Getting There

By Air

Many major carriers fly to various destinations in India. You’ll find international airports in Mumbai (Bombay), Delhi, Chennai (Madras), Kolkatta (Calcutta) and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum).

Getting Around

In town, expect to be part of a surging throng of honking, ringing cabs, subcompacts, buses, mopeds, bicycles, motorcycles and, our favorite, the moto-rickshaw, a motorcycle-cum-bench that belches along with the rest.

Rail

Between cities, rail’s the way to go, from the ultrafast Rajdhani Express to the opulent Palace on Wheels. Despite warnings to the contrary from none other than the India Ministry of Tourism, we found that the trains ran like clockwork. They were super efficient, had easy-to-read schedules in English and also departure announcements in English.

The only real headache we encountered was this “special” office on the second floor intended to allow tourists to purchase tickets away from the hassles. But it takes longer and is overall a silly attempt to fix something that’s not broken. The trains are clean and serve tea and meals. And don’t miss the stations — the most authentic way to experience India — truly joyous and surreal.

For details and schedules, visit India rail’s web site.

Bus

Buses are usually way packed and a bit hairy between cities given the road conditions and the general disregard for traffic regulations. And ladies, expect to get harassed. Traveling by road at night pretty much equates to a religious experience. Unless you’re craving an arduous adventure, skip the bus and take the train.

Auto

As for hitching, not a good idea. True, we hitched a ride in a truck on the show, but remember we had a whole crew in tow.

Air

Flying is the quick solution for covering this gigantic country, and fares are pretty reasonable. Domestic carriers include:
Indian Airlines
Jet Airways
Air Sahara

Health

And one more tip from our road crew: bring some form of Cipro or your favorite bacteria-fighting agent… Delhi belly is a rite of passage for India’s pilgrims.

Lefties Beware

Our digested list of fun etiquette & customs facts from the Indian Ministry of Tourism…

  • Do not touch any holy object with your left hand. Also, do not give, take or point at anything with the left hand (traditionally the “wipe” hand). If you are required to eat with your fingers at any place, do not use the left hand.
  • Do not touch any holy object with your feet.
  • Public show of affection is generally disapproved of particularly in smaller cities and villages. Avoid it.
  • Avoid wearing clothes that bare your arms and legs.
  • Giving tips is customary but not mandatory. At restaurants, the usual rule of 10 percent applies.
  • Bargaining for a lesser price is a fairly common fact of life, especially at local bazaars, with rickshaws and auto drivers. However, recognized and larger shops and departmental stores will usually charge fixed prices.

India: the 411
Getting There
Air Sahara
Indian Airlines
Jet Airways
Getting Around
India Rail For details and schedules, visit India Rail's web site.
Staying Informed
Times of India India's paper of record
Rediff Web site with the latest news and links to other sites of interest
The Telegraph Largest English daily in Eastern India.
Hindustan Times Based in New Delhi
Getting Involved
Cross Cultural Solutions Teach English, help in an orphanage, observe in a medical office… You pay the transport, they give you a place to stay.
i-to-i “Working holidays:” you pay a placement fee, they help with training, room, board.
Apne Aap A Mumbai grassroots group founded by muckraking diva Ruchira Gupta is always looking for help in their battle against sex trafficking. They need medical folks, computer geeks, field researchers…

Trip Guide: India

A Few Tips For Negotiating the Delicious Chaos of India

All About India »


Indian Divas

Dispatches

Your Pilgrimage

Timeline

Destinations

Explore our Archives

join the pilgrimage

Sign up for our periodic divamail dispatches