A journey through the southern states of India combines the richness in colour of Hinduism with the gentle, friendly attitude of the locals and truly tropical landscape. Wander about the sumptuous temples and among the sacred cows in Tamil Nadu, enjoy the parks and past glory in Kerala, explore the colourful markets and palaces in Karnataka, relax on white sandy beaches in Goa and feast on the varied Indian cuisine. These are all ingredients making up an adventurous journey through this exotic part of the subcontinent.
Travelling with the correct travel documentation is your own responsibility. Please ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the finish date of your trip.
For India, a visa is required for many nationalities in order to gain entry. Please check this information in good time before your trip commences as this information is always subject to change. You can check this information through a site such as this one
. To arrange your visa, you should either contact your nearest Indian embassy or use an agency such as CIBT
It is now also possible for nationals of a number of countries to apply online for their India visa, in advance of travel using the E-Visa facility. Please check the following website for further information and online visa application: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
Accommodation and transport
We have access to a good quality private bus, so that we can stop along the route if we wish. The bus has air-conditioning. The boat trip on the 'Backwaters' is included in the fare. Transfers from and to the airport are not included.
We use the (day)train for the journey from Kochi to Calicut and from Hospet to Goa. The train from Hospet to Goa is not operating daily. In the case that it is not operating, you will instead be taken by bus, taking approximately 8 hours. We have pre-reserved seats for both of these train journeys.
We use the night train to get from Goa to Mumbai (Matsayaganda Express). You have access to a reserved berth in a second class sleeping car with air conditioning. Usually each compartment sleeps four persons with two berths (one above the other) on each side (2A class). Sometimes you will have to share the compartment with six people, where there are three berths above each other (3A-class - the 'third' refers to the number of beds on top of each other and not to the class). The compartments are usually open along the aisle. Bedding is provided however we suggest to take a sleeping bag liner along with you.
We use trains, so that you can enjoy the landscape to the fullest. You will travel in third class in air-conditioned coaches. Along the way the train will stop several times at stations en route. It is sometimes possible to disembark to take a cup of tea or to buy something or simply to look around the platform next to the train. However, please note that such stops never have a fixed schedule and that the train sometimes starts moving again quite unannounced. For longer train journeys in India, such as the route from Goa-Mumbai, it may be that in busy periods (eg during major festivals) no more places are available. In that case we travel by private bus instead. Travelling by train in India is generally considered a relaxing and impressive experience.
Mammalapuram to Pondicherry: 100 km / 2 hours
Pondicherry via Thanjavur to Tiruchirapalli: 275 km / 6 hours
Tiruchirapalli to Madurai 140 km / 3 to 4 hours
Madurai to Thekkady (Periyar National Park): 160 km / 4½ hours
Thekkady to Alleppey to 165 km / 5 hours
Alleppey to Kochi: 65 km / 1½ hours
Kochi to Calicut: day train; scheduled train time 09.20 -13.00 pm
Calicut to Wayanad: 90 km / 2 hours
Wayanad to Mysore: 140 km / 4 hours
Mysore via Sravanabelagola to Hassan: 195 km / travel time 5 hours
Hassan to Hampi / Hospet: 360 km / 9 hours
Hampi / Hospet to Goa: day train; scheduled train time 06.30 -13.55 pm
Goa to Mumbai: night train; scheduled train time 19:15 - 06:35
*Please note that journey times are approximate and will depend heavily upon traffic, the condition of the roads and the weather.
During the tour we stay in simple but comfortable mid-range hotels in 2-person rooms with private bathroom. Typically there is air conditioning in the rooms. In some cases there is a fan or a cooling system used. Most hotels have a restaurant and usually a garden or terrace as well.
Some of the planned hotels have a swimming pool. This applies to accommodations in Goa and Mamallapuram. In exceptional cases it may happen that the hotels are changed. If the hotels we use in their place have no pool then we will try to find a suitable alternative to use (pool).
Participants who book individually share a room with another participant. We of course keep in mind that you should share the room with someone of the same sex. If you prefer a room for yourself for the whole trip, then that can be arranged. You will pay a single room supplement and you should state this when making your online booking. Please note that there is no single room available on the night-train.
DUSSEHRA FESTIVAL - ALL INDIA (ESPECIALLY IN MYSORE)
One of the major festivals in South India is the Dussehra festival. The Dussehra Festival is a Hindu festival during which, the victory of good over evil is celebrated throughout India. There are many legends that lead to Dussehra. The most famous story is about the goddess Durga riding a lion into battle, and killing the buffalo demon Mahishasura. He terrorized the Devas and their king Indra. Another story comes from the Ramayana, a Hindu text around the second century before Christ was born. The Ramayana tells the story of Rama (an incarnation of the god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is kidnapped by the evil demon king Ravana. After many wanderings Rama and his brother Laksman kill the evil king. They are aided by an army of monkeys, led by the monkey king Hanuman.
The Dussehra Festival has no restrictions on the castes. Everyone can participate and worship Durga in their own way. It is, therefore, a large popular party. The houses are repainted and the family is put in new clothes. Each district and village has a tent set up for Durga. Sometimes there is also a gateway built. Sometimes there are processions, accompanied by music, dance and fireworks. The date of the festival depends on the Hindu lunar calendar.
PLEASE NOTE: During festival trips the itineraries are subject to change.
Our tours are led by trained, local English speaking tour leaders. We know that our travellers appreciate being accompanied by these local tour leaders who, compared to their counterparts (living outside of the destination) have more detailed knowledge of their country. He/she knows the area well, can provide background information and ensure that the trip goes smoothly. He/she knows what to do if something were to go wrong, but is not a "walking encyclopedia". Therefore we would like to refer you to study a good travel guide (book) in advance of travel.
Your tour leader understandably expects a tip at the end, if she/he has completed the job well. Shoestring pay the tour guides a wage which is higher than that of most adventurous travel companies. Our guideline for tipping is between € 1, - and € 2, - per passenger per day (the equivalent thereof).
This trip is classified as Category B
The difficulty of our trips varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular journey, we have developed a classification system.
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
This trip through Southern India falls into Category B. It is a trip that anyone can do but you should bear in mind that there are some long travelling distances. Please also remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home. Hotel rooms can be less comfortable, the electricity can sometimes fail and it could be that you suddenly have a shortage of hot water whilst taking a shower. Also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.
Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
Travel insurance, including medical repatriation insurance, is mandatory. It is not included with our packages and it is your responsibility to purchase suitable travel insurance. Make sure that it covers all the activities that you are likely to undertake, such as rafting and trekking. Many ‘free’ insurances that come with banking packages, credit cards etc, are quite often inadequate to cover you on our tours, so make sure you check the policy before you travel. You should enter your travel insurance details via your my.shoestring account and you are required to give a copy of your insurance policy to your tour leader upon arrival. Without proper insurance like this, you will not be allowed to join the tour as we will not be able to respond adequately in case of an emergency if you do not have the right insurance.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about India