India travel tips

This item appears on page 14 of the August 2010 issue.

I spent six weeks in India in February-March ’10, traveling through Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Rajasthan, with brief visits to Ahmedabad, Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi (June ’10, pg. 27 and July ’10, pg. 30). I have the following tips to offer.

Reconfirm flights in India a day or two before departure. Jet Airways canceled my flight from Ahmedabad to Delhi on two days’ notice, and I learned about this only because I happened to have a chance to check my e-mail.

When you check in for a domestic or international flight, you may have to show your ticket and passport to a security guard at the airport entrance and put your bags through an x-ray machine before you get to the check-in desk.

Be sure to put one of the airline’s baggage tags on every piece of baggage, including your carry-on, even if you’ve already put your own baggage tags on them. When you go through security on the way to your gate, the security official will stamp your boarding pass and the airline baggage tag on your carry-on. Both stamps will be checked before you’re allowed to board the plane.

For domestic and international flights, remove all batteries, including camera batteries, from items in your carry-on and put the batteries in your checked bag. Once I forgot and almost had camera batteries confiscated. If you use just AA or AAA batteries, you probably could replace them easily enough, but you may not be able to quickly replace today’s expensive and specialized batteries for digital and video cameras.

In addition to admission fees at various sites, there often are extra fees for still cameras and considerably higher fees for videocameras. Some of the carvings and frescoes inside temples and palaces deserve to be photographed, but always ask attendants if there are places where photography is not allowed. (In the spectacular Jain temple at Ranakpur, one of the temple guards made a point of showing me the best camera angles. He expected a tip, of course, and deserved it.)

Power can go off for short periods, even in fine hotels, so take a small flashlight, and if you take a laptop, take a 220V surge protector as well.

Few of my hotels offered WiFi in the guest rooms, but most had either a small business center or a computer in the lobby for guests to use free of charge, or they could point me to a nearby Internet café. I paid from 20 to 200 rupees per hour ($1 was roughly 45 rupees.) Connections generally were fast.

Take plugs with both two and three round plugs, and remember that you often have to turn on an electrical outlet by flipping the switch located next to it, just as you would turn on a wall light switch.


Washington, DC