Indian News

What Foods To Expect On Christmas Day In India

If you have booked your tourist visa to India this Christmas but aren't sure what you can expect from the experience, here are some foods that are commonly eaten during the festive occasion that will be well worth trying during your exotic getaway.

1) Stews instead of turkey
In Britain, we're all familiar with tucking into a large turkey on Christmas Day. Our roast dinner is normally accompanied by all the trimmings, including roast potatoes, root vegetables, stuffing, chipolatas and cranberry sauce.

However, in India, the meal of choice is typically a mutton stew that is cooked for several hours. Alternatively, roasts are eaten but people tend to tuck into duck instead of turkey, and you can expect the meats to be marinated in a variety of spices.

2) Athirasam instead of Christmas Pudding
Christmas cakes and puddings in the UK tend to be filled with dried fruit, spices and alcohol. But in India, particularly in the south, this tradition is replaced with a sweet course of athirasam.

This is a sweet made with rice flour and jiggery, together with cardamom. As well as being popular at Christmas time, it is also enjoyed at Diwali.

3) Homemade cookies
While India may not have an abundance of desserts specifically eaten at Christmas, people are still fond of enjoying sweet treats at this time of the year. Many households make batches of homemade cookies, spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and other exotic flavours.

Popular sweets include kidiyo, which are deep-fried curly dough balls dusted with icing sugar, newrio dumplings that are filled with palm sugar, grated coconut and sesame seeds, and macaroons flavoured with cardamom and cashew nuts. You can also expect dense fruitcakes, if you're worried about missing mince pies and Christmas puddings while away this year!

4 India Volunteer Opportunities

If you want to volunteer for a good cause after you've sorted out your India e visa and have touched down in the country, you'll be pleased to hear that there are lots of opportunities for those looking to give back a bit. Here are just four of our favourites to consider.

Human Wave
This is based in Kolkata and runs community development and health schemes throughout West Bengal. You can volunteer your time for anything between two weeks and three months, depending on how long you plan to be in India for. Projects include the Balwadi which takes care of the young children of working mothers, and Nari-Khamotayan Shaka which works to improve the living conditions of women in Adarshanagore.

Willing Workers on Organic Farms
Also known as WWOOFing, this scheme connects travellers with hosts throughout India associated with orchards, organic gardening, spices, tea and sustainability projects. You'll learn all about organic farming by staying on the farm itself and helping out in a very practical way. Around 16 states across the country have hosts involved so you could see an awful lot of India if you choose to volunteer here.

Street children volunteering
If you sign up with Volunteering India, you can get involved with all sorts of projects but taking part in the street children programme in Delhi could be the most rewarding. Volunteers work with disadvantaged children and help to create an environment that will support their development and enable them to join mainstream society later on.

Volunteer healthcare projects in Kerala
With GVI, you can lead your own healthcare workshops in Kerala, one of the most beautiful parts of India. This could include games and sports, therapeutic activities, vocational training and assisting with physical and educational development, working with those with physical and mental disabilities.

UK Prime Minister Heads To India With Heads Of Industry

The UK government has had a busy few weeks arranging a whole lot of visas with a same day business visa service, as not only has UK Prime Minister Theresa May made the trip to India, but she's also taken many heads of industry with her, according to reports.

The Daily Mirror wrote that dozens of industry chiefs had made the journey along with the PM in order to capitalise on relationships with the country, which is one of the world's fastest growing economies.

Mrs May was keen to highlight the importance of the relationship between the UK and India, saying: ""The UK and India are natural partners – the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest democracy – and together I believe we can achieve great things; delivering jobs and skills, developing new technologies and improving our cities."

The government is slated to sign multiple multi-million pound deals during the visit, securing important investment and jobs for both the UK and India – something which is extremely critical at present in the face of the UK's Brexit from Europe.

However, despite Theresa May looking for work for British firms in India during her first trade trip as PM, the trip has been threatened to be overshadowed by issues surrounding visa allowances for Indian students in the UK.

These changes were pushed through during Theresa May's time as home secretary and saw the number of Indian students in UK universities halved over that time, according to The Independent. Theresa May has said that she has no intention on backtracking on these regulations.

Where To Go For Winter Sun In India

Now that winter has well and truly started, you're all probably thinking about where to go for a bit of sun at this time of year. What we want to know is, have you considered India? Here are some of the best picks for Indian winter sun to visit after you've sorted out your India tourist visa.

Kerala
The best time to go to this part of the country is between November and March. There are some stunning beaches and you must head to the old Fort Cochin, but really it's the scenery you'll be marvelling at the most. This might be the best Indian holiday destination of them all!

Goa
This part of the country is always lovely to visit, no matter the time of year, but winter is perfect as you won't have to share the beaches with quite so many people. The sands are white, the waters crystal clear and you'll have an incredible time experiencing a huge array of different cultures. Make sure you camp on the secluded Khola beach before you leave.

Rajasthan
While winter is peak time for people going to Rajasthan, you really shouldn't let this put you off. This is one of the best places for tourists to go to in the whole of India and you shouldn't miss out if you can help it. Head to Jaipur for days spent sightseeing or shopping, or make your way to Udaipur where there's a simply stunning lake that must be seen to be believed.

We'd love to hear your India travel tips so tell us where you'd go for some Indian winter sun.

Diwali Promises A Sparkling Trip To India

With Diwali - the annual festival of lights marked by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains - just around the corner, there's no better time to apply for a fast track Indian visa and book a last-minute trip to the country.

In 2016, Diwali will be celebrated on 30 October, with communities all over India taking part in colourful and vibrant parades, performances of the epic battle between good and evil, and joining together for delicious feasts.

Wherever you go in India, you'll see houses decked with twinkling lights, streets lined by candles and experience the excitement and warmth of the festivities.

However, about travel has provided some suggestions of the top places to visit for Diwali this year.

Among them is Jaipur, where its markets are illuminated with colourful lights. There's even a competition within the city to find the best-lit market during Diwali, so expect plenty of stunning displays.

Another place where you can enjoy the spectacle of Diwali in all its glory is Varanasi. This city on the banks of the River Ganges is renowned for the firework displays that light up the night sky during Diwali - beautifully reflected in the water. Lights are also floated down the river in a stunning procession that twinkles as it gently drifts by.

If you're looking for somewhere away from the country's cities to experience Diwali, Travel India recommends the likes of Munnar in Kerala, where sprawling tea plantations provide a different kind of backdrop to the celebrations, or Manali in Himachal Pradesh, where you're surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

PM Aims To Boost Trade With India

Prime minister Theresa May will travel to India for a three-day visit next month with the aim of improving trade between the UK and India.

In her first bilateral trip outside of the EU since taking office, May will meet with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, as well as visiting a number of businesses in Delhi.

Speaking about the visit, May explained that she wants the UK to seek "economic and diplomatic opportunities" outside Europe.

"As we embark on the trade mission to India, we will send the message that the UK will be the most passionate, most consistent and most convincing advocate for free trade," she commented.

A delegation including international trade secretary Liam Fox and representatives from around the UK will accompany the prime minister on her trip, which is seen as an important step in showing the direction the country will take once it leaves the European Union.

The prospect of closer ties between the two countries may result in more people applying for same day business visas to India, allowing business owners to visit the country for themselves and capitalise on any new trading relationship that's forged in the future.

According to the Gov.uk website, the main economic areas India is keen to develop are finance, infrastructure, energy efficiency, healthcare and vocational skills and education.

Government figures indicate that the UK is the third-largest investor in India, after Mauritius and Singapore, while the value of bilateral trade in goods and services between the two countries was £18.94 billion in 2014.

Half Of All Holidays 'Are Now Package Deals'

Fewer people are organising their own travel itineraries these days, instead of opting for package holiday deals, it has been revealed.

 

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has found that 53 per cent of British holidaymakers have enjoyed a package break in the last year, which is an increase of six per cent from the previous 12-month period.

 

The reason why package holidays have increased in popularity by ten per cent since 2011 is due to the rising number of younger and older travellers choosing this type of break.

 

Indeed, 55 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 years old took an organised trip abroad in the last 12 months, an increase from 46 per cent in 2015.

 

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “The growth in popularity of the package holiday is testament to the diversity of the types of package now available, appealing to all ages, tastes and budgets.”

 

Holidaymakers also want their travel provider to take care of all their arrangements for them, as well as offer support and security. The percentage of people who book a package holiday for the financial protection it offers soared from 16 per cent to 29 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

 

Mr Tanzer stated: “In the current climate, it is not surprising to see people responding to this and looking for the added support, security and convenience of a package holiday.”

 

However, many people choose a package break for its all-inclusives (36 per cent), for being the best value for money (59 per cent), and having everything taken care of (73 per cent).

 

These days, package holidays fly to a huge variety of destinations all around the world, including India. However, this is also a great destination to explore by yourself, and organising your travel here could not be easier.

Get started by arranging your India tourist visa today.

Over-50s Heading To More Exotic Locations Than Ever Before

Those over 50 do not seem to be slowing down these days, with more and more people within this age group planning adventurous holidays to exotic locations.

Indeed, applications for India tourist visas for those beyond their fifth decade may increase in the future, as spending on travel and tourism has risen by 23 per cent over the last five years by over-50s households, Saga has revealed.

Its report compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found those over 50 accounted for 58 per cent of travel and tourism expenditure, with the total reaching £38.9 billion last year.

What's more, they are taking longer breaks, seeking out new destinations, and choosing remote locations such as Uzbekistsan, India and Africa.

Andrew Strong, chief executive officer of Saga Holidays, said: "The over-50s want to spend their retirement exploring the world and discovering new and exciting destinations – they truly are enjoying life through travel."

He added that more people in their older years are likely to consider heading abroad in the future as they "live longer and healthier lives" these days.

In fact, over a third of those over 50 who are still working intend to increase the amount of money they spend on long-haul trips after they retire.

What's more, the report found that spending on holidays was especially strong for those aged between 65 and 74 years old, showing that people are still hoping to discover new corners of the world as they get older.

It is not just pensioners who are keen to head abroad either, as more and more children are becoming jetsetters.

According to Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money, one-third of kids have been overseas before their second birthday.

Rough Guides Photography Winner Perfectly Captures India

Rough Guides has revealed the winner of its first photography competition, with Somenath Mukhopadhyay taking the top prize for his photo of a young girl preparing for a festival in India.

His image was selected from more than 2,000 entries of photographers snapping amazing pictures from all around the world.

The “Painted Visage” photo of a young girl having green make-up applied to her face during a festival in West Bengal is so poignant, it could encourage more people to book India e-visas to explore the beautiful country and learn more about its culture.

A spokesperson for Rough Guides said: “This image skillfully captures the stillness of the moment and the concentration on the child’s face. The colours are vibrant and [the judges] loved the way your eye is drawn to the face with the shift of focus.”

This was not the first time the amateur photographer has won an award for his work, as he was named the Dragoman Photo Competition winner in 2015 as well.

Entering the same picture in the annual contest, “Painted Visage” was chosen among hundreds of entries.

The judges for this competition also loved the picture for its soft colours, as well as the “culturally interesting aspect and the perfect lighting”.

He was awarded credit for a land price of a trip for two up to the value of £2,000 for his win.

When it comes to the Rough Guides’ competition, another photo of India also found its way into the shortlist, with Sirsendu Gayen’s image of worshippers at a mosque in Varanasi, Uttarpradesh impressing the judges so much it was named as one of two runners-up.

The aerial view of the Muslims in orderly lines as they pray gives a great glimpse into the culture and religion of the region.

1/3 Children Head Overseas 'Before 2 Years Old'

Children are becoming jetsetters even younger these days, with the average age for kids to head abroad being four, it has been revealed.

What's more, one-third of all youngsters have been overseas before the age of two, according to new research from Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money.

The findings showed 59 per cent of British parents claim their children travelled more than they had done during their childhood, including to far-flung destinations such as India. Indeed, nine per cent of kids have taken a long-haul flight before.

Simon Taylor, Head of Sainsbury's bank Travel Money, said: "Our research shows that parents are taking their children away from a very young age, which inevitably creates the need for even more forward planning."

He advised searching for travel insurance and currency in advance, while holidaymakers heading to Asia need to get their India tourist visas arranged at the earliest opportunity.

Most youngsters who have been overseas (57 per cent) have done so with their mums and dads, while 28 per cent have travelled with their school and 26 per cent with other members of their family.

Parents who do plan to take their youngsters on holiday need to start saving well in advance, after Sainsbury's Bank Credit Cards found that each person typically spends £974 on their trip abroad.

This includes £340.90 (35 per cent) on booking their trip, £288 on spending money, £98 on new clothes and £58 on airport transfers. Costs could even be greater than this if parents are restricted to taking their children away during school holidays, as prices are hiked up during these peak periods.

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