Ask Lonely Planet: The best of India

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A tea cutter at work in laid-back Kerala, India. Photo / Singapore Airlines
A tea cutter at work in laid-back Kerala, India. Photo / Singapore Airlines

My partner and I have exactly two months to spend in India. We are told that each state is different from the next. What cities are absolute must-sees?
- Sheena Lau

India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Its cities, however, have one major thing in common: the ability to overwhelm. They're dusty, noisy and frenetic. It will take a little while to adjust to this, but once you have you'll likely enjoy and even embrace their kaleidoscopes of cultures, colours and cuisines. Here are three of India's biggest and best.

Kolkata (Calcutta) is regarded by locals as India's intellectual and cultural capital. It offers a feast for eyes and stomach with its colonial-era architecture and fragrant Bengali cuisine.

For many visitors, cosmopolitan Mumbai is all about dining, nightlife and shopping, although there's far more on offer. It's home to the world's most prolific film industry (it was the setting for Slumdog Millionaire) and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone.

Delhi is crammed full of stunning architecture. Vestiges of lost empires contrast with utopian shopping malls, all linked by potholed streets. The Mughal legacy is one of the city's biggest attractions: Old Delhi is full of crumbling splendour and is adorned with the majestic Jama Masijd, the massive Red Fort, and other monuments.

The mayhem of these megalopolises can fray the nerves of even the most seasoned traveller. Head along the coasts, into the hills and out into the countryside for a breather of unpolluted air.

Itineraries in Lonely Planet's brand-new India guide cover the entire subcontinent. Soak up the laid-back vibe on the beaches of Kerala and Goa in the south, trek the northern trails of Uttarakhand that wind below India's highest peaks, or unwind with a spiritual tune-up in Rishikesh, the self-proclaimed yoga capital.

Getting around can be half the fun. Travelling by train is a quintessential Indian experience that shouldn't be missed. It's also a lot smoother than taking the bus. To make the most of your two months, take advantage of India's highly competitive domestic airline industry for hopping between some of your more distant destinations.

* Sheena Lau will receive a copy of Lonely Planet India ($65) for her question.

Taking the inside track to ski jobs

My partner and I would like to work at a chalet in France during the ski/snowboard season. Could you give us any tips? Would we need to be fluent French speakers or can we get away with knowing the basics and picking up the rest while we are there? Are there any good employment search engines I could check out?
- Ang

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Unless you have a European Union passport, you'll need a work visa to get a job in France. Citizens of New Zealand (as well as Australia, Canada and Japan) aged between 18 and 30 are eligible for a 12-month, multiple-entry Working Holiday Visa.

Apply for one via the French Embassy in Wellington; details are on their website.

Jobs aren't that difficult to get in the Alps, but you can increase your chances significantly with a bit of planning. Many wing it by simply turning up at resorts and looking for work, only to find that all the good jobs have gone. Jump to the front by searching online before you leave. There are plenty of websites that specialise in this type of work, including seasonworkers.com, natives.co.uk, ski-jobs.co.uk and jobs-in-the-alps.com. Advice from experienced travellers is also on hand via Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum.

Many jobs require at least a decent grasp of the local lingo. Un petit peu de francaise is not going to cut la moutarde. Enrolling in a course will make your time in France all the more agreeable.

You can do this with Alliance Francaise, also see here. studyabroadlinks.com is another good source for courses. Bon voyages et bon chance.

Win a Lonely Planet guide book

Email your questions to travel.info@lonelyplanet.com and they'll be answered by Lonely Planet's experts. In addition, the best question each week will earn a Lonely Planet guidebook. Add your postal address and the guidebook you'd like to receive.

Not all questions are answered and Lonely Planet cannot correspond directly with readers.

- NZ Herald

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