South Asia is a diverse region comprising the countries of the mighty Indian Subcontinent and far-flung island nations out in the Indian Ocean, including the idyllic Maldives.
With year-round warmth, pristine beaches and unspoilt scenery, South Asia has long been a favourite destination for couples seeking a romantic escape, while the region's ancient cultural assets and native wildlife appeal to visitors of all ages.
A long history of maritime trade has left India with a number of well-developed ports that today welcome international cruise ships, and the region is becoming increasingly recognised as a destination for river cruises along the Upper and Lower Ganges.
- Currency - currency varies depending on the country you are travelling to. Carry small denominations when visiting remote areas and making purchases at small businesses, as they may not have change for large notes. If you will be visiting several countries on your trip, US dollars are widely accepted and can be exchanged at banks. Haggling for prices is common and expected, so you'll have plenty of chances to put your negotiating skills to the test.
- Population - South Asia is home to a quarter of the world's population, leading to severe congestion in major cities that dissipates in rural areas.
- Language - English is widely spoken and understood as a legacy of British rule and modern globalisation, but fluency decreases outside of tourist hotspots. Hindi and Urdu are the main spoken languages of India and Pakistan, and knowing a few common terms can also help you get by in other countries.
- Time Zone - from west to east, there is only 1 hour's time difference across South Asia, though these changes are made in gradual increments. Pakistan and the Maldives are UTC+05:00, India and Sri Lanka are UTC+05:30 and Bangladesh and Bhutan are UTC+06:00.
- Weather - South Asia has a tropical climate with 2 seasons: rainy and dry. Inland areas are less affected by the summer monsoons, which are more frequent in southern parts of India and Sri Lanka.
Did you know..?
The diversity of South Asia’s terrain and geographical features give the major continents a run for their money. While largely tropical and home to lush rainforests, the region also features deserts, savannah, glaciers and the world's tallest mountains in the Himalayas, including Mount Everest.
Who goes there?
More international cruise lines are adding South Asia to their itineraries, opening up new possibilities for exploring this region.
Tour the Maldives and Indian Ocean in style with Silversea and contrast South Asia with neighbouring regions on Swan Hellenic cruises from Sri Lanka to Myanmar or India to Dubai with Voyages of Discovery.
If you're dreaming of a river cruise through India, you can choose between local cruise lines such as Mahabaahu Cruise India or travel in style with ScenicTours, looking out over the Ganges from your private balcony.
Best time to go?
South Asia can be visited all year round, but most ocean cruises operate between April and November, outside of the monsoon season. Overland river cruises are less affected by the monsoons, especially in more northerly areas.
- Taj Mahal and Jaipur - the famous Taj Mahal is 1 of many iconic sights of India that can be experienced on a river cruise from New Delhi. See the tower at its most picturesque by rising early and catching the sunrise before continuing along the river to Jaipur, the ‘Pink City,' home to ancient forts, palaces and temples.
- Lower Ganges -the journey along the Lower Ganges, known locally as the Hooghly, offers an experience of the real India away from the tourist trail, as well as the chance to explore remarkable locations such as the Shiva temple in Kalna and the 3 palaces at Murshidabad. Many river cruises begin in Kolkata among the colonial buildings of the historic British capital, continuing as far as Patna or even Mumbai on a 27-day overland tour.
- Maldives - this true tropical paradise is also a country that’s threatened by global warming, as rising sea levels consume more of the atolls every year. You can rest easy in your luxury catamaran, enjoying the world-class diving and unspoiled beaches, knowing that you are helping to fund conservation measures to preserve this unique nation.