I love to travel. I love the entire process because there is almost no place in the world I wouldn’t consider visiting. Travel does take planning, however, and I always find that I learn something new with each journey. I’ve been traveling in and out of India for many years now, and I’ve gained new insight with each trip. Below are some travel tips for anyone heading to southern India. And, if you don’t yet have plans to visit this magical place but have always dreamed of doing so, you still have time to join my upcoming sojourn to southern India, departing for a two-week journey in October of 2014. Click here for more details about the trip. Take a look below for some great ideas and pertinent suggestions to make your trip in and out of southern India seamless.
- First you must determine when you want to travel to southern India. Spirit Guided Journeys is heading over in October and our group will assemble in Whitefield, Bangalore, India on Sunday October 26, 2014. Average October temperatures range from a high of 28 degrees Celsius or 82 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 19 degrees Celsius or 66 degrees Fahrenheit. September is the official end of the monsoon season, but October can have periods of rain. Be sure to pack a rain jacket and a light wrap for the cooler evenings. The best months to visit southern India and Bangalore in particular are from October to February to take advantage of the best weather. March, April and May are the summer months and the temperature rises. July to September is the rainy season when all the dust washes off the trees, leaving the leaves shiny green and the city sparkling.
- After you determine when to go, or decide to join up with our Spirit Guided Journeys group for a fun-filled two weeks, it’s time to research flights. There are many options for booking flights, including numerous online services as well as the ability to book directly with the airline you prefer. I like to fly through Europe and to book a trip with as few stops as possible. The most important piece of advice I have for any of you booking a flight to Bangalore is to fly directly into the city and avoid a layover in Mumbai or Delhi. If you arrange your flights through either of these very large airports, you will have to reclaim your baggage at the international terminal, make your way through customs and immigration, which will take an hour or longer, catch a shuttle bus or taxi to the domestic terminal, and re-check your bags before your domestic flight into Bangalore. This process is time-consuming and can be confusing if you’ve never been to India before. You will need a minimum of three hours layover time in order to complete the process and make your connecting flight, possibly even longer. And if your international flight arrives late or several planes land at around the same time causing delays at baggage claim, you might miss your connection. Avoid the headache and worry and fly directly from your international connection into Bangalore.
- You need to obtain a valid passport for your trip to beautiful southern India. You can complete this step before you book flights as well. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for the process. If you don’t have a passport, visit the US Department of State website for information about obtaining the document. It can take 4 to 6 weeks before your passport arrives so get to it early. If you do have a passport, be sure it doesn’t expire within 6 months of your travel dates. India requires that your passport be valid for at least 6 months from the date you apply for an Indian visa. If your passport does not meet the validity requirements, you won’t be able to obtain a visa.
- Now that you have a valid passport, you can apply for a visa. There are many companies specializing in assisting you to obtain your Indian visa. I use CIBT when I need a visa to India but be sure to check out the many other companies online. You will be required to fill out a form with all the information necessary to get a visa in your name. CIBT or a similar company will then take the information, your passport (which you mail to them), passport photos, and payment, and submit an application for your visa. The turnaround time is fairly speedy but read all the information provided well in advance of your trip to be sure you get the visa before your departure date.
- I would highly recommend travel insurance to cover the costs of the trip if you should have to cancel unexpectedly and to cover any health care you may need while you’re overseas. There are several travel insurance companies, each with slightly different rules and coverages. Read the fine print carefully and be sure you get your insurance within the time frame set by the company. For example, some travel insurance companies require that you pay for the insurance within twenty-one days of the initial trip deposit. Travel Insurance.com is a website that compares different travel insurance policies. Start here for information and to get a sense of pricing for your needs. Roam Right is an insurance company that one of our travelers to India has successfully used. There are many options online so take a look and make your choice.
- As your trip approaches and the reality of it hits – “I’m going to India, Yippee” – you will need to pack. I have a list of packing instructions on my website under India 2014, Preparations. I will go over a few thoughts here, but be sure to take a look at the more detailed list if you have questions I have not addressed. My best suggestion is to pack light. Light loose clothing will best suit the Indian climate. And light bags will keep your back happy as you travel. It is also important to include some modest pieces of clothing if you intend to enter a temple or ashram. Most of these locations require that men wear long pants and women have their shoulders covered. Shorts are generally frowned upon or not allowed for both sexes when visiting a temple or ashram. For women, carrying a scarf to drape around the shoulders is a good idea as well. Scarves are abundant in India and make great gifts for you or someone back home. One last note about temple and ashram stops is that you will be required to remove your shoes before entering the space. A spot will be allocated outside where shoes can be left. In October I suggest bringing a light rain jacket and a sweater or similar item for evenings, which get cooler. And while some of the younger generation in India has jumped on the high fashion, less is more clothing bandwagon, Westerners can still be a bit of an oddity in smaller towns and even in parts of larger cities. If you are uncomfortable with stares and comments, dress conservatively. Another suggestion is to make a small initial investment in some Indian clothing upon arrival. You can find tunics and lightweight cotton pants for women that are beautiful and comfortable. For men, tunics and casual shirts are widely available as well as comfortable trousers. Last but not least, don’t forget to pack bug repellent to keep away those pesky and disease carrying mosquitoes, sun repellent to protect your skin from burns, and any supplies, including medicines, that you must have. Not all products that we take for granted in the West will be available in India.
- A final thought to consider before you travel to India is scheduling a visit with your doctor or a travel doctor in your area. There are several diseases in India that we don’t encounter in the West. Below are websites with information about medical preparations for your trip. Take a look and plan carefully to ensure your health, safety, and comfort while traveling.
Best of luck as you prepare to travel to India. Whether I see you on a trip with Spirit Guided Journeys or you plan your own sojourn to southern India, I hope your trip to this fascinating country is amazing.