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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 11:42 GMT
Indecency guide for tourists to India

By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Pushkar camel festival
Pushkar recently had an incident with a naked Finnish woman
Do not hug or kiss in public - even when meeting at stations and airports - and do not smoke or consume alcohol publicly either.

These are some of the guidelines being given to tourists visiting a popular part of India's north-western Rajasthan state to ensure they can respect local culture.

The guidelines come after a number of unfortunate cultural faux pas, including an Israeli couple kissing at their Hindu wedding ceremony and a Finnish woman walking naked down the streets of Pushkar.

Officials say the list of these dos and don'ts has been prepared by the local administration in Ajmer district to "educate foreign tourists about local culture and sensibilities".

Prithvi Raj Sankhla, Ajmer city's sub-divisional magistrate, told the BBC: "We have asked hotels and restaurants across the city to hand out the 20-page booklet to tourists as soon as they check in."

The guidelines say:

  • Men should never touch women in public, even to help a woman out of a car, unless the lady is very elderly or infirm

  • In Indian culture... men socialise with men, and women with women

  • Married couples in Asia do not hug, hold hands or kiss in public. Even embracing at airports and train stations is considered out of the question

  • Generally it is improper for women to speak with strangers on the street and especially to strike up a casual conversation

  • Drinking alcohol or smoking in public, no matter how innocent, are interpreted as a sign of moral laxity and are not acceptable.

"Hotel and guest house owners have been asked to blow up the relevant points of the guidelines and paste them prominently in their reception area to ensure that all tourists take note of the information," Mr Sankhla said.

He said the information booklet was also being published in German, Hebrew and French.

All we want to do is to sensitise [tourists] to local cultural values
Prithvi Raj Sankhla, magistrate

A quick guide about public behaviour would also be printed at the back of the hotel receipts.

"The local administration is also going to be tough on those found to be instigating misguided religious beliefs in the holy town of Pushkar", he said.

"All we want to do is to sensitise [tourists] to local cultural values," Mr Sankhla said.

But he insisted these were only guidelines and should not be seen as a code of conduct for tourists.

Welcome advice

The guide follows a number of incidents deemed "indecent behaviour" by the local people.

British tourists, Jackie and Wayne
Tourists Jackie and Wayne say it is important to know the culture

The Israeli couple were fined $22 and apologised for kissing and hugging at their wedding.

The Finnish woman had taken a dip in a sacred lake and told a court she walked naked to appease a deity.

British tourists Jackie and Wayne, on their third visit to India since 1999, would like such guidelines to be extended.

"Why just Rajasthan? Such guidelines should be made available for other places in India too. Tour operators often do not tell tourists about local culture," says Jackie.

"It is quite important to know things beforehand about local sensibilities, like covering your arms and not getting too close to your partner in public."

Her partner, Wayne, says: "We do not kiss or embrace each other in public because I know it is not liked here. When you open up a bottle of beer you can make out from the looks around you, it is not liked," he says.

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