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Travel guide to Kerala

Passports
Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after your return date and have 2 blank facing pages. If you do not have this, you may be denied boarding at your departure airport. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted.
Visas
E-visas are compulsory and must be purchased online in advance of travel, printed out and presented on arrival (£80 pp). This allows for 60-days of travel and double entry. They cannot be purchased on arrival.
Health
There are no compulsory health requirements and there is no yellow fever in India. Malaria tablets are not required for Rajasthan, Kerala, the Himalayas and Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. However they are recommended for West Bengal & the following tiger reserves: Gir National Park, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench, Tadoba, Satpura, Kaziringa & Sundarbans, so do check with your doctor. As dengue fever is present, a good insect repellent and anti-histamine are also advised. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. You should be up to date with your primary courses and boosters. Always check with your doctor at least 8 weeks before travel for any other inoculations recommended (eg Hepatitis A+B, Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies and TB.
Currency
Indian Rupees (INR) - you can exchange currency at the airport on arrival, but be aware that you may not be able to convert any surplus currency afterwards. Ask for small denominations, as these are useful for tipping. We also suggest travelling with small denominations of GBP pounds or USD dollars, as these can be used in some luxury hotels and for tipping if you run out of local currency. VISA & Master cards are widely accepted at luxury hotels and restaurants, but not American Express or Diners Club. Always ensure you carry cash when travelling in the countryside, as some places may not accept cards.
Language
There are 22 different languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Telegu - but English is widely spoken.
Time Zone
GMT + 5.5 hours
Travel Tips
To ensure that you have the best possible holiday experience, we ask you to read the following information carefully. If you have any questions, please discuss them with us before you depart. 
 
Hand Luggage – pack essential items for a day or two in your hand luggage, in case your bags go astray and take a few days to catch up with you, especially if you have any tight connecting flights. 
 
Baggage – if your itinerary includes a domestic flight, your luggage is often restricted to 15 kg after which excess baggage charges apply. 
 
Documents – take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you, and leave a copy of your passport with a reliable contact at home, in case the originals are lost or stolen. 
 
Electronic Devices – ensure these are all fully charge before travel, as you may be required to switch them on at airport security. Any device that does not switch on cannot be checked in and must be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and turn off data roaming to avoid nasty bills. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi but some rural regions may not have good cell phone coverage. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. 
 
Clothing – pack in layers according to the season, with light clothing being essential in summer. Take a day pack, good walking shoes, T-shirts, shorts, jeans, sunhat, swimming costume, sunglasses & biodegradable sunscreen. For temple visits, both women & men should pack long sleeved tops (or a pashmina) to cover shoulders; wear long skirts or trousers to cover knees & easily removed flip flops. Leather items (eg belts & handbags) are not permitted in Jain temples. Sanitising hand cleaner and eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses and a 'shewee' is useful for ladies. Warm clothing is essential in winter and rain gear is needed during the monsoon season. On tiger safaris wear lightweight but long sleeved shirts and long trousers to protect against mosquitos (safari clothing is ideal for this). Neutral colours are best – khaki, green & brown. Avoid white & bright colours, as these increase your visibility to the animals, and black which can get very hot. Take a generous supply of insect repellent to spray on your neck, wrists and ankles and avoid using perfume, as this attracts insects. Also pack a light fleece for evening game drives.  
 
Medicines - if you travel with prescription drugs, carry an adequate supply in their original bottles/packaging & keep them in your hand luggage, as if lost they may be difficult to replace. 
 
Accessories – pack your phone (with charger and a spare battery pack), camera (with spare memory cards and batteries – a 200 mm zoom lens is good for wildlife photography), torch and binoculars (large 8x40 is best). If you are a keen birder we suggest one pair per person, as it can be frustrating to share. 
 
Plugs – type D (small round 3-pin). 
 
Books – pack a good travel guide, with information on the wildlife and birds of the region. Also a good supply of reading material for quiet evenings and when waiting for flights. 
 
Water – be fastidious and only drink bottled water. Avoid washed salads, local yoghurt, ice cream and ice cubes outside your hotel, as tap water is not safe to drink. Peel all fruit before eating it and remember to brush your teeth with bottled water. Pack diarrhoea tablets and rehydration sachets for emergencies. 
 
Food – India is world renowned for its delicious curries. The cow is sacred so beef is not found on any menu, but chicken, lamb and fish are widely available, with menus being divided into Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian. Food allergies are well catered for. 
 
Alcohol - taxes on alcohol in hotels are high, so it is common practice to ask your driver to buy your favourite drink to enjoy in the privacy of your room before dinner. 
 
Taxis – in cities only use regulated taxis, best arranged by your hotel. 
 
Driving – be aware that driving conditions in India will be more chaotic that you will used to, due to traffic, road conditions, cattle on the road etc. Driving is on the left, but we do not recommend self-driving in India. 
 
Shopping – it is customary to negotiate prices aggressively. Be aware that your guide will earn a commission on any purchases you make. You need to tell him very firmly if you don’t want to be taken to any more shops, as he will continue to do this until you make it very clear this is not what you want. 
 
Safety – take all sensible precautions. Leave valuable jewellery/watches at home, wear a money belt and be alert when outside your hotel. In particular avoid taking out large wads of cash in public view and keep your spare cash, passport and a spare credit card in your hotel safe. 
 
Respect Local Customs – this is a Hindu, Jain and Buddhist country, so respect religious images and dress modestly away from your hotel. Always cover your shoulders and knees when visiting temples. 
 
Wild Animals – attacks by wild animals are rare, but we cannot guarantee that attacks will not occur so observe all sensible precautions. We cannot be held responsible for injuries caused during an incident with a wild animal. 
 
Indemnities - please be aware it is likely you will be required to sign indemnities for safaris and any other potentially hazardous activities. 
 
Pack for a Purpose - if you have a little space in your suitcase, local schools & communities always appreciate gifts of English reading books, pens & pencils, stationery, deflated footballs etc. Specific requests from communities can be seen on the 'Pack for a Purpose' website. 
 
Tipping – this is expected for good service in India, with "small but often” being a useful guide. We suggest the following: 
- overland driver: Rs 250 per adult/per full day. This can be reduced for longer stays. 
- specialist city guides: Rs 250 per adult/per full day. 
- jeep safari: naturalist Rs 200 + driver Rs 150 + govt guide Rs 50 = Rs 400 per adult/per game drive. 
- houseboat staff: Rs 500 for overnight stay. 
- mahouts: Rs 100. 
- temple shoe minders: Rs 50 
- housekeeping: Rs 100 per room per day. 
- luxury trains: Rs 500 per adult/per day. 
- waiters: 10% of base cost excluding vat/taxes, but check the bill first as a service charge (not to be confused with service tax) is often already included 
- porters: Rs 50 per bag. 
It is not necessary to tip drivers doing short transfers (eg to the airport) 
 
Displays of Affection - please be aware that same sex relationships are illegal and public displays of affection should be avoided at all times, including in your hotel. We advise all our clients, gay and heterosexual, to be sensitive to cultural differences. 
 
FCO Travel Advice - consult the UK Foreign Office website for the latest travel advice www.fco.gov.uk.
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