Spice Trails of Kerala Trip Notes

Embark on an action packed trek in southern India and discover the spice trails of Kerala. Along the way, visit Munmar, travel to Kochi, cruise on the Kerala backwaters and refuel with tantalising Indian cuisine.

    • 15
    • HZXI
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $2,160
      CAD $2,160
      AUD $2,160
      EUR €1,540
      GBP £1,229
      NZD $2,710
      ZAR R14,015
      CHF FR1,595
      *
    •  
       
       
       
       
    •  
       
       
       
       
    • Walking
    • Original
Book
Print Version
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2013
Spice Trails of Kerala
Trip code: HZXI
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Mar 2013
South India offers an astonishing diversity of scenery, culture and peoples. This is a fascinating journey through India's tropical south, on foot and by boat. We visit the old Raj town of Munnar sitting below the towering rock face of Anamudi (2695m), Kerala's highest peak. Surrounded by hills carpeted with tea plantations, grassland and verdant forest, this is a walker's delight.
From Munnar we trek for five days, traversing the Western Ghats to reach the stunning Sri Meenakshi Temple at Madurai. The rest is much more relaxed and includes a backwater cruise by houseboat and the chance to sample the famous South Indian cuisine.
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
StyleImportant notesEmergency funds
ThemesGroup sizeVisas
MapYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
ItinerarySingle travellersWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationHealth
Culture shock rating Meals introductionSafety
Physical ratingMealsTravel insurance
Included activitiesTransportResponsible Travel
Optional activitiesGroup leaderA couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point The Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsResponsible Travel projects
TippingFinish point Feedback
Departure taxEmergency contact
Style
Original
  • 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.
Themes
Walking
Map
Spice Trails of Kerala
Itinerary
Day 1 Kochi
Namaste! Welcome to India.
Your trip normally starts at our hotel in Cochin in the afternoon of Day 1. Hotel check-in times are from around 1500.
The evening is free for dinner and for you to relax after your journey.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Munnar
In the morning we drive away from the costal plain to Munnar set amongst Kerala's highest mountains that form a jagged line due east of Cochin. The drive is about 160km and should take approximately 6 hours. Munnar is a beautiful hill station on the Western Ghats at about 1600m above sea level. It was once a summer resort of the British Government in south India. The town is situated at the confluence of the three mountain streams Mudrapauzha, Naliathanii and Kundala and is surrounded by lakes, reservoirs, forests and several tea estates. Anamudi (2695m), the highest peak in south India dominates the skyline and the many smaller peaks are a walker's paradise.
The next day, after an early breakfast we take a very short drive to Mattupetty Dam and further on to Anamudi Village and start our trek with a gradual ascent in the surrounding hills and tea plantations which is well worth the effort. Accompanied by a local guide the trail climbs into the Maparrain hills from where we can enjoy spectacular views of the Rajmalai area. Munnar and Mattupetty dam, with lush green tea estates, are all nearby. In the afternoon we descend through the beautiful meadows and tea plantations until we reach the road head where our vehicles will be waiting to take us the short distance back to Munnar. There is time to explore the busy bazaar of Munnar and maybe purchase some of the locally grown tea and coffee.
Optional Activities
  • Munnar - Tea Musuem - INR100
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 4-8 Kerala Trek
Today we have a beautiful drive to the Silent Valley (1 hour), passing through some tea estates and plantations in a valley surrounded by hills. Our trek will start with a gradual climb from the tea estate to grassland. The first part of trek is gradual but becomes steeper as we leave the tea plantations behind. There are beautiful views all around, mostly of the tea estates, that give us a good feel for the area. After lunch in the forest we continue climbing and finally descend to our first camp,situated on a meadow by a stream, where we spend 2 nights. (5-6 hours walking).
The following day we have a half day walk to Meesapulimala Peak (2,630m), the second highest in south India (Anamudi is the highest but it is in a restricted area). From camp the trail ascends through rough grassland until we reach open ridges, which bring us to Meesapulima Peak. It will take us about 2-3 hours to reach to the top. From the top, which is also the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, there are breathtaking views all around. After a short break at the top we will descend to our camp for a late lunch and free afternoon. (4-5 hours walking).
Our third day of trekking is quite a long day today as we walk through an area of plantations enjoying the magnificent scenery enhanced by red Rhododendron. This plateau of the Western Ghats is home to many endemic species of flora and fauna, such as Atlas moth, wild goat and wild boar. We can spot some villages and lakes from the top, such as Allapetty, Kendaley Dam and Kundemalai Village. The walking is not hard and we ascend gradually in the morning and then descend in the afternoon back into the tea plantations. Overnight at Top Station. (Approx. 6 hours walking).
On the fourth day we start our trek towards Nagamalai Coffee Plantation with a steep descent through lemon grass with great views across the valley to the Kolukumalai Tea Plantation (known as the world's highest tea region). We continue descending to coffee plantations. Due to the price of coffee falling in the past few years the plantations and trails have become overgrown. From a distance we can see tribal village of Kezhmuttap. The government has settled these tribes of Mudhuvans here and given them small houses with electricity and almost all of them are working in nearby estates as labourers. The final stretch to reach camp is a steep climb.
The last day of walking is fairly easy as we descend through coffee plantations, dense forests and cotton plantations. We descend through Central Station Village and further down past Kotakuddi. At one point we pass a lovely waterfall where we stop for a rest to cool off our feet. Continuing on down we finally reach the rice paddies in the valley bottom. The final stretch of our trek takes us through coconut and mango plantations, which spreads over hundreds of acres of land. Today's walk is about 6 hours through the immensely rich and fertile land of Tamil Nadu. We finish our walk near the village of Mundhan, where our jeeps will meet us for a 15 minute drive to our last night's camp. There is also the option today to go the shorter easier pony route that will take around 2 hours.
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (5 nts)
Day 9 Madurai
Leaving Kerala behind we drive 2-2.5 hours through the plains to the colourful temple town of Madurai, in Tamil Nadu. Madurai is one of the oldest and most fascinating cities in south India. Its great Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple, most of which was built during the Nayak period between the 16th and 18th centuries, is at the heart of the city and the life of the town revolves around it. It is a hive of activity and the scene of an almost continuous religious festival. Worshippers bathe in the tank of the Golden Lily and throng the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, each one uniquely carved. Madurai is a perfect place to wander around and experience Hindu culture.
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple - INR50
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Thekkady/Periyar National Park
Leaving Madurai in the morning we drive to the small village of Thekkady. The drive is spectacular as the road climbs through the Western Ghats and we have fantastic views across Tamil Nadu. Thekkady is a small bustling village from where we visit the Periyar National Park. This whole area is a centre for spice growing and after lunch there will be a short walk around a spice garden, where we can see many different spices growing. There is plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the bazaar, where we can visit the numerous shops selling cardamoms, vanilla, peppercorns, chillies, turmeric and other spices. (4-4.5 hours drive).
The Periyar National Park is one of the largest in south India and is set around a large man made lake. In the early morning we will have a short trek for 2-3 hours in the surrounding nearby forest and in afternoon an optional boat trip and cruise on the lake (tickets for these cruises are only available on a first-come, first-served basis and can't be organised in advance). This is an ideal opportunity to spot birds and occasionally we may spot an elephant, otters, wild pig and buffalo. There is an abundance of bird life - kingfishers, storks and hornbills are the most commonly spotted.
Included Activities
  • Periyar - National Park
Optional Activities
  • Kumily Spice Gardens - Free
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 12 Kerala Backwaters Houseboat
Today we begin by transferring to Allepey on the coast. We board our houseboats and begin our cruise along the backwaters of Kerala. The houseboat cruise is one of the highlights of the trip - these enchanting houseboats, built of Anjili wood and bamboo, were the traditional method of transport 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. No trip to Kerala would be complete without the wonderful experience of the backwaters aboard these traditional Keralite vessels. We overnight in the middle of the famous Vembanad Lake. Sometimes there is also a chance of an Ayurvedic massage (optional), which can be arranged in the nearby Ayurvedic massage centre, before boarding.
Optional Activities
  • Kerala - Ayurvedic massage - INR1200
Accommodation
Houseboat (1 nt)
Day 13 Trikunnupazha
After a relaxing breakfast on the houseboats we will disembark and drive along the scenic Malabar Coast to the Coir Village Resort at Trikunnupazha. We stay the night in the resort here, which is situated alone in a beautiful setting on the banks of the backwater canals, surrounded by coconut palms and rice paddies. Later we will have the chance to explore the surrounding villages and gain an insight into traditional village life.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 14-15 Kochi
We head back to Kochi and during the afternoon there will be a guided tour; this will include Mattancherry Palace built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi, the Jewish synagogue dating from 1568 and St Francis church. We also explore the town of Kochi, its bazaars and old harbour area. There are plenty of shopping opportunities here. Fort Kochi is believed to be the earliest European settlement in India, and was founded by the Portuguese in 1503. Warehouses filled with the smell of tea and spices are lime-washed bright green, yellow and blue; rickety old bikes and hand-painted trucks, piled high with goods fill the narrow streets and food stalls stand on every corner. Further along the road you come to Mattancherry and the Dutch Palace. Next to the Palace is the synagogue, built in 1568 for the Jewish members of Cochin's trading communities, adorned with hand-painted tiles from China and elegant Belgian chandeliers, all donations from wealthy merchants. The area around the synagogue is excellent for shopping. For eating, 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. Most people choose to stay in Fort Kochi and wander around its fascinating streets. In the evening there is the chance for an optional visit to see a display of Kathakali Dancing, a form of dance unique to Kerala.
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.
Included Activities
  • Guided Tour
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance - INR250
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
      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: 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.
      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.
      India has very good opportunities for shopping, especially for locally made goods, and during your trip it is highly likely that your local guides will take you to emporiums as well as workshops where these goods are made. Many people find this a great opportunity to buy local handicrafts, silk, jewellery and carpets. Guides will often assume that visitors will want to go shopping, it is very much part of the culture, but if you do not wish to go please make this clear to your local guide at the time.
      Money Exchange
      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.
      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.
      Tipping
      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.
      Departure tax
      All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
      Important notes
      WALKING PROFILE:
      This is a moderate trek but at quite low altitude. Most days are not overly taxing (apart from day 8 when there is the option for an easy walk) and most of the trails are on well made reasonable paths but are steep in places. Daytime temperatures can be very hot in the middle of the day and the sun is very strong. Nights will be cooler and 3 nights of the trek can be very cold with temperatures just below freezing.
      This trek is suitable for the average walker who is prepared to put in some physical preparation. 5 days walking with full porterage plus 2-3 other shorter walks.
      LOCAL PARTNER:
      This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
      AGE RESTRICTIONS:
      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.
      Group size
      Maximum of 16 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:
      www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
      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.
      A single supplement is available on this trip, are subject to availability and do not apply to the houseboats on Day 12. Please refer to your booking agent for further information.
      Accommodation
      Hotel (8 nts), Camping (with basic facilities) (5 nts), Houseboat (1 nt)
      While camping our accommodation will be two person tents, sometimes in a private or public campsite that contains a communal ablutions block and other amenities, and sometimes in a wild camp with toilet tents and mess tent or dining equipment provided. All camp chores are done for you from erecting / dismantling of your tent, to cooking & washing up.
      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.
      Meals
      14 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 6 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 375.00
      All meals are included whilst on the trek and on the houseboat.
      You can eat out very cheaply in India, but there are also more expensive restaurants options. In most of the towns there is a good choice of restaurants and a choice between Indian and Western style food. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. Mineral water is widely available. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.
      Vegetarian meals dominate but there is always scope for the hardened meat eater. The food is usually not too spicy but often delicately flavoured with cardamoms, cloves and mustard seeds.
      Transport
      Minibus
      All transport is by private air-conditioned minibus plus a backwater cruise in a traditional houseboat from Kerala.
      Group leader
      There will be a local leader and drivers and local guides where needed.
      Joining point
      Kochi
      Kochi
      Kerala
      INDIA
      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
      Kochi
      Kochi
      Kerala
      INDIA
      Emergency contact
      In the case of genuine crisis or emergency please call our partner EXODUS on their 24 HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER Tel: +44 (0) 1582 644 100.
      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
      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.
      INDIA:
      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.
      CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
      The most important feature of the Indian climate is the 'wet season' or monsoon. The main monsoon strikes the coast of Kerala in late May and sweeps its way northward over the next month or so. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season from late November to March. Days will be hot and the nights warm, the average range of maximum daytime temperatures being between 21ºC-30ºC and from -2ºC-20ºC at night. However, in the hills and on trek temperatures can be considerably cooler and although the days on trek will be hot you can expect temperatures to drop to a few degrees above zero or just below at night for 3 nights on trek. We ask you to note that frequent rainstorms can be expected throughout the tour on November departures. The storms are usually of quite short duration, but have been known to be persistent as well. This can mean that campsites can sometimes be affected by these adverse weather conditions.
      You will need the following:
      - 3/4 season sleeping bag
      - Warm jacket
      - Fleece jacket
      - Lightweight leather or waterproof synthetic boots with ankle support
      - Waterproofs
      - Sunglasses
      - Wide brimmed sun hat
      - Warm hat and gloves
      - Waterbottle
      - Water purifying tablets for the trek
      - Daypack
      It is wise to bring an additional soft bag for splitting the luggage especially at Top station camp and during houseboat travel; the extra bag will be carried by the support vehicle.
      WATER BOTTLE:
      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
      Health
      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.
      Safety
      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.
      FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
      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.
      TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
      Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
      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
      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:
      LOCAL DRESS:
      When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia 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:
      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.
      Any donations you'd like to make can be given to your group leader in Delhi ONLY, they can then arrange for it to be passed on to GOONJ who will distribute these items to rural villages and people in need. You might like to consider taking over some clothes or other things you no longer require: woollens, footwear, bed sheets, blankets, utensils, first aid items, books, toys and school items - notebooks, pencils, pens, old uniforms or school bags - are all useful.
      Feedback
      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.