Last Modified: 08 Nov 2013
Cycle Kerala and Tropical India
Trip code: HZXK
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2013
Southern India is a magical place: beautiful landscapes, fascinating towns and villages, long white beaches and superb food, an excellent place to explore by bike. In the cool heights of the Western Ghats the sanctuaries at Bandipur and Mudumalai hide wild elephants, tigers and leopards in jungle and bamboo forests.
We cycle round old forts and up to religious rock shrines as well as through colourful villages where rural life has remained little-changed for centuries. Further south, in Kerala, Hinduism has produced some of India's most elaborately decorated temples. A relaxing boat trip on the quiet backwaters here offers a change of pace from the bicycles, before the final coastal ride to Varkala and a chance to laze on the beach and reflect on an unforgettable experience of rural India.
The operator for this trip is our experienced sister company Exodus. Your group will therefore be a mixture of Intrepid booked passengers and other international like-minded travellers.
Table of Contents
- 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.
Day 1 Mysore
Namaste! Welcome to India.
Your trip normally begins at the hotel in the morning of day 1. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the final joining instructions - sent approximately two weeks before departure. These instructions will also include information about where and what time to meet the group.
Mysore is one of India's most attractive towns. Unlike some of India's biggest cities it feels quite manageable in size, and it's beautiful buildings are packed full of history. The Maharajah’s Palace, the Lalitha Mahal (Summer Palace) and Shri Chamarajendra art gallery are all definitely worth a visit.
Historically the town was the capital of the mighty Maharaja kingdom of Mysore, ruled by the same family from 1399 until 1947. There was a brief period where the throne was usurped by one of the most colourful of Indian rulers, Hyder Ali and then by his famous son Tipu Sultan. Today the city is the state capital and one of the centres of the silk trade. It's well laid out with wide streets and many gardens, making it a pleasant place to wander around. It is also one of the major incense manufacturers in India - some call it "The Sandalwood City" and you will find yourself enveloped by the aromas of sandalwood, jasmine, rose and musk.
This afternoon we will take a wander around the magnificent Maharaja Palace and the main street bazaar. This palace was rebuilt to its present glorious state in 1912 after a huge fire in 1897. The decor is simply stunning, if a little bit over the top and the former maharaja is still in residence in his private quarters.
The following morning we take a leisurely ride to Srirangapatnan.
Srirangapatnan is the ruins of Tipu Sultan's capital, destroyed by the British in 1799 during their final battle to secure control of southern India. The ruins stand on an island in the middle of the Cauvery River, and across the bridge are the old ramparts, Colonel Bailey's Dungeon and the Ranganatha Swamy Temple.
After our visit we ride back to Mysore for an early lunch. In the afternoon we cycle up Chaumundi Hill to view the huge five-metre rock carving of Nandi, Shiva's celestial bull, before returning to the hotel for a rooftop dinner.
Cycling distance: approx 40 km (day 2)
- Mysore - Maharaja's Palace - INR200
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Itinerary
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 3 Bandipur National Park
Riding from the hotel, we share the quiet back roads with herds of white oxen and women in colourful saris carrying water pots on their heads, as we head to the important pilgrim centre of Nanjangud, with its beautiful temple.
We cycle another 36 km to lunch, and our first taste of thali - the southern Indian meal of rice and vegetable curries. After lunch we leave the plains for the forested foothills of the Western Ghats, once the hunting preserve of Mysore's maharajahs and today a tiger reserve and part of Bandipur National Park. In the afternoon we have a jeep safari in the park.
Cycling distance: approx 90 km
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Mudumalai National Park
This morning there is the option of another safari, perhaps on foot. Head out early to spot some of the larger game like gaur, elephants and samburs. If you can't get up early enough for the safari, there is still the chance of seeing monkeys, deer and peacocks as we ride through the park and cross into the adjacent Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu. It is a fantastic ride on well-surfaced roads with jungle either side.
The afternoon is free to wander the grounds of 'Wild Haven' - a rustic planters' bungalow with superb views of the Nilgiri mountains on one side, and Mudumalai jungle on the other. There is also the chance to visit an orphanage nearby where some 80 children now reside.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 Ooty Hill Station
We have a beautiful ride today as we ascend 1600 m to Ooty Hill Station, the former summer capital of the Raj. The 36 hairpin bends on the way up give stunning vistas at every turn and there's an immense sense of achievement at the summit. Although steep, there are plenty of photographic opportunities along the way, as well as places to stop and enjoy the view. Of course there is always the option to walk, or take the hill in the support vehicle.
The cool climate of the Nilgiri hills gives us a break from the hotter plains below. Arriving late morning, we take lunch on the lawn of our comfortable hotel. Again the afternoon is free to explore the town, and sample some of their famous cardamom tea.
Cycling distance: approx 27 km
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 6 Guruvayoor
After breakfast we have a stunning ride across the rolling Nilgiris before starting the dramatic descent, dropping 2,200 m through the hills and tea-covered slopes of the Western Ghats. The ride offers excellent views over the hills below and there are some viewpoints that should not be missed. After 54 km we reach Gadalur, a typical
Indian town with one long high street selling everything, its shopfronts covered with colourful adverts and cheap children's toys. Here we stock up on fresh fruits and head towards Kerala. Our final 18 km descent sees us freewheel through tropical rainforest and bamboo-covered slopes to our end point at a typical Keralan roadside restaurant. We rack up the bikes, enjoy lunch and then transfer by vehicle to Guruvayoor to avoid busy roads.
Cycling distance: approx 87 km
The following day we have two easy circular rides. First we head to the beach to see hundreds of colourful fishing boats hauled up on the sands beneath groves of palm trees. Then we pedal along country roads in the Thrissur district. The countryside, with its traditional ways and colourful people, provides many photographic opportunities. We come to the Sree Krishna Temple with its 40-plus temple elephants often seen strolling with their mahout.
Guruvayoor comes alive for the night pooja, with burning josh-sticks and fragrant flowers stalls adding to the atmosphere. People dressed in their best longi and saris light up the huge 7 metre-high pillar of oil lamps in front of the heavy temple doors, a truly gorgeous spectacle.
Cycling distance: approx 56 km
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 7 Itinerary
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 8 Kochi
Today we head for the coast. Mango and coconut trees line the roads and life becomes that little bit slower. There is time for a swim in the ocean at midday. This area is renowned for its prawn curries, and en route we pass shrimp farms with huge tiger prawns for sale. Jhinga Kachcia Aam Kari is a specialty dish of Kerala and is made with green mangoes and prawns simmered in coconut milk and spices.
In the afternoon we board local ferries and island-hop to Fort Kochi. To soak up the atmosphere we spend the next two nights at a former residency of the Raj. The house, now a hotel, dates from the British period and the home cooking adds a spicy flavour to our stay.
Cycling distance: approx 86 km
The following day is free to explore the town of Kochi, its bazaars and old harbour area.
Kochi, in Kerala, is a town split between the mainland and a group of islands just off the coast, so a boat trip is the best way to tour the main sights, which include the oldest church in India and Vasco de Gama's final resting place. Opposite Fort Cochin you can watch fishermen working their cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, typical to this region. Interestingly the town is also home to a dying Jewish community that has roots going back as far as 1000 AD and there is a synagogue here that was built in the sixteenth century. Kochi is also the home of Kathakali dancing, India's most spectacular dance drama. The hundreds of different arrangements are based on stories from the Ramayan and Mahabharata - the two epic stories of Indian mythology.
For eats you should try the fish market near the Chinese fishing nets, where you can buy the day's catch and have it cooked to your own taste. There are also plenty of shopping opportunities here. The area around the synagogue is particularly good for shopping.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 9 Itinerary
- Kochi - Jewish Synagogue - INR5
- Kochi - Dutch Palace - INR5
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 10 Kerala Backwaters
Riding out from Fort Cochin we pass 500-year-old Portuguese villas, a striking contrast to the tiny fisherman's huts dotted along the beach road with their long wooden boats pulled up under the palm trees and nets hung out to dry. Many of these fishing villages are Christian; at Chertala the old stone church dominates its surroundings and is best viewed from the shade of a coconut tree whilst we stop for tea.
We continue along the old coast road to Alleppey, riding through the town and following the canal that links the Indian Ocean to Vambanad Lake and the bustling waterways of the 'Venice of the East'. We arrive in time for lunch at our accommodation - a traditional Kerala house with backwater frontage and tranquil gardens as relaxing as the Ayurvedic massage and treatments on offer. Try some of them out or relax on the veranda watching backwater life unfurl this afternoon and evening.
Cycling distance: approx 60 km
Have a lie-in this morning before enjoying a short bike ride to explore Alleppey town and stock up on gin and limes. Around midday we board our backwater houseboat on which we spend the night.
These enchanting houseboats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo, were the traditional method of transporting of goods for hundreds of years. Now they have been decorated and made into comfortable cruise boats. The network of rivers, streams, lagoons and canals occupies the alluvial plain between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. As our boat meanders through areas of lush tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific bird life but also gain a differing perspective on village life. All the houseboats are comfortably equipped and have 2 twin bedded rooms with bathroom. There is a cook and boat driver and assistants for each boat and the food served is traditional Keralan fare using local produce.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 11 Itinerary
Houseboat (1 nt)
Day 12 Varkala
We have breakfast on the houseboat before disembarking and meeting the support vehicle. We then set off along a quiet coastal road to the Valaazhikal ferry crossing. We load the bikes on a local fishing boat to cross the river estuary to Amrithanadamayi Ashram, better known as the Hugging Mama Ashram, a spiritual retreat overlooking the backwaters. We then join the main road to Quillon and have lunch at a seaside guesthouse. The fish is brought fresh from the market, cooked in mild spice, and served with Poratta, a favourite Keralan bread. After lunch we are back on quiet roads for the last 30 km to Varkala, a small hippy community with coffee bars and yoga schools perched along its cliff top. We spend the next two nights here.
Cycling distance: approx 88 km
The following day is free to stroll along the beaches, wander around the shops or fill yourself with some of the excellent seafood served from the beach shack restaurants. Tonight we have a final night dinner, generally at the hotel, with a fusion of some of the favourite Keralan dishes you've experienced over the last two weeks.
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)
Day 13 Itinerary
Hotel (1 nt)
- HZXK Local Bike Hire - Cycle Kerala and Tropical India - Exodus (HZXK)
- HZXK Single Supplement (HZXK)
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.
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.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
Except for the climb to Ootacamund, the cycling on this trip is not too demanding, and the bias is definitely downhill. Transfers are kept to a minimum and the riding is mostly door-to-door, giving the group a full day to enjoy the scenery and surroundings from the saddle. Routes follow mainly quiet backroads with low levels of traffic, but this does increase when approaching towns. The average distance we cycle per day is approximately 80 km (50 miles).
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 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 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.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
The minimum age of clients on this trip is 16 years. Please note that teenagers aged 16 or 17 must be accompanied by (and share accommodation with) a parent or legal guardian.
Maximum of 14 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 (12 nts), Houseboat (1 nt)
Most of the hotels are comfortable tourist-class and all have en suite rooms. The bungalows at Wild Haven are clean but more basic. Houseboats are comfortable and all cabins have toilet facilities, the majority of cabins on board are on a twin share basis. The houseboat also has a separate dining area.
14 Breakfasts, 11 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.
Generally you can eat out very cheaply in India. There is a good choice of restaurants and sometimes there is a choice between Indian and Western style food. If you are a vegetarian, India is an ideal destination. Included lunches on riding days are usually taken in local roadside cafes. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.
4x4, Bicycle, Support vehicle, Ferry
All your luggage and personal belongings will be carried by the support vehicle, which is a midibus. Transfer sections are done in the minicoach, which is sometimes air-conditioned. The support vehicle will follow the riders most of the time, allowing you to cycle as much or as little as you like. However, please note that there is only limited seating capacity in the vehicle, and it is not possible to accommodate the whole group at the same time. On occasions it is not possible for the support vehicle to follow the group, but we will still meet the vehicle at regular intervals to replenish water supplies etc.
If you are choosing to hire a bike, we use Trek 4300 mountain bikes with front suspension. Very occasionally a bike of your size may not be available. We may be able to offer you a bike of a different but acceptable size, or otherwise you must bring your own bike.
The trip is led by a local English-speaking leader along with a local driver. Local guides will be used at various sights.
Hotel Pai Vista
Hotel Pai Vista 35/A, Bangalore-Nilgiri Road
Phone: 0091 9945615420
Alternate Joining point
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
24 Nov 2013 (HZXK1311242)
Fortune Jp Palace
#3 Abba Road Nazarbad
Phone: +91 821 3988444
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
Unspecified Hotel Varkala
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.
BRINGING YOUR OWN BIKE:
Plenty of people choose to bring their own bikes on our cycle trips. If you wish to bring your own bike, please note that we cannot guarantee against small scratches and paintwork damage involved in the loading and unloading from support vehicles.
Please note that helmets must be worn when riding on all our Cycling holidays. You must bring your own helmet with you for this trip, as they are not available for hire.
EXTRA BIKE BITS:
You may like to bring your own saddle (excluding the seat post), or over gel cover to fit to the hire bikes. We encourage this, if it's your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle at the end of the trip. We can't guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.
A helmet, eye-protection (sunglasses), cycling gloves and water bottles or hydration system (e.g. camelbak). Please note that helmets must be worn when riding off-road on all our Cycling holidays. You must bring your own helmet with you for this trip, as they are not available for hire.
RECOMMENDED CYCLING CLOTHING::
Padded cycling shorts (with loose 'over-shorts' where recommended), breathable clothing, and a lightweight waterproof / windproof top. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking, but are not essential unless you are cycling long distances. Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting day pack.
FIRST AID KIT:
You should bring a small, personal first aid kit with you including items such as high factor sunscreen, lip balm and chamois cream if required.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
During your visit there may be opportunities to ride elephants and see them perform. While we believe it's important to give our travellers a choice and respect each individual's decision, we recommend that Intrepid travellers bypass this activity. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA), advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link:
Please be aware that you will be passing through some remote villages where the locals are unaccustomed to seeing people in tight lycra - we recommend you wear baggy shorts or loose 'over shorts' so as not to cause offence.
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 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.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We realise that our partner company may ask you to complete paper or online feedback following your trip, however we would also like to know what you thought and encourage you to submit your feedback to us too. 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.