Discover Secret Projects Top Tips for Travelling In India

Discover Secret Projects Top Tips for Travelling In India

 12th Nov 2019 |  Travel |  Fritha Mason


Traveling in India is good for the soul! Our team has travelled extensively and have put together these top tips, which we add to constantly each time we return from this beautiful continent.

Climate

In South India the sun always shines and the average daily temperature is around 30 degrees. We often travel in November, meaning we will miss the monsoon rain, so, dry weather is almost guaranteed. The temperature can drop unexpectedly at night so bring a standby fleece/jumper, scarf and some socks.

Food

The food in South India is delicious. The most famous South Indian dish has to be the masala dosa. Delicious! There are veg and non veg selections at most places where we eat. As seasoned travellers, we will eat street food but only where we can see it being cooked and will encourage our guests to join us. It is the real India! However, there is no pressure at all. Let us assure you that we only eat our meals in places we have come to trust over our years of travel.

We will be able to pick up some interesting fruits and snacks to nibble as we travel, but many of our travellers recommend bringing a bag full of your favourite snacks with you for any hunger emergencies!

Drinking Water

We advise that you drink only bottled water while in India, which is completely safe and widely available.  We do advise you to check the seal on the bottle top when buying to ensure that it is intact. If you are not sure, ask for another bottle.

Many hotels in India now have filtered water in guest rooms, so please do bring a small reusable bottle with you to decant into.

As we are all now fully aware, plastic is a huge issue, not just in India, but worldwide. If you are keen to reduce your use of bottled water, please invest in a water purification bottle and we suggest testing it out before your travel to familiarise yourself with how it works.

Remember to drink 1-2 litres of water per day.

Clothing

You will be most comfortable in loose cotton or linen clothes. Most women in India dress conservatively and cover their shoulders. The salwar kameez with leggings or baggy pants is the most common outfit worn by women and, in our opinion, the most comfortable! Inexpensive clothing is widely available in shops and markets throughout India, so it is easy to put together a capsule Indian wardrobe for your trip.

One more tip about clothing - restaurants and cars often have air conditioning, so we advise that you keep a shawl/fleece/jumper in your bag to pop on if needs be.

Footwear

In India, it is the custom to remove your shoes before you go inside most building from homes to shops. Wearing lace-up shoes or buckled shoes can become very inconvenient as they take time to remove. We strongly advise travellers to wear slip on or flip-flop style shoes for ease. Just a word... if you are buying a new pair for your trip, please make sure they are broken in before you travel. Blisters are no fun and can be hard to keep clean - believe us, we know!

One other thing... if you feet are on the large size, please bear in mind that bigger size slip on's/flip flops are not readily available in India, so please buy at home. Fritha has a tale or two to tell about this!

Accommodation

Before you travel make sure you have printed out all the information about hotels and guest houses where you will be staying. Although we are keen to be as paperless as an organisation as possible, sometimes electronic devices with important information can fail, so having a paper copy will ensure you are covered for any tech failure.

Money

The Indian currency is the Rupee and is a closed currency, which means that you will not be able to bring rupees into India with you or take out upon departure. We do not recommend exchanging money at the airport due to a poor exchange rate. Hotels can offer advice about better places to change your money.

You can also withdraw money from an ATM, which are commonplace throughout India. We do recommend advising your bank that you are travelling to India beforehand and bring some Sterling or US Dollars incase your bank cards aren't accepted. Again, Fritha and Margaret have many stories of bank cards not being accepted at ATM's until the bank have verification and will never travel to India now without plenty of Sterling or American Dollars.

You will need cash for personal shopping, tea/snacks on route and drinks in the evening. Some shops can take cards as payment, but there is no guarantee, so in these situations cash is King!

Over the years, we have devised a great system that speeds things up at tea/snack stops. We ask each traveller to take turns paying for the drinks/snacks - prices are minimal and it is actually good fun organising the 'rota'.

Another good system is to set up a drinks/snack 'kitty' on day one of the trip, with each person adding a set amount and one of the group taking charge of the important task of managing the funds!

Whilst in the major cities of India larger shops do accept bank cards as payment, but off the beaten track when visiting our Maker Groups for example you will actually need very little money, but do ensure that you always have cash with you.

Language

The national language is Hindi however a large percentage of the Indian population speak very good English. India has many different local languages and dialects however the first Hindi word you need to learn is simply “Namaste” (Hello).

Some of our trips can take in 4 Indian states (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh) that all have very distinctive languages. We are fortunate that one member of the Secret Projects team can speak all of these languages, so we have an expert on hand to ask for some syntax tips! Indians absolutely love it when travellers make an effort to speak to them in their own language, so please do feel free to practise!

Passport

You must hold a current valid Passport to enter India along with a relevant visa. Your passport will need to have at least 6 months left until expiry to apply for any Indian visa.

Visa requirements

Visas for India are easy to get and are not expensive. Most people opt for a e-tourist visa which can be applied for online. Depending on which country you are travelling from, some can be gained upon entry to India, however please check your particular visa requirements well in advance of your travel as each country has different requirements.

Top and important tip: Be careful to time the application of your visa with booking your  flight. Most tourist visas expire after 6 months, so you need to ensure that your visa is valid throughout the entire length of your stay. Apply too early and you risk your visa expiring before or during your travels. If you have recently visited India and your visa gives 2nd entry entitlement and are planning to use your 2nd entry entitlement, please check the restrictions on 2nd entries very carefully. There is a lot of confusion about the validity and many tourists are refused entry into India because they have not properly understood the restrictions around this.

Tempo Traveller

During our trips, we often travel around in a Tempo Traveller which is like a small mini bus that can carry 14 people. It is a great way to travel as it's small enough to hold conversations from front to back and plenty of windows to watch Indian life pass you by! Our luggage will be stored securely on the roof of the vehicle and is never left unattended.

As you may be able to  imagine, the roads are busy, congested, full of pot-holes, and in India people use their horns a lot! If you are prone to car sicknesses, it's a good idea to bring something with you to ease any potential discomfort.

Flights

Our trips tend to begin in the tech capital of South India, Bengaluru in Karnataka state, so we ask our travellers to arrive at Kmpegowda International Airport. Please use this information when you are searching for flights or when speaking to your travel agent. We will organise your airport transfers.

It is essential that you provide us with the details of both your inward and outgoing flights, so we organise a pick up and drop off for you. If you would like to talk to us before you book your flights, please email Fritha: fritha@secretprojects.org

Insurance

It’s essential that you have adequate travel insurance when travelling to India. Please ensure that any insurance you take out covers emergency evacuations or change of travel plans in response to civil unrest.

Medication and Medical Conditions

If you need to take regular medication to treat medical conditions, please ensure that you take a sufficient quantity with additional supplies to cover you should homebound flights etc. be delayed, or other unusual circumstances. You must inform us prior to your trip of any medical conditions or allergies that you have. We will treat any medical information you tell us about in the strictest confidence.

Vaccinations

To find out about vaccinations/inoculations required/advised for travel in India, please contact your Doctor or Travel Clinic and ensure you advise about which Indian states you will be travelling through. As non medics, we are unable to offer advice around this topic.

Safety

We always travel with a basic first aid kit and are familiar with procedures to follow in the event of emergencies.

Toilets!

We will ensure that there are opportunities to take comfort breaks when we travelling. Most places we visit will have western toilets but, in some places, you will need to squat! The bathroom floors are often wet because people typically clean themselves with water instead of toilet roll. We recommend you carry a pack of tissues and hand sanitiser with you when you're out and about. If you have never been to India before, you should be aware that the toilets can be a bit of a challenge initially!

Communication

You can bring your mobile phone with you and it should work within the network coverage areas. Please ensure that you have notified your provider in advance of your trip to set up international roaming. Please be aware that data roaming and downloading can be expensive when in India, so please check before travelling or you could end up with an expensive mobile bill when you get home. Most of the hotels that we stay in will have wi-fi but we cannot guarantee a constant connection.

Travel Adaptor

India works on a 240 volt system and your standard 2 pin travel adaptor should work in most cases.

Tipping

Most of the hotel and hospitality workers are not particularly highly paid and tipping has become a fairly standard practice, if happy with the service. When in restaurants, the normal tip is around 10% of the bill. If someone is carrying your bags to and from your room we would suggest that you need to pay no more than 50INR. However, the amount you decide to tip is of course entirely your choice.

Shopping

There are often plenty of opportunities to shop in India and over the years we have come to know some great places where you can buy quality goods at reasonable prices. Our top tip here is to make sure you don't overfill your suitcase, so you have room to pack your Indian goodies to take home!

Itinerary Changes

India is a place of wonderful adventure. You never quite know what is going to happen! We may encounter unforeseen issues that affect the itinerary, such as strikes or delays. If we are forced to change the itinerary for any reason we will notify you as soon as possible.

Meeting Children on Our Journey

When travelling with Secret Projects you will be meeting the most wonderful and lively children - sometimes the children of our Makers. We advise against giving the children small gifts (sweets, small amounts of money etc.) as this can give them the impression that all 'foreigners' will provide treats. Taking time to smile, chat and play with the children is by far the best gift to give them and makes a lasting impression on both you and the children. The children often ask for a 'selfie' and absolutely love it when you show them the picture!  Giving sweets is really not to be encouraged, because the children don't have access to great dental care and they already eat a lot of sweets!

You may be approached by a child begging, again, please don't give them money, they will be in a gang controlled by a human trafficker. The best thing you can do is smile and talk to them and politely say no.

Travelling On

If you are planning further travel before or after your Secret Projects trip has ended, please let us know as we may be able to help and advise on your travel logistics.

Useful Things to Bring With You

Travel adaptor, packets of tissues, hand sanitiser, mosquito repellent, head torch (for the occasional power cut), loose cotton / linen clothing, shawl or similar to cover your shoulders or to keep warm, flip flops, shawl, snacks (especially if you're squeamish about street food), umbrella and of course your camera!

 

Photo: Jackie, meets children during a Secret Projects Customer Trip

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Journey with us to Eastern India to the Heart of Secret Projects - 21st-30th November 2023

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Let us show you our India... Travel with us to our beloved India and experience this glorious country the Secret Projects way!  Join us in Eastern . . . India for a special journey to the heart of Secret Projects for 10 nights from 21st -30th November 2023. Book by 31st December and receive a 10% Early bird discount Important information: The beginning of our journey together Our journey together begins in Kolkata on Tuesday 21st November with a welcome dinner at 8pm local time. Please arrive in good time to join us at this special meal to celebrate the beginning of our time together.  If you would prefer to arrive in Kolkata the day before (20th November) to give yourself time to relax before the Secret Projects journey begins the following day, please let us know and we will arrange for an extra night to be added to your hotel booking. Please note: there will be an additional charge for the extra night's accommodation. 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Tuesday 28th November - day/night eight: Come with us today to Freeset, a Charity with an aim so close to our own hearts, to provide employment opportunities for women affected by human trafficking. We haven’t visited Freeset for a number of years due to the pandemic and it will be wonderful to catch up with this inspirational organisation. We know you will be as affected by their work as much we are. Wednesday 29th November - day/night nine: One can’t visit India without taking a train ride and that’s our job for today, to help you experience the joys of the Indian rail system. Tonight, your hosts take a night off, giving you all an opportunity to dine together in town at a restaurant of your choice. Thursday 30th November - day/night ten: Today is all about finding out more about traditional Indian dress, as we descend upon one of the most famous Saree markets in the city. The colours, noise and vibrancy of this market will live in your memories for many years to come. We end the day with our final meal together – a time to share our memories and highlights of the trip and swap details for keeping in touch. Friday 1st December: Make your preparations to either board your flights back home or continue your journey in this glorious land - both with huge smiles on your faces and a head bursting with new and wonderful memories. Just a note: Although we work hard to follow the itinerary closely, we do want to highlight that it may be subject to change should circumstances change. We will do our very best to notify you of any changes well ahead of time, if possible. And last but by no means least, here is what a couple of our travellers have to say about experiencing India the Secret Projects way... I could never have imagined just how wonderful the trip with Secret Projects was! Upon landing I was given such a warm welcome & immediately felt at home with the rest of the group. The days were wonderfully structured and we saw things I never thought I would experience. Meeting the women in the units was incredibly emotional on so many levels and ultimately so inspiring to see what Secret Projects has achieved with them. I really hope I get the opportunity to go back again someday & I will forever treasure the memories of this trip...❤️ Whitney, Traveller on the Secret Projects 2019 East India Customer Trip We thank you warmly and wholeheartedly for travelling with us to India and ask that you keep in touch with us. We absolutely love seeing our travellers' photographs and reminiscing with you from time to time about our time together in our beloved India. Photo montage: images from our Customer Trip to Kolkata and The Sundarbans 2019  
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Let us show you our India... Travel with us to our beloved India and experience this glorious country the Secret Projects way!  Join us in Eastern . . . India for a special journey to the heart of Secret Projects for 10 nights from 21st -30th November 2023. Important information: The beginning of our journey together Our journey together begins in Kolkata on Tuesday 21st November with a welcome dinner at 8pm local time. Please arrive in good time to join us at this special meal to celebrate the beginning of our time together.  If you would prefer to arrive in Kolkata the day before (20th November) to give yourself time to relax before the Secret Projects journey begins the following day, please let us know and we will arrange for an extra night to be added to your hotel booking. Please note: there will be an additional charge for the extra night's accommodation. On the final day of our journey together We end our journey together as we began, in Kolkata, this time with a goodbye dinner on Thursday 30th November at 8pm local time. We stay on this final night in our hotel and depart the following morning (1st December) to catch outbound flights home or, to continue your time in India. Again, if you would like to remain at the hotel for further nights, please let us know and we can make the arrangements. Please note: there will be an additional charge for the extra night's accommodation. The full itinerary and other information can be found below. A journey to the heart of Secret Projects. Join us in Eastern India for a spectacular journey. Departing in November 2023 for 10 nights We are absolutely overjoyed to warmly invite you to join us on our first post-pandemic Customer Trip – A journey to the heart of Secret Projects. Our Customer Trips are very much part of the fabric of Secret Projects and we feel honoured to be able to share our story and provide our Shareholders, Customers and Friends with an opportunity to visit the beating heart of our business. Great thought and care have gone into the itinerary to ensure that our travellers experience India both on and off the beaten track in all her glory. You will be immersed in the colour and vibrancy of this wonderful country as you travel between the bustling city of Kolkata that teems with life and The Sundarbans, a World Heritage Site and one of the largest mangrove forests in the world. Travelling with Secret Projects takes you far beyond the realms of the average tourist. Of course, you will have plenty of opportunities to see the sights, savour Indian food and immerse yourself in all that India has to offer. Yet Secret Projects takes you deeper into a side of India not seen by many, as you visit our Maker Group in the Sundarbans, and witness first-hand the working relationship we have with a group of local women who stitch for us and the impactful NGO that supports the women. We absolutely can’t wait to introduce you. We will also meet up with one of our oldest friends, Molly who runs her own sewing unit for young women and was an integral part of the production of our now-famous Secret Sari Dresses. You will witness first-hand how sewing productions can drive women’s economic empowerment and see how your investment, custom and support make it possible. Your Hosts We are delighted to introduce you to Banke Ajayi, Secret Projects (UK) Finance Director, Sumathi Sumi, Director of Social Power India, our India sister company and Margaret Ring, our Communications Director of Secret Projects (UK) who will lead the trip, making sure you are well looked after. In the Sundarbans, we will also meet up with Lissy, our Quality Controller for Social Power India. Payment and booking The cost of the Customer Trip is $2,750 per person. (This is based on a group of 12 and includes all internal travel) The following is not included in the cost of the Customer Trip: International inbound and outbound flights Travel Insurance Cost of tourist visa All drinks, both soft and alcoholic during and outside mealtimes Single occupancy rooms. If you would like a single room, we can provide a quote. Payment for your trip can be made in full, or in instalments if more convenient and details of how to pay can be found here. A booking confirmation will be sent to you via email. We will also provide you with as much useful information as we possibly can in the run-up to your Customer Trip, including our top tips for travelling in India. To book your place or to ask us questions please email: travel@secretprojects.org Just a note: If you are thinking of extending your time in India to explore other regions, we will do our best to support you with this. We may be able to make bookings on your behalf or, suggest other Travel Operators within India. What’s in store... Tuesday 21st November - day/night one: We commence our shared journey with a welcome dinner in Kolkata to give us chance to get to know each other and find our ‘Indian feet.’ Wednesday 22nd November - day/night two: The day begins after breakfast followed by a 3 (or so) hours drive in a Tempo Traveller (that will be at our disposal for the entire trip) to the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans is a truly beautiful World Heritage Site and such a wonderful place to spend time. However, we can’t forget that its remoteness makes it a target for gangs of human traffickers. Women who earn an income are much less likely to fall into the hands of traffickers and that is exactly why we began our relationship with our Sundarbans Maker Group, who you will meet tomorrow, to provide women with fairly paid stitching work, empowering each one economically. Thursday 23rd November - day/night three: We travel together through breathtaking scenery to the area where our Sundarbans Maker Group is based, spending the day with the women and the team behind the NGO that also supports the group. Friday 24th November - day/night four: It’s a busy day today as we meet up again with the Sundarbans Makers, as well as one of our oldest friends, Molly who we have briefly introduced earlier. Molly runs her own sewing unit for young women in a nearby town - she is an inspiration to us. We will also fit in a visit to one of the local markets, taking in the sights and perhaps making a purchase (or two) of something to remind you of your time in this unique region of the worl Saturday 25th November - day/night five: Enjoy a day of leisure today. We have some excellent ideas for you. Perhaps get acquainted with Bengal Tigers (if it’s your lucky day!) on a Tiger Trek, visit one of the local markets for another spot of shopping, or simply relax, read and reflect on your Indian journey so far. The day is yours! Sunday 26th November - day/night six: It’s a day of competition, feedback, and insight for our Makers. We have worked with the women over the year, asking them to stitch products to showcase to you today. Your job is to choose the one/s you feel would be great for Secret Projects to produce with the Makers to sell on the international market. This is a key day for the women and will provide each one with a beneficial understanding of markets and trends. Monday 27th November - day/night seven: It’s back to Kolkata today and after freshening up at our hotel, we visit Mother House, the final resting place of Mother Theresa. A place of great peace and pilgrimage. Tuesday 28th November - day/night eight: Come with us today to Freeset, a Charity with an aim so close to our own hearts, to provide employment opportunities for women affected by human trafficking. We haven’t visited Freeset for a number of years due to the pandemic and it will be wonderful to catch up with this inspirational organisation. We know you will be as affected by their work as much we are. Wednesday 29th November - day/night nine: One can’t visit India without taking a train ride and that’s our job for today, to help you experience the joys of the Indian rail system. Tonight, your hosts take a night off, giving you all an opportunity to dine together in town at a restaurant of your choice. Thursday 30th November - day/night ten: Today is all about finding out more about traditional Indian dress, as we descend upon one of the most famous Saree markets in the city. The colours, noise and vibrancy of this market will live in your memories for many years to come. We end the day with our final meal together – a time to share our memories and highlights of the trip and swap details for keeping in touch. Friday 1st December: Make your preparations to either board your flights back home or continue your journey in this glorious land - both with huge smiles on your faces and a head bursting with new and wonderful memories. Just a note: Although we work hard to follow the itinerary closely, we do want to highlight that it may be subject to change should circumstances change. We will do our very best to notify you of any changes well ahead of time, if possible. And last but by no means least, here is what a couple of our travellers have to say about experiencing India the Secret Projects way... I could never have imagined just how wonderful the trip with Secret Projects was! Upon landing I was given such a warm welcome & immediately felt at home with the rest of the group. The days were wonderfully structured and we saw things I never thought I would experience. Meeting the women in the units was incredibly emotional on so many levels and ultimately so inspiring to see what Secret Projects has achieved with them. I really hope I get the opportunity to go back again someday & I will forever treasure the memories of this trip...❤️ Whitney, Traveller on the Secret Projects 2019 East India Customer Trip We thank you warmly and wholeheartedly for travelling with us to India and ask that you keep in touch with us. We absolutely love seeing our travellers' photographs and reminiscing with you from time to time about our time together in our beloved India.   Photo montage: a selection of images from Secret Projects Customer Trip to Kolkata and The Sundarbans 2019.
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