About India

Facts for the traveler


Visas: six month multiple-entry visas are now issued to most nationals regardless of whether you intend staying that long or re-entering the country. Only six-month tourist visas are extendable. Most indian embassies and consulates won't issue a visa to enter india unless you hold an onward ticket. Be careful to check whether your visa is valid from the date of entry or the date of issue.

Health risks: cholera (this diarrhoeal disease can cause rapid dehydration and death. Cholera is caused by a bacteria, vibrio cholerae. It's transmitted from person to person by direct contact (often via healthy carriers of the disease) or via contaminated food and water. It can be spread by seafood, including crustaceans and shellfish, which get infected via sewage. Cholera exists where standards of environmental and personal hygiene are low. Every so often there are massive epidemics, usually due to contaminated water in conditions where there is a breakdown of the normal infrastructure. The time between becoming infected and symptoms appearing is usually short, between one and five days. The diarrhoea starts suddenly, and pours out of you. It's characteristically described as 'ricewater' diarrhoea because it is watery and flecked with white mucus. Vomiting and muscle cramps are usual, but fever is rare. In its most serious form, it causes a massive outpouring of fluid (up to 20l a day). This is the worst case scenario – only about one in 10 sufferers get this severe form. It's a self-limiting illness, meaning that if you don't succumb to dehydration, it will end in about a week without any treatment. You should seek medical help urgently; in the meantime, start re-hydration therapy with oral re-hydration salts. You may need antibiotic treatment with tetracycline, but fluid replacement is the single most important treatment strategy in cholera. Prevention is by taking basic food and water precautions, avoiding seafood and having scrupulous personal hygiene. The currently available vaccine is not thought worthwhile as it provides only limited protection for a short time), dengue fever (the aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue virus, is most active during the day, and is found mainly in urban areas, in and around human dwellings. Signs and symptoms of dengue fever include a sudden onset of high fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, nausea and vomiting. A rash of small red spots sometimes appears three to four days after the onset of fever. Severe complications do sometimes occur. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may be infected. There is no vaccine against dengue fever), hepatitis (the symptoms in all forms of this illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-coloured faeces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes. Hepatitis a is transmitted by contaminated food and drinking water. Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods. Hepatitis e is transmitted in the same way as hepatitis a; it can be particularly serious in pregnant women. Hepatitis b is spread through contact with infected blood, blood products or body fluids, for example through sexual contact, unsterilised needles (and shaving equipment) and blood transfusions, or contact with blood via small breaks in the skin. The symptoms of hepatitis b may be more severe than type a and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state. Hepatitis c and d are spread in the same way as hepatitis b and can also lead to long-term complications. There are vaccines against hepatitis a and b, but there are currently no vaccines against the other types. Following the basic rules about food and water (hepatitis a and e) and avoiding risk situations (hepatitis b, c and d) are important preventative measures), malaria (this serious and potentially fatal disease is spread by mosquito bites and is endemic in most countries of the region (the exceptions being singapore and brunei). If you are travelling in endemic areas it is extremely important to avoid mosquito bites and to take tablets to prevent this disease. Symptoms range from fever, chills and sweating, headache, diarrhoea and abdominal pains to a vague feeling of ill-health. Seek medical help immediately if malaria is suspected. Without treatment malaria can rapidly become more serious and can be fatal. If medical care is not available, malaria tablets can be used for treatment. There is a variety of medications such as mefloquine, fansidar and malarone. You should seek medical advice, before you travel, on the right medication and dosage for you. If you do contract malaria, be sure to be re-tested for malaria once you return home as you can harbour malaria parasites in your body even if you are symptom free. Travellers are advised to prevent mosquito bites at all times. The main messages are: wear light-coloured clothing; wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts; use mosquito repellents containing the compound deet on exposed areas (prolonged overuse of deet may be harmful, especially to children, but its use is considered preferable to being bitten by disease-transmitting mosquitoes); avoid perfumes and aftershave. Use a mosquito net impregnated with mosquito repellent (permethrin) – it may be worth taking your own), meningococcal meningitis (this occurs in trekking areas only. Not every headache is likely to be meningitis. There is an effective vaccine available which is often recommended for travel to these areas. Generally, you're at pretty low risk of getting meningococcal meningitis, unless an epidemic is ongoing, but the disease is important because it can be very serious and rapidly fatal. You get infected by breathing in droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by sufferers or, more likely, by healthy carriers of the bacteria. You're more at risk in crowded, poorly ventilated places, including public transport and eating places. The symptoms of meningitis are fever, severe headache, neck stiffness that prevents you from bending your head forward, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, making you prefer to stay in darkness. With meningococcal meningitis, you may get a widespread, blotchy purple rash before any other symptoms appear.meningococcal meningitis is an extremely serious disease that can cause death within a few hours of you first feeling unwell. Seek medical help without delay if you have any of the symptoms listed earlier, especially if you are in a risk area.), typhoid (contaminated water and food can cause typhoid fever, a dangerous gut infection. Medical help must be sought. In typhoid's early stages, sufferers may feel they have a bad cold or flu on the way, as early symptoms are headache, body aches and a fever that rises a little each day until it is around 40c (104f) or more. The victim's pulse is often slow relative to the degree of fever present - unlike a normal fever where pulse increases. There may also be vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation. In the second week, the high fever and slow pulse continue, and a few pink spots may appear on the body; trembling, delirium, weakness, weight loss and dehydration may occur. Complications such as pneumonia, perforated bowel or meningitis may occur. The fever should be treated by keeping victims cool and giving them fluids (watch for dehydration). Ciprofloxacin, 750mg twice a day for 10 days, is good for adults. Chloramphenicol is recommended in many countries. The adult dosage is two 250mg capsules, four times per day. Children between eight and 12 years old should have half the adult dose; for younger children one-third the adult dose)

Time zone: gmt/utc +5.5 (indian standard time)

Dialling code: 91

Electricity: 240v ,50hz

Weights & measures: metric

When to go

India has such a wide range of climatic factors that it's impossible to pin down the best time to visit weather-wise. Broadly speaking october to march tend to be the most pleasant months over much of the country. In the far south, the monsoonal weather pattern tends to make january to september more pleasant, while sikkim and the areas of northeastern india tend to be more palatable between march and august, and kashmir and the mountainous regions of himachal pradesh are at their most accessible between may and september. The deserts of rajasthan and the northwestern indian himalayan region are at their best during the monsoon.

The trekking season in the indian himalaya runs roughly from april to november, though this varies widely depending on the trek, altitude and region. The ski season is between january and march.

It's worth checking the dates of particular festivals - you may be attracted by them, or conversely may want to avoid the chaos and jacked-up prices that attend them.

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