Tour type: Small Group
Group size: Min: 2 | Max: 12
Accommodation: 3 to 4-star hotels and heritage properties
Transport: A/C minivan/minibus
Highlights: Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, Wagah Border ceremony, Buddhist sites at Dharamsala, Pragpur and Garli heritage villages, Toy train to Shimla, Himalayan Foothills, Hindu pilgrimage site of Haridwar, River Ganges at Rishikesh, Delh
This India tour spends 12 days exploring the foothills of the Himalayas from Dharamsala to Rishikesh, taking in important Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh sites along the way as well as visiting remote villages and riding the Himalayan Queen toy train to Shimla. The India tour begins in Amritsar which is now easily accessed by many international airlines. We'll visit the Sikh Golden Temple here both in the morning for a tour and to take part in 'Langar Seva' in the community kitchen, and again in the evening when the temple is perhaps at its most atmospheric. Next we leave the Punjab and head into the foothills of the Himalayas as we drive to the Buddhist enclave at Mcleodganj. Home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, Mcleodganj is packed with Buddhist temples and monasteries as well as being surrounded by lovely mountain scenery.
Our next stops are at the heritage villages of Pragpur and Garli which are packed with old colonial buildings, reflecting the faded glory of their earlier importance to colonial residents. Another colonial remnant follows, as we board the Himalayan Queen 'toy train' for a spectacular journey up through the mountains, across hundreds of bridges and through numerous tunnels and tiny villages to Shimla. The former summer capital of the British Raj, Shimla and other hill stations still provide an escape from the heat of the plains below.
A much faster train then takes us to the important Hindu pilgrimage site at the ancient city of Haridwar. Here we'll see pilgrims bathing in the holy waters of the river and take a cable car up to a temple overlooking the river. A short drive brings us to nearby Rishikesh in time for the evening Aarti ceremony on the banks of the Ganges at the Triveni Ghat. We have two days in Rishikesh during which we take a walking tour along the river and past the many temples and ashrams that make the town one of India's main centres for yoga and meditation. We also have plenty of free time during which various options are available, including white water rafting, a cooking class, and a wildlife safari in Rajiji National Park.
The India tour finishes with a train journey to the capital, Delhi.
After touching down in the holy city of Amritsar, you'll be greeted by one of our staff members at the airport, who will transport you to your hotel. Once you've settled in, we'll explain what you can expect to experience on this India tour over the next few days, before arranging a time to collect you in the morning.
Hotel in Amritsar
Single Room Supplement (INSGFF)
Extra day in Amritsar - pre-tour
Today we'll make our way to the Golden Temple, which is the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion.
When you get there, have a look at its roof glistening in the sun. The entire top of the Golden Temple has been crafted out of pure gold, with its interior laden with jewels and gold leaf. Once you're inside, you'll feel the calming atmosphere of this holy place - regardless of your religious beliefs.
While you're here, you'll spend an hour at the temple's free community kitchen which feeds up to 100,000 people every day. You'll have a meal here, before spending some time doing Langar Seva - where you will help to serve and prepare food as well as clear and wash up - a small gift of our time and effort in thanks and support.
This afternoon, we'll make our way through the farmlands of Punjab, stopping to see the fresh produce before watching the daily Wagah Border ceremony at sunset, a military practice which the Indian and Pakistan security forces have done since 1959. They perform colourful, rapid dance-like manoeuvres, which signifies the brotherhood and cooperation between the two countries.
You'll travel back to Amritsar and you have the option to either go back to your hotel, have supper at a restaurant or go back to the Golden Temple to witness the Palki Sahib Ceremony, where the Holy Book - the Guru Granth Saab - is taken from the main shrine in the Hari Mandir to the sanctum, its resting place until the ceremony starts again in the morning. It also gives you a golden opportunity to explore the inside of the Golden Temple, which may have been busy with pilgrims earlier in the day.
Hotel in Amritsar
Today we'll head to the base of the towering Himalayas to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. You have the day free to explore Mcleodganj's Buddhist monasteries, museums, temples, waterfalls, lakes, and Tibetan settlements. It's also the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Dalai Lama's residence. Take in the stunning scenery and explore the local markets which sell exotic sculptures, souvenirs and Thangka paintings.
Hotel in McLeod Ganj
After a free day exploring Mcleod Ganj, your day starts with a tour of the Dalai Lama Monastery, where you'll attend a puja - a prayer session, that includes chanting mantras, bowing and making offerings. We'll offer lamps and Khagat religious cloth, made of silk and worn around our necks as a show of respect.
Afterwards, we'll make our way to the Bhagsunag Waterfall and Shiva Temple. The Temple is about one kilometre away from the main waterfall, which is flanked by cliffs and trees, providing you with spectacular views. If you'd like, you can even take a swim in its icy waters.
Once you're at the temple, be sure to visit the freshwater spring, which is believed to have healing powers. Its waters are channeled into large tanks and devotees bathe in it to cleanse their ailments.
Your final stop is a visit to the Naddi View Point, which breathtaking views of the Dhauladhar mountain ranges and the pristine Dal Lake below.
Hotel in McLeod Ganj
Your day begins with a tour of the Norbulingka Institute, which preserves the literary and artistic forms of the Tibetan culture, before visiting the Pragpur Heritage Village, which was founded in the 16th century by the Kuthiala Soods in memory of Princess Prag Dei of the Jaswan royal family.
You'll also visit the Dada Siba Temple, known for its murals and miniature wall paintings. After lunch, you explore the village a little more, before travelling to Garli - another heritage village in the Kangra Valley which boasts colonial style architecture, evident in its mansions, temples and sarais. We'll check in at our hotel, before a local guide walks us through the village and providing valuable insight into their history.
Hotel in Garli
You'll head to Dharampur Himanchal to board the 'toy' train to Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, situated at the foothills of the Himalayas. Shimla used to be the summer capital of British India, and it remains the terminus of the Kalka-Shimla Railway, completed in 1903. Its narrow gauge railway is one of the world's most famous train journeys, and has since been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a highlight of the tour.
Watch how the train steams its way up the hills, passing hundreds of bridges and tunnels along the way, every turn providing you with more breathtaking views.
You'll catch the Himalayan Queen service, missing the lowest section from Kalka, which shortens your journey quite a bit, but shows you the best scenery. The train stops regularly, so you can jump off and buy some snacks from one of the local vendors on the platforms.
You';ll arrive in Shimla in the afternoon and have time to settle in and look around. Shimla is also known for its craft shops, a pedestrian avenue, as well as the Lakkar Bazaar, a market specializing in wooden toys and crafts.
Hotel in Shimla
Feel free to explore Shimla this morning or you have an option to trek towards the Tara Devi Temple, located amongst a thick forest of oak and rhododendron and offers scenic views of the lofty Himalayas surrounding the town.
As afternoon comes around, you'll explore Shimla on foot, visiting its main attractions such as the Vice Regal Lodge, the Christ Church, the Gaeity Theatre, before taking a cable car ride to Jakhu Temple, Shimla's most famous temple, dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman. It's situated on the highest peak in Shimla at a height of 2,455 metres.
Hotel in Shimla
We have some free time this morning to finish looking around Shimla before we descend out of the hills again to catch a fast train from Chandigarh to Haridwar.
Haridwar is an ancient city on the banks of the River Ganges, and is an important Hindu pilgrimage site with thousands of pilgrims making their way there every year to bathe in the holy waters. The city is set at the point where the Ganges leaves the forested mountains for the plains below making it one of India's most beautiful city locations.
Hotel in Haridwar
We spend the morning visiting the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar and seeing the many pilgrims taking a dip in the river at the main Har Ki Paudi ghat. Other stops today include the Shanti Kunj ashram, the Chandi Devi temple, which we reach by cable car, and the Pawan Dham temple which features many incredibly intricate glass and mirrored ornaments and depictions of Hindu gods.
We leave Haridwar this afternoon for the short drive to Rishikesh, another holy city on the banks of the Ganges. Rishikesh is renowned now as one of India's centres for yoga and meditation, as well as adventure activities with white water rafting on the Ganges particularly popular.
This evening we will head down to the river to experience the Aarti ceremony at Triveni Ghat. This nightly prayer session takes around an hour and is accompanied by the chanting of bhajans, beating drums and ringing bells. Devotees, and visitors, light oil lamps and candles, placing them in flower filled boats made from leaves, before releasing them into the holy waters of the river
Hotel in Rishikesh
We'll take a walking tour of Rishikesh today, along the river and between the Laxman Jhula and the Ram Jhula bridges. We'll pass various temples and the Shivananda, Parmarth Niketanj, Geeta Bhawan and Swarg Ashrams, and learn about the importance of yoga and meditation to the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and other religions.
The rest of the day is free to explore this fascinating town further.
Hotel in Rishikesh
Your day is free in Rishikesh today to explore independently, arrange some activities locally, or take one of our optional activities. These include a safari trip to the nearby Rajaji National Park in search of wild elephants and tigers, a cooking class with a local family, or an exciting white water rafting trip on the Ganges.
Later in the afternoon we return to Haridwar station to catch the fast train to Delhi for our final evening.
Hotel in Delhi
Rishikesh white-water rafting tour
Wildlife safari at Rajaji National Park
Indian cooking class with dinner
Our tour ends in Delhi today with free time and then a transfer to the airport for your departure.
A range of optional half day tours of the city are available if you have a late flight or add an extra day or more in Delhi, as well as longer extensions to visit the holy city of Varanasi or to do some safaris in search of tigers and other wildlife at Ranthambore National Park.
Goa beach extension
Ranthambore National Park Safari
Extra day in Delhi - post-tour
Spinmonkey cycling tour
New Delhi half day by car
Old Delhi half-day walking tour
Salam Balak Trust walk
This tour is also available for booking privately for travel anytime through the year, and we can also customise the itinerary to fit your personal requirements. Please contact us for details and prices.
The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often on this tour. From time to time we may exchange these for similar properties at the same level. In general, specific hotels cannot be guaranteed on our group tours, but you may select your preferred options if you are booking a tailor-made trip.
This 4-star hotel is one of the best known in Amritsar and has 69 rooms with free WiFI, a sauna, steam room and swimming pool. The location is good with several cafes and restaurants within easy walking distance.
This 4-star hotel is one of the best known in Amritsar and has 69 rooms with free WiFI, a sauna, steam room and swimming pool. The location is good with several cafes and restaurants within easy walking distance.
This comfortable hotel is located in the heart of Mcleodganj, less than 100m from the main square and 10 minutes walk from the Dalai Lama Monastery. Many restaurants, cafes and shops are within easy walking distance.
This comfortable hotel is located in the heart of Mcleodganj, less than 100m from the main square and 10 minutes walk from the Dalai Lama Monastery. Many restaurants, cafes and shops are within easy walking distance. Rooms are decorated in traditional Tibetan style and feature beautiful pieces including carved wooden lamps, organic cotton bedcovers, and cushion covers handmade at the Norbulingka Institute which the hotel belongs to. Services include complimentary hot water thermos and herbal tea bags, free WiFi and LCD TVs with cable.
The Chateau Garli
Chateau Garli is a lovely heritage hotel with architectural influences from Colonial, Portuguese, Mughal, Rajasthani and Kangri styles, much like the heritage villages of Garli and Pragpur around it.
Chateau Garli is a lovely heritage hotel with architectural influences from Colonial, Portuguese, Mughal, Rajasthani and Kangri styles, much like the heritage villages of Garli and Pragpur around it. It is one of the finest buildings in the area, and offers panoramic views of the Dhauladhar mountain range. Decorations include stain glass windows, Belgian glass chandeliers and antique wooden furniture. Staff are friendly and helpful and assist with tours of the village.
Hotel Willow Banks
The 4-star Willow Banks Hotel has a great location right on the Mall Road in Shimla with many shops and restaurants close by.
The 4-star Willow Banks Hotel has a great location right on the Mall Road in Shimla with many shops and restaurants close by. It is a colonial style building, established in 1871, with great views of the Shimla Valley and surrounding mountains. The hotel features the Akasa Spa providing a range of Ayurvedic, Balinese, or traditional European massages, a beauty salon, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. A games room has billiard, pool, carrom and table tennis facilities. Free WiFi is provided. Rooms all have tea/coffee making facilities and a mini-fridge. Two popular restaurants are on site, the Café Simla Times and Eighteen71 Cookhouse & Bar.
Vasundhara Palace is a small, well located hotel in Rishikesh, not far from Triveni Ghat and the central market, and also close to Ram Jhula which has shops and a ferry service across the river to the temples on the east bank.
Vasundhara Palace is a small, well located hotel in Rishikesh, not far from Triveni Ghat and the central market, and also close to Ram Jhula which has shops and a ferry service across the river to the temples on the east bank. The hotel is also known for its friendly staff and good food. There are 22 comfortable en-suite rooms with WiFi access, multi-channel TVs, safe deposit lockers and complimentary tea/coffee makers.
This modern styled 4-star hotel is situated on the main Haridwar to Rishikesh highway, making it well located for a one night stay in Haridwar.
This modern styled 4-star hotel is situated on the main Haridwar to Rishikesh highway, making it well located for a one night stay in Haridwar. Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisines are available in the Limelight restaurant and drinks in the Salsa Bar. A gym and spa are also available on site.
The Jaypee Siddharth Hotel is a good, modern style hotel in central Delhi with good access to both transport hubs and the attractions of Old and New Delhi. Rooms are well appointed and there are extensive dining and leisure options including an outdoor pool and a spa.
The Jaypee Siddharth Hotel is a comfortable, modern hotel with a good location balanced between good access to the sites of Old and New Delhi, and for transfers to the international airport (18km) and New Delhi Railway Station (5km).
There are 102 well appointed rooms, including 24 Club Royal Rooms, 68 Deluxe Rooms, 8 Executive Rooms and 2 Suites. All rooms feature central AC, safety deposit lockers, mini fridge, tea & coffee makers, hair dryers, ironing board & iron and complimentary toileteries, slippers & bathrobes.
The hotel features several dining options, including the Paatra restaurant serving North Indian cuisine, the Cafe Resto, providing a 24-hour service, the Tapas lounge bar, and an on-site patisserie. The terrace Metro Grill offers an extensive international menu plus a fun DIY BBQ option.
Leisure facilities include an outdoor pool, a well equipped gym, and the Tamaya Spa, Salon & Wellness Centre, which offers a wide range of treatments.
Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination youre visiting. However, we do also offer some extra options to complement the tour and add some additional sightseeing or activities, or some extra time at either end of the tour.
All accommodation based options (e.g. Single supplements, extra nights, cruise upgrades) should be booked and paid for in advance so that we can make the appropriate arrangements. Other options may either be booked and paid for in advance or while you are on the tour, though we recommend booking in advance to ensure there are no issues with availability.
Many options are priced the same throughout the year, but some may incur single or high season supplements - full details are given on the tour reservation form or on request.
The detailed Tour Notes below have been written to give you some more detailed information about how the tour runs, what to expect, and how to prepare for your holiday. We recommend downloading an up to date copy of these shortly before you travel in case of any changes.
We use good quality hotels rated at the Indian 3-star and 4-star level on this tour as well as some heritage properties. These heritage hotels are often converted from former palaces or merchant houses and are full of historical character, though they may feel a little dated. They are often a highlight of your stay.
The specific hotels listed on our website are our preferred hotels for our small-group tours. However, these may be changed from time to time based on current availability and other logistics. In this event alternative hotels of a similar standard will be used. If you would like to guarantee any particular hotels for your trip, please contact us to request a tailor-made otur.
Accommodation is based on twin or double en-suite rooms with air conditioning. All couples will receive a private double room.Please check the Single Room Supplement option for details on room sharing options and charges for solo travellers on this tour.
Our trips feature a mix of different transport options. We want you to feel like you're really experiencing the country you're travelling through, but at the same time finish journeys refreshed enough to enjoy the next stage of the tour. Due to the somewhat chaotic nature of Indian roads, we only use private vehicles for all road journeys on this tour.
The tour also features three journeys on India's famous railway network, on the narrow guage 'toy train' to Shimla, and a fast train from Chandigarh to Haridwar (~3.5-4hrs) and Haridwar to Delhi (~4.5hrs).
On the toy train journey we book chair seats on the Himalayan Queen service. The full journey from Kalka to Shimla takes around 5 hours, but we join the train about half way into the journey once it has started getting into the hills properly. We feel this provides a better experience all round. Your luggage will continue to Shimla with the tour vehicle, so you do not need to worry about carrying or storing it on the train.
For the fast train journeys we aim to always book seats in the AC2 chair class (2nd class air-conditioned carriage). This is relatively clean, comfortable and not overcrowded. Due to the huge distances some trains cover, Indian trains are subject to delays. These can be longer in the winter months if the weather is foggy.
Tickets are issued 120 days in advance and are subject to full cancellation fees after you have arrived in India (US$10 up until that point). If you book within 120 days of departure we cannot guarantee that you will be allocated a seat next to other people in the group, though the carriage stewards are generally very helpful in arranging to swap you with another traveller.
We want to give you as much flexibility as possible when it comes to booking your holiday with us. So, to take account of people with varying travel plans, we don’t include your international flights in the main tour price. We are however very happy to suggest flights to go with the tour. Please contact us with your preferred dates and departure airport and we’ll give you a selection of airlines, times and fares to choose from.
Your airport arrival & departure transfers are included on the first and last days of the tour. Most of our Indian tours start and finish at Delhi airport (DEL).
We do also sometimes advertise flight inclusive packages from selected airports. Where these are shown on our website, prices are correct at the time of quoting, but are subject to continued availability of the fare used. Prices will be reconfirmed at the time of booking, and we will also provide the flight times and airline details before tickets are issued.
Flight inclusive prices are based on the cheapest Economy ticket class available which is generally non-refundable and non-changeable unless the flight is cancelled for reasons such as Covid-19, in which case the airlines are more flexible. More flexible ticket options, as well as Premium Economy and Business Class tickets are available on request for an additional supplement. Any changes made to flight inclusive bookings will be subject to the airline rules on your ticket.
We are committed to being a small group operator, as we feel this gives everyone in the group the best chance to get to know their fellow travellers and to hear and make the most of their guide. There's no point in us providing great guides if you've got to peer over 30-40 shoulders to see them! So, we won't ever put you in a 50-seater coach with 49 other people and just one guide. Instead, we set our India small-group departures to have a maximum of 12 travellers. The minimum group size is 2.
In India we provide a fully trained, local English-speaking tour leader/driver to accompany our groups. On this tour they will accompany you from Amritsar through to Chandigarh where you will be shown to your seat on the train. You will then be met on arrival in Haridwar station by your guide for the Haridwar/Rishikesh section. You will then be met on arrival in Delhi station and transferred to your hotel for your final night. Additional specialist local guides are used for some of the sightseeing tours and activities included in the tour.
At Encounters Travel we have a policy of aiming to use only local Indian guides and reps. We feel this gives you the best experience of the country and the sites you are seeing.
The tour price does not include entrance fees to the tourist sites mentioned in the itinerary. This allows for fluctuations in the prices set by the local authorities, which do change from time to time.
You should currently allow approx. US$52 per person to cover these entrance fees. You will also need to cover the cost of entrance to any other extra sites that you may wish to visit that are not listed in the main tour itinerary. Your guide will offer to collect the entrance fee cost from everyone at the start of the tour and pay on your behalf, or you can arrange them yourself as you go along.
Haggling is a traditional necessity, so its wise not to pay too much regard to initial prices. Instead fix an items value in your mind then negotiate towards it unhurriedly and don't be afraid to simply walk away if the price isn't right. Once you have offered a price though, you should be prepared to pay it as you may cause offence if you then back out.
While an accepted part of the culture and customs in India, tipping is always optional, and the amounts paid should reflect excellent service. We are often asked for advice on common amounts, and for assistance with tipping. Some suggested guidelines are given below.
Restaurants and taxis: Local markets and basic restaurants - leave the loose change. More up-market restaurants we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour guide. We suggest USD 5-10 per person per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of private drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, for example if you don't have an extra accompanying guide. However USD 3-6 per person per day is generally appropriate.
Tour Guides: To answer your next question. . . as a guideline for tour guides who accompany you on the entire tour, we suggest you allow around USD 5-10 per person per day, but ultimately, as with all the tipping descrbed above, its up to your satisfaction with their service and your personal budget. You should not feel pressured to tip any particular amount.
You should ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including emergency evacuation and repatriation.
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the country you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP/medical practitioner or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination. You should ensure that you are up to date with vaccines and boosters recommended for your normal life at home, including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions. In addition, additional courses or boosters normally recommended for the countries in this region are:
India: Additional vaccinations: Diptheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid. Malaria map. Yellow Fever certificate: Yellow fever rules for India are quite complicated and lengthy. Please read the WHO guidance.
Malaria: Vaccinations are not available against Malaria, which is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can be very serious and sometimes fatal. You should avoid mosquito bites by covering up bare skin with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers and applying insect repellents to exposed skin. When necessary, sleep under a mosquito net. Mosquitoes are most active during and after sunset. You should consult with your GP/medical practitioner/travel clinic about the most appropriate malaria prophylactic medication to take for the regions you are visiting. In general the north eastern regions of India including Assam and Orissa are considered high risk,while the rest of India is generally considered low enough risk that anti-malarial tablets are not necessary for most travellers doing relatively short tours.
Yellow Fever: This disease is spread by infected mosquitoes that bite during the day. A Yellow Fever Certificate of vacinnation may be required as a condition of entry depending on which country you are arriving from, or that you have travelled or transitted through recently (including connecting flights with stopovers of over 12 hours). You can view a World Health Organisation map of areas where the virus is present in monkeys and therefore a potential risk to humans. Please ensure you have this certificate with you and to hand if necessary.
Please inform us of any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma and any prescription medicine you may be taking. We also need to know about any food allergies or physical disabilities that you may have.
Your passport expiry date must be at least 6 months after your time in India finishes. Do not bring a full or almost expired passport. You must also have a machine-readable passport or you may be denied entry. If you have an old-style manually issued passport you will need to replace this with a new machine-readable passport before you travel.
Most nationalities (including UK, USA, European, Australian, Canadian) will need to arrange their Indian tourist visa in advance. A new online e-visa system is available which makes the process more straightforward than before. You can make your application online here... https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html
Visa requirements for India can and do change regularly and we suggest that you arrange your Indian visa early and re-check your specific visa requirements prior to travel for any changes.
The time in India and Sri Lanka is GMT plus 5 1/2 hours.
The time in Nepal is GMT plus 5 3/4 hours.
The time in Bhutan is GMT plus 6 hours.
The time in Tibet is GMT plus 8 hours.
Daylight saving adjustments are not applied.
In Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, sockets are mainly two round pronged and 230 volts (Type C,D,M). In Bhutan a range of different sockets can be found, including two and three round pronged and three flat pronged (Type D,F,G).
Universal adaptors are available in most airport shops if you don't have one already. Standard UK-European adapters will work fine, though sometimes they may feel a little loose in the sockets. All hotel rooms have electrical sockets where you can re-charge cameras, phones etc. Hair dryers are sometimes available on request from the hotel reception if not in your room already but cannot be guaranteed.
If you have US appliances (110 volts) you will need a voltage converter as well as a plug adapter.
Rupee (INR; symbol Rs) = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs 2,000, 1000, 500, 200, 50, 20, 10 and 1 Coins are in denominations of Rs 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50 paise (Rs 0.5). Note: The import and export of local currency is prohibited. Sometimes smaller vendors will not take bills larger than Rs 500. It is best to carry a range of rupee notes if you are shopping at bazaars and local markets.
Note: You must present your passport whenever you change currency or travellers cheques. Commission for foreign exchange is becoming increasingly rare; if it is charged, the fee is nominal.
Credit cards: In major cities, the full cadre of banks cards are generally accepted including debit cards, American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. However, in smaller towns and villages, choice is generally narrowed to cash or MasterCard and Visa.
ATM: 24 hour ATM machines can be found in all the major cities and most large towns. Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus are amongst the most commonly accepted cards.
Travellers cheques: These are gradually getting less accepted but may still be changed at larger banks and some larger hotels. The most widely accepted currencies include US Dollars and Pounds Sterling. Some banks may refuse to change certain brands of traveller's cheques whilst others may exchange quite happily.
Luggage: Suitcases are fine, though you may find rucksacks or large bags are more practical. You should also bring a small daypack/bag to take out during the day. Your main luggage will be left in the hotel during your sightseeing trips - you will not need to carry it far, and there are nearly always porters to assist.
Luggage allowances: Most international airlines restrict you to between 20kg and 23kg per person of luggage to go in the hold of the plane. Domestic flights often have smaller allowances around 15kg. As airline rules vary we recommend that you take no more than 20kg of luggage if your tour just includes international flights, and no more than 15kg if there are any domestic flights included in your itinerary. Please ask us for details if you are unsure about luggage allowances on your tour. Any excess baggage fees will be your responsibility to cover. Most airlines allow between 5kg and 10kg for hand luggage so we suggest that you take no more than 5kg unless you have confirmed that your airline(s) will allow more than this.
Clothing: The weather is mainly hot most of the year with significant variations from region to region. The coolest weather lasts from around the end of November to the beginning of March, with fresh mornings and evenings, and mostly sunny days. The really hot weather, when it is dry, dusty and unpleasant, is between March and June. Monsoon rains occur in most regions in summer anywhere between June and early October.
NOTE: India is very traditional and some heads will turn if you dress provocatively in public. Short tops, short skirts / shorts, tight or body revealing clothes etc should be avoided. You might invite unwanted attention from certain men who stare and pass comments at women to amuse themselves. More detailed climate information is available on the India Country Guide page on our website.
Suggested List: This is a guide only - there's no problem if you bring more or less with you. Cheap comfortable clothing is also readily available in India and laundry is inexpensive. It is also worth having some smarter clothes for going out. Towels are provided and laundry services are available in all the hotels we use.
Men: Lightweight trousers, shorts, light shirts & t-shirts, Swimwear
Women: Light cotton skirts/dressers, loose-fitting trousers, light shirts or t-shirts, loose shorts, Swimwear
Men & Women: Jumper/sweatshirt/fleece, Long sleeved shirt(s) (for cool nights, protection from the sun & mosquitoes, and visits to religious sites etc), Handkerchiefs, socks & underwear, Comfortable trainers/sandals for daily wear, Other shoes/sandals for evening wear, Sunhat or headscarf (headscarfs come in handy for some sights which require women to cover their heard)
First Aid: Although First Aid and medication is readily available in India, it may be very different to what you are used to so individuals should consider bringing along their own personal kit. Your personal kit might include: Sunscreen, sunblock & aftersun, Insect repellent/relief, Antiseptic cream/spray, Plasters and a bandage, Lomotil or Imodium against diarrhea, Pills against nausea, Aspirin for heat-stroke (or hangovers) Your kit should also include your brief medical history, including allergies, blood group, drug vaccinations etc. We suggest bringing copies of prescriptions if you will be carrying medicines on board your flight.
Toiletries: Razor, soap & box, shampoo, Toothpaste, toothbrush & container, Sanitary items
Note: If you wear contact lenses, you should consider taking or wearing glasses instead, as lenses can be uncomfortable and/or cause infections in hot and humid climates.
Other useful items: Sunglasses, Small Torch, Money belt, Camera and equipment, Toilet paper (this is not always provided in public toilets so it is a good idea to carry some spare tissues in your bag. It should be placed in the basket beside the toilet, not flushed away, for you might block the pipes).
IMPORTANT: As it can get extremely hot in India, and the sun can burn very quickly, it is very important to ensure you are protected from the sun with sun-cream & sun-hats, and do not get dehydrated.
We run small-group departures on our Indian small-group tours throughout the year, with less frequent start dates during the hot monsoon months of May to September. All departures are guaranteed to run with a minimum of 2 travellers. Departure dates and prices are listed on our website (please check the website for up-to-date prices and special offers).
Private and tailor-made tours are available on any dates and may be adjusted to fit your personal requirements, available time and budget.
If you would like to book a place on this tour, please complete the online reservation form on our website (via the Dates & Prices tab on the tour page). You may make a deposit or full payment online, or just hold a reservation if you prefer (full payments are due 8 weeks before departure). We will then contact you with more details about how to complete your booking. Payments may be made by debit or credit card (subject to a card processing fee), or by making a bank transfer, or posting us a cheque/bank draft. Full details will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Please contact us if you would like any more information or have any questions before making a booking.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and needs to cover personal accident & liability, medical expenses and repatriation, travel delay & abandonment. We also strongly recommend that you take out cover against cancellation and lost/stolen baggage. Personal medical insurance does not normally provide sufficient cover and is generally not suitable for travel on our tours. You will not be able to join your tour if you have not provided us with details of your insurance or if you arrive without cover in place (no refunds will be due in this event). More information...
You may arrange your own insurance, or you can take advantage of a comprehensive policy that we can arrange for you through Endsleigh Insurance which has been designed to be suitable for our tours. The policy is available to travellers of all nationalities and you do not need to live in the UK to take out the policy. For full details of cover provided, prices and to apply for one of our policies, please complete travel insurance application form.
Note: Any country that borders the Mediterranean is considered as 'Europe' for the purposes of travel insurance (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco). If you are doing a tour that visits one country in 'Europe' and one that is 'Worldwide' (for example, an Egypt and Jordan tour), then you need a 'Worldwide' policy. When completing the form you should enter your travel dates including any extra days involved in overnight flights or connecting travel between your home and the tour. Our policies are not able to cover any extra time or activities other than your tour and options booked with us and your travel to & from home.
Note - to comply with insurance sales regulations, our travel insurance policies are only available to customers booking directly with us. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to arrange your own insurance.
If your tour includes car hire, ior if you plan to arrange a hot air balloon flight locally or do some scuba diving during your tour, you should check the small print in your policy to make sure these are covered (these are covered in our policy). Please also check the maximum altitude that you will be reaching and that full cover including emergency evacuation is provided up to this altitude.
If you are taking expensive camera gear or other electronic equipment with you then please check the coverage and the fine print of your policy to ensure that you have sufficient cover.
IMPORTANT: We must have your travel insurance details (policy number and type of insurance) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour. If you haven't told us already, please let us know the details when you can. You should take a paper copy of your insurance policy with you as you may be asked to show this at the start of the tour.
Before purchasing any travel insurance, please check the coverage provided for situations related to Covid-19, and for the rules about government travel advice. Your normal policy may not be suitable. Details about our own policies cover levels are given on our website.
We are a UK registered company and an ABTA Member (Y4447) and you can be confident when booking with us that your money is safe and protected.
Financial failure insurance is also provided through Affirma to protect all customers for the land portion of your tour.
Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.
It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travellers to help us with this.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.
All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
You can stay in touch with us online by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post updates on relevant travel news in our destination countries, special offers and discounts and other interesting travel related news and information.
www.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')
It is important when considering and preparing to travel anywhere in the world that you have a good understanding of the country you are visiting, its laws and customs, and the possible risks and situations that may occur. This includes specific risks related to your itinerary (eg. does it involve water & can you swim, are you fit enough for the activities included), as well as more general risks such as terrorism and natural disasters.
General details and links to more information about health risks, visa requirements, money, and travel insurance are given in these tour notes. We recommend that you re-read all these before your departure as well as the small print of your travel insurance policy so you know exactly what is covered and what is not.
You should take copies of your important travel documents with you and ideally also store them online securely as a backup. Make sure that you have given us your emergency contact details and told that person where and when you are travelling. Ensure you take enough money with you and that you have access to emergency funds.
Finally, you should read through and stay updated with the current official government travel advice for your destination. We are registered partners with the UK Foreign Office's 'Travel Aware' campaign which provides further useful and invaluable information.