Who are the guides? The trips are hosted by founder of Secret Projects, Fritha Vincent, who has spent the last 10 years hosting visitors to India. If it is not Fritha, another dedicated member of the Secret Projects team will host the trip. While in India, you will meet representatives of our India team.
Who will I meet on the trip? During our trip you will meet representatives of the Secret Pillow Project India team, friends of Secret Pillow Project India and our inspirational Makers. We will be visiting their communities and you are likely to meet their children too. We are excited about giving our Makers the opportunity to host you for tea in their homes.
Can we take photos with the Makers? You will want to take lots of photographs when you're here and we suggest you do! The Makers are used to us taking photos of them but we suggest you check before taking photos of their children.
How will we travel between destinations? We will be travelling around in a Tempo Traveller which is like a small mini bus. It can carry 14 people. It is a perfect way to travel because you can all talk together or sit back and enjoy looking out the window. Our luggage will be stored on the roof of the vehicle. As you can 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. On some occasions (predominantly in West Bengal if you are on the North India trip), we will take the train.
Is the itinerary set in stone? India is a place of wonderful adventure, you never quite know what is going to happen! For this reason, the itinerary is always subject to change. 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.
Can I travel on? Yes. If you are planning to travel on and would like some help, Joseph can offer advice on travel logistics. If you would like to talk to him please ask Fritha to put you in contact.
What will the weather be like? The best time to travel to India is between November and February, regardless of where in the country you go.
In South India the sun always shines and the average daily temperature is around 30 degrees. When we travel in November we will miss the monsoon rain so dry weather is almost guaranteed. The temperature can drop unexpectedly at night so bring a standby fleece and a scarf.
In North India in November it is cooler, around mid-20s.
What clothing should I take with me? 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 and, in our opinion, the most comfortable! If you want to put together a capsule Indian wardrobe for your trip, you will be able to do shopping once there. Restaurants, and the car in which we will be travelling, will be air conditioned so we suggest you bring a shawl or a jumper.
What shall I wear on my feet? In India it is the custom to remove your shoes before you go inside a home or a shop. If you wear lace up shoes or ones with a buckle you can find yourself spending a lot of time fiddling with your shoes. Often there is nowhere to sit to do that either. We would strongly advise wearing shoes that you can slip on and off, for example, flip flops. If you are buying a new pair, please wear them in before you come out. Having a blister is no fun and it is hard to keep a wound clean. Fritha has many stories to share about this misery! Also if you have big feet, it is impossible to find flip flops big enough in India so definitely buy before you come. Again Fritha has many stories to share on this too.
Why is the payment for the trip in rupees? Secret Pillow Project India will be delivering this trip. This company deals primarily in rupees.
What are the ins and outs of money when travelling to India? The Indian currency is the Rupee. It's a closed currency, which means that you will not be able to bring rupees into India with you. We do not recommend exchanging money at the airport due to a poor exchange rate. There is a Bureau de Change near Hotel Serenity in Bengaluru (ask at the reception for directions).
You can also withdraw money from an ATM on your first day. ATMs are commonplace throughout India and money is usually easily drawn at most of them. We recommend letting your bank know that you are travelling to India and bring some Sterling/USD cash with you in case your cards don’t work. Again, Fritha has many stories of being in India with no bank cards working and now she will never come to India without plenty of Sterling or American dollars.
You will need cash for personal shopping, tea/snacks on route and drinks in the evening. Some shopping may be able to be done using a card but there is no guarantee.
Often the way we organise tea/snacks for everyone is to take it in turns to buy for the group. The prices are minimal and it tends to speed things up and makes it all the more fun!
We recommend setting up a drinks/snack kitty on day one (with a fixed initial contribution of say 3,000 rupees) and getting one of the group to take charge.
Should I tip? Most of the hotel and hospitality workers are not particularly highly paid so tipping has become a fairly standard practice if you are 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 I would suggest that you need to pay no more than 50INR. 20INR would be the norm so it’s really up to you.
Insurance and Visas
Is this trip ATOL protected? This trip is not ATOL protected.
Will I need insurance? Yes. It is essential that you have adequate travel insurance when travelling to India. It’s always a good idea to check with your insurance company before you travel with us to make sure you are covered.
Do I need a visa? Yes. 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. You will need to give an arrival address for your visa, we will provide you with these details.
How do you choose the hotels we will stay in? All our hotels have been tested and reviewed by our Joseph's team or Fritha and Nirmala for quality, service and hygiene. Level of luxury and comfort will naturally vary by hotel based on budget and destination. For more information on any of the hotels, please visit the website of the individual hotel.
What are the sleeping arrangements? Everyone will be sharing a twin room unless a single room as been requested (this will incur a higher cost).
Sanitary, Hygiene and Medical Questions
Do I need vaccinations? You may or may not require vaccinations for India depending on the vaccinations you already have. To find out more information about vaccinations, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic. We can't give any advice on this matter, it is best to seek expert advice.
What should I do about medication? If you are taking any kind of medication it’s advisable that you bring a supply with you. Medication is fairly easy to get in India over the counter and you may find that many prescription drugs are available in this manner also. You must inform us prior to your trip of any medical conditions or allergies that you have. These will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
What is the situation with toilets? We will ensure that there are opportunities to take comfort breaks when we are out and about. 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 sanitizer 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.
Can I drink the water? We advise that you drink only bottled water which is completely safe and is available throughout all our trips. Always check the seal on the bottle when you are buying. If you are not sure then ask for it to be changed. Many of the hotels will have filtered water in the rooms, so do bring a small reusable bottle to decant into.
Plastic is a huge issue in India as well as everywhere else, so if you don't want to leave plastic bottles, please invest in a water purification bottle. We suggest you give it a proper try out before you come away.
Will it be easy to communicate with friends and family back home? 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 so as you have 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 a constant connection is never guaranteed.
What travel adaptor will I need? India works on a 240 volt system and your standard 2 pin travel adaptor should work in most cases.
What are the top most useful things to bring with me? Travel adaptor, packets of tissues, hand sanitizer, mosquito repellent, head torch (for the occasional power cut), loose cotton / linen clothing, flip flops, shawl, snacks (especially if you're squeamish about street food), umbrella, camera!
Do I need to be good at sewing or craft to enjoy the trip? We will be taking part in a craft workshop and there will no doubt be lots of discussion about making things and fabric but no prior experience is needed, just an active interest!
I read that I can have a bespoke Secret Pillow or Secret Sari Dress made...how does this work? During the journey, we will visit the finest fabric shops and you will have the chance to buy fabrics. You can pay cash (rupees) or by credit card for the fabrics. If you would like to have a bespoke Secret Pillow (South India trip) or Secret Sari Dress (North India trip) made up for yourself or as a present, you can choose and buy your own fabrics to be passed on to one of our Makers. If you have any fabric at home you would like made up into Secret Pillows, please contact Fritha directly and she will give you the measurements.
Each Secret Pillow will cost 2,000 rupees (approx. £21) to make up.
Each Secret Sari Dress will cost 1,000 rupees (approx. £11) to make up.
How do I transport Secret Pillows back home? A trick to get them home is to have them plastic wrapped to your suitcase. There is a machine in Bangalore airport and you can wrap your bag for as little as 400 rupees.
As further questions are submitted to us, we will publish them below.