What makes India a diverse country

Tourists visit India mainly for its unique Hindu rituals, impressive nature, rich cultural heritage and tasty cuisine. Many travelers experience culture shock. Prepare well for your trip as many travelers experience culture shock as India is a country full of surprises. A trip to India is sure to be an experience of a lifetime, and gives a glimpse into the lives of 1.3 billion people who seem to live in a completely different world.

Business travelers are also represented in increasing numbers in India. This is mainly due to the fast growing Indian economy. The gross domestic product per capita has quadrupled since 2002. However, at $ 2,036 per capita, Indian GDP is still well below that of Germany ($ 48,264, IMF, as of 2018). Due to low wages and increasing prosperity, India offers many opportunities for import, export and knowledge transfer, which are being taken up by more and more western companies.


facts and figures

About 1.3 billion people live in India, more than a sixth of the world's population. India is a democratic republic with a president who has mostly a ceremonial role and a prime minister who heads the cabinet. India is divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. About two thirds of Indians work in agriculture. The combination of low wages and relatively highly educated residents has resulted in India having a rapidly growing IT sector.

CapitalNew Delhi
total area3,300,000 km2
population1,368,738,000 (as of 2019)
languageHindi and 20 other official languages
religionHinduism: 80 %, Islam: 13 %, Christianity: 2 %, Sikhism: 2 %
Time difference3.5 hours later (summer) or 4.5 hours later (winter). Just one time zone.
Travel time7.5 to 10 hours of flight time
electricity230 volts, 50 Hz, plug adapter required
Life expectancy68 years
tap waterNo drinking water
Coastline7,517 kilometers

geography

With a total area of ​​more than three million square kilometers, India has a diverse landscape. The country is part of the Indian continental plate. As the Indian plate is pushed up, the mountains in the Himalayas are still growing. India borders China, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.


history

The first permanent settlements in India emerged around 7,000 BC. This gave birth to the Indus culture, one of the oldest civilizations in the world from which Hinduism emerged. For the first 500 years AD, India was part of the Gupta Empire, one of the most advanced and prosperous cultures in the world at the time. From around 700 AD, Islam gained importance in India. Although the introduction of Islam was accompanied by conquests and oppression, a harmony between followers of Hinduism and Islam developed relatively quickly.

Colonization of India
From the seventeenth century onwards, the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British tried to gain a foothold in India. The Portuguese fleet first arrived in India in 1510, establishing the colonies of Bon Bahia (now Mumbai) and Goa (1510). The British East India Company was founded in 1600. Since this could hardly gain influence in East Asia, it concentrated on India. The Dutch also wanted to expand their empire to India; In 1596 four Dutch merchant ships reached India and in 1602 the United East India Company (VOC) was founded. The Dutch set up various trading posts and the French also owned various trading colonies in Pondicherry from 1672 onwards. Most powerful and influential, however, were the British, who established trading posts in Surat (1612), Madras (now Chennai, 1639), Bombay (now Mumbai, 1668) and Calcutta (1690). By 1647 the British had about 23 settlements in the country. A hundred years later, about 60% of Indian territory was under direct British control. The British began to take their power more and more for granted; rule became increasingly authoritarian and intolerance of local cultural and religious traditions and customs increased. The first major uprising against the British colonial rulers, which was also the largest revolt of the 19th century against a colonial ruler, began in 1857. The uprising, which lasted until 1858, was finally put down by the English with barbaric measures. However, the uprising heralded the downfall of the British East India Company. The British East Indies colony was placed under direct English rule; the Indians became subjects of Queen Victoria and the country became part of the British Empire from 1858 to 1947.

independence
In the second half of the 19th century, the Indians became more and more aware of their oppressed position. During the First World War, Great Britain received a lot of support from the Indians, who hoped that after the war they would achieve the status of a Dominion, an independent and self-governing part of the Commonwealth. However, that did not happen, and nationalism in India increased sharply. In 1919, Mahatma Gandhi emerged as the leader of the Indian national movement and after a nonviolent uprising under Gandhi's leadership, India gained independence on August 15, 1947 after World War II. British India was divided into India and Pakistan, resulting in the first year of independence being marked by fighting in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.


Culture

A large part of the Indian population lives in poverty and the gap between rich and poor is large. However, the number of malnourished populations and the prevalence of wasting and stunting among children decreased between 1992 and 2016. In 1993 more than 45 percent of the Indian population lived on less than $ 1.90; per day. In 2011 (last measurement by the World Bank) that was only 21% of the population. In 2011, however, 57% of the population were still living on less than $ 3.10; per day (that's around € 960 per year). The urban areas of India earn more on average than the rural areas, but there is little difference in purchasing power due to the higher costs in the cities. The growing number of rich people mainly live in cities. For example, Mukesh Ambani, the richest Indian and thirteen richest world citizen, lives in Mumbai, in a skyscraper with an estimated value of 700 million euros.



Caste system
The UN describes the caste system in India as "discrimination on the basis of work and origin". Although the caste system exists or has existed in various countries, nowhere is it as extensive as in India. According to the caste system, society is divided into thousands of different castes (different depending on the region) from superordinate to subordinate. The caste in which someone is born depends, according to Hinduism, on the karma built up in previous lives. The karma shows up in the family in a certain caste in which one is born. The official status of Dalit (no caste) and Shudra (lowest caste) was abolished in 1949. However, the resistance of the Indian population to change is strong, so that in practice a lot of importance is still attached to the origin and the (former) caste of a family. This often makes it impossible for people from a lower caste to have a career. In Hinduism, this should be achieved by being born in a higher caste in the next life.

language
The Indian constitution recognizes 21 official languages. In addition to these official languages, 392 other (regional) languages ​​are used in India (dialects not included). Hindi is the most widely used language in India, although it is only spoken by 40 percent of the population. Many scientific and legal documents are in English, which is spoken by approximately 12 percent of Indians. Also because the Indian school system is based on a training model originally introduced by the British, English is sufficient for tourists and business travelers in many places in India. If you are traveling to areas that are not visited by many tourists and business travelers, it is still advisable to have an interpreter with you.

Bollywood
The largest film producer in the world is not Hollywood, but Indian Bollywood with more than a thousand films a year. Bollywood films (with a B from Bombay, now Mumbai) are not only popular in India. The Indian film industry is even more popular than its American counterpart in many Asian countries and the Middle East. A style element often found in Bollywood films is Indian music, which is often danced to.


health status

India is generally not a clean country and hygiene leaves a lot to be desired in many places. Many leisure and business travelers get sick in India. What you do and where you are in India greatly affects your risk of getting sick. If you are careful and prepare well, you can greatly reduce the risk of illness.



In advance: vaccinations and (preventive) medication
Vaccinations are only required if you are traveling to India directly from Africa or South America. In this case, you must be able to prove with your vaccination card (also called vaccination certificate or vaccination book) that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever. However, it is highly recommended that you get some additional vaccinations, including:

  • DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, polio)
  • Hepatitis A
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • typhus
  • Rabies (if you stay for more than 3 months)
  • Meningococcal disease (if you stay for more than 3 months)
  • Japanese encephalitis (if staying more than 3 months)
  • Hepatitis B (if you stay for more than 3 months)

Read more about the vaccinations required for India here.

In addition to the vaccinations, it is advisable to take (preventive) medication with you to India. Malaria mosquitoes are found in most of India and it is recommended to take malaria tablets as a preventive measure. In these areas, wear long trousers and long-sleeved clothing whenever possible, and spray or smear bare skin with mosquito repellant such as DEET. If you have symptoms of malaria you should see a doctor as soon as possible, but in any case within 24 hours.

Please also watch out for infectious diseases such as diarrhea, dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV / AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Above all, diarrhea occurs with many German, Austrian and Swiss travelers in India. In this case, medical professionals recommend drinking enough clean water from sealed bottles and drinking WHO drinking solution (also called ORS). This is a mixture of salt and sugar with water and, together with loperamide, offers a good solution against diarrhea. However, loperamide must not be used by young children or pregnant women. You should also be careful with loperamide in the case of infections and fever.

Please note: This is not a medical website and this text was not written by a doctor. Before you leave for India, always find out from a doctor (e.g. your family doctor) about the necessary vaccinations, medication and other preparations.

Pay attention to hygiene during your trip
India is internationally known or notorious for its poor hygiene. Although more and more hotels and restaurants in the higher price range ensure good hygiene, many tourists and business travelers in India fall ill. We therefore advise you to take some precautionary measures to avoid illness. First of all, it is strongly advised not to drink unfiltered tap water. Please drink water or other beverages from bottles the seal of which you have broken yourself (sometimes empty bottles are refilled with contaminated water and sold again). Also, make sure that you do not use ice cubes or eat food that has come into contact with uncooked tap water.


Climate and the best travel time

The high mountains of the Himalayas in northern India are covered by eternal ice, in the barren Thar desert in the west the temperatures regularly reach 45 ° C in summer, palm trees grow on the islands in the ocean and on the beach in Goa. It is clear that it is not easy to give a general description of the Indian climate. Then, if you are about to travel to India, find out about the weather forecast for the region you are visiting.

Best travel time
The best time to travel to India is in the autumn and winter months. Between October and March, the temperatures in India are comfortable for a vacation and it does not rain much. It is best to avoid the rainy season in India; From June to September, the monsoons cause heavy rainfall and high humidity. Even in April and May the temperatures are often very high and the heat can be unbearable.



money

In India, the Indian rupee (INR) is used to pay. German, Austrian, and Swiss bank and credit cards are accepted in many places, but many Indians prefer cash. It is best to use your debit card (bank card with Maestro or V-Pay symbol) to withdraw cash from an Indian ATM with a Maestro or V-Pay symbol. When withdrawing rupees, select "without conversion" as your own bank's exchange rate will be used and not the bank you are withdrawing from. Please make sure that there are enough ATMs in the cities, but in Rural areas much less. Note: Many banks have switched off the use of the bank card outside of Europe as a security measure. Therefore, before you leave, check whether you can use your bank card in India. You can usually activate this option online at your bank.


to travel

Various airlines fly to India and back. In addition, due to the enormous size of the country and the limited road network, there are many domestic flights in India. Although the rail network is huge and more and more modern trains are running, trains in India are often still overcrowded, difficult to book, unsafe, slow and unreliable. A train ride in India is still a truly unforgettable experience. Indian trains often run with the doors and windows open so you can get some fresh air by hanging out the window or door: a common sight in India.



Besides the train, taxis, rickshaws (bicycle taxis), and tuktuks (auto rickshaws) are also widely used in India. They are inexpensive to transport and easy to stop from the road. Rickshaws and tuktuks usually bring travelers safely from A to B just like taxis, but you have to be careful, especially at night and in areas where there are few tourists. We recommend that you keep a close eye on your personal belongings and check (e.g. with GPS) that the correct route is being taken. Due to the hectic traffic situation in India, we do not recommend driving a car yourself. An unwritten rule is that large vehicles have priority (or simply take precedence over others), which leads to many unexpected situations on the freeway. A donkey wagon crossing or a sudden pit in the roadway may not be uncommon for Indians, but for Europeans it often leads to dangerous situations. Current travel warnings and safety information for India can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office (Germany) or the BMEIA (Austria). Read more about a round trip in India here.

Entry requirements
Visa requirements apply to India. Germans, Austrians and Swiss nationals who are traveling to India for a vacation of a maximum of 90 days as well as business travelers who are staying in India for a maximum of 180 days can easily apply for their India visa online using the application form on this website. Before submitting the application, please check whether you meet all the requirements for the visa.