Many of the larger shops offer shipping if you can’t fit all of those purchases into your luggage!
Health and Wellbeing
Food hygiene and preparation have improved markedly in India over the last 15 to 20 years. Your digestion might be slightly disrupted as you adjust to the different food – this is more to do with the different oils, the richness of the food (especially in North India) and the spices than anything else. We’ve noticed the incidence of serious stomach upsets reduce over the years. It still pays to observe some basic rules while travelling: use bottled water rather than tap water, thoroughly wash your hands or use hand sanitiser prior to eating, when eating out choose clean and reputable restaurants that have good patronage from locals, take it easy with new and unfamiliar foods and begin with staples such as rice, dal and roti (bread) before moving on to richer and more ambitious dishes (and street snacks) once you have acclimatised. If you have a sensitive stomach you might consider a course of probiotics in the lead up to the trip, and then a travellers’ supplement while travelling, to help keep stomach upsets away. It is also pays to take common sense general precautions such as staying well hydrated, covering up against the sun, ensuring that you are well rested and not overdoing it in the early days of your trip. (Many people get swept up in the excitement of their trip that they forget to ease into it.)
We provide extensive advice and guidelines on tipping in India in the documentation you receive prior to travelling.
Modesty is important in India. Women should wear long skirts or pants with chest and upper arms covered. A shawl or scarf can also be useful at sacred or religious sites. Men should wear shorts to the knee or long pants. It’s not such an issue in the bigger cities, but is important in the countryside. North India can be surprisingly cool in January and February, so it’s worth packing a few warm layers if visiting at this time. Your driver or local guide will advise you on this if there is a particular dress requirement for any given day.
Your mobile phone will work if you have global roaming activated; keep in mind the high data and call rates before using your phone extensively. Unlike other Asian destinations, it is not straightforward to purchase a local sim card in India – we’ll provide further information on this prior to travel.
Call rates from hotels are very high. However most hotels in India are wifi enabled and this is generally the best way to stay in touch. Your driver will be carrying a mobile phone and you can use this number for people at home to contact you on if necessary.