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India: What to know before you go

I've just returned from India, where Olly and I headed for a wedding and to soak up some sunshine. Here are a few things we found out the hard way!

First things first, if you work in Social Media and decide to go to India, whatever you do, do not pick the Media category as your work industry. The distinction means nothing and even with a letter from work you'll end up having to pay more to get a journalist visa. Even though you're not a journalist. Oh, and when you're applying make sure you write down all the reference numbers they give you along the way as you'll have to apply again if your browser crashes and you don't have those numbers to hand!

Secondly, you'll also need a special 2x2 inch photo - two in total - which the likes of Snappy Snaps will do for a rip-off £14.99 (though they never told me the £14.99 option and made me fork out £19.99 for 4. RIP-OFF). I can't say this for all visa applications made in person, but if you're going to the London Indian Visa Centre in Victoria then you can get these photos done there for £4.

Thirdly, the Rupee is a restricted currency. You might feel better arriving in India with some money in your pocket, but you will get a shocking rate in the UK. Wait until you get to India to change your money. Honestly, you're much better off changing your money in India!

Next to consider is your jabs and your malaria tablets. For Goa it's two Chloroquine tablets once a week - these are absolutely FOUL by the way - and two Proguanil tablets daily. You'll have to take these for one week before your trip, throughout the trip, and then for four weeks afterwards. Check with your doctor, as with any trip you take overseas! They cost about £19 from Boots in total but if you're going to other parts of India then you'll need other malaria tablets. 

Choose your airline carefully. It's an 8 hour flight to Mumbai from London and then we had a 5 hour layover before the next Air India flight out to Goa. Coming back was worse. We had a 7 hour layover when we arrived in Mumbai and by the time we got home we'd been awake 36 hours. o_O Air India isn't the comfiest of planes, though much better than Monarch which is another option for Goa. Luckily with Air India we got bulkhead seats on the way out, but Olly's tray table and TV were broken - so, so rubbish for a long-haul flight. You can however have 46 kilos worth of luggage... EACH. It's likely you won't have to pay excess baggage, but consider paying a bit more for your airline as comfort trumps luggage allowance any day. 

If you're thinking of buying your sunscreen at the airport, don't do it if you have an international transfer. You'll get it out of the UK but then when you clear the international transfer they'll take it away from you as you'll be over your liquid allowance. The nice lady in the Boots Heathrow told us this, but we managed to pick up some sunscreen for £6 in India. Make sure you have a plug with you as well - we couldn't find one to buy but luckily could borrow one from the groom otherwise I would have had horrible hair and a dead camera battery!

Public transport is all well and good but cabs are cheap. We got one from the airport cab office in Goa, which cost us £11. I had enquired online to see what it would be if I pre-ordered one before we flew and was quoted £40 - outrageous!

Finally, have your fill of UK Indian food before you go - you probably won't want to eat Indian food on your return as it just won't compare!  

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