Welcome to India. A fusion of modernity and tradition, the vibrant colours of India are truly captivating. Be at one with bustling cities, surrender to the simplicity of villages, and feel the touch of the land’s spirituality. A journey through India is enriching, inspiring and unforgettable.
Kochi – Visit the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace),Cooking Class & dinner, Welcome Dinner.
Alleppey – Houseboat, Exploring the beauty of Kerala backwaters ,Cooking Class & Dinner.
Munnar -Sightseing ,Walking through cardamom and coffee plantations,Cooking class and dinner in a local family,Walking tour,Street Food,Sri Meenakshi Temple.
Kandukathan – Chettinad Cooking Demonstration, Village walk.
Trichy – Sreerangam Temple, Rock Fort Tirichirapilly.
Pondichery – Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Experimental township.
Mamalapuram – Explore this ancient seaport town by bicycle or by walk, Shore Temple, Dinner in a fisher mans House.
Your adventure will begin with a welcome meeting in the hotel. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you’re going to be late, please inform the hotel reception as soon as possible. We’ll be verifying your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details ready.
Your trip starts in Kochi the centre of Kerala State. Enjoy an authentic keralan dinner after the welcome meeting.
Kochi is Set on the Malabar, or “Pepper Coast”, Cochin (Kochi) is one of South India’s most interesting towns and is believed to have been the first European settlement in India. Rich in history despite recent growth it retains a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. Narrow spits of land and coconut covered islands jut out into the wide, almost enclosed bay whose neck is lined with the famous Chinese fishing nets.
Today take in some of the city’s most interesting sights. Visit the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later claimed by the Dutch in 1663. The Dutch improved upon the existing palace before presenting it to the rajas of Cochin. Interestingly Kochi is also home to a Jewish community that has roots going back as far as 1,000 AD, and you’ll see the Jewish synagogue in the city. Built in 1568, the Pardesi Synagogue is one of the oldest existing synagogues in India. Late in the afternoon visit a traditional 1940’s Kerala home located in the heart of Fort Kochi, and enjoy a cooking class. Among the dishes you’ll learn to prepare will be a Keralan classic – fish curry. Sit down and enjoy a feast with your new friends.
Drive to Alleppey to embark a houseboat at 12noon. Now start exploring the beauty of Kerala backwaters. Sail through the emerald green waters amidst the beautiful range of coconut lagoons. Have a glimpse of the lake side life style of the people. Enjoy a traditional Kerala meal on the board and later an evening tea & snacks. In the late evening have dinner and then an overnight stay at the houseboat. In the evening join our houseboat chef for a home cooked dinner and pick up the trick to whipping up payasam ( a delicious, jiggery and coconut desert.
Today morning after having your breakfast, you will be driven to Munnar, better known as the “Queen of hills”. En-route to Munnar, you will come across the beautiful Valara and Cheeyappara waterfalls. Munnar is a breathtakingly beautiful haven of peace and tranquility – the idyllic tourist destination in God’s own country set an altitude of 1600 to 1800 Mts above sea level with unending expanse of tea plantations pristine valleys and exotic mountains.
Day trek through tea plantations and the hills of Munnar. Or Sight seing in a car After an early breakfast, we take a short drive through old Munnar and travel down to Nagarmudi, a tiny village, where we start our trek accompanied by a local guide. The trek begins with a long gradual ascent through the tea plantations and then climbs into Seven Malai Hills. Just before reaching the top we enjoy walking through cardamom and coffee plantations. Our hard work will be rewarded with spectacular views over Chittrapuram Dam, Changulam Lake, Annamudi Peak, Munnar and other villages. We then descend back to our vehicle. There is an optional visit in the afternoon to a Tea Museum. Please note that there are a couple of steep ascents and descents on this trek. Approx. walking time 4 hrss.In the late afternoon, head out to the home of a former
rickshaw driver turned cooking teacher. The class will be conducted in an open courtyard with a small barbeque, where some of the cooking will take place. In this class you will also learn the secret to preparing porotta, a layered flatbread typical to parts of Southern India. Feast on your efforts over dinner.
Arrive in Madurai by afternoon . Crammed full of bazaars, temples, small industries, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best. Madurai is Tamil Nadu’s second largest town and ancient capital, with a recorded history that dates back to third-century BC. The city is recognised as the centre of Dravidian culture, with its main attraction the famous Shree Meenaksh Temple in the heart of the old town. Take some time to explore this ancient, still active temple, which is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors that lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed. Its many gopurams (temple towers) are covered with profusions of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures and the views from one of the temple towers are breathtaking. The cuisine of the state of Tamil Nadu is also highly regarded and it is believed that the English word curry is derived from the Tamil word ‘kari’. Characterised by the use of rice, legumes and lentils, the food of Tamil Nadu also has a number of regional variants, of which Madurai is a great example. Discover it’s signature flavours
on a street food tour. Travel the city from east to west, past markets and temples, and get the inside scoop on the best street food the city has to offer. You’ll have the opportunity to sample delicacies such as peppercorn semolina, lentils and hand-churned ice cream made with sarsaparilla and seaweed. Finish up at a famous masala dosa spot which is so popular it only opens for 4 hours a day!
Drive on to Kandukathan (approximately 2 hours), famous for its unique architecture and salt trade, arriving around midday. Settle in at your accommodation, an impressive mansion built in 1902 by prosperous merchants who used construction materials, decorative items and furnishings imported from East Asian countries and Europe. Relax, go for a swim in the swimming pool, then get ready for a real treat – a masterclass in Chettinad cuisine. Chettinad cuisine is distinct to the Chettiars, a successful trading community who built a reputation for ‘eating like kings’. This regional cuisine in revered throughout India and is well regarded for its liberal use of spice, replacing chilli with pepper to impart a subtle heat to dishes. Chettinad cuisine also incorporates seafood, chicken and lamb, although Chettiars do not eat beef and pork. In the hall of the mansion, learn to prepare famous Chettinad dishes including the signature chicken drumstick curry accompanied by mint chutnie, and follow it with a sumptuous feast in the open-air courtyard.
Travel by private vehicle for four hours through palm trees and rice paddies to Puducherry (or Pondicherry), with a stopover at Auroville. Comprised of 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, more than half of who are foreign nationals, the living project of Auroville is dedicated to unity and also houses the world’s largest solid crystal. On arrival in Puducherry, join a group walking tour to see local temples, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the French Quarter. Once a French colony, you’ll see evidence of French influence in Puducherry’s architecture, its wide town squares and even in the uniforms of the police.
Today you will visit Auroville, which sits just outside Pondicherry and is an experimental
township dedicated to the concept of human unity. With more than 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, half of the town’s population are foreign nationals. Auroville is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal, which you can examine. Back in Pondicherry you’ll take a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the most affluent and most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. You’ll see evidence of French colonial influence in Pondicherry’s architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the uniforms of the police. The city is also a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products. You’ll notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping.In the evering we go to a heritage hotel and Cooking a very special Dinner with a professional cheff.
In the morning we drive along the scenic East Coast Road to Mamallapuram. Explore this ancient seaport town by bicycle or by walk , paying a visit to the 7th-century Shore Temple and the enormous bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna’s Penance. There will also be time to inspect the town’s numerous mandapams (pillared temple pavilions), watch stonemasons at work or to relax at a beachside restaurant. In the evening we go to a fisherman’s house and join the fisherman’s family for dinner.
Today after breakfast We drive to Chennai air port for your onward journey
Hotels (11 Nights on twin/double share basis)
7 breakfast, 1 Lunch, 9 Dinner
Private Car, Metro, Train, Taxi, Jeep, Auto Rickshaw, Cycle rickshaw, Private vehicle
Delhi – Sheesganj Gurudwara, Chandi chowk, India Gate, Parliament House, Humayun’s Tomb,Unique meals in both local restaurants and with a local family
Agra – Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
Jaipur – Amber Palace, Step well, Jal Mahal, and Hawa Mahal (Palace of winds),Cooking
Tordigarh – Jeep safari (village, lake, sand dunes) and morning camel cart, Cooking demo
Ranthambore – Spotting tigers and other wildlife at beautiful Ranthambore National Park
Bundi – Bundi Palace,The history of step wells,Local Market.
Udaipur – City palace, Culture programme, Boat ride,Local fruit and vegetable market, Cooking class.
No meals included
Pre and Post Accommodation
Single Supplement Accommodation
Domestic and International Airfares
Camera Video Charges for Selected Monuments.
Allow a minimum of USD $ 150 for meals not included. Please factor in your own personal eating and drinking habits.
Pre/Post Trip Accommodation
If you’ve purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Included Trip Accommodation
The Ultimate Travel and Visa Company contracts comfortable hotels/lodges. All hotels are air-conditioned; they generally have excellent facilities and many are centrally located.
A variety of accommodation standards are available for Independent tours, see your dossier for the accommodation class specific to your tour. Please remember that hotel/lodge/resort standards can be different from what you are used to in your home country, which is part of the appeal of cultural/adventure/comfort trips
A variety of styles of hotels/guest houses are used in India. These can vary in terms of service, efficiency and cleanliness. In many instances they might not be like what you are used to back home. Power cuts can and are a regular occurrence in many places, especially throughout North and Central India. Although a number of hotels have generators there may be times when these won’t work. It is also recommended when you are in your room to lock the door, as staff will sometime enter without reason.
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 Basis Accommodation
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 different The Ultimate Travel and Visa Company trips than your own.
If you choose 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 prices are typically based on twin –share accommodation but single Supplements are not compulsory for any The Ultimate Travel and Visa Company trip. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip. Please advise the sales team at the time of booking if you wish to add this to your booking and they will confirm the price for you. Please note this does not include the overnight sleeper train journeys.
The Ultimate Travel and Visa Company uses hotels at good locations on our trips – these are one of the charms of this trip, but occasionally their staircases, balconies and passages etc don’t always comply with western safety standards. Please don’t expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved in their original state.
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.
Indian cuisine caters very well towards vegetarians and vegans with almost all restaurants having a vegetarian section on the menu. Eating is a big part of traveling in India and Nepal
For excluded meals the cost of breakfast is approximately £3 (US$5) and you should allow at least £12 (US$20) per day for lunch and dinner. You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants, you will spend more than the suggested amount. In most towns there is a good variety of restaurants and a choice between Indian and basic Western style food. If you are a vegetarian India is probably one of the best destinations to travel to with a wide range of dishes on offer. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A (large!) bottle of beer is approximately £3 (US$5). Purified water is widely available. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.
Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. 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.
Street food, although tasty and fabulous looking, cannot always be relied upon to have been safely and hygienically prepared, so to this end, we suggest you sample ‘street style’ food from an established restaurant or from somewhere recommended by your tour leader.
If Indian food becomes too much and you wish to escape to something familiar, Western-style food is available. Many menus in hotels and restaurants will feature dishes loosely based on Western recipes with perhaps just a hint of curry flavouring or spice. Indians like to experiment with other cuisine as well. Chinese cuisine in India is often very good. In the bigger cities, you’ll find restaurants specialising in international cuisine, not to mention American fast food chains.
The best way to see India at ground level is on the train and private vehicle.
Air conditioned carriages and sleepers (for overnight journeys) are used on selected trips. Regular stops are made at stations where additional food is also available including many vendors boarding the train selling chai (Indian tea), cold drinks, crisps and biscuits. Do not accept food or gifts from travellers on the train system. Carriage and sleeper class toilets are reasonably clean. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
Private vehicles are air conditioned, comfortable and registered for the purpose of tourism only. Traffic appears to be erratic and impossible, however traffic does flow and drivers communicate by horn. Due to the congestion of vehicles and road conditions travel time covering relatively short distances is long in comparison to Western countries.
During the month of December, January and February fog can be a real possibility.
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.
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!
Travel insurance is compulsory in order to participate on any of our trips. You will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance has been sighted by the Group Leader, including your policy number, next of kin and 24 hour emergency contact numbers.
We require a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 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.
If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.
The national currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR), It is illegal to import or export rupees. Do not accept torn or (very) dirty Indian banknotes from banks or in change as they will almost certainly not be accepted as legal tender in India. You can change money back from Rupees into Pounds or Dollars at Varanasi airport; this has to be done before you go through security and please note that only 1 or 2 small outlets accept Rupees in the departure lounge
The most convenient way to travel through India is utilizing ATM’s distributed throughout major cities and large towns. . Major credit cards are accepted in most shops but they may charge a 2-4% transaction fee. Money exchange (USD or Euro) can be organized at the local bank or authorized dealer in major cities
Every traveler is a little different when it comes to spending money. 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, laundry and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
You’ll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that’s this document).
Tipping plays an important role in India and in tourism. Not only does tipping pay for services provided, but also shows your appreciation and is an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your journey. Many workers depend on tips to support themselves and their families.
·Tipping for Drivers: INR 150-200 Per Person, Per Day
·Restaurant: 10% – 15% of the Total Bill
·Tipping for Local Guides: INR 150 Per Person
·Tipping for Housekeeping / Porters: INR 100 Per Person
There are several times during the trip where there is an opportunity to tip the local guides we use. Your tour leader will offer to arrange and look after a group tipping kitty which will be used to tip hotel staff, local sightseeing guides, bus drivers as well as any other support staff used throughout your trip. Your leader will suggest how much to contribute, depending on group size, but it is usually in the region of 3000 INR (approx. GBP£20 or US$30) per person. At any time during the trip your leader will be happy to show you an account of how the kitty is being distributed. It is important that our travellers understand the culture surrounding tipping so that they are able to make an informed decision.
Tipping for Group Leaders
Also at the end of each trip you can tip your Group Leader for providing an outstanding job, organising local arrangements and responsibility for arranging additional activities. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $US 10-12 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. Remember a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
Please ensure you have access to a minimum of USD $150 (or equivalent) as an ’emergency’ fund, to be used when circumstances occur outside of our control. For example: a natural disaster, strikes, political issues, long distance train / plane cancellations (if applicable in your itinerary), personal medical conditions etc.
If you are travelling to India carrying minimal clothing and light luggage is suggested. The reason is that both clothing and laundry is quite cheap. We have included suggestions for you to bring, however will depend on the trip selected, region and climate. A suitcase or small to medium bag is suggested, as these can fit easily in vehicles and air-conditioned sleeper trains (if applicable in your itinerary). You will also need a day pack / bag to carry water, cameras and other personal items.
·Pre-Departure Information and Trip Notes
India is a country with such diverse climates and weather conditions that almost each season has its own extremes and pleasant times.
The best times to visit India:
·North India and Nepal (September – March)
·South India (October – March)
·Himalayas (March – June).
The months of April to June are usually scorching hot in India as the heat can get unbearable at times. The monsoons last from July to September. Now that you have an overview of ideal times to travel in India, take your time and decide when would you like to visit this beautiful and diverse land.
It comes as a surprise to many travellers that India can be cold (ie. below zero!) during winter (particularly Dec/Jan), even in some cities and even when not at high altitudes. Make sure you are prepared for the weather during these months by bringing adequately warm clothes with you, including thermal underclothes and an appropriate jacket. Many hotels in India do not have central heating, so a warmer set of clothes to sleep in has also been recommended by our past travellers
Hygiene and Dress Standards
Drinking Water in India
Bottled mineral water is readily available in shops and market places. When buying bottled water ensure the seal is intact.
Bring antibacterial hand-wipes with you. You’ll find that they’re useful in range of situations including cleaning your hands before eating and when using the bathroom.
Clothing and Footwear
As in any society, how you dress affects your experiences. Your fashion choices make a statement about your interests or intentions, and these statements are subject to cultural interpretation. Men and women should cover their shoulders and knees at all times with loose fitting clothes. Women should carry a scarf when entering mosques and temples.
The terrain can be rough and slippery at times, sturdy shoes or boots are recommended.
India is a conservative society. Both men and women need to be modestly and respectfully dressed. In predominately Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim countries we ask that you dress respectfully and avoid very short shorts/skirts and singlets/tanktops when visiting small rural communities or visiting temples or mosques or other holy sites as this may restrict your entry. It is polite and courteous to remove your shoes while visiting someone’s home.
Swimming in the rivers is not recommended due to strong currents. At the beach a conservative swimsuit is advisable and you should cover up before leaving.
Laundry facilitis are offered by majority of hotels for a charge. In addition, laundry services can be found outside hotels in all major cities. There may be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting / biodegradable soap.
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. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit and hand sanitizers / antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Please refer to the Physical and Culture Shock ratings for trip specific information.
For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
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.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers’ cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes which are the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
When travelling your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your group leader will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. We offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night. It is our recommendation to stay in small groups and to take taxis to and from restaurants, or during night time excursions.
The Ultimate Travel and Visa Company suggests some things you can do for your safety and peace of mind when travelling:
·Avoid isolated areas including beaches, village lanes, unlit city streets, climbing mountains, and cycling in remote areas when alone at any time of day and night.
·Avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night.If you have to use a taxi get them from hotel taxi ranks and use pre-paid taxis at airports. Try to avoid hailing taxis on the street. Some cities (including Delhi and Chennai) have special taxi services for women with women drivers.
·Respect local dress codes and customs, perhaps dressing more conservatively than you do at home.
·If you’re being collected at the airport by a driver make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off.
·When leaving your compartment on overnight trains (ie. going to the bathroom), ask a male travel companion to accompany you where possible.
There is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft when travelling, particularly in the big 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.
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for our travellers. Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter, and in particular the local people who make the world the special place it is. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our representative will have the right to expel you if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
Tourism can be a real help to local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchanges and a financial incentive to protect their natural environment. Ours is a ‘total approach’ to responsible tourism, covering everything from the way we plan and operate our trips to the practices of The Ultimate Travel and Visa Company as a company. This trip employs local leaders and staff through all aspects of the trip. Our leaders, already committed to Responsible Tourism, have received training and get additional refresher training on a regular basis. We use predominantly locally owned and run accommodation on this trip. Many local restaurants and shops are also used to purchase items throughout this trip which benefits the local community.
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