Jump into an auto rickshaw, barter at the markets, embrace spiritual tranquillity at an ancient temple, taste India's sweet and spicy cuisine... and do it all again the next day! Despite India's thrilling and refreshing atmosphere, the world's second most populous nation also has its hazards. However, these don't necessarily have to affect your travels if you arrive well-prepared for your journey.
Before you head off on your travels, you must consult your GP to find out which vaccinations and medicines are needed for your stay in India. India poses many health risks for travellers including water, food and animal/insect-borne diseasesi. Vaccinations that may be recommended include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, meningitis, rabies and choleraii. A GP may also recommend anti-malarial drugs for travellers who will be visiting at-risk areasi.
Delhi is the transport hub of northern India and home to the country's capital city, New Delhi. The National Capital Territory boasts centuries of history, and in Delhi you can explore the Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb, which date back to the Mughal Empireiii. Unfortunately, 'Delhi belly' or traveller's diarrhoea is common in the first few days of travel within Indiaiv, and it's recommended to take anti-diarrhoeal medication on your trip. Minimising your consumption of unsafe or contaminated food and water will aid in preventing the onset of diarrhoeav. If you do suffer an unexpected illness, having travel insurance will help cover the medical expenses and costs associated with having to change travel plans.
Two of India's must-see destinations, the renowned Taj Mahal mausoleum and the captivating Pink City, Jaipur, can be reached from Delhi in about half a day by train. The Indian rail network is extensive, affordable and used by up to 20 million people everyday; travelling on public transport in India is sure to be a chaotic but memorable experiencev. However, although it may seem fine for locals, make sure you don't hang onto the exterior doors and railings of the train or bus, as this is extremely dangerous. Before hopping into a taxi or auto-rickshaw, get a quote for your fare to avoid scams or overcharging on arrival at your destinationi,xi.
Once you have explored northern India, travel down the west coast to experience the frenetic energy of Mumbai, where Bollywood glamour and modern Indian culture intersect with confronting levels of poverty and pollutionvi. Try vada pao, a spicy potato snack, while you hunt for bargains in Chor Bazaar or visit one of Mumbai's many historic monuments such as the Gateway to Indiavii. If you find yourself needing a break from the hectic metropolis, catch a flight or take an overnight train further south along the west coast to reach the idyllic beaches of Goa for a tropical holiday. Whether you're backpacking on a budget or want to enjoy a little luxury, the small seaside state has something for everyone and is famous not only for its beaches, but also for its laid-back atmosphere and delicious seafood specialties.
In Goa's tropical climate it's essential to protect yourself from insect-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis by using insect repellent, wearing long and loose-fitting clothing and sleeping under a mosquito-proof net at nighti. This is especially important for avoiding dengue fever, which cannot be vaccinated against or treatedviii.
A different world from the rugged and cool mountainous north, the southern tip of India boasts gloriously warm weather and stunningly lush landscapes. The state of Kerala is nourished by an intricate network of canals, rivers and lagoons, feeding abundant rice paddies and also providing the perfect way to explore by boat. Kerala is a nature lover's dream, with bountiful beaches along the coast and the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary further inlandix.
While discovering the many sights and sounds of India, whether it be Kerala's calm backwaters or the bustling Khan Markets in New Delhi, remember to always keep an eye on your belongings or lock them away at your accommodation. Be especially vigilant when in a crowded place like a train or bus station, marketplace or popular tourist sitei. In the unfortunate event that you do experience theft, travel insurance can help by minimising the financial impact of lost possessions.
Before you board your flight for India, you should make sure you've ticked all the boxes on your travel checklist:
- Passport: Make photocopies of your passport, visa, certificate of travel insurance and other significant documents and leave them in a safe place with a family member or friend in Australia. If your passport is lost or stolen during your stay in India, you are required to obtain an exit visa in order to leave India. An exit visa can be given to you, provided you obtain a police report, two passport size photographs and a letter from the High Commission or Consulate General detailing your passport statusi.
- Visa: All Australians travelling to India must obtain a visa before arrivali. Without one, it is very likely that you will be refused entry into India. If you intend to stay in India for longer than 6 months, you must register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office or with the Superintendent of Police within 2 weeks of arrivali.
- Health: Get any booster shots, medicines and vaccinations that are recommended by your GP. Pack anti-diarrhoeal medication and rehydration tablets in case you're struck with Delhi belly.
- Clothing: Stock up on insect repellent and sunscreen. Pack long and loose-fitting clothing as well as hats and appropriate footwear.
- For more information on travel insurance cover for visiting India see our page on Travel insurance for India.
i Smartraveller, India, Australian Government, viewed 22 March 2016, http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/India
ii Department of Health and Ageing 2013, '3.2 Vaccination for international travel', The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Ed., viewed 17 December 2013, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/handbook10-3-2
iii Hole A 2013, "20 great things to do in Delhi", Lonely Planet, 10 October, viewed 10 April 2014, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/travel-tips-and-articles/75873
iv The New York Times, Traveler's Guide to Avoiding Infectious Diseases, viewed 17 December 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/travelers-guide-to-avoiding-infectious-diseases/traveler's-diarrhea.html
v Lonely Planet 2011, How to book trains in India, viewed 27 January 2014, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/travel-tips-and-articles/76896
vi Lonely Planet, Introducing Mumbai (Bombay), viewed 27 January 2014, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/mumbai-bombay
vii Sehgal S 2013, '24 hours in Mumbai', Lonely Planet, 25 September, viewed 27 January 2014, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/travel-tips-and-articles/24-hours-in-mumbai
viii Better Health Channel 2013, Dengue fever, viewed 17 December 2013, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Dengue_fever
ix Lonely Planet, Introducing Kerala, viewed 27 January 2014, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/kerala