Last Modified: 23 Oct 2012
Beijing to Delhi
Trip code: CBSXC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012
Satisfy your sense of adventure and spiritual curiosity on this true overland odyssey. From the great capital of China, travel across the vast Tibetan Plateau, through remote villages, into the mountain kingdom of Nepal and then delve into the heady chaos of India. Ride the world's highest railway all the way to Lhasa and witness the intense spirituality of the Tibetan people in their remote monasteries, high mountain passes, traditional homes and colourful marketplaces. Spot exotic creatures, explore temples and palaces, view icons such as Mt Everest, the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal on this epic journey rich in history, spirituality, culture and local interaction.
Table of Contents
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Days 1-2 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Join your fellow travellers for a group dinner at a local restaurant of your leader's choice to try some Beijing speciality dishes.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
Walk the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx 2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it's still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity but it's up to you how far you walk once up on the wall.
The only inclusion in Beijing is our trip to the Great Wall so we recommend you arrive a couple of days early to see some of the city's other sights including:
Explore Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
Pick up a bike for the day. You'll need comfortable clothes for cycling. Helmets may not be available for hire - if you wish to have a helmet you'll need to supply your own.
Take taxis to the Beijing West railway station, one of the biggest and busiest in the world, to board our train to Lhasa (approx 45 hrs).
- Informal Chinese language lesson
- Welcome dinner
- Great Wall Experience Urban Adventure
- Beijing - Tiananmen Square - Free
- Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
- Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
- Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY480
- Beijing Opera - CNY200
- Beijing Zoo (including Aquarium) - CNY130
- Lama Temple - CNY30
- Summer Palace - CNY40
- Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 3 Train to the Roof of the World
The train to Lhasa is truly one of China's greatest engineering feats in recent years. It's the highest railway in the world, traversing some incredibly mountainous and remote terrain. Our journey takes us through the major cities of Xi'an, Lanzhou and Xining, and across the Qinghai Plateau before arriving in Lhasa.
Train travel in China/Tibet may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's a major form of transport for locals. The Beijing - Lhasa train is one of the newest and best in China. We use hard sleeper class trains for our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) The train has a dining car although meals are of better quality on the first day as by the second day we are travelling at altitude which makes cooking difficult! You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. While we always try to have our groups staying together, there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages, and possibly sharing with passengers who are not part of the group.
On rare occasions it may be possible to upgrade to a different carriage class once on the train itself for an additional cost paid to the train conductor but this can not be guaranteed and and should not be relied on as an option.
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 4-8 Lhasa
Colourful and historic, the holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley 3,650 m above sea level. For many years it was a mysterious place, virtually unknown to the outside world with even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reaching the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. While now welcoming tourists and much modernized, Lhasa remains an intriguing city with deeply fascinating culture, sights and stories.
Altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation will be felt while travelling in Tibet, particularly when arriving in Lhasa. We've allowed five days here to allow for appropriate acclimatisation. For more information about altitude and altitude sickness prevention please see the 'Health' section of these notes.
Due to Chinese government regulations, all foreign tour groups in Tibet must be accompanied by an official licensed Tibetan guide. Depending on the departure, you will either have a Tibetan Intrepid leader from Beijing to the Chinese border and a Nepalese Intrepid leader after making the crossing (as Tibetans are not permitted to travel outside of China) or a Chinese Intrepid leader for the duration of the trip and be accompanied by a local Tibetan guide during your time in Tibet. In this case, while we try to request experienced guides with a good level of English, please note that we often have no control over which guides are assigned to our groups and some may be very new to guiding or have limited English communication skills.
Take part in a Tibetan lesson to learn some basic greetings, numbers and phrases.
Learn how to make momos (steamed dumplings), one of the staples of Tibetan cuisine, in a cooking class.
Tour the incredible Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama. Although we're not free to explore the Potala Palace on our own and must stick to a strict schedule of viewing the exhibits and buildings with our guide, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world. Please note this is the most popular attraction in Lhasa, especially among Chinese tour groups, so it can be very crowded and tickets are for a limited time period only.
Please note that inside many of Tibet's monasteries and temples, including Potala Palace, photography is not permitted. In those buildings where it is permitted, often this requires the purchase of a photo permit. Your guide can organize this photo permit for you for an additional fee.
Visit the Sera Monastery where the monks hold dramatic daily debating sessions.
Explore Jokhang Temple, which is often regarded as the spiritual heart of Tibet and one of the region's most active religious sites.
As the majority of the cultural and historical sites in Tibet are temples and monasteries we advise choosing carefully which activities you do in your free time and pacing yourself in order to enjoy the sites we visit as a group as much as possible. Tibetan Buddhism is certainly a fascinating part of the region's culture, however some travellers find that they get 'templed out' quickly as there's just so much information to take in. Take your time, ask our local guide about what interests you most and if you would rather have time on your own instead of joining the group to explore a monastery or temple please let your leader know.
Visit our friends at Braille Without Borders, a wonderful organization that provides support, education and training to visually impaired Tibetans. Blindness and visual impairment in Tibet are very widespread due to the climate and lack of adequate medical care. Braille Without Borders' key message is to give Tibetans the 'right to be blind without being disabled'. We visit their school where young children receive education in Tibetan, Chinese, English and learn to read Braille, as well as prepare for future professions in order to be self supporting. We have a chance to see their classrooms and meet some of the students who are always very proud to show off their language and music skills.
Braille Without Borders is supported by The Intrepid Foundation. If you would like to make a donation to support their programs we recommend donating through The Intrepid Foundation rather than while at the centre. That way any donation you give will be matched dollar for dollar by Intrepid and therefore doubled! You can either pass on your donation through your leader or donate online at www.theintrepidfoundation.org
Head out of Lhasa for a day trip to one of the most stunning natural sights in Tibet - Nam Tso Lake. The soaring Tangula Range with its peaks of over 7000m dominates the south shore of the lake which turns a magnificent turquoise shade in spring. Along the way we'll see nomadic tent camps and sweeping grasslands, as well as devoted pilgrims making the trek to Tashi Do Monastery on foot. While here, you can walk the kora and hike to the top of the surrounding hills for intoxicating views. In the evening we drive back to Lhasa.
This is a long day - the drive will take us to over 4500m and the road is far from smooth. For those who would rather take it easy there is the option of staying in Lhasa for the day. During the months of October through April the road to Nam-Tso can be inaccessible due to snow. We will arrange alternative activities in or around Lhasa for those departures not able to visit the lake.
- Lhasa - Jokhang Temple
- Group dinner - Chinese/western
- Lhasa - Tibetan language lesson
- Lhasa - Braille Without Borders school visit
- Lhasa - Cooking class
- Lhasa - Potala Palace
- Lhasa - Sera Monastery
- Lhasa - Nam-Tso Lake day trip
- Group dinner - Tibetan
- Norbulingka - CNY60
- Ganden Monastery - CNY145
- Drepung Monastery - CNY60
- Ramoche Monastery - CNY40
5 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 2 Dinners
Hotel (5 nts)
Day 9 Samye
Today we begin our overland journey which will take us all the way from Lhasa to Kathmandu. For the Tibetan part of the tour we must be accompanied by a local guide according to the local laws. As foreigners are not permitted to travel by public transport in this region, we will have a private van and driver for the journey.
Driving times will vary and any times listed here are approximate only. While much of the infrastructure in Tibet has been improved in recent years it still lacks regular maintenance and travel time will rely heavily on weather and road conditions. As we have our own vehicle it may also be possible to make some stops along the way for photos, meals or to chat with locals however we need to aim to complete our drives before nightfall for safety reasons.
Our journey to Samye will take approx. 5 hours.
Samye sits at over 3600m and is home to the oldest and one of the most enchanting monasteries in Tibet. This is where Buddhism was established and the monastery has withstood centuries of invasion and other threats to remain standing, imposing and immense beside the river.
Explore the magical structures that make up the Samye Monastery with our local guide giving some explanations about the complicated religious symbolism and rituals. Go through the assembly hall with its statues and the Jowo Khang inner chapel. Some of the murals here are amazingly vivid and detailed, although you'll need to purchase a permit to take photos. The entire Samye complex is huge so we'll have some time to explore here on our own or you can continue to walk with our guide. In the afternoon we can make the 30 minute climb to the top of Hepo Ri Hill with prayer flags and a spectacular view.
Stay in the monastery guesthouse within the complex walls. The rooms are simple, with shared bathroom facilities. Sometimes hot showers are not available and be prepared for occasional 'romantic candle nights' in the case of a blackout.
Accommodation in Tibet outside of Lhasa can be of a very basic standard and with limited options. The region is still hurting from the riots in 2008 which lead to tourism practically being halted for over a year and many hotels and other businesses are still struggling with the financial loss and unable to pay for regular maintenance or sufficient staff to keep things in good condition. Hot water, when available, can be sporadic and in some destinations hot water and showers are not available at all. Many hotels have shared bathroom facilities and unreliable plumbing. Most places we stay will have twin-share rooms although on occasion we'll stay in multishare rooms on a same gender basis.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 10 Gyantse
The long drive to Gyantse today is spectacular, with unforgettable views of the turquoise coloured Yamdrok Tso Lake from the top of the soaring Kamba Pass (over 4700m). The road takes us along the lake shore, stopping at the town of Nangartse for lunch before climbing again for more views of glaciers and peaks. We aim to arrive in Gyantse (around 4000m) by late afternoon.
As well as many religious sites, Gyantse is a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life in the backstreets where pilgrims, pop music, cows, "cowboys" on motorbikes, kids and monks all mingle in a lively mix of cultures.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 11-12 Shigatse
Spend time in the unique Gyantse Kumbum, a layered stupa designed as a kind of 3 dimensional mandala and model of the Buddhist universe, each storey representing a step to enlightenment. If you have a head for heights you can wind your way up the pilgrim circuit, the passages steadily getting narrower as you get higher and the air becoming more and more intoxicating with incense and smoke from yak butter lamps.
Drive to Tibet's second-largest city, Shigatse (90 km, approx 2 hrs).
Sitting at just over 3800m, Shigatse is a busy, buzzing and dusty city that's rapidly modernising.
Visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the few in Tibet to have come out virtually unscathed from the Cultural Revolution. With its expansive territory inside thick stone walls it's almost like a town in itself. We visit with our local guide, but if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the myriad monastic buildings each with their own intricate decorations, legends and religious imagery, ask for directions to the tranquil Chapel of Jampa and meditate on the world's largest gilded statue. The courtyard outside of the Kelsang Chapel is one of the best places to observe the pilgrims and monks prepare for ceremonies.
In the evening we can join the pilgrims on their kora (prayer circuit), spinning prayer wheels as we walk around the perimeter of the monastery and taking in the great views and atmosphere. The walk takes around 1 hour to complete.
Drive about 1 hour to the countryside outside of Shigatse to visit the Braille Without Borders organic farm and training centre. Along with a primary school, the training centre is home to music and massage schools, handicraft workshops, a cheese kitchen and cafe, all employing and training visually impaired Tibetans, providing opportunities for future careers and improving their livelihoods. We have a chance to tour the facilities, chat with the trainees and sample some of their delicious organically grown food.
Back in the city, if our stay coincides with Market Day a great activity is to head to the Shigatse bazaar and browse the stalls that sell everything from slabs of yak butter and yak wool to prayer wheels and rosaries. Be tempted by antiques, jewellery and fur hats with elaborate gold brocade, or simply watch as Tibetans vie with each other to win a sale. Alternatively, you may be able to visit the carpet factory where hand-woven carpets are made to traditional designs. Don't forget to bargain hard if you decide to make a purchase.
- Gyantse - Gyantse Kumbum
- Gyantse - Pelkor Chode Monastery
- Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery
- Shigatse - Braille Without Borders farm visit
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 13 Sakya
Continuing our journey along the Friendship Highway, drive to the small town of Sakya, which is situated at about 4300m (approx 4 hrs).
Sakya's monastery and town buildings are quite unique. The monastery is built in medieval 'Mongolian' style and rather than whitewashed, the secular buildings are painted in red and while stripes. With its high imposing walls, the monastery is sometimes nicknamed the "Great Wall of Tibet".
Explore inside the monastery with our local guide. At first the halls may seem similar to other monasteries we've visited, but spend some time here and soak in the atmosphere and you'll soon realise that Sakya has a subtle ancient beauty that is unlike any other.
After the monastery tour you can choose to climb the hill through the Tibetan Village to see what's left of the original monastery complex. Make sure you pick your way through the ruins and remaining buildings in a clockwise direction as this is a kora route.
Tonight for dinner, why not try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants. Stay the night in a basic guesthouse. Please note that there's usually not hot running water available here.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 14 Everest National Park
Another early start and an exhilarating drive (approx 8-9 hrs) along what at times seems little more than a yak track brings us to Rongphu - sitting at around 5,000m above sea level and a mere 8 km from Everest Base Camp. The views from here are utterly spectacular.
Rongphu Monastery is the highest in the world. On a clear day you may even get a photo of the monastery's chorten against the backdrop of mighty Everest, or Qomolangma as it is called in Tibetan.
A relatively modern monastery by Tibetan standards, Rongphu was built in the early 1900s and originally housed more than 500 monks. Today around 50 monks and nuns remain. Unusually, they share the same prayer hall although they have separate residences. We are received very warmly by the monks and nuns here and it's often possible to join them for their evening prayers.
Stretch our legs and our lungs on the gentle two hour return hike up to Everest Base Camp. Follow the prayer flags up the slope, hope for a clear sunny sky for amazing photos and even text a friend back home when you reach the camp at 5200 m. Yes, there's mobile reception even here!
In the summer months we stay nearby Rongphu in the Tent City that is sent up along the road that leads to Everest Base Camp. Accommodation here is in nomad-style tents. Tents sleep up to seven people with basic mattresses and bedding provided but we recommend using a sleep sheet and preparing some warm clothes as it can get quite cool in the evenings. There are basic pit toilets nearby. For heating there is a yak dung stove in the central open area of each tent. At such close proximity to the tallest mountains in the world the surroundings more than make up for the basic sleeping conditions.
In colder months when the Tent City is not operational we stay in the monastery guesthouse or in a nearby town. Rooms here are quad-share with very simple, shared facilities.
- Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery
- Everest NP - Base Camp visit
Permanent tented camp (1 nt)
Day 15 Zhangmu
For early risers there may be another chance to visit Everest Base camp this morning depending on group departure time.
Today we head for our final stop in Tibet - the town of Zhangmu on the border between China and Nepal. We see the landscape change quite abruptly, from barren plateau to green valleys. As the altitude drops to around 2250m the humidity increases. Depending on the recent rainfall we might even see some amazing waterfalls cascading down the gorges. In the summer, driving time may be longer as with the road often submerged in clouds and fog we may need to take it extra slow. Landslides are also common in this part of Tibet which is why we leave a whole day to get to Zhangmu and stay the night there so that delays do not disrupt our schedule in Nepal.
Zhangmu has the restless feel typical of border towns with a congested city centre, plenty of shops and traders about and many restaurants.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 16 Dhulikhel
Say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver at the Chinese border and go through the immigration procedures. As immigration is often closed in the middle of the day we cross once it opens at 9.30am in order to maximize our short stay in Dhulikhel, our first destination in Nepal.
We get a lift across 8 km of no man's land and then walk across the Friendship Bridge to the Nepali border town of Kodari. After going through Nepalese immigration we meet our transfer and drive the mountain passes to Dhulikel with a stop for lunch on the way (approx 3-4hours).
Arriving in Dhulikhel, we have a chance to walk around the village streets, enjoy the beautiful lush surroundings and the immense views from our guesthouse perched high on the hillside.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 17-19 Kathmandu
Continue on to Kathmandu by bus.
Kathmandu is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development and, with its rich artistic and cultural heritage, it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows.
Check out Durbar Square, the vast plaza opposite the old Royal Palaces chock full of Newari architecture.
On Day 18 you are free until the group meeting with your new leader and group at 6pm. During the day you will need to move from the Hotel Marshyangdi to the Kathmandu Prince Hotel . It is only a few minutes walk away. Ask your Chinese leader to point it out for you.
With your new group and leader on day 19 we will set out to explore more of Kathmandu.
See the ancient Swayambhunath Stupa (known to tourists as the Monkey Temple) - Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal.
Join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa - the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism.
Head to Pashupatinath - a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km north-west of Kathmandu. It's dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).
- Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple
- Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
- Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple
- Kathmandu - Durbar Square - NPR750
- Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Temple - NPR200
- Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa - NPR200
- Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple - NPR1000
- Kathmandu - Day trip to Patan - NPR400
- Kathmandu - Day trip to Bhaktapur - NPR1500
- Kathmandu - Everest scenic flight - USD190
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 20-22 Chitwan National Park
Take a local bus down to Chitwan National Park at the base of the Himalayas (approx 6 hours).
Declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1984, Chitwan National Park offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia with rhinos, deer, monkeys and a wide array of birdlife including the infamous Nepalese wild chickens.
Set off with our local guides for a full-day jungle excursion. Begin by canoeing on the Rapti River into the park (approx 90 mins), before jumping out and embarking on a trek to Ghatgai, a village in another section of the park (approx 12 km, 7-8 hrs). Our trekking pace will be slow and quiet to try to maximise our chances of seeing some wildlife and we can soak up the atmosphere with a couple of breaks and a lunch stop along the way. You'll need to carry your own day pack, including your picnic lunch.
The next day, trek back into the park for about 90 minutes and visit the crocodile breeding centre, then take jeeps back to our hotel at the edge of the park.
Our accommodation in Ghatgai is simple with basic facilities and food, but plenty of jungle ambience. Toilet and bathrooms are shared.
- Chitwan - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
- Chitwan - Crocodile breeding centre
Lodge (2 nts), Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 23 Lumbini
Leaving Chitwan, travel by private vehicle to the Nepalese border town of Lumbini (approx 5 hrs).
The birthplace of Gautama Buddha, Lumbini is the Mecca of Buddhism, being one of its four holy places. It's said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse and death.
Travel on cycle rickshaws to the Maya Devi Temple, the site where Lord Buddha is believed to have been born.
- Lumbini - Maya Devi Temple & Heritage Park
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 24 Varanasi
This is a long travelling day as we make our way into India, crossing the border at Sunauli and continuing on to Varanasi (approx 8-10 hrs including stops).
The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, Varanasi is full of temples, shrines and devotees. It may not be one of the world's cleanest cities but there is no doubt it is one of the world's most amazing.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 25 River Ganges Boat Trip
Transfer to the River Ganges and our small riverboats for two days of sailing. A full support crew will be on hand as we sail down river, passing village communities and viewing river life as it goes on around us. Our crew will cook us delicious meals and we spend one night camping on the river bank in basic twin-share tents with common tented toilets. Life on the river is much slower than in the chaotic cities, so lie back, relax and literally go with the flow. The Ganges is a holy river, so in respect of this we enjoy vegetarian food and alcohol is not available.
Please note that due to high water levels on the River Ganges and the associated safety concerns the boat trip won't operate during the monsoon or other times of heavy rainfall. Departures affected by such safety concerns will be communicated during the trip by your leader - it's difficult to know well in advance how much rain there's likely to be at any point in time. In these cases, an extra night will be spent in Varanasi including a visit to the temple complex of Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon.
- River Ganges - Overnight sailing trip
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Days 26-27 Varanasi
Sail back into Varanasi.
Set off by cycle rickshaw to visit the oldest part of the city, bustling with tourists and priests, and see different rituals being performed.
Wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops and stalls. See pilgrims bathing and performing rituals and ceremonies unchanged for hundreds of years; temples full of bell chimes and the smell of incense; the dhobi wallahs and the burning ghats.
Spend the evening soaking up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, on a Ganges river cruise as the sun sets.
Start early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, passing the many ghats and temples along the river.
There's plenty to see and do in your free time here:
Visit the Ram Nagar Fort which lies about 14 km from Varanasi on the opposite bank of River Ganga. Built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century, it's the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras.
Board our overnight train for Jhansi - the nearest junction to Orchha (approx 15 hrs). Sleeper trains are usually comfortable and air-conditioned (sometimes fan-cooled), a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Most of the time sheets, pillow and blanket are provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same/mixed gender situation.
- Varanasi - Old city walking tour
- Varanasi - Sunset candle flower ceremony
- Varanasi - Sunrise boat ride
- Varanasi - Ram Nagar Fort - INR150
- Varanasi - Sarnath - INR250
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 28-29 Orchha
After arriving in Jhansi, travel by auto rickshaw across a classic Indian rural landscape to the picturesque town of Orchha to experience a very different side of India (approx 45 mins).
Situated on the banks of the Betwa River, Orchha has changed little over the centuries. Originally a hunting area, it became the capital of the Bundela rajas and, as a result, Orchha has more temples and palaces than any town of this size deserves.
Explore the palaces and temples scattered across the peaceful countryside, walk in rural areas untouched by modern life and meet the very friendly locals. The river water is cold but clean enough to swim in.
Experience an evening puja ceremony at the Ram Raja Temple.
See the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler.
Take the chance to experience the local flavours at a cooking demonstration by our local friends.
Visit Taragram, one of Intrepid's Responsible Tourism projects. This unique papermaking plant was set up to give tribal women from the area a chance to work outside the traditional areas normally afforded to them. All the paper is made from recycled clothing and wood pulp.
- Orchha - Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony
- Orchha - Orchha Palace
- Orchha - Cooking class
- Orchha - Taragram visit
Heritage Property (2 nts)
Day 30 Agra
Travel by train to the Mughal city of Agra (approx 5 hrs).
Agra is home to one of the world's most recognisable monuments, the Taj Mahal.
Visit the Taj Mahal - a masterpiece of shimmering white marble set amid beautiful formal gardens. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, this 'teardrop on the face of eternity' (as it was described by writer Rabindranath Tagore) lives up to all expectations.
Hop on to your motorised rickshaw for a tour of the city - a truly fun and Intrepid way to see the monuments of Agra.
Visit Agra Fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, the fort was originally designed to be a military structure. It was converted to a palace in Emperor Shah Jahan's time and eventually became his prison after he lost power in 1658.
See Akbar's Mausoleum - a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
- Cycle rickshaw tour
- Agra - Taj Mahal
- Agra - Red Fort
- Agra - Akbar's Mausoleum - INR125
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 31-32 Delhi
Take a train to India's capital city, Delhi (approx 4 hrs).
India's capital is an exciting, busy, and often chaotic city but it's also one of the most interesting in the world with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars!
If you stay a couple of extra days there are plenty of things to see and do. Visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb. This was the first garden tomb in India, built way back in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started back in the 1100s. Explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it plays an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
- Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR250
- Delhi - Qutb Minar - INR250
- Delhi - Red Fort - INR250
Hotel (1 nt)
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If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Mountains & Monasteries (CBST)
- Tibet Unplugged (CFRE)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
This is a demanding, overland travel trip, which is suitable for the experienced traveller. The affects of altitude, long days of travel in cramped conditions over extremely rough roads, accommodation in shared dormitories that vary in quality from the basic to the very basic and the possibility of severe and sudden climate changes means that this is definitely not a trip for the armchair traveller. Be prepared for no showers for several days, and in the event of a landslide or heavy snow blocking the road you may be required to walk carrying your own luggage for unspecified distances or the itinerary may change.
India is a developing country, so be prepared to leave Western expectations behind; not everywhere has air conditioning and rail journeys can be delayed; a little patience and a sense of humour are essential. Fog can occasionally cause delays and affect sightseeing in winter months.
Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy your holiday.
You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including moving about busy public transport hubs, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable In some locations it may be possible to hire porters. Please ask your trip leader for help to arrange this if possible but be prepared to manage your own luggage.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
The official currency of Nepal is the Nepali Rupee (NPR).
ATMs can only be found in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Bhaktapur. Money exchange facilities are available in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan (only outside the park) and Bhaktapur.
The Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes in Nepal. You should ensure you are not carrying these notes on arrival in Nepal as they will be confiscated and you may be fined.
While travellers' cheques have security advantages exchanging them can be a lengthy process, commissions can be high (up to 10%) and they can be difficult to change in rural areas, on weekends and public holidays. If you choose to bring travellers' cheques, make sure they are a major brand and major currency.
Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes.
The official currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR).
The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), which are readily available in most towns.
Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, so please bring clean bills, and small denominations are most useful.
While traveller's cheques have security advantages exchanging them can be a lengthy process, commissions can be high and they can be difficult to change in rural areas, on weekends and public holidays. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels/establishments.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
Tipping in China is not customary, but in the travel industry it is. Many guides and drivers would usually supplement their income by taking tourists to shops and restaurants from which they receive commission. Intrepid does not encourage this practice as we believe it can be detrimental to our travellers' experience. Instead we try to ensure we pay our drivers, guides and leaders fairly for their services. Tips are still very much appreciated for those situations in which you believe you have received excellent service.
Please don't tip with coins, notes of or less that CNY1, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Tipping is not common practice at restaurants in China or Tibet.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest CNY10-15 per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Porters: In some hotels a porter may offer to carry your bag to your room. We suggest CNY5 per bag for porters.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest that you tip only those more involved with the group (for example those that help you with your bags etc). CNY5-10 per person per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$3-5 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
Please don't tip with coins or notes of or less than NPR1, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
Hotels: Service charges have been introduced in Nepal. Hence there is no need for tipping; except for porters, for whom NPR20-30 is adequate.
Restaurants: Please check the bill and if there’s an addition of 10% service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, 5-10% of the total bill amount is appropriate.
Local guides: US$1-2 per person, per day for local guides. (Including city tour guides, jungle guides, rafting guides, assistant trek guides).
Porters: US$1-2 per person, per day, per porter.
Drivers: US$1-2 per person, per day is generally appropriate.
Local transport: For a city tour we suggest US$1 per person, per day.
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest INR20. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest INR100 per day for local guides.
Porters: Throughout your trip you may at times have a porter in addition to your leader. We suggest INR50 per day for porters.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of INR100 per day is generally appropriate.
Local transport: For a city tour we suggest INR50 per day.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
TIBET GROUP RESTRICTIONS:
All clients will be entering Tibet on a Group Permit arranged by Intrepid Travel and as such it's not possible for anyone to leave the group and remain in Tibet individually. Everybody must enter and leave Tibet with the group. Make sure you read the 'Visas' section for important details on the information you must provide for your group's Tibet permit.
Please note that it's a criminal offence for anyone to carry images of the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan flag - doing so may lead to confiscation of the items, detention, arrest or imprisonment by Chinese authorities. We strongly advise travellers against carrying these items at any time while within China.
Snap bandhs (strikes) can occur at any time in Nepal with very little notice, resulting in your itinerary having to be revised. Although we will endeavour to minimise any additional costs incurred there may be occasions where the traveller will need to cover trip changes, including flights, of which you will need to use your emergency funds and then claim the money on your travel insurance.
The boat ride on the Ganges in Varanasi can be suspended if there is heavy rainfall in the region resulting in high water levelsl or fast currents making boating dangerous. If boating is not possible we will make alternative arrangements to visit Saranath.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (18 nts), Guesthouse (4 nts), Overnight sleeper train (3 nts), Lodge (2 nts), Heritage Property (2 nts), Permanent tented camp (1 nt), Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses and homestays with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only. We use a mixture of air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned rooms.
BEDS AND ROOMS:
Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. Passengers that require a soft bed should consider bringing an inflatable camping mattress or sleeping mat.
Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible.
WIFI, in room, or in public areas of accommodation is not as common as travellers may be used to in other regions.
SLEEPER TRAINS IN INDIA:
Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned (fan-cooled at times), a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths, sheets, pillow and blanket are provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same/mixed gender situation. Most trains have a dining carriage where food / snacks / meals are available.
HARD SLEEPER TRAINS CHINA:
We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded berths (6 to a compartment), sheets, a blanket and hot water available. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals or snacks are available. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. While railway services are rapidly being modernised in China, some train journeys in particular between less visited destinations may use older rolling stock and the carriages of a more basic standard.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
3 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Private Bus, Overnight sleeper train, Taxi, Bus, Jeep, Private vehicle, Cycle rickshaw, Auto rickshaw, Train
Joining point description
Centrally located in downtown Beijing's Wangfujing District, the Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel is close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The hotel is also within easy reach of the CBD and Financial Street and a few minutes walk to the nearest subway stations. The hotel offers comfortable rooms including ensuite, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open or use the vanity pack.
Joining point instructions
Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights arrive at Terminal 3.
An arrival transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
If you have pre-purchased an arrival transfer, our local operator, Ms Qi (Ms Chee), will have sent a driver to the airport who will be holding a sign with the Intrepid logo and your name on it. If you arrive at Terminal 2, please meet your driver at the entrance/exit #7 after you go through the baggage claim area. Please note that Beijing Airport is very crowded so please be patient. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk at door #7 and ask them to call Ms Qi on her mobile. If you arrive at Terminal 3, please meet your driver in front of the white jade screen wall with the dragon pattern, after you walk through Exit B. Exit B is the only international arrival gate in Terminal 3. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk on the right side of Exit B and ask them to call Ms Qi on her mobile (+86) 13671299816.
If making your own way to the hotel:
By bus, take airport bus route 2 (CNY16) to Dongzhimen or route 3 to Beijing Railway Station, then it's a short taxi ride to our joining point hotel (CNY 15, approx 10 minutes.
By subway, Take the Airport Express to Dong Zhi Men Station. Change to Line 2 at this station, then to Line 5 at Lama Temple. From Lama Temple station, take the train to the direction of Songjiazhuang, and get off at Dengshikou Station. Turn left from Exit A, and take the first left at Baishu Hutong, which is a narrow lane. Walk down this lane for about 200m, you'll see the Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel on your left (Hotel name is on the top of the building in Yellow )
Metered taxis are available outside the airport terminal building. The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotels takes about 45 minutes and should cost around CNY80-100 (plus CNY10 for the airport expressway toll). Show the taxi driver the address of the hotel in Chinese characters as shown below. **PLEASE AVOID TAXI TOURS THAT TELL YOU THEY HAVE A METERED TAXI PARKED OUTSIDE THE AIRPORT**
Check-in time is 2pm.
Please note local language address for Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel below which is useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions:
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
CHINA - TIBET:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
CHINA & HONG KONG:
Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements. Tibet is is a province of mainland China.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
+86 10 6406 8022
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by Intrepid or your travel agent at time of booking. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that the provided itinerary indicates your trip visits
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
* Itinerary - this forms part of the Hotel List document from our office in China. Please note that this itinerary may not reflect your actual journey, but is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel in China
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TIBET PERMIT & TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS
Tibet permits are be arranged en-route with the help of our local partners. If you are travelling on an itinerary that visits Tibet you will need to email the following documents to us as soon as possible after booking and no later than 30 days before departure:
* Clear, colour scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport
* Clear, colour scanned copy of your Chinese visa
Please make sure that this copy is of the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well. This may also cause significant delays in obtaining your Tibet permit so please plan ahead. If we do not receive these documents from you in time, your name and passport details will not be listed on the group permit and you will not be able to board the train to travel to Lhasa with the group.
WARNING – TRAVEL TO TIBET
Please be aware that this is a politically sensitive area of China which has in the past been closed to foreign travellers without warning. A change in the political situation can also lead to unforeseen delays in issuing visas and permits. We aim to keep our travellers as up to date as possible with any changes, however these are often made without any official announcement by authorities and as such are out of our control.
IMPORTANT - TIBET PERMIT:
Once you have obtained your Chinese visa you must provide a clear colour copy of your passport page and Chinese visa to your booking agent. This should be in JPEG format and Intrepid must receive this at least 30 days prior to travel in order to apply for your group's Tibet permit. Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport please bring your old passport with you as well. If we do not receive these documents from you by this time your name and passport details will not be listed on the group permit and you will not be able to board the train to travel to Lhasa with the group.
Due to the political sensitivity of this region it is important to understand that there are sometimes unexpected difficulties in obtaining Tibetan permits which are out of Intrepid's control. Three times during 2011 and 2012, and without official announcement by the government authorities controlling permit issue, the region of Tibet has been closed to visitors, or permits denied. It is impossible to predict when or if these sudden changes will occur again in the future. Of course Intrepid and our local ground teams will do everything we can to obtain permits or warn our travellers if they will be affected by last minute closures.
NEPAL - FROM TIBET
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Yes - on arrival
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Yes - on arrival
Ireland: Yes - on arrival
Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - on arrival
Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
USA: Yes - on arrival
Most nationalities can apply for the visa on arrival at the land border crossing from Tibet to Nepal. Please check with your embassy to ensure that this applies to you. Current cost of visa on arrival is US$30, depending on your nationality. You will need 2 passport photos for your application. You may need to know your exact departure date in order to apply for the correct length Single Entry Tourist Visa.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:
Day 16 - Exit China at Zhangmu and enter Nepal at Kodari
To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website to be very useful - http://www.timeanddate.com
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
There is NO visa on arrival in India. Indian visas can NOT be obtained in Nepal. Tourist visas are available in Single and Multiple Entry. Be sure to check the date you require a visa from and the length of time you will need to cover, especially if you change countries during your trip.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international / administrative border crossings for this trip:
Day 24 - Exit Nepal at Bhairahawa and enter India at Sunauli
To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website to be very useful: www.timeanddate.com
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
During the Chitwan walk we leave our main piece of luggage at the hotel and collect it when we return. You will need to bring along a comfortable overnight pack (around 30-35 litres / 8-9 gallons) for the Chitwan walk. This should be big enough to carry your clothing requirements and basic necessities as well as camera and water bottle. You will also need a pair of comfortable walk shoes that you have already broken in.
CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
The mountainous areas we visit on this trip can be very cold. Bring a warm jumper/jacket, thermals, warm hat and gloves no matter what time of the year, as we travel at altitudes above 5,000 m.
A sleeping bag is very useful for the camping and the overnight train journey during the colder months but in the warmer months a sleeping sheet will suffice. If you prefer, a blanket can be bought locally.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Please note that this trip spends time above 2800 metres/9200 feet where it is possible to experience some adverse effects on your health due to the altitude, potentially including Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).
Altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation is generally felt to some degree while travelling in Tibet, particularly when arriving in Lhasa at just above 3,600 metres/3,937 yards. We have allowed five days in Lhasa to allow for appropriate acclimatisation. We also overnight at above 5,000m near Everest Base Camp.
AMS (acute mountain sickness) affects people in different ways. It is important to remember that if you are young and healthy, and haven't experienced altitude sickness in the past doesn't mean you are immune to it on future trips. Physical fitness is not necessarily a good indicator, and neither are strength or good health. You may react badly to altitude despite being fit, young and healthy. In fact, the fit, young and healthy have a hidden risk: their general physical capacity leads them to believe that they should handle altitude just fine, which is not always true.
Bad health, on the other hand, is a risk factor: particularly cardiac or respiratory problems. Healthy hearts and lungs have a hard enough time getting oxygen to your tissues at high altitudes. Naturally, if you have physical problems that make exertion difficult for you, you have reason to think carefully about exertion at high altitude, where it is much harder!
Because of this it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude and monitor your health during this trip. For further information please refer to the AMS information sheet located on the 'Trip Notes' link for your trip on our website or check out the following website http://www.treksafe.com.au/medical/altitude_illness.htm.
If you have any concerns about altitude we recommend that you check with a doctor before leaving.
Your leader will also hand you a copy of the AMS information sheet during your trip as well as holding a short meeting prior to travelling to altitudes above 2800m/9200ft for the first time.
If you are starting your trip in a destination above 2800m/9200ft we strongly advise reading this information prior to arrival.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
ACCLIMATISATION AND ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Altitude sickness has the potential to affect all travellers from 2500m and higher. We ascend slowly and give our bodies plenty of time to adjust to the smaller quantities of oxygen in the air. However it is important to be aware of the normal altitude symptoms that you may encounter BUT NOT worry about:
- Periods of sleeplessness
- Occasional loss of appetite
- Vivid, wild dreams at around 2500-3800m in altitude
- Unexpected momentary shortness of breath, day and night
- Periodic breathing that wakes you occasionally
- Your nose becomes bunged up
- Dry cough develops
- Mild headache
If you are feeling nauseous and dizzy be sure to let your group leader know so that we can monitor your condition.
FESTIVALS - HOLI & DIWALI:
Travelling in India and Nepal during the Holi festival, a lunar festival next held in March 17, 2014 and generally held in March each year, can at times be dangerous - a lot of locals participate in consumption of intoxicating substances. The day has been associated with physical violence and danger. Your leader/guide will be advising you and your group on what places to avoid on this day and it may even be necessary for us to alter your itinerary for the day to avoid putting you or our group leader/guide in high risk situation.
Travelling during the Hindu festival Diwali (a lunar festival next held on 03 November, 2013 and generally held from mid October to mid November every year) can also be dangerous. During this time there are many displays of fireworks in the streets. It can be very noisy for several days and there is also a lot of pollution caused by the fireworks. As there are no restrictions on buying fireworks in India there are often injuries caused by people exploding them inappropriately. During this festival your leader/guide may be required to alter your itinerary to avoid any dangerous areas to avoid putting the group at risk.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
Please note that helmets are not provided for the sightseeing on bicycles.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for men and women.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Tibet include:
* Braille without Borders was Tibet's first blind rehabilitation and training centre. With four major project areas, it aims to implement a blind preparatory school, produce educational materials, facilitate social reintegration programs and conduct vocational training to enable the integration and acceptance of the blind in Tibetan society.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Nepal include:
* The Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) promotes positive impact tourism and minimum impact trekking through information services for travellers and locals. They also provide vocational training in hospitality, ecotourism, conservation, first aid and English to ensure the future ecological and cultural prosperity of Nepal.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in India include:
* Asha Ka Jharna (AKJ) provides services to disabled children and adults. They run three special schools, currently assisting around 160 children, and an old-age home for the short-stay of elderly people. AJK also provides vocational training, participates in diagnostic camps and distributes aids and appliances to physically disabled persons.
* Deepalaya is focused on building a better future for India's street children. They have assisted more than 44,000 underprivileged children through the provision of food and board, health care, meaningful education and vocational training, counselling and career guidance, understanding, friendship, and warmth and solace.
* GOONJ channels vital resources to rural India through the distribution of used items such as clothes and household goods. Their school-to-school program of channelling resources like uniforms, shoes, stationery, lunch boxes etc from urban schools to rural schools will benefit more than 35,000 children in its first phase.
Any donations you'd like to make can be given to your group leader in Delhi ONLY, they can then arrange for it to be passed on to GOONJ who will distribute these items to rural villages and people in need. You might like to consider taking over some clothes or other things you no longer require: woollens, footwear, bed sheets, blankets, utensils, first aid items, books, toys and school items - notebooks, pencils, pens, old uniforms or school bags - are all useful.
Carbon Offset C02-e 1845.00 kgs per pax.
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