India Experience

A Journey to the Heart

with Missy Balsam &

Jacqueline Glasgow

November 5-17, 2017

This trip is sold out! Please explore our site for future India journeys or write Lauren@RetreaTours.com for more options.

Trip at a Glance

  • November 5–17, 2017
  • Led by Jacqueline Glasgow & Missy Balsam
  • Marvel at the Taj Mahal in Agra
  • Explore the sacred Hindu city along the Ganges River, Varanasi
  • Open your heart at Amritsar’s Golden Temple, seat of the Sikh religion
  • Relax alongside the Amber Fort in Jaipur
  • Small group tour: limited to 12 guests
  • Early bird price of $2799 USD per person (based on double occupancy) extended until June 1, 2017!
    • $2999 after June 1st.
    • International airfare not included; please see “Price & Inclusions” toggle for all details.

New Delhi

Amritsar

Varanasi

Jaipur

Agra

Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

November 5: Arrive in New Delhi

November 6–8: Explore Amritsar and the beauty of the Sikh religion at Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple)

November 9–12: Experience Varanasi, sacred Hindu city on the Ganges River. Stay directly on the Ganges and enjoy sunrise over the river. Explore the ghats and alleys by foot with local experts. 

November 13: Discover the timeless testament to love, the Taj Mahal. Explore the vast Agra Fort.

November 14–16: Relax in Jaipur, a perfect blend of antiquity and modernity. You’ll stay directly next to the picturesque Amber Fort in a Heritage hotel. 

November 17: Return to Delhi and on to home–or your next adventure!

Detailed Daily Itinerary

AMRITSAR

November 5-8

Our jumping off point for this trip is New Delhi, although we will only be staying there overnight. We wish you sweet dreams, and in the morning we will take a short flight (~50 minutes) to Amritsar. Amritsar is the spiritual center of the Sikh religion and home to the holiest Gurdwara (a Sikh temple). We find the Harmandir Sahib (aka, “The Golden Temple”) to be one of the most spiritually electrifying sites on the planet! Our accommodation is less than a minute’s walk from the Golden Temple; over the years we’ve developed a close relationship with this hotel, a rare gem so close to the Gurdwara. We will have plenty of opportunity to perform Seva, or selfless service, within the temple. The temple’s kitchen (or langar) serves free meals to 50,000-100,000 people per day, and we can participate in the thoughtful preparation of those nourishing meals.The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, May 2013. We're taking 3 Yoga RetreaTours there in early 2015--more at InsightTravels.com

Our friends at our hotel have designed a neighborhood Heritage Walk specifically for us. We’ll explore the winding alleys around the temple, taking in gorgeous architecture, delicious street food, and witness every day life in the back streets of Amritsar. We can also walk a short distance to visit the somber but important historic site Jallianwala Bagh; the 1919 massacre that occurred here is considered by some historians to be a crucial step towards the end of British rule in India.

And of course, we’re in the state of Punjab, the breadbasket of India. We’ve scouted out some of the best vegetarian thalis in all of Amritsar for you to sample. We like to order family-style so you can try a bit of everything (or a LOT of everything!)

VARANASI

November 9-12

On November 9, we say our goodbyes to Amritsar and head to Varanasi by airplane (via Delhi). Varanasi, also known as Benares or Kashi, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Mark Twain once said, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” We think you’ll see what he meant!

varanasi ganges young boys jumping into the ganges riverVaranasi captures the essence of Mother India as a whole. Although the alleys and neighborhoods are constantly abuzz, we will take refuge at our simple hotel directly on the holy Ganges River, or the Ganga. The Ganga is a goddess in her own right, often depicted upon her crocodile escort. Varanasi is the City of Shiva, one of the most revered and worshipped Hindu gods; the city is awash in beautiful but temporary murals and street art depicting Ganga, Shiva, and other members of the Hindu pantheon.

Varanasi is an important Hindu pilgrimage site, with devotees performing rituals along the ghats (stairs) of the sacred Ganges River. It is said that if you die in Varanasi and have your ashes scattered in the Ganges, the soul will be freed from the cycle of death and rebirth. For this reason, one of the most important and humbling spots in the whole city is the main cremation ghat, Manikarnika. Manikarnika is a fascinating, insightful, and deeply contemplative place for those who wish to visit.

Manikarnika is just one of the many sites we’ll see from our sunrise boat ride. The city of Varanasi is positioned such that the sun rises across the banks of the Ganga, and it is during this magic hour that the soul of the city is revealed. From our private boat (piloted by a long time friend and travel partner), we can see everything from the sacred rituals of pilgrims to the everyday chores of locals. The waters of the Ganga are used to wash the soul, but also the laundry, the teeth, and the water buffalo! The banks of the Ganges is simply teeming with life.

During the heat of the day, we can keep cool (and fascinated!) with a tour of the tiny, winding alleys of Varanasi. In this maze we’ll discover hidden temples, beautiful architecture, and the color of everyday life.

AGRA

November 13

We’ll bid farewell to Varanasi in the evening and take a comfortable overnight train to the city of Agra. Indian trains are a classic travel experience and will add another dimension to this trip! Let the rocking of the train lull you to sleep…

taj from fortWe’ll freshen up at our hotel in the morning and then head out to explore. This afternoon we’ll visit the imposing Agra Fort. Although the current incarnation was completed in 1573, a fort has stood on this land since the 11th century. The 94-acre fort is a gorgeous site to behold and is truly a city unto itself. We’ll get a sneak peak of the Taj Mahal from here, the same place where Shah Jahan, the brains and heart behind the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son until his death in 1666.

Tomorrow morning we will get an early start from our hotel and head to the inimitable Taj Mahal. We’ll visit the site at sunrise, beating the heat and the crowds, and we’ll watch the light change the colors of the brilliant white marble. This “jewel of Muslim art” is breathtaking, no matter how many times your eyes trace the delicate gemstone inlay, the smooth, strong lines of marble, or the carefully manicured gardens and fountains.

JAIPUR

November 14-17

From Agra, we’ll drive (~4 hours) to the “Pink City” of Jaipur. But first, the Chand Baori stepwell! Built between 800 and 900 CE, this is a stunning site in Rajasthan. This massive stepwell was designed to conserve water in the arid Rajasthani landscape and to provide a cool(er) spot for locals to relax, as the bottom of the well is markedly cooler than the top. (Fun fact: part of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed here!)

hawa mahalJaipur is as multifaceted as the semi-precious gem stones it is famous for (and yes, shopping for jewelry is a popular activity here!)  We’ll fill our days with stunning sites, such as the picturesque Hawa Mahal (or Palace of the Winds). This gorgeous multi-windowed (953 of them!) facade was built so the ladies of the royal court could observe the streets below without being seen themselves.

Nearby is the world famous Jantar Mantar, a collection of astronomical instruments including the world’s largest sundial.  This observatory is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fascinating stop on our Jaipur tour.

Our home-away-from-home in Jaipur is a heritage hotel that rests in the shadow of the Amber Fort.  Although you’ll get a wonderful view from the roof, you can’t miss going into the actual fort! Also known as the Amer Palace, this gorgeous structure is divided into four courtyards, each with their own unique style and special attractions.

On November 17th, we’ll depart from Jaipur in the morning and drive back to Delhi (4.5 to 5 hours). You can head back home, your head swimming in delightful imagery and memories–or you can head on to your next adventure!

Extend Your Stay...

If you’d like to extend your journey before or after this retreat, we would be more than happy to help you plan your stay!  We can advise you on hotels, flights, and itineraries, whether you want to arrive in India early or stay on afterwards (or both!) We can also set you up for a tour of beautiful Bhutan, Nepal, or anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia—this part of the world is beautiful this time of year!

We offer our retreat guests 50% off our travel consulting services, normally a $300+ value!

Some ideas:

  • Side-trip to beautiful Bhutan: all-inclusive & fully guided tour in “the last Shangri-La”
  • Explore the fascinating culture of Kathmandu Valley and the gorgeous mountains of Pokhara, Nepal 
  • Anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia that your heart desires!

 

Trip-extension advice for those arriving early or staying late in Delhi is provided free of charge.

Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.

About Your Practice
Yoga will be a way to balance ourselves on this cultural immersion, although asana will not be the primary focus. On non-travel days, we will offer optional yoga practice with an emphasis on self-discovery. Based on the mood, energy level and overall feeling of the group, sessions may include gentle movement, compassionate asana, and/or mindful meditation.
Our yoga spaces are innovative and make the most of our surroundings. The only proper studio we’ll practice in is the one custom-built for us in Amritsar. Otherwise, we’ll take advantage of puja (prayer) halls, terraces, rooftops, lawns, and more.

PLEASE NOTE: Because of the unique nature of this retreat and the fact that we are moving between locations, you will need to bring your own yoga mat and any accessories you would like (a strap may be helpful!)

Price & Inclusions

This 13 day/12 night  journey is $2799 per person (double occupancy) before May 1, 2017. After that date the price is $2999.

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $399 and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.

A $500 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1000 USD is due by July 8, 2017 (120 days before start of trip) and the balance is due by September 6, 2017 (60 days before start of trip).  Single supplement ($399 USD) is due along with the last installment.

Price Includes:

  • All meals
  • All accommodation
  • All local transportation within India
  • Site entrance and guide fees
  • Classes with Missy and Jacqueline
  • Escort by Indian guide

 

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to suggest arrangements)
  • Alcohol
  • Travel insurance (required)

 

NOTE: 

  • There is a minimum of 6 guests that must sign up in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up.  Please do not purchase any airfare until you get the go-ahead from us that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.  
  • If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 3 months prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money.

Payment Details

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

 

We accept payments via check and credit card (via PayPal). For our international guests, we can accept wires, which we find is the most economical solution for everyone; please contact us for wire details.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to Insight Travels, LLC and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
  • Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the red buttons below.  Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD.  Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance.

Final installment due on September 6, 2017. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice well before the due date.

Click here to pay the $500 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Click here to pay the $1000 second installment by credit card (via PayPal) [due by July 8, 2017] 

Physical Fitness Requirements

We want you to get the most out of your trip to India! With that in mind, please keep in mind the following physical requirements/suggestions:

  • You must able to walk one mile unassisted at a time
  • Some of the sites we will be visiting have stairs; it is best if you feel comfortable climbing/descending 2 flights of stairs at one time
  • There will be an 11-hour overnight train ride on this journey. Some of you will be sleeping in “upper” bunks (although we will do our best to accommodate those that require a lower bunk).
  • In Amritsar, if you wish to eat in the Golden Temple’s dining hall, you will need to sit on the floor.

We recommend consulting with your physician to make sure you’re fit as a fiddle for this trip! Please see the FAQ for other health questions, including vaccines.

If you have any specific questions about the physical requirements for this trip, please email us.

Registration Questions & Contract

Please scroll down within this tan box to reach the end of the questionnaire and contract. At the end of the contract, you will see a “submit” box—please hit that button.  If you are having difficulty completing it on this website, you can go directly to the form here

Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract on the website.

Please click here to download to view and download PDF of the contract for your records. 

 

Suggested Packing List & Temperatures

Average Temperature Range in our Destinations It’s important to understand the weather to really pack wisely! Here are the average (Fahrenheit) lows and highs for our destinations on this trip. Keep in mind these are the averages—we won’t know until the trip gets very close if there are any funky weather patterns going on that would cause fluctuations in temperature. To see record lows & highs for the times we’ll be there, you can visit each city’s Wikipedia page, linked below.

Jaipur: 57° to 85°

Agra: 57° to 86°

Amritsar, India:  47° to 82°  (chilly mornings!)

Varanasi, India:   58° to 85° (bring a sweater for chilly sunrise boat rides)

As you see, it has the potential to run the gamut from 47° to almost 90°—layers are going to be your best friend on this trip!

Here is a suggested packing list, clothing first and accessories second.

PACKING LIST Note: the weight limit on our flights overseas will be 44 lbs (20 kg), not the 50 lbs that you may be used to domestically and internationally.  You can certainly bring a full-sized suitcase, but we can’t guarantee porters everywhere we go, so make sure you can handle your own suitcase.  If you prefer to only bring a carry-on, you’re welcome to do that, as well.

Other note: BJ and Lauren live out of their suitcases year round and they swear by packing cubes!  Rolling your clothes (instead of folding) and using packing cubes make packing a dream!

Clothing: Although more and more Indians are adopting Western wear, traditional clothing is very prevalent and modesty is the name of the game. In that spirit, please do not wear clothes that are tight, transparent or show too much skin, such tank tops or halter tops. We also discourage wearing form-fitting “skinny” jeans and shorts/skirts above the knee. Instead, we recommend wear loose fitting clothing such as long skirts, pants, capri-length pants, and blouses or Indian kurtas.

  • 8+ pairs undergarments; you can always have them washed or wash them in your bathroom
  • 3-5 pair light cotton pants or long skirts.  You may want to bring leggings (2 or 3 pair) to wear under your long kurtas, tunics, skirts or pants on chilly mornings or evenings (again—it’s all about the layers!) BJ is a fan of nylon pants, as they are lightweight and easy to clean.  Fleece pants might be nice, and good to sleep in (remember, the nights are going to be in the mid-40’s in Kathmandu!)
  • 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, or long sleeve shirts.  You can always have laundry done at the hotels, but bring as many as will make you feel comfortable.
  • A light sweater/cardigan for chilly morning or evenings, and a heavier sweater or medium-weight jacket for Kathmandu mornings. A light-windbreaker might prove useful for early morning boat rides on the Ganges if your sweater/jacket doesn’t protect you from the wind.
  • Bring a few pairs of socks. Light wool (like SmartWool) or tech socks work very well, but whatever socks you have will be just fine.
  • Sleeping attire: our rooms will not have heat in them at night (although they will have plenty of blankets), so please make sure you bring sleeping attire to keep you warm!
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Boots aren’t at all necessary and can be cumbersome when going in & out of monasteries and temples. Sneakers or comfortable slip-ons will suffice.
  • A pair of sandals or flip-flops, if you wish.  They’ll be convenient for around the hotels, local excursions, and the Golden Temple (when you have to check your footwear at the door). Walking sandals (such as Teva’s or Chaco’s) would also work.
  • Sarongs are super handy for so many reasons (men and women). Makes for a good cover-up, eyeshade, pillow, scarf, napkin, tissue, etc. These will be readily available early in our travels.
  • A hat with a brim is a great idea for our daytime adventures.

Accessories:

  • Yoga Mat.  Because of the unique nature of this retreat and the fact that we are moving between locations, you will need to bring your own yoga mat and any accessories you would like (a strap may be helpful!)
  • Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by this! Click here for more of our tips on preventing and dealing with jet lag. 
  • Good sunscreen.  Lauren prefers mineral-based ones like Devita: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. They might be a little pricier initially, but a little goes a long way.
  • Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, just email him. We can discuss what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to lug around.)
  • If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries and/or your charging cord! You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
  • At least one bandana, as they’ll come in handy for wiping hands, faces, covering heads, etc. Though they’ll loan us a bandana at the Golden Temple, you can wear your own head covering—a nice idea.
  • Toiletries. Not all of our hotels are guaranteed to have shampoo and none will have conditioner, so be sure to bring some of your own if you need it.
  • People tend to think they need to bring toilet paper to India—not true!  However, bringing a few packs of travel tissues isn’t a bad idea, to keep on you for public restrooms.
  • Wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer. Nothing replaces good ol’ hand-washing, but this will work in a pinch.
  • Ladies will want to bring any necessary feminine hygiene products with them, as they can be scarce in India.
  • Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well.
  • VERY IMPORTANT!  A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home. You can also have it readily accessibly on your phone (you may want to save it as a photo).
  • Photocopy of your passport and your visa, just in case you need them.
  • A small travel umbrella, if you wish; can work for rain (which we’re not expecting) OR as a parasol
  • Small notebook and pen for journaling purposes, if you desire!
  • Mosquito repellent.  While we are visiting these areas in dry season and malaria is not endemic to any of these cities, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.  Consider repellants based in natural essential oils, such as citronella.  Click here to read a blog post by BJ about malaria (and dengue).
  • Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs.  We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
  • We will have wifi at all of our hotels, if you want to stay in touch via your smart phone or tablet. Don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.

About the Hotels

We choose our hotels in India based on a few factors, including location, safety, cleanliness, value, and the good relationships we have with owners, managers, and staff. It’s always nice to be greeted like family and have that warm welcome extend to our guests! We value staying in locally owned establishments which then feed into the local economy, instead of staying at international chain hotels.

We like people to understand where they will be staying during their vacation, as India’s accommodations often vary from those of other countries. India is a special, magical place with its own unique facets and quirks, and staying in Indian hotels is just another way to experience this beautiful country and its culture.

India doesn’t have the broad range of hotels that you may be used to in other countries, particularly in North America & Europe.  There are very high-end hotels (like the fabulous Oberoi chain), and there are India’s mid-range hotels (we won’t get into the low budget hotels & hostels!) Of course there are a few hotels here and there that ride an area in-between, but they are often not worth the dramatic increase in price and are very rarely centrally located or owned by Indians.

However, India’s mid-range hotels aren’t the equivalent of western mid-range hotels (such as the Hampton Inn, Hyatt Place, Holiday Inn, etc). While they are safe and clean, they very often show their age prematurely (due primarily to India’s love of matte paint for the walls) and the beds may be firmer than you’re accustomed to. All of the hotels we stay in have Western style toilets (as opposed to squat toilets); in addition, all the hotels do have hot water and wifi, although a little patience might occasionally be needed sometimes for both. Please note that the wifi in South Asia will often not be as fast as you might be accustomed to at home; it may difficult for video chats sometimes, but should always be sufficient for emails and web surfing. Indian hotels love their air conditioning (and ceiling fans), so no need to worry about that!

All of the hotels we stay in have Western style toilets (as opposed to squat toilets–although you may run into a squat toilet on the road). In addition, all the hotels do have hot water and wifi, although a little patience might occasionally be needed sometimes for both. Please note that the wifi in South Asia will often not be as fast as you might be accustomed to at home; it may difficult for video chats sometimes, but should always be sufficient for emails and web surfing. Indian hotels love their air conditioning (and ceiling fans), so no need to worry about that!

Many bathrooms in India are simple “wet rooms”; that is, the Western toilet, shower, and sink share a tiled space, and there may or may not be a shower curtain. These are very common throughout South and Southeast Asia, although they can be a bit of a shock at first glance to our guests.

Location is crucial for us. We want our guests to feel as if they can explore on their own during their down time, so we find hotels that are exceptionally close to the main attraction (while still being as quiet and private as possible). This makes it easy to explore on your own, if desired.

We always give our guests the name and contact information for each of our hotels before the start of the trip, so that they may pass that information on to loved ones.

About your International Flights

Your international flights are not included in the retreat, although we want to make it as easy as possible for you to find the perfect flight for you! Below we will provide you a time frame you will need for buying tickets, ticket buying tips, and an offer of service.

Time frame

Arrival: You can check into your hotel in Delhi after 2 PM on November 5th and dinner that night is included in the retreat fee. You CAN arrive later, though; at the latest, you will need to arrive in Delhi by 2 AM on November 6 (the night of the 5th/early morning on the 6th). We fly to Amritsar the next morning (the 6th).

Departure: As you are driving back to Delhi from Jaipur on November 17th, we would advise you not book a return flight any earlier than 8 PM on November 17th (to account for possible highway traffic or delays in Delhi). 

Flight-finding tips

Coming soon!

Flight-finding services

We can offer two options for guests who feel more comfortable having travel experts find their international flights for them (although guests still book the flights directly themselves).

Flight Fox is a fantastic service which can find the best deals on flights for you for a fee of $50 USD.  You can learn more about  Flight Fox here. (We are not affiliated with Flight Fox nor do we receive any commission from them; we just know their services are well-trusted in the travel community.)

BJ is also more than happy to help you find flights the suit your needs perfectly, accounting for preferred airports, layovers, reward miles, etc. This add-on service can be had for $40. Please contact BJ@RetreaTours.com if you are interested in this service!

Travel Insurance (required)

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense.  It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind for very little cost. When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical evacuation/repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.

We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company (we can advise you if you like). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure.

Travel Insurance. Simple & Flexible.

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    FAQs (Visas, Vaccines, Food& more!)

     

    PASSPORT/VISA

    • What do I need to know about the visa?    

    First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport. 

    You will need to arrange an Indian visa before you arrive.  Please read this section carefully!

    On this itinerary, you will only be entering India once, making you eligible for a Visa on Arrival. (Please click here to make sure your country is eligible for a Visa on Arrival).  You can apply for a Visa on Arrival 4 to 120 days in advance of your arrival on this website. Thorough instructions can be found on our blog here: http://www.retreatours.com/2016/08/etv/

     

    FOOD

    • I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?

    Vegetarians should have no problem anywhere on our travels. The only thing that might prove difficult is veganism in India. Although meat is entirely avoidable, India is the world’s largest consumer of butter, and it is almost unavoidable in most of their curries, stews, and even breads. Many vegans that I have known to travel through India adopt what is locally referred to as a “pure veg” diet: no meat, no eggs, but it allows for dairy consumption.  (It is worth nothing that some of the reasons for avoiding dairy consumption in the west is slightly mitigated here, as there is less factory farming and antibiotic use in livestock.) Milk can be avoided by not consuming creamy dishes or milk tea.

    Gluten is also avoidable in India by choosing rice over chapatis and other local breads. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local language to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten. Click here for the Hindi version.  If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards, available in 60 different languages.When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns!

    Click here for our very own India Food Primer!

    • Can I drink the water?

    In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.

    HEALTH

    • What vaccines do I need?

    None are required to enter India, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you.  You can read the CDC’s recommendations here  and the Scottish NHS recommendations here.

    • What about malaria? What about Zika?

    Malaria and Zika are not risks in the areas we will be traveling, but again—we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.

     *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from your licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.

    • Do I need travel insurance?

    We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind!  When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical expenses, medical evacuation, and repatriation. We also highly recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or other unforeseen circumstances.

    We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the company and policy that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company. We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 60 days before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.

    MONEY

    • How much money should I bring?

    That is entirely up to you and how much shopping you want to do, as well as your love for extras like massages, alcoholic beverages, etc.  All of your meals and transportation is covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras!

    • How do I get the local currency?

    You can either exchange cash in India (although not at the airport, the rate is terrible!) or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Better yet, a combination of both!  Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world!

    If you do bring cash to exchange, please know that you’ll get a better rate with $100 bills, and do make sure they are clean and crisp.

    • Can I use a credit card?

    For large purchases (rugs, textiles, etc) many shops will take credit card (although they might charge a percentage on top of your credit card company’s international fee). For smaller items, count on using cash only.

    SHOPPING

    • Will I have time to shop?

    There is plenty of time for shopping on this trip, although certainly not a “mandatory” activity. Sometimes we’ll take you to a workshop and gallery so you can see how a handicraft is made (white marble inlay in Agra, block printing in Jaipur, etc) but there is never any pressure to buy. In each city, you’ll have plenty of downtime to shop, as well, and our local guides can help steer you in the right direction.

     

    LUGGAGE

    • What kind of luggage should I bring?

    Many folks ask us this, so we wrote a little blurb on it that you can find right here.

     

    HOTELS

    • What kind of hotels will we be staying in?

    We take great pride in our hotel choices; it might be cliche, but we value location, location, location above all else!  This often means little to no traffic, and that you can return to many of the sites on your own at any time.  All of our hotels will be very simple but clean, and all have hot water and wifi. Please see more about our hotels in the toggle above this FAQ.

    NOTE ABOUT WIFI: The speed and quality of the wifi may not be what you are used to at home. It is usually always good enough for emails, texts, even VoIP calls, but don’t always count on video chats.  In some hotels, the wifi may not be strong in your room but will always have a strong signal in the lobby.

    COMMUNICATION

    • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

    Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our hotels to pass along to your loved ones. If you choose to bring your cellphone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.

    Contact RetreaTours

    About Missy Balsam

    missyMissy Balsam is a full-time yoga teacher and kirtan recording artist living in Naples, Florida. Missy graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Psychology, then worked as a sales and marketing executive for many years before leaving the corporate world behind to follow her heart. Missy completed her 200-hour yoga-teacher certification with Baron Baptiste, and since 2007 has found her true calling sharing her love of yoga with others. Her teaching style is one of empowerment, inspiration and joy, encouraging students of all levels to keep growing and evolving, discovering the happiness that is already inside all of us.

    During her yoga journey, Missy fell in love with kirtan, or the singing of mantras and divine names, and started on the path of Bhakti Yoga, the path of love and devotion. She infuses this love into her inspirational and healing music for the heart. Leading kirtan since 2011, she began to write her own original material in 2012, releasing her debut studio album “Revealed” in July 2016. Called a “spiritual rocker” by Yoga Chicago magazine, Revealed is a potent blend of kirtan and Missy’s own empowering lyrics, inviting you on an intimate soul journey. Missy has toured nationally, teaching and performing at Bhakti Fest West, Bhakti Fest Midwest, Hamptons Yoga Fest and Lovelight Yoga & Arts Festival. She is a co-host of a kirtan radio show on Gary Goldberg’s “In the Spirit” program broadcast on WRPI – 91.5 FM, Troy, New York (streamed live on wrpi.org), and has been featured on Los Angeles-based Joni Yung’s podcast “Yoga Chat with the Accidental Yogist.” She was also interviewed and featured as a singer/songwriter on the Naples Art Show broadcast on Naples 98.9 FM talk radio, and was honored as an Ambassador for Lululemon in 2012.

    Missy offers tremendous gratitude and appreciation to all of her many teachers and mentors, and her deepest wish is to serve, inspire and light up the world with love. You can read more about Missy at missybalsamyoga.com and missybalsam.com.

    About Jacqueline Glasgow

    jacquelineJacqueline Glasgow is an E-RYT 500. She is a Certified Yoga Therapist as well as a Certified Power Yoga Instructor, a Certified Yin Yoga Instructor and a Certified Yoga Life Coach. Jacqueline has been practicing yoga since 1990, teaching since 2007, and training yoga teachers since 2013.  Currently she travels the country, training both 200 hour & 500 hour yoga teachers, and runs her own yoga studio in Naples Florida, Naples Yoga Center.

    Jacqueline is an entrepreneur and lover of life. She is a pastry chef, potter, and jewelry artist. Her background in finance has given her the tools to create, build and sell successful businesses in the hospitality and yoga fields. With over 3,000 hours of training, Jacqueline feels fortunate to have learned from some of yoga’s best educators including Bryan Kest, Baron Baptiste, Doug Keller, Paul Grilley, Stephanie Keach and Nicholas Giacomini (MC Yogi). She has hosted yoga retreats, certified numerous 200-hour yoga teachers, and has enjoyed assisting Baron Baptiste in BPYI programs. Along with her yoga trainings, Jacqueline completed the Mastery in Transformational Training and Tony Robbins UPW, and started the jewelry company HIP BUDDHA. With all her training and achievements, Jacqueline credits her volunteer work with the MAKE A WISH Foundation to be her one of her highest accomplishments.

    Jacqueline is a dynamic leader and passionate teacher who delivers a powerful practice infused with intelligence, compassion and love. She shares authentically from her heart and is committed to empowering her students to step into their greatness.

    She can be found at www.naplesyogacenter.com and www.hipbuddha.com

    About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours

    BJ-and-Lauren-Penang-Square-for-MobileBJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding.  In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours!)

    BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart.  Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime.

    The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.

    In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of.  The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you!  So….let’s get going!

    Photo Album

    Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album. All photos have been taken personally by BJ & Lauren of RetreaTours.