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 Munnar, travel to Kochi, cruise on the Kerala backwaters and refuel with tantalising Indian cuisine.

    • 15
    • HZXI
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $2,210
      CAD $2,100
      AUD $2,100
      EUR €1,580
      GBP £1,199
      NZD $2,635
      *
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    • Walking
    • Original
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Print Version
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2013
Spice Trails of Kerala
Trip code: HZXI
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 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 notesIssues on your trip
ThemesGroup sizeWhat to take
ItineraryYour fellow travellersHealth
Itinerary disclaimerSingle travellersSafety
Culture shock rating AccommodationTravel insurance
Physical ratingMealsResponsible Travel
Included activitiesTransportA couple of rules
Optional activitiesGroup leaderThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsResponsible Travel projects
Spending moneyEmergency contactFeedback
TippingEmergency funds
Departure taxVisas
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
Itinerary
Day 1 Kochi
Namaste! Welcome to India.
Your trip normally begins at the hotel in the afternoon 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.
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.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Munnar
In the morning we drive away from the coastal plain to Munnar. The drive is about 160 km and should take approximately 6 hours.
Set amongst Kerala's highest mountains, Munnar is a beautiful hill station on the Western Ghats at about 1,600 metres 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 (2,695 m), 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 short drive through old Munnar and travel down to Nagarmudi, a tiny village, where we start our trek, accompanied by a local guide. The walk begins with a gradual ascent through the tea plantations and then climbs into Seven Malai hills. Just before reaching the top we walk through cardamom and coffee plantations. Our hard work will be rewarded with spectacular views over Chittrapuram Dam, Changulam Lake, Annamudi Peak, Munnar and other local villages. We descend down the same route and meet our vehicle which takes us back to Munnar. There is an optional visit in the afternoon to a Tea Museum.
Optional Activities
  • Munnar - Tea Musuem - INR100
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 4-8 Kerala Trek
The first morning of our trek 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.
Walking time: approx 5-6 hours
The second 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 our 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 breath-taking views all around. After a short break at the top we will descend to our camp for a late lunch and free afternoon.
Walking time: approx 4-5 hours
The next day is a long day 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 the Atlas moth, wild goats, 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. We spend this night at Top Station.
Walking time: approx 6 hours
We start the next day's trek towards Nagamalai Coffee Plantation with a steep descent through lemongrass 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.
Walking time: approx 4-5 hours (although a shorter route of 1-2 hours is available)
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. 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 a shorter, easier walk available today.
Walking time: approx 6 hours (shorter route is approx 2 hours)
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (5 nts)
Day 9 Madurai
Leaving Kerala behind, we drive 2-3 hours through the plains to the colourful temple town of Madurai.
Madurai is Tamil Nadu's second largest town and ancient capital. Madurai is recognised as the centres of Dravidian culture with its main attraction the famous Shree Meenaksh Temple in the heart of the old town. Its many gopurams are covered with profusions of multicoloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. The city is a huge non-stop bazaar full of shops, street markets, temples and small industries. It is one of southern India’s liveliest cities, yet small enough not to be overwhelming. The views from one of the temple towers are breathtaking.
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 about 4 hours 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. Thekaddy 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 and visit the numerous shops selling cardamom, vanilla, peppercorns, chillies, turmeric and other spices.
The following day we visit Periyar National Park.
Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. This wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, formed by the building of a dam in 1895, which meanders around the contours of the wooded hills and provides a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Though it's a tiger reserve, tourists come here to view the Indian elephants in the act of ablution and playfulness by the lake.
In the early morning we will have a short trek for 2 - 3 hrs 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 pigs and buffalo. There is an abundance of bird life - kingfishers, storks and hornbills are the most commonly spotted. There is also the opportunity of an Ayurvedic massage (optional), which can be
arranged in the nearby Ayurvedic massage centre.
Included Activities
  • Periyar - National Park
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.
Allepey is the gateway to the Keralan backwaters. The network of waterways here extends over hundreds of miles; not surprising then that Allepey is sometimes described as "The Venice of the East". The backwaters are best explored by boat as life revolves around the water here, children often learn to swim before they can walk and they row boats before they ride a bike.
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.
We stay overnight in the middle of the famous Vembanad Lake.
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 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)
Day 14 Kochi
Today we head back to Kochi, and during the afternoon there will be a guided hour. 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 (closed on Fridays). Next to the Palace is the synagogue (closed on Fridays and Saturdays), built in 1568 for the Jewish members of Kochi's trading communities. 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.
Included Activities
  • Guided Tour
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance - INR250
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 15 Itinerary
  • HZXI Single Supplement (HZXI)
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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
    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 accommodation (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.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (8 nts), Camping (with basic facilities) (5 nts), Houseboat (1 nt)
    Houseboats are comfortable and all cabins have toilet facilities. The majority of cabins on board are on a twin share basis and the houseboats also have separate communal dining areas.
    Whilst camping (full service) the group will be provided with 2 man tents, mattresses, a dining tent, kitchen tent including all equipment, toilet tents including toilet rolls and camping chairs.
    Single rooms and tents are available for a supplement. Please advise the sales team at the time of booking if you wish to add this to your booking and they will confirm the price for you. Please note this does not include the overnight houseboat.
    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.
    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
    Group leader
    The trip is led by a local English-speaking leader along with a local driver. Local guides will be used at various sights.
    Arrival complications
    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.
    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.
    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.
    WALKING EQUIPMENT:
    In addition to your 'normal' daily clothes, you will need the following essential items:
    - Walking boots with good ankle support and tread
    - Good quality waterproof/windproof jacket and trousers
    - Sun hat, sun cream and sunglasses
    - A warm sweater or fleece
    - Day pack
    Whilst trekking, boiled or safe water is available some of the time, however you will also need to carry a water purification method. Options include:
    - purification tablets available from camping stores or pharmacies eg. Micropur.
    - 2% tincture of iodine, available from pharmacies, used at 4 drops per litre of water and left for at least 20 minutes - longer in very cold weather.
    SLEEPING BAG:
    Please bring a 3/4 season sleeping bag. You will be provided with a thick sleeping mattress.
    SPARE BAG:
    It is wise to bring an additional soft bag for splitting your luggage, especially at Top Station camp and for the houseboat. The extra bag can be left in the support vehicle.
    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.
    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:
    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:
    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.
    Feedback
    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. We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
    Once you’ve left your feedback with us you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.