Booking your trip – all you need to know.
You’ve decided you want to book one of our tours. Fantastic, we’re so excited to have you join the Incredible Indian Tours club.
Please follow these simple steps to book:
1. Check availability of the group tour by getting in touch with us via email.
2. Once we’ve confirmed that there is space available, go to the tour webpage and click the Paypal ‘Pay Now’ button towards the bottom of the page and pay your deposit. If you live in Australia, you can also transfer directly to our bank account. The bank details are on the Tour Registration Form.
3. Download the Tour Registration Form, complete it and email or mail to us. If you are having trouble filling in the PDF form online, or you don’t have access to a printer, then contact us to send you a word.doc version.
4. Once we’ve received your Tour Registration Form and deposit, we will send you through your tour pack which includes country relevant information, FAQs and a recommended packing list. We will also send you an invoice for the final tour balance which is payable 60 days before the tour starts.
5. Once you have booked your flights, do let us know asap if you wish us to book extra accommodation at either the starting or finishing point hotel. You might also like to consider taking an add-on journey to your group tour. Take a look at a few suggestions of what to see/where to go.
6. Around one month before the tour start date, we will again be in touch to get final details from you such as your international arrival and departure flights (so we can arrange your complimentary airport transfers), your visa details and your travel insurance information.
Once you’ve booked your trip, please read through the documentation we will send through carefully and contact us with any questions you have – the more the merrier! We live most of the year in India, and travel regularly around the subcontinent, so we should be able to answer all of your questions with up to date information.
In Australia we have some great travel agents we can recommend you book your international flights through. In other countries, we recommend you contact a local travel agent to assist. Although these days there are many online flight booking portals that seem to offer great deals on flights, having a real person to assist you if any flight schedules change or problems occur is well worth it. In additional travel agents often have access to the same or even better flight deals than those seemingly amazing web specials on offer.
Many of our tours start and finish in different cities. Purchase a multi-trip or open-jaw ticket to fly into the starting point city and depart from the finishing point city. The cost should not be much if any more than a simple return to a single destination.
Most of our tours start and finish in a major/capital city. However several tours in India have alternate starting and finishing points.
If you’re joining either our South Indian Odyssey or Heartlands of India tour beginning in Goa, there are international flights into Vasco de Gama airport, however you might find it more convenient and less expensive to get an international flight into Chennai/Mumbai, Bangalore or even Delhi and separately book a domestic flight from there.
The South Indian Odyssey tour finishes in a town called Mahabalipuram, which is only 60km south of Chennai International airport, so your departure city will be Chennai.
Our Incredible Gujarat tour starts in Ahmedabad and finishes in Udaipur. Ahmedabad does have an international airport, but if you cannot arrange a direct flight to Ahmedabad, domestic flights from Mumbai and Delhi are frequent. At the end of the tour, several domestic flights depart Udaipur daily for both Mumbai and Delhi. Therefore we would recommend you purchase a return ticket to either Mumbai or Delhi for this tour.
If booked well enough in advance, domestic flights in India are very inexpensive. Although we are not able to look after your international flight tickets, we can assist with your domestic flights within India if required.
If you are not sure about the best airports to book your international flight to or any other questions about getting to your starting point destination, please let us know.
VACCINATIONS AND OTHER PROTECTIVE MEDICATIONS
We highly recommend you consult with a travel doctor well in advance to obtain up to date information on what vaccinations are suggested for South Asia. There are no compulsory vaccinations, however you should ensure you have an up to date Tetanus shot, and consider being vaccinated against Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B, Japanese Encephalitis and Meningitis.
Malaria and other mosquito borne diseases
Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya are all found in South Asia. Although you can take prophylactics to minimise your risk of getting Malaria, at this time there is no preventative medicine for Dengue or Chikungunya. The best preventative is to not get bitten. We recommend that if you are travelling to an area where there are disease-carrying mosquitos, protect yourself by wearing mosquito repellent and long sleeved/legged clothing. The anopheles mosquito (that carries Malaria) only bites between dusk and around midnight, so protect yourself in the evenings. Most hotels we use on tours are well insulated against mosquitos or have screens, particularly if they are in a mosquito-prone region. They also often provide plug-in mosquito repellents which are very effective.
As for taking anti-malarial medication, you are best to discuss this with your travel doctor although considering the need to still protect your skin from mosquito bites that carry the other diseases, we consider physical prevention the best course of action as all prophylactics have side effects.
High-altitude sickness (AMS)
If you are travelling with us on our Ladakh & Kashmir ‘Top of the World’ tour, we will send you specific information on AMS. However please discuss with your travel doctor/GP whether you are a suitable candidate for travelling to altitudes over 3000m (10000ft). People with limited lung capacity may have trouble at altitude as there is less oxygen in the atmosphere than at sea level. The medication generally recommended to assist with altitude acclimatisation is Diamox (Acetazolamide) which is relatively safe, but does have certain contraindications.
VISAS AND INSURANCE
Are Visas required?
Yes. Many nationalities can apply for an e-Tourist visa. The Indian Government is in the process of extending this e-Tourist facility to more countries so check here to see the latest eligibility.
For the e-Tourist visa, you need to apply within 120 days of travel for up to 60 days validity. The visa is issued online and takes up to 3 days.
Regular tourist visas (issued by the Indian Embassy or Consulate) for those nationalities who do not yet have availability of the e-Visa facility, are usually issued for 6-12 months and are either Single and Multiple Entry. As the validity begins from date of issue, be sure you do not apply for your visa too early.
Do I need insurance?
It is a very good idea to purchase travel insurance before travelling to India. Ensure you have adequate emergency evacuation insurance and that your luggage is also adequately insured, especially if you are carrying expensive equipment such as laptops, cameras, tablets, smartphones etc. If you are travelling on one of our Group Tours, Travel Insurance is compulsory.
WHAT TO BRING/PACK
Upon booking we will send you a comprehensive packing list in addition to the suggestions in the tour dossier. However here are some basic ideas/considerations with regards to what to bring on your trip.
India is a very conservative country and dressing appropriately is important (especially outside of the main cities). Many of the places you will be visiting have religious significance and we request you to respect this by being appropriately attired. Ladies are advised not to wear scanty clothes such as shoe-string shoulder tops, halter necks and shorts, and should wear comfortable, loose-fitting cool clothing which covers legs, shoulders and cleavage. Trousers are more accepted than skirts. A scarf, or shawl is useful, especially while visiting places of worship. A great option for ladies is a ‘Punjabi’ suit, or Salwar Kameez – loose fitting trousers with a long tunic over the top. They come with a matching scarf (dupatta).
Men should not wear short shorts as it is looked upon as akin to wearing underwear in public. If you prefer, long shorts (below the knee) can be worn, but not when visiting private homes or places of worship. Men also should wear loose (for comfort) conservative shirts covering the shoulders.
You need not dress up formally, unless you are attending a wedding, or gathering where a dress code is specified. Carry comfortable casual clothes, with perhaps one smart outfit for a special evening.
Comfortable shoes/sandals that can be easily slipped on and off are recommended as this is often a requirement when visiting holy places/private homes/some shops.
There are long journeys usually to be had in India by road or train, so reading material is a great idea to have. Kindles and iPads are ideal as it means that you don’t have to carry heavy books around. Download some good books on India and enjoy reading it as you experience it.
Backpacks or soft travel bags with good shoulder straps for carrying are the most suitable for travel in India – the smaller the better as there is not always much space available on public transport. Wheelie suitcases can also be convenient if you are likely to be travelling mainly by private transportation (which you will be on any of our group tours). Be warned, bags will get dusty and dirty. If you are taking an overnight train journey on your tour, please ensure that your bag is not thicker than 35cm (13inches) as it may not fit under the berth on the train.
A small day pack or shoulder satchel type bag is suggested to carry your everyday needs.
When we are in train stations, bags will generally have to be carried up and down long flights of stairs. Porters can be hired to carry your bags for a nominal fee. Porterage is included on our group tours.
In the cooler months, you may want to have closed in shoes because it is cold. In the warmer weather and regions, you will probably be more comfortable in open sandals or slip-off shoes. Additionally, you will likely find that you need to take your shoes off regularly when going into shops/temples etc and slip offs are quick and easy.
Either way, ensure your footwear is comfortable and suitable for plenty of walking on uneven ground.
If you’re travelling in the warmer months, you might well stay in a hotel with a pool, so definitely take a bathing suit. If you are travelling to the coastal areas such as Goa or Kerala, there may be opportunities for spending time on the beach.
Outside of hotels and tourist restaurants, most public toilets you will encounter will be squat-style toilets and will not supply toilet paper. Most hotels (apart from some very budget hotels) will provide toilet paper, although the rolls may be very small. Always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It is always a good idea to have a roll in your luggage. You can purchase toilet paper easily in touristy areas of India, so you don’t need to bring more than a roll with you.
All hotel rooms have electricity outlets. The standard plug in India is 250v Type D 3 pin plug (not the larger Type M). If you have more than a couple of electrical items that required plugging in (for example a camera battery charger and a phone charger, or laptop), you may wish to bring a power-board which can then be plugged into the one point and allows you to attach multiple accessories with the one converter plug (make sure it is a good quality one). Check before you travel whether you will require a transformer. Adaptor plugs are readily available in electrical stores in India.
WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE?
Due to India’s size and topography, there’s a huge amount of variation in its climate. As the seventh largest country in the world, India is home to a variety of terrains – the Himalayas of the north, the arid deserts of Rajasthan and plains of the west, the cool highlands of Assam, one of the wettest places on earth, the fertile waterways of the south and the hills and forests of the east.
There is no one perfect time to travel in India. However, climate and region play a key factor in deciding when to visit India. Keep in mind that climatic conditions in the far north are distinctly different to those of the extreme south. Generally, India’s climate is defined by three seasons – the hot, the wet (monsoon) and the cool, each of which vary in duration from north to south.
The most pleasant time to visit most places is during the cooler period: October to mid-March. October to March (with the exception of mid/late-December to mid-January) are the perfect times to travel in the North and Rajasthan. In the far south the temperatures drop to a comfortable level during December and January.
In the thick of winter (around mid/late-December to mid-January), Delhi, Rajasthan and other northern cities can become astonishingly cold, especially at night and early morning. Thick fog can often delay flights and trains and some days the Taj Mahal is invisible thanks to a veil of pea-soup smog.
The Himalayas are beautiful in winter but of course extremely cold and roads are often blocked by snow. Best months are April, May and June. When the monsoon arrives in the mountains in July/August the torrential downpours can lead to road collapses and mudslides.
By October the monsoon ends for most of the country, although a second smaller Monsoon consumes South India in October/November. This is when North India sees most tourists – however, it’s too late to visit Ladakh (May to October is the optimum period).
May to September is the summer and monsoon time. India is very hot in the summer months, with temperatures in the North often reaching 50o Celsius. The Monsoon starts from the south in June and heads north reaching Delhi around mid-July. It starts to recede back to the south in August. The monsoon helps to cool the plains when the rains arrive sometime in June. The Lahaul and Spiti valleys of Himachal and Ladakh, however, are sunny, dry and pleasant during the summer months. Light summer clothing is sufficient.
Apart from during the Monsoon (and sometime even for days at a time then), the sun beats down mercilessly on India, so don’t forget good sunscreen and a hat and even a sun umbrella.
It’s worth checking the dates of particular festivals, with many falling in the October/November period. You may be attracted or repelled by the chaos (and jacked-up prices) that attend them. South India becomes very expensive over the Christmas/New Year period. There are very few festivals in May/June. The wedding season falls between November and March, when you’re likely to see at least one lively procession through the streets.
WHAT WE PROVIDE
Upon booking, you will receive an info pack which includes an updated tour dossier, a recommended reading list, a comprehensive packing list, FAQs, a detailed review of what to expect during your travels and general guidelines and country information. We ask that you read these documents carefully to ensure you are fully prepared for your adventure. You may (and should) have lots of questions, especially if it is your first time to South Asia, so please go ahead and bombard us with them.
Around 3 weeks prior to departure, you will receive your tour vouchers and any transfer / additional accommodation vouchers. If you are on one of our group tours, you will also receive a detailed final tour itinerary with local contact details (so you can leave a copy for friends and family at home in case you wish them to follow your journey and/or be in contact if necessary), tour vouchers and any transfer / additional accommodation vouchers.
If you are on one of our group tours, your tour manager will meet you at the starting point hotel at the designated time (in the hotel lobby) mentioned on your tour voucher. You will receive a welcome tour pack which includes the following: a lightweight fold-up cloth carry bag, a folder with your detailed tour itinerary, info sheet and map for major destinations the tour visits, and for tours within India – an Incredible Indian Tours mini guide-book. You will also receive a few other goodies you’ll find useful on the road.