India has seven climatic regions, ranging from Alpine in the north (Himalayas) to tropical in the south. The Asiatic monsoon has a huge influence on the country's weather. Between June and October the rain-bearing monsoon blows in from the southwest. The south gets the rains between late May and early June, the north about a month-and-a-half later. The northeast monsoon holds sway between November and December on the east coast. States such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka get most of their rainfall then.In general, December to February are the driest months and March to May can be the hottest months with temperatures soaring past 40 degrees.
When to fly to India
The best time to take flights to India depends on where you want to go and what you want to see.
The summers (March to May) are very hot but if you want to see the hill stations and mountains, this is the best time to go. If you want to see India's animals, the summer months are also a great time to go. In the national parks, the animals will leave their hiding places in search of water.
The monsoon can be very disruptive and make it hard to get around India but if you want to see the very far north of the country, this is a great time to visit. The roads are usually closed, by snow, until June.
For beaches (Goa, for example) the winter months (November to February) are best. This is true for the far south (Kerala) too. Rajasthan is a great destination to see at this time of year.
You might want to avoid the 10 days around the festival of Diwali (October or November) as hotels and transport will be very busy with local visitors.
Getting around India
Air India and Jet Airways have a good domestic network and getting flights between cities will be the fastest way to go.
Lots of visitors to India will take an escorted coach tour but an alternative is to hire a car and driver. It's a great way to see the sights on your own time. They're often excellent guides to their countries but they're poorly paid so a decent tip will mean a lot.
The trains in India are legendary and there's no better way to see the country and meet the locals. The long-distance trains are definitely a civilised way to travel. There are three classes of travel in these air-conditioned trains and clean linen and blankets are provided. The Maharajas’ Express, Palace on Wheels and Deccan Odyssey are top of the specialist train operator list and maintain the old-world charm and luxury that was once the preserve of royalty.
Taxis and motor rickshaws are easily picked up in cities. Settle on a fare before you set off. If you're stumped, ask the hotel for an approximate price.
Delhi has a comprehensive metro-rail service and Mumbai is well connected too.
India insider information
- Don't drink tap water. Avoid any food that has been washed in tap water. And say no to ice and salads and any fruit that you haven't prepared yourself. If you're a meat eater, make sure it’s well cooked and eat in a restaurant that's popular with locals.
- The toilets in India can be scary, it's true. Make sure you bring your own soap and consider using the left-hand-and-water-jug method rather than dry paper. Indian people never eat with their left hands. Remember this.
- India is the birthplace of four major religions so dress appropriately if you are hoping to visit their holy sites. Take your shoes off before entering a place of worship and cover up. Take your shoes off before entering someone's home.
- India has the most colourful festivals. Diwali, Christmas, Holi, Navaratri, Onam, Dusshera, Durga Puja and Eid ul Fitr are just some of the wonderful, festive times that have to be experienced at least once in your lifetime.