Passports and Visas

You’ll need to get a visa before travelling to India. You can find further information about how to apply on the Indian High Commission websites

London
Washington

Nationals of USA, Canada, United Kingdom are now able to apply for an e-Visa for tourism visits. Further details and links to apply for your e-Visa online can be found by following the link here.

Please be careful as there are several other websites out there purporting to offer the e-Visa.

Please send through your e-Visa confirmation numbers to info@thebigjourneycompany.com

India’s Bureau of Immigration has announced that with immediate effect, foreign nationals who arrive at an Indian port holding non-machine-readable passports will be denied entry. Carriers who transport non-Indian passengers holding non-machine-readable passports may be subject to a fine.

Your passport must remain valid for at least 6 months beyond the completion of your trip. It is also imperative that your passport has enough blank pages (excluding amendment pages) available for entry and exit stamps issued when entering and exiting immigration points. It is each traveller's responsibility to obtain all documents necessary for admittance to India and Nepal.

Prior to travelling to India, you should contact the nearest Indian Embassy or
Consulate for the most current requirements and regulations as these are subject to change.

TRAVEL TIP: Photocopy the personal-information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and pack another separately from the passport itself. We have to hand over our passports at each hotel and whilst we have never lost a passport, having a copy helps if anyone’s passports are ever mislaid or lost.

Nepal Visas

Visas are available on arrival at Kathmandu. You can pay in cash in USD at the airport. Please bring two passport-sized photos with you.

Arrival in India Information

India requires all visitors to complete a Disembarkation Card, which will require general name and nationality information plus your flight and visa numbers. Please have the address of the first hotel to hand: Le Méridien New Delhi. Windsor Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, India. +91 11 2371 0101.

You should then exit through the “Green Channel” unless you are in possession of a video camera, telescope, tape recorder or multiple cameras. In this latter case you should stop to obtain a Tourist Baggage Re-Export Form. When collected at the end of your trip, this form will allow you to leave the country without paying export duty on declared items.

Tipping

The “tipping culture” is deeply entrenched in India and Nepal and tipping is expected by most people involved with the tourist industry. It is not mandatory but is an important source of income in India and Nepal.

Feedback from previous tours has led us to suggest an overall tips package for your journey where we would take care of tipping throughout which would include tips at restaurants where the meal is included, your driver, your local tour guide as well as hotel and support staff. For 2018 the Dramatic India the tips are USD 175 per person and for those doing the Nepal extension the tips for Nepal are USD 40 per person – payable in cash in USD to your Tour Director on Day 1. You will receive a receipt for your tips payment(s).

Travel Insurance

Travel protection and medical insurance must be arranged before departure.
Check with your health care provider regarding the terms of your coverage (or lack of coverage) outside your country, including emergency medical evacuation. Inform them that you will be travelling to India (and Nepal). We recommend that all travellers purchase adequate trip cancellation/interruption, medical and baggage insurance—and carry the details of their coverage on tour. Please make sure to write down important information such as the insurance company’s telephone number and your policy number.

Weather

When we are in India, the weather in India is beginning to cool off after the intense heat of summer, with daily average highs of around 34°c. Early morning starts and evenings in Ranthambore National Park are likely to be cool. Little cloud or rain is experienced at this time of the year.

The weather and visibility in Nepal during October are perfect for visiting. Average temperatures are markedly cooler than in India, with a daily average of around 20°c.

What to Wear

Pack breathable, light coloured, light weight wrinkle-resistant clothing and enough underwear and socks so that frequent laundry is not necessary. Conservative clothing such as lightweight pants, loose shorts, long skirts or trousers and at least short-sleeved shirts are recommended for both sexes when sightseeing in towns. Somewhat smarter, but still casual clothing is appropriate for evening dining in city restaurant/hotels. Formal clothing like suits and formal dresses are not necessary.

When visiting temples, mosques and other religious sites both sexes should cover their arms, legs and shoulders. Wear or carry a pair of socks, since shoes must be removed when entering religious buildings. Women should pack a scarf large enough to cover bare neck and shoulders.

In Nepal, a jumper and light jacket will be useful as evenings will be much cooler. A “layered approach” is what we’d recommend; being able to add layers of clothing which can then be removed as necessary.

• A lightweight waterproof jacket and a small umbrella;
• swimming suit: many hotels have swimming pools;
• sweater or lightweight jacket for evenings and fiercely air-conditioned interiors;
• comfortable walking shoes as well as sandals; sandals may not be appropriate for some sightseeing activities which we’ll let you know about ahead of time.
Note: A Laundry service is available at most hotels. If you do ask a hotel to do your laundry, it is a good idea to do this at hotels where we are staying more than one night so that they have time to get your clean laundry back to you before you depart.

What to pack

A good day pack should be big enough to hold your valuables, camera, and things you need while you are out and about.

Useful items to pack include:

• Notebook or journal
• Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, razor, feminine products and cosmetics
• Tissues and antibacterial wipes and antibacterial hand gel
• Basic first aid kit: medications for upset stomach, prescriptions, aspirin/suitable pain killers, antiseptic cream, cold medicine, vitamins, bandages,
• Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses
• Mini flashlight
• Converters, adapters, chargers and power cords
• Travel umbrella
• Camera, batteries and extra memory cards
• Medications and prescriptions
• Sunglasses, sun block and a sunhat, insect repellent containing 50% DEET
• Lightweight binoculars, useful for sightseeing

Staying Healthy

Please ensure that we are aware of any physical disability or frequent or on-going medical issues so that we can prepare as much as possible for them as travel in India and Nepal can be physically demanding. Problems which may affect balance, agility, stamina and/or respiratory difficulty, could affect your ability to travel comfortably and safely. You will need to be able to enter and exit a wide variety of transport vehicles, including the coach, jeeps and even elephants if you go for the elephant ride up to the Amber Fort. Roads may be rough, and temperatures extreme. Dust and other air impurities may be present in heavy concentrations, and colds, nasal congestion and sore throat may result.

Wearing high factor sunscreen, drinking bottled or treated water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.

We recommend that you see your travel health centre in person at least six weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information and appropriate vaccines as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.

Dengue fever is a viral disease, transmitted by mosquito bite. There is no vaccine. The disease is present mainly in the urban centres of tropical countries, including India and Nepal, as the mosquitoes which carry it tend to live in and around human dwellings. Your best defence is to avoid contact with mosquitoes, through the use of an insect repellent containing up to 50% formulation of the active ingredient DEET and wearing clothing that adequately covers the arms and legs.

Malaria is present in India and Nepal but is classified as low risk in the areas which this tour visits. Please consult a healthcare professional for current advice before travel. The old adage ‘prevention is the best cure’ also holds true. Use repellent and cover up at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are most active by wearing light coloured, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks, if possible.

IMPORTANT...

If you develop a bad headache, have aching joints, and recurring fevers and chills after your trip, advise your doctor that you have been in a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can sometimes be confused with flu symptoms.

Carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints. If you require a particular medication or prescription, take an adequate supply to last through your entire trip, as it may not be available locally. It is highly recommended that prescription medication be carried in its original container and that any over-the-counter medication be kept in its original packaging.

If you have special dietary requirements (vegetarian or vegan menus, food allergies, etc.) please advise us at least 6 weeks prior to the beginning of your journey so that we can be prepared.

Communications in India

Telephone Service: As is common around the world, hotels in your destinations may impose a hefty surcharge on international calls placed through their switchboards. We urge you to check hotel policy before placing any call through your hotel. To avoid hotel mark-ups use a calling card service, available from your local long-distance carrier. This allows you to place an international call to the United States and have the charges billed directly to your home phone or a credit card. Another option is the use of a prepaid phone card. Purchase these before you leave or buy them overseas, but be sure the card you get is valid for international calls.

Cell phones: You should be able to use your mobile phone in India, but it may be extremely expensive, particularly for data roaming. Do check with your own mobile phone provider before travel. Most hotels now provide free broadband or Wi-Fi service. In Asia, reception on any cell phone can be unreliable and unpredictable. In some locations, transmission is not possible at all.

Internet: Internet access is becoming more commonly available in India but can still be unreliable and slow.

Communications in Nepal

Telephone Service Nepal has one of the least developed telephone networks in the world but most hotels and towns do offer public telephones if you need to make a call.
Cell Phones Over the last few years the mobile/ cell phone network has improved considerably across Nepal. It is best to ask your mobile phone network provider about using your phone in Nepal.

Internet: Internet access is becoming more commonly available in Nepal but regular power cuts and infrastructure can make this difficult. Wi-Fi is available in some locations.

Time Zone

India operates on Greenwich Mean Time plus 5 hours and 30 minutes.
Nepal operates on Greenwich mean time plus 5 hours and 45 minutes.

Currency and Money in India

USD are widely accepted and some members have travelled on this journey without exchanging money into the local currency, although smaller stall holders will only accept Rupees. You can exchange money into Rupees on arrival at the airport.
India's unit of currency is the Indian Rupee, divided into 100 Paise. Large banks offer the best exchange rates. Cash is the best (generally the only) option in street markets. Exchange currency only at authorised outlets such as banks and hotels, and exchange only what you think you will spend in-country. Reconversion on departure may be difficult and coins cannot be reconverted. The import and export of Indian Rupees is strictly prohibited. Save all receipts from any currency exchange transaction as you may be asked to produce them when you exit the country, and they are required if you intend to reconvert local currency.

ATM Cash Machines

ATMs are found in most towns in India but be wary of bank charges. Prior to your departure, we recommend notifying your bank of your travel plans so they can inform you of any applicable foreign transaction fees and/or restrictions.
Credit and debit cards Visa, MasterCard and American Express are usually accepted in tourist hotels and many other shops. Debit cards are also widely accepted. In small towns cash or traveller's checks may be required.

Travellers Cheques

Travelers cheques are cashed at almost all money exchange counters, but hotels and airports do not give the best rates. Traveller's checks and foreign currencies can be exchanged in larger cities.

Currency and Money in Nepal

The Nepali Rupee (Rs) is divided into 100 paisa (p). USD are widely accepted and some members have travelled on this journey without exchanging money into the local currency but like India, smaller shops and stalls will only accept the local currency.

ATM Cash Machines ATMs are plentiful in most cities in Nepal and most will accept cards issued by any of the major international banking networks. The majority of ATM's currently have a maximum withdrawal amount of 10,000Rs (although you can make repeated withdrawals). The exception to this is NABIL bank ATM's which have a maximum withdrawal amount of 35,000Rs. When withdrawing from ATM's be aware that cash withdrawal charges will be made by both the Nepali Bank and (usually) your own bank at home.

Credit and debit cards Major Credit Cards such as Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express, are readily accepted at most tourist class hotels, restaurants, airlines, and major tourist merchants. There will always be a transaction fee for processing the cards. This charge is enforced by the banks and not the merchants so please don't ask for a discount to remove this and is usually around 4%. American Express Fees are considerably higher at around 7%.

Travellers Cheques

Travellers Cheques are no longer generally accepted in Nepal even at banks.

Food and Drink

India’s food is famously spicy, but not always spicy-hot. There are marked regional and religious differences in cuisine, but many meals are based on rice or another grain, served with meat and/or vegetables cooked in a spiced sauce. Condiments and pickles, ranging from sweet to sour to hot, accompany most dishes, and dairy products such as yogurt, butter and soft cheese are common. India has a well-developed vegetarian cuisine and many traditional (very rich and sweet) desserts.

Nepal combines a range of characteristics from its neighbouring countries with its own gastronomic history, resulting in distinctly individual foods that are rich with flavour and culture. Recipes from Nepalese cuisine can be relatively simple and the flavours subtle, but the results are far from bland. Common ingredients found across Nepalese cuisine include lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, chilies, peppers, garlic and mustard oil. Yoghurt, or dahi is popular across Nepal, and is eaten for its healthy attributes and adaptable nature, as it can be used as a side dish or as an ingredient in drinks (Lassi) and desserts (Sikarni).

Regardless of precautions, changes in water and diet can result in mild abdominal upsets and nausea. It is advisable to bring antacids or abdominal pain medicines. Always drink bottled water and check the seal on purchased drinks to check it is intact.

Electricity

India supplies electricity at 220 volts and 50 hertz. To charge electrical items you will need a socket adaptor and perhaps a voltage converter. Please check the operating instructions for your equipment to ensure that it can handle either 110 or 220-volt electrical systems. Voltage converter and adaptor plugs may be purchased at the airport or travel shops.
Nepal electricity is 220V/50 cycles; 120V appliances from the USA will need a transformer. Sockets usually take plugs with three round pins, sometimes the small variety, sometimes the large. Some sockets take plugs with two round pins. Local electrical shops sell cheap adapters. Blackouts (‘load shedding’) are a fact of life across Nepal, especially in Kathmandu. Power surges are also likely, so bring a voltage guard with spike suppressor (automatic cut-off switch) for your laptop. Note that power supplies to some rural areas may still be disrupted because of earthquake damage.

Language

In India, the official language is Hindi. Each state, however, has its own official regional language as well: 14 in all. English is widely spoken all over the country. Officially an “assistant” language, after Hindi English is the most widely spoken tongue in India and probably the most widely written and read.

In Nepal, the official language is Nepali. Nepali spoken by 44% of the population as their first language. The 2011 National census lists 123 languages spoken as a mother tongue (first language) in Nepal.

Religion

Religion in India is characterised by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of some of the world's major religions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. India has a relatively modest culture and covering arms and legs is a simple step toward respecting this. This is particularly important when entering a sacred space, like a temple. Also, if you see shoes outside a shop, it’s a sign to remove your own.

Nepal is famous as the world's only Hindu Kingdom. However, it is an intricate and beautiful tapestry formed by the interweaving of Hinduism, Buddhism and other beliefs. Religious tolerance and harmony such as is found in Nepal, is perhaps a unique example to the world.

Photography

Pack a dust-proof case (or sealable plastic bag) and an air brush to protect camera equipment from dust. Etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed. Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of airports, government buildings and installations, bridges and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in all public areas in India and Nepal including hotels, restaurants, bars and parks. Persons found violating this offense will face a fine.

Shopping

Silk textiles, gold and silver jewellery, precious stones, brassware and pottery are among the best and most typical souvenirs of India. Delhi is India’s “merchandise mart”, with many stores catering to visitors clustered around Connaught Place. Government-sponsored and large department stores operate on a fixed-price basis but elsewhere, even in smart hotel stops, bargaining is customary. While this region offers a remarkably diverse and attractive array of goods for sale, caution is essential. Bargains and beautiful high-quality goods can be found—but reproductions, fakes and flaws are common. Just as at home, when a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many shops are transient, with frequent changes of location, name and ownership: a real roadblock if you’re trying to track down a missing shipment or collect a refund from thousands of miles away.

Use common sense and caution when shopping. Please let your Tour Director or Local Guide know if you are feeling harassed into making a purchase and we can assist.

To avoid disappointment, we suggest the following guidelines:

• Take the time to read credit card charge slips and compute the exchange rate before you sign them,
• Duty taxes, if applicable, are paid as you re-enter your country. Regardless of any assurances to the contrary, merchants cannot pre-pay duty fees on your behalf. Keep all sales receipts for items purchased throughout your trip and try and pack all items you will need to declare separately.

Shopping in Nepal may be a more low key affair but bartering is a way of life here too. If you do not barter then you may actually lose the respect of the person with things for sale as it is considered extremely arrogant not to barter in Nepal. Enquire in several spots to get an idea of the price, smile and perhaps offer around 25% less than the first price suggested and the vendor will be very happy with your sale. With practise, you may become a bartering expert! Nepal has many fine handicrafts to offer to visitors: hand-knotted woollen carpets, jewellery, pashmina shawls, woollen knitwear, embroidery, thangka paintings, wood carvings, metal works, ceramics and pottery, rice paper and stationery all make excellent souvenirs to take home.

Exploring on Your Own

We have a pretty full itinerary planned but if you do go exploring on your own here are some points to bear in mind.

In India, all museums and many points of interest are closed on Mondays.
We strongly recommend that you arrange any transportation needs outside of your itinerary through your tour guide or hotel.

Local people are likely to have strong feelings about religious topics and political events which they may or may not feel comfortable sharing with visitors. The same can hold true for your guides. You may wish to avoid engaging in conversations of a religious or political nature.

Open displays of anger or displeasure are bad manners in many Asian countries. An outburst of this nature may cause your guide to “lose face” and become uncommunicative. Please respect local customs by remaining patient and polite, even when circumstances are trying.

Please don’t encourage begging by giving sweets or money to local people who may approach you on the street. Recognised charities often have collection boxes in hotels. We recommend that you make any donations here, where you can be assured that the funds will be properly used.

Pack Your Patience and good humour alongside your passport please... Contrasts between the values and priorities of the international traveller and the local community are an interesting and illuminating part of the travel experience.

Safety and Security

Use common sense and take basic safety precautions. Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. If in doubt, ask a guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines. Crime in Nepal is much less prevalent than in India.

Your property & possessions are carried at your own risk. Valuable items (including jewellery, electronic devices, cell phones etc.) are best left in your hotel safe. For everyday access, use a money belt or pouch rather than a wallet or handbag. When travelling it is always prudent to exercise caution when using your credit and/or ATM cards to avoid the risk of fraudulent charges.

TIBET TOUR EXTENSION

Please see the additional 'Useful Information' for more details about visas, etc for travel to Tibet

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Holiday tours are operated by The Big Journey Company Limited. Registered in England. Registered office: Marron Bank, Branthwaite, Cumbria, CA14 4SZ. Registered number: 6532140. VAT number: 290797457. The Big Journey Company Limited is a member of The Travel Trust Association member number U5675 and holds an Air Travel Organiser’s License number T7282.

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