We've compiled some helpful information to give you some tips if you're coming from abroad.
One of the best ways to get a feeling what it's like volunteering with Lha is to read our website - familiarize yourself with the projects and community services offered at Lha, watch the slideshow on our homepage or read the Lha blog describing what previous volunteers have done to support the Tibetan community in exile.
If you haven't visited India before, it's best to get a guide book such as the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to get a better idea of what the culture, climate, customs, and cost of living is like. You can also find some pretty good information online at Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.
These guides also include information on visas, immunization shots, what to bring, health tips and more.
You MUST get a visa before arriving in India, and these are easily accessible from your country's Indian Embassy or mission.
Most people travel on the standard tourist visa. A tourist visa is non-extendable and non-convertible. Six-month multiple-entry tourist visas (valid from the date of issue) are granted to nationals of most countries regardless of how long you intend to stay. Longer term tourist visas are available under certain conditions.
For more information, go to the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs: Government of India.
There are additional restrictions on travelers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain Eastern European, African and Central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country.
PLEASE NOTE: Lha cannot assist with your visa application. However, you can use the following address for your contact information: Ahimsa House, Temple Road, McLeod Ganj – 176219, Dharamsala, District Kangra, H.P, India.
There is a major international airport in Delhi – Indira Gandhi International Airport - approximately 12 hours by bus from Dharamsala.
The Tibetan colony, Manju Ka Tilla, which is located one hour from Delhi international airport (taxi 800-1200Rs), has affordable accommodation.
From Delhi, the easiest way to get directly to McLeod Ganj is by overnight bus. Many travel agencies in Delhi provide bus tickets for approximately 800-1200 Indian rupees, depending on whether you choose a normal bus or a Volvo coach.
Lha recommends using a bus service that operates from the Tibetan colony Manju Ka Tilla in Delhi so you will be delivered directly to McLeod Ganj. Other government-owned buses usually stop in Lower Dharamsala, and an additional local bus must be taken to McLeod Ganj (about a half hour ride). Ask about our Reception and Orientation service to take all the hassle out of your travel!
There is an airport in Kangra, about 25 kilometers from McLeod Ganj which receives flights from Delhi twice a day.
Climate can vary substantially in this part of the world, so be prepared for all types of weather. Bring cotton wet-weather gear including raincoats and umbrellas during monsoon (July-Sept), thermals or warm clothes during the winter months (Nov-Feb) and cottons for summer (April-June). Be sure to bring a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes to enjoy the beautiful surrounding nature of the Himalayan foothills. Many of these items can be bought here, but high quality footwear and rain jackets are hard to find.
Don't forget extra amounts of prescription medication, as you might not find it readily available in the area. Many staple items are easily and cheaply bought for longer-term stays, such as pots and pans, dishware, and other household items. Many organizations request that if you have a portable computer, to please bring it with you as their resources are limited.
Due to the elevation and climate, Malaria is a very low risk while in McLeod Ganj. However, should you be staying in other low-lying areas of India, we suggest bringing malaria prophylactics with you. There are mosquitoes in McLeod Ganj, so mosquito protection is advised.
You'll be happy to hear that the cost of living in this part of the world is dramatically cheaper than in western countries. In Dharamsala, you can live comfortably on as little as $400 US a month for lodging and meals (with more typical budgets running from $500-700) though it is possible to live for less.
Dorm rooms start at 450 rupees (US$8) per night. For longer-term lodging, rooms can be found with cooking facilities and range from 9000-15000 rupees (US$160-$270) per month. Villages near Jogiwara Road, below McLeod Ganj, and around Bhagsu Road offer quieter accommodation out of town.
PLEASE NOTE: During the winter months it gets extremely cold and while heaters can be provided by guesthouses, this is at an extra cost of anything between 200-300 rupees per day. Please enquire at your guesthouse what the cost is before budgeting your stay.
ATMs have been installed in McLeod Ganj with the State Bank of India, PNB, ICICI and HDFC Bank. However, some international ATM cards have been reported to be rejected by the ATMs. It is advisable to bring alternate methods for procuring cash such as credit cards and traveler's cheques.
These can be exchanged for Indian rupees at many places in Mcleod Ganj and Dharamshala.
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