It’s always good to know a few phrases in Hindi, a language common in most of India. Keep them handy.
Hello – Namaste
Thank you – Dhanyavaad
No – Nahee
Yes – Haa
How much is it? – Yeh kitne ka hai?
It costs too much – Bahut zaada daam hain.
Take care – Apna khayal rakhna
Food – Khana
Water – Pani
How are you? – Aap kaise hain?
I am fine – Mai achchha hoon
You are welcome – Aapka swagat hai
My name is ________- Mera naam _______hai
How is your family? – Aapka parivar kaise hain?
I don’t understand – Mujhey samajh mein nahi aataa
I am fine – Main achha hoon
What is your name? – Aapka naam kya hai?
How are you? – Aap kaise ho?
Can you help me? – Kya aap meri madad kar saktey hain?
Atithi Devo Bhavah
is a Sanskrit quote that is meant to be a guideline – treat your guests like you would treat God. This thought is followed all around the country and you are bound to see immense displays of hospitality everywhere you go. This respect should be reciprocated with an effort to understand the local culture.
Sometimes, friendliness might be mistaken for invasion of privacy with personal questions about your work and family. Rest assured that it’s just the Indian style of warmth. If people stare at you, it’s only because they are curious.
Modest clothes and a smile go a long way. Smaller cities have conservative values and you should respect them. Public displays of affection are inappropriate.
Most Indians eat with their hands though cutlery is usually available on request. Traditionally, the right hand is used to give money, shake hands, and eat.
Social behavior of men and women might make you uncomfortable. In smaller towns, women spend most of their time in the house and will eat only after serving men. Physical contact between men and women is very little and even greetings are done with folded hands. Handshakes, as a greeting, are not common between sexes. Modern women in cities may behave differently and their conduct may be similar to yours.
PovertyInitially, it can be difficult to see beggars, especially children, asking for alms on the streets. They do target visitors and might be persistent around you. Dealing with them is a personal choice and giving money may not be the best solution. Many people prefer to hand out biscuits, fruit, and sweets to children. Some choose to donate to a reputed charity.
The size of India and the diversity of its landscapes lend the country to varied weather conditions, both by season and by location. The coasts of the country experience warm tropical weather all year round, the Himalayan regions are frigid cold in winter with mild summers, and the interiors follow the seasonal extremes of winter and summer. India is a round-the-year destination in the true sense of the phrase, since it is possible to traverse the entire weather scale in the country on any given day!
Broadly speaking, India experiences three major seasons – summer, winter and monsoon, with a pleasant flavor of spring and autumn scattered in the transition periods.
1. Summer (April to June): Best for northern and north-eastern Himalayas.
The northern states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir, as well as India’s less explored northeast, are best visited in the mild Himalayan summers from April to June. Beating the frigid winters, the months of March and April see the mountain skies opening up to sunshine, and the mountain slopes blooming with colorful flowers and greenery; there’s a hint of spring in the fresh air. The otherwise introspective and harsh lives of locals in these regions slowly transform with the weather, and call for traditional spring and summer celebrations.
Southern and central India and the northern states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi remain hot during these months until the monsoon rains arrive. However, the summer is the best time for tiger sightings at the national parks and tiger reserves. Additionally, luxury hotels including palace hotels offer significant discounts for stay during this time.
2. Winter (October to March): Best for northern, southern and central India.
The onset of winter, with a hint of autumn in September, is in general, one of the most pleasant times to visit India. The capital city of Delhi, the northern states of Rajasthan and Punjab, and the central state of Madhya Pradesh are best visited during this time, when the days are sunny, early mornings and nights cool, and the countryside blooming in a palette of colors. The weather remains conducive to camping out in luxurious tents in the Thar Desert, going on jungle safaris in tiger reserves, and enjoying other outdoor activities, until mid November, when winter (Mid November, December & January) approaches, foggy skies take over the mornings and the nights start to become extremely cold.
The states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu experience mild winters, with warm days and cool nights – warmer along the coast and cooler along the hill country. The winter months are marked with harvest festivals, regional New Year celebrations, and annual events, making them ideal for a trip across the southern half of the country.
The Himalayas, lower and higher, wear a white coat in winter, and though intensely beautiful, is a harsh time for locals and visitors alike, with little to no heating in most homes and hotels.
3. Monsoon (July-early September): Best for southern India, high Himalayas, and offbeat travel.
Most travelers tend to avoid India in the wet monsoon months of July and August, which is a blessing in disguise for nature lovers and those seeking to beat the crowds. The monsoon rains, which vary in intensity and duration across the country, offer an offbeat perspective to popular tourism destinations – green farms and oases in the otherwise parched Thar Desert, lush greenery in the otherwise dry lower Himalayas, and a misty aura to the otherwise sunny backwaters.
Pondicherry and Auroville, on the southeast coast of India, remain relatively dry when it’s wet season in the rest of India, receiving only the northeast monsoon rains in November and December. Other destinations to escape the rains entirely lie in the high Himalayan deserts of Ladakh and Spiti, which remain relatively dry in the monsoon months by virtue of being on the leeward side of the Himalayas and home to stark barren mountain scenery.
An Introduction to Indian Food
Trying to talk about India’s Cuisine in a single page is like trying to fit a giant in a dwarf’s chair.
Every region in the country has its own spices, styles, and specialties. There is so much to taste, smell, and eat that it’s easily possible to spend a few whole days just trying out different food. The advantage of visiting bigger cities is that multi-Cuisine restaurants can be easily found and several styles can be tasted under one roof.
A traditional Indian meal usually has a spread of salad, chutneys, curries, vegetables, Indian flatbread and a dessert. Spices like cardamom, turmeric, red chili pepper, and mustard were introduced to India 5000 years ago. They are still a big part of cooking and you will taste a lot of flavorful spices in every meal. Over the years, different influences like thick gravies from the Mughals, and tangy meat dishes from the Portuguese have diversified Indian Cuisine as well. Come prepared for an adventurous and delicious journey.
It might be a good idea to make a list of things you want to try out and share this with your guide, so that he can make local recommendations. Here’s something to start off your list freshly grilled tandoori chicken, spicy pani puri, chicken momos, hot masala chai, thick mango lassi, tangy vindaloo, a Kerala rice meal served on a plantain leaf, healthy palak paneer, soothing thukpa soup, warm kheer served with dryfruits, and crisp jalebis.
On this visit, let the spices take over your palette, feel the tender meat and vegetables melt on your tongue, treat yourself with a little bit of saffron sprinkled dessert, and digest it all with a cup of warm, herb-infused tea. India’s indulgent kitchens welcome you.
Food in India might shock your palette and some people might find it difficult to eat so much spice. Restaurants will always be happy to customize dishes for you. Just ask.
Tap water should not be consumed. Always drink water from mineral water bottles. All our hotels will provide two complimentary bottles in your room, and we will give you unlimited bottles in your car.
Street food can be found in every corner of the country. The variety is fabulous and the flavors will be unforgettable. But eat with caution. Visit street carts that cook fresh food and are crowded, so you know that the food is not stale
A tip of 10 percent is normal at most restaurants, but not mandatory.
What to wear
Every country has an unofficial dress code for travelers. These are never written down on paper, but are usually passed on from one experienced traveler to the other. We understand the local customs and have some recommendations for you.
1. The most important tip for India is to blend in and be comfortable.
2. Long tops and loose trousers for women will not only make you feel like a local, but are excellent for the weather. Days are usually warm and humid all over the country, so loose cottons help to keep cool. This applies to men and women!
3. Always carry a light scarf. Most religious places will require your head, neck, and shoulders to be covered. A light scarf in the bag is very handy to put on at these times. For men having a handkerchief is recommended.
4. Comfortable walking shoes will make your day. Visits to forts, palaces, and bazaars will involve a lot of walking, so come prepared!
Respect the local culture. Women in India dress quite conservatively. To blend in, it’s best to wear long sleeves along with trousers and skirts that go below the knees. We strongly recommend a conservative neckline.
5. Hotels in India do not have a set dress code unlike some luxury hotels around the world. However people do dress up well when going to nice restaurants
Tip: It might be a good idea to carry only a few clothes and spend some time in the colorful local markets to stock up on comfortable cotton attire that you can wear during your visit.
Visiting religious places
Visitors should dress modestly. Dresses, skirts, shorts, and sleeveless tops are inappropriate. Shoes are always removed at the entrance. Non-Hindus are sometimes not allowed inside the inner sanctum of temples. Most temples have donation boxes or a receipt book for donations and this money is like an optional entry fee that is used for the upkeep of the temple. Avoid handing out money to the priests. Some temples and all Sikh (Temple) gurudwaras require the head to be covered. Mosques ask for the arms, feet, and head of women to be covered.
Internet Service is available in most 3 star or higher class hotels, except in remote locations. Most hotels also provide WIFI service throughout the hotel (including your room). The few jungle resorts and large ocean front resorts that do not provide in-room WIFI facility have business centers where you can use the internet for a small fee.
Fees: Hotels do charge a small fee to use the internet service. They typically have hourly and 24-hour plans to choose from.
Devices: For those who do not carry their own laptop, IPad or smart phone, computers generally are available for use in the hotel business center.
International Calling is available at all Saffron Dreams preferred hotels. You can make international calls from your hotel room. We recommend consulting the hotel front desk to understand costs, dialing code, etc., before using this in-room facility.
Suggestion: We strongly suggest making use of the above services to communicate with your family or friends during your trip. It is significantly more economical than using your cell phone with an international roaming plan. Since internet services are widely available, voice and video calling applications such as Skype are a great way to communicate during your trip.