PREPARATION FOR TRAVEL ON MAGICAL MYSTICAL YOGA TOUR – SIKKIM & BHUTAN:
You must have your passport and visa before you leave the US. India has now outsourced its visa issuing to Travisa (800-222-2589, http://www.travisa.com). You apply for a six-month TOURIST VISA. (They will automatically issue you a multi-entry one, so those going on to Bhutan needn’t worry about the return to Delhi.)
The application form asks for a reference in India.
If you need help, please use our friend and land agent Raj:
MULTIVISION TOURS & TRAVELS (P) LTD.
A -125 Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110016
You may want to have his contact info on hand:
Phone: + 91 – 11 – 41752266, 41752299,
Fax: + 91 – 11 – 26013245
Mobile: + 91 – 9811211994, 9311211994
It’s a good idea, prior to departure, to send yourself an email with your passport numbers and any other important numbers — like credit cards, traveler’s checks, etc., so you can retrieve them easily if you need them. Also, scan the inside front page of your passport, and the page with the visa stamp, and email it to yourself as well. Having this will speed up replacement should that ever become necessary.
YOU WILL NEED a good quality photocopy of the inside front page of your passport and the visa page, or a good, legible scanned copy, as we must have this info for our tour operator.
Travel Permits for Sikkim will be secured at the border, and will require an additional two passport photos. Those of you traveling on into Bhutan will get that visa at the border there, which requires two additional passport photos. So bring with you two extra passport photos for Sikkim, and another two for Bhutan, if you’re going.
You must have travel insurance! If you think you can’t afford it, just think of the financial consequences if you don’t have any and something goes wrong. Make sure your insurance covers health care, theft of property, lost luggage, travel delays –Stephanie at Flathead Travel can advise you. Over my many years of travel in India and surrounding area I have used every one of those coverages at one time or another. We are traveling in safe places, not doing dangerous things, but you will want to know that if anything were to happen, you would be covered. Then you can travel with your mind at ease, and so can we.
HEALTH OF THE BODY:
Know that the doctors and healthcare facilities where we are going are first-class (think of all those people who fly to India for state-of-the-art medical procedures), and that I have every confidence in the medical professionals I know in my communities over there. Even in the high and far country, we’ll only be a couple of hours from good health care facilities. Sikkim and Bhutan are very clean–though the altitude sometimes will be higher than most are used to — and India can be a challenge. So we ask you to do a few things in the month before we depart to help your body gear up:
Continue with whatever daily vitamins you are currently taking, with the addition of a good probiotic (Renew Life or Nature’s Way Optimum are good ones). BEGIN TAKING “CoQ10”–an enzyme that helps oxygenate your heart and head. Begin taking extra Vitamin C. Taking Acidophilus regularly — starting a month before you leave — will keep your intestines happy.
Most of all, PLEASE TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU GO AND FIND OUT WHAT SHE OR HE RECOMMENDS FOR YOU. Check out any developments on the Center for Disease Control website at: http://www.cdc.gov/. In particular, ask about:
• Hepatitis: There are vaccines for both Hepatitis A and B. (Having had hepatitis, I think you may be happier if you take the shots.)
• If needed, booster doses for tetanus, diphtheria and measles, and/or a one-time dose of polio for adults.
Talk with your doctor about everything mentioned above, and also about taking along a full-spectrum antibiotic, like Cipro (Ciprofloxacin), in case of dysentery, and Lomotil for diarrhea. (You will also want to take along some “Emergen-C” packets — the electrolytes will help if you get diarrhea.)
NOTE: Rabies is widespread in Asia. Rabies treatment is now a series of 3 shots. If you get bitten you have to take them. You can usually tell a rabid animal — it looks and acts crazy — but don’t be friendly with the numerous dogs. If you’re afraid of a dog, pick up a rock and throw it. If you want to feed dogs, like I always did, just put the food down in the street. (Beware of the monkeys, too–they can be very aggressive.)
We recommend that you wash your hands frequently, and bring along a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (Only bring ONE small bottle — it lasts and lasts!)
AIRPORT SECURITY PROCEDURES:
These rules change periodically so please check with your airline. All liquids and gels in your carry-on bag must be in bottles no larger than 3 oz., and these bottles must be inside ONE clear quart-sized Zip-Lock-type bag. (Don’t carry any sharp and dangerous weapons of terror and mass destruction (like tweezers) in your carry-on bag.
LUGGAGE AND PACKING:
We recommend that you fit all your personal items into one pull-along suitcase that you can handle easily yourself. We will have porters everywhere, but you should be able to handle it yourself just in case. Inside that suitcase bring a light duffle bag for things you purchase along the way. The in-country flights have a 60 lb weight limit. Use security-style luggage locks — the kind that the security people can unlock with their special keys. This way your bags may remain locked in transit.
PLEASE HAVE YOUR LUGGAGE VERY CLEARLY MARKED AND EASY TO IDENTIFY. Prior to boarding your domestic flights in India, as you leave the main terminal you sometimes may be required to identify your checked baggage as it’s being loaded. Failure may mean that your checked baggage will not be put on the flight. Unfortunately, this process is not followed by all airlines and at all departure points, SO PLEASE MARK YOUR LUGGAGE WELL.
Comfortable and modest clothing is the key. Bring flip-flops and whatever comfortable walking shoes you like. Sometimes when you take shoes off outside temples they disappear so don’t bring your most expensive shoes. There are some Hindu temples that forbid you to take any leather goods — such as belts, wallets and leather bags –inside the temple. Therefore keep leather to a minimum. Both men and women will need to cover their heads prior to entering a Sikh place of worship. You MUST bring a money belt that goes underneath your clothes for your passport, etc. In the north, weather can be humid and cool, so bring lightweight long underwear (silk is best). We are at high elevations so do bring a warm jacket, long pants, good walking shoes and changes of cotton socks. Dress modestly. A swimsuit is a good idea. We can easily get ready-made Punjabis and saris at any level of quality and price in India.
THINGS TO BRING: Pocket knife, flashlight, batteries, day pack, water bottle, watch, sunglasses, sun hat, insect repellent, something for the itches in case you don’t get the repellent on fast enough, any medications you need (prescription or otherwise). Electricity is 230-240V, 50 cycles, alternating current. (You will need transformers for electrical equipment.) Light rain gear will be good to have. In other words, bring anything you may need for your health and safety — bring it rather than relying on finding it in a culture vastly different from our own. There are Internet cafes almost everywhere and our hotels will have Internet. Bring only those yoga props you absolutely need. In Lachung and Pelling we are staying at rustic hotels that can be cold at night. The warmest, lightest thing you can bring is a silk sleeping bag liner and silk long underwear.
If you are planning on taking painting classes with our dear friend Tseten Dorjee, please bring along (or purchase on-site) these supplies: #0, #2, #3, #4 brushes; practice paper (slightly rough, not slick) compass, soft pencil, eraser, ruler, tube water color paints (white, blue, red, yellow), painting palette or small plastic plate, black drawing ink. These are also available in India but not such good quality. You can leave these supplies there for Tseten’s students.
Cameras: Be sensitive and respectful about taking pictures; consider the religious/cultural aspects. If you use a digital camera, bring extra batteries — they may be hard to find over there.
The currency is the Rupee. It is pretty easy to obtain in any hotel or (in Delhi or Gangtok) from readily available ATM machines, etc. Traveler’s checks, dollars, debit/credit cards — it is easy to convert them into Rupees. (For those going to Bhutan, they accept Indian Rupees there without any problems.) TALK WITH YOUR BANK AND CREDIT CARD COMPANIES BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME and pre-arrange the amount you can draw or spend at any one time, so you don’t get stymied by an unexpected limit. (India is an absolute delight as far as what you can buy there – gems, carpets, saris, artworks, etc., costing up into the thousands. There’s no end of money you can spend in India — just decide what you might want to spend before you leave.) Everyone will charge you a fee to use credit cards.