What to Wear
Amritsar does not have a fixed dress code. Local dresses such as salwar kameez with dupattaare a wonderfully relaxed and easy-to-wear dress for women, as is the kurta and pajama, with leather chappals, for men. The sari is another popular attire for women, while young women and girls are seen in western clothes too. It would be sensible to wear comfortable clothes that do not attract unnecessary attention. A windcheater or a light jacket over a cardigan or a sweater should suffice in winter. Loose cotton clothes that are cool and protect the hands and legs from the heat and dust are the best summer wear. It is advisable to wear a scarf or a hat to protect one’s head from the blazing heat of an Indian summer.
Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 ½ hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 10 ½ hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time. IST is 4 ½ hours behind Australian Eastern Standard time, 3 ½ hours behind Japanese Standard time and 1½ hours behind Thai Standard Time. Despite her vast geographical territory, India has just one time zone and no daylight saving time in winter.
Your health during your travel in India depends on three things: Precautions taken before arrival, day-to-day health care, and efficiency in tackling emergencies. No particular vaccination is required for visiting India. However, visitors from designated countries in Africa, South America and Papua New Guinea, even if they are in transit, are required to bring valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificates. In the absence of this certificate they will be quarantined for six days. Precautionary medication is the best bet against common ailments like diarrhea, dysentery and malaria. Malaria is a problem in India during the rainy season. So, if you are corning at that time of the year, do consult your doctor for precautionary anti-malarial medication. While in India, use mosquito repellent ointment.
If you are not already vaccinated against Hepatitis get it done before travelling. Those not accustomed to Indian conditions are usually vulnerable to stomach problems. It is advisable to seek qualified medical advice before travelling and carry your own first-aid kit. For travel health, use your common sense. Take care of what you eat or drink. This is the most important health rule. Water is suspect, therefore, it is best to carry your own mineral water, Bottled mineral water and aerated drinks are easily available and are a good substitute for tap water. Hot tea and coffee are also good alternatives. Diarrhea is the most common stomach ailment. Take a three or five-day course of anti-diarrhea tablets duly prescribed by a doctor. Diarrhea leads to dehydration. So, along with medication, drink a lot of water with salt and sugar. There are some restrictions on your diet, too. Alcohol, milk, meat, fried and spicy foods should be avoided. If the bout of upset stomach persists, get a stool test done because it might be amoebic dysentery.
The tropical sun is extremely strong during the summer months, so guard against sunstroke and dehydration. Wear a hat and dark glasses when you go out. Drink lots of non-alcoholic liquids, water and fruit juice. Allow sweat to evaporate, wear loose cotton clothes. Use sunscreen lotions and talcum powder as a precaution against prickly heat rash.
Punjabi is the 11th most popular language in the world. The Punjabi language follows the Gurmukhi script that flourished 17th century onwards. Besides Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and the universally acclaimed English are the languages that are spoken in Amritsar.
India’s currency is the Rupee, abbreviated to Rs. One Rupee is equal to 100 Paisa. Coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10 Rupee coin. Notes are in denominations of 10,20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Rupees. Contact the nearest bank for details of current exchange rates. Money can be changed at all international airports round the clock in India.
Currency regulations: It is advisable to carry a mix of cash and travellers cheques to guard against any situation. The US Dollar is the easiest currency to change followed by Pounds Sterling. The other hard currencies such as Euro or Yen can also be changed in tourist areas and big cities. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or traveller’s cheques a tourist may import, provided a Declaration Form is completed on arrival by tourists if they enter the country with US $10,000 or its equivalent in any other currency. This will facilitate the exchange of imported currency as well as the export of unspent currency on departure or for tax clearance certificates. Cash, bank notes and travelers cheque up to US $2,500 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry. Any money in the form of travellers’ cheques, drafts, bills, cheques, etc which tourists wish to convert into Indian currency should be exchanged only through authorised money changers. There are many money changers in Amritsar.
Tourists are advised that changing money through unauthorised persons is not only illegal but also tantamount to an offence under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Please note that Indian currency cannot be imported or exported, except for Rupee travellers cheques. Banks abroad do keep Rupee travellers’ cheques for intending tourists. There are 24 hour exchange facilities available at international airport. One can also wire money into Amritsar. This service is offered by foreign banks with branches in India and also with Indian banks with branches abroad such as the State Bank of India, Bank of India and HDFC. Well known international banks such as Citibank, Standard Chartered, Bank of America and HSBC can be found in major cities. Most of these have 24 hour ATMs.
Credit cards: A large number of establishments accept major credit cards, namely American Express, Access or Mastercard, Diners Club and Visa.
ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) have been set up by banks in every part of Amritsar.
Banks are open from 10 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am to 12 pm Saturdays. Banks are closed on Sundays and national holidays. Most international banks have branches in major cities.
Food, Water and Electricity
Bottled/branded mineral water, which is inexpensive and widely available, is safe for drinking. Order the same when you are at a restaurant.Avoid drinking any kind of water or juice from roadside carts and vendors. Food from roadside eateries should also he avoided. Voltage is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz and round pin plugs and sockets are used. Visitors are advised to check the voltage before using electrical appliances. Socket sizes vary so it is advisable to take a set of plug adaptors.
Telecommunication, Mobile Phones and Postal Services
- Telephone calls to most countries are now direct. The international direct dialling code for India is 0091.
- Mobile phones in India are in vogue and dual band mobile phones with 900 mhz frequency can be used in the country.
- Mobile phone rental: one can pick up a mobile connection from most departmental stores and often even at small roadside stores. The service provided by these private companies is at par with the best in the world.
Postal: The postal service is excellent. Stamps can often be bought at hotels. Airmail service to the UK generally takes up to a week. All Post Offices are open from 10 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Saturday.
Courier: All major international courier companies have offices throughout Amritsar and deliveries and collections can be made to and from all parts of the globe. Most of them have at least one 24-hour service counter. It is advisable to insist on a receipt for payments made. For parcels over 20 kg, a freight agent is required.
Email and internet services are available in most hotels and General Post Offices all over India. Cyber cafes can be found in all major towns.
Visitors to Amritsar find ample themes with varied subjects for photography including people, monuments, wildlife, festivities and landscapes.
- Do pack a basic medical kit with your luggage. Also carry adequate quinine, the anti-malarial drug.
- Tipping: In restaurants and hotels a 10% service charge is often added to bills, in which case there is no need to tip. In smaller places where tipping is optional you need only tip a few rupees and not a percentage of your bill. It is customary to tip waiters, porters, guides and drivers.
- If you are travelling in summers (April-June), carry only cotton garments, shorts, light coloured clothing. A trip in winter season (October-February) necessitates woollen clothing as the temperature often touches sub-zero levels.
- Instead of carrying too much cash you can manage with traveller’s cheques and get them converted at money changers like Thomas Cook.
- Make it a point to buy the maps of the place you are exploring to facilitate easy navigation.
- Budget travellers can minimize their expenses by eating as often as possible at the langar (the Common Kitchen) in a gurdwara.
- When you visit a gurdwara particularly, make sure you leave your footwear out and cover your head with a scarf, available outside most gurdwaras.
- Before shooting pictures of a Gurdwara, a historical monument, museum or a palace, ensure that photography is not prohibited. Otherwise it may lead to heavy penalties and even confiscation of the camera.
- Specifically for foreigners, there is usually a foreigner’s helpdesk at most big gurdwaras. One can always go there to find out more information.
- If you are not conversant in the local dialect and you are using public transport like cabs or auto rickshaws for commuting, make sure you ask a few people around before you get into one. Do find out the fare before you agree on a price with the driver to avoid being cheated.
Amritsar have government as well as privately run hospitals and nursing homes. State government run ambulance services are available throughout Amritsar and respond to the emergency phone number 108.
Police assistance booths are located at the airport, railway station and near major bus stops. The central police control room responds to the emergency number 100.
Lost articles: In case of loss or theft, especially vital documents like passports, an FIR (First Information Report) must be filed at the Police Station nearest to the place where the loss occurred. In case of loss of documents like passports, the embassy or high commission concerned must be informed immediately.
Fire Brigade 101