Practical Information in Orissa

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People

The people of Orissa are friendly and gracious and you will be met with courtesy and hospitality. Any oriyan family will be more than happy to host you for days and you are sure to be treated with royalty and grace. An oriya always believes in the old sage's saying: "Atithi Deva" (A guest is like God coming to my house). It should be remembered, however, that this is an extremely religious area, and respect for this is essential. Two of Orissa's major temples (the Lingaraj Temple and the Jagannath Temple) restrict entry only to Hindus. Please be aware that this is not because of any inborn intolerance or hostility, but is required by the extreme sanctity of these temples, which are among the holiest places of pilgrimage in India. you will be welcome to enter temples and mosques but shoes have to be removed first (do not worry, they will always be waiting for you at the door when you emerge), and in temples under active worship, it is not permitted to enter wearing leather (such as belts or handbags, leather purses).

Touring

If you stay in Bhubaneshwar or Puri you can make day excursions to almost all major points of interest in Orissa, returning to the luxuries of your hotel at night. To venture further afield, for instance, to the far western, southern or northern areas of the state, you will have to stay in government guesthouses, circuit houses, inspection bungalows, rest houses, and the like, where facilities may be limited. In this case, it is essential that you rely on the prior help of Tourist offices and OTDC to make bookings in these small facilities (where first priority is often given to travelling government officials), and to advise you on what amenities are available. It is worth remembering that travelers to out-of-the -way places should take with them all personal needs (such as medicines, toilet tissue, cosmetics). In some areas you may also need to bring provisions; OTDC and Orissa Tourism Department offices can advise you on this. In any case, even when making day trips from Bhubaneshwar or Puri, it is wise to ask your hotel to pack a cooler with cold drinks and drinking water, and to take along packed lunches.

To travel outside the major coastal tourist areas, it is advisable to hire a car and driver. This is by no means an unaffordable luxury in Orissa. Costs for both the driver and the car (which up to four people can comfortably share) will average about Rs.1000 (US $25). It is possible to travel almost everywhere in Orissa by train or bus, but once you leave the major centers, it may occasionally be difficult to find someone who speaks English, and the smaller cities are not often geared to attend to foreign travelers. If you are intrepid or if you have a companion who speaks Oriya or Hindi you can manage, but a chauffeured car is far easier.

Money

Finding a place to change money is not that easy in Orissa. There are quite a few places though which change money, but take a hefty commission. It is always better to change money in the Bhubaneswar airport when you come and keep money with you.

Most of the big shops accept credit cards (Visa/Master/Amex), but when you go to small shops/restaurants in remote places, you got to have money (in Indian rupees) with you.

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