Dhamma Yatra


Travel Advise (FAQ)
  • Luxury vs Budget Excursions
  • Budget Accommodation
  • Luxury Accommodation
  • Visaテ「冱
  • Health, Malaria
  • Food
  • Money
  • Luggage
  • Culture Shock!
  • Suggested Reading
Luxury vs Budget Tours Our tours, both fixed-date and tailor-made, are classed as either luxury or budget. What this reflects is largely down to the accommodation that you will be staying in during your trip. Hereテ「冱 some more information about these types of accommodation, based on our experience of them. Budget Accommodation Budget accommodation tends to be priced between 500-1200 rupees per room per night (usually with two beds in) テ「 thatテ「冱 around テつ」6- テつ」15 per room per night. They tend to be rooms adjoined to monasteries (although donテ「冲 get too excited by that テ「 Indian monasteries arenテ「冲 quite as lavish or mysterious as say Tibetan ones you see on TV テ「 theyテ「决e usually run down and not used much). Rooms are SIMPLE! By this, we mean very simple by western standards. Youテ「冤l get a bed, a fan, maybe a small table and access to a small bathroom (sometimes shared, but usually en-suite). Floors are tiled. You might get a rubbish bin, but donテ「冲 bet on it! Windows usually have mosquito netting but sometimes donテ「冲 close properly so rooms can be slightly noisy, depending on the locality. Buildings tend not to be very well maintained either, i.e. paint not new, bit shabby. The beds are usually quite hard as they are wooden, with a thin mattress (2 inches or so) spread on top. Sometimes an extra mattress can be provided if there are any going spare. Sheets are usually fairly clean, but we provide you with a clean sheet and pillow case to take with you, just in case. You may get a blanket too, but these arenテ「冲 usually of a high standard. The bathroom may or may not have a western style toilet (squatting otherwise) and will probably not be very modern by western standards. There will be a sink and maybe a mirror. Washing is 99/100 by means of a テ「話ucket-bathテ「 wherein you get a bucket of water (hot water by request, not usually on tap in budget places) and a jug, which you use to throw the water over yourself. Not sophisticated, but works fine and you can quickly get used to it! Rooms are all lockable, but with an external padlock, so itテ「冱 advisable to bring your own if you want to be sure of a good lock. We donテ「冲 intend to paint a grim picture of this type of accommodation, but this is the reality of it! Sometimes westerners think we mean テ「zenlike simplicityテ「 when we say simpleテ「ツヲ Thatテ「冱 not quite what we mean! We want you to be fully in the picture so we hope this information helps. When Samantha came on her first pilgrimage, she stayed in this kind of accomodation and survived very well! テ「廬tテ「冱 fine if youテ「决e on a budget and donテ「冲 mind a bit of discomfort. I usually had a cold bucket bath as I couldnテ「冲 be bothered to wait for hot water to be delivered. However, the places had an interesting atmosphere about them and Iテ「冤l never forget that first experience of pilgrimage because of that. If youテ「决e a bit adventurous, Iテ「囘 say go for it!テ「. Superior and Luxury Accommodation Superior Rooms and Luxury accommodation is now available at all of the pilgrimage sites. Standards do vary a little, but the accommodation has the following general characteristics: Air-conditioned Superior Rooms tend to be priced anywhere between 1500-4000 (and the 3-4 star accommodations cost from 8000-12000) Rupees per night (thatテ「冱 roughly テつ」75-テつ」120 per night) excluding government taxes. Ok, they still may not be what westerners may call total luxury, as in going to a テ「5 star health-spaテ「 luxury, but they are pretty comfortable, especially by Indian standards. You tend to get an en-suite bedroom, twin beds, TV facilities (although mostly Indian channels with some English-speaking ones, such as BBC World News), carpets (now youテ「决e talking), an air-conditioning unit, cupboards, wardrobes (usually with some hangers) and a lockable door (usually internal, not needing a padlock). You can also order room service. Windows tend to be double-glazed, so unless you have some rowdy neighbors (not usually in posh places and can be told to be quiet by very obliging staff members), rooms tend to be peaceful and youテ「冤l get an undisturbed nightテ「冱 sleep. Beds may still be slightly hard by western standards, but are usually foam-based at least and offer good support. Your bathroom will more than likely have a western style toilet and usually has hot water on tap too from your own water heater, but you may still end up having a bucket bath as showers arenテ「冲 common-place in India yet. Bathrooms are designed to get totally wet, so you can throw water everywhere from your bucket, so itテ「冱 kind of like having a showerテ「ツヲ and good fun! There are usually substantially fewer mosquitoes in luxury accommodation too テ「 always a bonus! The downside? Sometimes you can forget that youテ「决e in India as itテ「冱 so different to the conditions youテ「决e likely to experience outside the hotel. But, and this is an important consideration, by staying in this way, youテ「决e less likely to be tired out by your trip (thereテ「冱 usually a lot of travelling involved) and you can possibly take in the sites better because of thisテ「ツヲ But, of course, itテ「冱 up to you! Visaテ「冱 You will need a VISA before entering India. If you are coming as a tourist, you will need a tourist VISA, with multiple entry status. This is VERY important, as you may go to Nepal and will therefore be technically entering India at least twice during your visit. These VISAs are valid for 6 months from the date you get it, NOT from the time you enter India. To get a VISA, you have two options. You can either get E-Tourist Visa online visiting after taking print out get it stamped at the arrival port in India (online Visaテ「冱 are only vailid for single entry though) or you can go through VFS Global and process the VISA application. They currently cost about テつ」 160. Things you will need to get your VISA:
  • Your Original passport
  • Two recent passport sized photographs of yourself
  • The payment (cash if going in person) テ「 currently テつ」160 for a 6 month double/multiple entry tourist VISA
  • VISA application form (available from the website of the High Commission / Consulate General of India)
  • Address of where youテ「决e staying in India / references (we will provide these once you have booked onto a tour).
Nepalese VISA If you are only visiting Lumbini with us on tour, weテ「冤l only be there for a day or two and you will NOT need to buy a Nepalese VISA before coming to India. We will get it on the border to Nepal itself. The Visa will cost テつ」20 for a 15 Day Tourist Visa. If, however, you are planning on going to stay for longer in Nepal, you will need to get a VISA beforehand. Health In the case of malaria and other Indian diseases, prevention is certainly better than cure! But donテ「冲 be too put off by all the horrible stories you hear. Itテ「冱 likely that youテ「冤l come to India and stay happy and healthy during your whole visit. In any case, we still highly recommend that you speak with your GP and/or Travel Nurse a couple of months in advance before travelling to India, to ensure that you get the most up-to-date vaccination advice and treatments. You can also visit the UK travel Advise-India https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india webpage to check on current recommendations for the areas in which you will be travelling. The first step, therefore, is to see which Indian states you will be visiting, prior to seeking advice (it will save time in the long-run!). Malaria Malaria is spread through blood carried by Anopheles mosquitoes. If you are bitten by a mosquito that has recently bitten an infected person, you may contract the disease. To prevent contracting malaria, you can do two things: take medication to prevent infection and avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Medication usually starts one or two weeks prior to entering malaria risk zones (i.e. India), and often continues for around a month after leaving the country. There are many ways to prevent mosquitoes from biting you:
  • Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. At these times, especially, ensure you cover up exposed skin with loose clothing, preferably light in colour, as this will reduce the likelihood of bites. Bring a pair of socks to cover your feet too!
  • Sleep inside a mosquito net, preferably one impregnated with permethrin, and be careful not to touch the net with bare skin during the night as mosquitoes will happily bite through the net!
  • Use mosquito repellent. Those containing DEET seem to be particularly effective. A cheap and effective repellent, called Odomas, is available in India.
Sickness and diarrhea Many visitors to India can end up with a sad tummy, simply because they are not used to the bacteria out here. The change can severely upset the body system, so itテ「冱 very worthwhile reading through this checklist carefully. To avoid テ「魯elhi Bellyテ「, there are a number of things you can do:
  • ALWAYS drink bottled water. We canテ「冲 stress this enough. Donテ「冲 be tempted to drink anything else, even if the tap says テ「賄rinking waterテ「.
  • Check the seals on bottled water to ensure they are genuine and not just refilled from the tap. This doesnテ「冲 happen often, but just check to be sure- on trains specially.
  • When brushing your teeth, remember to use bottled water and NOT tap water, even to rinse your brush. Many people forget this little tip!
  • When showering, try not to swallow any water.
  • When eating out, make sure you wipe your plate with a paper towel or handkerchief prior to food being served on it. Itテ「冱 an Indian habit to wash plates before serving food. If you get that water from the plate into your system, it can cause a bad tummy.
  • Consider carrying a bottle of water-free handwash, containing alcohol or other antibacterial agent. Use this even if youテ「况e washed your hands, as sometimes the hand washing water can be unclean, even if it appears to be.
  • Be careful around foods containing meat and eggs, as itテ「冱 sometimes difficult to tell how fresh the original ingredients were. Go veggie in India!
  • Avoid drinks that may contain unclean water in the ingredients, such as squash and lassies. We have met a number of people who have become ill after drinking dodgy lassies (yogurt drink), so be warned!
  • Sealed soft drinks, such as Thums Up (Coke) and Mango Fruti are fine, but wipe around the seal before drinking. Also, beware straws! Some vendors wash old straws, so if in doubt, just drink straight from the container or from a clean glass.
  • Donテ「冲 accept drinks that have ice in テ「 again, the water used to make the ice may be unclean.
  • Hot drinks are usually fine.
  • Be careful when ordering salads. The salad ingredients are likely to have been washed with, you guessed it, unclean water.
  • Carry some emergency supplies with you, incase you do get a bad tummy. We recommend you bring tablets, such as Imodium, as well as a handful of rehydration sachets, both of which are available at all good pharmacies.
  • In severe cases, it might be worth visiting a doctor for treatment, although this is rarely necessary. Medical care in India is cheap and reliable and most doctors speak excellent English.
More on Food On our tours, we cater simple vegetarian Indian food. This usually consists of rice, dhal (lentils), curried vegetables and chappatis (Indian round bread). This is a tasty, nutritious and balanced meal. If, however, there are other options available in the places in which we are eating, you can of course choose something different. If you have specific dietary requirements, for medical reasons, such as a nut allergy, please inform us prior to your arrival. We will do all that we can to cater for your needs, but we will need to have forewarning. If you have very severe food allergies, we recommend that you bring along some foods with you that we can cook for you on the trip, such as dried packaged foods that you know are safe for you to consume. Donテ「冲 try to bring fresh foods into the country as Customs and Excise will probably seize it! You can also give us suggestions for meals and snacks テ「 this would be very helpful for us. Money Matters As for travelling to any country, we recommend that you bring a range of financial options with you for your trip, incase of emergencies. As a minimum, may we suggest bringing a bank debit card for withdrawing cash, a small amount of cash and some travellers cheques. The last time we checked, American Express travellers cheques seemed to be good. The American Dollar was also strong back then, so check with your travel money broker for your best options. It may be better, for example, to bring American Dollars to brining British Pounds. Also, remember that you will not be able to get Indian Rupees outside of India テ「 itテ「冱 actually illegal to remove them from the country! If you are changing money here, whether itテ「冱 from cash or travellers cheques, you will always need your passport to hand. It is standard for them to make a photocopy of the passport, so donテ「冲 be alarmed. They will need your details for their own records. If you are bringing debit or credit cards for withdrawing from cash machines, you must inform your bank prior to travel. Otherwise, itテ「冱 likely that your transactions will be prevented as India is considered a テ「鷲igh-riskテ「 country for identity theft and fraudulent transactions. If you simply pop into your bank prior to leaving and tell them youテ「冤l be in India during テ「such and suchテ「 period, they will activate your card to allow all transactions. Itテ「冱 a good idea, though, to carry their helpline phone number incase it doesnテ「冲 work! That happened with us, but one phonecall sorted it all out and weテ「况e never had any problems since then. You will, of course, also need to remember your pin number! One more thing, and thatテ「冱 to do with looking after your money in India. They may not be the fashion rage, but do consider wearing a money-belt that can be worn underneath clothing. Ones with a waterproof back are best, as this stops sweat getting through. Also, divide up your money and cards into different pockets. Keep some in your main luggage, some in your money belt and some in another pocket. Consider putting some inside a book too, just incase! We may sound like weテ「决e being paranoid, but thereテ「冱 nothing worse than losing money to thieves. Generally, it isnテ「冲 a big problem in India, but you can become surrounded by crowds of people, especially at train stations, and pick-pockets DO target foreigners. This happened to us at Varanasi train station. They were VERY quick and subtle, so TAKE CARE. Having zips on your pockets is usually NOT enough. Luggage テ「 what to bring (and not to bring!) If, like me on my first Indian voyage, you want to bring an arsenal of medications and fifty outfits to wear (Sam), think again! We lost our luggage anyway on the journey over, and what a blessing that was! I donテ「冲 know how we would have managed with more luggage than we had. The idea is to PACK LIGHT! Please donテ「冲 consider more than 20kg, if that! Weテ「冤l be travelling in a jeep-type SUV vehicle or a minibus, with some space on the roof-rack, and there will be 8-10 people inside the vehicle, so that could potentially be a whopping amount of luggage!
  • Medium sized bag, e.g. up to 70L rucksack (avoid suitcase if possible)
  • Bare minimum clothing テ「 you can buy cheap clothing here. Put one change of clothes in your hand luggage if possible, incase your baggage goes astray on the flight!
  • 1 pair of socks and a thin jumper/cardigan (it can get chilly)
  • Sun hat and sunglassesYour essential medications, e.g. asthma, diabetic medicine, anti-malarials, anti-diarrhoea tablets, rehydration sachets. You can get paracetamol etc. here.
  • Mosquito repellent (one that works for you)
  • Sun protection cream
  • 1 pair of sandals that are easy to take on/off (going into/out of temples etc.). Note Indians think that テ「惑lip-flopsテ「 are to wear for going in the bathroom, so you might get some funny looks if you wear these! Something to bear in mindテ「ツヲ
  • 1 other pair of more sturdy shoes for walking longer distances (unless you have テ「walkingテ「 sandals, such as Teva ones (not that weテ「决e endorsing that particular brand!). Pilgrimage related book (see our recommended reading list) although some can be purchased in India, so not totally essential, and we provide you a book テ「聾alking With The Buddhaテ「 as part of welcome kit!
  • Donテ「冲 bring bedding, blankets or a mosquito net as we will provide these, unless you would prefer to have your own of course and for travelling after the pilgrimage.
Cultural Norms to Considerテ「ツヲ There are a number of things that an awareness of could help you out in India. Firstly, itテ「冱 the use of shoes. Itテ「冱 expected that shoes are removed prior to walking into Holy Sites, or at least certain areas of Holy Sites. For instance, at the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, youテ「冤l have to remove your shoes before even getting through the gate, whereas at Sarnath, you can walk through pretty much the whole site with your shoes on, although itテ「冱 respectful to remove them to circumambulate the stupas. If you go into Indian homes, itテ「冱 also expected that you remove your shoes, so try to remember this if you can. You donテ「冲 need to remove shoes to enter restaurants, hotels etc. Secondly, itテ「冱 clothing. Although India is becoming rapidly more modern, it is still quite a conservative country, so wearing revealing clothes, such as tight shorts, short skirts and revealing tops is still considered distasteful. Indian ladies tend to wear clothes that cover their shoulders, upper arms, armpits, chest, bottom and legs (down to the feet). If wearing a saree, they may expose a bit of mid-rif, but this is minimal. So ladies, itテ「冱 a good idea to follow suit if you can! Wearing an Indian Salwar Kameez suit is ideal, as it covers all the right bits and is very comfortable. You can buy these very cheaply in India. Gents, try to be sensitive too! Avoid wearing short shorts and showing too much leg, and wear a full T-shirt or shirt if you can, rather than a テ「藁uscleテ「 vest. Long or three-quarter length loose cotton trousers, with a shirt, would be ideal, or even an Indian Kurta Pyjama suit would be ideal. Although westerners consider jeans quite smart, Indians tend to think of jeans as being rather sloppy and scruffy, so avoid them if you can (they weigh a lot too!). Thirdly, thereテ「冱 general behaviour to consider. The typical greeting is to join the palms together, as in a prayer position, and greet an Indian by saying テ「蕨amasteテ「 (テ「蕨amastayテ「) or テ「蕨amaskarテ「. Some Indians will also shake you by the hand and say hello, but itテ「冱 nice to try out a テ「蕨amasteテ「 to start with. Then thereテ「冱 the gender issue! Indian women will very rarely extend a hand to shake it with you, whether you are a man or woman, so just do namaste with Indian women from a distance. Indian men will generally not shake hands with women, out of respect, so ladies, donテ「冲 take it personally if this happens! Western men can expect a hearty handshake though by many Indian men. Then fourthly thereテ「冱 general body contact. You wonテ「冲 see Indian couples holding hands or making bodily contact in public (unless theyテ「决e young couples, but they tend to do this away from their elders!). Try to emulate this behaviour as much as possible if you are travelling with your partner as Indians find it quite distasteful. They particularly will be upset or embarassed if you kiss in public, so definitely save this for behind closed doors! They probably wonテ「冲 say anything to you directly, but they will feel very uncomfortable, so try to avoid it. The other thing you might find odd (or not) is the bodily contact Indian men make to each other. It is very normal to see men walking hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm テ「 this does NOT mean that they are in a relationship together! Gents - if an Indian man becomes very friendly towards you and holds your hand, itテ「冱 completely normal and a gesture of friendship - they wonテ「冲 mean anything else by it! Reading List Books about pilgrimage:
  • Holy Places of the Buddha テ「 ( Dharma Publicationsテつ ISBN 0- 89800-244-3 )
  • Buddha and Sahibs テ「 James Allen (ISBN 978-0-71955-428-5)
  • Life of the Buddha テ「 Bhikkhu Nanamoli (ISBN 955-24-0063-52)
  • Middle Land Middle Way: A Pilgrims Guide to the Buddhaテ「冱 India
  • - Ven. Dhammikaテつ (BPS, Sri Lanka (ISBN 955-24-0197-6)
  • Pilgrimage Diary- Jayarava (ISBN 978-1-4457-0536-1)
  • Buddha テ「 Karen Armstrong (ISBN 978-0-7538-1340-9)
  • Gautama Buddha- Vishvapani Blomfield (ISBN 978-1-84916-409-2)
  • Meeting the Buddha テ「 on pilgrimage in Buddhist India
  • テ「 Molly Emma Aitken (Riverhead Books, New York, 1995)
  • In the footsteps of the Buddha テ「 Marc de Smedt
  • Art of Pilgrimage テ「 Phil Cousineau (Element Books, 1999, ISBN 1 86204 587 9)
  • Old Path, White Clouds テ「 Thick Nath Hahn
  • Culture Smart! India: A quick guide to customs and etiquette
  • (Kuperard, London ISBN 978 1 85733 305 3)
Selected Scriptural Reading list:
  • Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha
  • - Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications
  • The Long Discourses of the Buddha
  • テ「 Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publications
  • Vimalkirti Nirdesa Sutra
  • Lalitavistara
  • The Buddha and His Dhamma テ「 Dr B R Ambedkar
Please note: Highly recommended books are emboldened. DVD Videos:
  • Buddhist Pilgrimage: An Indian Spiritual Journey (Clear Vision, Manchester UK)
  • The Story of India テ「 Michael Wood (BBC, UK)

Raise your Query

Hi! Simply click below and type your query.

Our experts will reply you very soon.

WhatsApp Us