Tour type: Small Group
Group size: Min: 2 | Max: 12
Accommodation: 3 to 4-star hotels and heritage properties
Transport: A/C minivan/minibus and sleeper train
Highlights: Old and New Delhi, Pink city of Jaipur, Tordi Garh, Abhaneri step well, Keoladeo NP, Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal at sunrise, Agra Fort, River Ganges at Varanasi, Buddhist site at Sarnath
This 12-day northern India tour finishes with two days exploring the Holy City of Varanasi on the banks of the River Ganges, after exploring Jaipur, rural Rajasthan and Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. This India tour starts in the capital city, Delhi, with tours of both the old and new sides of this bustling city, now home to over 18 million people. We then head south into the arid state of Rajasthan, home to impressive forts and palaces, colourful saris and jewellery, and fascinating Indian history. We'll visit the Amber Fort, City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory in the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, as well as exploring its famous craft and produce markets. Our next stop is the small and remote village of Tordi where we stay in a converted palace and explore the village and surroundings, getting a real feel for rural Indian life.
We turn east next and drive via the huge Chand Baori stepwell at Abanheri to Keoladeo National Park where we'll take a guided cycle rickshaw ride to see the huge variety of birdlife and other wildlife there. A tour of the eerily well preserved and deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri is next en-route to Agra, home to the incomparable Taj Mahal, the world's most famous monument to love. We continue the tour's theme of mixing unmissable tourist sites with activities and experiences more off the beaten track by taking a Mughal Heritage Walk with a local villager through farmland and homesteads on the opposite bank of the Yamuna River to the Taj Mahal. This tour supports the local community and provides a fascinating insight into village life in Agra as well as providing great views of the Taj not normally seen.
We'll see the Taj Mahal close up at sunrise as the changing morning light brings the building to life in different hues and colours. A further tour of Agra Fort and some less visited parts of the city follows before we take to India's famous railway network for an overnight sleeper train journey to Varanasi. One of the world's oldest living cities, Varanasi is also considered one of India's holiest and is an especially auspicious place for Hindus to make a pilgrimage to bathe in the waters of the River Ganges. While in Varanasi, we'll take an early morning boat trip on the river, take part in an evening Aarti ceremony giving candlelit offerings to the river, enjoy a home-cooked meal with a muslim family, explore a weavers village famous for making some of the best saris in the whole of India, and visit Sarnath, where the Lord Buddha preached his first sermon.
Another sleeper train journey then takes us back to Delhi to finish the India tour (flight upgrades are available if preferred). Accommodation is in a mix of comfortable mid-range modern-style hotels and heritage hotels converted from Havelis and Palaces. An extended version of this tour is also available which heads north from Varanasi into Nepal (check our Delhi to Kathmadu tour for details).
Your Incredible India Tour starts in the capital city of Delhi. One of our local staff members will be waiting to greet you at the airport, before transferring you to your hotel. You'll have some time to settle in, before we run you through the tour itinerary, introduce you to the local area and discuss a time to collect you tomorrow.
Single room supplement (INSGTV)
Extra day in Delhi - pre-tour
Today we'll make our way to the city of New Delhi, nestled on the banks of the Yamuna River. New Delhi was announced as India's new capital in 2012, taking the title from Calcutta.
Our tour of New Delhi begins at a 42-metre high archway known as India Gate, often compared to Paris's Arc de Triomphe. Since New Delhi is the home of India's government, we'll explore its buildings, such as the Parliament of India and the President's Palace. We'll also pass the Humayun's Tomb and the Bangla Sahab Gurudwara Sikh Temple, a Sikh house of worship, known for its pool inside its complex called the 'Sarovar'.
You'll then go to Connaught Place Station to board a metro train to Old Delhi, where we'll explore the busy market of Chandni Chowk and the Chawri Bazar, renowned for its paper, copper and brass creations.
Once afternoon comes around, your guide will take you on a street food journey where you'll eat like a local, trying all the unique snacks and delicacies - a great introduction to Indian cuisine. Once you're full, you'll hop into to a rickshaw to explore Old Delhi a little more, before stopping to view the Jama Masjid Mosque, one of the largest mosques in India.
Your next stop on your Incredible India tour is the 'Pink City' of Jaipur - the largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
You'll visit Amber Fort, an ancient sandstone fortress built in the 16th century atop a hill to commemorate the ruling Kachhawa clan of Amber. Take in its beautiful architecture and rich history, as you explore its massive fortress walls and its marble palace.
You'll then go for a Lassi tasting, a rich-tasting yogurt drink often flavored with ground and roasted cumin. It's the perfect pairing with spicy foods and is made in two ways - either sweet or salty.
After an action-packed day, you'll check into your hotel for the night. You have an option to head out this evening to watch a Bollywood movie at the Raj Mandir cinema.
Today, you have an early morning option of flying above Jaipur in a hot air balloon, giving you a bird's eye view of the Pink City's beautiful architecture.
If you decided to sleep in, your day starts with a tour of Jaipur, exploring its top attractions such as the unique Jantar Mantar monument - the biggest astronomical observatory in India, built in 1724 by Raja Jai Singh II. We'll also visit the courtyards and manicured gardens of the City Palace - which was once the royal seat of the King of Jaipur and the leader of the Kachwaha Rajput clan.
You'll have lunch, before exploring we head out into the city to witness Jaipur's popular craft markets. Here, we'll watch craftsmen such as jewellers, silversmiths and bangle-makers do what they do best, creating all sorts of unique items that the locals love. We'll also make our way to its busy fruit, vegetable and spice markets.
Hot air balloon in Jaipur
Today, you'll explore the rural Rajasthan village of Tordi, which was built in the 16th century by Th. Akhey Singh, a descendant of the Khangar Singh, who overthrew the regional chief and built a hilltop fortress here. Its ruins can still be seen today. The family still lives in the palace and in a fort built on the plains below. We'll stay in a wing of the palace that has been customised for guests.
We'll then explore the village, engaging with the locals as we visit a temple, a school, and a potter's house. You can also choose to do some optional activities, such as camel cart riding, a jeep safari to a 300-year-old step well, a visit to a shepherds village, watch the sun go down at the Tordi Sagar Dam or if you're looking to do something more strenuous, a hike to the 400-year old Tordi Fort for snacks and drinks. Horse riding and henna hand art activities are also available.
Tordi Garh hotel
Say goodbye to Tordi as we make our way to Bharatpur to visit the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, one of the best birdwatching locations in India.
On our way, we'll stop at the Abhaneri step well, which has 3,500 steps and is 13 stories deep, making it the largest and deepest step well on the planet.
Once you arrive, you'll check into your accommodation before going on a guided cycle rickshaw ride through Keoladeo, which was once a duck hunting reserve but has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with over 360 species of birds calling this sanctuary home.
Keoladeo is also a stopover for the birds who partake in the Central Asian migration, especially for wintering water birds and the endangered Siberian Crane and its huge heronry which in good years can host more than 20,000 nesting birds of various species.
The national park is also home to other wildlife such as wild boar, black buck, sambar, chital, mongoose, porcupine, several different wild cats, and some huge pythons.
Hotel next to Keoladeo National Park
Today we'll make our way to the ancient city of Agra - the home of the most famous mausoleum on the planet - the Taj Mahal.
Agra was once the capital of the Mughal between 1572 and 1585 and is the only Indian city to have three UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
Once you've checked into your hotel and settled it, your afternoon will be spent exploring the Mughal Heritage Walk through the ancient village of Kachhpura and surrounding farmland on the banks of the Yamuna River, which will provide you with spectacular views of the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.
The Mughal Heritage walk was designed by a non-governmental organization who provides employment and new infrastructure to the locals. You'll also be given a tour of the village life and the homes of the locals who live here as well as getting a unique insight into the local cottage industry for leather shoe making which helps Agra export shoes all over the world. You'll also visit some of the lesser known, but still important Mughal Era Monuments.
As the day comes to an end, we'll visit the Mehtab Bagh Park, which one of 11 parks created by Emperor Babur on the east banks of the Yamuna River, before taking in the spectacular sight of the Taj Mahal at sunset.
This evening you have an option to join a Hindu family for a vegetarian Thali cooking lesson and meal tonight before settling in at your hotel for the night.
Cook with a Hindu family in Agra
Today we'll start early to witness one of the wonders of the world at sunrise - the Taj Mahal. Created by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan over the period of 22 years, witnessing the magnificence of the Taj Mahal at sunrise is spectacular. As the light changes gradually, so does the colour of the Taj Mahal.
We'll then have breakfast before visiting the Agra Fort - a huge complex which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty till 1638 before the capital was moved from Agra to Delhi. The Agra Fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the afternoon comes around, we'll continue to explore Agra, this time from the back of an electric rickshaw, enjoying the incredible culture and cuisine that the city has to offer. This tour gives you an authentic view of Agra, taking you to its old bazaars, traditional eateries and its places of worship.
We'll start at the gurdwara near the Taj Mahal, before visiting Dara Shikoh's library, Mirza Ghalib's birthplace, the home of the Radhasoami faith, the ancient Manka Meshwar Temple, the Jama Masjid as well as Asia's oldest convent, St. Patrick's Junior College. We'll also pass the busy Johri Bazar, the paan mandi, the petha mandi and the chaat-pakori street of Seth Gali.
After an action-packed afternoon, a day-use room is available for you to freshen up before we transfer to the station to board an overnight train to Varanasi, the next stop on our Indian adventure.
Overnight sleeper train to Varanasi
Once we arrive in Varanasi, we'll have a tasty breakfast, before making our way to visit the Sarai Mohana Weavers Village. Sarai Mohana is famous for its silk weaving and most of the locals here are involved in the craft. The Banarasi sarees made by these waivers are among the finest and most expensive saris in the whole of India. We'll also visit Chiraigaon Village, famous for its pickles, jams and guavas.
As night falls, we head to the holy Ganges River for the evening Aarti ceremony, a devotional Hindu ritual which involves numerous small candles being lit inside cups made from leaves and flowers and floated down the river. Varanasi is one of India's holiest cities and we get our first taste here of how important the city and the Ganges River is to the country's Hindu population.
Our second day in Varanasi starts with an early morning boat ride along the Ganges River, as we explore the city. The Ganges is a constant hive of activity throughout the day, as hordes of people come to pray and immerse themselves in its spiritually cleansing waters. The city is also considered an extremely auspicious place to die, and many people come to Varanasi to spend their final days. We'll see many funeral pyres on the ghats at the edge of the river as we pass by on the water.
We'll then go on a walking tour of the city, exploring its medieval streets, intricate temples and busy markets, abuzz with the general cacophony of Indian life. After exploring the old city, we'll make our way to a local Hindu Brahaman family, which has 14 members living under one roof. Here, we'll be given a cooking master class of Indian cuisine, before having lunch with the family.
This afternoon we take the short trip to the ancient Buddhist site at Sarnath where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after becoming enlightened. In the evening we transfer to the train station to catch another overnight sleeper train to Delhi (approx. 12 1/2 hrs). If you prefer, you can spend an extra night in the hotel in Varanasi and fly to Delhi tomorrow morning instead.
Overnight sleeper train to Delhi
Varanasi to Delhi flight upgrade
You arrive in Delhi this morning where we meet you and transfer you to your hotel for breakfast. The rest of the day is free to do as you please. A range of half-day tour options are available to pre-book, or you can just do some final shopping or sightseeing independently.
Salam Balak Trust walk
You have some free time in Delhi this morning until we transfer you to the airport in plenty of time for your flight home. You could also consider adding to go on safari looking for tigers in Ranthambore National Park, or head to the beach at Goa for some sun, sea and relaxation, Indian style.
Ranthambore National Park Safari
Extra day in Delhi - post-tour
Spinmonkey cycling tour
The following tours also connect with this trip on a similar shortened or extended itinerary:
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.
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.
A heritage hotel, Khandela Haveli, is built like a traditional haveli and elegantly decorated. It features a rooftop restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.
A heritage hotel, Khandela Haveli, is built like a traditional haveli and elegantly decorated. It features a rooftop restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.
Nearby attractions include the large and exotic palaces of Hawa Mahal and City Palace that are within 5 km. Khandela Haveli is located 1.5 km from Jaipur Railway Station and 14 km from Jaipur Airport.
The rooms are tastefully decorated and cooled with air-conditioned. They are equipped with a minibar, sofa and satellite TV. Tea/coffee making facilities are available. The en suite bathrooms include shower.
With a 24-hour front desk, the property provides services like luggage storage, laundry and ironing. A tour desk is available to make travel arrangements. A car can be rented to explore the area. Guests can take a relaxing stroll in the garden.
The in-house restaurant serves local and Indian cuisines. The rooftop bar serves refreshing beverages. Room service option is available.
Tordi Garh is one of Rajasthan's famous heritage hotels, and is located in the small village of Tordi in the heart of rural Rajasthan. The ancestral family has converted one wing of the former palace into comfortable guest accommodations.
Tordi Garh is one of Rajasthan's famous heritage hotels, and is located in the small village of Tordi in the heart of rural Rajasthan. The ancestral family has converted one wing of the former palace into comfortable guest accommodations. The family still lives there and will be your hosts during your stay.
The hotel has 23 rooms of various sizes, each with its own ethnic and heritage charm. All are en-suite, well appointed and comfortable, with air conditioning or cooling available in the summer and heating in the winter. Meals served are traditionally Indian and guests are welcome in the kitchen to watch and learn about the intricacies of Indian cooking. Home grown vegetables, dairy products, poultry and supplies from other farmers in the village are used, and the stables host horses, cows, goats and hens. The hotel arranges jeep safaris, camel cart and horse rides, and walks to the nearby sand dunes and fort as well as other local options to help you interact with your surroundings and enjoy your time there to the full.
The Kadamb Kunj Resort is a friendly and comfortable mid-range hotel located on the edge of Keoladeo National Park with open fields and farmland to the other side.
The Kadamb Kunj Resort is a friendly and comfortable mid-range hotel located on the edge of Keoladeo National Park with open fields and farmland to the other side. Well reviewed, it has a swimming pool and pleasant gardens with 45 en-suite rooms surrounding an open air courtyard.
The entrance to Keoladeo National Park is just a couple of kilometres away making this a great base for you visit there before heading onto nearby Agra.
Seven Hills Tower Hotel
Seven Hills Tower is situated in the Taj Ganj district in Agra, 1 miles from Taj Mahal and 1.3 miles from Mehtab Bagh. The hotel has a year-round outdoor pool and views of the city, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Seven Hills Tower is situated in the Taj Ganj district in Agra, 1 miles from Taj Mahal and 1.3 miles from Mehtab Bagh. The hotel has a year-round outdoor pool and views of the city, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Free private parking is available on site.
Every room at this hotel is air conditioned and comes with a flat-screen TV. Certain rooms feature a seating area where you can relax. You will find a kettle in the room. Each room is equipped with a private bathroom. Seven Hills Tower features free WiFi throughout the property.
Travelling by train in India is a great way to see and experience more of the country on one of the worldâ€™s most extensive railway networks. On our small-group tours we aim to book seats in the AC2 class (2nd class air-conditioned carriage).
Travelling by train in India is a great way to see and experience more of the country on one of the world’s most extensive railway networks. On our small-group tours we aim to book seats in the AC2 class (2nd class air-conditioned carriage). This is relatively clean, comfortable and not overcrowded. You get a padded seat during the day which the carriage steward will convert into a flat padded bunk with pillows, sheets and blankets in the evening. There are no separate self-contained compartments, with the layout more open plan with curtained bays of four bunks on one side of the aisle (two upper and two lower) and two arranged along the wall of the carriage across the aisle from there. Meals and drinks are available on board.
Due to the huge distances some trains cover, Indian trains are subject to delays and on an overnight journey of around 12 hours a delay of an hour is not unusual. Delays 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 berth next to other people in the group, though the carriage stewards are generally very helpful in arranging to swap you with another traveller. Flight upgrades are available on some journeys on request.
Hotel Hindustan International
Just 0.6 miles from the Varanasi Railway Station, Hindusthan International offers easy access to the holy city's religious sites in Maldahiya. It boasts an outdoor pool, business centre and 3 dining options.
Just 0.6 miles from the Varanasi Railway Station, Hindusthan International offers easy access to the holy city's religious sites in Maldahiya. It boasts an outdoor pool, business centre and 3 dining options.
Offering modern decor and wooden flooring, air-conditioned rooms feature cable TV, a fridge and tea/coffee maker. Private bathrooms have a heated shower and toiletries.
Hotel Hindusthan International, Varanasi is 12.4 miles from Varanasi Airport. It provides car hire services and free parking.
Leisurely afternoons can be spent strolling through the open-air lawn or with a salon treatment. The hotel houses a shopping arcade and provides same-day laundry service.
Offering courtyard dining underneath the stars, Aangan serves up hearty North Indian specialities. Atrium Cafe offers varied Western and international menus while Windsor Bar is ideal for an after-meal cocktail.
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 tour.
Accommodation is based on twin or double en-suite rooms with air conditioning. All couples will receive a private double room. See the Transport notes for details on the sleeper train accommodation.
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 two overnight journeys on India's famous railway network, from Agra to Varanasi, and Varanasi to Delhi. We aim to book seats in the AC2 class (2nd class air-conditioned carriage). This is relatively clean, comfortable and not overcrowded. You get a padded seat during the day which the carriage steward will convert into a flat padded bunk with pillows, sheets and blankets in the evening. There are no separate self-contained compartments, with the layout more open plan with curtained bays of four bunks on one side of the aisle (two upper and two lower) and two arranged along the wall of the carriage across the aisle from there. Meals and drinks are available on board.
Due to the huge distances some trains cover, Indian trains are subject to delays and on these overnight journeys of around 12 hours a delay of an hour is not unusual. Delays 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 berth next to other people in the group, though the carriage stewards are generally very helpful in arranging to swap you with another traveller. Flight upgrades are available for the Varanasi to Delhi journey if you feel that one sleeper train journey is enough.
The tour price includes a 24-hour airport meet & assist service in New Delhi airport, your arrival and departure airport-hotel transfers and all other transfers.
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 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 Delhi through to Agra where you will be shown to your seat on the train. You will then be met on arrival in Varanasi station by your guide for the stay there. Additional specialist local guides are used for some of the sightseeing tours and national park 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$139 per person to cover these entrance fees (this includes one visit to the Taj Mahal). 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.