Location and General Geography
India borders Pakistan, China, and Nepal in the north. On the west, you will find the Arabian Sea and, on the east, the Bay of Bengal that reaches to Burma and Thailand. South lies Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean. The size of India is often compared to one-third the size of the entire United States (including Alaska).
Tipping and Gifts To Guides / Staff (General Touring)
Tipping is common, particularly if you are happy with the service. Please note that tips are in addition to (and not the same as) porterage, which unless otherwise specified, is included in your holiday price. Some suggested amounts for tipping are:
- Drivers/reps who help you with the airport transfers Rs. 100 – 150
- Bellboys who carry your baggage to your room Rs. 50 – 75
- Drivers/guides for half day/full day sightseeing trips Rs. 400 / Rs. 600
- Drivers/guides for long trips spread over many days Rs. 150 – 200 per traveler/day
- Waiters in restaurants (if service charge not included) 5 – 10% of billed amount.
The above amounts are mainly indicative. It is often customary to pay higher sums depending upon the quality of service.
Tipping on India Treks
Tipping is always a personal issue and these guidelines are only indicative. Trek tipping guidelines are based on two to four people in a group. For larger groups, you should contact us for specifics closer to your trip.
- Trip leader: $30 to $50 per week per client
- Local guide: $20 to $30 per week per client
- Cook: $10 to $15 per week per client
- Assistant staff: $5 – $10 per week per client
- Yak herder/horse man: $3 per week per client
Meals on Treks
Meals are prepared by a professional cook who travels with you on every trek. Here is an example menu – we can provide more details on request.
- Muesli cereal or cornflakes and sugar
- Jam /honey/butter
- Toast on order and fruit juice
- Puri (a tasty flat bread)
- Egg bhuji
- Fresh fruit
- Sweet corn soup
- Paneer grilled with BBQ sauce
- Palak & mashed potato
- Caramel custard
- Tea/coffee/Bournvita/hot chocolate
General FAQ on India Treks
Q. For a party of 2 trekkers, what would be the total number of staff (guides, trek assistants, cook, etc.) on a trek (Sikkim/Stok Kangri)?
A. You will have one trip leader from international arrival till international departure, one local guide during the duration of the trip (except in Delhi), one cook, two camp assistants, and one or two ponymen during the trek only.
Q. What kind of gear can we expect on the treks?
A. On the trek, we will be using sturdy 2-person mountain tents (rugged North Face and the like), good camping mattresses, pit (dug) toilet tent with a western seat, a kitchen tent for the cook, a full dining tent for trekkers, camp chairs, camp tables, and LPG gas lanterns. We include a Gamow bag and satelite phone for emergencies.
Q. How do you treat drinking water and should we bring iodine for extra safety?
A. You should bring some iodine tablets for the trek. The procedure for drinking water is to boil the water for 20 minutes to make it safe for drinking. You should bring two 1-liter bottles and the bottles should be boiling water proof (for ex. Nalgene). You are given the hot water at night so the water bottles can be used in the sleeping bags for warmth. The bottles are refilled in the morning. During the trek, if you need more water, you will need your own supply of water purification tablets for on-the-go treatment.
Q. If I want to bring gifts to the staff or villagers, what kind of gifts would be welcomed?
A. We discourage people from the random distribution of gifts and encourage you support a charity either before or after you go.
Q. Does the guide carry a medical first aid kit?
A. Yes, the trip leader will be carrying a basic medical first aid kit.
Q. Should trekkers bring their own favorite snacks for along the trail?
A. If you have favorite trail snacks, you should bring some (protein bars, trail mixes, jerky, etc.) to add to the various food served on the treks. However, you do not need to overdo it as there is plenty of food on these treks.
Q. Can you give me a sense of the experience of the some of your trekking guides?
A. All of our guides are licensed and experienced with Western groups. Most of them are from the area you are trekking. We can send an example bio for anyone interested.
Q. Are any (or all??) of your trek guides Wilderness first responder trained, or similar?
A. All our trip leaders have done either a Wilderness first responder course or they have done the first aid course during their basic and/or advance mountaineering certification course.
Q. What shots or pills should travelers get before going to India for a trek?
A. You should consult the Center for Disease Control in the United States as it maintains an up-to-date list for various regions for travel.
Q. What’s the weather like for: 1. for the Sikkim trek and 2. for the Leh/Markha Valley/Stok Kangri trek?
A. The Sikkim trek can get very cold in the higher reaches, with a good possibility of snowfall in the upper reaches. So expect the temperature to dip as low as as minus 10 degree centigrade on a really cold night. Ladakh is relatively warmer, except when climbing Stok Kangri, and the temperatures can be just below freezing.
Q. What do you consider “trekking essentials” that I must bring to have a good safe time?
A. You should have good hiking shoes (which can take on crampons for the Stok Kangri climb), walking sticks, waterproof duffle bags, down jackets, and a good sleeping bag. Before you go, upon request, we can send you a detailed personal equipment list. You can also find a basic list on the Packing List page.
Q. What airlines serve the regions we visit and what kind of planes are they?
A. United, American, and Air India have direct flights from the United States to Delhi. Other European and Asian airlines have good connections. Within India, Jet Airways and Spicejet serve the local destinations. They maintain a modern fleet of Airbus and Boeing planes.
Q. Do you have a list of emergency contacts we can leave with friends and family while on the trek?
A. Yes we do, and we will send that information 60 days prior to your journey.
Q. When do trekkers get a trek/trip orientation? Is that on arrival in Delhi or the next day or in Leh?
A. The trip orientation is best done at the first opportunity when you are fresh. The orientation could be in Delhi or in Leh or Sikkim depending on the time of your arrival in Delhi. Regardless, you will get a short briefing every day for the next day’s schedule.
Q. Are sleeping bags included for both the Sikkim and the Stok Kangri trek?
A. Sleeping bags are not included so you need to bring your own (rated to about -20F or better) or rent one. If renting, you may want to bring a sleeping bag liner with you.
Q. What kind of sleeping mattress/pad can I expect?
A. We provide one-inch thick foam mattresses. If you want extra padding, you may want to consider bringing your own or renting one as an extra, but in our experience, for most trekkers, our mattresses work just fine.
Do not drink tap water or any ice in drinks. At many tourist hotels, however, filtered water may be available. Ask at the front desk or the kitchen manager. Stick to bottled water (or boiled / UV treated water available at the hotels) and ensure that the seal is opened by you / in your presence. Bottled soft drinks and juices are fine. Eat easy lighter fare if possible and in moderation for the first few days if you can. Allow your system to get used to the changes. Yogurt (locally called “curd”) is advisable for weak constitutions or after a hot curry. Indian beer, gin, and rum are fine, just avoid ice unless you are at a fine restaurant.
We recommend you carry with you a small supply of basic health care medications such as travel sickness tablets, anti-diarrhea tablets, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a general purpose antibiotic. Although most of these items are available in India, the security provided by brands from home can be reassuring.
See a travel doctor before you go but here are a few basics. Be current on hepatitis A and tetanus protection. A hepatitis B shot is also recommended. A polio booster may be a good idea. Many travelers choose to bring and take typhoid and malaria protections – ask your doctor for advice. Yellow fever vaccination is not needed or recommended unless you are arriving from or transiting through a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas.
Do’s and Dont’s of General India Touring
Exchange money only through authorized banks or money changers with receipts.
Retain all receipts to facilitate re-conversion of unspent money on departure from India.
Export of most wildlife and their products is either banned or strictly regulated. Export of the few permissible items – even as passengers’ personal luggage – is allowed only under an appropriate export permit. If applicable, insist on getting a certificate for the legitimate sale of any animal product you might buy and written permission for its export to avoid inconvenience on departure.
Many taxis and auto-rickshaws in cities do not have meters, but where they do, insist on the meter being started in your presence. If the driver refuses to cooperate, seek the assistance of a policeman or find another taxi. If there is no meter, be sure to agree on a price before you get in. Hotel front desks can be helpful in getting advice about a good range of what you should pay. Try not to get ripped off. Many Indians see Westerners as walking wallets ready for the picking and it is important to try to dispel that notion by paying approximately (or somewhat close to it) what locals pay for the same services (often anywhere from 3 to 10 times less than what a taxi or rickshaw drive will quote first). Haggling is acceptable in non-meter situations and in many shops. In addition, the fares change from time to time and so will not always conform to readings on the meter. To avoid confusion, request the latest fare chart and pay accordingly.
If you wish to visit any prohibited or restricted areas, check with the nearest Government of India Tourist Office to ascertain details of the formalities required.
Check with your guide or the site office or guard regarding photography rules at archaeological monuments and holy sites.
Try to avoid the touts and brokers of shopkeepers.
You must cover your head before entering Sikh shrines – a light scarf is handy.
In case of any difficulty, let your guide know and/or contact the nearest tourist office or police station.
Concessionary tickets such as Indrail Pass on Railways, Youth Fare, Discover India Fare and Air Fare (Indian Airlines) are to be purchased in foreign exchange only.
Optional: Exchange about US $50 on arrival at Delhi International Airport through money exchange counters only. You can use this money for tipping or to do small shopping on day one and forward.
Don’t get lured by shopping bargains on the street.
Don’t exchange money except with an authorized money changer.
Don’t purchase travel tickets through strangers or unauthorized travel agents or tour operators.
Don’t buy silver/ivory articles or peacock feathers in bulk.
Don’t wear any footwear inside Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or Jain places of worship. Some temples do not permit leather articles inside. You can wear airline or short tennis socks; have a pair with you for these visits.
Important Note: Unless you want a lot of relentless unwanted attention, don’t hand out any gifts or candys/sweets to children on the street. It is far better to donate to a major third world relief organization or sponsor a child, etc. etc. before you go and/or after you depart to help the many needy in India.
Don’t give money to beggars. Give generously to reputable international relief agencies before or after you go.
Important General Travel Advice – Interacting with Indians at Sites, etc.
Many Indians travel to the same sites you do. They are passionate about their country and their history. They often come from smaller villages where having a Western-looking friend is helpful for social status. So some of these people will ask you to take their picture with them, then take the photo back to their home and claim you as their very best friend! While this is always a personal choice, our strong advice is to first politely say no, then when they ask again, say a firm no and walk away (same situation if someone is trying to sell you something or begging). They are just using you and, by allowing one photo, you invite unwanted attention from many others – there will always be people watching you, making the same requests over and over again until you are ready to lose your mind. Focus on your objective, which is to enjoy and understand the sites you are visiting and save time. If you want to be social with locals, try in the evening by wandering on your own into a market, visiting a local temple or shrine, or a local restaurant for a drink.
India is very crowded, so personal space is not something many Indians understand exactly or necessarily respect. It is important not to take jostling or cutting in line, and other behaviors we might consider rude too seriously. It is OK! Just maintain a polite but firm demeanor and if you are in a line, do like the locals do – follow their lead, however be as polite and courteous as you can be. You are in India to have a good time and not waste your good will or positive energy on useless judging or arguments in the heat of the moment. Smile and move forward, and you will have a fantastic time.