INDIA (भारतीय गणराज्य)
When I travel overseas, my main goal is to see as much as possible with the time I have. And when I ventured off on a round the world odyssey, India came at the end of that trip. Tired from the constant travelling, I arrived in Kolkata, The difference between Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and my previous destination, Singapore. Couldn't be more stark. Seeing people quite literally bed down for the night in the gutter at the side of the road. Washing under hand pumps in the street. Choking traffic and the people. Thousands upon thousands of people clogging up streets and paths everywhere. Many of the people were keen to extract money from a western tourist, and the hassling was relentless. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy India as much as I should have done. However I do crave to go back.
My favourite memory of India was getting up early to see the Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi. I had a ride from an honest tuktuk driver, who I tipped handsomely. I then wandered in the misty air of early morning New Delhi. Buildings edges blurred by the mist, sharpness missing in the detail. It was mid winter when I was here, daytime temperatures reaching 12c. I looked around most of the site and was suitably impressed. But then I walked through an arch and saw the main Tomb. Built by the same person as the Taj Mahal, it took my breath away when taken into context of the first paragraph. A hidden beauty amongst the grime and poverty. India has many of these throughout it's raw lands.
Language: Hindi/English are the official language. India has numerous local languages.
Visa: A tourist visa is required for entry to India
Plug: Three large round pins in a triangular pattern, the largest at the top. Same as South Africa.
GMT: GMT +5.30
GDP Ranking (IMF): #130 £2,289 (similar to Philippines and Moldova)
Communications: Country code is +91
Health: Delhi Belly is so named for good reason, it generally hits most people.
When to Visit: November to February is the best time to visit, although the North will be cold. June to September is usually regarded as Monsoon season.
Personal Safety: F&CO up to date information is here
Getting Around: All forms of transport exist in India, however the country was built on the railway, and is the recommended form of transport to experience the country. As Paul Theroux named a novel after it, 'the Railway Bazaar.' Travelling on trains in India means meeting Indians in relaxed circumstances, and to experience India more intimately. Other options include internal flights, bus, long distance taxi/shared-jeep.
What to see/do: As a large country, India has numerous attractions for the visitor. From the himalayas and hill top colonial towns of Darjeeling and Shimla, to the beaches of Goa and waterways of Kerala, to the crazy cities of Mumbai and Delhi. As a religious country, India excels with amazing temples and monuments to the respective religions. The most famous monument being of course the Taj Mahal, but there are countless others, the Humayan Tomb, Qutub Minar and Khajuraho's monuments. India's many religions are represented with many temples, including the jaw dropping Golden Temple of Amritsar (Sikh), the Akshardham temple in Delhi (Hindu), and the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya (Buddhist) and the Grand Mosque in Delhi (Muslim). I haven't even mentioned the national parks, like the Sunderbans, Keoladeo and Kaziranga.
Food & Drink: First off, remember this is the country where the term 'Delhi Belly' originates. Once you get past that, India has some amazing food and drinks. Bear in mind, that Indian food in the Western world is sometimes different to actual Indian food. India was built on the spice trade, and as such, most foods contain it. Also, as India contains lots of different cultures, each region has different foods. The only common link, is that beef is a rarity. Any meal can be washed down with a refreshing Lassi. For those with sweet teeth, be sure to check out milk sweets. The Indian 'King of Beers' is Kingfisher, or for those looking for stronger lager, Ambari is good at 7%. Stout fans aren't left out, as Haywards Black is very good.