Melting In


While you are bound to be fascinated and spell bound at the Kolkata Experience , we have tried to look at  a few  tips that will help you enjoy the city best! This is not a comprehensive set of tips but  for starters it would help you a lot. We would be glad to help you with more, when we meet.

1. Meeting & Greeting
Indians traditionally greet with palms put together in front of the chin saying “Namashkar”. However in many urban places people are used to be greeted with a Hi and Hello! But a traditional greet will surely evoke respect from the person you are meeting. Many women would not be comfortable with a handshake or any form of touching and a Namashkar is a wonderful form of greeting them with dignity.

 2. Attire
Indian women are expected to dress conservatively and modestly. Although liberal western dressing is slowly getting accepted in the city, Female Tourists should avoid tank tops, short skirts and shorts when going to public places. Women dressed in tight and short dresses could attract undesirable attention. Men should avoid going out bare-chested. We are not against liberal dressing but not all people react in a desired fashion and hence prudence dictates us to avoid a scene.

Lghtweight, loose yet covering cotton clothing is suitable for summers. For winters sweaters, jackets, hats, scarves and heavy woollens in mountainous regions is required. Bring light raincoats or umbrellas for monsoon seasons. Washable fabrics are the most convenient for maintenance, but dry cleaning services are also available everywhere.

 3. Food
While going into a restaurant please check whether they serve non-vegetarian food as for large number of Hindus, eating meat is a religious taboo. Eat non-vegetarian food only in good restaurants since the hygiene factor may not be good in the smaller places. Beef is not available in most Indian restaurants as the cow is considered a sacred animal by Hindus. Pork too is not readily available in Indian restaurants except in some places serving Chinese or similar cuisines. In some traditional homes, guests and men often eat first - women and children often eat later or after the guests leave. Please opt for packaged drinking water (whose date of manufacturing must be checked). Avoid green salads in small restaurants. Please use a hand sanitizer every time you eat something.

 4. Sightseeing
Most religious places do not permit shoes inside their premises. In some places, there are restrictions on the movement/entry of persons from other religions. However in such places there will be prominent notices placed informing tourists of such restrictions. In many of the religious places it is compulsory to keep the head covered.

 Photography is not always allowed, and at many places it is permitted only at a fee. There is usually a higher fee for using a camcorder. Not all public places allow smoking.

 5. Public Interaction
There are a lot of opportunities for cheap shopping of souvenirs etc. around the tourist spots. However, there will also be hawkers and “guides” hustling you and trying to get you to buy something or take their services. It’s best to put across a very clear “NO” to their offers and then simply ignore them thereafter. While on the move and asking for directions, it’s generally preferable to ask shopkeepers and again it’s always advisable to crosscheck with two people.

 Of course, being a foreigner, especially in smaller towns, there could be a lot of eyes staring at you. But just ignore them and go on doing whatever you are involved in, especially since it's nothing but plain curiosity.

 6. Right hand usage
It is the Indian tradition to give and take anything important using the right hand. This tradition is firmly rooted across most of the country. Be it business or eating, the right hand is what is used. The right hand is used while handing over money or anything important.

 7. Use last name with the title
People should be addressed by their last name while meeting for the first time. Use the honorific and their last name e.g. Mr. Ahmed, Mrs. Dubey , Dr John, etc. Whenever speaking with somebody older, try to be as respectful as required.

 8. Tipping
At hotels and restaurants tipping is a norm. About 10% of the bill is usually the norm. Tipping the cab drivers is not necessary. Hotel staff is normally tipped only at the end of the stay. However, do find out individual hotel policy and abide by the same.

 9. Lines and crowds
Kolkata can at times present a disorderly and noisy face. There is usually a queue for everything – public transport, entrance into tourist spots etc. But what could be daunting for the tourist is the tendency of many to break the queue and rush in. But don’t get overly perturbed as it is usually limited to good-natured jostling to get ones work done faster. Try to maintain the queue or if it becomes a free-for-all, you might as well join in and get your work done. In certain places there is a separate reserved side/line for women eg. public transport, train tickets etc. Best of all, leave your tour operator to sort these out for you so you can enjoy the tour.

 10. Public display of emotion
In India, public display of affection (between men and women) is not considered very appropriate. It is therefore advisable that hugging and kissing be avoided in public places. It can lead to unnecessary remarks and attract unwanted attention.

Please also note :

It would be a good idea to arrange supplementary health insurance and travel insurance. Carry proof of insurance coverage, and give a copy to someone at home. Have any required vaccinations. If you are taking medication with you, make sure you keep it in its original container. Carry a doctor's prescription for any controlled drugs, and if you use syringes, carry a medical certificate. Leave copies at home as well.

Make sure your passport has not expired and is valid for six months beyond the time of your trip. Photocopy the identification page and keep it separate from your passport. Leave another copy with someone at home. Make sure you have any visas you need.

Keep the original receipts for any purchases you make, as well as for your hotel bill, rental car agreement, and medical service bills.