EXPLORER GUIDE TO
TOURINGAll the major sites in and around Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj can be easily reached by walking or a short taxi ride, and all are accessible to the independent traveler. Thus, there is no need for a tour. However, you might want to enlist a resident or monk to explain things to youmost are more than willing to tell you about their village and culture.
For trekking excursions outside of the immediate region, check out the small, local tour and trekking operators along the three main roads of the village. All excursions will provide the necessary equipment and guides.
There are also a few deluxe upscale places, rather like Indian Hiltons. The Surya is near the Dalai Lamas complex and has standard deluxe rooms for about $50-$75 USD per night.Monasteries
Monastery rooms dont tend to be deluxe and hot water is not always available 24/7, but if you want to experience the monastic life, its worth it. Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa
Past the Om Guest House down a steep path (bring a flashlight at night!)
The Gompa has several Spartan rooms, but the atmosphere among the young monks is quiet and peaceful. $4-5 USD/night.
Zilnon Kagyeling Nyingmapa Gompa
There are two meditation centers near Dharamkot that offer room and board. The Dhamma Sikhara Vipassna Meditation Center is a longer-term retreat center specializing in Indian Vipassna meditation, and the Tushita Meditation Center for Mahyana Buddhism nearby is a silent meditation center, which means you cant talk unless its an emergency. Both offer daily classes and lodging and board for those who are taking classes or on retreat. Rates are low, but the accommodations are Spartan. And at Tushita, if you so much as kill a flyof which there are manyyoure likely to get reprimanded.
Homestays can sometimes be arranged through the Dharamsala Earthville Institute (DEVI) located at the Khana Nirvana Community Café.There are also a few new hotels, rooms and apartments for rent in Dharamkot and Bhagsu. Inquire at the cafes and shops in the village and look for signs on the bulletin boards in McLeod Ganj.EATS
For exact dates of events according to the Buddhist calendar, see tibet.com/dasaguide.html
Pathankot, the terminal of the broad gauge railway, is 90km south. There is a narrow gauge train from Pathankotvery slow and more of a tourist attraction than a mode of transportation-- to Kangra. Dharamsala is 17km by road and McLeod Ganj is a few miles further. You can catch a taxi or a bus from Kangra. Buses
Main gateways for deluxe and local buses to Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj are Dehli, Manali and Shimla. Deluxe buses to and from Dehli run daily and cost $10-$15 for the 12 hour trip. Buses make several stops in roadside dhabas for food and bathroom breaks. The Manali bus also takes about 12 hours and costs about the same. You can also go on to Leh from Manali, but its a long ride. Buses from Shimla are cheaper and the trip is only about 8 hours long, but the ride on narrow mountain roads is harrowing.
Local buses are cheaper, but for long journeys like these, it pays to take the deluxe. Tickets for deluxe buses can be purchased through the HRTC office at the bus stand. Several travel agencies in town also run deluxe buses. Check with Potala Tours and Travels or Himalchal Travels.Shared Taxi
A shared taxi is another alternative if you dont like buses. However, even if you split the cost with three other passengers, the ride from Dehli, Manali or Shimla could run $50/person. If you are coming from some other place, it might be your best option.
GETTING AROUNDIts very easy to walk around McLeod Ganj, so you will not need much in the way of transportation. However, auto rickshaws and taxis are available near the bus stand for trips to Dharamsala, Dharamkot, Gangchen Kyishong and the Norbulingka Institute.
VISAS AND OTHER OFFICIAL DOCUMENTSIndian visas are valid for one month or six months and must be obtained prior to entry into the country. Contact the Indian Embassy or consulate to apply.
If you are planning on a long-term stay, get a six-month visa, which can sometimes be extended by leaving the country (to Nepal, for example) and then returning. Even if you plan to work or vounteer, it is best to apply for a regular tourist visa, as educational visas are very difficult and time-consuming to obtain.No special permits are needed to visit Dharamsala or McLeod Ganj. For trekking in other nearby regions (especially regions of Ladakh, Kullu and Spiti) apply for permits from your trekking outfitter or from state agencies.
MONEYThe Indian Rupee is the currency, and the current exchange rate is approximately 40 Rs = $1 USD. There are several places to change moneythe State Bank of India on Jogibara Road and a few storefront exchange offices--and Mastercard and Visa are accepted at the upscale hotels and shops.
HEALTH AND SAFETYMcLeod Ganj is located at about 10,000 feet, so the possibility of a little altitude wooziness is possible. Travelers should purchase bottled water--this is India, after all--and be wary of fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been peeled.
If you do get sick, the Tibetan Delek Hospital in McLeod Ganj at Gangchen Kyishong uses Western medicine and volunteer doctors (and service is free). There are also local acupuncturists and traditional herbal doctors, should you be willing to try them. Best to bring a fully-equipped first aid kit (and some extra supplies to donate to the Tibetan Womens Association or TCV).The village is very safe. You will find few of the hustlers and touts common in the rest of the country. Female travelers will also find the lack of harassment from men a refreshing change. Still, watch your valuables and keep your passport with you at all times.
COMMUNICATIONSFor a small village, you will discover that McLeod Ganj is well-connected to the outside world. There are several public phone booths and cybercafes, where you might find yourself seated beside a monk whos checking out the latest news on CNN.
CybercafesThe Green Cybercafe next door to the Green Hotel is the largest, but is often full.
The Khana Nirvana Community Café also has a few computers and is a great place to have some food and check your email.There also several other cybercafes in town, including one at the Chonor House Hotel and the Tibetan Youth Congress offices.The post office is located on Jogibara Road.The telephone area code for McLeod Ganj is 91-1892
Contact information for the Tibetan Government-in-exiles offices and departments.
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