A land of contrasts, India can make you laugh, sing and cry, all in a day. Splendid medieval palaces and sacred rivers coexist alongside poverty and slums. The cacophony of honking horns, tinny cow bells and the chaotic crowded cities can, at first, be quite confronting to visitors, but embrace it as part of the adventure that is India.

There's no better or brasher introduction to the country than Mumbai, the arrival point of most flights to India, and the country's commerce and entertainment capital. The home of Bollywood combines bustling city life and vibrant nightlife with enough places to relax before you head off to explore the rest of the country. After touring the churches and antiques shops of Cochin, in the south, you can drive to Kerala's backwaters and stay on a houseboat. From Mumbai, you can take a flight to Delhi and explore the northern part of the country. Don't miss the unforgettable sights of the "Golden Triangle": Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. For a sacred experience, fly to the ancient city of Varanasi and walk along the ghats (steps) to holy temples and terraces.

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India climate

Given its vast size, India's climate has great regional weather variations as well as a unique range of microclimates and seasons. Generally, winter (December to February) is relatively dry and cool; followed by hot and dry summers from March through May. During the Monsoon season, from June to September, most of the country gets rain. The post-monsoonal season is October and November.

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When to fly to India

The ideal time to catch flights to India, particularly southern India, is from January to September, with northeastern India best visited from March to August. The desert and northwestern regions are best experienced during the July to September monsoon season. Summer is the ideal time to explore the mountain regions.

Peak Season:

The peak tourist season in Delhi is mid-September to March, though October to February is normally the best time for cheap flights to India. Mumbai is usually drier and cooler from November to February, Bangalore’s dry season is December to February, while Goa is best October to February.

Off Season:

Indian summers are typically hot and humid, with Delhi temperatures topping 43 degrees Celsius. Also bear in mind that monsoons have the potential to disrupt plane schedules, cut power supplies and shut down phone networks.

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Getting around India

Driving in India is not much fun and not recommended, especially in the major cities. In Mumbai and Old Delhi you can easily get around on foot. Some visitors hire a car and driver, but taxis and rickshaws are always an option - just ensure you negotiate the fare in advance to avoid any surprises.

In smaller towns such as Goa, motorbikes are popular way to get around.

India's buses are generally hot and jam-packed, particularly during peak hour, when even more traffic slows everything right down. Chennai's fast and cheap buses and trains are a rare exception.

Domestic flights between major cities are an easy way to travel around the country.

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India insider information

  • New Delhi, the capital, is modern India, with all its contradictions — old and new, rich and poor and a fascinating mix of history, cultures and religions. Old Delhi's historic buildings, bazaars and narrow alleys are a journey back in time, juxtaposed against the modern city's skyscrapers, stunning gardens, grand public buildings and tree-lined avenues.
  • Goa's warm weather and sandy beaches attract hordes of visitors from India and abroad. Renowned as a hippie magnet in the 1960s, modern Goa is more about luxury resorts and all-night party atmosphere, yet you can still get away from it all on remote and secluded beaches. Discover its spicy Indo-European cuisine and explore the colourful Wednesday market, which has thousands of stalls to satisfy the most voracious shoppers.
  • Mumbai (Bombay), with its Victorian townhouses and colonial relics, can’t hide its history as an industrial port town. India's financial and arts capital is the country's most prosperous and vibrant city, with swinging nightlife, fine restaurants, wonderful bazaars and shopping malls. Yet next to the most prosperous areas is the Banganga Tank, a veritable time warp where pilgrims go to cleanse their souls.
  • Bangalore, India’s fifth-largest city was the first Indian city to get electricity. Bangalore today is India’s high-tech centre, a cosmopolitan city with great pubs, restaurants and cafes. Bangalore is also a shoppers’ dream, a treasure trove of exquisite Mysore silks, intricate woodcarvings, brass and ivory artefacts, unique lambani jewellery and local handicrafts.
  • Chennai (Madras) may have one of the longest urban beaches in the world, but the city struggles with water shortages, traffic congestion and air pollution. The gateway to Southern India, Chennai is one of India's most important trade centres and is also home to the booming Tamil film industry, which produces more than 150 films a year.

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India airports

Major Airports in India include:

Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) (website: www.delhiairport.com) The airport is located 20km south
of Delhi.

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM) (website: www.mumbaiairport.com) The airport is located 29km
north of Mumbai.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (Kolkata) (CCU) (website:
www.airportsindia.org.in) The airport is located in Dum Dum, near Kolkata.

Chennai Madras International (MAA) (website: www.chennaiairport.com). The airport is located at Tirisulam,
7km south of Chennai.

Other airports are:

Dabolim Airport (Goa) (GOI) The airport is located in the village of Dabolim in Goa.

Jaipur International (JAI) is 13km from the city of Jaipur, near Sanganer.

Bengaluru International Airport (BLR) (website:
www.bengaluruairport.com). The airport is located in Devanahalli, 50km from Bangalore.

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Australians require a valid passport and a visa to visit India.

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Entry requirements

Passports should be valid for at least six months after your planned return to Australia.

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Kara Segedin
Writer, traveller, Tweeter, blogger and part-time adventurer. A kiwi living in London off to explore the world! I can never travel enough!
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