Q. Should I fly into Delhi or Chennai a day early to give myself time to rest and adjust to the jet lag?
A. Whether you fly in early is entirely up to you, though if you choose to do so, we can make early arrival arrangements with our hotel for you and make sure you have an airport pickup. It’s a long flight to India, and a day of rest can be a great way to make sure you’re in good shape for the tour.
Q. Which airport should I fly into in Delhi?
A. Indira Gandhi Airport
Q. Which airport should I fly into on the South India tour?
Q. Will bottled water be readily available?
A. Yes it will. However, we strongly urge our tour participants to carry their own reusable water bottle and bring a water purifier, such as a SteriPen, so as to cut down on the number of plastic water bottles that get thrown out daily in India.
Q. I plan to wear athletic shoes for much of the tour as I need good ankle support and my shoes have expensive inserts for better balance and overall comfort. If we are required to remove our shoes before entering certain temples and homes, can I carry my shoes in a plastic bag? I like to keep them on or with me.
A. That is not a problem. You can also leave these in the bus with the driver.
Q. Do I need a sleeping bag?
A. Definitely not but some people are more comfortable with a sleepsack. Even that you won’t need one because you’ll be staying in high quality hotels.
Q. I’ve heard that rooms in India can easily be robbed.
A. We recommend you take precautions wherever you go – India or elsewhere. Though we’ve never had anyone have something stolen from their room, it’s better to be safe. Make sure your items are locked up in a safe in the room or your valuables are locked inside your luggage.
As for the safety of your items… no need to stress over this. Consider bringing a little lock to lock the zippers of your luggage together to avoid any opportunistic thievery. This will allow you to leave a laptop, iPod, etc. in you luggage with it locked up in your room and not worry about it.
Q. I like to have a nightcap in the evenings. Is it safe for me to go to the hotel’s bar at night?
A. It will be fine for you to have a drink in the hotels’ bars. Though in general, it’s not common for women to frequent bars in India.
Q. Where do I find cable locks?
A. You can find a cable lock at any bike or outdoor store. You might be able to find it in your local REI or travel/luggage store, but here’s a link to one on Amazon.
Q. Can I use my cell phone in India?
A. It depends. First, your cell phone must have GSM technology in order to tap into the local network. If you plan on bringing the phone that you use on a daily basis at home, CHECK WITH YOUR PROVIDER to determine what they will charge for both calls and texts – both outgoing and incoming – and for calls within India and for international calls. These calls can be exorbitant.
Consider carrying an old phone that is “unlocked” – one that you’re currently not using and doesn’t have a call plan attached to it. Remember that it has to have GSM technology in order to tap into the India network(s). When you arrive in India, you should be able to purchase a SIM card (note that the laws around this change frequently and sometimes it is difficult for a foreign to obtain a local SIM card) for that phone and then be able to tap into the local network. Domestic and international calls will likely be far cheaper than using your own phone on your current plan. When you add the new SIM card, this phone will be assigned a phone number that you can then share with your family at home and they can call you directly (sometimes you’re not charged for incoming calls).
Upon arrival in India, you’ll need to find a mobile store, bring your passport and a couple of passport photos and fill out some paperwork in order to get a SIM card for your phone. It will still be far cheaper than trying to use your regular phone.
Here’s a blog post about cell phone usage abroad.
The above also applies to iPads with 3G. If you are under contract to an internet provider at home you will probably not be able to change out the SIM card in your iPad. The iPad must be “unlocked” in order to use the 3G capabilities without paying huge roaming fees. Please check with your provider before leaving home. You might also consider signing up for Skype and putting money on your account so that you can call home using this technology.
Q. Can I wear a baseball cap?
A. Hmmm – we would discourage wearing a baseball cap. They aren’t common and, as if you won’t stick out already, you’ll REALLY look like a tourist. You’re likely to be treated better (by vendors and service providers) if you don’t look so much like a tourist.
Q. Can you comment on the necessity of packing the following?
A. Raincoat – might be good to bring a light jacket that you can wear on a cool evening. Doesn’t have to be rain jacket as you likely won’t have much rain. It will be HOT!
Binoculars – probably not necessary.
Laundry detergent – depends on your clothes. If you have quick drying clothes you might be able to wash them out at night.
Workout clothes/shoes – you probably won’t have a lot of time for this.
Yoga mat – too bulky though you might be able to buy one there if you’re so inclined.
Q. Will hotels have fitness centers and/or safe walking routes and will there be time for me to get some exercise?
A. Hopefully there will be some time for this in the early mornings or during a break in the late afternoon. The tour itself won’t be too strenuous. Some hotels do have fitness centers.
Q. My Indian friend specifically warned me against Air India. Any advice?
A. We haven’t heard anything bad about Air India. Most airlines are uncomfortable these days and we suggest booking with an airline that gives you a good price and one in which you can build your frequent flier miles.
Q. What will the weather be like and how should I pack for it?
A. As for weather, expect it to be warm, perhaps as high as in the 90’s depending on where you are. Pack for the heat but also a bit conservatively. A light cotton top or dress that will cover your shoulders and knees or light pants or capris.
Q. Will the hotels provide shampoo and conditioner like they do in the US?
A. It’s hard to tell since even hotels in the US have cut way back on these amenities. You can always purchase shampoo and conditioner once you arrive if you don’t want to travel with it or you run out along the way.
Q. What is the WanderTours Giving Program?
A. This is a program we have developed for all of our international tours, where a portion of your tour cost goes towards supporting a project or non-profit organization in the country where the tour is taking place. Read our blog post on this topic.
Q. Can we bring stuff to give away to the children (good idea or no?) and if yes, what would you recommend?
A. Although it’s tempting, this isn’t a great idea as it encourages begging. You might consider bringing something like balloons or bubbles where you can have some sort of interaction with the kids without actually giving them something.
Q. Do you know the name of the hotel the tour will be starting from yet?
A. Though the hotel information is listed on the tour, we usually don’t have this confirmed until right before the tour (in case the group is larger or smaller than we expected). This and all other hotels will be provided a couple of weeks in advance.
Q. Can you recommend what ground transportation I should use to get to the hotel from the airport
A. You will be picked up from the airport by a driver/guide assigned by our company. Look for your name on a placard.
Q. How should I pay for the taxi fare if I’ve just arrived at the airport?
A. As noted above, this will be handled on our end. However, if for some reason, you can’t find the assigned driver, a taxi driver will take US dollars or you can use the ATM machine or an money exchange booth inside the airport to get rupees.
Q. Is there a schedule for installment payments?
A. We don’t have anything formal set up – people set their own schedules, sometimes once a month, sometimes once every couple of months, since it depends on when they’ve registered and how much they want to send per installment.
Q. Am I responsible for my own visa?
A. Indeed you are. Applying for a visa for India has become a bit more complicated in recent years as they require a number of details from you. We outline instructions for obtaining and Indian visa here.
Q. What sort of shots do I need for this trip?
A. You’ll definitely want to have your DPT updated and perhaps Hep A and B. Both Hep A and B are a series of shots, so you’ll want to get the process started early in case it takes several months to finish the round. Other than these, please chat with a travel doctor about your specific needs/concerns.
Q. Do I need any special medications or a first aid kit?
A. If you are pre-disposed to anything (lactose intolerant or you have a sensitive stomach) you may want to bring something for these. Medicine is widely available throughout India so if you forget something it’s likely that you can pick it up at a pharmacy.
Q. I remember reading on the website that there are deadlines for cancellations and partial refunds, or the forfeiting of one’s deposit or the full fee if cancellation is too close to departure. What happens if someone in my family becomes very ill shortly before the trip – ill enough that I wouldn’t be able to go?
A. We have to abide by our policies – which are outlined in the registration form – because we have to wire transfer money to India about two months out. If there’s a chance you might have to cancel at the last minute due to illness, you can easily and cheaply purchase travel insurance through Insure My Trip.
Q. Do I need insurance for this tour?
A. Although we don’t require trip insurance, we definitely think it’s a great idea – not just for unexpected cancellations, but also for health issues and medical evacuation while you’re abroad.We highly recommend evacuation insurance for this and all international WanderTours. We recommend Insure My Trip. They have a wide range of options, good customer service, an easy to navigate website and they offer numerous affordable options including travel, medical and evacuation insurance.
Q. Will I receive a refund if I have to cancel my participation in the tour?
A. Whether or not you receive a partial refund depends on how far in advance of the tour you cancel. Our refund policy is covered in our Booking Terms and Conditions and is also outlined on the Registration form that you’ll receive within 24 hours of booking. Refunds will be sent by check within two weeks of our receiving written notification of your cancellation (email notification is fine). If Beth is traveling when you cancel, it may take longer than two weeks to get your refund check out to you. She’ll mail it as soon as she can upon returning to the U.S.!
Q. What sort of hotels will we be staying in?
A. We work with one of the top in-country operators in India who is able to get fantastic deals on some of the most unique 4 and 5 star hotels at our destinations. You may not be basking in luxury, but sometimes you’ll feel like it. The hotels are listed in each of the itineraries but are subject to change.
Q. What is the risk of bedbugs?
A. There’s virtually no risk of bedbugs. We haven’t seen (or felt, or brought home) one yet.
Q. How much money should I bring with me?
A. This is a tough question as everyone’s spending habits are different and much of the tour is covered in the cost of the trip. Having said that, you’ll want to factor in the cost of souvenirs, drinks, extra food items and any additional things you might want to do during the trip. For a two-week trip in India, you might carry $500 cash and both a credit and debit card. You’ll likely come home with money, but it’s best to be prepared.
Q. Do we tip our guides and driver?
A. We’ve recently changed our policy on tipping for local guides and drivers and will be handling this on our end. Having said that, if you feel like they’ve done an exceptional job, please feel to tip on your own if you’re so moved. If you are escorted by a WanderTours guide (other than Beth – no tips required for her), then plan on tipping her $5-10/day.
Q. I need some suggestions of gifts to bring. What might I bring that they don’t have there?
A. We would suggest something from your region. Something that is popular like a food item or something representative of where you live (a coffee mug with the Space Needle on it, for example).
Q. If I bring US dollars, do I need to be fussy about how new they are?
A. It’s a good idea to have newer/crisper bills rather than ones that are torn. Sometimes the shopkeepers won’t take ones that are not in good shape.
Q. Are short skirts (slightly above the knee) acceptable? How about calf-length skirts?
A. It’s best not to wear above the skirt knees. In most areas, even though it could be warm, you’ll want to keep your knees and shoulders covered.
Q. Would you recommend taking a rain coat? Something more than one of those flimsy “emergency” ponchos?
A. The vast majority of the time, you should have nice weather but you might experience a rain shower or two. A light rain jacket isn’t a bad idea. Remember to dress in layers, too, so that when the sun’s out, it’ll be easy to layer down into lighter clothes.
Q. Should we bring our own toilet paper? Do they have the “squatty potties” of China fame?
A. No need to bring toilet paper as it will be available at all hotels and you can pick some up in stores. The toilets in the hotels will be western style as should most of the toilets in restaurants. However, you might find yourself at a remote rest stop and the toilets will be of the squat variety. Be prepared for some potentially unpleasant experiences. Always carry your own TP as it’s not always provided.
Q. Can I bring my laptop?
A. A journal is great because you don’t have to plug it in. But you might consider carrying a small netbook or touchpad device with a keyboard.
Q. What sort of power adapter do I need?
A. You can find a power adapter on Amazon or at any travel store. Look for ones that look like these >>>
Q. Are there hair dryers at the hotels?
A. Maybe. There will be power at all hotels. Just remember that no one is going to be looking their finest, so if you don’t have to have the hair dryer, consider leaving it at home
Q. Will I need a swimsuit?
A. There may indeed be pools at some of the hotels so you might consider bringing one.
Q. Can I wear shorts?
A. It’s not recommended except in the very touristy areas of Delhi. You might see others wearing them elsewhere, but it’s not the best idea. Bring a pair if you like but to be safe, count on wearing light pants or longish skirts. Capris are fine.
Q. What should I wear to the temples?
A. Definitely dress conservatively and plan to leave your shoes at the door often. You might consider bringing a pair of little socks and wearing those anytime you enter a public building where you have to remove your shoes.
Q. Do I need any dressy clothes?
Q. What kind of shoes should I bring?
A. No need to bring more than 2 pairs. Perhaps a pair of walking shoes and then a pair of sandals that you can easily slip on and off during visits to temples.
Q. I have been researching new luggage and took to heart your message of going LIGHT. Is it safe to assume we are going to be responsible for moving our luggage around every day, and also that we may be needing to pick it up more than wheel it, due to fairly uneven and unpaved terrain?
A. You will have some interaction with your luggage but there are usually porters at the hotels to help out. If you’re handling your own, there’s usually a sidewalk and you can roll it but sometimes it might be a dirt track.
Q. Do you usually take your drivers license with you on trips where you aren’t planning on driving? Or just rely on your passport, or get an International Drivers License as another form of ID?
A. You definitely won’t need your drivers license but if you feel more comfortable carrying it, by all means, do. Your passport is really the most important ID you’ll need.
Q. Will you be sending an updated itinerary with our overnight accommodations so we can leave it with folks at home?
A. You’ll receive the hotel information one or two weeks prior to departure.
Q. Will we have internet access?
A. Internet cafes abound and the hotels should have computers where you can access the internet as well. Please don’t rely on this, however, because it’s sometimes a crap shoot; computers don’t work and power outages do happen. Certainly you’ll be able to regularly check in with family but set the expectation that it won’t be like home.
Q. Do the airlines have restrictions on the weight of checked baggage?
A. Always check the airline’s website before departure as policies tend to change. Effective May 2013 both Air India and Jet Airways (used for internal India flights) have lowered the weight allowance of checked baggage to 15kg. Any luggage exceeding this weight will be subject to excess baggage charges.
Q. What are the carry-on bag restrictions?
A. Every airline is different AND some enforce their policies while others don’t. Check your airline’s website and then hope that if your bag is over their weight limit, they won’t care.
Q. I’ve heard there’s been an issue with counterfeit Indian currency – should I be concerned?
A. It’s unlikely that you’ll come across counterfeit currency on the tour, but it is a possibility. We found this article to be helpful and hope you do too! At the bottom of the page are some other common scams you might encounter. India is a very safe country, but unaware tourists can be quickly parted from their rupees.