Best Practices & FAQs for Traveling Abroad with Mindful Chai
Passports & Visa
You must have a valid passport to be allowed in India. Here is a link for obtaining passport from USA: https://passport.in.ckgs.us A Visa is required for India.
Application information will be provided upon registration
What About: Credit Cards, Cash, Exchange Rates & Money Changers?
PLEASE tell your bank and credit card companies the dates that you will be in India or elsewhere, as they might cut off your funds for fraud protection if they don’t know it is you. Most small shops, restaurants & tour companies run on cash. ATM machines are rampant in India, most having the Cirrus and Plus connection.The exchange rate is approximately 67.9 = US$1.00. You often get a very good exchange rate via ATM and its convenient. Money Changers are all over India, although not all over them trustworthy. Try and stay away from the small storefront Indian money changers – the guys with hand written signs and made up rates. The larger establishments, or those that say ‘authorized money changer, will be a safer bet. In dire time, you can always do a cash advance at a local bank, but it will cost you a fee maybe. Visa and MasterCard are the cards of choice. Remember to inform your credit card’s issu- ing bank about your intended trip or else you will risk getting your credit card accounts fro- zen from ‘unexpected activity’. Lastly, to see the most recent exchange rate, check here: www. xe.com, but realize that the online rate is rarely 100% correct and will be off by a few cents.
Phone Usage & Wifi:
The code to call outside the country is: +91+country code+area code+number. If your phone is unlocked you can purchase a sim card. Take a copy of your passport and a 2×2 photograph. Go somewhere that is either suggested by someone local, or at least somewhere that looks popular.
Prepaid SIM cards don’t work well in Leh, but postpaid do (Airtel, Aircel and BSNL are your best options).The main market in Leh city also has multiple STD booths. Wifi is available in most places but in the more rural areas of La- dakh, it is not predictable.
Meals are relatively cheap – entrees can run from $3-$7 dollars (approximate prices in US Dollars).
The Leh main market is home to Tibetan antiques, jewelry and curios. You can also buy handcrafted carpets, rugs and pashmina shawls. Visit the Ladag Apricot store in Zangsti for organic food and jams made with locally sourced apricots.
What to wear
When touring sacred rituals, temples, and government buildings in India it is improper for women or men to enter wearing shorts or a very short skirt. One is provided with a sarong and a sash to cover the legs. Be aware of the respect accorded these areas and dress appropriately. I suggest that you pack cool cotton clothing along with layers for cooler mornings and evenings, especially in higher altitudes. Even though July is the dry season, a rain poncho or umbrella will come in handy, and both can be purchased inexpensively here. As this time is India’s summer, the rains tend to be warm and humid, but layers and a light jacket can be useful for evenings. Comfortable sandals and walking shoes are a must, and should be easy to take off as most Indians do not wear shoes indoors. Same day laundry service is inexpensive and plentiful, but you may want to hand wash some items so you’re better off to pack light! Don’t forget your swim suit! You can inexpensively purchase most necessary items in India such as toiletries, layers, and other travel supplies. Although in India folks are used to western tourists, they are still a modest culture, so walking down city streets with no shirt on will likely get you a sideways glance or two. Anytime you go into a temple for a ceremony or tourist attraction you wear a long sleeve shirt, pants. Women may want to be modest and wear a scarf.
1 Waterproof sports shoes
2 Rainwear (rainproof pants + a poncho + rain- coat)
3 Sunscreen (or else, as Kshitij says, your skin will “peel off your face in two days”)
4 Hats and sunglasses (for sun protection)
5 Backpack/duffel bag to carry everything you need for smaller trips around Leh
6 Medicine kit (with Diamox and regular medicines)
Mountain sickness is a real danger and can be fatal. Symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) include headache, light-headed- ness, breathlessness and nausea. Sujata Sahu, founder of the 17,000 ft Foundation, explains, “Hospitals in Leh are filled with tourists who think the weather is great and take acclimatization lightly.” If you think something’s wrong, stop or descend to the lowest possible point immediately. Homeopathic medicine such as Coca 6x & Kali Carb. have been helpful for some. Medicines such as Diamox may be prescribed by general physicians prior to the trip and help reduce the chances of AMS— in case of any discomfort, this should be your first go to.
Having said that, the body is also fully capable of adjusting to the altitude on its own, if given time. Chewing something (especially garlic and chocolates) helps keep symptoms away. Most local vehicles and campsites are equipped with oxygen cylinders; don’t hesitate to use them if/when necessary.
Good to Know
- Carry government-issued photo-identity proof—driving license, Aadhaar card, PAN card, etc., which come handy at checkpoints and in case permits are required.
- Plastic bags are banned in Ladakh, so make sure you carry biodegradable/paper bags.
- The weather is unpredictable: it’s usually windy and can go from pleasant to chilly very quickly. Wear layers instead of bulky warmers to stay comfortable at all times.
- Keep in mind that most establishments in Ladakh are shut during the off season i.e. the time when roads are closed.
- Carry waterproof luggage; this will ensure that the contents of your bag remain dry in case it rains unexpectedly or you need to drive through water.
- Remember to take spare batteries for your camera, as the altitude and cold will drain them out quicker.
- When travelling around Leh, it’s best to avoid alcohol; drink water instead. Breathing in dry air drains the moisture from the lungs, so make sure you consume at least 4–5 litres to stay hydrated.
Suggested Reading about India & Ladakh: See here for great books on India: Lonely Planet: (www.lonelyplanet.com) Rough Guide: (www.roughguides.com)
Wiki Travel : (http://wikitravel.org/en/Ladakh)