India Circuit between Mumbai and Chennai (SMC)

Mumbai to Chennai 24 days, departing 07 Jan 2014

Ratings for this trip

Comfort Zone: Moderate

Moderate Comfort Level. These trips allow you to get off the beaten track with a few of your home comforts. On OVERLAND TRIPS expect there may be some wild camps, but with a predominance of campsites with good facilities (often with upgrades to rooms available) or staying in small hotels. Hotels will range from basic up to reasonably comfortable. Sharing will be on a 2, 3 or 4 person basis. On ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS we will have standard style accommodation, usually budget or tourist-class (2-3 star) accommodation with private facilities. Some accommodation may be on a multi-share basis. Transport will be a mixture of local and privately hired.

Physical Challenge: Everyday Activities

EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES: Suitable for most fitness levels. Your itinerary may include easy-paced walks or bike rides, horse riding and other non-strenuous activities. On overland trips you will be camping at least some of the time.

Countries Visited

India

India has shared so much of its wonderful culture with the rest of the world, so a visit to this diverse country is a chance to experience where it all began. India has so much to offer: from the beautiful landscapes of the Himalayas, to the amazing temples and coastlines, rich culture, not to mention the food!

Although India might be famous for it's flavours, often the wildlife is forgotten about. India is home to the Asian elephant, Bengal tiger and the Indian rhinoceros. It is also a hot spot for smaller beasts such as the praying mantis.

India's music scene is beautifully crafted, and the range is quite incredible. The range of folk music spreads across the country and it is also the genre which Bangra music falls into. This is possibly the most famous music to come out of the country. Although regions have their own style of music, there are types that bring the country together as a whole. The national anthem of "Jana Gana Mana" translates as "Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people".

New Delhi, the capital is a lively place and hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the idiosyncratic International Mango Festival - where over 500 different types of mangoes are found. Mangoes are only the start of the wonderful taste India has to offer. The blend of herbs, spices and other vegetables can create the aromas known all over the world. Across the country there are different assortments that are associated with each region. In the north, milk is the main ingredient which creates the wonderful bread, and the samosa is popular here. Deep in the south is where rice dictates the main proportion of a meal. Into the east you will find the places where popular Indian desserts are from. Finally, in the west of the country, rice and coconuts are just two of the ingredients that make their dishes so distinct.

Foremost a visit to India is probably best remember by the welcome you are likely to receive this combined with the seemingly endless variety is what brings travellers returning time and time again.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Mumbai

Tue 07 Jan 2014

Border Information: If joining the trip in Mumbai, you will enter India at Mumbai Airport.

Group meeting at 18.00hrs in Mumbai, otherwise today is free to explore the sights and sounds of Mumbai. 

Overnight in a good quality hotel.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Supreme

Hotel Supreme

4 Panday Road

Cuffe Parade, Colaba

Mumbai 4000

Tel: 0091 22 22155105

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of the Dhavari Slum, Mumbai

USD 10

Overnight in one of Indias' most cosmopolitan cities

Included in Kitty

Mumbai

Mumbai is on the west coast of India and is probably the most cosmopolitan city in the country. It's also home to the largest film industry in the world, Bollywood. So if you've never seen an Indian movie before, this is the place for it. Full of high-drama, romance, suspense, music and dancing, Bollywood films are all-singing, all-dancing extravaganzas. It's pure, straightforward and unadulterated entertainment and escapism, so even if you can't understand the language, they still make an interesting spectacle. Combine India's version of LA with a hefty dose of traffic, busy streets, lively bazaars, briefcase clutching businessmen cutting international deals in soaring skyscrapers and some impressive colonial architecture, and there you have Mumbai. The city is a mad mixture of horrific poverty standing side-by-side with prolific consumerism; this is the financial capital of the sub-continent and it has the shopping centres, bars and restaurants to match - but more than half the inhabitants live in the slums.

Mumbai can be a bit of a shock to the sytem and an assault on the senses. But once you get your head around it, you'll begin to appreciate all the city has to offer. There's tons to do here, wander the streets and discover some of the beautiful old colonial architecture and Art Deco buildings, treat yourself to a meal in one of the country's best restaurants, and shop until you drop in the bazaars. In the evening, you can visit Chowpatty beach where colourful crowds of people mill about in the cooler evening air. Palmists, balloon sellers, magicians and acrobats all compete for your attention, vying to show you the magic of Mumbai.

Day 2 to 3: Goa

Wed 08 Jan to Thu 09 Jan 2014

Our journey from Mumbai to Gao is by train along the coast.  We will stay for two nights at the relaxed beaches of Vagator in the North. Most travellers are drawn to Vagator for the stunning sunsets, the laid back atmosphere and the proximinity of some other quieter beaches in the area such as Arambol and Anjuna.

We will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities close to the beach.

Activity Approximate Cost

4 nights to unwind on the stunning beaches of Goa

Included in Kitty

Travel by train from Mumbai to beaches of Goa

Included in Kitty

Goa

To many people, Goa is all about the beaches; and it's fair to say that the soft white sand and sparkling blue water of the Arabian Sea are definitely one of the main attractions here. But this is also an area rich in history and culture. The coastal state retains much of it's old Portuguese colonial architecture, traditions, religion, and lifestyle, particularly in the old capital of Old Goa, where there are several churches, a cathedral and lots of great local markets all well worth exploring. Relax under a palm trees on the beach, watch the dhows sailing out into the sunset and see the fishing boats landing their catch, or wander around the local spice plantations revelling in their heady scent, there's something here for all kinds of different travellers. The locals say that time moves more slowly in Goa, so if nothing else it's a brilliant stop for a few days, a great chance to enjoy a bit of tranquility in an often frenetic country. Goa is also home to some fantastic cuisine, including many fish-based curries, classic Goan pork vindaloo and Feni, a local spirit made from coconut and cashew nuts. 

Day 4 to 5: Goa, Old Goa

Fri 10 Jan to Sat 11 Jan 2014

After a couple of nights on the northern beaches of Goa we head off in the truck to the southern beaches visiting the site of Old Goa en route.  

We will stay for 2 nights in beautiful beach huts on the stunning beach of Agonda which is a perfect place to just sit back and watch the fishing boats landing their catch and sampling the delicious local cuisine or visit the nearby beach of Palolem with its many bars and restaurants.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of the Old Potuguese Capital of Goa

Included in Kitty

Old Goa

Old Goa is a historical city in North Goa district in the Indian state of Goa. The city was constructed by the Bijapur Sultanate in the 15th century, and served as capital of Portuguese India from the 16th century until its abandonment in the 18th century due to plague. The remains of the city are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

The population was roughly 200,000 by 1543. Malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged the city in the 17th century and it was largely abandoned; only having a remaining population of 1,500 in 1775. It was then that the viceroy moved to Panjim. It continued to be the de jure capital of Goa until 1843, when the capital was then shifted to Panjim.  The abandoned city came to be known as "Velha Goa" (in Portuguese, 'Old Goa'), to distinguish it from the new capital Nova Goa (Panjim). Velha Goa was incorporated into the Republic of India in 1961, together with the rest of Goa.

 

Old Goa contains churches affiliated to various congregations, including the Se Cathedral (the seat of the Archbishop of Goa), the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the Church of S. Caetano, and notably, the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the relics of Saint Francis Xavier, which is celebrated every year on 3 December.

Day 6: Hampi

Sun 12 Jan 2014

Leaving the beaches of Goa behind us we set off on a long drive day, approx. 400Km crossing into the state of Karnataka to the village of Hampi located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. 

Tonight we will stay in a local guesthouse.

Hampi

The city of Hampi bears exceptional testimony to the vanished civilization of the kingdom of Vijayanagar, which reached its apogee under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-30). The type of structure illustrates a significant historical situation: that of the kingdoms of South India which, menaced by the Muslims, were occasionally allied with the Portuguese of Goa. The grand site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned. As the final capital of the last of the great kingdom of South India, that of the Vijayanagar, Hampi, enriched by the cotton and the spice trade was one of the most beautiful cities of the medieval world. Its palaces and Dravidian temples were much admired by travellers, be they Arab, Portuguese or Italian. Conquered by the Muslims after the battle of Talikota in 1565, it was plundered over six months and then abandoned. Imposing monumental vestiges, partially disengaged and reclaimed, make of Hampi today one of the most striking ruins of the world.

 

 

Day 7: Hampi

Mon 13 Jan 2014

Today we rise early and set off on our guided tour of Hampi.

Our second night is in the local guesthouse.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore the lost Kingdom of Vijayanagar in the magnificent city of Hampi

Included in Kitty

Day 8: Hampi to Mysore Wild Camp

Tue 14 Jan 2014

We set off from Hampi to start our journey to Mysore.  We will try and cover approx. 200Km and aim to wild camp along the way.

Day 9 to 10: Mysore

Wed 15 Jan to Thu 16 Jan 2014

From our wild camp we head to Mysore where we will stay for 2 nights in a comfortable hotel.  You have a free day in Mysore, one of India's most attractive towns, to explore the city's beautiful gardens or visit one of the many palaces and the Shri Chamarajendra art gallery.

Tonight we will stay in a comfortable hotel

Activity Approximate Cost

2 nights in Mysore, the centre of sandalwood and incense production

Included in Kitty

Explore the amazing Maharaja's Palace of Mysore

Included in Kitty

Mysore

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, and 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.

Day 11 to 12: Wayanad

Fri 17 Jan to Sat 18 Jan 2014

Today we travel 150kms up into the hills, heading for the hillstation of Wayanad, a small settlement surrounded by tea and coffee plantations. Whilst in Wayanad we stay as guests of local families at a local homestay.

Activity Approximate Cost

Relax at the community Homestay in the hills of Wayanad

Included in Kitty

Trekking in the tea and coffee plantations of Wayanad

Overland through the Western Ghats

Included in Kitty

Wayanad

The lush hill station district of Wayanad is nestled at the foot of the Western Ghats. Rolling green hillsides, surrounded by misty-clad peaks and dotted with luxurious tea, coffee and spice plantations, the small communities here are the perfect place for a spot of rest and relaxation - the area is famous with locals for it's spectacular natural beauty. Part of the region is designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary in order to protect the many animals that live here and it's possible to trek through the forest reserves. This is one of the few places in India where you're almost guaranteed to see wild elephants, and if you're lucky you may also be able to spot deer, bison and langur monkeys.

Day 13: Cochin

Sun 19 Jan 2014

Leaving Wayanad after breakfast, today is a travel day, driving approximately 260kms to Cochin. 

Overnight in a comfortable local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 nights to explore the sites of historic Fort Cochin

Included in Kitty

Cochin

Cochin 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. This 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.

Day 14: Cochin

Mon 20 Jan 2014

Today we take a city tour by boat around the coast and islands taking in various sites including the Jewish Quarter, St Francis Church & the Chinese fishing nets.

In the evening we will watch the famous Kathakali dancers, India's most spectacular dance drama. 

Our second night is spent in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Evening visit to watch the classical Indian dance drama of Kathakali

Included in Kitty

Day 15: Allepey

Tue 21 Jan 2014

Leaving the bustle of Cochin behind today we embark on our overnight houseboat cruise on the tranquil Keralan back waters to Allepey.

Activity Approximate Cost

Travel overnight by local boat through the Backwaters and experience the villages of Kerala

Included in Kitty

Allepey

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. Jump on board a typical Keralan houseboat and meander down the waterways, try your hand at fishing and just lay back and enjoy this unique landscape.

Day 16 to 18: Varkala

Wed 22 Jan to Fri 24 Jan 2014

Leaving the backwaters behind us we head to the beach resort of Varkala (Approx. 120Kms).  There is free time to simply relax or explore the surrounding area.  Varkala is well known for it's beaches and there are also lots of great local restaurants where you can sample the justifiably famous Keralan cuisine.

During our time in Varkala we stay at a beach resort.

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights to relax on the Indian Ocean beaches of Kerala

Included in Kitty

Varkala

Varkala sits on India's Keralan coast and is home to some of the whitest and most pristine beaches in the whole country. The sandy bay here is protected by soaring cliffs, the beach sits below the rock face, whilst the town itself sits prettily along the cliff edge above, a string of laid-back bars, restaurants, guesthouses and hotels. It's a great place to just kick back and relax, but if you want to get active, there are plenty of water sports on offer, including surfing, windsurfing and scuba-diving. Sitting on the sand and watching the sun dip below the horizon is the perfect way to end a day here.

Day 19: Kanyakumari, Madurai

Sat 25 Jan 2014

We have a full day journey today to the ancient capital of Madurai (Approx. 400Kms) visiting Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), the most southern point of India, en-route.

Tonight we stay in local hotel

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight in the Holy City of Madurai

Included in Kitty

Visit to the historical Hindu Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to lord Shiva

Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari  is a town in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. It is also sometimes referred to as Cape Comorin. Located at the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, it is the geographical end of the Indian mainland.

Kanyakumari takes its name from the Kumari Amman or Kanyakumari Temple, situated in the town, on the sea-shore, the very confluence of the three water-bodies – the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengaland the Indian Ocean

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.

Day 20: Trichy

Sun 26 Jan 2014

This morning we visit the Shree Menaksi Temple in Madurai before a short drive to Trichy (Approx. 140Kms).  In the afternoon we make a visit to the famous Rock Fort and Sri Ranganathaswamy temple complex.

Tonight we stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit the Rock Fort and temples of Trichy

Included in Kitty

Trichy

The town of Tiruchirappalli, more commonly known as Trichy, is famous for its Rock Fort. Its name means “city of the sacred rock” and if you climb the 434 steps to the temple of Ganesh at the top, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the town and surrounding plains Even more spectacular is the temple complex of Ranganathaswamy, set on the island of Srivangam and covering some 2½ sq kms, making it the largest complex in India. It consists of 21 gopurams - huge ornately decorated and carved towers - and a number of shrines and temples. It is still very much in use and the gopuram at the entrance was only completed in 1980, though its base dates back several centuries.

Day 21: Pondicherry

Mon 27 Jan 2014

Leaving in the morning we head to the French influenced Pondicherry (Approx. 230Kms).  The afternoon is free for time to explore.

We will stay tonight in guest-house accommodation.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight in the former French colony of Pondicherry

Included in Kitty

Pondicherry

The united territories of Pondicherry are unmistakeably and charmingly French, complete with a Hotel de Ville, French consulate and police who wear red "kepis" hats and belts. Pondicherry is also the home of the famous Sri Aurobind Ashram and its offshoot Auroville. The Ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926, is one of the most popular in India amongst Westerners, and also one of the most affluent. The town enjoys duty free status and is known for its leather goods and hand-made paper products. With its French influence, many of the shops have a distinctly European feel.

Day 22: Mahabalipuram

Tue 28 Jan 2014

A short drive brings us to Mahabalipuram (Approx. 100Kms).  Here we make a visit to the unusual shore temples and pagodas.

Tonight we stay in a comfortable local hotel

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit to the Shore Temples & Pagodas of Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is the second capital and seaport of the Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram. It is famous for its shore temple and the ‘Descent of Ganges’, a relief carved on a vast rock surface. Mahabalipuram is a small, but very pleasant and easy-going village, consisting mainly of two main streets. It stands at the foot of a low lying, boulder-strewn hill where most of the temples and rock carvings are located. Stone carving is still very much a living craft in Mahabalipuram and a visit to the school of sculpture would be an interesting site to visit.

Day 23: Chennai

Wed 29 Jan 2014

We make a short journey to Chennai, the fourth largest city in India (Approx. 55Kms) stopping at a snake & crocodile farm en-route. The afternoon is free.

Overnight in a hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight stay in Chennai

Included in Kitty

Chennai

Chennai (previously known as Madras) was the site of the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639, and is now the fourth largest city in India. The town grew up around the Fort St George and along Mount Road and some interesting historic buildings can be seen here. It's true that it is busy, noisy and often extremely hot, but in many ways it is a surprisingly efficient and orderly place by Indian standards. The Government Museum is worth a visit if you're interested in the history of the city, and for Motorcycle enthusiasts the Enfield Factory tour is a must - though it only runs on certain days of the week, so check days and times before you make the journey. You might prefer to just wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere, exploring the many temples and bustling local markets.

Day 24: Chennai

Thu 30 Jan 2014

Today is a free day.

Visa Information:

Important Notes

The routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only.

 

We intend following the planned route but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. By their very nature overland itineraries need to be flexible and the regions that we are travelling through are often unpredictable. We run adventure journeys in off the beaten track areas, often in areas without western infrastructure. You should expect that some these areas do not adhere to western safety standards.

Physical Preparation

Physical preparation for Asia Itineraries

In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climates from the hot deserts through to the colds of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.

Visa Information

Most countries we visit on our travels will require visas. Some are best obtained before you leave home and others can be obtained en-route. Whilst the ultimate responsibility for obtaining visas is yours, we will endeavour to assist you wherever possible.

The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. The information provided is given in good faith and we do try to keep the visa information as up to date as possible.  Please be aware though that rules do change, often without prior warning, which is why it is important that you check for yourself.

For visas that are needed in advance, you can choose to submit the applications directly to the relevant embassy or consulate.  However, our recommendation is that you use a visa agent to assist you with your applications. While this does increase the cost, it will make the process much easier for you. Dragoman have teamed up with ‘The Visa Machine’ to create a safe, secure, hassle-free way of obtaining visas and visa advice. Our unique link within their website is designed to make the visa process as straightforward as possible.  Simply go to https://dragoman.thevisamachine.com and click on your region of travel followed by your trip route and ‘The Visa Machine’ will advise you about not only the required visas but also the dates by which you should apply.  ‘The Visa Machine’ can then assist you in the actual visa application, thus taking all the worry and hassle out of the process.  This should apply for ALL nationalities and countries of residence.

As you will need to submit your passport together with your applications, we recommend that you avoid making any travel plans in the weeks leading up to your departure. However if you do need to travel in this period please let us know as soon as possible so that we can help you work out the options for your visa application process. 

India

All foreign nationals require a tourist visa to enter India. You CANNOT obtain a visa on arrival in India - visas MUST be obtained in advance. 

Indian visas can be obtained either through Travcour UK or by going directly to http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk issued in the UK are valid for 6 months from the date of issue.

You must provide either a travel itinerary or flight tickets to obtain more than a single entry visa. Your photos MUST be 50mm x 50mm or your application will be rejected. The photos must be in colour and have a plain white background. Computer generated photos will be rejected.  Please paste one photo to the front of your application and leave the other loose. You must sign under the photo on page one and the declaration on page two.

Unless visiting neighbouring countries (see paragraph below), tourists leaving India will receive a stamp in their passports indicating that they may not re-enter India for two months, regardless of their length of stay prior to departure. Tourists wishing to return to India before the two month period has passed will now have to visit the Indian High Commission or Consulate in the country to which they travelled and present their case for re-entry.

The authorities in all Indian Immigration Check Posts have, however, been authorised to allow tourists to make two or three entries, based on production of an itinerary and documentation (ticket bookings) substantiating the need for tourism related travel to neighbouring countries.

You must have a passport valid for at least 6 months from date of travel and with at least two blank pages.  Tourist visas cannot be extended in India.

Referees in India:-

Eugene Pram
Pram Tours
436 Barkat Nagar
Tonk Phatak
Jaipur
302015
Rajasthan
India
Tel: +91 (0)141 2594205

Accommodation in India:-

Hotel Supreme

4 Panday Road

Colaba

Mumbai

Tel +91 22 2218 5608

If travelling to Sikkim your permits will be arranged in Darjeeling with your tour leader. 

Please bring 10 photocopies of your passport and Indian Visa (on the same page). These will be used for hotel check-in. Please also bring 2 passport photos.

If you are travelling on the Chennai-Kolkata leg - please note that all permits for the Odisha region will be arranged on trip. In order for permits to be issued, each person will need to provide an additional 2 passport photos as well as a copy of your passport and Indian visa no later than 10 days before the trips starts.

If you are travelling to Bhutan - please send Dragoman a scan of your passport photo page when you book and a scan of your India visa as soon as you obtain it, as this is important for arranging the Bhutan group visa.

If you are travelling on the Mumbai-Chennai leg or the Kolkata-Kathmandu leg, please send Dragoman a scan of your passport photo page when you book, as this is important for arranging train tickets on these legs.  

Personal Spending

Based on the range that previous travellers have spent on this trip, we recommend you allow between a minimum of US$15 and a maximum of US$30 per day for Central Asia, China and Burma and between a minimum of US$10 and a maximum of US$20 for India, Nepal and South East Asia.

This will cover individual expenses such as drinks, meals whilst out and also when staying in hotels, souvenirs, tips and personal permits.

Please note:  For trips in Southern India that occur over Christmas and New Year please allow approximately $160USD extra on the kitty for seasonal increases in accommodation costs

What else you need to know

Currencies & Cash

It is not really worth trying to buy local currencies before you travel.  Do also bear in mind that many countries have strict regulations about the amount of their own local currency you are allowed to import - if you are found with amounts in excess of the allowed amounts, it may well be confiscated!

For trips in Turkey, South East Asia, India and Nepal, a sensible mix of cash and ATM cards is best. However, most of our past passengers have said they wished they had been told to bring more cash. Apart from the convenience of being able to change money in many more places, you will sometimes get a much better exchange rate for cash.

For trips in Central Asia, China, Burma and Mongolia please refer to the money exchange notes.

You should take a mixture of denomination notes. Banks and moneychangers in most countries will now only accept bills with a metallic strip running top to bottom of the bill and which are dated from 2003 or later. You should not take worn or damaged notes, or any that have been written on. Cash machines are readily available in most areas but are not always reliable therefore we recommend that you do not rely on them as your only source of cash. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most commonly accepted, but be prepared for very high commission charges. Please do not rely on cards for daily use, as they are not always accepted outside of larger towns and cities. Please bring a mixture of small and large denominations as in more remote areas it can be hard to change amounts over USD50.

Pre and post trip accommodation and connecting flights

At Dragoman we believe you should make the most of the places you visit, so if you would like to see more of your joining or finishing point cities, why not book additional accommodation to extend your stay. Dragoman can take away the hassle of time zones and language barriers by making the booking for you. This accommodation is only available at the joining or finishing city of your trip, immediately before or after the trip you are travelling on. 

While Dragoman is happy to assist with booking your pre and post trip accommodation, it is important that you understand you may be able to book your own room at a cheaper rate directly through the hotel or on the internet.  Our additional accommodation prices are based on the hotel’s rate plus an administration fee. Please note our rates do not reflect last minute walk in rates or internet specials.

We can also book arrival airport transfers for you as long as we have your flight arrival details.  These are normally payable in cash upon arrival, however we do have pre paid transfers in a few destinations. 

Please contact our reservations team for details of the accommodation and transfers that we can offer as not all hotels offer this service.

Accommodation on tour

Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels and therefore do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers will share with people of the same sex for the duration of the trip, in accommodation ranging from twin to multi-share. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. The campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, this allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities. 

Group size?

The maximum group size we take on our overland journeys ranges from 19 to 22 depending on the geographical location, however the average number of passengers is more likely to be around 16. 

Please note that there is an overlap of 2 trips in Zanzibar. This means a group starting a trip in Nairobi for example will visit Zanzibar at the same time as groups starting their trips in Dar es Salaam. In practical terms this means there could be up to 44 group members in Zanzibar at the same time.

Who travels with Dragoman?

Our passengers come from around the world and are always an interesting mix of nationalities and ages. On average there is a pretty even split, males to females and between solo travellers, couples and small groups of friends. We believe that overlanding should be open to as many people as possible and so although we have a minimum age limit of 18, as long as you are fit, healthy and passionate about travel, we are happy to take you, whatever your age is. One of the beauties of group travel is the camaraderie and friendships that are formed along the way and as well as the variety of people that you will meet.

Our Community

At any time before or after you book you can join our community - Dragoland. This is a great place to ask questions before you travel and catch up with your fellow travellers once your trip has finished. You can share photos, videos and stories You can also download a selection of free travel apps. See the home page to sign in, it's free and easy.

We also have a Facebook page where travellers regularly swap info with each other - you can join here

Our crew and guides

Our crew are passionate about travel and always up for adventure. It takes someone special to become a Dragoman leader. Our crew undergo the most intensive training program of all overland companies, spending 10 weeks learning the ropes at our base in Suffolk, UK and then up to six months on the road as a trainee. On all Dragoman overlanding trips two western crew who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation will accompany you. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. On trips South of Nairobi in East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. 

Dragoman endeavours to provide the services of experienced crew however, due to the seasonality of travel, situations may arise where your crew is new to a particular region or training other crew.

Your tour leader has a duty of care to all of their passengers and therefore they have the authority to ask passengers to leave the trip if they require medical assistance, are behaving in an anti-social manner or refuse to comply with local laws and customs. In all matters relating to the trip, the leader's decision will be final and we appreciate your respect of this.

Health

All Dragoman travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in our trips. 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 leader, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Dragoman reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of the trip without a refund. 

You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information prior to travel, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. We also advise you to declare any pre-existing medical conditions to your travel insurers upon purchase. 

For trips that travel to areas of high altitude we also require all travellers to complete an altitude questionnaire. The ratings for each trip are a good indication of how challenging they are and in some cases customers should be prepared for some long driving days and possibly limited facilities. We are always happy to give extra advice if you have additional concerns. 

 

Vaccinations

 Recommended vaccinations and other health protection vary according to regions and recent bulletins issued by health authorities. It is essential to get the latest advice on the region(s) you are planning to travel in. It is essential that you check with either your doctor or travel clinic in good time before you travel.

 In the UK we have been working with Nomad travel for many years and their website has comprehensive, up to date vaccination and health information. Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount off all vaccinations given at Nomad Travel clinics.

A good source of up to date information is the world Health Organisation - http://www.who.int/en/

Malaria

Get expert advice before travelling about types of malaria pills and take them as instructed. Recommended types do change from time to time and from area to area. Consult your vaccination centre for the most up-to-date requirements

The mosquito usually bites between the hours of dusk and dawn and so covering up by wear long-legged and long-sleeved clothing, preferably light coloured and buttoned at the wrists can help. Do not sleep without closing windows, tent doors or, if sleeping out, use a mosquito net. Wear repellent applied directly to the skin or soaked into clothing.

Treating clothes and mosquito nets with a Permetherin solution provides significant protection. It should be available at most travel stores.  Mosquito coils are useful on still nights, in hotel rooms but cannot be used inside the tents.

Meals and group participation

On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger - you're part of the crew. You are expected to pitch in to set up camp, shop for food, cook and generally help out. As part of your trip you will be assigned a truck job which could be collecting water and firewood, sweeping out the truck, loading the back locker, etc.

While camping on overland journeys, all meals are included in the kitty. This means that you will have to work together to cook for everyone in your group. You will be divided into smaller units of 3-4 people and take it in turns to cook for the whole group according to a rota system. When it is your turn to cook you will have to plan the meal, shop for the ingredients in local markets or supermarkets and then prepare the meal for the whole group. The secret to cooking for 20+ people in a basic camping kitchen is to keep it simple! (On trips south of Nairobi we have a cook on board the truck; however you will still be required to help prepare meals).

If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting. An example of a typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, fruit and cereal as well as tea and coffee. When time allows it will also be possible to serve something hot such as eggs or pancakes. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto or pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit from it.

Responsible tourism

Dragoman is committed to ensuring that we have a positive impact on local communities and that we implement policies to minimise any negative impact on the local environment. We are dedicated to making sure that we adopt a responsible attitude to the areas through which we travel and believe that our trips should benefit the local people and their environment. Dragoman recognises that we are guests of local communities and strive to make these communities our partners, so that they benefit directly from our visit. You can find full details of Dragoman’s responsible tourism policy linked from the home page.

A few Rules 

 Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs is not only against the law, 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 Dragoman customers.  It is one of our core values to treat all people we encounter with respect which of course includes all the local people who make our destinations so special.  The exploitation of prostitutes or children 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 or abuse children.  Equally Dragoman will not tolerate any violence or threat of violence towards local people, other group members or any member of our staff. 

 We expect all our customers to obey all the laws of the countries through which we pass.  This particularly applies to the smuggling of contraband and possession of narcotic drugs (as above), firearms, antiquities and ivory. 

Any customer found contravening such laws or customs will be required to leave the trip immediately with no refund of the trip price.

Safety and security

One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise passengers to leave any valuable jewellery, watches etc at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice.

Please note: Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.

The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority of Dragoman. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers

Leaders reports from off the road

Local contacts we have built up over 31 years of experience

Dragoman has also teamed up with the UK Foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) in their 'Know before you go campaign' www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougoThis website offers straightforward travel advice, top tips, and up to date country information to help you plan a safe trip.

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel. Below are links to some of the websites

Britain. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country

Australia. http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

New Zealand. http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

United States. http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

Canada. http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/menu-eng.asp

Dragoman has comprehensive passenger liability protection and tour operator insurance. These policies have total indemnities of £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 respectively. This is in addition to local vehicle insurance and your personal travel insurance.

Emergency contact

We have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in theses trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked and the crew informed if necessary.

Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have comprehensive travel insurance. Without evidence of valid travel insurance you will not be allowed to start the trip.

Whatever policy you choose, you must ensure that it is designed for adventure/overland travel. As such it must cover you for adventure activities such as white water rafting, trekking, horse-riding and that the 24 Hour Emergency Assistance Company must be experienced in handling situations in developing countries – for example they have the ability to arrange repatriation from remote areas such as the Sahara or if you were trekking in the Andes. Please double check if you have annual travel and/or credit card policies to ensure they have the cover you require, as many of these policies are not able to cope with adventure travel to remote areas. We recommend that any policy has the following minimum levels of cover: Medical (incl. repatriation) £5,000,000 Personal Liability £5,000,000 Cancellation and Curtailment £5,000 Loss of Baggage, personal effects, money and other inclusions are down to personal choice.

Issues on the 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 partner 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 may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction. If this is the case please contact our customer relations department on customer_relations@dragoman.co.uk. You may also choose to provide details in your feedback questionnaire which we ask you to complete at 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.

Passports

Check that your passport will still be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip - this is important as some countries WILL refuse entry to anyone whose passport is due to expire. A temporary or "visitor's” passport is not valid on our trips. You will need to provide us with your passport details prior to departing for you trip. If you change your passport please remember to inform us.

Luggage & Kit List

Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use.

The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different-sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg.  Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.

Your clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats (except on routes between Nairobi and Cape Town where ground mats are provided).

The clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in, which will vary depending on which part of the world you're heading to. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats*, so you'll need to bring those with you. Think about the climate and altitude of the areas you'll be travelling to, there's nothing worse than being cold at night so it's worth investing in a decent sleeping bag if it's likely to get cold. And remember even when it's warm during the day, it can often get cold at night, particularly in desert regions.

IMPORTANT: Ground mats are provided on all of our overland trips that run in South and East Africa, between Nairobi and Cape Town. This includes our Family trips between Nairobi and Cape Town.

For a general idea of what you need this list provides a guide:

For a comprehensive kit lists take a look at the Dragoman kit list that Nomad Travel have created.  Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount on all equipment purchased either online or in store. Click to see the kit lists www.nomadtravel.co.uk/kitlist/overlanders-kit-list

Water

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 end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments.

Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your Overland vehicle. You are free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like. You are helping the environment and your hip pocket!

Personal medical kit

All of our trucks have a fully stocked medical kit onboard for use in emergency situations only.  Therefore in addition to this we recommend that you purchase your own personal medical kit. In the UK we have teamed up with Nomad Travel Stores and Clinics to produce the Dragoman Travel Medical Kit. It has been designed in conjunction with the truck kits  and contains everything you would need for any minor accidents. For more details please visit their website:

nomadtravel.co.uk/catalog/view/dragoman-medical-kit

Electrical equipment

Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt socket so to charge your iPod, MP3 player, camera, laptop and mobile phone you will need a DC 12 volt adapter - the type that can be used from a cigarette lighter in your car. Please be aware that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets and the majority of the campsites we stay at have electricity points so please bring along your normal charging adapters as well. You will need to ensure that you have the correct country adaptor for your specific charger.

For mobile phones, please note that most countries in the Americas operate at 850MHz and 1900 MHz which is not the same frequencies used in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Most modern tri-band and quad-band mobile phones will be able to operate on these frequencies but please check your mobile phone specifications before travelling to ensure that you'll be able to use your phone in the Americas.

The kitty

In addition to the trip price on our overlanding trips you will also be required to pay a kitty specified for your trip. The kitty is payable in instalments at the start of each section of the trip for combination trips, and in full at the start of the trip for individual trips. Each customer joining a trip pays their kitty into a central fund. The fund is managed by the Dragoman crew & kitty accounts can be viewed by all throughout the trip.

The Kitty covers all things that the whole group does, such as:

The kitty system is very unique to overlanding and we believe it allows us to have flexibility & transparency on our trips. You can see exactly how your money is being spent and ensure that you are getting the best value by buying locally. It also helps to keep the costs competitive & save on administration costs so that we can pass the saving on to you. Dragoman makes NO PROFIT on kitties as they are the group's fund. 

We constantly update the kitty prices on our website and the kitty advertised in the brochure is an estimate at the time of printing. Prices can go up or down with no notice and exchange rate fluctuations will affect costs. If there is money left in the kitty at the end of your trip then this is divided between the group and you receive a refund.  Once you book your trip it is very important that you check our website on a regular basis and just before departure for any changes to the kitty amount.

At least half of your kitty should be paid in cash in the specified currency on the website (US Dollars or Euros in West Africa). The outstanding amount can be paid in local currency during your trip; your leader will give you the exchange rate.  Most of our travellers choose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.

Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.

Continuing your trip

Having an amazing trip and met a great group of people? Having too much fun to go home yet?  If on your trip you decide you would like to continue, then why not speak to your trip leader who can advise you of the cost and availability of continuing your journey.

Contingency emergency fund

Sometimes, civil or political unrest, or reasons beyond Dragoman's control (e.g. a natural disaster), can mean that an itinerary is disrupted and we have to make a contingency plan. This may involve hiring alternate transport or even the whole group flying over an area. Although Dragoman will help organise travel arrangements, in circumstances outside Dragoman's control you should be prepared to contribute towards the costs and therefore we ask you to bring along a 'Contingency Fund' of USD400. In almost all cases trips run smoothly and this fund is therefore never used. We also recommend that you take along an internationally recognised credit or charge card with a decent limit in case of emergencies, such as medical treatment en route, or even the need to be repatriated; though these occurrences are rare. Remember that travel insurance policies usually only refund you for expenses after you have already paid out.

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary. The Dragoman crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own Dragoman crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person.