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Destinations

India

This is a country travellers fantasize about – exotic, oriental, ancient India. It is also modern, booming, chaotic India. Between the two lies a wealth of delights – the charm of a golden civilisation still alive and kicking after centuries and to be glimpsed as you turn the corner of a palace or a fort; as you hear the sweetness of the flute in the misty northern hills and the deep rhythm of the sitar at a mesmerizing performance; as you drive past the captivating sound of temple bells that ring out loud amidst the noise of a daily ritual prayer; as you wander into monuments adorned with precious stones – unguarded, still splendid; as you lie deeply relaxed drifting to music, massaged by the strong yet gentle touch of Ayurveda healers.

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This is a country travellers fantasize about – exotic, oriental, ancient India. It is also modern, booming, chaotic India. Between the two lies a wealth of delights – the charm of a golden civilisation still alive and kicking after centuries and to be glimpsed as you turn the corner of a palace or a fort; as you hear the sweetness of the flute in the misty northern hills and the deep rhythm of the sitar at a mesmerizing performance; as you drive past the captivating sound of temple bells that ring out loud amidst the noise of a daily ritual prayer; as you wander into monuments adorned with precious stones – unguarded, still splendid; as you lie deeply relaxed drifting to music, massaged by the strong yet gentle touch of Ayurveda healers.

The wonder that is India never stops overwhelming your senses. It is not a country for the frail and the timid. Unpredictable, noisy, spiritual, peaceful, argumentative, complex, intelligent, emotional – a country that has seen and absorbed many invading and colonising cultures and has grown to a chaotic, vocal, economically booming and fiercely independent democracy that embraces both the poor beggar on the street and the ostentatious luxury brand in the mall. Commercialisation jostles with creativity and an ancient heritage and teachings already include and accept ultra-modern changes and a fast-paced evolution of ideas and inventions.

India offers the magnificence of a varied landscape that spreads itself out from the mystical Himalayas to the warm serenity of the backwaters, from the deep mysterious Sunderbans to the brilliant colours swirling around the deserts of Kutch. Travel here takes you from country-sized bustling cities to forgotten mud-hut villages around rich monuments in locations where empires once existed.

A trip to India is what travel stories are made of. It’s not just the places and the sightseeing that travellers relish, but also the festivals, the art and craft, the people, the cuisines, and of course, the shopping. And we haven’t even talked about the warmth, hospitality and friendliness yet.

North

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North

Opulent in every which way, North India is usually the entry point for a trip to India and has many must-see destinations – it is the India of every traveler’s fantasy. Stretched out at the feet of the towering majesty of the Himalayas, encompassing the high mountain cities at the roof of the world, the verdant flood plains of the river Ganges as well as the arid gold of the western desert, North India presents a vibrant cultural kaleidoscope. From capital Delhi’s rich past and thriving present, from the eternal Taj Mahal to the royal grandeur of Rajasthan, the monumental architecture here is redolent of the creative genius of successive historical era. A large and historically tumultuous region, it has always been a magnetic draw for travelers throughout its history, many of them invaders who brought with them cultures and customs that are still dazzlingly woven into the fabric of Indian life today.

Central

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Central

Stretching from beyond the mighty Narmada River to the fringes of the Western Ghats, a transitional zone between the Gangetic lowlands in the north and the high Deccan plateau to the south – the heart of India is endowed with abundant natural beauty, peppered with a dose of medieval Hinduism, dotted with rugged wilderness, and infused with rich tribal arts and culture. The caves spread across Bhimbetka’s vast expanse have paintings that reveal secrets of some of our earliest ancestors. Most of the marauding armies that have swept across the subcontinent over the last two millennia passed through this corridor, leaving conspicuous marks on it. Its array of exceptional attractions ranges from cascading waterfalls, virgin forests, spiritual stupas, timeless temples and hilltop forts to some of India’s best tiger reserves.

South

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South

South India is different in texture, in its taste, sounds, smells and colours. Everything is richer and yet more simple, if you can grasp that essential Indian paradox. It is traditional and seeped in a quiet Dravidian heritage and culture that has remained remarkably unaffected despite a very ancient trade through its splendid seaports, and contact with foreign people and cultures – the Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans and Chinese. You cannot but help appreciate the simple integrity yet extraordinary richness of the region, with its changing landscape of the high Deccan Plateau, the rugged but forested hills and coastal Ghats, the lush green fields of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the surreal beauty of the Kerala backwaters, the long stretches of beach stepping out of thick coconut palm and bamboo plantations – serene, gentle and beautiful.

East

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East

The East of India is an area of improbable diversity, one of the last frontiers that have much to reward the intrepid traveller, reaching from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, along the wild mangroves and swamps of the Sundarbans. An ancient center of learning, this is where Mahavira and the Buddha preached an alternate, gentler way of life; the Emperor Ashoka looked out onto the futility of death and destruction he had wrought on Kalinga and chose to propagate the way of peace; the British metamorphosed from traders to supreme rulers of India; and the incredibly rich hinterland directed the industrialization of an independent nation. The Nobel laureate, poet, philosopher and artist Rabindra Nath Tagore’s imprint is writ large all over West Bengal. The archipelago of the Andaman & Nichobar Islands known for their unspoiled beach is at the junction of the Bay of Bengal. And in the region even today, the many distinctive tribal people live their lives, their culture alive and well, enduring beyond the flow and flux of changes.

North East

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North East

The North East region comprises of nearly 8 per cent of the total geographic area of the country. Obscured from the greater world by ageless forests and formidable mountain ranges, the eight states of North East are natural blessing and anthropological sanctuaries, each with its own unique cultural flavour. Along with its picturesque locations, it has a wide range of rare and endemic species living in its nurturing lap and the region forms a major part of Indo Burma biodiversity hotspot. The infinite variety of its geographic setting, its topography, its varied flora and fauna and avian life, the history of its people and the variety of its ethnic communities and their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, festivals and crafts — all make it a holiday wonderland that’s just begging to be discovered afresh.

West

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West

The west region is bounded by the Arabian Sea to its west and the Gangetic Plains to its east. It is the most heterogeneous of India’s regions, abundant in natural resources; palm fringed beaches, misty forests, desolate salt plains, ancient temples & caves and home to the nomadic tribes. It has within its ambit, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, the genius who gave peace a new potential and it is replete with the heroism and martial acts of Shivaji and other Maratha kings. Commercially it includes some of the most progressive regions defined by multitude of influence apparent in its economic progress. The evidence of trade with central Asia during Harappan times, discovered in Lothal, dates back 3500 years. The rock cut caves at Ajanta and Ellora eloquently record the earliest mingling of faiths. Goa’s golden coastline is magnet for visitors and Mumbai, gateway of India is the financial centre and principal port on the Arabian Sea.

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Nepal

Nepal is the land of mountains and monasteries. This landlocked country has the perfect fusion of nature and culture. Picturesque Himalayan range in the North, roaring rivers making their way through the hills to the plains, lush green paddy fields and quaint little villages everywhere, its scenic beauty will leave lasting image on your mind.

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Nepal is the land of mountains and monasteries. This landlocked country has the perfect fusion of nature and culture. Picturesque Himalayan range in the North, roaring rivers making their way through the hills to the plains, lush green paddy fields and quaint little villages everywhere, its scenic beauty will leave lasting image on your mind.

Nepal definitely is the ultimate destination for those who prefer to stay closer to nature and immerse themselves in various cultures. From rugged trails to scenic views, from rafting on swollen rivers to sighting wild animals in their natural habitat, it offers a rush of adrenaline for every nature-loving adventure seeker on its diverse array of landscapes. Dotted by medieval city squares, temples and monasteries, the capital city Kathmandu enjoys a rich tapestry of cultures blending to form a national identity. Kathmandu Valley has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and serves as the country’s cultural metropolis since the unification of Nepal in the 18th Century.

People of Nepal are known for their hospitality, friendliness, and warm nature. Always welcoming to their guests, Nepalese people consider guests as a god, so be ready to be treated with uttermost respect and kindness in every place you travel.

Mid-Hill

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Mid-Hill

The Midlands (600m – 3,500m), enjoy a temperate climate and the land here is far more fertile than in the upper Himalayan region. In this region lie the valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara along with other cultural destinations such as Bandipur, Gorkha Tansen and Nuwakot. A twenty minute drive in any direction from the valley leads to countless viewpoints, traditional villages and hidden temples that are linked by trail-heads make their way from one destination to the other. Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal and a short trip to Nagakot or Dhulikhel offers panoramic views of the Himalayas. The Midlands and lower Himalaya form the largest part of the country occupying about 68 percent of total land area.

Tarai

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Tarai

The plains of Nepal are known as the Tarai (60m – 305m) and further north the Siwalik (700m – 1,500 m) and the Mahabharat range (1,500m – 2,700m) give way to the Duns (valleys). Along this belt lay the Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve and the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve which harbour an amazing variety of wildlife including endangered species such as the elusive Royal Bengal tiger, the One-horned rhinoceros and Gangetic dolphins along with rare species of birds. The Tarai region occupies about 17 percent of total land area.

Himalaya

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Himalaya

With eight of the world’s highest mountains in the country, Nepal is a mountaineer’s paradise. The Nepal Himalaya is the most formidable mountain range in the world with nearly a third of the country lying above the elevation of 3,500m. Eight of the world’s highest peaks lie within Nepal’s territory: Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Annapurna, which are all over 8,000m above sea level. The Himalaya region occupies about 15 percent of total land area.

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Bhutan

Bhutan is a religious heartland with lovely temples, monasteries and forested hills. Every nook and corner is an object of beauty.

As one travels through Bhutan, colours become very prominent. The festivals display colourful textiles. Art and architecture are done in a variety of colours. The fauna and flora are visual feasts. The landscape itself is a paradise of colours. On a larger side, the significance of colours in Bhutan are categorised under three important divisions of the Bhutanese society- Cosmology, Astrology and Buddhist teachings.

The charming mountain kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure—and strive to improve-its citizens’ Gross National Happiness.

Mongar –
Eastern Bhutan

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Mongar – Eastern Bhutan

Mongar is a small town situated atop a hill rather than within a valley. This town is considered the main trade and travel hub of eastern Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and deep gorges set amidst dense conifer forests. The region is known for its weavers and textiles, and fabrics produced here are considered some of the best in the country. Mongar, with its population of 3000 people is perfect place to explore on foot. Its main street, clean and wide, is lined with traditionally painted stone buildings with wooden facades and verandas and is very pleasant for an leisurely evening stroll .Mongar is noted for its lemon grass, a plant that can be used to produce an essential oil. It also has a hydro power plant on the Kuri Chhu river. In the past, this region was known as the bastion of the Zhongarps as it produced some of the finest administrators in the country whose descendants still continue to play an active part in the political scene of Bhutan.

Trashigang –
Eastern Bhutan

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Trashigang – Eastern Bhutan

Trashigang, “The Jewel of the East”, spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600 m to over 4000 m. Bhutan’s largest river, Dangme Chhu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade centre for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Today, it is the junction of the East-West highway with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dressing stands out from the ordinary Bhutanese Gho and Kira.

Trashigang is home to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, one of ten protected areas of Bhutan, was created in part to protect the migoi, a type of yeti, in whose existence most Bhutanese believe. The sanctuary covers the eastern third of the district (the gewogs of Merak and Sakteng), and is connected via biological corridor to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary in Samdrup Jongkhar District to the south. The traditional architecture and narrow streets in Trashigang town give a quaint and cosy feel. The entire town can be explored on foot.

Trashigang is a 2 night destination from where a day excursion to Trashiyangste is proposed, another delightful quaint town of Bhutan.

Trashiyangtse –
Eastern Bhutan

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Trashiyangtse – Eastern Bhutan

One of the newest ddistricts in the country, Trashi yangtse was established as a distinct district in 1992 and spans 1,437 sq. km of subtropical and alpine forests. With its wealth of natural, historical and cultural resources Trashi yangtse is a destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget.

Trashiyangtse is an ethnically and culturally diverse district.The people of the region have developed incredible skill at woodworking and paper making. The items they produce such as traditional wooden bowls are prized throughout the country. It contains a major art school, the School of Traditional Arts, which is a sister school of the School of Traditional Arts in Thimphu and teaches six forms of art; painting, pottery, wood sculpture, wood-turning, lacquer-work and embroidery.

Bumthang –
Central Bhutan

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Bumthang – Central Bhutan

Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys, Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is surrounded in religious legends. These fertile valleys are covered in fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes. Apple orchards and dairy farms are also common sights here. This serene region is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in the kingdom.

Bumthang is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.

Gangtey –
Western Bhutan

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Gangtey – Western Bhutan

The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. This wide and flat valley without any trees is a surprise to find after a difficult climb through dense forests and a rare experience in Bhutan, where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.

At an elevation of 3,000 metres on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, it is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys. A designated conservation area, it is the winter home of the endangered black-necked crane. The residents of the valley have garnered much acclaim for their conservation efforts to preserve the habitat of these beautiful birds.

Thimpu –
Western Bhutan

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Thimphu – Western Bhutan

The Kingdom’s capital city is home to approximately 100,000 inhabitants including the Royal family. This bustling little city is the main center of commerce, religion and government in the country. Thimphu is the most modern city in Bhutan with an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centers, however, it still retains its cultural identity and values amidst the signs of modernisation.

Thimphu is one of the few towns in Bhutan that have been equipped with ATM banking facilities and is a good place to stock up on some currency. Thimphu is the only capital city in the world that does not use traffic lights. Instead a few major intersections have policemen standing in elaborately decorated booths, directing traffic with exaggerated hand motions. The juxtaposition of ancient tradition and modernity make Thimphu the ideal location for visitors to break away from their tour itinerary and just immerse themselves in the lifestyle of contemporary Bhutanese.

There are several attractions in Thimphu such as the National Post Office, the Clock Tower Square, the Motithang Takin Preserve, Tango and Chari Monasteries, Buddha Dordenma, National Memorial Chorten, Centenary Farmer’s Market, Semtokha Dzong to name a few. These form the most important tourist attractions in the capital city.

Paro –
Western Bhutan

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Paro – Western Bhutan

Paro valley extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom up to Mt. Jomolhari at the Tibetan border to the North. This picturesque region is one of the widest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice fields and has a beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley.

One can enjoy nature at its best along with a peaceful environment. However, apart from the main street, which is constructed of traditional wooden structures, the bazaar area comprises of concrete buildings all over the place.
Some of the cultural landmarks of Paro include the Paro Dzong, the national museum, the Takstang Monastery and the Cheri Lang monastery. The Takstang’s Monastery also known Tiger’s Nest hangs on a cliff at 3,120 metres – built on a the location where Guru Rinpoche is believed to have landed on the back of a tiger! To get there, one has to climb up to 3000 meters to the vantage points, then take cliff-hanging steps down to a narrow bridge across the gorge and then ascend a few hundred odd steps to the monastery.

Punakha –
Western Bhutan

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Punakha – Western Bhutan

Punakha district is in the east of Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The name has been acquired from the word Pungthan-kha which means ‘the gathering ground’. The Dzong (fortress like building) stands at the confluence of the two rivers that flow through the valley. The structure does look like piles of debris gathered by the rivers. Hence the name’gathering ground’. Officially, the Dzong here is named Punthang Dewachengi Phodrang. The crude translation would mean ‘the blissful castle at the gathering ground’. The Dzong was consecrated in 1637 as the seat of spiritual lpower of Bhutan and it served as the capital until the 1950s. The Monastic Body of Bhutan still considers Punakha as their winter capital and every year they migrate from Thimphu to their winter residence on the 1st day of the 10thBhutanese month. On the way, thousands of devotees wait at different places to receive their blessings. They spend six months in Punakha before moving back to Thimphu on the first day of the fourth Bhutanese month.

It takes two hours to drive to Punakha from Thimphu. Some tourists make day excursions from the capital but most like to spend at least two nights there.

Punakha Valley is almost subtropical. The birdlife is very rich with highlight being the white-bellied heron. This heron is Asia’s largest and endangered. Only few hundreds are left in the world. Many migratory aquatic birds do visit the valley in winter months. Blessed with sub-tropical vegetation, many varieties of insects thrive here. The valley does have reptiles too that includes the King cobra. Of bigger animals there are sightings of the Takin, the National Animal of Bhutan at the northern end of the region. Takins closely resemble the Musk Ox and migrate to lower pastures in winter.

Punakha is also the cultural heartland of western Bhutan. The first King of Bhutan was crowned at the Punakha Dzong in 1907. Henceforth, all crowning ceremonies are held at this Dzong. One of the most fascinating temples in Punakha is the Khamsum Yuelling and it has some exquisite wall frescoes. There are numerous temples, farmhouses and view points where one can go for day hikes.

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Sri Lanka

The name Sri Lanka means ‘resplendent land’ and the island nation truly lives up to the epithet. The capital, Colombo is a lively city and serves as the main port of Sri Lanka. It’s an interesting mix of the old and the new, both a commercial hub and a stronghold of the charms of the past. Like a gem hanging off the Indian subcontinent, this brilliant country holds far more than its size would have you believe, enough to have you coming back to it again and again. Breath-taking sands, lush green hills, teeming wildlife, mighty waterfalls, endless heritage and pilgrimage sites, it’s no wonder that Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as “the finest island of its size in the world.”

Anuradhapura

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Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, 5th century BC – 9th century AD and the center of the island’s Buddhist civilization. In antiquity and the interest, it is the equal of any ancient ‘buried city’. The island’s oldest Buddhist shrines – some dating back to 3rd century BC are found here. Impressive white ‘dagabas’ (relic chambers) and monuments, embellished with handsome stone carvings and sculpture, the oldest documented tree on earth – The Sri Maha Bodhi (over 2000 years old), pleasure gardens, beautifully executed stone baths and ponds, a superb irrigation system of reservoirs and canals are the attractions of Anuradhapura.

RUWANWELISEYA – Located in the heart of Anuradhapura, this great Stupa was built by the great king, Dutugemunu circa 140 BC. Ruwanweliseya is one of the “solosmasthana” (one of the 16 places of veneration). it is also one of the tallest structures during the ancient kingdom

SACRED BO TREE – The Bo tree/ Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) is a fig tree and is sacred to Buddhists. The Bo tree producing heart shaped leaves became a symbol for Buddhists where their spiritual leader Lord Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) attained enlightenment in Gaya. Later King Asoka built a shrine in the 3rd century at the Bodi Gaya. Following several attempts to destroy the Bo tree, Kind Asoka sent a sapling of the tree to Sri Lanka through his daughter Sangamitta.

The boat carrying the nun, arrived at the Dambakolapatuna in Jaffna and was later taken through a procession and planted in Anuradhapura. This event dates back to 245 BC and the Srimaha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura is considered one of the most sacred places for all Buddhists.

Bo tress are planted in close proximities at all Buddhists monasteries. According to ancient Buddhsit text, the original specimen of the Bo tree dates back to 288 BC where Siddartha Gautama.

Colombo

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Colombo

The rapidly changing trade capital is becoming interesting to visitors who look for that urban feel and experience. Today, Colombo has emerged as a fascinating city with a blend of past & the present with a charm of its own. The colonial influence has a fascinating effect on Colombo’s architecture, and its lifestyles. The main seaport of Sri Lanka is in Colombo & adjoining city of Pettah, is a hub for trading activities. Today’s modernization has made Colombo a vibrant city with emerging restaurants offering global visitors amazing dining experiences.

The Colombo museum has an interesting range of artifacts and exhibits including the throne of the Kandyan Monarchs. The exhibits provide an interesting perspective of the history of Sri Lanka. The British governor of Ceylon at that time, Sir William Henry Gregory commissioned the building, which was opened on the 1st of January 1877. Arasi Marikar Wapachi Marikar built the museum, which added to his accolade of amazing structures that can be seen in Colombo even to date.

The city is best explored in the evenings where exploring Colombo’s colonial past blends with today’s development and we share interesting perspectives of how Colombo has emerged as a hub in South Asia.

Galle

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Galle

Located on the southwest tip of the Island, Galle is the administrative capital of the Southern Province. Located approximately 119km from Colombo, Galle has a rich history dating back to the era where Cinnamon was traded by the Arab traders in the 8th century. Galle flourished in during the 18th century where the Dutch developed the Portuguese established fort into a trading port in South Asia. The diversity of Galle along with its coastlines, the rich interiors and the typical southern lifestyle orbits around the “living fortress” which today is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Today Galle is easily accessible due to the development of the Southern Expressway, which connects Colombo to the west, and Matara to its south.

GALLE FORTRESS – The port of Galle, thought by some to be the Biblical city of Tarshish, splendidly illustrates the solidity of the Dutch presence in Sri Lanka. The 52-hectare (130 acre) Dutch Fort, built in 1663, has withstood the ravages of time. Its massive ramparts surround the promontory that forms the older part of Galle, and shelters within its walls sturdy Dutch houses, museums and churches. This area has a quiet, relaxed atmosphere that seems almost detached from the flow of history. The New Oriental Hotel, built for Dutch governors in 1684, is a colonial gem with a wonderfully atmospheric bar. Nearby is a tiny sliver of a beach suitable for a dip, though most travelers prefer to head along the coast to the fine beaches at Unawatuna, Weligama and Tangalle.

Habarana

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Habarana

Habarana is the central point of Sri Lanka’s cultural and historic triangle and the most convenient base for excursions to the Ancient historical cities. Located in the north central part of the island, Habarana is a part of Sri Lanka’s dry zone. Thanks to the genius of our ancient kings dating as far as the 05th Century AD, the Sri Lankan dry zone is anything but dry, with hundreds of lakes and reservoirs which are connected by an elaborate network of canals making up an old but great irrigation system. Aside from the benefit for agriculture and industry, the waterworks of the dry zone provide some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery and fertile habitat for the islands incredible bio-diversity.

Hatton

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Hatton / Dickoya

What draws visitors to Hatton & Dickoya is its luscious tea plantations and estates surrounded by mountains and valleys. The picturesque Castlereagh and Moussakelle reservoirs complement the natural landscapes and fine weather whilst the tea plucking community, their lifestyles and rituals adds a celestial sense of aura. Located within the Nuwara Eliya district, Hatton is at an elevation above 1,200 m. These two charming towns is the gateway to Adam’s Peak considered one of the pilgrimage hotspots revolved around beliefs of the Buddhists, Hindu’s, the Muslims and Christians.

Kandy

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Kandy

The Hill Capital was the last stronghold of the Sinhala Kings retains an aura of grandeur, which time has not affected. Encircled by hills, with a tranquil lake in its center, it is the site of the most venerated lace for all Buddhists, the “Temple of the Tooth”. The Royal Botanical gardens home to one of the best collections of Orchids. The Colonial buildings signify Victorian and Edwardian style architecture, the Queens Hotel certainly making its presence felt in the town.

Kandy was once the capital of the venerated 16th century Kandyan Kings, who fiercely and successfully defended their kingdom against Portuguese and Dutch invaders for 300 years. It eventually fell to the British in 1815, but the salubrious hill station has maintained its position as an epicenter of Sinhalese culture and the site of an important spiritual pilgrimage for Buddhists. Many of the legends, traditions, and folklore are still lovingly kept alive by the region’s friendly people.

THE ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS – Believed to be one of the most beautiful gardens in South Asia and begun as a pleasure garden by a Sinhala King. Every variety tropical and temperate tree and flower is cultivated here and special houses with orchids and e cacti are too beautiful to be true. Special features are the Orchid House, which displays a fine collection of over 300 varieties of Sri Lankan orchids, the fernery, spice garden, and the trees planted by distinguished visitors to the Island.

This 147 are was originally a pleasure garden of the last Queen of Kandy. Later this garden became the operational headquarters of Lord Mountbatten who was Supreme Commander of the allied Forces during the Second World War. This garden is one of the best in the world with its Variety of plants. The spice garden gives you a first hand introduction to the trees, plants and creepers that produce the special spices of Sri Lanka

TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH RELIC – “The Dalada Maligawa” or the Temple of the sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy is the most venerated place of worship for Buddhists throughout the world. Built in the 16th century, this temple houses the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha brought to Sri Lanka from the Kalinga province in ancient India in the 4th century AD. Several buildings have been added to the temple complex by successive rulers, the latest being the Golden Canopy over the inner shrine where the Tooth Relic is placed. Originally the Temple was within the King’s palace complex as it was the symbol of Royal Authority.

Note: It is important to wear cloths covering yours shoulders and below knees.

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Passport & Visas

You require a valid passport from your country and a visa from an Indian mission abroad to enter India.

E-Visa Facility

E-Visa facility is available to nationalities of 166 countries.

For the complete list of nationalities covered under the e-Tourist visa scheme, please visit https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html

E-Visa Validity

The validity of e-tourist and e- business visas is one year with multiple entries.

On e-tourist visa, continuous stay during each visit should not exceed 90 days in case of nationals eligible for grant of e-visa except US, UK, Japan and Canada.

In case of nationals of US, UK, Japan and Canada, continuous stay during each visit should not exceed 180 days.

Travellers who do not require a visa:
India issues the following types of visas

[Source / link to http://passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/online/visaServices]

When you apply for a visa at an Indian Embassy or High Commission you must include the following:

 

Business Hours

Government Offices/Shops: Monday – Friday, 10:00 – 17:00 hrs.
Some Government offices are open on alternate Saturdays.

Banks: Monday – Friday, 10:00 – 14:00 hrs, Saturdays, 10:00 – 12:00 hrs.

Some commercial offices operate on a five-day week, with Saturdays and Sundays off. Others work a half-day on Saturdays. Office hours tend to be 09:30 – 18:00 hrs.

Shops do not have any standard timing. In major metros, you may find malls and department stores open until 20:00 hrs, seven days a week. Shops in business areas tend to close a little after office closing time. In tourist areas, you will probably find small stores open late into the evening. In many small towns, shops would tend to close around 20:00 hrs.

Restaurants and bars have different legally-enforced closing hours in different states. In most parts of the country, this would be around midnight or even earlier. The only food establishments legally open 24 hours a day are coffee shops in five-star hotels.

Health

Vaccinations are not mandatory but you may be required to provide proof of vaccination against certain diseases in order to enter the country. These requirements are subject to frequent change as outbreaks occur and subside in different areas, and it is therefore crucial that you obtain the very latest information on entry requirements as you prepare for your journey. We highly recommend that you check with your physician to verify your particular needs. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends several vaccinations for travellers going to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

Guests should bear in mind that the infrastructure in developing countries, often presents severe and even insurmountable challenges for those with walking difficulties or other mobility issues. Guests requiring such individualized assistance must be accompanied by an able-bodied companion who can provide it.

It can also be quite warm during sightseeing, but using sun protection, wearing a hat and sunglasses and drinking lots of water can help minimize the impact of the weather.

Always keep a mosquito repellent with you and be sure to pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn.

Public toilet facilities are rare. You are encouraged to take every opportunity to use a clean toilet in places such as hotels and restaurants. Most hotels catering to an international clientele provide western style restroom facilities.

Currency

The official currency of India is called Indian National Rupee (or simply Rupee) which is symbolized by sign ₹. The notes (Bills) currently in circulation are in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 & 2000 Rupees.

On the 8th November 2016 the Government of India announced demonetization of old ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes in a major step to check undeclared black money. A newly redesigned series of ₹500 banknote, in addition to a new denomination of ₹2000 banknote is in circulation since 10th November 2016. The new redesigned series has been introduced to the banknote denominations of ₹2000, ₹200, ₹100, ₹50, ₹20 and ₹10.

Banks, Hotels, and authorized Money-Changers can exchange foreign currency for Rupees. Receipts (called 'Encashment Certificates') should be retained, as these will enable you to reconvert the balance into dollars, or any other foreign currency, when you leave the country, provided the receipt is not more than 30 days old. Almost all the cities and towns in India have ATMs that accept Visa and MasterCard as well as American Express. International Airports have currency exchange booths that are always open for arriving or departing overseas flights.

Tipping

It is usual to tip the waiters, porters, guides and drivers. Tips are not included in the bills of hotels, transport companies or any other suppliers. At hotels and restaurants, about 10% of the bill total is usually acceptable as a tip. For establishments that have a service tax or charge included in the bill, a separate tip may not be required. An approximate guideline would be as follows:

Porters: Rs. 100 per piece of luggage
Drivers/Guides: Rs. 500 per half day
Drivers/Guides: Rs. 700 per full day
Reps at Airports: Rs. 200 per service
Reps at Railway Stations: Rs. 200 per service
Driver for outstation trips: Rs. 500 per day (for minimum 2 pax)
Helper in Tempo & Coaches: Rs. 200 per day

Electricity

The electrical current in the hotels in India is 220v, 50 Hz, AC. If you bring electrical devices that do not meet these standards, you may need to bring the appropriate converters and adapters.

Dining

Most hotels offer a choice of cuisine in their restaurants. In the metropolitan cities, we would be pleased to recommend suitable restaurants outside your hotel. Meals in remote areas and wildlife parks will invariably be table d'hote. We suggest you avoid undercooked meat OR vegetables, eat fruit you can peel and make sure fresh fruit has been washed in bottled water. We strongly recommend that you drink only bottled water during your travel through India. Always wash your hands before and after eating.

Minor stomach ailments are the most common affliction of visitors to India. It is a nuisance and can dampen your enjoyment of the trip for a few days, we suggest you to carry water sterilizing tablets and medicines for possible stomach upsets or indigestion. Most hotels have a doctor on call to attend to your immediate medical needs.

Visiting Places of Worship

Removing one's shoes before entering temples, mosques or Gurdwaras (Sikh Temple) is essential. Avoid taking leather goods of any kind (bag, belt etc) and cigarettes into places of worship, as these are often not permitted. Do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops in places of public worship.

Payments

All foreign nationals must pay their hotel bills in foreign currency (Cash, Traveller's Cheque or by Credit Card). The bill can be paid in Rupees, provided the visitor has a receipt to show of the currency exchange.

Customs

You should familiarize yourself with India's specific required customs declarations before you travel. In general, you are not permitted to bring live plants, fresh fruits and other produce items into most countries. For details please visit India's Central Board of Excise and Customs at http://www.cbic.gov.in/

Any person can bring in foreign exchange without any limit into India from a place outside India. However, declaration of foreign exchange / currency is required to be made in the prescribed Currency Declaration Form in the following cases:

Climate

The climate in India varies depending on the location and time of travel. In northern India, the weather during the late fall and winter months of October through March is dry with temperatures averaging 7 °C (45°F) in the early morning and evening, and 21 to 25 °C (70 to 75°F) during the day. The rainy season is from June to September with average temperature ranging from 34 to 36 °C (93 to 96°F). And the post monsoon season, which is the north-east monsoon in South India, is from October-November. Summer (April to May) is hot with a temperature of 36 °C (96°F) everywhere, except in the hills.

Insurance

It is always advisable to obtain good travel insurance to cover any unforeseen incidents. Do keep a copy of your policy separately as a safeguard.

Nightlife

India's nightlife ranges from traditional bars, coffee shops, grunge or alternative lifestyle bars and restaurants, to futuristic looking discos, clubs and lounges. Most clubs prefer their guests to arrive in pairs.

Closing time: In most cities in India, nightlife is early to start and early to end because of the closing times in place. While Mumbai may have the largest selection of nightlife venues, come 1.30 a.m. they're all starting to close for the night. With a few exceptions, the scene is similar in Delhi and even worse in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad which have 11-11.30 p.m. closing times. Dancing is officially banned in Bangalore but most of the night spots have Dj’s performing to recorded music. There are special performances on Wednesday, Friday, & Saturday. Surprisingly, the nightlife in Kolkata offers the most for late night party people, since there is no curfew in place like the other cities, enabling bars and clubs to stay open until the early hours of the morning.

Legal drinking age: The age for the legal consumption of alcohol varies across the different states in India. In Delhi, it remains at 25 years, despite on-going discussions about lowering it. India's coastal town of Goa has the lowest legal drinking age of 18, along with Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Elsewhere it's generally 21 years. Gujarat is known as a "dry state", where alcohol is illegal without a permit.

Photography

Visitors to India find varied subjects for photography. However, these formalities in respect of photography need to be adhered to: Special permission of the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, is required for use of tripod and artificial light on monuments. Special permission is required for any photography for the purpose of publicity and commercial use. Photography is prohibited in tribal areas. Taking photographs of airports, railway stations, bridges, military installations and from the air is prohibited. Costs incurred for photography are at your expense. Your guide will advise you of all known camera related fees and rules for each city travelled.

Indian Trains

Indian trains range from Passenger trains that stop at all stations to Mail / Express / Superfast trains which stop only at major stations. Apart from these, there are specialised trains with better facilities which run faster such as Rajdhani / Duronto / Shatabdi / Jan-Shatabdi. Recently a few 'No-frills' air-conditioned trains have also been introduced by Indian Railways for the general masses which are called Garib Rath and Yuva.

We recommend that you travel in trains having airconditioned coaches in them, for convenience and comfort. Air-conditioned coaches have three classes – 3 Tier AC; 2 Tier AC, and 1st class AC, (suitable for overnight travel). You can travel in AC Chair Car or Executive Class for travel that commences and terminates on the same day, such as Shatabdi, Jan-Shatabdi and other fast trains such as Gatimaan or Vande Bharat Express.

Most Railway Stations are extremely crowded and you may feel disoriented when you disembark at the end of a train journey. We request you to wait at the disembarkation point where your train carriage comes to halt until our staff member or local representative establishes contact with you. This will normally be within 5 minutes of your alighting from the train.

Visiting Restricted Areas

A person visiting India requires, in addition to an entry visa, special permits to visit certain areas of across the country. A few areas of Kashmir and the North Eastern Frontier states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh are out of bound for foreign nationals. Travellers, who intend to visit the restricted areas, must apply for a permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs at least four weeks in advance.

Local Customs

EATING: In India, people often eat with the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean and is generally not used to eat or to handle food and money.

FEET: The soles of your feet pointing towards someone is considered offensive, so care should be taken not to do this. In the same vein, feet should not be placed on furniture. If you accidentally touch someone with your foot, it is common practice to apologize. It is also customary to remove your shoes when entering a private home in addition to places of worship and burial.

GARLANDS: If you are given a garland of flowers, remove it after several minutes to demonstrate your humility.

GREETINGS: The Indian greeting is to put your hands together in front of your chin (as for praying) and incline your head forward, saying "Namaste".

LANGUAGE: The official language of India is Hindi in the Devanagri script. The individual states are free to decide their own regional languages for internal administration and education, so there are 22 official languages spoken throughout the country. English is widely spoken in India.

PERSONAL SPACE: India is densely populated and people are accustomed to being crowded. However, except in packed buses, strangers avoid touching each other. Cross-gender touching is especially offensive, although it is not uncommon to see same-sex friends holding hands or hugging.

RELIGIOUS PLACES: Most temples and mosques prohibit shoes inside the building and signs are sometimes posted when this is the case. Some Hindu temples do not permit non-Hindus to enter. A visitor should ask if there is any doubt and observe other visitors for guidance. In Sikh temples, called Gurdwaras, head coverings for both men and women are required (and sometimes provided). Priests in Gurdwaras also offer the visitor blessed food, which should be accepted with both hands to avoid giving offense. The food should either be eaten or given to someone else. It is customary to enter any religious place with the head slightly bowed.

STREET SCENES: Guests will have expectations of poverty before arriving in India, but unless you have previously travelled to a developing country, it is hard to suppress one's shock. You will encounter people, including children, begging in the streets. You will see street scenes which may be unusual, including animals sifting through garbage in the streets. You will also see prosperity and middle class living. Being prepared for these different experiences will better enable you to enjoy your exploration through this colorful, vibrant and hospitable country.

Telephone/Communication

Telephone calls to almost all the countries are now direct, with quality service comparable to international standards. Direct dialing is possible between almost all the cities/towns within India. Where a direct dialing facility is not available a call may have to be made through an operator. Fax and Telex facilities are now ubiquitously available. It is also possible to send e-mail messages from a lot of hotels and from cyber cafes at a certain cost. Some of the hotels provide free Wifi facility also. Postal services in India are good and stamps can be bought at hotels.

It is possible to purchase a prepaid sim card (available as normal and micro sim) on arrival at airports. Guests have to produce a copy of their passport and 2 passport sized photographs to obtain the same. After purchase the services are started within 24 hours post verification formalities.

Shopping

Extraordinary patience, talent and imagination goes into the making of Indian products, whether dazzling silks, hand knotted carpets, bronze statues of Hindu gods, jewellery, shoes / sandals, handbags, men's and women's clothing, musical instruments or perfumes. The list is inexhaustible and the prices reasonable. Each region of the subcontinent has its own specialties. The bazaars are the places to find the best bargains, but one must be prepared to haggle. It would be prudent to remember that if the shop / emporia undertake to export purchased goods, it invariably takes a much longer time for them to reach than indicated at the time of purchase. It is forbidden to export recognized antiques over 100 years old. It is advisable to keep the sales receipts to convince the Customs Officers.

Sita has done an extensive research to find out authorized sellers (and makers) of the handicraft items all over the country. We maintain a list of such shops per city. During or after the sightseeing tours our Guides and Escorts might suggest you to visit such a shop in case any particular souvenir or general shopping interests you. This suggestion is not to be construed upon as an insistence to visit such an enterprise since it is at your discretion to choose to or refuse to visit our designated shop in any city.

Food and Drink

Indian food is as varied as the country itself, with every region having its own mouth-watering specialties. It, therefore, does not always have to be “hot” nor can any one dish be labelled as “curry”. Most dishes with a gravy are normally called curries but are prepared with a different 'masala' or combination of spices containing among other things like coriander, cumin, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, etc. Additional seasoning which adds to the flavour and richness of meat dishes is called “garam masala” and is made from different combinations of a variety of spices like cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves cinnamon, bay leaves, saffron and mace - the very aromas and flavours that drew the West to the Indian shores.

For an Indian, a drink with a meal usually means water! Imported wines and liquors are now available reasonably easily though not in great variety. The quality of Indian wines is improving steadily and is almost of international standards. Indian beer and rum are considered excellent, while gins and vodkas are good, the Indian whisky is an acquired taste. Bihar, Gujarat and Nagaland are the dry states in India at present. While liquor is totally banned in Bihar and sale & consumption of liquor is illegal in Nagaland, foreigners visiting Gujarat can obtain liquor permits for either from embassies / missions / tourist offices abroad or at a Government of India Tourist office at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai or Kolkata.

Drinking water could be a problem in India and apart from the flasks of water in the hotel rooms, tea/coffee, mineral water and bottled aerated drinks, one should use purifying tablets. If one is out sightseeing or on an excursion it may be a good idea to carry a bottle of mineral water or to consume aerated soft drinks through a straw.

Crime and Theft

India is not particularly more dangerous than the West. Most deluxe hotels have lockers to keep ones valuables, but one has to be cautious with valuables when outside. Violence against foreigners is virtually unheard of, provided basic precautions are taken like anywhere else.

Baggage Allowance

Airlines have adopted stricter policies in enforcing number, size and weight limits. Luggage exceeding maximum restrictions may require expensive overage fees, frustrating and hurried re-packing at the ticket counter, or even risk being left behind. On the Domestic front, many carriers require Checked Baggage not exceeding a weight of 15 kgs per person in the Economy class. Only one piece of hand baggage per person is permitted. Airlines revise luggage policies frequently and often without notice; therefore, it is advisable to check with the Airlines beforehand about it. Sita cannot be held liable for variance in the weight limits listed by Airlines. It is also important to note that restrictions for luggage number, weight and size may vary with the same airline based on the class of service you select. First and Business Class ticket holders may have different restrictions than Economy Class travellers.

ECONOMY CLASS:
Air India: 25 Kgs
Air Vistara: 15 Kgs
Spicejet: 15 Kgs
Indigo: 15 Kgs
Go First: 15 Kgs

What to Pack

When packing for travel to India, we suggest you select a wardrobe that is adaptable and allows for layering. In India, delicate fabrics do not stand up well to laundering facilities except at deluxe hotels. Plain cotton or cotton and synthetic blend clothing is the most practical and is the coolest in summer. It is best to avoid synthetic fabrics that do not “breathe”. A hat with a wide brim will help protect you from the harsh sun. During the fall season, a collapsible umbrella comes in handy. During the winter months, sweaters and light jackets are necessary.

We advise you not to dress in shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops unless you are on a beach. In small towns and cities, people may tend to stare if you expose too much skin. Most Indians dress in modest clothing. To respect Indian sensitivities when in public, we recommend that women wear skirts below the knee or longer or relatively loose slacks. Avoid wearing sleeveless blouses and tight pants. Young women and teenage girls, especially those dressed in tight or short dresses, may attract undesirable attention. Men should avoid going shirtless; trousers are preferable to shorts. However, shorts and sleeveless tops and blouses are perfectly acceptable attire in the warmer, tropical areas.

When visiting places of worship, women are not allowed to enter with bare shoulders, short pants or short skirts; a long skirt, dress, or slacks are recommended. A scarf is acceptable to cover shoulders if a woman is wearing a sleeveless top. Head covering is required at some of the places. Men should also dress appropriately for a holy sanctuary. Shorts are discouraged. All visitors will be required to remove their shoes in temples and mosques.

Airport Departure Tax

Airport departure tax is included in your international tickets and does not have to be paid at the airport.

National Holidays

Full public holidays:

January 26 - Republic Day
August 15 - Independence Day
October 02 - Mahatma Gandhi's birthday
December 25 - Christmas

There are other local holidays which are applicable to different states.

Reference Reading

Freedom at Midnight:
Lapierre and Collins

A Princess Remembers:
Gayatari Devi

A Suitable Boy:
Vikram Seth

God of small things:
Arundhati Roy

Maharajas of India:
Ann Morrow

City of Djinns:
William Dalrymple

India A Million Mutinies Today:
V.S. Naipaul

Indira:
Katherine Frank

Language

English is widely spoken, especially in areas that are used to tourists, though accents and grammar may vary considerably. Hindi is the most widely spoken language in the country, but it also has regional variations and accents. There are totally 22 major languages 544 dialects spoken in India in addition to English.

Useful Phrases in Hindi:
English » Hindi
Hi or Hello » Namaste
Please » Kripaya
Thank You » Shukhriya / Dhanyavaad
Yes » Haan
No » Nahin
Where can I find » Kahan milenge
I want water » Mujhe paani chahiye
I want a ticket » Mujhe ek ticket chahiye
Where is the toilet » bathroom kahan hai
Are you open tomorrow » Aap kal khule hain?
Is this very far » Kya ye bahut door hai?
How much is this » Ye kitne ka hai?
This is too expensive » Ye bahut mehenga hai
Make this price less » Bhaav kam karo
How are you? » Aap kaise hain?
Sorry » Maaf kijiye
Ok » Theek hai
What? » Kya?
Where? » Kahan?
How? » Kaise?
When? » Kab?
Who? » Kaun?
Why? » Kyon?
I don't understand » Mai samjha nahi
Tell me the way please » Kripya raasta bataiye
What is your name? » Aapka naam kya hai?
My name is » Mera naam …
Right » Dahine
Left » Bayen
One » Ek
Two » Do
Three » Teen
Four » Chaar
Five » Paanch
Six » Cheh
Seven » Saat
Eight » Aath
Nine » Naun
Ten » Das
One hundred » Ek sau
Two hundred » Do sau

Traveling in India with Kids

Traveling with kids can be both challenging and rewarding. Indians are very tolerant of children so you can take them almost anywhere without restriction, and they always help break the ice with strangers. Even more than their parents, they need protection from the sun, unsafe drinking water, heat and unfamiliar food. All that chilli in particular may be a problem, even with older kids, if they're not used to it.

For babies, nappies (diapers) are available in most large towns at similar prices to the West, but it's worth taking an additional pack in case of emergencies, and bringing sachets of Calpol or similar, which aren't readily available in India. And if your baby is on powdered milk, it might be an idea to bring some of that: you can certainly get it in India, but it may not taste the same. Dried baby food could also be worth taking.

Always travel with a basic medical kit, including Imodium for stomach upsets. Ensure to bring your own prescription medicines along with a copy of your prescription.

To avoid stomach upsets, avoid uncooked food i.e. raw salads and cut fruits. Stick with bottled water always. Altitude sickness can occur in certain regions, so let your body adjust to the elevation slowly, and keep hydrated. Coconut water is brilliant for rehydrating during extreme heat. If you do get dehydrated through illness or heat, the 1 tsp salt/8 tsp sugar/1 litre of water ratio combo works a treat.

Recommended vaccinations for general travel to India are Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. See NHS site Fit for Travel for more details. With kids, in particular, use hand sanitizer when you can.

Vehicles in India don't have child seats but the same can be arranged on a prior request for the families traveling with the kids.

Passport & Visas

Tourists who visit Nepal must hold a valid passport and visa.

Indian nationals do not require visa to enter into Nepal.

Entry

Tourist entry visa can be obtained from Nepal Embassy/ Consulate or Mission offices abroad, or at the following immigration offices in Nepal:

Tourist Visa

Multiple entry
Duration: 15 days
Fee: US$ 30 or equivalent convertible currency

Multiple entry
Duration: 30 days
Fee: US$ 50 or equivalent convertible currency

Multiple entry
Duration: 90 days
Fee: US$ 125 or equivalent convertible currency

Tourist Visa Extension

Visa extension fee for 15 days or less is US $ 45 or equivalent convertible currency and visa extension fee for more than 15 days is US$ 3 per day Tourist visa can be extended for a maximum period of 150 days in a single visa year (January – December).

Gratis (Free) Visa

Gratis visa for 30 days is available only for tourists of SAARC countries.

Transit Visa

Transit visa for one day can be obtained from Nepal’s immigration offices at the entry points upon the production of departure flight ticket via Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal, by paying US $ 5 or equivalent convertible currency.

For more details http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/page/tourist-visa

Business Hours

Business Hours within the Valley

Banks 10 am to 3.30 pm Sunday- Thursday. On Fridays, banks remain open until 12 pm only. Government offices 10 am to 5 p.m. Monday- Friday. Business offices 10 am to 5 p.m Sunday- Friday. Embassies and international organizations 9 am to 5 pm Monday – Friday. Shops 10 am – 8 pm and are usually closed on Saturdays.

Business Hours outside the Valley

Government offices 10 am – 5 p.m. Sunday – Thursday. Fridays till 3 pm. Banks 10 am to 3 pm. Sunday- Thursday. On Fridays, banks remain open until 12 pm only. Business offices 10 am to 5 pm Sunday -Friday. Embassies and international organizations 9 am to 5 pm Monday – Friday. Shops 10 am – 8 pm and are usually closed on Saturdays.

Nepal is five hours 45 minutes ahead of GMT.

Climate

Nepal has a typical climate which varies as per its topography and altitude. There is a dry season from October to May and there is the wet season, the monsoon, from June to September. September -November, the start of the dry season, is in many ways the best time of the year in Nepal. When monsoon just ends, the countryside is green and lush. Nepal is at its most beautiful and during this season there are plenty of colourful festivals to enjoy.

Customs

All baggage must be declared and cleared through the customs on arrival at the port of entry. Passengers arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) without any dutiable goods can proceed through the Green Channel for quick clearance without a baggage check. If you are carrying dutiable articles, you have to pass through the Red Channel for detailed customs clearance.

Import

Apart from used personal belongings, visitors are allowed to bring to Nepal free of duty cigarette (200) or cigars (50), distilled liquor (one 1.15 liter bottle). You can also bring in the following articles free of duty on condition that you take them out with you when you leave: binoculars, movie or video camera, still camera, laptop computer, and portable music system for personal use.

Export

It is illegal to export objects over 100 years old (sacred images, paintings, manuscripts) that are valued for culture and religious reasons. Visitors are advised not to purchase such items as they are Nepal’s cultural heritage and belong here. The Department of Archaeology (tel: 4213701, 4213702) at Ramshah Path near Singha Durbar has to certify all metal statues, sacred paintings and similar objects before they are allowed to be sent or carried out of the country. Handicraft dealers and travel agents are able to assist you in this process. For more information on customs matters, contact the Chief Customs Administrator, TIA Customs Office; Tel: 4470382.

Health

Nepal does not require any particular immunization for your visit. Vaccinations for Cholera, Meningitis, Tetanus & Diphtheria, Typhoid and Gamma Globulin should be considered for your trip. Please consult your physician and get a complete check -up before your departure. Most hotels have a doctor on call.

Sunshine can be stronger than you are used to, heat, digestive upsets, insect bites for which you have developed no immunities, all these can spoil your trip. So please take a few basic precautions.

Carry a kit containing sunscreens and other lotions for protection from the sun, insect repellents and sting relief creams, water sterilizing tablets and medicines for possible stomach upsets or indigestion. To protect yourself from mosquitoes when outdoors in the evenings, use an insect repellent on exposed skin, and wear socks, trousers and long-sleeved shirts.

Eating and Drinking

Tap water is not purified for drinking. Unless you have access to a water filter, or are sure water has been boiled, it is safer to stick to bottled water. Avoid ice in your drinks outside your hotel. Avoid ice cream or food sold by roadside vendors, uncooked or undercooked foods, fruit or vegetables that cannot be peeled.

Language

English is widely spoken, especially in areas that are used to tourists, though accents and grammar may vary considerably. Different ethnic groups have their own language or dialects, but Nepalese is the national language. The script is Devanagari. English is widely understood in urban centres.

Note that we always ensure that our clients are paired with guides who can speak their language.

Communication

Making long distance calls is easy from major cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara. Cyber cafes and communication shops offer phone and internet services in every corner. They let you receive and send fax and provide computer for internet access for a fee.

Landline telephone calls to most countries are now direct. Fax and Telex facilities are now ubiquitously available. Internet facilities are also easily available in most cities and tourist centres, in cybercafés and business centres, but free wireless connectivity is rare.

Connectivity – wireless or conventional broadband – in five-star hotels tends to be many times more expensive than cybercafés in the same areas.

The postal service is fairly spread out; you’re likely to find post offices in the most remote towns. You can usually buy stamps and leave letters for posting at most hotels.

Getting Local Sims

If you want consistent internet throughout Nepal, you can buy a Nepalese SIM. It is recommend buying your SIM at the airport, where there is proper help activating it. You need a copy of your passport, a shop that can authorize your SIM purchase. The SIM plans are not expensive in Nepal.

Shopping

In Nepal most shops and clothing stores have a fixed price tagged on the goods. But in case of small shops, you can bargain the prices for purchasing goods. (Do note that we’d be happy to provide you with expert shopping assistance.) You can shop at colourful, crowded bazaars, on the roadside, in air-conditioned hotel arcades and bustling modern malls.

Cuisine

Nepalese food is as varied as the country itself, with every region having its own specialties. The cultural diversity of Nepal has provided an ample space for the growth of a number of cuisines based on the ethnic groups and the geographical features of the nation. Hence, Nepalese cuisine encompasses a whole array of different cuisines rather than one single type of cuisine. Dal bhat– lentil soup served over boiled rice — is a staple dish of Nepal.

Snacks commonly eaten outside mealtimes include popped or parched corn, “chiura” (beaten rice), “momo” (dumplings)“samosa” (turnovers stuffed with meat or vegetables), biscuits (packaged cookies) and Indian-style sweets.

Beverages include – tea usually taken with milk and sugar, “jand” (homemade beer made from rice), “sarbat” (juice of sugar cane), “raksi” (spirits made in rustic distilleries). At higher elevations “chang” (millet beer).

Passport & Visas

Except for visitors from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, all other visitors traveling to Bhutan need a visa. Indian, Bangladeshis, and Maldivian nationals can obtain a permit at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)).

All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance before the travel to Bhutan.  Visas are processed through an online system by your licensed Bhutanese tour operator directly or through a foreign travel agent.

Travelers are required to send the scanned colored photo page of the passport to the tour operator who will then apply for the visa.  The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of the holiday (including a USD 40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received.

Visa applications are cleared in advance, and a visa clearance doc will be forwarded before the arrival date. The visa clearance doc is required for check-in/boarding of flight. At your point of entry, travelers will be required to show the visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped on the passport.  Passport size photo is NOT required for Immigration at Paro Airport.

Business Hours

Some of the banks that you can avail of while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Traveller’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged for local currency. Many of these banks provide internet banking facilities.

Banks are closed on Saturday and Sunday.

In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.

Local Time: GMT + 6

Climate

A trip to Bhutan can be planned throughout the year but the best months for trekking are March, April, May, September, October and November. Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November to mid-March when the climate is dry and sunny with temperatures at 15c in the daytime and falling below zero at night.The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings.

Clothes

With great altitudinal variations, weather is quite mixed in Bhutan. So be prepared to face the unforeseen weather conditions. Travelers are expected to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.

Airport & Customs

All arriving passengers and visitors are required to fill in the required details and submit the customs declaration from upon arrival at the Paro Airport.

Visitors are advised to be cautions while purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance as customs authorities will not allow any old/used items to be taken out of the country unless certified as non-antique.

Baggage Allowance: The normal free allowance while flying is 30 kg in Economy and 40 kg in Business Class.

Airport Departure Tax: Airport departure tax is usually included in your international tickets and does not have to be paid at the airport.

Currency

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.)

It is divided into 100 smaller units called chhertum.

It is at par with the Indian rupee which is accepted as legal tender in the country.

INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan.

ATMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard.

Health

As a minimum a traveler should have a ttetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is only required for travellers coming from – or in transit through – a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Electricity

All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. It is recommended that travelers bring flat-to-round pin converters for electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.

Language

Bhutanese speak a variety of languages, Dzongkha being the national language and one most widely spoken. English is also spoken by the majority of Bhutanese, making communication easy.

Shopping

Bhutan is famous for hand-woven textiles of raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted goods of silver. Other items that can be bought are exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colourful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and in other major towns. Buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.

Cuisine

The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are an essential part of nearly every dish in Bhutan.

Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly eaten include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.

Some of the most popular Bhutanese dishes are:

Ema Datshi: This is the National Dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chillis and local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country.

Momos: These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese and are cooked during special occasions.

Phaksha Paa: Pork cooked with spicy red chillis.

Jasha Maru: Spicy minced chicken, tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.

Red Rice: The rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.

Photography

Bhutan offers immense opportunities for photography especially during outdoor sightseeing trips.However you should check with your guide before taking pictures or filming inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions as in some area photograph/filming is not permitted.

You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens.

Communications

The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Most hotels and cafe’s offer Wi-Fi internet access. Bhutan has a comprehensive mobile (cell) phone network with global roaming also accessable.

Public Holidays

Public holidays are observed throughout the nation. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of regional holidays that are observed especially during the annual Tshechus (Religious festivals). For such a list, please contact your service provider or travel agent.

Travel & Medical Insurance

We strongly advice travelers to get a comprehensive travel & medical insurance before travelling to Bhutan. If you are coming on a trek, your medical/travel insurance must include provision for evacuation by helicopter and repatriation - should this be necessary.

Passport & Visas

With effect from 1st January 2012, all Holiday or Business travelers to Sri Lanka must have Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for entering into Sri Lanka. Please visit http://www.eta.gov.lk for more information.

The facility for applying Business Purpose Visa is at present available only at the Head Office of the Department of Immigration & Emigration and the Sri Lankan Overseas Missions.

Tourist Visit Visa

A Tourist Visa is issued to bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time.

Business Purpose Visa

A Business Purpose Visa is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for business purposes for short period of time. This visa may be issued for single or double journeys.

Eligibility requirements for Sri Lankan Visa
Travellers who do not require a visa

Business Hours

Government Offices: Monday- Friday, 9:30 – 17:00 hours, (some open Saturday morning)

Banks: Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 15:00 hours, (some open Saturday morning)

Shops: Monday – Friday, 10:00 – 19:00 hours, (Most open Saturday morning)

Restaurants and bars have different legally-enforced closing hours in different areas.

Climate

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate.

The central part of the southern half of the island is mountainous with heights more than 2.5 Km. The core regions of the central highlands contain many complex topographical features such as ridges, peaks, plateaus, basins, valleys and escarpments. The remainder of the island is practically flat except for several small hills that rise abruptly in the lowlands. These topographical features strongly affect the spatial patterns of winds, seasonal rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and other climatic elements, particularly during the monsoon season.

The south-western monsoon brings rain to the south-west of Sri Lanka between May and September, while the dry season in this region runs from December to March.

In the north and eastern coastal regions of the country, the weather is influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain between October and January, and dryer weather between May and September.

There is also an inter-monsoonal period during October and the first half of November, when rain and thunderstorms can occur across the island. This clears up as December nears, with conditions getting balmier by the day during the second half of November.

As with many South-East Asian destinations, the period from December to mid-April is considered the peak season for overall weather and therefore overall visitor numbers. Whilst there is good reason for this, there are equal benefits to travelling outside of this period, with the shoulder season often providing the best of both worlds; namely great weather and a lower visitor numbers.

Airport & Customs

For travelers coming into the country or leaving it is:

Prohibited:
Restricted:

Personal allowances are 1.5 litre of spirits, 2 bottles of wine, 250ml of eau de cologne; and small quantity of perfume and souvenirs not intended for commercial use, up to the value of USD 250; per passenger over the age of 18 years.

Security

In domestic flights, penknives and other sharp objects, liquids, matchboxes and lighters, batteries and some electronic items are not allowed in your cabin baggage, so pack them into your check-in luggage, or they will probably be either confiscated or taken away from you only to be returned at the other end of the flight.
As with airports all over the world in this era, security checks are stringent and you and your luggage may be searched more than once before you get on the plane.

Baggage Allowance

The normal free allowance while flying he government-owned Indian Airlines is 20 kg in Economy and 30 kg in First Class.

Airport Departure Tax

No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.

Currency

The Rupee, which is divided into 100 cents.
Rupee symbol: Rs
Coin denominations: 1, 2, 5 and 10 Rupees
Note denominations: 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 Rupees.

There is no restriction in bringing money in foreign currencies into Sri Lanka. This sum could be in Traveller Cheques, Bank drafts or currency notes. However, if the total exceeds US$ 15,000, that sum must be declared to the Sri Lanka Customs.

If you wish to take out from Sri Lanka a sum in excess of US$ 5000 in currency notes (out of the money brought in), you must declare the entirety of the sum brought in, even if it is less than US$ 15,000.

The foreign currency amounts indicated in US$ may be in equivalent amounts in other convertible foreign currencies.

Changing money through unauthorised persons is illegal as well as risky in respect of receiving counterfeit money.

Credit Cards

Most hotels, restaurants and some shops accept major credit cards such as American Express, Visa and Mastercard. They will usually display signage to that effect.

Time

UTC+05:30

Health

It is mandatory for those travelling to Sri Lanka from Africa or Latin America to have a valid certificate of vaccination for Yellow fever and Meningitis prior to arrival in Sri Lanka. You need up-to-date Hepatitis A, Polio and Tetanus shots.

Mosquito borne diseases like dengue, chickengunya and malaria are common. It’s advised you take adequate protection against mosquitos. Take some Imodium tablets (just in case you get an upset stomach).

Carry a kit containing sunscreens and other lotions for protection from the sun, insect repellents and sting relief creams, water sterilising tablets and medicines for possible stomach upsets or indigestion.

Eating and Drinking

Tap water is not purified for drinking. Unless you have access to a water filter, or are sure water has been boiled, it is safer to stick to bottled water. Avoid ice in your drinks outside your hotel.
Avoid ice cream or food sold by roadside vendors, uncooked or undercooked foods, fruit or vegetables that cannot be peeled.

Electricity

Sri Lankan hotels have two types of plug bases; either the UK (Type G) or India (Type D).

Note:

You will probably need to get an adapter for your devices. It’s pretty easy to get “all-in-one” adapters that you can use to plug your device’s power chord into before plugging into the power supply.

Language

Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages in Sri Lanka.

English is generally understood by most people and is easy to get by. English is spoken at all hotels, major restaurants and shops. Road signs are written both in Sinhalese and English throughout the country, with few exceptions.

Communication

All mobile operators support the GSM technology on GSM 900/ 1800 bands. WAP & GPRS is widely supported. 3G and wireless broadband is available in Colombo. Wifi zones are available in selected spots in major towns.

Connectivity – Most hotels provide internet facilities. There are internet cafes in most towns with ADSL connection. Connections in smaller towns will be slow.

Shopping

Shopping is an interesting experience in Sri Lanka; from small shops to luxurious shopping centres. Shop for local handicrafts and take a break at one of the roadside cafes to enjoy a small snack and drink.

Handicraft shopping is a must do while visiting Sri Lanka, have a look at makara (a mythical animal, lion, swan, elephant and lotus which are most evident in brass work (boxes, trays, lanterns, vases) and silverware (ornately carved and filigree jewellery, tea-sets) that make excellent souvenirs. In addition, ritual masks, lacquer ware, batik and handloom textiles, lace and wood carvings are popular, the list goes on and on.

Sri Lanka has the widest variety of precious stones among the world’s gem producing countries – blue sapphires, star sapphires, rubies, cat’s eye, garnets, moonstones, aquamarines and topazes.

Remember to pick up some Sri Lankan tea or merely sip a cup in a local tea shop, it is one of the great pleasures of travelling in Sri Lanka.

Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine has some similarity to South Indian food yet has a distinct taste of its own.

Coconuts and fish are two of the most influential components of Sri Lankan cuisine. Fish is made into curries and coconut in some form or another, is a dominant ingredient in cooking.

Sri Lankan food offers a vivid array of flavor combinations: sweet caramelized onion relishes, bitter melon, spicy scraped coconut, and the burn of curry tamed by mild rice, and palm sugar sweetened desserts.

A meal in Sri Lanka is called “rice and curry”—a term that’s almost synonymous with food in general.

Desserts are usually served as part of main meals in Sri Lanka. Aluwa is a popular dessert in Sri Lanka, it is made out of rice flour, sugar, milk, butter, spices (cardamom and cloves). Another popular dessert is Watalappam, made out of Coconut milk, jaggery, eggs, spices (cardamom and cloves), it is usually served at weddings. There is so much more to relish in Sri Lanka.