2020 India Sacred Retreat - FLIGHT DETAILS:
PLEASE NOTE: Flight numbers and times are subject to change. We will notify all participants of any changes.
01 September 2020: UA #287, Departs ORD at 4:05pm and arrives at EWR at 7:55pm
01 September 2020: UA #82, Departs EWR at 9:45pm and arrives at DEL at 9:30pm on Sept. 2
21 September 2020: UA #83, Departs DEL at 11:35pm and arrives in EWR at 4:55am on Sept. 22
22 September 2020: UA #1071, Departs EWR at 6:30am and arrives at ORD at 8:01am
GROUP ORIENTATION MEETING:
MONDAY, JULY 13th, 7pm - 500 W. Bradley Rd, Fox Point, WI 53217 - in the party room at the Porticos apartments. Park in the circle lot, and when you arrive at the front door, call Ragani at 414-510-6662. If you are unable to attend the group meeting, see #6 below.
1) Which airport will we be leaving from? We will be departing from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD). We will be meeting at the departure gate to travel as a group.
2) I don't live in the Milwaukee area, do I need to make separate flight arrangements?
IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE THE USA and are unable meet us at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) or Newark Airport (EWR) for our flights, then you will need to make separate flight arrangements to meet us in Delhi. Please contact us if you need assistance with travel schedules, as it will be important to meet us in Delhi so you don't miss our group's flight to Leh. If you do book your own airfare to Delhi, your total Retreat price will be reduced by $700.
IF YOU LIVE IN THE USA, we will be departing from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) via United Airlines for a flight to Newark, and then a direct flight to Delhi, India. Our travel agent, Emily Bliffert at Hemisphere Travel will be assisting in any alternate flight arrangements with United Airlines that need to be made. Please contact Ragani or Kaita as soon as possible if you need to make alternate arrangements, as seats and prices are not guaranteed for alternate flights. NOTE: Retreat price only includes the Chicago to Delhi roundtrip flight and does not include any travel to Chicago. Retreat Organizers will help to book those tickets for you once the full Retreat is paid for (as with other flights, it's best to book those early as flights do fill up and alternate seats and prices are not guaranteed). At the O'Hare airport, we will plan to meet everyone at the United Airlines gate for departure. United Airlines has only one direct flight to India per day (from Newark), so please plan to arrive in plenty of time to check into your flights. O'Hare is a VERY BUSY airport, and lines can be VERY long, so please allow sufficient time to proceed through security and check-in. Retreat Organizers are not responsible for any missed flights or delays due to failure to arrive in sufficient time, and no refunds will be given due to missed flights. Participants are responsible for making their own arrangements if they miss any of their flights with our group.
3) If I make my own full flight arrangement to India, what is the Retreat price? If you make your own full flight arrangements to Delhi, India and back, the total Retreat price will be reduced by $700. This option is NOT recommended for travelers from the United States (we cannot be responsible for any flight changes or timing issues that you may encounter if you travel on your own from the US), but it is an option for participants who live in other countries. Please contact us for more information if you are planning to fly separately. We want to make sure you find us in India!
4) If I want to go on the Retreat and will be scheduling my flights separately, should I go ahead and book my airline ticket now? While we fully expect this Retreat to sell out, it is set to run with a minimum of 10 participants (conducting the Retreat with less than the minimum number would eliminate our group discounts and greatly increase the cost of the Retreat). If there are insufficient registrants for the Retreat, the Retreat will be cancelled on or shortly after the final payment due date, and all deposits/payments will be refunded to any participants who registered. Therefore, it is best to wait until after the final payment is due (and received by the Retreat Organizers) before you schedule any additional flights. (This will prevent you from being stuck with additional airfare tickets in the case that the Retreat is cancelled due to insufficient registration.) If you are considering scheduling any additional flights, please contact us and we will assist you.
5) What are the luggage restrictions for participants on the Retreat? You will need to check directly with the airlines to confirm any up-to-date luggage restrictions for size, weight, allowable items, etc. as they are often making changes. United Airlines luggage information is here. (Your first bag is usually included with the ticket price for international fares-- if you wish to bring additional bags, you will need to check United Airline for fees.) Domestic flights in India have their own regulations and restrictions, and you will need to check with the airlines prior to departure to confirm any changes with those airlines. India's domestic flights have a greater weight restriction, and you will want to be sure to pack within those limits for the India flights. We will be addressing those restrictions during our Group Meeting. Any and all luggage fees are not included with Retreat package price.
6) I don't live in Milwaukee, do I have to attend the Group Orientation meeting? Group orientations are a practical and helpful way for us to provide orientation for the trip, to answer your questions, and to review the visa application process. If you live outside the Milwaukee areas (or are unable to attend our group orientation meeting), please contact us and we will either Skype/Facetime live with you at the time of the meeting, or we will send you a link to the meeting video. NOTE: If you live outside the Milwaukee area, you are responsible for contacting the Retreat Organizer PRIOR to the GroupOrientation meetings in order to ensure that the materials and information reach you in a timely manner (checking the "I will not attend the Group Orientation" box on the registration form is sufficient.) If last minute changes prevent you from attending the Group Orientation meeting, YOU are responsible for notifying the Retreat Organizer of those changes PRIOR TO THE MEETING and requesting the Group Orientation video link in advance. Retreat organizer is not responsible for any failure on participant’s behalf to submit appropriate visa and/or passport application(s) in a timely manner, or for any vital information missed due to lack of attendance in the meeting. All participants who are unable to attend the Group Orientation meeting are responsible for watching Group Orientation video and for contacting Retreat organizer in a timely manner with any questions they may have regarding travel to India.
7) What is an e-Tourist Visa? I've never applied for a visa before. Is that something everyone needs? Where do I get my visa? A visa or e-Tourist Visa (the one we will use for India) is an official document that gives someone permission to travel into a specific country, for a specific purpose, and to stay there for a set period of time. Your e-Tourist Visa (or e-TV) for India can all be completed online. Each Participant will need to purchase separately their own visa to visit India -- you can apply for the visa here: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html. You will need a valid passport, a passport photo, a credit or debit card, and access to a computer and printer to be able to fill out and print your visa application. Passport should have at least six months validity from the date of arrival (so your passports need to be valid until at least March 1, 2021.) The passport should have at least two blank pages for stamping by the Immigration Officer. We recommend that you apply online for your e-TV no later than one month prior to departure (so apply by August 1st), just to be sure everything goes smoothly. The e-TV will be sent to you via e-mail, and you will want to print a hard copy to carry and keep with you (we keep ours folded in our passport) during your travels in India. We advise all Participants to have their passports up-to-date by the date of the Group Orientation meeting (July 13, 2020).
8) Can I pay the Retreat deposit or make partial payments by credit card and make the rest of the payment by cash, cashier’s check, bank drafts, or money orders? Yes. You can pay any portion with credit card and/or cash, cashier's check, bank draft, or money orders. HOWEVER, the cash discount ONLY applies when the ENTIRE payment is made with cash, cashier’s check, bank drafts, or money order payments. No cash discount will be given for partial cash payments. Deposits of $2,000 may be made in cash or credit card, separate from the full payment, which may be also made in cash or credit card.
9) How are roommates selected for the accommodations in India? You are most welcome to choose your own roommate, or we can select one for you. If you know (or meet) someone coming on the Retreat and wish to be his/her roommate, just let us know and we'll make arrangements. Roommates are not automatically assigned, so there is some flexibility, and if you meet a group member at the group meeting and you would like to have them as a roommate, just let us know. If you do not know anyone on the Retreat and do not have a roommate chosen, we will select another same-sex Retreat participant to be your roommate by the end of June. If you decide at any point during the Retreat that you'd like to change roommates, you can do so independently with other Retreat members.
10) Are single rooms available?
Single rooms are not readily available at the ashram (and for a few days during the mountain portions of our trip), but if you wish to have single accommodations where available, please let us know at the time of registration so we can notify the hotels (note: we have already made our group reservations at the time of this posting, so any changes would be as available by the hotels at this time). Single supplements would be an additional $3095 in total ticket price for 2020.
11) I have a slight knee problem, an arthritic condition. Will we be doing any strenuous climbing on the trip? There will be plenty of walking on the trip, and participants should be capable of walking at least two miles on uneven ground. The mountains will feel a little more strenuous due to the higher altitude, and we will be hiring horses for all participants for the longer treks to more remote areas that are inaccessible to cars and jeeps. (Please note that most horses are not suited to carry weights over 230 lbs.) We all will take things a little slower, as needed-- there is certainly no hurry in India!
12) What will the altitude be for this trip? I've never been to any high altitude-- is there anything I need to do to prepare myself? The approximate altitudes of the locations we'll be visiting (in order of our visits) are as follows:
Rishikesh - 1200 feet
Ladakh - 11,482 feet
Pangong Tso - 13,944 feet
Khardung La pass - 17,585 feet
It's always recommended that you spend some time building fitness and/or walking more prior to this Retreat experience, to be in better shape for the trip. We will have guides with us who are accustomed to these altitudes, and they are also accustomed to working with westerners and people who are new to these altitudes. So you'll be in good hands. The mystical energy in these higher altitude places in India is powerful and worth the extra effort, as they are such beautiful places for meditation and spiritual rejuvenation.
13) How long is the flight, and will be be making any stops? We have made group reservations to fly on United Airlines from Chicago to their direct flight from Newark, NJ to Delhi, India. This direct trans-Atlantic flight departs Newark airport in the evening and arrive in Delhi, India the following night. The flight is a total of 14-16 hours. (India is ahead of US time- see actual time in India now.) It sounds like a long time, but we've always preferred this over two long flights with a six hour layover in between. We have traveled many times to India, and direct flights reduce the chances of lost luggage (a terrible experience to have- especially in India, where many of the western accessories are not easily available). Inflight movies and meals will be provided to passengers, though it is recommended that you bring a few extra snacks, as well as earplugs and eye covers for sleeping. We also do our best to request all aisle and window seats for our group, so please indicate if you have any preferences on your Reservations form.
14) Do they serve meals on board the flights? Meals are served on board, though we always recommend that participants carry extra snacks/food with them for their flights. Any special flight meals (i.e. vegetarian) need to be requested in advance with the Retreat Organizer. We will assume that you do not need special meals for your travel unless you contact us (special meals on United Airlines are listed on their website page). We say "special" ironically, because, as many of you probably already know, airline food is really not so "special" (though we've enjoyed their Asian vegetarian selections in the past). But if you'd like something other than their standard fare, please let us know!
15) How many people will come on this Retreat with you? What if you have too many registrants? We have 20 seats available on our Retreat, and a minimum of 10. Once you send us the completed registration forms to us with deposit payment, we will reserve your seat. All Retreat seats are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once seats are reserved, reservations for our Retreat will be closed. As soon as we receive your completed registration/deposit, we will process your application and mail you a written confirmation.
16) How fast will you need to know about Retreat reservations (i.e. Is the Retreat already filling up?) This one is hard to predict, as reservations will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are a limited number of seats for this Retreat. We've sold out in the past, and we expect to do so for this trip as well. If you wish to know the most updated status of the Retreat, please contact us.
17) How will I know if you received my deposit and completed registration form? We will mail (or e-mail) you a written confirmation within 48 hours of receiving your completed registration and deposit. We send written confirmations for ALL payments you make to us. So once the full payment is made, you will also receive an additional confirmation from us as well.
18) Are the guided meditations and yoga classes suitable for beginners and non-yoga or inflexible folks? All classes will accommodate beginners, and all yoga will be gentle and for ALL levels, so you can certainly participate at your own level. No power yoga or hatha-jock classes on our retreat! And for you hatha jocks who really want a power workout, we think you'll find some surprising advancements and improvements in the restrictions of your body with the practice of the techniques that will be shared with you in our Retreat yoga classes.
19) Will my cell phone work in India? Will they have wifi there? Your cell phones can work in India, but you will want to check with your carrier for any international provisions or packages or prices that they offer for India before you leave for India. They all vary a great deal, and you don't want to get stuck with any huge fees! As for wifi, the hotels will have wifi available, but it is not easily available at the ashram and not likely available at all up in the mountains. In Rishikesh, many of the cafes in town now have wifi available, and you can ask the locals once we arrive if you wish to head to town to use wifi. Apps such as Whatsapp or Viber can be used to make free international calls with wifi service-- those are apps we've used many times during our travels
20) Will there be a way to do laundry at while we're in India? When we are up in the mountains laundry will be a little tricky. We'd recommend bringing a few changes in underwear (long underwear, etc.), and leaving the rest to be washed upon return to Rishikesh. You may wash your clothes bucket-style in your own room (we have laundry soap on the pack list for that reason), and there is a clothespin drying line on the rooftop of the ashram, though it has limited availability. At the 4-star hotels, of course, you will have optional laundry service, but it will be more costly. Any charges for laundry services are the responsibility of the participant.
21) Will the rooms to our accommodations be lockable? What about the hotel? Thieves can be anywhere, though we've stayed at 4-star hotels in the past and we've never had a problem with stolen items or luggage. We do recommend keeping your luggage locked at all times when you are not in the room (we do so in the US as well), and keeping your passport with you at all times. The hotel rooms are lockable from the general public, and the ashram rooms also have padlocks for the door. We personally like to bring an easy barrel combo lock to use at the ashram, and if you do wish to do so, you and your roommate can decide how to do that. If you bring your own keyed lock and you lose your key, they will have to cut your lock-- for this reason we recommend an easy 3 or 4 barrel lock instead of keys (see our Packing List suggestions). In the mountains, accommodations will not be as secure, so we recommend that you don't take many valuables with you for this portion of the Retreat, that you lock your luggage when away for the day, and that you carry whatever valuables you do have (i.e. camera, passport, cash, etc.) with you at all times. We have arranged secure storage for our luggage while we are in the mountains, and we will retrieve this luggage upon our return to Rishikesh.
22) What are the beds and pillow like? Are there blanket and sheets? Do we need a sleeping bag? India is an incredible land of contrasts, and this Retreat reflects some of those contrasts. That means that in Delhi, at the 4-star hotel, the beds and pillows are lovely, and you'll sleep like royalty, with bigger fluffy pillows. In the higher mountains, most of our days will be in nicer hotels, though a few days' accommodations will be more rustic. In Rishikesh, the accommodations are pleasant, but beds are firmer, smaller, and with considerably less cushion. They will provide plenty of blankets and a covers in the mountains so sleeping bags are not required on our retreats, though we generally suggest that participants bring a thin compressible sleeping bag or silk-like liner for comfort in the higher mountains. We enjoy having our own clean comfy silk liners to crawl into after a good day's journey!
23) What are the bathrooms like? At the 4-star hotels, bathrooms are very western, fully equipped with hair dryers, shampoos, soaps, etc. They are very nice! The ashram bathrooms are more rustic, and they do have western toilets (seats), with hot water showers (if you want a hot shower, you turn on a "geezer" which electrically heats up the water for you in about 15 minutes). The ashram bathrooms are private for each double room. We usually recommend flip-flops for the ashram shower, as the cement floor can feel quite cold in the mornings. In the more rustic accommodations in the mountains (i.e. in Uley), there will be bathrooms with western toilets in each room.
24) Are there bugs in India? What about mosquitoes? Do I need a mosquito net? Yes, there are bugs. Just like here. But they can be a little bigger in India. Generally, we don't see a lot of bugs, especially in the cooler fall seasons. Winter is their dry season, and the bugs and mosquitoes are generally at their worst during the days following the monsoons and rains (June/July). We like to avoid going to India during those times (unless we're headed to the mountains, where it's cooler). You are welcome to bring mosquito netting for Rishikesh, though in the past they've not been used- they take up a lot of luggage space, and ultimately ended up in our "wish we hadn't brought that" pile.
25) What's the weather like in India? Weather in India varies greatly depending upon what region you are visiting. March to June are generally the hottest months, and it can be unbearably hot and dusty. Many people head to the hills during these months for relief from the heat extremes of the lowlands. Monsoons (rainy season) comes generally from July through September, and there can be daily torrential downpours and high possibility of flooding in areas, making travel difficult at times. Though weather varies greatly from the lowlands to the foothills to the mountain regions, generally the fall and early winter months are some of the best times to visit India, as the weather is very pleasant, with minimal rainfall in most places. The higher mountains are best to visit during the September months, as the temperatures are still pleasant during the day and there is usually very little rain.
As far as expected temperatures, Delhi and Agra temperatures can rise into the 90's during the day and cool into the 70's in the evening (we're only there for a few nights, and our 4-star hotel has good air-conditioning). In Rishikesh, temperatures in the day can peak into the high 80's and go down to the 70's at night. In the Himalayan mountains, we can expect sunny days with temperatures in the high 60's and 70's during the day, and temperatures in the 40's at night. It's a great time to visit India-- rainfall is minimal at this time of year, though you still want to carry some rain-protective clothing, just in case.
26) What's the food like in India? Is it spicy? Is the food safe to eat? What about the water? We'll be eating variety of Indian vegetarian meals during our time in India. At the 4-star hotels we'll have good selection of menu items. At the ashram we'll have simple, delicious vegetarian meals. And in the mountains, the company working with us is known for their delicious Indian meals, so we'll have plenty of great food to enjoy! All our meals are prepared as "mild" (with the exception of the hotel food, which may be requested as you wish), though if you wish to have a more spicy experience in India, there will be various "achar" or spicy pastes and pickles available that the Indians traditionally use to spice up their meals. We advise that participants eat only meals and foods prepared by our cooks and for our group. We also highly recommend that you avoid fresh salads and foods that would be washed in tap water and not cooked. It is best and safest to eat piping hot meals, cooked fresh, and to only eat fruits if you can peel them yourself. In addition, we strongly warn against eating ANY food off the streets of India, even if you see others doing so. It is not worth ruining an entire trip or exposing yourself to bacteria and parasites for the taste of one item off the street! As far as water, we will provide good quality bottled water for the longer bus rides and travels through the mountains, and there are good quality filters at the ashram, so everyone will be able to refill their water bottles as needed and for day trips.
27) I don't speak Hindi. How will I communicate with people in India? Actually, the official language of India is English, and most people speak English in the bigger cities, though less in the rural areas of northern India (i.e. mountains). We will have English-speaking guides with us in the mountains, and in Delhi you will find that many of the people in the larger hotels and stores speak English. No need to worry... we will be assuming that no one speaks Hindi on our Retreat, and we will make sure you are well taken care of!
28) Trip insurance would cost extra, correct? Yes. We do not sell or provide trip insurance, so you would need to purchase it separately through a travel insurance company. We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to cover any unforeseen emergencies or cancellations. You may want to check out www.insuremytrip.com.
30) Do you recommend Traveler's Checks or cash, or both? It's really up to you what you wish to take for the trip. We've usually carried a combination of both (Traveler's Checks are nice as they sometimes have the best exchange rates at the banks, and they have the extra safety feature if they were to be lost or stolen). Both cash and Traveler's Checks are easily exchanged at the banks and the 4-star hotels of India.
31) What are TSA-approved locks and where do I get them? While you are welcome to leave your suitcases unlocked in the airport, we recommend getting the TSA-approved luggage locks. Generally, it helps to discourage others from helping themselves to the goodies in your luggage. TSA locks allow the airline security personnel to open your luggage (they have special keys) and lock them again afterwards. We have found, however, that TSA often cuts them off anyway, and they do not need to replace them if they do. So we encourage you to carry an extra lock or two for locking your luggage in your room. Ideally, your suitcase has a built-in lock, so you would not need to worry about losing your locks. Either way, aways keep an eye on your luggage when in India. The latest tricks of street thieves is to slit your suitcase with a razor when you're not looking and take some or all of the contents.
32) What are recommended reading materials for this Retreat? There are no required reading materials, though we highly recommend the following two books (you can find them at your local library, or purchase them from Amazon or your local bookstore):
Paramahansa Yogananda: Autobiography of a Yogi (Self-Realization Fellowship Publishers)
Swami Rama: Living with the Himalayan Masters (Himalayan Institute Press)
Have more questions about our India Sacred Retreat? Fee Free to contact us!
Rishikesh... ancient jewel of the Himalayas
Home to mystics and sages... open your heart and feel the blessings all around...
One of our favorite treats!
By far one of the most magnificent creations in the world...
A place to dream and rejuvenate yourself...
Inspire yourself in the atmosphere of the high mountains...