Before you leave home

A visa is required for travel to India.  Please check with your local Indian Consulate as the requirements vary dependent on which passport you hold.  In some cases an e-tourist visa is available, but it is often the case that you must get a visa in your passport, which of course take a little longer.

We recommend that you have a minimum of six months validity on your passport beyond your return date, and at least two blank facing pages.

Please bring three copies of your passport and visa, along with three passport sized photographs.  These are required for checking into hotels and obtaining a SIM card.

While we are happy to be of assistance should you need it, it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa before leaving your home country and a valid passport.

We personally always like to have some local currency before arriving in another country, so we recommend you do too!

ATM’s are plentiful, but many charge INR200 per transaction.  In our experience the largest sum you can withdraw is INR10,000 (approximately AUD200, USD155, EUR145, GBP120) so you should check with your own bank as they may also charge a fee.

Lots of restaurants and larger shops will accept credit cards – Visa and Mastercard, however smaller vendors and markets will only accept cash.

If you wish to bring your local currency and exchange it here, that is possible, but we have always found the easiest way to get cash is via an ATM.

 

 

Bangalore is closest to Mysore and we recommend you arrive there if possible.  It is approximately three hours by road.  Transfers from Bangalore are included and one of our representatives will be there to meet you holding a sign with your name on it.

We can certainly help get you to Mysore if you choose to arrive by another international gateway such as Chennai.  It is connected by a train that takes eight hours, and by road it’s closer to ten hours.  You can see why we recommend Bangalore!

If you are coming by road or train, we’ll still be there to meet you on arrival.

 

It is a requirement that all our customers have travel insurance.  While you can choose who you’d like to take your insurance with, we have a link on our site for World Nomads who we are confident to recommend.

We will ask for your emergency contact details on day one of your holiday, which will include needing your policy number, so please have it on hand.

Cultural

India is certainly a country of festivals!  There are often small,  local festivals going on that you just stumble upon quite by accident!  One of India’s many charms.

Holi

The most famous festival which is usually early March but changes each year.  Holi is not widely celebrated in Southern India, so in Mysore you won’t see the scenes on the street that you may have seen in movies or documentaries of people throwing lots of coloured powders around.  Around schools and universities you will often find the students partaking in the festival, and we will be very happy to ensure you get out and about to the right places to see what you can.  Also any communities from North India living in Mysore are likely to be having a bit of play!  If Holi is a huge item on your list, then we would recommend a trip north for Holi either before or after your Skillstourism holiday.  While we don’t as yet offer trips up north, we are happy to offer advice on the best places to go.

Ganesha

Definitely the best known and probably the most loved deity in Hinduism.  He is easily recognised by his elephant head and is said to remove obstacles from our paths just as an elephants removes trees from it’s path in the jungle.   What’s not to love?

A 14 day festival every year honours Lord Ganesha.  It varies year to year as all festivals do, but is usually in August/September.  You will see pop up temples all over Mysore with Ganesha’s varying in size from small to absolutely huge.  Communities come together and worship him during the festival, and on the last day he is placed on the back of a truck and taken to the river to be immersed in the water.  While it’s not the most eco friendly festival, it is certainly a sight to behold.  The people from the temple form a procession in front of the vehicle and the men and boys carry drums and dance wildly to the beat as he moves off down the street.

We find ourselves rushing off in the evenings following the sound of the drums to find yet another Ganesha being loaded on a small truck and taken to the river.  The Indian Government is campaigning for people to chose eco friendly Ganesha’s as many of the large ones are made from plaster of paris and are very brightly coloured.  Not the best thing to let dissolve in the rivers of India.  Many are now made from clay, but as with many things it takes time for the change to come about.

If you join us in Mysore during the Ganesha Festival, we will take you on an evening tour to see pop up temples, large and small and follow a procession or two!

Diwali

The festival of lights!  Another well known festival outside of India and a lovely time to visit.  This festival is usually some time in October.  You can walk around the streets in the early evening and you will see people putting little oil lamps outside their houses, on their balconies, front fences, stairs.  The little lamps twinkle like fairy lights making an evening stroll a must during this festival.  The city of Mysore appears to be dripping with lights every where you look.  The wide city streets are lined with fairy lights.   The trees are wrapped in them, they are strung from pole to pole – it’s a magical sight to behold.

The other side of Diwali, is fireworks – lots of them!  All of the city throughout the festival people are letting off fireworks!  From our balcony we could see no less than 10 lots of fireworks going off in our neighbourhood each night.   Fireworks are readily available in India, and during Diwali pop up shops selling nothing but fireworks appear all over the city.  Be ready for lots of noise during this festival.  Might be a good idea to pack some earplugs!

If you choose to come on a holiday with us during Diwali, we will take you on a special evening tour  to see the lights all over the city and a walk through some of the neighbourhoods to see the way people adorn their homes too.

Dasara

Celebrated throughout India this festival celebrates the victory of good and truth over evil.  In Mysore it has been celebrated every year for more than 400 years.  It celebrates the local legend of the Goddess Chamandeeshwari  slaying the demon Mahishasuran.  The festival runs for 10 days culminating in the procession that starts at the Palace where the Royal Family pay homage to the Goddess, and an incredible procession makes it’s way from the Palace grounds through the city to a parade ground.

The procession is made of up 12 decorated elephants, one who carries the 750kg golden mantapa (altar) and the Goddess, all manner of dancers dressed as animals or in traditional dress, marching bands and floats.

The parade through the city culminates in a Torch Light Parade featuring a Military Parade, Daredevil Motorcycle riders performing amazing stunts, gymnasts and the local Police force provide the closing act with a spectacular display of coordination and skill twirling their fire torches in the air.

For any of our customers who join us on a holiday during Dasara, we will arrange for you to attend the Dasara Parade and the Torchlight Parade.   If you want an idea of what you are in for, take a look at google images, or wait and let it be a surprise.   It’s more exciting than it sounds and the atmosphere in Mysore during the festival is wonderful!

Preparation

We recommend that you visit your doctor to discuss your trip at least  three months before you travel if possible.  They will have the up to date information on vaccinations and be aware of any personal health issues you may have that need to be considered.

Karnataka is a low risk area for Malaria.  Some cases of Dengue Fever have been reported, so it is best to discuss this with your doctor so that you can make an informed decision.

If you are travelling to other parts of India other than those visited while on your Skillstourism holiday, please be sure to check advice for each area as there as some areas in India where Malaria is a high risk.

India has very good doctors, dentists and hospitals.  Should you become ill on your holiday, we will be there to advise the best facilities nearby.  Please don’t forget that travel insurance is compulsory for very good reasons, so be sure to arrange it before you leave home.  We suggest you arrange it as soon as you book your holiday in fact.

It’s always fun to give away little gifts to the locals when you travel.  Well, we think so and we think you’ll agree!  Gifts like colouring pencils and books are always a hit with little kids, as are any kind of balls, pavement chalk or easy to learn games for slightly older children.  Young boys are cricket mad so if you hail from a country that plays cricket, some cricket type souvenirs will be met with enthusiasm to say the least.

You’ll make friends on your holiday that would really appreciate a little trinket, whether it’s a key ring, fridge magnet or something from your home country that would be a novelty for an Indian.  From your auto rickshaw driver to the artisan that you work side by side with, any person you connect with will be thrilled with the smallest of things.

Another option is to bring basic school supplies that can be donated to a local school, or to children from a disadvantaged background.  We can put you in touch with local charities that will be extremely grateful for any donation.  If you want to travel light, school supplies are relatively inexpensive, we can tell you the best place to buy them once you are here.

Some basic first aid items are always a good idea, especially if there is something that you really must have should you get an upset stomach, a headache or another ailment.  You can probably just bring absolute essentials and the rest you could get if needed.

Sunscreen is not as readily available, so bring a good one with you.  Not to mention a hat or umbrella to protect you from the sun.  If you are coming during the wetter months, an umbrella or raincoat isn’t a bad idea, but if you are economising on luggage just get one here.

Three photocopies of your passport and visa and three passport sized photos.   You’ll need these for hotel check-ins and to get a local SIM Card if you choose to.  If you are travelling extensively through India, you could bring more.  You can also get these done quickly and cheaply once you are here, but good to land with at least a couple of copies.

We’ll include a more comprehensive packing list with your travel documents.

Keep in mind India is hot year round.  Even in the cooler months, the days can be quite warm.  We recommend cotton and natural fabrics as they tend to be cooler, but some people like to wear the new synthetics that are designed to wick away perspiration – the choice is yours.  As long as you are comfortable, that’s what’s important.  If you are coming to join us from October to February, a light long sleeve is recommended as the evenings can be cool.

India is a conservative country – for women it is customary to cover your shoulders and knees.  Carrying a light cotton wrap is a must, as you can always whip it out of your bag to throw around your shoulders if you are wearing something sleeveless, and they are also great to protect you from the sun.

Naturally a hat (Catherine prefers to use an umbrella), sunglasses and sunscreen are a must.  Your favourite mosquito repellant is a handy thing to have in your bag too!

The vast majority of men in India wear long pants, but what the locals call half pants (shorts) are fine for every day wear.  Should you be going to visit a place of religious significance, a family home or a restaurant or bar in the evening, then we suggest having a pair of long pants for these occasions.

Sturdy, comfortable shoes are a must even for in and around the city as the footpaths and roads often have obstructions and hazards, so protecting your feet is a very good idea.

Reservation

We definitely can arrange extra night’s both before and after your tour.  We highly recommend arriving a day early to give yourself time to get over your travels, adjust to a new time zone and generally get settled before meeting your tour leader and new friends on the first day.

Our tours can be run for one person or a group of up to 12 people. This ensures that all our departures are guaranteed departures.  As we are a start up and just setting out, we ask any solo travellers to consider whether they would be happy travelling alone should we not receive any more confirmed passengers for their particular departure.   If this is of a concern to you, please contact Catherine or Varis to discuss – you’ll have our company and that of our Artisans and our local network so we can assure you, you won’t be alone unless you choose to be!

If you would like to know how many people are booked on your tour please ask prior to making your booking.

Minimum:  The minimum age is 12 at the time of travel.  All persons under the age of 18 must travel with an adult of 18 plus years.  For family travel, we are open to discussing your holiday on a case by case basis in the event you have children under the age of 12 years.

Maximum:  We have no upper age limit though we ask you to consider your personal health and fitness to undertake one of our holidays.  Dependent on which tour you are undertaking, most of your time will be spent in Mysore, so the demands of being on the road every day are not there as they are on many multi stop tours.  We remind you that India can be physically demanding (e.g. uneven footpaths and at certain times extreme heat) and passengers must ensure that they are suitably fit to ensure you get the most out of your experience.   Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss any particular concerns you may have.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain proper and detailed medical advice at least two months prior to travel for the latest health requirements and recommendations for your destination.

If you have a special request, be it dates,  duration or a private tour for a group of family and friends, don’t hesitate to get in touch.  We’ll do everything we can to accomodate you.

While we would love you to choose your activities or adventures before you arrive in Mysore, of course you are welcome to add things on once you are here with us if you decide you’d like add something extra to your experience.

Overnight adventures must be booked a minimum of 60 days in advance to ensure that we can get availability with our partners.  If you decide to add one on later than this we will do our very best to get availability for you and ensure you don’t miss out.  We can’t guarantee this, but we’ll do everything in our power to make it happen for you, or offer you another alternative in it’s place if your first preference isn’t available.

Please refer to our terms and conditions on our website for answers to this question.

Weather

South India enjoys a tropical climate.  It is warm to hot year round and has lovely, cool evenings from November to mid February.

The summer rains generally start about mid April.  They are mostly at around the same time of the day, and the rain comes down hard and fast and then it’s gone!

Following on from the summer rains is the Monsoon – the favourite time of the year for most Indians.  It cools things down after the hot summer, settles the dust and again the rain is usually somewhat predictable each day.

And then comes the wet season – for us it’s hard to determine the difference, but to the locals these are very different seasons.  The wet seasons bring high humidity.

If you don’t like the heat, the best time to travel is late November to early March.  If you can handle the heat there are some wonderful festivals during the hotter part of the year.  Check our FAQ on Festivals for more information.

While in India

Nothing to worry about.  If you choose three classes of one particular craft and then find it really isn’t for you, we will happily make changes for you providing we can accommodate your alternate preference.   One way or another, we will work something out to ensure you get the most from your holiday with us 🙂

Food – we will provide a list of recommended restaurants with your travel documents.  These are tried and true places that we can recommend from experience as places that have good food and good hygiene standards.

Generally food in India is spicy, but it is possible to order Indian food that is not overly spicy.  You just have to remember that to a local, a little spicy may be more spicy than it means to you, so we suggest you err on the side of caution for the first few days until you can gauge for yourself how spicy you want your food to be!

There are ample restaurants that serve Western style food for those not wanting to eat Indian food for every meal.

Drink – First rule – do not drink the tap water!  Bottled water will be provided when you are at your workshop, or out on a day tour.  If you want to reduce the amount of plastic you use, you can bring a refillable bottle from home, or even buy one when you arrive.  Bottled water is available everywhere.  Any of the restaurants we recommend will serve filtered water which is safe to drink also.  Best thing is, if in doubt, always ask first.  No matter what time of the year you come to India, it is imperative to stay hydrated so expect to drink lots of water.  Our favourite thing is to have a tender coconut at every opportunity, or at least once a day.  They are available everywhere, on almost every corner and have lots of natural electrolytes to keep you hydrated, not to mention tasting great.

Alcohol – Bangalore is a big, cosmopolitan city and as such bars and clubs are easy to find.  Mysore is a smaller, more conservative city, so the options are less.  In saying this, we will give you a list of places you can go for a drink if you would like to, but Mysore doesn’t really have much of a nightlife to speak of!  There are a few restaurants that serve alcohol if you like a drink with your dinner, but in general most don’t.  Of course, any major hotel will have a bar, and also serve drinks in their restaurants.  We have some favourite places we’ll let you know about in your travel documents.

 

 

 

 

As with most destinations, you will be given an arrival card to complete on your inbound flight.  Please ensure you have the name of the hotel and address as provided in your travel documents on hand as you will need this to complete this form.  They also ask for a contact person here in India, which is also provided in your travel documents.

When you proceed to collect your luggage, you will no doubt be approached by someone to assist you.  They will require payment, and more than likely charge you more than they would charge a local!  Free luggage carts are available.

Duty free on arrival in Bangalore is quite limited so don’t expect a huge shopping experience.  The usual alcohol, cigarettes and perfumes are certainly available and duty free is charged in USD.

I have arrived in Bangalore 10 times or more and have always cleared Immigration relatively quickly.  They will take a photo of you on arrival and some of your fingerprints.  This is standard procedure so don’t be alarmed.   Of course they’ll want to see you visa too.

Anyone travelling on an e-tourist visa look out for the counter as soon as you come into the Immigration area as they have a separate counter for e-tourist visa holders.

 

 

We recommend purchasing a local SIM card which we will help you arrange on arrival in Mysore.  If you decide to stay in Bangalore for sometime before coming to Mysore, our representative in Bangalore will assist you.  It is inexpensive for local calls/sms/data, so unless your provider at home can offer you a great Global Roaming deal this is the way to go.  Our preferred provider in India is Airtel and they will issue a “Tourist Prepaid SIM” valid for 30 days.  Recharge is readily available.

For calling home, we recommend downloading an app such as Whatsapp or Viber.  Whatsapp is very popular in India, so the one we recommend most as it’s useful if you wish to communicate with any of the locals you meet.  Make sure you get those you want to be in touch with at home to download it too!

You will have free WiFi available at your accommodation.  Some restaurants offer free WiFi, but rather than rely on that, if you really want to be connected (and have access to Google Maps which is a huge help for the modern day traveller!) we recommend purchasing some data on your local SIM card for back up when WiFi is not available.

 

 

 

We are often asked if tipping is customary in India.

The general rule of thumb is:

Restaurants – it is customary to tip 10%

Auto drivers/Taxi Drivers/Uber – rounding up is ok if just short trip.  If you have a driver for a half day, or full day, then we would recommend tipping more – starting from INR100 or so, and more if they’ve been really helpful and pleasant.  It really is up to you as tipping is not compulsory.

Guides – while we ensure that all our guides are paid a fair wage, everyone likes to be recognised for their work, so if you feel they did a great job you can guarantee a tip will be most welcome.  Anything  starting around INR100 depending on the tour.  If it is one of our short 1.5-2 hours, INR100 would be acceptable.  If you are thinking of tipping someone, for example your Tour Director, who has been with you every day, then at the end of your stay you could consider something a little more generous if you feel they have earned it.

Artisans – while we believe most people will welcome a tip, something else to consider when thinking of tipping your artisans, is to buy some of their wares from them instead.  This is a great way to show your appreciation of their art.  Or, of course you could do both!

If unsure when you are on tour, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

 

 

 

India uses both two and a three round pin plugs and the power supply is 220-240v.  Three pin plugs are common in hotels, but if you are travelling extensively in India, you may come across some power points that will only take the two pin variety.

We recommend you bring an adaptor along with you.  There are lots of adaptors available, and with the number of electronic devices we carry these days, one with multiple USB connections is a great idea and the most compact option.  You can also get one that comes with several plugs so that you can change it from a two pin to a three pin if needed.

We suggest check your local travel supply store.