All visitors, except those from Nepal and Bhutan, must have valid passports stamped with current visas. Visitors must register with the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office within 14 days of arrival. In any case, contact the nearest Indian embassy or consulate in your home country before making your travel plans.
All Indian consular offices around the world issue visas. Business travelers should apply for a multiple-entry business visa, which is valid for one year. Special visas are also issued for trekking, botanical expeditions, and sports and journalism related activities.
Visitors may move freely throughout the country, except to restricted or prohibited areas.
Visitors possessing more than US$ 10,000 (or the equivalent in travelers' cheques or bank notes) must fill in a currency declaration form. Visitors may bring in upto 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars and one litre of alcohol, duty-free. Non-sporting firearms and narcotics are prohibited, as are gold bullion or coins (except by Indian nationals returning from working abroad, who may bring in a maximum of 5 kilograms).
The penalties for violations are heavy. If you plan to bring in your own VCR or portable computer to use while in India, ask for a re-export permit from customs officials when you arrive. The permit will be written into the back of your passport, and unless you can present the item to Customs while leaving, duty will be levied. If the item has been lost or stolen, make a prompt report to the nearest police station and get a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) taken down by the police. Show this report to the Assistant Collector of Customs, who will then decide whether or not to levy duty.
India restricts the export of antiques, including foreign-made artifacts and items more than 100 years old. The Archaeological Survey of India, is the authority that determines whether items are restricted. Visitors may not bring in or take out of India anything made from endangered animal species.
The units of Indian currency are the Rupee and Paisa (100 Paisa equal 1 Rupee). Paper money is in denominations of Rupees 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of Rupees 1, 2 and 5.
Visitors may not bring in or take out any Indian currency, except in the form of travellers' checks. Do not use unauthorised money-changers for exchanging foreign currency. You run the risk of receiving forged rupees, or being cheated.
Exchanging facilities are generally available at airports and docks, and authorized money-changers usually display the rates of exchange. Credit cards are widely accepted in major hotels, restaurants and shops.
India has three major seasons: winter, summer and the monsoon. The winter months (November to March) are pleasant in most of India, with bright sunny days and cool nights. In the eastern plains in the Ganges Delta however, the climate is very much influenced by the sea.
During the summer months, which is hot and humid, with a daytime temperature around 30°C. The Monsoon arrives in the first week of June and stay up till October, though maximum rainfall occurs in July. Post monsoon, October and November is the transition period between monsoon and winter. During this time, days are clear and nights are comfortable.
Winter is the most pleasant time in Kolkata where effective winter only last for about 2 and a half months. With the temerature dipping around 12°C and early morning mists are pleasant and common in winters. The best time to visit the city of joy is from October to March.
You don’t have to buy a new wardrobe to pack for Kolkata. Bring loose-fitting T-shirts, tunics and blouses with high necklines and long or short sleeves, loose-fitting pants and ankle-length skirts for summer, especially from February to October. Preferably use lightweight fabrics like cotton. Pack a lightweight scarf to wear around your neck for extra modesty and to cover your head when visiting temples and mosques.
Once you arrive in India, take your cues from local women. Jeans are common in modern cities and Kolkata is no exception. However, you will need warmer clothes, including woolens during the winter from November to January.
English is the lingua franca between Indians of different regions. Staff at airline, railway and telecommunication counters and offices are usually fluent in English. Most direction signs usually have an English version too. Books like Words in Indian English by S. Muthiah, can help visitors interpret local additions to vocabulary and grammar. Hindi, the official and most widely spoken language, is concentrated in the northern states. Dravidian languages such as Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada prevail in the south.