Horseback riding in India

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Equestrian tours in India

India Mini Guide
    Source: World Travel Guide

Overview

India is a mystical land that presents the traveller with a bamboozling array of unforgettable experiences. Hinduism, the prominent religion, is intimately woven into the fabric of everyday life, reflected in an extraordinary range of time-honoured traditions. Apart from its ancient spiritual framework, India's vastness also challenges the imagination, being home to one sixth of the world's population. 

Its intoxicatingly rich history can be traced back to at least 2500BC when the first known civilisation settled along the Indus River. There was an influx of Mughals in the 1520s from Central Asia, who maintained effective control of the north until the mid-18th century. At the end of that century, as the Mughal Empire declined, the British took control of the whole subcontinent, and India was administered by a single alien power. 

The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885, but made little progress on independence until Mahatma Gandhi began the policy of non-violent non-cooperation with the British. But the Congress itself was later split on the issue of Hindus and Muslims. The Muslims, under Mohammad Ali Jinnah, claimed a separate homeland and in August 1947 the independent states of India and Pakistan came into being. Since this time, India has been a democratic republic.

Such a rich history has spawned an incredible number of exquisite palaces, temples and monuments. The most frequently visited part of India is the Golden Triangle, comprised of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Meanwhile, the people-packed cities of Mumbai (Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta) have a bustling, colourful charm, while the holy city of Varanasi and the awe-inspiring temples of Tamil Nadu are rewarding places of pilgrimage. For those in search of tropical bliss, there are the palm-fringed beaches of Goa and Kerala. And for fresh air and serenity, India ripples with pristine mountains and hills, from the towering beauty of the mighty Himalayas to a bevy of beautiful pine forests, orchards and babbling streams.

One of the greatest fascinations of India is the startling juxtaposition of old and new; centuries of history rubbing shoulders with the trappings of modern-day living, from slick Internet cafes and fancy fast-food eateries, to swanky bars and chichi boutiques.

 

Passport/Visa

Passport Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Visa Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Return Ticket Required?

British

No

Australian

No

Canadian

No

USA

No

Other EU

No

 

Passports

Passport valid for at least 180 days required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Visas

Required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Note: Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).

Visa Note

Of the countries listed in the chart above, nationals of the following countries are eligible to apply online for an e-Tourist Visa (eTV): Australia, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. You must apply at least four days before you arrive in India. You can only enter India via those airports listed on the eTV website.

Certain parts of the country have been designated protected or restricted areas that require special permits and in some cases prior government authorization. You should indicate your intent to visit a specific restricted region when applying for a visa and a permit will be granted to visit that region only. It is advised that you apply for the special permit for restricted areas when you enter India by visiting the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) which has offices in all major Indian airports and cities. You must complete an additional form, but there is no fee for a restricted area permit.

Types of Visa and Cost

e-Tourist Visa: up to US$60, depending on nationality.

UK nationals: transit visa: £56; tourist visa: £102; business visa: £152.

US nationals: transit visa: £17; tourist visa: £69; business visa: £112.

Other nationals listed in the chart above: transit visa: £17; tourist visa: £32 (up to six months), £52 (up to one year); business visa: fees vary according to nationality.

All visa applications are subject to a non-refundable £7.44 VFS service charge.

Validity

e-Tourist Visa: 30 days from the date of arrival.

Transit: valid for three months for a maximum stay of 15 days.

Tourist/business for UK nationals: valid for single or multiple entries within one year (maximum stay of 180 days per visit).

Visa validity for other nationals varies according to nationality.

Visas issued by the embassy/VFS Global are valid from the date of issue not your date of departure.

Applications to:

Consular section at your nearest embassy or high commission. For UK nationals, India has outsourced its visa application services to VFS Global (www.vfsglobal.com/india.uk); all applicants must make an appointment to visit an application centre in person. In the USA, India’s visa application services are handled by Cox and Kings Global Services (www.in.ckgs.us).

Those eligible for an e-Tourist Visa can apply online (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html).

Working Days Required

e-Tourist Visas are usually issued immediately or within a few hours.

Straightforward applications through VFS Global in the UK take at least three to five working days, but others may take longer, depending on the applicant's nationality.

Money

Currency

Rupee (INR; symbol Rs) = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5 paise. Note: The import and export of local currency is prohibited.

Currency Exchange

Currency can be changed at banks, airports or authorised money changers. It is illegal to exchange money through unauthorised money changers. US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are the easiest currencies to exchange.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

An increasing number of cards are accepted including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa.

Traveller's Cheques

These are widely accepted and may be changed at banks and larger hotels. The most widely accepted currencies include US Dollars and Pounds Sterling. Some banks may refuse to change certain brands of traveller's cheques which others exchange quite happily.

Currency Restrictions

Restrictions apply.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 1000-1400, Sat 1000-1200.

Exchange Rate Indicators

Date

June 2016

£1.00=

Rp96.78

$1.00=

Rp66.87

€1.00=

Rp75.94

 

Health

Vaccinations

 

Special Precautions

Diphtheria

Yes

Hepatitis A

Yes

Malaria

Yes

Rabies

Yes

Tetanus

Yes

Typhoid

Yes

Yellow Fever

No*

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

 

* Any person (including infants over six months old) arriving by air or sea from an infected country must obtain a yellow fever certificate (includes passengers who have been transit in a country in the endemic zone).

Food and Drink

Water for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is often unpasteurised and should be boiled. Avoid dairy products likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other Risks

Vaccinations are sometimes advised for hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and tuberculosis. There was an outbreak of dengue fever in 2006. There have also been reports of Chikungunya virus in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Puducherry (Pondicherry), and Tamil Nadu. Travellers should vigilantly protect themselves against mosquito bites.

Note: All visitors aged between 18 and 70 years of age wishing to extend their visa for one year or more are required to take an AIDS test.

Health Care

Health care facilities are limited and travellers are strongly advised to take out full comprehensive medical insurance before departing for India. It is advisable to bring specific medicines from the UK. There are state-operated facilities in all towns and cities and private consultants and specialists in urban areas.

On leaving India: Visitors leaving for countries which impose health restrictions on arrivals from India are required to be in possession of a valid certificate of inoculation and vaccination.

 

Getting There

Getting There by Air

The major national airline in India is Air India  (www.airindia.com). There are also several commercial Indian airlines that have added international destinations to their schedules such as Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) and IndiGo (www.goindigo.in). British Airways (www.ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) fly direct to India from the UK.

Prices are steady throughout the year but become more expensive in June, July and December.

Approximate Flight Times

From London to Delhi is 8 hours; to Kolkata (Calcutta) is 9 hours 45 minutes; to Chennai (Madras) is 11 hours, and to Mumbai (Bombay) is 8 hours 30 minutes. From New York to Delhi is 15 hours 30 minutes; to Mumbai is 15 hours.

Main Airports

New Delhi (DEL) (Indira Gandhi International Airport) is 23km (14 miles) south of the city (journey time - 45 minutes). To/from the airport: There are bus and taxi services to the city. Facilities: Duty-free shops, banks/bureaux de change, post office, snack bars and car hire.

Mumbai (BOM) (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) is 35km (22 miles) north of the city (journey time - 50 to 75 minutes). To/from the airport: Taxi and bus services go to the city. Facilities: Bank/bureau de change, post office, restaurant and shops. 

Kolkata (Calcutta) (CCU) (Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport) is 20km (13 miles) northeast of the city (journey time - 40 to 70 minutes). To/from the airport: There are buses and taxis to the city. Facilities: Post office, bank/bureau de change, snack bars and duty-free shops. 

Chennai (MAA) (Anna International Airport) is 14km (9 miles) southwest of the city (journey time - 20 minutes). To/from the airport: Buses and taxis are available. There is a train regularly throughout the day. Facilities: Money exchange facilities, tourist information offices and hotel reservation services.

Departure Tax

None.

Getting There by Water

Main ports: Calicut, Kochi, Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay), Panaji (Goa) and Rameswaram (the main departure point for the sea crossing to Sri Lanka; passenger services are presently suspended owing to the political situation in Sri Lanka).

Indian ports are also served by several international shipping companies and several cruise lines. There are, however, no regular passenger liners operating to South-East Asia.

Departure tax:
 Seaports levy the following departure tax: Rp500 (for journeys to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka); Rp750 (all other destinations).

Getting There by Rail

This section gives details of the major overland routes to neighbouring countries (where frontiers are open); in most cases these will involve road as well as rail travel. Details should be checked with India Tourism as they may be subject to change (see Contact Addresses).

Connections to Pakistan: From India you can cross into Pakistan at the international Attari/Wagah border. There are bus and train services between India and Pakistan. Approaching the border away from the official crossing point could be dangerous.

Connections to Nepal: The most practical and popular route to Nepal is by train to Raxaul (Bihar) and then by bus to Kathmandu or by train to Gorakphur (or by bus if coming from Varanasi) and then by bus to Kathmandu crossing the border at Sunauli; also, by train to Nantanwa (UP) and then by bus to Kathmandu/Pokhara, or Bhairawa to Lumbini for Pokhara. It is also possible to make the crossing from Darjeeling by bus to Kathmandu across the southern lowlands.

Connections to Bhutan: The best way of reaching Bhutan by land is by bus/train to Siliguri, then bus to Phuentsholing.

Connections to Bangladesh: The most convenient route to Bangladesh is Kolkata (Calcutta) to Dhaka by bus. Another route is from Darjeeling via Siliguri, then train or bus from Jalpaiguri to Haldibari.

Currently, no land frontiers are open between India and Myanmar or India and China (PR).

Getting There by Road

The overland route from Europe to India remains popular, but travellers should have accurate up-to-date information about border crossings, visa requirements and political situations en route. Some of the most popular border crossings into India are Sunauli (for Delhi and northwest India), Birganj (for Kolkata (Calcutta) and east India) and Kakarbhitta (for Darjeeling). Several adventure holiday companies arrange overland tours and buses to India. 

A bus service operates between Lahore (Pakistan) and New Delhi. The journey takes about 12 hours. For information on this and other overland routes to neighbouring countries, contact the India Tourism office (see Contact Addresses).

 

Climate

The weather is hot most of the year with variations from region to region. The coolest weather lasts from around December to February, with fresh mornings and evenings and mostly sunny days. The really hot weather, when it is dry, dusty and unpleasant, is between March and June. Monsoon rains occur in most regions in summer anywhere between June and early October. 

Western Himalayas: Srinagar is best from March to October; July to August can be unpleasant; cold and damp in winter. Shimla is higher and therefore colder in winter. Places like Gulmarg, Manali and Pahalgam are usually under several feet of snow from December to March and temperatures in Ladakh can be extremely cold. The mountain passes of Ladakh are accessible from July to October.

Required clothing: Light- to mediumweights are advised from March to October, with warmer wear for winter. Weather can change rapidly in the mountains and therefore it is important to be suitably equipped. Waterproofing is advisable.

Northern Plains: This extreme climate is typically warm inland from April to mid-June, falling to almost freezing at night in winter between November and February. Summers are hot with monsoons between June and September.

Required clothing: Lightweights in summer with warmer clothes in winter and on cooler evenings. Waterproofing is essential during monsoons.

Central India: Madhya Pradesh state escapes the very worst of the hot season, but monsoons are heavy between July and September. Temperatures fall at night in winter.

Required clothing: Lightweights are worn most of the year with warmer clothes during evenings, particularly in winter. Waterproofed clothing is advised during monsoon rains.

Western India: November to February is most comfortable, although evenings can be fairly cold. Summers can be extremely hot with monsoon rainfall between mid June and mid September.

Required clothing: Lightweights are worn most of the year with warmer clothes for cooler winters, and waterproofing is essential during the monsoon.

Southwest: The most pleasant weather is from November to March. Monsoon rains fall anywhere between late April and July. Summer temperatures not as high as Northern India although humidity is extreme. The coast benefits from some cooling breezes. Inland, Mysore and Bijapur have pleasant climates with relatively low rainfall. 

Required clothing: Lightweights. Waterproofing is necessary during the monsoon. Warmer clothes are worn in the winter, particularly in the hills.

Southeast: Tamil Nadu experiences a northeast monsoon between October and December and temperatures and humidity are high all year. The hills can be cold in winter. 

Required clothing: Lightweights. Waterproofing is necessary during the monsoon. Warmer clothes are worn in the winter, particularly in the hills.

Northeast: March to June and September to November are the driest and most pleasant periods. The rest of the year has extremely heavy monsoon rainfall.

Required clothing: Lightweights. Waterproofing is advisable throughout the year and essential in monsoons, usually from mid June to mid October. Warmer clothes are useful for cooler evenings.

 

Contacts

Embassies and tourist offices

British High Commission in India
Telephone: (011) 2419 2100 Website: http://ukinindia.fco.gov.uk Opening times: Mon-Fri: 0900-1300 / 1400-1700
Embassy of India in the USA
Telephone: (202) 707 4693 (Consulate) (202) 939 7000 (Chancery). Website: http://www.indianembassy.org Opening times: Mon-Fri 0930-1800; consular section Mon-Fri 0930-1230, 1630-1715.
High Commission of India in the UK
Telephone: (020) 7836 8484 or (020) 7632 3123 (out of office hours). Website: http://www.hcilondon.net Opening times: Mon-Fri 0915-1745.

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