Highlights of India & Nepal
From the sacred River Ganges to the summits of the Himalayas, tour India and Nepal on a trip where adventure and discovery await. From the most exciting places to visit in Delhi to the towering peaks surrounding Kathmandu, discover the spirit, culture, and nature of this fascinating region. Visit the Taj Mahal of Agra, experience the chaos and colour of India's villages, and marvel at the daily pilgrimage to the ghats of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges. Delve into the history and religion of these two fascinating countries as you enjoy the highlights of India and Nepal.
Ages: 15 - 99
Accommodation: Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Heritage Property (3 night), Hotel (10 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Overnight sleeper train (1 night), Homestay (1 night)
Namaste! Welcome to India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. Perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar or Red Fort of Delhi if you arrive early today. After the meeting, head out for an optional meal with your group at a local restaurant nearby.
Join your group leader on an excursion through Old Delhi. Ride the city’s metro system, and then hop in a rickshaw to the once water-filled square of Chandni Chowk. Discover the Jama Masjid, Delhi’s oldest mosque, before learning about the history of the Sikh religion at the Sheeshganj Gurudwara.
Travel by private vehicle into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately 5 - 6 hours). A friendly, busy city crammed with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk arts, Jaipur is a favourite for many travellers. Our suggestions are to stop by the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), then head over to Jaipur's Royal City Palace and explore its extravagant rooms and apartments. Later, discover one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur.
Choose to take an early morning hot air balloon experience, often a highlight of visiting Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over Jaipur on the morning of day four between September and June. Mid afternoon visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is an authentic example of Rajput architecture and the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is one of its more spectacular buildings.
Leave the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur behind and drive to Karauli (approximately 5-6 hours). This delightful town was founded in 1348 and is packed with rural ambience and traditional temples. Take a guided walk around the Old Quarter, interacting with friendly locals and learning about rural Indian life off the tourist trail. Be sure to visit the eclectic market stalls along the way and sample some seasonal local sweets made from Indian ingredients, including petha (pumpkin), jaggery (organic sugar), peanut brittle and gazak (sesame seeds). Stay in a restored heritage property tonight where dinner is included.
After arriving into the Agra today by one of India's express air-conditioned trains (approximately 3 hours) you’ll head straight to the most recognisable sight in India. It doesn’t matter who you are, the Taj Mahal will exceed all your expectations with the morning light shimmering off its white marble surface. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. The highlights keep coming as you take a motorised rickshaw tour, a truly fun and Intrepid way to see the monuments of Agra. Later, you'll also visit Akbar's Mausoleum – a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. This morning you’ll enter the dark red sandstone stronghold of Agra Fort - part fortress, part palace and part prison - and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. Later, travel by air-conditioned train from Agra to Jhansi (approximately 3 hrs). Upon arrival in Jhansi, travel through traditional rural Indian landscapes to reach the beautiful town of Orchha on the banks of the Betwa River (approximately 45 minutes). Here you’ll have the opportunity to uncover a very different side of India. Initially a hunting area, Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its small size it is filled with many beautiful temples and palaces, build here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. This evening witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine at the heart of the city. Stay in a restored heritage property tonight.
Today you'll visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler. Take note of the grand Iwans (domes) that were built large enough to allow the movement of war elephants. You’ll also make a stop at Taragram, one of our Responsible Tourism projects. Taragram is a paper making factory that enables local tribal women to work outside the realm usually afforded to them. The paper is crafted from wood pulp and recycled clothing.
Today you'll get to soak up more of the unique atmosphere of Orchha, and excitingly you'll get to soak up the local flavours too. Learn about the local cuisine, it's ingredients and how it's prepared, in a cooking demonstration with our local friends. Taste the unforgettable results. This evening you’ll return to Jhansi and board an overnight train to Allahabad (approximately 15 hours), the starting point for your Ganges boat trip.
Arrive in Allahabad and transfer to the Ganges (approximately 2 hours) by small riverboats for the sailing trip. You'll experience the sacred River Ganges, lifeblood of millions of Indian people, with a boat cruise through the heart of rural India. A support crew will be on hand as you sail down this iconic waterway, passing village communities and viewing river life as it goes on around you. The boats are equipped with life jackets, the deck has mattresses and cushions to relax on, and it’s all covered with a cloth roof for sun protection. Arrive at your campsite and relax riverside, read a book or play some cricket. Watch the sun go down and eat a delicious vegetarian meal prepared by the boatmen.
Leaving your boats at Chunar, transfer by private vehicle to Varanasi (approximately 2 hours). This is one of holiest cities around, the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Overflowing with temples, shrines and devotees, there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing cities. Set off on a walking tour of the oldest part of the city, bustling with tourists and priests, and see different rituals being performed. Wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops and stalls, and lumbering cows. This evening soak up the unique magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony as the sun sets.
Today starts early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass. The rest of the day is free for you to use as you like. There’s an option to take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features a number of stupas and museums to explore. Or perhaps visit Ram Nagar Fort, a crumbling 17th century fort and palace on the eastern bank of the Ganges, that’s the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. Alternatively the day can be spent exploring the laneways and alleys behind the ghats, picking up some examples of the excellent local silk industry, or perfecting yoga in this most chakra-balancing of places.
Today it’s wave goodbye to India and say namaste to Nepal, as you cross the border at Gorakhpur. Though there’s always something to look at out the windows, it’s a good idea to have some other entertainment on hand for the long day of travelling ahead (approximately 8-10 hours including stops). For groups of less than 5 you will travel by car and for bigger groups by bus. On entering Nepal, take a private bus to your hotel in Lumbini (approximately 1 hour). This is no ordinary border town, but the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and one of his four holy places of pilgrimage. It's said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha identified the sites as those of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse and death. You’ll visit the beautiful Ashoka Pillars and hop on cycle rickshaws to the Maya Devi Temple, the actual site where Lord Buddha is thought to have been born.
Continue your journey by private vehicle through the Terai to Chitwan National Park (approx 5 hours), which sits at the base of the Himalayas. UNESCO declared the area a World Heritage site in 1984, and it offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia, with rhino, deer, monkeys and a wide array of birdlife. Arrive and settle in to your accommodation before jumping on a bike to explore a local village. In the evening, prepare for tomorrow’s exploration of the park with a presentation on the park's history, flora and fauna.
Today after breakfast, take a walk to the Rapti river from where you’ll be taken by boat to Ghagtai village (approximately 3.5 hours). Enjoy some brilliantly-coloured-bird watching along the Rapti river and a picnic lunch. Keep your eyes peeled for gharials - this fish-eating crocodile has long been hunted for the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of its snout. Learn more about them when you drop by the crocodile breeding centre. Spend the night in a guesthouse with a view of the river and plenty of jungle ambience in Ghagtai tonight. Toilet and bathroom facilities are shared here.
Today you’ll return to your lodge in Chitwan National Park via Twenty Thousand Lakes (Bis Hajaar Tal). Nepal’s second largest natural wetland, this beautiful reserve area is a maze of small lakes that teems with wildlife. Home to numerous crocodiles, this is one of the park’s best areas for birdwatching, with hundreds of species using it as a migratory route stop. If you’re lucky you might catch some sight of the Indian rhino. Once back at your accommodation there’ll be time to relax, or to take part in a number of optional activities offered by the park.
Today you'll journey by bus from Chitwan to Nepal's capital, Kathmandu (approximately 6 hrs). This is a ride that takes in all the sights that define Nepal: iridescent rice terraces, deep gorges, fast-flowing rivers and looming mountains. Kathmandu is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development and, with its rich artistic and cultural heritage, it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows. Perhaps head out into Durbar Square, in front of the old royal palace and home to numerous beautiful temples, and browse the stalls of merchant's wares.
Today you’ll head out to the ancient Swayambhunath Temple, known to tourists as the Monkey Temple and Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal. You’ll also join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa – the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu, rich in Buddhist symbolism, and you can observe Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the stupa. You will also visit Pashupatinath, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here you will see Hindu holy men (sadhus) meditating and pilgrims bathing. There are also a number of optional activities to take advantage of if you have the time, including our Urban Adventures. Maybe take-off on a flight from Kathmandu airport to see some spectacular mountain scenery. Those who don't have the opportunity to go trekking can get panoramic views of the Himalayas in just an hour.
Your adventure through Nepal and India ends today and you're free to leave the accommodation at any time.
- Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple
Clarks Inn Kailash Colony
A-1, Kailash Colony Near Metro Station Pillar No. 89
#16, Paknajol, Thamel, Bagmati, Kathmandu
Phone: 977 14383566
Alternate Joining point
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
28 Nov 2019 (HHSEC191128), 16 Dec 2019 (HHSEC1912162), 19 Dec 2019 (HHSEC191219)
Hotel Pooja Palace
15A/11 W.E.A. Puja Park
Phone: +91 9810014574
Alternate Joining point
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
18 Nov 2019 (HHSEC191118)
Clarks Inn Nehru Place
CC-21 Kalkaji, Nehru Place, Opposite Paras Cinema Block G, Block C, Kalkaji
Phone: +91 11 4054 3731
1. A single supplement is available for this trip and is applicable for all nights with the exception of the overnight train.
2.Hot air balloon flights are operated by Sky Waltz in Jaipur. Flights operate from September 1st to April 31st and last approximately 60 mins. Return transfers, tea and coffee plus light refreshments and a certificate of flight are included in the cost. You can register your interest and pay your tour leader at your joining meeting on day 1 of your trip. Payment must be made by cash in either INR/AUD/USD/GBP only and is USD$260pp (subject to change). Flights are subject to availability and weather conditions (tickets are fully refundable in case of bad weather).
3. As this is a combination trip, the composition of your group, as well as the group leader, may change on Day 7.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD: Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
LIFE JACKETS: While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Generally WiFi is available in most parts of India and at most of the accommodation we use. It's usually free in public areas of hotels but some properties will charge for in room use. Please ask your tour leader or the specific hotel reception upon check in. Many restaurants and cafes (especially in tourist areas) offer customers free WiFi. Ask for the password when ordering.
Internet cafes are widespread in India and connections are usually reasonably fast, except in more remote areas.
You can purchase a SIM at the airport (or at kiosks everywhere) for use while travelling in India. Airtel or vodaphone are a good bet. SIMs are relatively cheap. You will need to usually provide 2 passport sized photos and a copy of your passport will be made.
Posting airmail letters to anywhere overseas costs ₹25/15. International airmail postcards cost around ₹12. For postcards, stick the stamps on before writing, as the post office can give you as many as four stamps per card. The post office is always a fun adventure in India!
Hotels in Kathmandu generally have excellent WiFi connections. Most hotels offer free WiFi in public areas, with some also offering in room WIFI, sometimes for an additional fee. While trekking WiFi may be available in tea houses and lodges for a small cost. The higher you go the more the use of WiFi and internet will cost, and likely the slower the speed. Your tour leader will be able to offer some advice on communications in remote areas of the country. Please note that most teahouses do not have electrical outlets in rooms to charge devices but are shared in the main dining area, for an additional fee. Past travellers have found portable solar chargers to be very useful.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
An E-Tourist Visa (eVT) visa on arrival is available for select nationalities including but not limited to the following: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, UK & USA. Passport holders from these countries can apply for an eVT to have their visa issued upon arrival at 16 major airports in India.
Please follow the instructions at - https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html and complete the application for your eVT.
- Please be aware of strict conditions regarding application and travel (check under ELIGIBILITY section of the website).
- E-Tourist Visas are available for entry of up to 90 days. For residents of USA, UK, Canada and Japan e-Tourist Visas are available for up to 180 days. If you plan to be in India longer you will need to apply for a tourist visa at an Indian visa application centre in your home country.
- Please note that travellers entering India overland from Nepal are required to apply for a visa in advance their home country. Visas will NOT be issued on the Nepal/Indian border.
- The e-Tourist Visa DOES NOT apply to travellers entering India overland. Please check your trip notes if you are crossing a border between India and Nepal.
- Indian visas are difficult and time consuming to obtain in Nepal.
Tourist visas are available in Single and Multiple Entry. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip.
For your visa application you need to include the following information under the local contact section towards the end of the application. :
25/3 East Patel Nagar
Phone: +91 11 4500 6400
Please note that this information can change at any time. Please always refer to https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html
This is the only official visa online site. There are many other mirror sites that are run by visa service companies or scammers and may not be reliable.
All foreign nationals (except Indian passport holders) require a visa to enter Nepal. Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad, land borders (including borders with India & Tibet) and on arrival at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport.
Getting a visa at the airport or land borders can sometimes take time due to long queues. There have been instances when travellers are asked to show proof of exit from the country, ie flight tickets. You may also need to provide two passport photos and the following fees in US dollars (subject to change, cash only). Other currencies are also accepted although rates may differ. The following costs were correct at time of writing:
- Multi entry visa valid for 15 days - US$30
- Multi entry visa valid for 30 days - US$50
- Multi entry visa valid for 90 days - US$125
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the website www.timeanddate.com to be very useful.
Why we love it
Rise in the cool half-light of dawn and watch the sunrise while you glide over the River Ganges on a small riverboat.
Stay in a riverside jungle lodge in Chitwan National Park, then embark on a safari in search of rhinos, Bengal tigers, monkeys and more.
Join pilgrims during a visit to the birthplace of Gautama Buddha in Lumbini, where evidence of a shrine dated before 550 BC was uncovered in 2013.
Enjoy a relaxing evening at a community homestay in the Madi Valley, a lush Nepalese valley bordered by forest and river.
Immerse yourself in the holy city of Varanasi, exploring the Old City by day and soaking up the atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony as the sun sets.
Is this trip right for you
Old Delhi is an exciting place encounter local life, but be aware is will be busy, and during the walking tour you’ll need to navigate people, tight spaces and crowded walkways.
Rajasthan can reach extremely high temperatures in the summer. While we aim to do our walking tours early in the morning when it’s cooler, remember to keep hydrated and to bring a hat, sunscreen, a long-sleeved shirt and anything else that will protect you from the sun.
Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people and environments. We visit a number of temples on this trip and you will need to have clothes that cover the arms and pants/skirts that go past the knees in order to enter them.
In order to see as much as possible in the time allotted, this trip involves some long journeys by both private vehicle and public train. Please read the itinerary carefully for estimates.
From December to February, delays are more common, especially in the north of the country due to fog. It’s not uncommon for trains to be delayed for up to 12 hours. On occasion your trip will may to be rerouted to allow for these delays. Please see the ‘Transport’ section of the Essential Trip Information for more information on train travel in India.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Malaria is a risk in many parts of India, including major cities. Cases of dengue fever are reported, especially in the period after the monsoon. Other mosquito-borne diseases (including Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya fever and filariasis) also occur. Take preventative measures such as as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn. Consult a medical professional regarding prophylaxis against malaria. For more information, see the World Health Organisation's fact sheets: http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/vector_ecology/mosquito-borne-diseases/en/
India is classified as an ongoing transmission zone for Zika, with confirmed cases in Tamil Nadu and Jaipur. Basic precautions for protection from mosquito bites should be taken by people traveling to Zika transmission areas, especially pregnant women.
OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES:
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including meningitis, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, diphtheria and rabies) are common in India. Tap water is not safe to drink. Home-made or unlabelled alcohol can be poisonous. Seek medical attention if you suspect food poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.
During winter months (October-February), air pollution levels in parts of India can spike to hazardous levels. Severe pollution can increase the risk of respiratory problems. Those with pre-existing medical conditions, particularly heart and lung conditions, may be especially affected. Your leader can assist you to obtain a face mask if required.
Cases of influenza A(H1N1) are widespread in India during winter with a number of recent cases in Rajasthan. Discuss influenza vaccination requirements with your doctor or a travel health professional before departing and maintain good hygiene practices by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing, and washing your hands regularly. For more information, see the World Health Organisation's fact sheets: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
Food and dietary requirements
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
FOOD IN INDIA:
Food is a way of life in India. You can snack for a bargain or dine in the finest Indian restaurants. Generally you can eat very cheaply in India. There is a huge choice of restaurants and street stalls serving traditional and local Indian food. In bigger restaurants in areas frequented by more tourists there is a choice between Indian, Chinese and Western style food. Here's some ideas of what to try: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/best-food-in-india/
Please note that service in restaurants (especially with a group) can be quite slow so patience is a must.
India caters very well towards vegetarians and vegans with almost all restaurants having a veg and pure veg section of the menu. If in doubt please check with your tour leader. See our guide to eating vegan in India here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/india-vegan-food-guide/
Your tour leader will be able to direct you towards restaurants that are known to have better hygiene, especially in tourist areas where they are travelling with our groups regularly. For some more advice on avoiding "Delhi belly", see our article here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/how-to-avoid-delhi-belly-in-india/
FOOD IN NEPAL:
In Kathmandu and Pokhara there are plenty of restaurants and cafes for all tastes and budgets. For a glimpse at what traditional Nepali cuisine entails, check out our guide here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/guide-to-nepali-cuisine/
Nepal caters very well towards vegetarians and vegans with almost all restaurants having a veg section of the menu. Your tour leader will be able to direct you towards restaurants that are known to have better hygiene, especially in tourist areas where they are travelling with our groups regularly.
The official currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR). It's symbol is ₹. The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via ATMs, which are readily available in most towns. Look for Bank of India or ICICI ATMs. Our experience has shown they are the most reliable ATMs to use for withdrawals. Cash shortages at ATMs can be a problem in rural areas. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, so please bring clean bills, and small denominations are most useful. The use of credit cards can be restricted, mainly to major hotels, shops and higher end establishments.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.
The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The amount to budget for on this trip is INR3500.
Please note that this doesn’t cover a tip for your tour leader.
Your Group Leader: You may consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $US 5-7 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest INR20. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Gratuities aren’t compulsory on your trip, but they can make a big difference to locals employed in the tourism industry. We suggest carrying small notes of local currency around as you go. It’ll make tipping easier.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
Your Tour Leader:
You may consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$3-US$5 per person (in local currency), per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult
The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye to this unavoidable issue in some areas, we have established a centralised fund whereby contributions from recommended suppliers are collected and distributed back into the business. We aim to provide the best value trips in the market, and this fund assists in keeping operating costs and trip prices low to you. A priority in establishing this fund is that the experience of our traveller - you - is not compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
Optional Tipping Kitty:
On Day 1 your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips for drivers, local guides, and hotel staff (excludes restaurant tips). The leader will keep a running record of all monies spent which can be checked at any time, and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Participation in this kitty at your own discretion, and you are welcome to manage your own tipping separately if you prefer. Please note the tipping kitty excludes tips for your tour leader.
The official currency of Nepal is the Nepali rupee (NPR). Its symbol is often displayed as Rs. USD are also widely accepted in Nepal. ATMs can only be found in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Bhaktapur. Make sure you carry sufficient cash to cover your needs when travelling outside of these cities. Money exchange facilities are available in Kathmandu, Namche, Pokhara, Chitwan (only outside the park) and Bhaktapur. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
The Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes in Nepal. You should ensure you are not carrying these notes on arrival in Nepal as they will be confiscated and you may be fined.
Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes.
Before departing on a trek, make sure you have enough Nepalese currency to purchase meals and drinks, in the smaller denominations where possible, as there are no ATMs and larger notes (such as 1000R) can be difficult to change.
What to take
MAIN LUGGAGE What you need to bring will vary according to when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances including up and down stairs and in busy train stations. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg. Small, wheeled suitcases that can also easily be picked up and carried are the best for travel in this part of the world, although if you prefer, a back pack is also fine. If you are taking overnight trains, or primarily using public transport then the smaller your luggage the easier it will be to store under or above bunks. DAY PACK A day pack for carrying essentials when exploring destinations as well as for short overnight stays will be useful. On overnight trains packing this with the essentials you need to access during the trip will also be very useful. Below are some ideas and helpful tips on what you specifically need for this trip. ESSENTIALS: - Lightweight clothing. A mixture of lightweight clothing and warm layers. Clothes should be easy to wash and dry. Maybe bring a change of smart clothes for dinner in bigger cities. Clothing that covers arms and pants/skirts that go past the knee for entry into local temples. - Closed-in shoes (to protect from cuts/scratches/insect bites on city and countryside walks) - Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses RECOMMENDED: - India and Nepal can get very cold (ie. below zero!) during winter (Dec to Feb). Many hotels in India do not have central heating. a good quality down jacket and layers are recommended at this time of year. - Personal medical kit, we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, Band-Aids and insect repellent. - Water bottle. At least 1.5litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. - Camera with spare batteries. Our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras most days but we recommend you take a spare battery for your camera. - A small chain and padlock for overnight trains is handy to keep your luggage safe and secure. OPTIONAL: - Sleeping bag. Useful for camping, overnight trains and poorly heated hotels, during the winter months of Dec - Feb - Sleep sheet. - Ear plugs/eye mask - A good book, a journal and music player - Binoculars for spotting wildlife OTHER USEFUL THINGS TO TAKE - reusable shopping bag for buying supplies for long journeys - slippers or flip flops - torch/flashlight - travel wipes - small towel - head scarf for women (for when entering temples or mosques) OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER - check weather in destinations you are travelling to online a few days before you go to make sure you pack appropriate clothing - laundry facilities may not be available in all destinations, so make sure you have a few cycles of clothes to tide you over until your next chance to wash VALUABLES: Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden. We strongly recommend that you photocopy/scan all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. MORE! If you need some further tips for packing, you can always check out our ultimate packing list.
Climate and seasonal
Nepal's climate varies greatly depending on the season:
JUN - SEP: the monsoon rains (mostly at night) bring landslides in regional areas. Cloud cover often obscures mountain views with rain, mud and leeches deterring most trekkers at this time of year. Treks running in September can be hot and very humid at lower altitudes. See what it's like to trek during monsoon here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/nepal-during-monsoon-season/
MAR - APR: Spring brings warm weather and spectacular rhododendron blooms. A popular time to visit and one of the peak times to trek.
OCT - NOV: Clear skies and warm days make autumn the peak season.
DEC - FEB: Winter brings cold temperatures and snow to the mountains. Good trekking, but remember to rug up.
As a general rule have a look online to check the weather in India just before you are about to travel. This gives you a clearer understanding of what to pack. Here are some general ideas of seasons in India:
December to March:
Pleasant weather – warm days, cool nights.
December and January bring chilly nights in the north.
Fog can delay trains travelling across the north of the country
Temperatures climb steadily from February.
April to June:
April is already hot; May and June are really hot and dry.
From June, the monsoon sweeps from south to north, bringing high temperatures and humidity
Cooler in the hills and mountains across the country
July to November:
Monsoon continues until November.
The southeast coast and southern Kerala see heavy rain from October to early December.
Travel in rural areas during the monsoon season can be hazardous. Monsoon rains cause flooding and landslides that can cut off some towns and villages for days. It is not unusual for trains to be delayed or cancelled resulting in itinerary changes or for activities in towns near to rivers and lakes (ie Varanasi) to need to be changed during this time of year. During the monsoon, excessive rainfall can see the river Ganges rise to unsafe levels. This may cause the suspension of all water related activities by local government. At this time of year walking along the Ghats can also be dangerous. Your tour leader will be able to advise you locally on any changes.
Winter in India can be colder than you might expect and as this is not peak travel season hotels in some regions may not have adequate heating. In these months you may like to bring thermals for sleeping.
A couple of rules
Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips.
By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund.
If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
GENERAL ISSUES ON YOUR TRIP
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/
In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, transfer or accommodation issues, you can reach our local India Intrepid office on their 24 hour number:
Intrepid Emergency number: +91 9999 005 019
Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel.
Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting:
ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including World Animal Protection advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link:
Some of the accommodation along the way is basic or simple, staying in local guesthouses and homestays. Some may have shared bathroom faciluties with cold water only. We use a mixture of air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned rooms. Some areas of India experience daily load shedding. This is where the power may be turned off at certain times of the day and usually occurs for a few hours in early afternoon. Most hotel properties have a restaurant or cafe serving local meals. Many restaurants and hotels do not serve alcohol for religious reasons or due to local laws.
Showers at some hotels only have hot water at peak times (usually morning and evening). Outside of these times you may need to speak to reception to obtain hot water.
If you have any issues with your room, please speak to the hotel and your tour leader right away rather than your travel agent so that the problem can be addressed without delay.
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on a different Intrepid trip than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (subject to availability), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
SLEEPER TRAINS IN INDIA:
Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned (fan-cooled at times), a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Depending on the route, we travel 2AC or 3AC class as not all classes are available on all routes. Due to the complexity of the ticket purchasing system and high demand for tickets, we are unable to offer upgrades to other classes.
Second Class or 2 Tier AC (2AC) carriages have 4 berths in the compartment section and 2 berths in the aisle bay and individual reading lights. Third Class or 3 Tier AC (3AC) has 6 berths in the compartment and 2 in the aisle bay. Both have curtains for privacy. There are no sinks or charging points in these classes. During the day, bunks are folded away and serve as seats. Toilet facilities are located at either end of the carriage. There is usually an Indian style squat toilet at one end and a western style toilet at the other. You will need your own toilet paper or tissues and cleanliness will depend on the number of people using them.
Beds are padded bunks, with sheets, pillow and blanket provided. Some people prefer to bring and use their own sleeping sheet. Your luggage travels with you on the train, so packing light will make your journey more comfortable.
Many trains have a dining carriage or a food/snack cart that is brought through the carriages. There are also plenty of vendors selling tea, coffee, water and snacks during the journey, although the hygiene may not be up to standards you are used to at home.
Please note you may be sharing with other members of your group or locals on a mixed gender basis. Tickets are booked on a real name basis using your passport details. We book for all members of the group at the same time, but unfortunately this is no guarantee that we will be accommodated all together on the train. Your leader will do their best to swap with other travellers to allow people who booked together to travel together, but please be aware that this is not always possible. We may at times ask male travellers to swap with solo female travellers for safety considerations.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour.
A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt),Guesthouse (1 nt),Heritage Property (1 nt),Hotel (10 nts),Lodge (2 nts),Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)