Here you can find some important information about your trip with Samadhi Tours.

Samadhi Tours specifics

Samadhi Tours is all about the spiritual side of Tamil nadu and surroundings. This means that it is not aimed for those interested in cheap holidays or cheap transport from point A to B. We do offer the lowest prices and even donation based only trips for those authentically interested in the spiritual journey.

Praba can speak basic English and of course fluent Tamil. We have a dictionary on board in case a technical term is not understood. So do not expect to go into deep conversations about things as this will not be understood. The trips are thus not set up as a tourist attraction where you get to hear all about the sites being visited but rather the energetic side of the trip where most of the time you will simply be in silence and enjoy the energies that are there. Praba is an expert at feeling these different energies and that is why he is the perfect companion on such a trip as he will bring you to the exact location inside the temple or near a saint where most of the energy can really do its job. Also you will not be bothered about extra curricular activities that will cost you money as that is not our aim.

To book an event or tour you can call Praba but as his English is basic it is sometimes better to first write an e-mail and then call. E-mail can all be translated into Tamil so no misunderstandings will happen that way. He will always be happy to help where he can so do not hesitate to contact him. So it is all up to you what you want to visit or what kind of energies you are interested in that forms the perfect trip for you.

On the tour itself you have the option of booking a hotel yourself or ask Praba to take care of that. Prices are all very low, looking at around 10 dollars per night for a hotel. Keep in mind that if you do not want to share a room that you have to book a room for Praba as well.

If you are very strict about your dinner time table it is going to be tricky as a lot of these powerful energetic locations are remote and have no restaurants or bars near them. Please inform Praba in advance so he can plan for dinner stops on a specific time if you need this, otherwise breakfast and dinner are very basic (but fun) where ever the possibility arises.

Arrival via airline is best via Chennai, but Bangalore is also an option. Praba will be waiting for you at the arrival gate with a signal plate saying SamadhiTours. In case you cannot spot him, just call him and tell him where you are. As it is India, you have to book the first day a hotel with room number ready so that border control does not give you any trouble.

All travel will be done in a rental car, and of course Praba will drive :)

Passport and Visa

Most of you probably have a passport. For those of you who don’t, you can get all the information you need by looking up “Passports” on the internet. There are also rush services available for passports.
All tourists to India are required to have a visa. If you are receiving visa information by mail, a visa application and instructions are included. If you want to receive this information by e-mail, please go to the website, http://www.indiacgny.org/ for the application and instructions.
It is best to apply for the 6-month tourist visa, which should be enough for most tourists. This will cost about $60 for a US citizen, plus postage. However, if you plan on going to India on a more regular basis, you can apply for a 10 year visa, which costs $150. It allows you to go as often as I like as long as each visit is no longer than six months.
If you apply for a visa by express mail to the Indian Consulate, your visa will be processed in 5 days. If you live in a city with an Indian Consulate and submit your application at the counter, the visa will be processed the same day. The listing of Consulate offices is given in the visa instructions. Apply to the one designated for your area. It is best to send it by certified or registered mail, and add a return envelope with prepaid postage by certified or registered mail as well.
In the visa application, you will be asked to list the areas of India you plan to travel to. So list a few places that you may be visiting. When I’m traveling, I’m usually visiting so many places that it would be difficult to list them all. So I merely list a few. You will also be asked to give 2 references for people residing in India. You can List Praba Karan and his wife or any other person you know in India or you can contact the Consulate about this for other references. Or if you are affiliated with a temple and have friends there, there are bound to be some people who can help you out with a few names and addresses.

Also make sure on the first day of arrival you have a hotel name and address as this will be required to be filled in upon arrival in India.

Immunizations
If this is your first trip to India, you may be worried about diseases. Contact your doctor or the Disease Control Center in the local hospital if you would like professional immunization advice. They will let you know of any outbreaks of diseases in India, or any for which you should be prepared. From personal experience, malaria medication may create discomfort, and may not be worthwhile, and you may not need it. It is always helpful to ensure that your tetanus shot is updated, as you are walking barefooted through old structures. Otherwise, typhoid and cholera may also be of some concern.
The first time I went to India, I got shots and medicine for everything. Later I learned that most of them are only good to a certain percentage anyway. Now I don’t bother with it, but only take along herbs and anti-diarrhea medicine, like Imodium A-D. Another very good Ayurvedic medicine that will help, if you can find it once you get to India, is Sudha Sindhu. This is quite good for stomach problems and diarrhea. I use it whenever I start getting an upset stomach to keep it from developing into anything further. However, it is not so easy to find.
A very helpful medication is a low-grade antibiotic called “Doxycycline”, which kills bacteria in the Gastro Intestinal tract. It can be taken on a daily basis to ensure that you don’t have stomach problems during your stay. Ask your doctor for advice regarding this medication.
Packing list
Following the suggested list for what you will need to bring will help you make sure that you are prepared for whatever may happen. Because you will be moving from place to place, please ensure you have 4 changes of clothes, some of which need to be appropriate for temples. And remember that the hotel laundry service, when available, may not always be convenient. So this is what you want to bring along:

  • Particular clothes, which can include:
    A. Modest light-weight summer attire. This would include:
    B. a couple pair of pants,
    C. shorts if you want (for a man),
    D. three or four simple T-shirts,
    E. If you are sensitive to direct sunlight a hat for sunburn protection might be useful especially when going into the mountains.
    F. If you plan on going to the Colli hills a coat or warm sweatshirt is recommended.
    G. Raincoat in the monsoon season.
    H. Additional clothes can include something you need for visiting temples. Once you get to India, you can also shop around for these. I usually bring two kurtas and two dhotis with me, while you may bring or buy two kurtas and two pair of loose fitting white pants, or pajamas as they are often called in India. Women can bring or buy a few blouses and a couple of saris or long skirts or dresses. Shorts for women are inappropriate in India. Such an outfit can cost anywhere from $20-$30 in India. Pants or jeans can also be acceptable in most other places.
  • Socks. These can help against hot temple stones, especially during the heat of the summer. However, I usually don’t bring socks since they get dirty quickly and become just another item to wash everyday. If you visit the temples in the morning, then the stones will likely not be overly hot from the sun. However, during the summer in the south, the outdoor stone floors and courtyards can draw in the heat from the summer sun quickly, and can burn your feet by 11 AM.
  • Sunscreen
  • Sandals that can be easily removed, or simple and cool jogging shoes
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Over the counter diarrhea medication, as previously mentioned.
  • A small packet of Kleenex.
  • A small flashlight, especially one that can fit in your purse or shoulder bag, because in the small villages the lights can go out at any time, and it is better to be equipped.
  • A Map and compass / or smart phone with spare external battery that has an offline navigation program.
  • Snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, or nuts if you want, otherwise there are plenty of snacks you can buy in the stores in India.
  • Cold medicine, and aspirin or Tylenol, or herbs to help maintain your health.
  • A water bottle carrier if you want. I always buy bottled water from the shops.
  • A lite shoulder bag to carry your things and a smaller fanny pack or purse to carry your valuables into the temples or while you shop, especially for women.
  • A good alarm clock, and a travelers watch. I often bring a cheap Casio watch with a built in calculator, which is great for figuring currency exchange rates on prices.
  • Camera, the one of your choice, and plenty of film, although you can buy good film in the bigger Indian cities. Bring the film in a lead bag that you can purchase at your local camera store to protect it from airport X-ray machines. However, in this day and age of higher security, it can help if the plastic film containers are see-thru, like those Fuji Film makes. Then the airport security people can easily see what is inside if they have any questions, which should not be the case if it is in your check-in luggage. Of course, as digital cameras become more popular, this arrangement is not so necessary. But then make sure you bring enough memory for storing your photos.
  • Also consider Q-Tips or cotton swabs for cleaning your ears, some band aid bandages, a role of medical tape, and a tube of anti-septic ointment, just in case. These can also help if you get blisters on your feet from walking or any small cuts. A small container of Vaseline may also be helpful.
  • Don’t forget your finger nail clippers, and any other small toiletries that you like, such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, and razor & blades, or hair shampoo, yet many of these are readily available in India if you forget or run out.
  • You may also want to bring a money belt, or thin wallet to keep in your front pocket.
  • Make copies of your passport and visa, and your list of travelers checks, to keep in various places amongst your belongings.
  • Bring a good but not overly large shoulder bag or backpack to put all of this stuff in. I usually bring nothing more than I can handle at any one time. So that includes a shoulder bag and my camera bag, since I’m always photographing the temples and holy sites. And that’s it. Of course, once you begin shopping around and picking up things to take back home with you, additional bags or suitcases can easily be purchased to pack all the stuff you want to bring back home.
  • Traveler’s checks and enough cash, keep them in separate places. An ATM card is also convenient. There are often more ATM machines than banks who can cash traveler's checks, especially in smaller towns.
  • Other helpful items that I bring include:
    A. Bottles (for holy soil or water), B. Journal to write in, C. Extra pair of glasses, D. Some plastic bags for storage or separating dirty clothes, E. Handkerchief or wash cloths, for wiping away the sweat.
  • An electrical adapter to change voltage for any appliances brought from America to be used in India is also a good idea, like hair dryers, recharging batteries for digital cameras, etc.
  • Plane tickets, by all means don’t forget these, and make an extra copy of them.
Currency exchange
Arriving in Chennai or Bangalore there are ATM machines to get the cash. Keep in mind that you have to enable the settings on your bank account so that you can indeed pin with the card in India. In case you are not sure call the bank and ask if you can also withdraw money in India. Also keep in mind that you cannot pin more then 15.000 rupees per day as this is normally the daily limit of your bank card. What is helpful is to have a backup of some dollars or euro's that can be exchanged at the airport upon arrival in case you cannot withdraw money.

A little less than half of the money I bring, I bring in cash. As I travel, I use the cash first and then depend on the traveler’s checks later, since they are more secure. If you want, you can bring more money in checks. But I’ve found that unless you are careless, a person is not likely to be robbed in India. Besides, while traveling to small towns or villages, some places I’ve gone to do not have a bank with facility for exchanging traveler’s checks, and could only exchange cash or the foreign currency. So you better have some cash on hand when you run out of rupees in such places, or make sure you plan accordingly. However, always keep enough dollars on hand for when you return to the US for taxi or other expenses until you get back home.
However, these days many people take debit cards. If you can make sure you don't lose it, these also work great, and many people take these instead of travelers checks.
Another thing I do is spread my money in different places between my wallet, shoulder bag and camera bag, and I don’t carry too much money on my person. On my person I keep my wallet in the front pocket of my pants, which are somewhat snug, making it impossible for someone to reach in to take it without me being aware. I only keep several hundred rupees in my wallet at any one time, or maybe 1000 or so. Yet, if you keep most of your money in a money belt, do not let anyone see you taking money from it. It is better to show a wallet with a small amount than to reach in a money belt, because then people will know you have a bundle. Then someone will know where the majority of your money is. That’s not good. Robbery can result.
Food precautions
This is easy advice, but is probably the most important if you want to have a good trip. Watch what and where you eat. Praba will try to find the best suited places but it will all be local cuisines. Please drink only bottled water in India, even for brushing your teeth, which is available most anywhere. Don’t think that you can go up into the mountains and let your guard down because the water must be cleaner, at least in the restaurants. Not true. As I’ve said, I always buy bottled water and sometimes keep a canteen with additional water in my shoulder bag. Whenever something goes wrong with my health during my travels in India, it’s because I failed to follow these rules. It takes only one drop of bad water to cause stomach problems. You can increase the variety of foods you eat when at reputable vegetarian restaurants or at the sattvic ashramas and temples where they are strict about serving vegetarian foods.
Also, watch out for drinks that use ice, unless you are sure where the water for the ice comes from. You should eat only hot, cooked food or peeled fruits and vegetables. Do not eat from street sellers! And at bus or train stations, only eat fruits that can be peeled by you and certainly no salads. Strictly following this simple advice will help a lot. You have to be in India a good while for your body to acclimatize, so to speak, to be able to drink water from various places, which you may not want to do anyway. When I first started going to India, I always lost weight. Now I’m so used to it that I may even gain weight. I love that Indian vegetarian food.
Heat exhaustion
This can happen more easily than you think. Make sure when you visit India that you keep yourself covered while in the sun. Make sure you wear a hat or a covering. Too much sun or heat in India can kill you, or put you seriously out of action for days. If you start getting overly hot, tired or dizzy while in the sun, take a break in the shade, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
Avoid scams

As much as we would rather not talk about this possibility, we must understand that there are always people waiting for those who are unfamiliar with India and who want to take advantage of them. So we must know a little about what to watch out for. Some cheating is bound to take place, and we just have to accept that as part of the expense of traveling. But we can keep it to a minimum if we are careful. So, for example, if you are entering India through Chennai, there are a few things you need to do. You can keep this in mind for any city that you are entering.

Have a reservation somewhere in a hotel to at least spend the first night or two. First of all you might be quite tired from the airline and you have to get used to the time difference and by doing this you have the time to get used to being in India. Also border control will ask you the location of your stay so you have an answer for them. Again you may ask Praba to take care of this or find a suitable location yourself. Keep in mind that Chennai is expensive and that a hotel can easily be 50 dollars or more per night.

If you plan on arriving in India by yourself and only much later plan on joining the samadhitours the following items might be useful to note:

  • Do not go to a government tourist office if trying to find a hotel when you arrive in Chennai or Bangalore. First of all, they usually are not really government offices. They just call themselves that to get you in and gain your trust. Then they try to sell you a package trip or something. Taxi drivers, if they know you have no prior reservation or arrangement to spend the night, will often try to drive you to such an office, working with the people in the office to get your money. Or they may be willing to get you a hotel, but it is usually at a more expensive price.
    If you do go to such a tourist office, they are usually just regular travel agents looking for a good profit from you. This is especially if they know you have just arrived and have all of your travel money to spend, or if you are unfamiliar with the prices of things in India, so if they quote you a price, it won’t seem as expensive as it really is. In other words, so you won’t suspect so easily that you are actually getting ripped off.
    A common ploy is that if you have not booked a reservation in a hotel, they may call some hotels for you but actually they may only be calling their friends who pose as the hotel manager or something who say the hotel is full. Then as this goes on, you don’t know what to do and become more vulnerable to considering their advice to quickly leave on a package tour. If you go, you have just bought yourself an expensive trip. It still may be fun and worthwhile, but it will be for more than what you could have spent if you had gone about it differently.
  • Do not go to a travel or tourist agent to buy a bus ticket. Buying a ticket directly from the station or on the bus is always cheaper than buying it through an agent. Any taxi or auto-ricksha driver can take you as well but make sure he drives you directly to where you want to go and know in advance how much it would approximately be in rupees. Often the ricksha drivers will bring you to shops and other places you rather do not want to go to before they drop you off at the place where you want to go. To avoid this hassle you can also book a taxi inside the airport, before you leave the terminal and they will bring you directly to where you need to go for the correct price. Just be persistent that you are not interested to go someplace else. Or if you are in a tourist office and they won’t help you in any other way, then just walk out. You can get another taxi, auto-ricksha, or just walk down a busy street to the next hotel you find.
  • You can also take a train to most places you want to see. Just buy the ticket at the trainstation and don’t fall for a scam and get lead somewhere else, or think that you have to go through an agent or something. The people at the station are usually very helpful and can book your tickets to several places at once if you know where you want to go and the train on which you want to book a reservation. However, you will be expected to pay for the ticket in dollars, or in rupees with a certificate of where you exchanged your money into rupees.
  • Don’t listen to anyone, but only go to these bus or train stations to get your tickets, if you want the best prices for them. And if you have a hotel reservation, don’t fall for the trick of the taxi driver at the airport or train station telling you that you have to reconfirm it once you arrive in Delhi. If you fall for that, it is likely that you will only be told by someone on the phone that the hotel is full and you have no reservation. Or that the taxi driver knows a reliable and trustworthy government tourist office that can help you. If you listen to that, you’re in trouble, or you have got more money than I do. If you have a reservation, then just get a prepaid taxi at the airport and have them take you to your hotel. Then you are set for the night and can take care of things the next morning without being exposed to these kinds of scams.
Dealing with ricksha's

As you will be picked up by Praba himself at the airport or hotel, most of this trouble with the ricksha's and taxi drivers will be avoided. However in case you are planning on doing another trip before or after joining a tour with Samadhi Tours, this information might be useful.

These are a few words of caution which may save you some money and aggravation when visiting the bigger cities and dealing with ricksha and taxi drivers. You will sometimes find that in some cities motor-ricksha drivers have formed a syndicate and charge exorbitant prices to foreigners. Locating drivers away from major tourist hotels or attractions, or train or bus stations, will help you find drivers who charge more reasonable rates. A few rules to follow are:
1. Find out what the going rates are before getting a ricksha or taxi, if you have time. The manager of your hotel can often be of help in this regard. Or he may have someone to recommend. Where travelers are especially susceptible to being cheated in this way are places when they come into a town for the first time, like coming into Bangalore. Often times tired travelers just want to quickly get to a hotel and are willing to pay a higher rate without questioning or bargaining. Or they simply don’t know what the proper rate is or where to get a reasonable taxi. That is why so many taxi or ricksha drivers seek out foreign travelers at the airports or train stations. In Chennai and Bangalore, you can get a prepay taxi as you leave the airport waiting area (where people are waiting to pick up friends and relatives) and go outside just as you enter the parking area. There will be a booth. The prepay taxi services inside the airport still charge higher prices, sometimes by a few hundred rupees.
2. Always set the price first in other situations. If the driver does not set a price, don’t go with him. Find someone else who will set a price.
3. Don’t be afraid to bargain. If he says one price, set a lower price and see if he will go lower, or find someone who will.
4. If you do go with him and he says “Pay as you like,” then make sure you stick with that and if he asks for more than you want to pay, don’t pay more. First get out of the ricksha or taxi, take your bags with you, check with another driver what the going rate may be, but if the drivers are working together they will both say a high price. Or better yet, simply tell him that you want to find a policeman to settle the issue. If the driver knows the rate is too high, he’ll immediately drop it.
When you are a Westerner and unfamiliar with rates of travel, it is not unusual for drivers and shop keepers to suddenly raise their rates when they see you coming.
Another point to remember is that drivers are often compensated by shop owners in money or gifts for bringing foreigners to their shops, which in turn will cost you in the form of higher prices on the items you buy. I went to a shop and was interested in buying a particular singing bowl. Eventually I paid almost 300 dollars for it and found a couple of days later the same bowl in a shopping center for 100 dollars. So it is often better when you go to a popular shop to have the driver simply drop you off, sometimes a little distance from the place, pay him for the ride and then let him leave. Thus, there is no driver for the shop to pay. Then after doing your business, simply find another driver to take you elsewhere.

Key points

For who - Samadhitours is meant for those authentically interested in the spiritual journey.

What to expect - It will all be very basic and all aimed at merging with the divine.

To keep in mind - Praba can only speak basic English so be prepared for that.