India is not a popular travel destination for us Filipinos so it came as no surprise that my friends and I had a hard time gathering facts when we were arranging our trip. Now that I've visited India, I want to share the information I learned first hand to those who are planning to make India as their next travel destination. Hopefully this guide will not only answer most questions future travelers to India have but also encourage more Filipinos to visit the incredible country of India.
|HK TO DEL VIA CX|
It's best to schedule your trip anywhere from late October to mid-March (India's winter months). It's not recommended to go from April to May because it's extremely hot with temperatures reaching upwards of 40 degrees centigrade. One should also avoid the monsoon season which starts from late May to early October. Our group went to India in the month of February and experienced almost perfect weather.
How to get to India?
There are no direct flights from the Philippines to India. We did consider taking the budget airline route but the airport layover proved too time consuming. In the end, we chose to fly to Delhi via Cathay Pacific which only had a short stopover in Hong Kong. Price for roundtrip economy class tickets from Manila to Delhi was $660.
Do you need to get a visa to enter India?
Yes, Filipino citizens need to get visa in order to visit India. One can apply online at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/ but our group chose to take advantage of the Visa on Arrival program since Filipinos are eligible. The requirements for Visa on Arrival are as follows:
- Passport with 6-month validity
- 2 passport size photographs (2 X 2 will do)
- Photocopy of second page of the passport
- Hotel booking, if applicable.
- Return ticket
We read somewhere that it's highly suggested to bring bank certificates and related documents to prove the availability of sufficient funds for the duration of stay in India but it was not requested by the officer who processed our passports. Do note that the Visa on Arrival facility is only available at the Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata airports 24 hours a day. Visa on Arrival fee is 60USD which is around 12USD more expensive than the online application option. We didn't mind because we were paying extra for the convenience. Should you apply for visa on arrival, make sure to bring exact amount because the immigration officer that facilitated our visas informed us that he didn't have smaller bills.
How long does it take to process Visa on Arrival?
We arrived at the New Delhi airport past midnight and there was only one immigration officer manning the Visa on Arrival booth. It took about 30 minutes for four visas to be issued. The procedure was fairly simple as we only had to fill up a one page form, submit the requirements, and answer basic questions such as the length of our stay in India. The activity was very informal and laidback so much so that the gentleman in charge took his sweet time processing our visas.
PLANNING THE TOUR
What cities did you visit during your trip?
Our group visited Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur. Each city had its charms but if I had to pick the least memorable place, Jodhpur would be it. I do regret not going to Varanasi, the holy city of India, due to lack of time. For those who are even more time-challenged, it is recommended to embark on the Golden Triangle tour of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The Golden Triangle tour hits the most popular attractions of India in as little as 6 days.
|Office of Leisure India Tours|
We initially wanted a D.I.Y. trip but realized early on that it would be a nightmare, logistics wise. We decided to hire Leisure India Tours, a tour agency we chanced upon on Tripadvisor because they offered the best rates out of the five agencies we contacted. It also helped that Himanshu, the owner of Leisure India Tours, was very accommodating and patiently answered all our questions via email. Overall, I was satisfied with the services of Leisure India Tours and was grateful that they made our trip to India problem free. The office of Leisure India Tours is in Jaipur and they can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check their website here.
How much did you spend on the tour?
What were the top 3 attractions of the tour?
|1. TAJ MAHAL in Agra: Iconic, Breathtaking, JUST GO!|
|2. CHANDNI CHOWK in Delhi: Crazy/Beautiful Representation of What India Is All About|
|3. LAKE PICHOLA in Udaipur: Dream Scenery that Comes to Life|
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE THE TRIP
We asked around and called a few money exchange shops but rupees turned out to be quite scarce here in Manila. We just brought USD and had little exchanged at the New Delhi airport because rates there were not very competitive. Our driver Ranjeet helped in exchanging our dollars to rupees by bringing us to reputable foreign exchange centers. Our travel agency did warn us that changing money through unauthorized representatives is not only illegal but also involves the risk of receiving counterfeit money. Make sure to exchange just the right amount because it's very hard to have rupees changed to pesos or dollars back in Manila.
|Typical Tourist Attire|
A lot of guidebooks say that it's best to dress conservatively and modestly when in India to avoid unwanted attention. We followed this advice and wore pants and tops with sleeves long enough to cover our arms. We did see a few foreigners who wore sleeveless tops, shorts, and flirty dresses but majority of tourists were really covered up. For ladies who simply can't help it, the minimum is said to be below-the-knee shorts or skirts. Choice of footwear doesn't really matter but some prefer to wear sandals because it's easier to take off when visiting religious sites.
Our tour agency suggested that we get shots before going to India but we didn't follow and turned out fine. Do bring your own medicine especially for diarrhea, upset stomach, fever, and allergies to be sure since all medications in India are locally manufactured and you may not find the same brand names.
WHEN IN INDIA
|This is NOT the Norm|
Sadly most assume that India is filthy because most shows that feature India highlight the squalor that can be found in the slums. Based on my experience though, India is not the dirty, stinky place it has always been portrayed to be. It's true that there are plenty of beggars at the tourist spots and some garbage are scattered on the streets, but this is also the case for most developing countries of the world. India is similar to the Philippines in the sense that there are highly modern commercial establishments as well as poverty stricken areas. As Filipinos who grew up exposed to the gritty side of our country, we will not be shocked with what we will see in India.
How safe is India?
I never felt threatened when I was in India though I have to admit that my guard was always up. I probably felt safe because a local guide accompanied us wherever we went. We also didn't explore after dark and we made sure to be back at our hotel right after dinner. Always be careful and never walk alone outside your hotel at any time of the day. Vigilance is key and one should not take risks when in India. Our travel agency also shared some tips to avoid losing valuables:
- Don't keep your wallet in the rear pocket. Keep it in an inside jacket pocket or side pocket.
- Don't hand over your luggage to any person except a member of the hotel's bell staff.
- Make sure to collect a receipt for stored luggage.
- Never leave your luggage or other expensive items unattended at airports, bus stands, taxi stands or railway stations.
Are Indians hard to deal with?
What is there to eat in India?
How much to tip?
|Our Driver Ranjeet with a Herder|
For porters who take your baggage to your room, 50rupees (36php) is usually tipped per bag or 100 to 200rupees (70 to 140php) per trolley. Tips can be lower for 3 star hotels and below.
Tipping of drivers depends on his services and courtesy. It's paid at the end of the tour and the average is said to be from 500 to 800rupees (360 to 580php) per day. Similarly, tips for guides depend on his services, knowledge about the places, and courtesy. However, the minimum according to Leisure India Travels is 500rupees (360php) per day.
What souvenirs to buy?
|My Two Scarves from India|
IN THE END
Would you recommend a trip to India?
Definitely! India is so rich in culture and history that everyone should visit the country at least once. It was like nothing that I've ever experienced before and I'm sure the memories I made will last me a lifetime.