India - Tourism, travel, and recreation

The national Department of Tourism maintains tourist information offices at home and abroad. It has constructed many facilities for viewing wildlife in forest regions (by minibus, boat, or elephant) and operates tourist lodges in wildlife sanctuaries. The principal tourist attractions are India's distinctive music, dance, theater, festivals, and cuisines; the great cities of Calcutta, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and Madras; and such monuments as the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, the Taj Mahal at Agra, and the Amber Palace in Jaipur. Tourists and pilgrims also flock to the sacred Ganges River, the Ajanta temple caves, the temple at Bodhgaya where the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment, and many other ancient temples and tombs throughout the country. In general, all visitors must have a valid passport and an entry, transit, or tourist visa. Inoculation against cholera is recommended.

The big-game hunting for which India was once famous is now banned, but excellent fishing is available, and there are many golf courses. Cricket, field hockey, polo, football (soccer), volleyball, and basketball are all popular, as are pony-trekking in the hill stations and skiing in northern India.

All major cities have comfortable Western-style hotels that cater to tourists; in 1999 there were 72,114 hotel rooms with 144,228 beds and a 50% occupancy rate. In 2000, tourist arrivals numbered 2,641,157, with Europe being the most important generating region of tourists to India. Tourist receipts totaled $3.1 billion.

As of 1999, the US government estimated the cost of staying in New Delhi at $260 per day. Daily expenses were estimated at $268 in Calcutta, $257 in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and $215 in Bangalore.

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