The history of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilisation, which flourished in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent from 3300 to 1700 BC. This Bronze Age civilisation was followed by the Iron Age Vedic period, which witnessed the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas. In the 6th century BC, in two of these kingdoms, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born.


The subcontinent was united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. It subsequently became fragmented, with various parts ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next ten centuries. Its northern regions were united once again in the 4th century AD, and remained so for two centuries thereafter, under the Gupta Empire. This period was known as the "Golden Age of India." During the same time, and for several centuries afterwards, India, experienced its own golden age under the rule of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, during which Hinduism and Buddhism spread to much of south-east Asia.


Islam arrived at the subcontinent early in the 8th century AD with the conquest of Baluchistan and Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim. Islamic invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 15th centuries AD brought most of northern India under the rule of, at first the Delhi Sultanate and later of the Mughals. Mughal rule, which ushered in a remarkable flowering of art and architecture, came to cover large parts of the subcontinent. However, several independent kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished contemporaneously, especially in southern India. Beginning in the mid-18th century and over the next century, India was gradually annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which India was directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of both rapid development of infrastructure and economic decline.  During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, and later joined by the Muslim League. The subcontinent gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, after being partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan. Pakistan's eastern wing became the nation of Bangladesh in 1971.



India has a three-season year - the hot, the wet and the cool. The heat starts to build up on the northern plains around February and by April it becomes unbearable - expect 35-45°C (95- 113°F) days in most places. The first signs of the monsoon appear in May, with high humidity, short rainstorms and violent electrical storms. The monsoon rains begin early in June in the extreme south and sweep north to cover the whole country by early July. The monsoon doesn't really cool things off, but it's a great relief - especially to farmers. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the south-eastern coast is affected by the short and surprisingly wet north-eastern monsoon, which brings rain from mid-October to the end of December. The main monsoon ends around October, and India's northern cities become crisp at night in December. In the far south, where it never gets cool, the temperatures are comfortably warm rather than hot.

Etiquette and culture

Only those who really want to experience India will enjoy their visit. Above all, it is important to cast aside any thoughts of one’s own culture for a time. Famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore once said that “he who respects differences, wins unity”. Great caution should be taken before forming a definitive opinion of India and its people. India is a continent which is full of contrasts and rich in unusual customs.  Indian society is affected by strong religious beliefs The importance of different religions and their effect on daily life and the culture of the country over the centuries have meant that Indians and Westerners often find it extremely difficult to communicate and understand one another.


Respect for Elders - Respect for elders is a keystone of Hindu culture. This genuine acknowledgment of seniority is demonstrated through endearing customs, such as sitting to the left of elders, bringing gifts on special occasions, not sitting while they are standing, not speaking excessively, not yawning or stretching, not putting one's opinions forward strongly, not contradicting or arguing, seeking their advice and blessings, giving them the first choice in all matters, even serving their food first.


Touching feet as a sign of respect - One touches the feet of holy men and women in recognition of their great humility and inner attainment. A dancer or a musician touches the feet of his or her teacher before and after each lesson. Children prostrate and touch the feet of their mother and father, grandparents and elders at festivals and at special times, such as birthdays and before departing on a journey.


Clothing - Female tourists should be aware of the offence which may be unwittingly caused by wearing certain western clothing – therefore it is best advised to avoid shorts and skimpy t-shirts, unless you are on the beaches. Men should also wear long trousers as a mark of respect when visiting certain areas. Anyone visiting a holy place should observe tradition: in other words, no shoes in temples or mosques, appropriate clothing and no photographs. Also, covering your head when visiting Sikh temples is necessary.


Greeting - Due to the abundance of the languages and dialects, visitors are advised to use English as

virtually everybody will understand the word “hello”. If you are able to learn and practice a few

words in Hindi as a gesture of courtesy you will find that this will be welcomed.


One may try one of the following greetings:


• for Hindus: “namaste” or “namaskar” (pronounced as nah-mahs-tay/nah-mahs-kar)


• for Muslims: “salaam alaykum” (pronounced as sah-lahm ah-lay-kuhm)


• for Sikhs: “Sat sri akal” (pronounced as Saht-shree ah-khal).


Hindus usually place their palms together, in front of their chest, as a form of greeting. Then, they bow their head and say “namaste” or “namaskar”. The higher the hands are held, the greater the respect being shown. Touching an elderly or respected person’s feet and then touching your head is particularly venerable. As feet are generally considered unclean. Hindus do not practice the European habit of shaking hands. A kiss on the cheek is almost

considered offensive. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.


Modern Indian women have no qualms about shaking hands with Western women. They may not want to shake hands or engage eye contact with men who are not known to them.


Christians greet each other in the same way as in the West.


On greeting Muslims one should exercise the usual constraint used in all Muslim countries. One should never address, touch or stare at a veiled woman. Non-Muslims should always wait until his or her Muslim counterpart offers to shake hands.


Overall the best policy is to be polite and friendly. No one was ever offended by a smile it is a universal language!


Gestures, Etiquette and Taboos -


• The most striking movement of the body in India is the head shaking. Most Westerners would take this to mean "no", but, in actual fact, it means the complete opposite. However it can also mean, "lets see". "No" is expressed by a short, sideways movement of the head, accompanied by a discharging movement of the hand.


• Displays of affection between men and women are not usual in public.


• One should never pass anything with one's left hand, as this is the unclean hand, used after the visit to the bathroom.


• It is very rude to point at people. This gesture is only used for animals in India. It is best to use the whole right hand when pointing somebody out.


• The words "please" and "thank you" are seldom used in formal or official context in most Indian languages. As a result, foreigners often find the way in which Indians ask for things very impolite as these words are not used on an everyday basis in normal life.


• The lowest, dirtiest part of the body are the shoes, as one walks on the dirty streets in them. For this reason, one should always remove one's shoes before entering a temple, mosque or a person's home.


• There is nothing unusual about going barefoot in India, and it is very rare to see anyone wearing shoes in their own house. Visitors should remember this when visiting an Indian home.


• Hospitality is still an important part of the life in India. Guests are offered at least a glass of water or a cup of tea.


• Guests should always turn up for a private invitation a little later than planned. As the socialising takes place before dinner, it is often very late before food is served. Guests should leave soon after dinner.


• One should only ask a Hindu about his caste if one knows him very well indeed.


• One should always take one's shoes off before entering a Hindu temple. If one prefers not to go barefoot socks are permitted.


Conversation: Most nationals are proud of their country and are very happy that you are visiting India. They enjoy talking about the famous sights, such as monuments, temples and palaces, and about the five thousand years of history which the Indian subcontinent has experienced. You will find that you will be embraced with questions about your family and your thoughts on India. Sport in all forms but especially cricket is of great national pride. Visitors should be aware of sensitive topics, such as the caste system, the reasoning behind the "holy cow", arranged weddings, poverty and religious conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. These are not taboo subjects but need to be discussed with consideration.



There are medical facilities in most large cities and the better hotels and lodges have doctors on call.  There are no compulsory vaccinations required for visit to India. However as a sensible precaution, the following vaccinations are recommended: Cholera, Typhoid, Tetanus, Hepatitis, Meningitis (particularly if trekking) plus Malaria protection.

We recommend that you check with your doctor for individual requirements.



Our tailor-made programmes are best enjoyed if you are reasonably fit and healthy. Some of your most enjoyable experiences will be walking in wilderness and tribal areas and to appreciate this in warm climates it is good to be reasonably fit.


Wildlife – On safari in India

India is one of the most rewarding regions of the world to visit. From the arid Himalayan plateau to the swamps of Kaziranga, and from the deserts of Rajasthan to the tropical backwaters of Kerala, the breath of India’s range of habitat is only equalled by the biodiversity that it supports.


India has 80 national parks including 50 tiger reserves and more than 440 sanctuaries. It is home to more than 350 different mammals and 1,220 birds, 1600 species of reptiles and amphibians and 57,000 species of insects.


Many of these creatures are unique to the subcontinent, such as the white tiger, royal Bengal tiger, Asian lion, lion-tailed macaque, Andaman teal, great Indian bustard, and monal pheasant. India harbours 60 per cent of the world's wild tiger population, 50 per cent of Asian elephants, 80 per cent of the one-horned rhinoceros and the entire remaining population of the Asiatic lion.


Before 1947, India did not protect its wildlife. By 1952, 13 species had been declared endangered, and today the list has multiplied to 70 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles, and 36 species of birds. Tigers, the symbolic mascot of India, were killed so frequently that by 1970, only 1,500 remained. In 1972, the Indian government finally passed the Wildlife Act, which designates natural parks and sanctuaries and provides for the protection of wild animals, particularly endangered species. Three years later Project Tiger, a large-scale enterprise co-sponsored by India's Department of Wildlife and the World Wildlife Fund, was formed to ban the killing of tigers and to save its vanishing home. In the process, innumerable other animals received protection, including the Asian elephant and great one-horned rhinoceros. The presence of tiger in the chosen habitat indicates that the ecosystem is vibrant.   By any measure, Project Tiger must be seen as one of Asia’s most successful conservation sagas and the tiger a symbol of the health of the Indian jungle.


India is also attempting to recover a third of its land with forests- a daunting task that requires more than saplings. The rural poor must find viable fuel sources to replace wood, and a humane initiative is needed to control the movement of aging livestock, including the sacrosanct cow.


Still, many of India's parks and sanctuaries are enchanting. If you have a safari in mind, remember that many of India's animals are elusive, moving in small packs. Come with the proper expectations and you will see many animals: numerous species of deer, wild boar, and spectacular birds and occasionally the elusive tiger. Jungle excursions are in mornings and evenings in open Jeeps and on elephant backs with the accompanying local naturalist.



The Indian rupee is the official currency. Obtaining rupees outside India before your departure is not possible and unnecessary. We would advise carrying from approx about $300 to $500 cash per person - in small denominations and a credit card (most well known cards are acceptable) for supplementary monies. On arrival we advise changing a small amount of money for your immediate needs at airport or hotel.  (There is hardly any difference in rate of exchange between Banks, Hotels, Money Changers.)  Indian currency notes circulate far longer than in the West and the small notes in particular become very tatty. You may occasionally find that when you try to pay for something with a ripped note, your money is refused. You can change old notes for new ones at most banks. However, it is best to refuse tatty notes from shops/vendors.  Keep a supply of smaller denomination notes - there is a perpetual shortage of small change. It is also useful to keep lower denomination notes as tip money.


Luggage allowance (internal flight in India) 

There is a luggage allowance in full service airlines like  Indian airlines  is  approximately 23 kg per person on most Economy Class flights. The Business Class allowance is about 30kg. The allowances can vary, depending on the airline, and we can advise the exact amount when you book. Low cost airlines like Spice Jet, Indigo, Goair and Jetlite have only 15 Kg allowance and they charge approximately four US dollars per kg of extra luggage.  Hand luggage is usually restricted to one piece per person and should not be larger than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm and should not weigh more than 7 kg. Luggage can get thrown about a little so make sure you carry any breakables in your hand luggage and they all should be lockable. Also make sure you allow plenty of space to pack in all those gifts and curios you will buy on your holiday.


Photography notes

India presents some stunning opportunities for photographers with even the most basic cameras.

Bring fast prime lenses for low light photography.  A general principle in photography is that the light is best 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset everyday. This is particularly true in India because the sun is very intense. The midday sun will generally cause very harsh shadows and not very ideal lighting. These times of day are also the best for being outdoors and for going on a nice stroll.  Please respect the privacy of the local people, especially in remote areas, and DO NOT intrude unduly with your camera. Use discretion and you will return with some marvellous photographs. For digital cameras, there are shops in major cities of tourist interest that sell data cards. Shops also offer services to download photos to CDs.  There is a separate charge for still and video cameras at most monuments and national parks. 


Travelling tips

Make travelling less stressful and minimise the chances of being left with only the clothes you are wearing by following a few simple precautions:


1. If you are travelling with others, spread your clothes around different cases. If one case goes missing, you will still have something to wear.


2. Put your home address inside your case and your away address on a label outside. This will help the airline to trace you if your luggage gets lost.


3. Carry essentials, e.g. prescription medicines and wash bag, along with a change of clothes in your hand luggage, in case your main luggage gets lost.


4. For travelling by air, you must carry electrical goods and in your hand luggage, not in a suitcase which will go in the hold.


5. All sharp objects should be placed in the main hold.


6. It may sound obvious, but make sure you read up as much as possible about the destinations you are looking to travel to. Not only will this give you a much better understanding of the people and their history, but will also make the countries come to life much more when you are actually out there!


Air travel tips    

In order to make the flight more comfortable and arrive feeling refreshed, we suggest you drink plenty of water as it is easy to become dehydrated, particularly if drinking alcohol. Fizzy drinks can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Take an inflatable neck pillow to help you sleep. Make sure you regularly walk around the plane to encourage good circulation and reduce swollen feet and ankles and avoid the risk of DVT. Exercise your legs and calves regularly during the flight and consider wearing support stockings.



Your safety is paramount at all times and it is important to ensure you do not wander far from guides unless escorted by a member of staff when walking in wilderness areas on the borders of parks, particularly Kanha. It is quite normal for animals to wander into these areas. You will be given a full briefing about safety when on elephant back and the very best way to see and appreciate Indian wildlife on elephant back, on foot and by Jeep.


We will keep you informed of all security issues that may affect you in the region. You can look up the latest information on our website under Travel Advice or that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the latest foreign office advice.



Our trips are specially planned to optimise your chances of seeing tigers and other Indian wildlife, depending which area of the country you are planning to visit. Generally the “wildlife season” is between November and April. This period is ideal as the colder November is lush and green after the monsoon rains and normally the parks open about a month after the last rains. As the season extends the hotter weather (between 25°C to 40°C) and drier ground brings Indian wildlife including tiger to water. December and January are mid-winter in India and early mornings and evenings and nights can be cold so do pack accordingly, especially for the early morning game drives. Climate conditions due to certain geographical areas. Specific areas ie: Himalayas for trekking have particular seasons too – ie: May to September. During the summer months the monsoon makes it difficult to travel in the country.


Electricity and appliances

The electricity voltage in India is 220 AC 50 cycles. It is advised that you bring a universal travel adaptor. India uses 2 pin round plugs that may vary in size. Power cuts can be common, and back up generators provide essential cover when this happens.



A laundry service is available in most of the major hotels and lodges. It is normally priced per item and taken early morning to be returned the following day. Express laundry ie: the same day– is normally available on request.



If you cash sterling, dollars, or travellers’ cheques please check your currency amount. The State Bank of India and several others in major towns are authorised to deal in foreign exchange. When changing currency through a bank or authorised dealer, you should be given a foreign currency encashment certificate. Ask for one if it is not automatically given. It allows you to change Indian Rupees back to your own currency on departure, so ensure that you have a valid one at this time. It also enables you to use Rupees to buy air or train tickets for which payment in foreign exchange may be required. The certificates are only valid for three months.

Credit cards

Most of the larger hotels in India will accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Diners Club. Some of the smaller ‘Heritage Hotels’ do not accept Visa cards. There is a growing number of ATM machines in the major cites which is a useful and relatively quick way to draw cash.


It is wise not to drink the tap water; use bottled water instead, or boil water before drinking. We would also recommend you to take water purification tablets with you as a precaution if you are travelling to more remote areas. Avoid taking ice in cold drinks, and do not eat salad vegetables unless you are eating in a major international hotel or restaurant.


You can expect a delicious and sumptuous fare, both very Indian and also Europeanised when in specific lodges. There will be delicious brunches on days when early mornings will be spent on elephants or from the Jeep by safari. Drinks will not be included in the costs but bottled water will always be provided. Please ensure you do not drink any other water, not even for brushing your teeth! Vegetarians will be easily catered for. Indian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. In the north of India, it tends to be somewhat similar to Arabic cuisine whereas in the south the food is generally spicier, and more vegetarian dishes are eaten. The ingredients used in these dishes depend on the religious background of the people and on the region in question. In the south rice is eaten with every meal, but in the north breads predominate.


A great deal of time is needed to prepare an Indian meal. All dishes are made with fresh foodstuffs only. The various spices are ground into a paste everyday. It is interesting to know that curry powder frequently used in the West is never used in India. This rather flavourless mixture is a legacy of colonial times. Curry leaves on the other hand are often used and impart a wonderful aromatic flavour.

Accommodation and facilities

Within India you will find you can be staying in a variety of accommodation as myriad as the landscape, from a humble home stay with a local family, a tented jungle camp or a heritage hotel to luxurious and historical palace. We use a variety of places and those we have personally visited to ensure your stay is as comfortable and wonderful as possible. Apart from the very luxurious chain of hotels, most of the accommodation Royal Expeditions uses will be privately run and often owned and passed down from generation to generation. You will find yourself most welcomed by your hosts throughout your stay.


Facilities therefore will vary– but one can expect en suite facilities and all essentials as standard in most places. In remote or rural areas electricity from the grid can be sporadic at night. Normally a generator is used as back up at most of the wildlife camps and some of the luxury camps now have hotel-like facilities including internet connection and air conditioning.


We advocate using places with environmentally and ecologically sound sustainability where possible.

Medical care

Tipping is always a concern for travellers. In India, tipping is very common and expected, but there are no fixed rules for the amount of the tip. If someone is providing an extra service or favour for you, a tip would be expected and welcome.


The expectations are quite high when they see a foreigner.  Waiters, room-service attendants, housekeepers, porters, and doormen all expect to receive one.


You should tip with the quantity that you feel comfortable with.  We have provided some tip guidelines that should help get you started.


We advise you to ask for some small change in the denomination of rupees ten, twenty and fifty when you change your money into Indian rupees.

Gratuities (TIPS)

Tipping is always a concern for travellers. In India, tipping is very common and expected, but there are no fixed rules for the amount of the tip. If someone is providing an extra service or favour for you, a tip would be expected and welcome.


The expectations are quite high when they see a foreigner.  Waiters, room-service attendants, housekeepers, porters, and doormen all expect to receive one.


You should tip with the quantity that you feel comfortable with.  We have provided some tip guidelines that should help get you started.


We advise you to ask for some small change in the denomination of rupees ten, twenty and fifty when you change your money into Indian rupees.

Charitable giving

Begging is commonplace in both the larger cities and train and bus stations. Many tourists can be targeted as generally speaking those visitors travelling will be considered financially better off and able to give. Visitors may find this distressing. Whilst the giving of money is a matter of personal preference or conscience, Royal Expeditions feels that it is best to give a donation to a proper charitable entity, as opposed to freely giving cash to individuals. If you want to give, then small amounts in local currency is advised. There are syndicates of organised begging – which often use children and will take their “begging money” from them. Sometimes giving food can be an option. It is common for those seeking alms at religious sites to receive money from Indian worshippers as a gesture of their faith and humility. 

Getting in Touch


International Direct Dialling from Local booths can be a cheap way to phone out and within the country. The time and cost of your call is displayed while you are on line. Telephone calls from hotels are normally rated and will be more expensive. The country code for India is 91. Ringing tone is a double ring. Engaged tone is an intermittent on and off tone of equal length.


Mobile phones

The mobile service has seen phenomenal growth and the number of mobile phone connections have passed fixed-line connections. Currently there are an estimated 159 million mobile phone users in India compared to 40 million fixed line subscribers. The dominant players are Airtel, Reliance Infocomm, Vodafone, Idea cellular and BSNL/MTNL. International roaming agreements exist between most operators and many foreign carriers. You can buy a local “pay as you go” card if you expect to be making a lot of calls. They are available at international airports in arrival hall and in phone shops. However you need to fill in an application form to get the phone GSM SIM card, a passport size photograph and a copy of your passport main page with photo and local address is required to be attached with the form.



Access is increasingly available in major cities and tourist centres, and the web is spreading wider to reach remote areas. Most hotels will allow you to use their systems, but rates tend to be pretty high compared to cyber cafes and Public Call Offices. Some of the wildlife lodges have internet facilities – but do be aware that services might be sporadic.

Recommended clothing and equipment list

Below, for your guidance, is a list of items that we recommend you bring with you on your trip to India. You will have your own ideas from past experiences regarding your personal list of ‘utterly indispensables’ and favourite items, so the following are our suggestions to supplement your own packing list.



  • Documentation pouch

  • Credit cards/cash

  • Concealed money pouch

  • Airline tickets & photocopy

  • Passport and photocopy

  • International vaccination certificate

  • Itinerary and joining instructions

  • Copy of insurance policy

  • Travellers' cheques and record of purchase

  • Emergency contact numbers

  • Please keep your photocopies separate from your originals.


General equipment

  • Sports bag or side-loading rucksack between 45-60 litres

  • Torch with spare batteries and bulb

  • 20-litre daypack, for keeping everyday items handy

  • Penknife

  • Field Guides/pocket language guide

  • Water bottle - 1 litre

  • Good quality sunglasses, preferably polarised

  • Binoculars - essential

  • Camera, film, digital memory cards, cleaning materials, spare batteries

  • Wash-kit

  • Diary, note pad, pens, reading material

  • Good camera bag

  • Drawstring bags and plastic re-sealable bags to protect items from dust

  • Small travel alarm/watch



  • Base-layer: T-shirts

  • Outer-layer: wind/waterproof

  • Woollen Clothes

  • Comfortable walking shoes or boots

  • Rafting sandals/flip flops

  • Swimwear/wide-brimmed sun hat

  • Sarongs/shorts

  • 2/3 Long-sleeved neutral-coloured shirts for general wear - useful with pockets

  • Extra T-shirts

  • 2/3 Long neutral-coloured trousers - protection from mosquitoes

  • Socks/underwear


N.B. It is advisable not to wear black or blue as this attracts flies and mosquitoes.


Medic Medical equipment

  • Personal medical travel kit (i.e. ‘Lifesystems’ Emergency Medical Pack)

  • Contact lens’ cleaners etc.

  • Rehydration sachets

  • Insect repellent

  • Lip salve, sunscreen – SPF20 or higher recommended

  • Anti-malarial tablets

  • Antihistamine tablets if you suffer from any allergies

  • Tissues/moist hand & body wipes

  • Spare prescription glasses in case you get irritation from the dust

  • Personal prescription medicines

Language - Short Phrases for Everyday Situations

The official language in India is Hindi, although English is the language used in business circles. Fourteen languages are officially recognised by the constitution, although India boasts a further 200 language groups and almost 700 dialects.


Some useful Hindi phrases include :


Thank you è  Shukriya

(pronounced shoe-kre-ya)


Don't mention it è koi baat nahi

(pronounced Ko-ee baht neh-hee)


Yes è  Hahji

(pronounced Hah-jee)


No è  Ji Nahi

(pronounced Jee neh hee)


Excuse me è Maaf kijiye

(pronounced mahf kee-jee-yay)


Journey through incredible India. From the North to the South India is a land of a thousand cultures, rich in tradition from the Himalayas to the God’s own country in the south. From the world’s most beautiful building the Taj Mahal, to the countless palaces and forts. From the deserts and jungles, the mountains, its multitude of peoples, temples monasteries, churches. From Custom-made holiday packages, Hotel booking, airline ticketing Dharma adventures will plan your trip and work with you to optimize every part of the journey to make sure you get the dream holiday you desire.

Of course one of the best ways to travel around India is a luxury tour. You get to experience the true hospitality of India. A journey that is much more comfortable, enjoyable and much easier with a knowledgeable guide. Visit our other pages to view our other experiential journeys in Bhutan Nepal India Tibet