Northeast India & Darjeeling by Rail
Anybody can view the sights of India by foot or bus – but you’re not just anybody. Instead, get off the beaten path and see India in a very untypical way – by train. Over two weeks, you’ll head north into Sikkim and Darjeeling via vans and local trains (including the famous toy trains in Darjeeling), giving you an up close and personal experience with authentic India. There’ll be plenty of palaces and forts to spot both on the train and off, and you’ll still get all the social elements of travelling with a group. Add in local meals and a large helping of culture, and this is a trip that’ll stay with you for a long time.
Kolkata city tour. MacFarlane Memorial Church visit (Kalimpong). Deolo Hill visit (Kalimpong). Local lunch with cooking demonstration. Gangtok orientation tour. Rumtek Monastery day trip. Darjeeling orientation tour. Tiger Hill sunrise visit. Tea estate visit. Mahakal Temple visit. Peace Pagoda visit. Toy train to Kurseong. Evening ghats visit (Varanasi). Sunrise boat trip on the Ganges. Sarnath visit. Lucknow orientation tour. Bara Imambara visit. All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.
Savour a local lunch in Darjeeling, ride a World Heritage-listed toy train, watch the sunrise on the Ganges, experience the bustle of Delhi.
India is a country which is very different to anything you will have experienced before. Although this means it is not the easiest place to travel, this is also what makes it so special. Pollution, poverty and the crowds can result in initial culture shock but should be seen as an exciting new challenge. During our time here we have come to love this large and wonderfully different country but we know that we should always expect to encounter some difficulties along the way.
In India there are very different attitudes to time keeping, public cleanliness, privacy and service. Trains will sometimes be late, plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and power will often just vanish. Optimistic menus turn out to have only one dish available and everyone, just everyone, will want to know your name. If you are able to travel with a lot of patience and a healthy sense of humor, then we know that you – like all of us – will be captivated by what India has to offer.
2. COMBO TRIP
This trip combines with other G Adventures tours. As such, the CEO and some group members on your tour may have previously been travelling together with G Adventures, prior to Day 1 of your tour. Likewise, the CEO and some group members may continue travelling together on another G Adventures tour after your trip concludes.
Depending on the lunar cycle, Ramadan will fall between June 7th and July 7th, 2016. Please note that Ramadan is a month of fasting observed by Muslims throughout the world, during which time the followers of Islam should not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. Only about 20% of Indians are Muslim, but it is important to note that there may be some limitations to services and disruptions to schedules during Ramadan. Generally our tours still operate effectively during this period and food is available to non-muslims throughout the day. It is important to display increased cultural sensitivity during Ramadan in predominately Muslim areas of India. Please wear loose fitting clothes, that cover knees and shoulders, and try to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public out of respect for those who can’t at that time.
Group Leader Description
All G Adventures group trips are accompanied by one of our Chief Experience Officers (CEO). The aim of the CEO is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting – we think it’s the best of both worlds.
Group Size Notes
Max 15, avg 12
Eating is a big part of travelling. Travelling with G Adventures you experience the vast array of wonderful food that is available out in the world. Generally meals are not included in the trip price when there is a choice of eating options, to give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat. It also gives you more budgeting flexibility, though generally food is cheap. Our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other’s company. There is no obligation to do this though. Your CEO will be able to suggest favourite restaurants during your trip. Vegetarians will be able to find a huge range of different foods – India is vegetarian heaven. For all trips please refer to the meals included and budget information for included meals and meal budgets.
Train (seats), train (beds), toy train, private van, walking
About our Transportation
The best way to see India is at ground level on the railway system. In fact, no visit to India would be complete without the experience of tavelling on a train and negotiating the busy railway stations. The chaos in the Indian Railway stations is a replica of the life in India. Indian trains are not merely a conveyance they are an odyssey so sit back relax, be patient and enjoy the show.
G Adventures uses a combination of AC 2 tier, AC 3 tier and sleeper class (for overnight journeys) and AC Chair car or second class seats for day journeys. Indian railways operate with a centralized reservation system. This means that G Adventures cannot control how seats are assigned within a class. Despite our requests to seat the entire group together, often times seats are spread out in the coach or throughout different coaches. This is all part of the adventure that is travelling India by rail. Take advantage of the opportunity to chat with locals and remember you always have the support of your CEO.
There are no restaurant or buffet cars on Indian Railways, but on long distance trains an attendant will appear in your coach and ask you if you would like to order food. Regular stops are made at stations where food is also available and on some trains many vendors board the train selling chai, cold drinks and crisps and biscuits.
Don’t expect pristine western standards anywhere in India, but you’ll find AC2, AC3 and AC Chair class fairly clean by Indian standards, with both western-style and squat toilets usually in a reasonably sanitary condition. Sleeper Class and 2nd class toilets may be a different matter! Bring your own toilet paper and hand wash soap or antibacterial lotion.
Indian trains are quite safe to travel on, even for families or women travelling alone, and you are unlikely to have any problems. Having said that, theft of luggage, although rare is not unheard of, so just for peace of mind you might like to take along a chain and padlock to secure your bags (readily available at all Indian stations).
Generally, Indian Railways are very efficient, but Indian trains do run late particularly in winter time when fog is heavy, and sometimes it’s hours rather than minutes. Make sure you have something to occupy your time – a good book, music, a magazine or photos of your home country and family to show the Indian travellers also waiting for the train. You should also have snacks and water for the journey.
Please note that you MUST be comfortable carrying your own luggage, as there will be a lot of up and down stairs on this trip due to the size and layout of train stations in India. Most often, you will not have access to escalators or elevators. You will also be required to carry your luggage short distances between transport start or end points and hotels.
Traveling by road in India is certainly not what people are use to in Western countries. Rules are not always followed, drivers appear to speed, do not stay in their lanes, overtake in seemingly dangerous situations, rarely use their mirrors or driving lights at night time. The horn however is used very frequently and can range from the latest Bollywood tune to Britney Spears! In India, although the government is investing large sums of money improving the road infrastructure, there is a lot more to be done. As a result, in India, some of the roads are poorly maintained, pot holed and uneven. This gets even more pronounced particularly during and after the monsoon. Travel time covering relatively short distances is very long in comparison to Western countries.
Hotels/guesthouses (10 nts), sleeper train (2 nts).
A variety of styles of hotels/guest houses are used in India. These can vary in terms of service, efficiency and cleanliness. In many instances they might not be like what you are used to back home. Power cuts can and are a regular occurrence in many places, especially throughout North and Central India. Although a number of hotels have generators there may be times when these won’t work. It is also recommended when you are in your room to lock the door, as staff will sometime enter without reason.
14 & 14/1, Sudder Street
Should you need to contact us during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call either the G Adventures Local Representative (if one is listed below) or our G Adventures Local Office. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible.
If you have purchased an arrival through G Adventures or if an arrival transfer is included in the cost of your tour, please note that:
Your arrival transfer has been arranged based on flight information provided to us. If you are advised of a flight schedule change within 48 hours of your scheduled arrival time, we will do our best to rearrange your arrival transfer however we cannot guarantee this. If your arrival transfer does not arrive within 30 minutes after you have exited the arrivals area please take a taxi to your start point hotel.
If your call is specifically concerning Airport Transfer complications please call our local G Adventures Transfer providers directly at:
Kolkata International Airport:
+91 9830 046618
EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS
During office hours, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm:
From outside India: +91 11 4342 4342
From within India: 011 4342 4342
Out of office hours
From outside India: +91 99 5869 0753
From within India: 099 5869 0753
EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS
G Adventures Local Office (Delhi)
G Adventures South Asia Manager, Rishab (Delhi, India)
From outside of India: +91 99 7179 5447
From within Delhi: 99 7179 5447
From within India, but outside Delhi: 099 7179 5447
G Adventures Office Bangkok, Thailand
During Office hours (Weekdays, 9am-5pm Local Time): +66-02-3815574
If you are unable for any reason to contact our local office, please call the numbers listed below, which will connect you directly with our 24 hour Sales team, who will happily assist you.
Toll-free, North America only: 1 888 800 4100
Calls from UK: 0344 272 0000
Calls from Germany: 0800 365 1000
Calls from Australia: 1 300 796 618
Calls from New Zealand: 0800 333 307
Outside North America, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK: +1 416 260 0999
What to Take
You will be on the move a lot, so our advice is to pack as lightly as possible. We highly recommend using a backpack or whatever you find easiest to carry, plus a small daypack. Remember that luggage space on public transport is limited. You must be prepared to carry your own bags and be comfortable carrying them between transport and hotels, hopping on and off trains and public transportation, and up and down stairs.
-Passport (with photocopies)
-Travel insurance (with photocopies)
-Airline tickets (with photocopies)
-Debit or credit card (see personal spending money)
-Cash in USD
-G Adventures vouchers, pre-departure information and – Required visas or vaccination certificates
-Day pack for daily personal items
-Locks for bags
-Reusable water bottle
-Sturdy walking shoes/Sport sandals
-Hiking pants/track pants
-Waterproof backpack cover
-Rain jacket or poncho
-Long-sleeved shirts or sweater
-Thermal base layer
- Note: During the colder months (Oct-Apr) the mountains can be very cold, so please make sure you pack warm clothes.
Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a charge. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting/biodegradable soap.
Please note that visas for India are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. For the most up to date information please check your governments foreign ministry website or with you travel agent as rules do change. It is important that you check for yourself. For most travellers there will probably have an embassy and consulate in the country that you live in.
Standard Indian tourist visas are good for 6 months with multiple entry and exits. VISA IS NOT AVAILABLE AT PORT OF ENTRY AND must be obtained in advance.
For nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and Bangladesh if you are planning on entering India multiple times in a two month period will need to get special authorization.
a) If you are already in India you must register with FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration office).
b) If you are still outside of India you must advise consulate or embassy at time of visa application of your plans. You will need to provide supporting documents which includes airline tickets.
As currency exchange rates in Asia fluctuate often we ask that you refer to the following website for daily exchange rates: www.xe.com As of Feb 2012 the exchange rate for INDIA was 1 USD = 49.00 INR (Indian Rupees). There are many ATM machines that accept both Visa and Mastercard but these are limited to major cities. Major credit cards are accepted in most shops but they may charge a 2-4% transaction fee.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
It is customary in Asia to tip service providers such as waiters, at approximately 10%, depending on the service. Tipping is expected – though not compulsory – and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. There are several times during the trip where there is opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use. You may do this individually, or your CEO will offer to collect the money and tip as a group. Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from USD1-2 per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service; ask your CEO for specific recommendations based on the circumstances and culture. Also at the end of each trip if you felt your G Adventures CEO did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline USD20-30 per person, per week can be used.
Please note inoculations may be required for the country visited. It is your responsibility to consult with your travel doctor for up to date medical travel information well before departure.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information well before departure. We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit and hand sanitizers / antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that sometimes we are in remote areas and away from medical facilities, and for legal reasons our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drug including headache tablets, antibiotics, etc. In Asia pharmacies tend to stock the same western drugs as you get at home but they are usually produced locally so please bring the full drug name with you when trying to purchase a prescription drug. When selecting your trip please carefully read the brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please refer to the Physical and Culture Shock ratings for trip specific information. G Adventures reserves the right to exclude any traveller from all or part of a trip without refund if in the reasonable opinion of our CEO they are unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group.
Safety and Security
Trip Specific Safety
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers’ cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage
A Couple of Rules
Planeterra-The G Adventures Foundation
In Asia the dress standard is more conservative than it is back home. When packing try to pick loose, lightweight, long clothing that will keep you cool in the usually hot and humid climate of Asian summers. In predominately Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim countries we ask that you dress respectfully and avoid very short shorts/skirts and singlets/tanktops when visiting small rural communities or visiting temples or mosques or other holy sites as this may restrict your entry.
India is very conservative and you should dress accordingly. As a general guideline shoulders and knees should be covered at all times. The wearing of shorts is not allowed as it will restrict your entry into buildings of a religious nature and family homes. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat essential.
NB: WE STRESS THAT IT CAN BE VERY COLD IN THE HILLS DURING THE MONTHS FROM DECEMBER TO FEBRUARY.
NB: During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and “talk” with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos/postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Travel Forum - The Watering Hole
Chief Experience Officer (CEO) throughout, local guides.
Allow USD295-385 for meals not included.
1 lunch, 1 dinner
PRODUCT_LINE: AHDR, ID: 24216
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.
Day 1 Kolkata
Arrive at any time.
Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting
Day 2 Kolkata/Jalpāiguri
Visit the Victoria Memorial, New Market and take a ferry on the Ganges. In the evening, board an overnight New Jalpaiguri Kamrup Express train to New Jalpaiguri.
Overnight train (beds) (13.00 hour(s))
Day 3 Jalpāiguri/Kalimpong, Крукети
Arrive at New Jalpaiguri and continue by van to Kalimpong. Explore the MacFarlane Memorial Church and take in views of the mountainous scenery with a stop at Deolo Hill.
MacFarlane Memorial Church Visit
Deolo Hill Visit
Private Vehicle (2.00 hour(s))
Day 4 Kalimpong, Крукети/Gangtok
Continue by private van to Gangtok and take an orientation tour of the town.
Private Vehicle (4.00 hour(s))
Day 5 Gangtok
Enjoy a day trip to Rumtek Monastery.
Rumtek Monastery Visit
Travel roughly 24km to the monastery and back.
Private Vehicle (24km)
Day 6 Gangtok/Darjeeling
Head to Darjeeling by private van and take an orientation tour of the town.
Private Vehicle (6.00-7.00 hours)
Day 7 Darjeeling (1L)
Watch the sunrise at Tiger Hill, visit a tea estate and explore the Mahakal Temple. Later, travel the World Heritage-listed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway on a vintage steam engine train. Continue with a visit to the Peace Pagoda and a cooking demonstration at a local, family-run restaurant.
Please note that occasionally the cooking demonstration may be moved to Varanasi to better suit the day’s schedule.
Tiger Hill Sunrise Visit
Tea Estate Visit
Mahakal Temple Visit
Peace Pagoda Visit
Day 8 Darjeeling/Mughal Sarāi
Drive to Siliguri to catch an overnight sleeper train to Mughal Sarai.
Private Vehicle (2.00 hour(s))
Enjoy an air-conditioned train with linens provided.
Overnight train (beds) (14.00 hour(s))
Day 9 Mughal Sarāi/Varanasi
Arrive to Mughal Sarai in the morning and continue by van to Varanasi. Enjoy an evening visit to the ghats.
Private Vehicle (1.00 hour(s))
Day 10 Varanasi
Take a sunrise boat trip on the Ganges. Enjoy a free afternoon to explore Sarnath and the city of Varanasi.
Morning Ganges Boat Tour
Day 11 Varanasi/Lucknow
Take a morning Varanasi-Lucknow Intercity train. In the afternoon, visit the Bara Imambara.
Bara Imambara Visit
Train (6.00 hour(s))
Day 12 Lucknow/Delhi (1D)
Spend most of the day exploring Lucknow. In the afternoon, board the Swarna Shatabdi Express train to Delhi, with dinner provided on board. Enjoy the night in the bustle of Delhi.
Train (6.00 hour(s))
Day 13 Delhi
With extra time, you can book our ‘Agra Extension’ including accommodation, transport, and a guided visit to India’s most famous sight, the Taj Mahal.