Circle India Trip Notes

Circle India

Last Modified: 17 Jul 2012
Circle India
Trip code: HHRLC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012
Circle India on this epic cross-country journey, taking the time to discover the sounds, sights and smells of this remarkable nation. From the bustle of Mumbai to the mellow shores of Goa, the subcontinent is a fascinating region pulsing with the life and culture of over a billion people. Here religion is lived and breathed each day in a thousand ways, and glimpses of history are found on every corner. From jam-packed cities to chilled out beaches, explore the major sights and off-the-beaten-track delights of colourful India.
Please note this tour will now visit Agra and Chanderi in 2013, instead of Ujjain. Departures will begin on Selected Saturdays in 2013, instead of Selected Sundays in 2012.
The itinerary will be as follows:
Day 1 Mumbai
Days 2-3 Aurangabad
Day 4 Jalgaon
Days 5-6 Omkareshwar
Day 7 Mandu
Day 8 Sanchi
Days 9-10 Orchha
Days 11-12 Chanderi
Day 13 Agra
Days 14-16 Delhi
Days 17-19 Jaisalmer/Thar Desert
Days 20-21 Jodhpur
Days 22-24 Udaipur
Days 25-26 Pushkar
Days 27-28 Jaipur
Day 29 Bharatpur
Days 30-31 Agra
Days 32-34 Varanasi
Day 35 Kolkata
Day 36 Chennai
Day 37 Mamallapuram
Days 38-39 Madurai
Days 40-41 Varkala
Day 42 Kerala Backwaters Homestay
Days 43-44 Kochi
Days 45-46 Mysore
Days 47-48 Hampi
Days 49-50 Goa
The detailed itinerary and prices will be released 1st November 2012
Table of Contents
StyleGroup sizeFinish point instructions
ThemesYour fellow travellersEmergency contact
MapSingle travellersEmergency funds
We also recommendMeals introductionIssues on your trip
Itinerary disclaimerMealsWhat to take
Culture shock rating TransportSafety
Physical ratingJoining point Travel insurance
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsA couple of rules
Spending moneyArrival complicationsThe Intrepid Foundation
TippingFinish point Carbon offset
Important notesFinish point descriptionFeedback
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.
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Circle India
Day 1 Mumbai
Namaste! Welcome to India.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 1pm 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.
Known as Bombay until its recent name change, Mumbai is India's commercial capital.
You can take a taxi to Chowpatty Beach for a sunset stroll. An evening promenade here is a must so you can try the local delicacies on offer at the many street stalls. Prepare to be offered everything from a neck massage to fresh coconuts!
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Aurangabad
Travel to Aurangabad by air-conditioned train (approx 7 hrs).
Aurangabad is relatively free of tourists and a great access point for the nearby Ellora Caves.
Explore the Ellora Caves - 34 caverns filled with Buddhist chaityas (halls of worship), viharas, monasteries as well as Hindu and Jain temples. The most imposing excavation is the magnificent Kailasa Temple (Cave 16), which is the largest monolithic structure in the world. Ellora has been designated as a World Heritage site, so the caves will be preserved as an artistic legacy. You can also hire a local guide, learn about the cultural importance of the caves and travel between the sites in a local version of a tuk-tuk.
Visit Bibi Ka Maqbara, a magnificent mausoleum situated about 5 km from Aurangabad. It entombs Rabia-ul-Daurani, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Construction work on the mausoleum was started in 1651 and took approximately 10 years to complete.
Optional Activities
  • Aurangabad - Ellora Caves - INR250
  • Aurangabad - Bibi ka Maqbara - INR100
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 4 Jalgaon
Travel in private vehicles to Jalgaon, via Ajanta.
Visit the Ajanta Caves. Made up of 30 caves overlooking a gorge, each forming a room in the hill, these caves were carved out of solid rock with little more than a hammer, a chisel and the faith and inspiration of Buddhism. Over a period of 600 years, artisans excavated chaityas (chapels) for Buddhist monks to pray in and viharas (monasteries) where they could live and study. Many of the caves have exquisitely detailed carvings on the walls, pillars and entrances as well as magnificent wall paintings.
The caves were discovered early in the 19th century by a party of British officers on military manoeuvres in the area. Today, the paintings and sculptures on Buddha's life, belonging to the more mellow and ritualistic Mahayana Buddhism period, have become world famous. The caves are protected under the Archaeological Survey of India and have also been World Heritage listed. Wandering around inside and checking out the ornaments, textiles, musical instruments, architecture and customs, you get a great insight into life in ancient India.
Optional Activities
  • Aurangabad - Ajanta Caves - INR250
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Omkareshwar
Take a train from Jalgaon to Khandawa (approx 3 hrs).
Transfer to Omkareshwar in a local jeep.
Omkareshwar, an Om-shaped island in the middle of a river, is prime material for Hinduism. One of the 12 jyotirlingas, Omkareshwar is considered to be the most important holy place for Hindus. Temples, both ancient and sacred, dot these beautiful ghats, giving the town the same kind of atmosphere found around Varanasi and the Ganges. Rectangular boats ferry pilgrims across the river and from the water, you can get views of steep fort walls, ancient palaces and colourful bathing ghats - simply spectacular.
Visit Omkareshwar Temple, also known as the Temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata, which enshrines the jyotirlingam. The temple is made from a locally available soft stone which allows intricate detailing in the façade, especially in the friezes on the upper parts of the structure.
You can spot a huge Nandi Bull (the vehicle of Lord Shiva) carved in the hillside opposite the temple to Gauri Somnath at the western end of the island.
Optional Activities
  • Omkareshwar - Shri Omkar Mandhata temple - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-8 Mandu
Head to Mandu by private vehicle (approx 3.5 hrs), stopping en route at Maheswar for a chance to see the famous fort, as well as temples and handloom saris.
Mandu is home to great monuments built by the leisure-loving Afghan royals who ruled this region in the 15th century.
You can take a bicycle tour to explore some of the town's many beautiful examples of Afghan architecture.
See Hoshang Shah's Tomb - regarded as India's oldest marble building.
Visit the 'Ship Palace' - Jahaz Mahal - a beautiful structure built between two lakes. Within it is a phenomenal 4-storey structure with a 7 ft-deep pool fed by a Persian wheel on the first floor. An ingenious filtration system slows the flow of water through a spiral that looks like a coiled snake and the entire effect is simply breathtaking.
Check out Rupmati’s Pavilion. Originally built as an army observation post, it became a romantic retreat for Queen Rupmati and Baz Bahadur until their fairytale romance came to a tragic end.
Optional Activities
  • Mandu - Bike hire - INR50
  • Mandu - Rupmati's Pavilion - INR100
  • Mandu - Hoshang Shah Tomb - INR100
  • Mandu - Jahaz Mahal - INR100
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 9 Ujjain
Travel in private vehicles to the small town of Ujjain (approx 3.5 hrs).
A great pilgrimage spot for Hindus from all over the world, Ujjain is an ancient city dotted with shrines and temples, and a beautiful ghat on the banks of the Sipra River.
Spend a night in an ashram located near Ram Ghat on the banks of the Sipra River.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 10 Sanchi
Take a local train to Bhopal (approx 4 hrs), then continue on to Sanchi by bus (approx 1.5 hrs).
A meeting place for almost all Buddhist architectural forms, in Sanchi you can see stupas, chaityas, temples and monasteries, as well as some of the finest examples of Buddhist creative art and sculpture in the country.
Visit the Sanchi Stupa, one of the best preserved early stupas in central India. Enclosed by a richly sculptured railing with gates on each of the four sides, this World Heritage-listed stupa symbolically represents Lord Buddha with footprints, wheels and thrones rather than by his own image.
Optional Activities
  • Sanchi - Buddhist monuments - INR250
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 11-13 Orchha
Catch the local train to Jhansi (approx 5 hrs).
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.
Check out the Jehangir Mahal, a 17th-century palace built by one of the Bundela rajas for the Mughal emperor.
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.
Transfer to Jhansi railway station to board your train.
Catch an overnight train to Delhi (approx 8 hrs). Our sleeper train is clean and air-conditioned, a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same gender/mixed gender situation.
Optional Activities
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony - Free
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace - INR300
  • Orchha - Jehangir Mahal - INR250
  • Orchha - Taragram visit - Free
Guesthouse (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 14-16 Delhi
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!
Join your group leader on an excursion into the sights and sounds of Old Delhi! Set off on the city's modern metro system, then get a taste of India's famed public transport with a cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets, such as the famous Chandni Chowk. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings, then visit the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion.
There are plenty of things to see and do in free time. 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.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Board an overnight train to Jaisalmer (approx 19 hrs). Our sleeper trains along the way are clean and air-conditioned, and are a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blankets 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. It's advised to bring your own food on this train.
Included Activities
  • Delhi - Old Delhi walking tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Red Fort - INR250
  • Delhi - Qutb Minar - INR250
  • Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR250
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 17-19 Jaisalmer/Thar Desert
We should arrive in Jaisalmer around midday if there are no train delays.
Looking like a scene from The Thousand and One Nights as it rises from flat desert surrounds, Jaisalmer is a centre for nomadic tribespeople who come to trade in the narrow twisting alleys full of markets and ornately carved houses.
Discover Jaisalmer's narrow twisted alleys, which are full of markets and ornately carved houses.
Take the opportunity to ride camels out over the sand dunes to spend a night under the stars. At night, the riders get the camp fire burning and cook us dinner. In the morning, wake up early for an amazing desert sunrise, before a simple breakfast. This is a taste of nomadic life and it's definitely travelling at its very best. We sleep under the stars - mattresses and blankets are provided but we don't have tented accommodation.
Visit the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum. Located on the banks of Garsisar Lake in the Mehar Bagh Garden, its wide variety of exhibits offer a great experience for visitors.
Included Activities
  • Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
Optional Activities
  • Jaisalmer - Folklore Museum - INR10
Guesthouse (2 nts), Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Days 20-21 Jodhpur
Take a bus across the desert to one of Rajasthan's largest cities, Jodhpur (approx 6 hrs).
Jodhpur is known for its antique shops and the best lassi in India. And yes, it is where those famous trousers come from.
Visit Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in India. Built around a clock tower amid spice and vegetable markets, juice sellers and sari materials, Sadar Bazaar also has numerous vendors with carts selling everything from Bollywood soundtracks to armfuls of sparkling bangles.
Explore the colossal Mehrangarh Fort and take in the great views from its ramparts, which dominate the city's skyline.
Take a tour of the nearby Bishnoi villages. The Bishnoi are a peaceful nature-loving community and no trip to this region is complete without experiencing the fascinating traditions of the tribespeople of rural Rajasthan.
Optional Activities
  • Jodhpur - Meherangarh Fort - INR300
  • Jodhpur - Trip to Bishnoi villages - INR250
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 22-24 Udaipur
Take a local bus to Udaipur (approx 8 hrs).
Udaipur undoubtedly lives up to its reputation as India's most romantic city. Rolling hills, white marble palaces and lakes come together appealingly and it's a centre for artists, dancers and musicians. The shopping is also superb, with miniature paintings being the speciality.
On arrival in Udaipur, take a walk around town to help gather your bearings. Explore Udaipur's twisting alleys filled with silver, shoes, bags, leather goods and miniature paintings.
There's plenty to see and do in your free time here:
Enjoy a half hour boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola and see marvels like Lake Palace and Jag Mandir Island (seasonal depending on the water level in the lake).
Visit City Palace, one of the largest royal palaces in India, and check out the unbelievable treasures within - from vivid murals to antiques and royal utensils.
Join the famous Spice Box cooking school and spend a half day learning the secrets of Indian cuisine. With lessons on preparation and cooking, you'll be able to whip up a full Indian meal in no time.
Be part of a musical concert combining seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Check out the Monsoon Palace. Formerly known as the Sajjan Garh Palace, this palatial hilltop residence overlooks Lake Pichola. It was originally named after Maharana Sajjan Singh (1874–1884) of the Mewar Dynasty, who built it in 1884.
Explore Shilpgram, a rural arts and crafts village, which depicts the lifestyles of the tribal people of western India with displays of traditional mud huts and artistic performances.
Optional Activities
  • Udaipur - Lake boat ride - INR350
  • Udaipur - City Palace guided tour - INR115
  • Udaipur - Thali cooking class and lunch - INR400
  • Udaipur - Cultural dance show - INR100
  • Udaipur - Monsoon Palace - INR160
  • Udaipur - Shilpgram craft village - INR25
Guesthouse (3 nts)
Days 25-26 Pushkar
Travel by train to the city of Ajmer (approx 7 hrs).
Take private vehicles from Ajmer to our hotel in Pushkar (approx 45 mins).
Pushkar is one of the India's holiest places. It's also a market centre for many of the local village people and a great place to sit back and relax.
Head out to explore Pushkar's main bazaar and many sidestreets - some great bargains can be had, as some of the cheapest clothes and jewellery in northern India can be found here. Walk around the lake, with its bustling ghats and temples, to watch the devout as they worship at the holy waters. Visit the only Brahma Temple in India.
Early risers can make the sunrise hike up the hill to the Savitri Temple for magical views over the town. There could also be a wonderful steaming glass of chai waiting for you if the chai man is there - certainly well worth the trek.
Optional Activities
  • Pushkar - Brahma Temple - Free
  • Pushkar - Savitri Temple - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 27-28 Jaipur
Travel by local bus to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur (approx 4 hrs).
A friendly, busy town crammed with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts, Jaipur is a firm favourite with travellers.
Some options for your free time here include:
Travel out to the old capital of Amber and explore the hilltop fort complex known as the Amber Fort.
Make a stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds'.
Take a walk to the city's crowded and colourful bazaars, which sell a wide variety of artisan goods. Semi-precious stones are the local speciality - be sure to wander by the stalls at least once.
Go to Jaipur's Royal City Palace - one of India's finest - and spend time exploring the various rooms and apartments.
Discover the extravagance of a Bollywood blockbuster, with all the Hollywood-style elements of action, romance, drama and music (sometimes all rolled into one), at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema.
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort guided tour - INR200
  • Jaipur - Hawa Mahal - INR50
  • Jaipur - City Palace - INR300
  • Jaipur - Bollywood movie at the Raj Mandir Cinema - INR300
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 29 Bharatpur
Travel to Bharatpur by bus (approx 5 hrs).
Bharatpur is home to the famous Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary.
Once the domain of royal duck shooters, the World Heritage-listed Keoladeo Ghana National Park is now regarded as one of the world's most important bird sanctuaries with over 400 different species identified. Even for non-bird fanciers, the forests and wetlands in the area are a welcome respite from the noise and chaos of Indian cities.
Optional Activities
  • Keoladeo - Bird sanctuary entrance - INR400
  • Keolodeo - Cycle rickshaw hire (per hour) - INR210
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 30-31 Agra
Head east by public bus to Agra (approx 2.5 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.
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.
Leave for Varanasi on an overnight train (approx 12 hrs).
Optional Activities
  • Agra - Taj Mahal - INR750
  • Agra - Red Fort - INR300
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 32-34 Varanasi
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.
You have a plenty of free time to explore this holy city:
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.
Leave for Kolkata on an overnight train (approx 15 hrs).
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Sarnath - INR250
  • Varanasi - Sunset candle flower ceremony - INR100
  • Varanasi - Sunrise boat ride - INR50
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 35 Kolkata
Once the capital of British India, Kolkata has had some bad press over the years. Flooded by refugees after the partition of India and famines in Bengal, the city suffered as wave after wave of immigrants pushed its infrastructure to the limit and slums and street dwellers came to symbolise the city to the world. However, the Kolkata of today is renewed and emerging as a major cultural centre with art galleries, museums and a healthy film and theatre scene. With its British architecture, its trams and, of course, the river with its famous bridge, Kolkata is a vibrant and exciting city with plenty to offer.
Head out to browse the flower markets or watch traditional wrestlers at their outdoor gymnasiums.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 36 Chennai
Fly to Chennai for the second half of your trip. This flight is NOT included in the price of this trip and you must arrange your own flight from Kolkata to Chennai. Please book a flight that arrives into Chennai before 3pm so you can meet your new group at 4pm. Make sure you have a printed copy of your flight itinerary so you can enter the airport.
Chennai is an exciting mix of modern commercialism and tropical languor - with plenty of museums, art galleries, historical sites, shops and bazaars to keep you busy.
Head out to see San Thome Basilica and later take an evening stroll along Marina Beach to hang out with the locals.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 37 Mamallapuram
Leave the city behind for the laidback beaches of Mamallapuram. It's only a short bus journey (approx 2 hrs) along the scenic East Coast Road.
Mamallapuram is a scenic fishing village.
Visit the famous Shore Temple. There's also time to inspect the numerous mandapams (carved pillars in front of temples), watch stone carvers at work, see the fishing fleet or simply relax at a beachside restaurant.
Optional Activities
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple - INR250
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 38-39 Madurai
Transfer from Mamallapuram to Chengalpattu railway station in private jeeps (approx 1 hr).
Board a local train to Madurai (approx 8 hrs).
Crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best.
Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.
Wander the bazaars and the tailors' market.
Take an overnight train further south to Varkala (approx 8-9 hrs). Our sleeper train is clean and fan-cooled, a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. 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. Please bring your own sleeping sheet. The train is not air-conditioned.
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple - INR50
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 40-41 Varkala
The picturesque temple town of Varkala boasts a number of yoga and massage centres, but its dramatic cliffs are its most distinctive feature. Sit back in one of the many clifftop cafes to admire the glistening Arabian Sea below, or walk down to the beach for an afternoon of seaside relaxation.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 42 Kerala Backwaters Homestay
Take a local train along the Keralan Coast to reach Alleppey (approx 2.5 hrs).
Auto rickshaws take us from Alleppey train station to the boarding point for our boats.
Alleppey's sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters are Kerala's hidden treasure. Once an important trading port and now famous for its August 'snake boat' races, Alleppey is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters and also hosts a mid-December musical festival.
Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village to stay with local families (approx 1 hour).
Explore the backwaters with a local guide to observe the different facets of local life - this is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles.
Take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery.
Accommodation is on a multishare basis and all the families live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in the family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home cooking.
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 43-44 Kochi
Crossing the backwaters by private boat, head for Alleppey (approx 1.5 hrs).
Take a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs).
Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences.
Some options for your free time here include:
Head out to explore the major sights of Fort Cochin and visit the spice bazaars and antique shops. The best way to get around the islands is by using the ferry network.
Visit the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century. It was taken over by the Dutch in 1663, who added some improvements before presenting it to the Rajas of Cochin.
Be part of a Kathakali dance performance. This classical dance is a highly charged and powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling to produce one of the most impressive and vibrant forms of theatre in the world. It requires lengthy and rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and sensitivity to emotion so as to be able to render all its nuances through facial expressions and hand gestures.
Stay at Intrepid Kaliveedu. This is a special lodge offering very different ambience with large landscaped gardens, air-conditioned rooms and a central location close to most of the sights in Fort Cochin.
Board an overnight train to Bangalore - our gateway to Mysore (approx 13 hrs).
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace - INR5
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance - INR250
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 45-46 Mysore
On arrival in Bangalore, take the opportunity to get a taste of India's most modern city - there's some time to hit the streets and grab breakfast.
Board a local bus to Mysore (approx 3 hrs).
Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.
A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.
Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).
You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
Catch the bus to Bangalore (approx 3 hrs).
Board an overnight train and head up to Hampi, via northern Karnataka (approx 10 hrs).
Optional Activities
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple - INR100
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace - INR200
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill temple - INR40
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 47-48 Hampi
Arrive in Hampi and cross the river to our guesthouse by canoe.
Hampi is a beautiful ancient temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.
Explore the Vittala Temple - the architectural highlight of Hampi's Vijayanagar ruins.
Optional Activities
  • Hampi - Vittala temple - INR250
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Days 49-50 Goa
Catch an early morning train from Hospet and reach Goa in the evening (approx 10 -11 hrs).
Famous for the sandy beaches that line its coast, Goa is a fascinating and distinctive region in India's southwest. Brimming with Portuguese influences and bursting with fresh food, this region has earned its idyllic badge.
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.
Hotel (1 nt)
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      Itinerary disclaimer
      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:
      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.
      Culture shock rating

      Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
      Physical rating

      This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
      Included activities
      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.
      Optional activities
      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.
      Spending money
      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 are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is 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.
      The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
      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.
      Important notes
      In 2013 the Pushkar camel fair will be held between approx 9 - 17 November.
      In 2014 the Pushkar camel fair will be held between approx 30 October - 6 November.
      The Pushkar Camel Fair is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant festivals in India, and can be a true highlight, but please note the fair is based on the lunar calendar, so the fair dates can vary and it can be hard to confirm the exact festival dates.
      We will do all we can to ensure that travellers booked on departures that coincide with the fair will get an opportunity to see the best of the festival, but due to the uncertain and flexible nature of this festival we cannot take responsibility if the dates of the fair are changed resulting in your visit not coinciding with the fair.
      Pushkar hotels typically raise their rates considerably during the fair so departures across this period will be subject to a surcharge. Unfortunately, although we make bookings months in advance, Pushkar accommodation tend to overbook at this time so we ask for a flexible approach from our travellers who choose to travel at this time.
      The flight on day 36 from Kolkata to Chennai is NOT included in this trip. You must book this ticket yourself. Please book a flight that arrives into Chennai before 14:00 so you can meet your new group at 4:00pm.
      Group size
      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:
      Single travellers
      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 (30 nts), Guesthouse (10 nts), Overnight sleeper train (7 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
      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.
      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.
      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. The accommodation on this trip doesn't have air-conditioned rooms.
      Meals introduction
      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.
      2 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 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.
      USD 970.00
      Auto rickshaw, Train, Boat, Bus, Canoe, Overnight sleeper train, Jeep, Camel
      There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
      Sleeper trains in India have berths on both sides of the carriage, with some also having 4-6 berth compartments (dependant on seasonality and the journey). The carriages are multishare, with bunk beds and curtains that close over the beds. Most compartments are air-conditioned.
      Joining point
      Fortune Hotel
      36/38, 1st Marine Street, Metro Adlabs Theatre
      Dhobi Talao
      Phone: +91 2222052502
      Joining point description
      Hotel Fortune is located close to CST Railway Station and nearby Bombay Hospital, Metro Cinema, Crawford Market and the central Mumbai District - there is plenty to see and do in and around the hotel
      Rooms are clean and simple with air-conditioning, refrigerator, colour television with CCTV, direct dialling, 24 hr hot & cold water, and much more.
      Joining point instructions
      An arrival transfer from the airport is available if purchased 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 have pre-booked an airport transfer you will be met on arrival. Our local representative will be holding a sign with your name when you exit the airport terminal. If for any reason you cannot locate our representative, please call our local office on either of the numbers below:
      +91 999 991 6229
      +91 956 084 9444
      A taxi from the airport to Hotel Fortune should cost about INR500 and take about 45 minutes.
      Normal check in time at the hotel is after 12:00.
      Arrival complications
      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.
      Finish point
      Hotel Santiago
      Cobrawaddo, Baga Bardez
      Phone: +91 8322276564
      Finish point description
      The hotel has 24-hour reception, elevator, security deposit boxes and luggage storage. All rooms have AC.
      Finish point instructions
      A departure transfer from our hotel to the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 30 days prior to your trips start date. If you plan to stay longer, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
      A taxi to the airport takes about 1 hour and should cost around INR 1200. Hotel reception or your leader can help you arrange a taxi.
      Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
      Emergency contact
      In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency Intrepid's India office can be reached on +91 1145 006 400 during business hours (9.30am to 6pm) or after hours on +91 9999 916 229.
      For all other enquiries please contact our reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
      Emergency funds
      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.
      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.
      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.
      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.
      Temperatures can be low in the winter months, especially at altitude, so bring a set of warmer clothes including thermal underclothes and a fleece jacket.
      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
      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.
      Please bring a photocopy of your passport main page and airline ticket if you will require airline reconfirmation at the end of your trip.
      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:
      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.
      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.
      Please note that helmets and professional riding equipment can't be provided on the camel safari.
      On this trip you will be staying in some heritage hotels and traditional guesthouses - these are one of the charms of this trip, but occasionally their staircases, balconies and passages etc don't always comply with western safety standards. Please don't expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved in their original state.
      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.
      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.
      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.
      Travel insurance
      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:
      Responsible Travel
      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:
      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. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
      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:
      Carbon offset
      Carbon Offset C02-e 1072.00 kgs per pax.
      After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.