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Temples & Spices Tour

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Temples & Spices OVERVIEW

TOUR SUMMARY

8 days

Chennai to Chennai

From

$1190 (p/p)

Country(ies): India

Tour type: Small Group

Group size: Min: 2 | Max: 12

Accommodation: 3 & 4-star hotels

Meals:

Transport: A/C minivan/minibus, train

Highlights: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry French Quarter, Tanjore Brihadeshvara Temple, Ancient Madurai

Explore Tamil Nadu's rich heritage! Visit Chennai, coastal Pondicherry, ancient Mahabalipuram, marvel at temples in Tanjore & Madurai, and experience a journey on the iconic Indian railway.

Your adventure begins in vibrant Chennai, where you'll be warmly welcomed and briefed on the exciting itinerary ahead. An optional city tour introduces you to Chennai's highlights. Afterward, you'll embark on a scenic coastal journey southward, stopping at Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the artistry of the Shore Temple and other ancient rock-carved structures before arriving in charming Pondicherry, where you'll have free time to explore.

Pondicherry's unique blend of French and Tamil heritage takes centre stage. Stroll through the French Quarter, experience the tranquility of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and admire the vibrant Manakula Vinayagar Temple. A stroll along Promenade Beach ends a fulfilling day. Next, you'll delve into the heart of Tamil Nadu's rural culture at the Mohanam Cultural Center. Witness traditional dance and music, create your own Kolam artwork, and enjoy a Tamil-style lunch, knowing your visit supports the community's preservation of heritage arts. Your journey then continues to the historical city of Tanjore.

Tanjore unveils its architectural gem - the awe-inspiring Brihadeeswarar Temple, a testament to the Chola dynasty's grandeur. Afterward, you'll head south to the ancient city of Madurai. Experience the vibrant spirit of this spiritual hub, explore the old town's bustling bazaars, and immerse yourself in the grandeur of the Meenakshi Amman Temple. A scenic train ride back to Chennai allows you to reflect on your Indian adventure before catching your flight home the following day.

ITINERARY

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Day 1:   Welcome to Chennai. Transfer to your hotel.

Welcome to Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai. You'll be met by a member of our local team, who will transfer you to your hotel. Once you're settled in, we'll run through the tour itinerary for the next few days, brief you on the local area and arrange a time to collect you and your fellow group members tomorrow.

If you have a morning arrival, why not join our optional half day Chennai City Tour which starts at around 12 midday.

OVERNIGHT:

Chennai hotel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

Extra night in Chennai - pre-tour
Single room supplement (INSGTS)


Day 2:   Travel to Pondicherry via the UNESCO listed Mahabalipuram Temples

From Chennai we'll take the coastal road south towards Pondicherry, stopping along the way to visit the incredible shore temple at Mahabalipuram.

The Mahabalipuram temples stand as a testament to the artistry and devotion of the ancient Pallava dynasty. These magnificent structures, carved directly into the rock face, boast intricate sculptures and reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The Shore Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, overlooks the Bay of Bengal, while other temples like Arjuna's Penance and the Five Rathas showcase a range of architectural styles. Mahabalipuram invites you to explore a world where history and spirituality collide, revealing the remarkable craftsmanship and vision of those who came before.

As we continue along the coast we'll arrive in Pondicherry where you'll have some free time in the evening to begin exploring. 

OVERNIGHT:

Pondicherry hotel

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

None


Day 3:   Exploring picturesque Pondicherry

Today is all about Pondicherry. We'll begin our exploration in the heart of Pondicherry's French Quarter (White Town). Stroll along tree-lined avenues admiring the elegant villas, quaint cafes, and restored colonial buildings. Next, it's time to seek tranquility at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community founded by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Learn about their philosophy and visit the peaceful courtyard which is used for meditation. We'll experience the vibrant Tamil culture at the Manakula Vinayagar temple, dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Witness traditional rituals and admire the ornate architecture on show here. We'll end the day by heading to the iconic Promenade Beach for a refreshing sea breeze. Take a leisurely stroll, admire the Gandhi Statue, and soak in the coastal energy.

Consider revisiting the French Quarter this evening where you'll be spoilt for dinner options!

OVERNIGHT:

Pondicherry hotel

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

None


Day 4:   Learn about local culture and arts at the Mohanam Cultural Centre. Drive to Tanjore

The Mohanam Cultural Centre, established in 2001, serves a rural village within the Kaluveli/Auroville region of coastal Tamil Nadu. Facing the challenges of globalization, the centre strives to preserve local culture by providing extracurricular activities that help young people connect with their heritage. Housed in a traditional village home, Mohanam offers creative arts classes, a creche/kindergarten, and evening tuition. Its mission is to document and revive endangered elements of the region's intangible heritage, including performing and martial arts, festival customs, and crafts. By identifying living practitioners and offering workshops and classes focused on Kummi, Kollattam, Tapattam, Silambam, and Koothu, the centre raises awareness and passes skills to the next generation. This vital work draws government and international attention, particularly through the Tamil Heritage Festival. Mohanam's programs celebrate the richness of Tamil culture while embracing contemporary influences. In addition to these vibrant arts initiatives, the centre fosters education with its innovative kindergarten program, empowers women through skills training and its Mohanam Malargal House, and actively contributes to community development projects focused on environmental safety, health, and hygiene.

After receiving a traditional welcome to the cultural centre, our visit will include an introductory tour of the village, a visit to their bamboo farm and lesson in Kolam making, a traditional dance and musical performance and a tamil style lunch which is typically served on banana leaves. 

Your Mohanam experience will leave you with a deep appreciation for the local culture, knowing your visit directly supports those the center helps. This afternoon, we head to Tanjore!

OVERNIGHT:

Tanjore hotel

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

None


Day 5:   Visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore. Afternoon drive to Madurai

Tanjore, nestled in the heart of Tamil Nadu, is a city steeped in history and artistic brilliance. Renowned as the cradle of Chola art and architecture, Tanjore's crown jewel is the magnificent Brihadeeswarar Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this will be the focus of our sightseeing this morning. This temple stands as a testament to the Chola dynasty's architectural prowess. With its towering vimana, intricate carvings, and the massive Nandi statue, it leaves visitors awestruck. 

In the afternoon we'll continue south to the city of Madurai. 

 

OVERNIGHT:

Madurai hotel

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

None


Day 6:   Visiting the Old City of Madurai, Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace and spiritual aarti ceremony

Madurai, an ancient city in Tamil Nadu, pulses with a unique blend of history, spirituality, and vibrant culture. Renowned as the "Athens of the East," Madurai was once the seat of the Tamil Sangams, promoting a rich literary tradition. The city's heart beats around the magnificent Meenakshi Amman Temple, an architectural masterpiece with towering gopurams, intricate carvings, and sacred rituals that draw pilgrims from across India. Madurai's streets, filled with the sweet fragrance of jasmine, lead to bustling bazaars where you can find colorful textiles, delicious street food, and echoes of the city's lively spirit. Madurai offers a window into India's rich heritage and a glimpse of a city steeped in tradition yet brimming with modern energy.

Our sightseeing in Madurai today will include the Old Town - where you can lose yourself in the maze of narrow streets lined with traditional homes, shops selling fragrant jasmine garlands, and small eateries serving up Madurai's famous street food, The Grand Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace and the centre piece of Madurai, the Meenakshi Amman Temple where we'll have time to explore and partake in the aarti ceremony this evening. 

OVERNIGHT:

Madurai hotel

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

None


Day 7:   Hop on the Indian Railway for the journey from Madurai to Chennai

Trains are the lifeblood of India, connecting people and places across the vast country. A train journey offers a unique glimpse into Indian life, culture, landscapes and you'll often meet interesting characters onboard. Today's journey from Madurai to Chennai takes approximately 6 hours and you'll have some free time in Chennai in the afternoon to catch up on any last minute shopping before your tour comes to an end tomorrow.

OVERNIGHT:

Chennai hotel

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

None


Day 8:   Bon Voyage! Transfer to Chennai Airport for departure.

You have some free time to buy any gifts for your loved ones back home before we transfer you to the airport to catch your flight back home. If one week wasn't enough, why not consider our South India Uncovered tour, which combines the best of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

OVERNIGHT:

N/A

MEALS:

Breakfast

EXTRAS:

Extra night in Chennai - post-tour


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Included:
  • All accommodation in mid-range hotels and heritage properties
  • All transport and transfers in AC vehicles
  • 24-hour airport arrival and departure transfer service
  • Sightseeing tours and activities as per the itinerary
  • The incredible Mahabalipuram shore temple
  • Pondicherry French Quarter, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Manakula Vinayagar Temple and Pondicherry beach
  • Learn about the culture and arts of the region at the Mohanam Cultural Center
  • Tanjore's awe-inspiring Brihadeeswarar Temple
  • Ancient Madurai, Old Town tour, Meenakshi Amman Temple, Aarti Ceremony
  • Madurai to Chennai rail journey
  • Entrance Fees for included sightseeing
  • Services of a local tour leader and specialist local guides
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary

Excluded:
  • International flights (available on request)
  • Visa fees
  • Travel insurance (compulsory, available on request)
  • Meals not indicated in the itinerary
  • Drinks, snacks and other personal expenses (e.g. laundry)
  • Tips for driver and/or tour guide
  • Any other items not mentioned above
Notes:

Similar tours:
The following tours also feature this trip as part of an extended itinerary:

  • Southern India Uncovered - follows the same itinerary but includes an additional extension to explore the tropical state of of Kerala
  • Mumbai Express - if you would also like to visit Mumbai, why not consider our Mumbai Express tour which can be booked to start on any date

Dates and Prices

We have regular group departures, limited to 12 passengers throughout the year. If you'd like to take the tour on a private basis, please contact us for a quotation.

Start Date
End Date
Price (P/P)
Offer price
Note

16th of Apr 2024

23rd of Apr 2024

$1190.00

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14th of May 2024

21st of May 2024

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11th of Jun 2024

18th of Jun 2024

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16th of Jul 2024

23rd of Jul 2024

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13th of Aug 2024

20th of Aug 2024

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17th of Sep 2024

24th of Sep 2024

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15th of Oct 2024

22nd of Oct 2024

$1190.00

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19th of Nov 2024

26th of Nov 2024

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17th of Dec 2024

24th of Dec 2024

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14th of Jan 2025

21st of Jan 2025

$1190.00

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18th of Feb 2025

25th of Feb 2025

$1190.00

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11th of Mar 2025

18th of Mar 2025

$1190.00

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Accommodation

The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often use 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.

The Residency Hotel

The Residency Hotel

Chennai

Local rating

Our rating

 The Residency Hotel The Residency Hotel

The Residency Chennai offers a luxurious stay with its elegant ambiance, top-notch amenities, and exceptional service.

GUEST ROOMS

At the hotel all rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a safety deposit box and a private bathroom with a shower, free toiletries and a hairdryer. 

FACILITIES

The Residency Hotel in Chennai offers a range of facilities designed to elevate your stay. Guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property, a well-equipped fitness center to stay active, and a selection of restaurants and pubs for delicious dining experiences.

The Residency Chennai offers a luxurious stay with its elegant ambiance, top-notch amenities, and exceptional service.

GUEST ROOMS

At the hotel all rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a safety deposit box and a private bathroom with a shower, free toiletries and a hairdryer. 

FACILITIES

The Residency Hotel in Chennai offers a range of facilities designed to elevate your stay. Guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property, a well-equipped fitness center to stay active, and a selection of restaurants and pubs for delicious dining experiences.

Hotel Atithi

Hotel Atithi

Pondicherry

Local rating

Our rating

 Hotel Atithi Hotel Atithi

Hotel Atithi in Pondicherry is a great choice for travelers looking for a relaxing stay with comfortable accommodations. Guests can unwind in warm rooms and suites, take a dip in the outdoor pool, or enjoy a delicious meal at the rooftop restaurant. The hotel also offers a complimentary breakfast to get your day started.

GUEST ROOMS

Leisure travelers will find the perfect retreat in the Executive Rooms at Hotel Atithi - TGI Grand, Pondicherry. These well-appointed rooms feature all the modern comforts, including free Wi-Fi, television, air conditioning, and more, ensuring a hassle-free stay.

Hotel Atithi in Pondicherry is a great choice for travelers looking for a relaxing stay with comfortable accommodations. Guests can unwind in warm rooms and suites, take a dip in the outdoor pool, or enjoy a delicious meal at the rooftop restaurant. The hotel also offers a complimentary breakfast to get your day started.

GUEST ROOMS

Leisure travelers will find the perfect retreat in the Executive Rooms at Hotel Atithi - TGI Grand, Pondicherry. These well-appointed rooms feature all the modern comforts, including free Wi-Fi, television, air conditioning, and more, ensuring a hassle-free stay.

Hotel Sangam

Hotel Sangam

Tanjore

Local rating

Our rating

 Hotel Sangam Hotel Sangam

The Sangam Hotel in Tanjore is a 3-star hotel with warmly decorated rooms. The hotel offers breakfast in the on site restaurant and features an outdoor pool and on-site dining.

GUEST ROOMS

The executive room is perfect for travellers and tourists who maybe out visiting and travelling during the daytime and want to come back to a safe and comfortable facility to stay the night. The room offers all the comforts that are expected from a 3 star rated facility.

The Sangam Hotel in Tanjore is a 3-star hotel with warmly decorated rooms. The hotel offers breakfast in the on site restaurant and features an outdoor pool and on-site dining.

GUEST ROOMS

The executive room is perfect for travellers and tourists who maybe out visiting and travelling during the daytime and want to come back to a safe and comfortable facility to stay the night. The room offers all the comforts that are expected from a 3 star rated facility.

JC Residency

JC Residency

Madurai

Local rating

Our rating

 JC Residency JC Residency

GUEST ROOMS

The JC Residency in Madurai offers elegant rooms with rich wood furnishings, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and a flat screen TV. Some rooms are even equipped with a mini refrigerator, tea and coffee maker, and an electronic safe

FACILITIES

Free Wi-Fi: Stay connected throughout the hotel. Swimming Pool: Relax and cool down with a refreshing swim. Fitness Center: Maintain your workout routine while on the go. Free Breakfast: Start your day with a complimentary meal.

Restaurants: Enjoy on-site dining options.
Spa: Rejuvenate with massage and wellness treatments.

GUEST ROOMS

The JC Residency in Madurai offers elegant rooms with rich wood furnishings, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and a flat screen TV. Some rooms are even equipped with a mini refrigerator, tea and coffee maker, and an electronic safe

FACILITIES

Free Wi-Fi: Stay connected throughout the hotel. Swimming Pool: Relax and cool down with a refreshing swim. Fitness Center: Maintain your workout routine while on the go. Free Breakfast: Start your day with a complimentary meal.

Restaurants: Enjoy on-site dining options.
Spa: Rejuvenate with massage and wellness treatments.

Options

Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination you‘re 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.

Single room supplement (INSGTS)

From $360*

Single room supplement (INSGTS)

Min numbers: 1 *Based on 1 person/s


This tour is based on twin-share accommodation, with single bookers paired up with another traveller of the same sex in the group. If the final group make-up means that no room share is available, you do not need to pay this supplement. However, if you would like to guarantee yourself a single room throughout the tour, then please add this option to your booking.

Note: Single supplement prices may vary seasonally.

Extra night in Chennai - pre-tour

From $60*

Extra night in Chennai - pre-tour

Min numbers: 1 *Based on 2 person/s


This option adds an extra day to the start of your tour, staying in the same hotel as the main tour itself (subject to availability). Your airport arrival transfer is still included. Prices shown are per person and based on two people sharing.

Note: Single room and peak season supplements apply.

Extra night in Chennai - post-tour

From $60*

Extra night in Chennai - post-tour

Min numbers: 1 *Based on 2 person/s


This option adds an extra day to the end of your tour, staying in the same hotel as the main tour itself (subject to availability). Your airport departure transfer is still included. Prices shown are per person and based on two people sharing.

Note: Single room and peak season supplements apply.

Tour Notes

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.

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  1. Accommodation

We use good quality hotels rated at the Indian 3 to 4-star level on this tour.
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 tour.

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.

 


  2. Transport

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 a journey on India's famous railway network. The journey from Madurai to Chennai takes around 6 hours and we book 2nd Class AC chair seats. You will be shown to your seat in the departure station and met on the platform on arrival in Chennai. Delays of up to an hour are quite common. Tickets are issued 120 days before departure. If you book within that time we cannot guarantee that you will be seated with other travellers, though the train stewards are normally very helpful and will arrange seat swaps with other people on the train, who are normally very accommodating.


  3. Transfers

The tour price includes a 24-hour airport meet & assist service in Kochi airport, your arrival and departure airport-hotel transfers and all other transfers.


  4. Group Size/Tour Leaders/Guides

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 throughout the whole loop from Kochi/Munnar/Thekkady/Kumarakom/Kochi. On groups of 4 or more, a guide will accompany you for the duration of the tour, for groups of 2 to 3, you will have a driver and local guides in each city.

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.


  5. Entrance Fees

The tour price includes the cost of entrance fees for all sightseeing included on this tour. 


  6. Dates & Prices

We run small-group departures on our Indian tours throughout the year.  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.


  7. Booking & Payment

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.


  8. Financial Security

We are a UK registered company and are committed to providing our customers with financial protection to provide peace of mind and to allow you to book with confidence.
We have therefore partnered with Trust My Travel Ltd., which provides financial protection services to over 2000 partners around the world. Funds paid to us by our customers are protected via an Insurance policy held by Trust My Travel. Each traveller and the description of services sold is declared against Trust My Travel’s insurance policy directly against our financial failure. In the event of our insolvency, you will be refunded for any unfulfilled products and/or repatriation to the UK (where applicable). Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.


  9. Responsible Tourism

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.

  • Don't prejudge: Things in different countries will almost certainly be different. That doesn't make them worse or inferior, just different.
  • Communicate: Don't expect locals to speak your language. Take the trouble to learn a few words or phrases of the local language. Don't worry about sounding silly. Most locals are patient and accommodating and appreciate you making the effort to communicate in their language.
  • Conserve energy: Be careful not to waste valuable resources. Use local resources sparingly. Switch off lights, air-conditioning and fans when you leave the hotel room and don't waste water. Remove superfluous packaging. Many countries have far less efficient waste disposal systems than ours. Remove packaging from newly acquired items before leaving home.
  • Don't litter: No matter how untidy or dirty the country you're travelling in may look to you, avoid littering, as there is no need to add to the environment's stress. Many of the countries we visit have a tough challenge dealing with rubbish and waste. Please consider taking home as much plastic waste as you can (e.g. water bottles).
  • Choose environmentally friendly products: By using environmentally friendly (bio degradable) sun creams, shampoos and detergents you can help reduce pollution.
  • Respect local customs and traditions: As you are a guest in these countries, you should also comply with the local customs. If you are friendly and well mannered, the locals will reciprocate and it will only enhance your experience. It's important to follow dress and behaviour guidelines especially when visiting religious or sacred sites (your tour leader will advise you how best to do this).
  • If a client commits an illegal act the client may be excluded from the tour and Encounters Travel shall cease to have responsibility to/for them. No refund will be given for any unused services.

All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).


  10. Follow Us Online

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.facebook.com/encounterstravel
www.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')


  11. Travel Insurance

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.

Covid-19
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


  12. International Flights

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. 

Flight CO2 Emissions:

Traveling by air is an amazing way to explore the world, but flights also contribute to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that impact the environment. By considering the airline's CO2 emissions when you choose your flight, you can help minimize your travel footprint.

When selecting your international flights and airline, we do therefore recommend that you try and also take into account the flight CO2 emissions. Some airlines and flight search websites (eg. Google Flights, Skyscanner) do publish this information, so you can compare between your flight options and make an informed decision. Thankfully, many airlines are working towards sustainability efforts, and choosing a greener option allows you to contribute to positive change while still enjoying your incredible adventure.


  13. Tipping and Haggling

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.


  14. Health and Vaccinations - India

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 this US CDC information about where the virus is present and follow the links to further information detailing which countries need you to have a Yellow Fever vaccination as part of their entry requirements. 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.


  15. Passports and Visas - India

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 at indiavisaonline

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.


  16. Voltage

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.


  17. Time

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.


  18. Before you travel

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.

'Travel Aware' campaign


  19. What to take

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.


  20. Money

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.


  21. Reduce Plastic Waste with Water-to-Go Filter bottles

Traveling responsibly means minimizing plastic waste, but staying hydrated on the go is essential. At Encounters Travel we are committed to reducing single-use plastics, which is why we've partnered with Water-to-Go. Their portable filtration system removes over 99.9% of contaminants from any non-saltwater source, turning even questionable water sources into safe drinking water.

Given that tap water is un-safe to drink in many of the countries in which we operate, we recommend purchasing a Water-to-Go bottle prior to departure. This will help you avoid the use of single use plastic bottles and keep you hydrated on the go.

Save big! Get a huge 25% off your Water-to-Go bottle and other Water-to-Go products (such as filters, lids, and carriers). Use code ENCOUNTERS25 at checkout (valid in the UK, USA and Canada).

How Water-to-Go Technology works:

  • Their reusable, BPA free water bottles contain their own unique 3-in-1 filtration technology effectively providing clean safe drinking water from any non-salt water source around the world.
  • Three different (1 traditional and 2 nano) technologies are combined in one filter cartridge to remove up to 99.9999% of microbiological contaminants in water.

The three technologies used in a Water-to-Go filter are:

  • Mechanical filtration – A tiny pore size, so small contaminants can’t fit through.
  • Electrical – A positive charge reduces the pore size even further and attracts contaminants like a magnet, trapping them inside the filter.
  • Activated Carbon – Unlike most carbon based filters, instead of using adhesives to glue the carbon particles together, (which vastly reduces the carbon’s efficiency) it is contained within the membrane, helping to reduce contaminants whilst eliminating bad tastes and odours. Try filtering water from your tap at home and taste the difference!

Water-to-Go filter bottles deliver safe, healthy water worldwide

  • Water-to-Go filters remove bacteria, viruses, waterborne disease, protozoa, heavy metals such as lead as well as harmful chemicals.
  • Their filters remove Chlorine and Fluoride from tap water.
  • The filter will eliminate harmful contaminants from the water but allow beneficial minerals such as sodium and magnesium to pass through leaving you with the healthiest water possible.
  • Water-to-Go filters have been independently tested against internationally recognised standards by industry specialists including The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (UK), BCS Laboratories (USA), Bangalore Test House (India) and IMI (China).

Use Water-to-Go products and you’ll be healthier, wealthier and helping to make the world a better place!

  • Depending on filter size, each Water-to-Go filter is able to replace 260 or 400 single-use plastic water bottles!
  • They ensure you have access to safe water anywhere in the world without ever having to buy environmentally damaging bottled water.
  • Their water bottles deliver safe, clean drinking water at just 5p per litre.
  • The filter membrane is biodegradable and the shrouds are recyclable.
  • The water bottles are used and approved by everyone from backpackers to commuters, gym users to expecting mums. Perfect for everyday, outdoor and travel.

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