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This article contains the following sections (click to jump ahead):

Australians to India: Tourism Statistics
Visa info for Australians heading to India
Behaviour – Dos and Donts in India
How to get to India from Australia
Vaccinations and health advice for Australians travelling to India
Money in India and Australian bank charges
Where to? – Some lesser known Indian destinations for Aussie travellers


Australians to India: Tourism Statistics

One recently emerging trend we are seeing in the Indian tourism industry is the increase in visiting Australians.

Back in 2012, NewsCorp in Australia reported that India had become the tenth most visited destination for Australians, with 17,400 visits per month, up from 4,000 just ten years previous. Of course you have to take these figures with a pinch of salt; perhaps more reliable are the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ figures for short-term Aussie resident departures, where India now lies in 9th place after not figuring at all a decade ago.

Overall there are about 700,000 Australian residents travelling overseas, short-term, in any given month. That’s pretty impressive for a country of just 20 million or so, and despite a large percentage travelling for business or family reasons, this still suggests a decent-sized pie for Indian tour operators to get their teeth into. After all, let’s not forget that leisure tourists to India generally spend way more than those in other countries; the ‘trip of a lifetime’ factor, high-spending corporate travel, a weak rupee, longer than average visits and the prioritising of safety and comfort no doubt all coming in to play.

Statistics aside, our own experience here at Tripzuki, as well as anecdotal evidence from our affiliates, would support the idea that many Australians, having ‘done’ the traditional Asian destinations such as Thailand and Indonesia (Bali), are now widening their travel ambitions. A relatively wealthy and ageing population must also play a part. Also, though the Aussie dollar has taken a dip recently, a meal in Delhi certainly looks like amazing value compared to the prices Aussies are used to paying at home.

Then of course there’s the adventurous spirit that Australians are famed for. Indeed, it’s common to find Aussies fitting into one of two groups: those that have never left the country and those that have travelled a lot. Those that travel do so with confidence, a can-do attitude and an acceptance that things will be different. This sets them up well for dealing with the difficulties that India can pose, much more so than typically reserved northern Europeans, or Americans used to constant first-class service – we’ve seen all of them struggle in India – head to Calangute or Baga (Goa), observe the pink faces huffing and puffing at the chaos around them and you’ll see what I mean.

So now we have an idea of why this trend is growing, what should all Australians travelling to India know?


indian visa and entry stamp


Every foreigner needs a visa to visit India. There are 2 options for Australian citizens. In both cases makes sure your passport has 2 blank pages and is valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled arrival in India. As with many bureaucratic processes in India, the visa scheme is rather laughable. Do beware of the plethora of bad information on the internet, much of which is outdated or simply incorrect. There are only 2 sites you need to use and they are mentioned below.

The standard tourist visa – cost varies but about $100 AUD.

This visa lasts for 6 months, allows multiple entries but cannot be extended past 6 months. Apply via VFS Global who are the Indian government’s official visa agency overseas and surprisingly efficient. You can fill in your application via their website and then submit it by post or in person at the VFS offices in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane. It’s quicker to submit in person and usually the wait is not so long. You will need to submit your passport so make sure you don’t need it in the meantime. You can track the application online and then when it’s ready have it couriered to you or go and collect it in person.

The e-visa/’tourist visa on arrival (tvoa)’ – cost $48 USD.

Apply here. In true Indian style the website appears to have been built in 2001 and thus it’s not clear where you click to actually apply. Answer: the orange box, top left, which takes you here.

This is not a visa on arrival at all; you apply online, pay online, get your visa by email, print it out and then show it when you arrive at the airport. It’s quicker than the method above, but the validity is only 30 days and it is single entry. 16 of India’s airports accept the visa (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum & Varanasi), which is probably not an issue if you are flying from Australia and visiting for tourism purposes.



‘Be yourself’ is a good starting point. Australians: keep that positive attitude and don’t lose the laidback attitude that you’re famed for, in India it will serve you well in all sorts of situations. However, this does come with some expected caveats.

Indians won’t be bothered by tourists with a confident demeanour who speak up, complain, ask questions and so on, but as Russian tourists in Goa have discovered in the past 5 years, confidence can brush close to arrogance, and when that occurs the locals will become fed up and wish you would, well, just go away.

As a general rule it’s better to just let things go rather than openly try and start an argument. In particular, pick your battles and don’t be paranoid about ‘getting ripped off’. It may be stating the obvious but public drunkenness is particularly bad form, much more so in India than in Australia, and won’t serve you well.

The overarching issue here is respect for the largely conservative nature of Indian society. Here are a few more basics to remember:

Dress appropriately. There’s little need to repeat this common piece of advice, but it’s still surprising how many foreigners forget it, particularly when they get to the beaches in Goa. The busier beaches attract groups of local men, and particularly groups of low-income Indian men on holiday, who will openly ogle, photograph and film western women that wear bikinis or skimpy clothes. As creepy as that may be, it’s worth remembering that covering up is the norm and will attract less attention. Men can wander round topless in Goa, that’s not a big deal, but don’t go as far as some of the (usually middle-aged, northern European/Russian) regulars and think it’s still some hippie paradise where just speedos & sandals is acceptable; it’s not.

Smile and engage with people. Indians generally enjoy questions (being asked and asking), they are not quick to judge and taking time to talk to people is often appreciated. The commonly encountered Indian stare is not an unfriendly gesture, it’s just somebody looking at somebody else; try smiling back and you will probably be rewarded with the same. Note that this advice does not apply to western women in all situations, so be wary of smiling at Indian men in case it is misinterpreted. Being friendly and respectful with drivers, receptionists and so on is fine, and can be a quicker route to getting things done, but there’s no need to overdo it, and the tolerance for bluntness – as in many cultures around the word – is quite a bit higher than you will find and practise at home.

The friendly nature of Australians e.g. the ability to jump in a taxi and say a cheery “Hello! How are you?” works wonders in India as opposed to a nervous mumble. This is probably true in most Asian countries and would explain why Aussies tend to be good backpackers and make friends wherever they go.


qantas plane for india at sydney airport

Getting to India from Australia

There are plenty of flights from Australia’s major cities to India’s major cities, but currently only Air India flies non-stop from Australia to India, with two routes: Melbourne-Delhi and Sydney-Delhi. Both routes take just over 12 hours.

Once you get to Delhi you can easily fly to anywhere in the country on a relatively cheap domestic flight. Book online, in advance, MakeMyTrip.com is probably the easiest site to use. You can also get trains from Delhi to most places around the country, including Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh (for Shimla etc…), Varanasi and lesser-known areas like Uttarakhand and Darjeeling.

If you don’t mind a stop-off en-route, there are plenty of airlines flying to India via south Asia. My preference is probably the Qantas route to Mumbai or Delhi via Singapore. Not only does Singapore have arguably the world’s best airport (Changi) but it’s also a fairly even midpoint and this route is fairly quick, clocking in at under 15 hours.

Other than Qantas, check out Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways and Emirates.


Vaccinations and Health

Your routine vaccinations, including tetanus, will probably be up-to-date if you’re an Aussie resident. Extra vaccines recommended are hepatitis A and typhoid, both of which can be contracted through infected food or water.

Water-borne diseases are quite prevalent in India, so the best safety measure of all is to avoid tap water and only drink bottled, filtered or boiled water. Sweet, hot tea is popular, try and get into it, it’s a good way to rehydrate. The tap water avoidance rule also comes into play with raw food and ice cubes, and for this reason most tourist-catering places will give you ice on the side or not at all.

As for malaria, your GP will probably advise you to take anti-malarial drugs. My personal advice, and that of many regular travellers I know, is that the crappy way these drugs make you feel is not worth the prevention they offer e.g. they wont protect you against dengue fever, just malaria. Weigh up the idea of feeling crappy (part of which will be while you’re actually on your holiday) against the risk of catching malaria. Using repellent (try to buy a local brand as soon as you can) and getting used to wearing full-sleeved, light linen/cotton shirts and trousers (cheap in India!), will make a big difference.

Dengue fever, rabies and a whole host of other things are possible in India, but the most likely event is that you will get a dodgy belly for a few days, just make sure you see a doctor if it becomes more than that e.g. you get a fever.

Ultimately the best advice is take simple precautions and don’t get paranoid as it will spoil your trip.

I should add that I’m not a doctor. There is more info here.


indian and australian banknotes


A lot of people try and buy currency at the airport before boarding their flight. In theory you can’t do this with Indian rupees (interchangeably written as INR or RS) as it is a closed currency – though I have done it numerous times from the UK – and strictly speaking you can’t take rupees into (or out of) India if you’re a foreigner. But forget all that, you’re not going to get stopped at the airport and thrown in jail because you have a few rupees in your pocket, so if you have some from your last trip, take them for that first tip or taxi from the airport.

Ultimately you will always get ripped off when you exchange foreign currency anywhere in the world. That is the simple truth. The high street banks and forex counters are the worst offenders – they simply rely on most people not having a clue what the actual official rate is, and most people don’t even realise that it changes by the minute anyway. For the real exchange rate for any currency pair check out xe.com. You gotta love the way banks give you a bad exchange rate and charge a flat fee, it really is daylight robbery!

In India, recommended money exchangers (ask your hotel) are the best way to get a decent rate, but trekking round to find them can be a pain.

Our advice: take 100 AUD to exchange just in case, but as a rule make it easier on yourself by carrying a couple of credit cards and using ATMs when you arrive. Yes you will get hit with a fairly crappy rate (compared to the spot rate, which you will never get, anywhere) but the convenience makes it worthwhile, and with a credit card you will be protected to some extent. For card purchases, VISA and Mastercard are fine and widely accepted, though often with a surcharge. If you have AMEX, good luck.

If you’re short of money and want to wander round in the heat trying to get a better deal and save a few dollars then go ahead, but most of the time it’s not worth the hassle – you could probably save just as much by haggling harder for a minute on one item you buy at the market. India is overwhelming a lot of the time – don’t pontificate over 10 bucks here or there, you’ll need the energy for other things.

Also bear in mind that if you exchange loads of cash in advance you’ll probably end up with rupees you don’t need at the end of your trip – another loss more easily avoided by exchanging as-you-go by using an ATM.

A few things to note:

  • You can alert your bank to the fact you’re going to India and ask them to make sure your card doesn’t get blocked when unusual activity is detected. But it won’t make a blind bit of difference, they have computers doing this stuff, not people. Be prepared to have your card blocked and then have to call the bank and tell them, after which it probably won’t happen again. This, at least is my experience with UK and Australian banks. The golden rule here is: take your phone, make sure roaming is switched on and you have enough credit!
  • ATMs in India often have an annoying minimum daily withdrawal (often 10,000 rupees, about 200 AUD). You can get round this by going to different ATMs.
  • You WILL need cash in India way more than back home (forget Paypass, EFTPOS and all that good stuff). Carry rupees and always hold onto a few smaller bills (10 INR, 20 INR and 50 INR) as they are useful for tipping. For a full rundown of how to tip see here.
  • You will always get hit by your bank back in Oz for an overseas ATM withdrawal. Last time we checked, most of the Aussie banks actually charge the same for foreign ATM withdrawals:

Commonwealth Bank: $5 AUD + 3% of transaction value. More info on CBA’s rupee/AUD exchange rate.

Westpac: $5 AUD + 3% of transaction value. More info on Westpac’s charges for accessing your money while in India.

NAB: $5 AUD + 3% of transaction value. More info on NAB’s charges here.


an infographic guide to india

Where to?

Most Australians heading to India, like most tourists in general, want to see all the same stuff. In fact the stats show that foreign tourists are surprisingly unadventurous; perhaps the idea of going to India is adventure enough for many. This is a shame as India has some incredible regions, particularly in the far north, that see very little foreign inbound tourism.

For a comprehensive overview, or just to help you make up your mind, check out our cool infographic guide to Indian destinations. Really, that’s all the info you need to decide upon a few regions. Be wary of trying to do too much, India is huge and not always well connected at all.

Finally, if you’re a watersports fanatic (obviously not all Aussies are, but still the proportion is probably more than most countries), then here’s a little extra info on the best spots for surfing, diving or fishing in India:

Surfing in India

Ask about surfing in India and you’ll probably be told that there is no surf. Not true. Check out this article we wrote about Indian surf locations for SurfingVillage.com. And definitely check out SurfingIndia.net for an excellent rundown of India’s best surfing spots, including the following:

Goa during monsoon: forget the holiday season (November to April), as the sea is way too calm. Head out at the start of monsoon though (May/June) and the sea gets pretty wild. Do however bear in mind that it will be very hot and a lot of the nicest beachside places are closed.

Gokarna (state of Karnataka) is not a bad option, and increasingly popular with a laidback traveller crowd. For the more adventurous head 3 hrs south to Udipi where you can find Shaka Surf School https://www.facebook.com/TheShakaSurfClub/

Alwars/Manapad Point (state of Tamil Nadu) in the south-east corner, at the bottom of the country, is recommended by SurfingIndia as perhaps the best location for surfing in the whole of India.

Kovalam Beach in Kerala also gets a mention. Pondicherry, an ex-French colonial town and a nice place to visit, and surrounds, are also worth a look.

For kite surfing, check out Rameswaram on the south-east coast (google it and you’ll see why!) and if you’re heading to Goa then Morjim Beach is good too, especially towards April when the surf picks up.

Fishing in India

For the most wonderful countryside with great fishing opportunities look to the north, especially trout fishing in the Himalayan foothills near Kullu and across to the east in the state of Uttaranchal. If, like many others, you want to combine a proper holiday with some fishing, then Goa has 3 big river estuaries and a long coastline, check out: http://www.goa-fishing.com/ and speak to Tony.

Diving in India

The best location for diving in India is not on the mainland but offshore in the wonderful Andaman Islands. Netrani in Karnataka, Goa and Pondicherry are also touted as locations, but as an instructor in Goa said to me recently “You can’t see a bloody thing!”, so do manage your expectations.


If that’s enough info and you’re set for your trip you can check out our amazing selection of Indian boutique hotels.

Or if you just want to ask us a question or get some advice, we are always happy to help. Just drop us an email on [email protected] and we’ll get back to you quick-sharp!