Monday, August 13, 2018

India Tours for the season November 2018 to February 2019

India Tours for the season November 2018 to February 2019

Jean-Philipe, a Canadian expat living in Tamil Nadu, offers personalized, introductory tours of north and south India from November through February each year. The itineraries shown are suggestions, and can be adjusted and customized as desired.

Each tour can be for 15, 22 or 29 days; returning to Canada on Sunday 2, 3 or 4 weeks later. Further extensions are available on request. Discounts for tours of more than 22 days.

India can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor, so travelling in a small group (maximum of four participants) with an experienced guide to look after all the logistics and minutiae allows you to enjoy the experience of India with no concerns or worries. Jean-Philipe will look after all the details of where to go, how to get there, where to stay, how to get around, what to see, and what to avoid.

Jean-Philipe has been travelling and living in India for more than three decades. He specializes in exploring India extensively by motorcycle, car, train and bus. In his travels he has developed a network of friendships and valuable contacts, all to the advantage of the visitors he escorts each year.

North India Yatra – Depart Canada Friday November 16, 2018

The northern tour begins at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (airport code DEL), where Jean-Philipe will meet your incoming flight. We head into Delhi on the spanking new Delhi Metro, taking the Airport Express to New Delhi Railway Station. Nearby we settle into our base, the Ginger Hotel Rail Yatri Nivas.

We spend a couple of days exploring some of the main attractions of Delhi, such as the Red Fort, Qutb Minar, India Gate, Jama Masjid, the Baha’i Lotus Temple House of Worship, and the magnificent Akshardham Temple.  

We have two options when leaving Delhi: to proceed directly to Agra by air-conditioned van; or to take a side trip by train to visit Shimla, the former summer capital of the British Raj. We then return to Delhi and continue to Agra.

In the morning, as early as possible, we visit the Taj Mahal, probably the most famous and iconic attraction in India. Later that day we continue to Jaipur, with a possible stop if time permits at the deserted capital of Fatehpur Sikri.

We stay three nights in Jaipur, affording us time to visit Amer Fort; Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory; the City Palace; and from outside only, the Hawa Mahal “Palace of Winds”.

From Jaipur we take a train to Udaipur, with its “Floating Palace”, now a luxury hotel; the City Palace; Jagdish Temple; and Bagore Ki Haveli museum.

We travel by van to Jodhpur, famous for the Mehrangarh hilltop fort; Umaid Bhawan Palace, now also a luxury hotel; and Ghanta Ghar clocktower and market.

If you have selected the 15 day tour, you return to Delhi for your flight home.

From Jodhpur we have two options: by train either to Mumbai or to Goa. The detailed itinerary for these two options will be finalized in discussions with the tour participants.

After 22 days, return to Canada from either Mumbai (BOM) or Goa Dabolim (GOI) airport.

You can optionally extend to 29 days with a further week in Goa.

South India Yatra – Depart Canada Friday January 4, 2019

The southern tour begins at Chennai airport (MAA), where Jean-Philipe and his driver greet you and whisk you to our first stop, Mamallapuram (also called Mahabalipuram), a laid-back beach area and stone-carving centre and former port city of the Pallava Dynasty a millennium ago.

We stay four nights at Hotel Mahabs Resort, an oasis of tranquillity in the centre of town, to catch up on jet-lag and acclimatise to India. All rooms overlook the garden and swimming pool. Enjoy a breakfast buffet with both Indian and Western items, and poolside service from the restaurant and bar.

On day 3 we do a walking tour of Mamallapuram's main archaeological sites, including Arjuna's Penance, Krishna's Butterball, the Lighthouse, the Five Rathas, and the Shore Temple.

On day 5 we leave Mamallapuram after breakfast, and on our way to Chennai Central railway station by taxi we stop for an hour or so each at:

- Madras Crocodile Bank, one of the largest herpetology centres in the world.

- DakshinaChitra, a cross cultural living museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of south India.

- San Thome Basilica, with the tomb of St Thomas, one of only three places in the world which is the known burial site of one of Jesus' apostles (the others are St. Peter in the Vatican and St James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain).

- Amir Mahal Palace, home of the Prince of Arcot and his extended family. Depending on his schedule, the Prince’s Dewan (heir), Nawabzada Mohammed Asif Ali, may be free to greet us.

We take an overnight train to Mettupalayam, where our driver and van meet us to bring us to the UNESCO World Heritage Nilgiri Mountain Railway narrow-gauge "Toy Train" up to Coonoor, near Ooty, Queen of the Hill Stations. Our driver meets up with us again at Coonoor railway station, and will be our transportation for the next several days.

After lunch, weather permitting, we visit Lamb's Rock and Dolphin's Nose, or if visibility in the mountains is poor, we walk through the magnificent Simms Botanical Garden Park. Then to Ooty for our overnight stop at Sterling Elk Hill Resort. In the morning we visit Doddabetta Peak (weather permitting) and a tea factory, then drive to Mysore, city of palaces.

During our three-day stay in Mysore, we sample several of the main attractions of this fascinating city. We tour Mysore Palace, one of the most visited monuments in India; see the Chamundeshwari Temple on Chamundi Hills, and its great stone sacred bull; explore the nearby historic walled town of Srirangapatnam, capital of Tipu Sultan; and stroll through Brindavan Gardens.

We also include a tour of the city market with our local travel partner goMowgli.

From Mysore, we take an overnight train to Hospet, our base for visiting Hampi, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire.

We then travel by day train through the Western Ghats to Goa, former Portuguese enclave taken back by India in 1961, where we relax for a couple of days of beach time, with a day visit to Old Goa and Goa's capital Panjim.

If you have selected the 15 day tour, we go to Goa Dabolim airport (GOI) for your flight home.

From Goa, an overnight train takes us to Kerala's main city of Ernakulam, where we stay two or three nights in historic Fort Kochi. We enjoy seaside walks, local ferries, and heritage museums, and either a day-long backwater boat trip, or an overnight backwater houseboat stay at additional cost.

A day train takes us to our last stop, Varkala, with its beautiful beach and cliff-top, catering to Western and Indian visitors alike.

If you have selected the 22 day tour, you will catch your outbound flight from Trivandrum airport (TRV).

We continue by train to Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of India, where three seas meet:  the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf of Arabia. We visit the Gandhi Memorial Mandapam and the Swami Vivekananda Museum. In the morning we take a taxi to nearby Nagercoil, and a short train ride to Madurai, one of the major cities of Tamil Nadu.

Madurai is home of the Meenakshi Amman Temple and Tirumalai Nayak Palace as well as the Gandhi Museum.

We continue via Trichy and Puducherry (formerly known as Pondicherry) to return to Chennai for your flight home. A continuation of the tour beyond 29 days is available on request.

Prices, Bookings and Flights

All prices are in Canadian dollars.

The tour price is $175 per person per day, twin-share basis. Single room supplement is 25%.

Tour price includes:

    - All ground transportation and transfers (train, taxi, van, autorickshaw)
    - Semi-deluxe accommodation, twin-share basis (single room option at extra cost)
    - All breakfasts and lunches; all but one dinner per week
    - Guide fees and admission fees
    - Tips and gratuities

Not included:

    - International airfare
    - Travel and health insurance
    - Visa
    - Personal expenses (e.g. alcohol, laundry, shopping, snacks)
    - 1 dinner per week

All-inclusive grand total is about $4000 for two weeks, $5000 for three weeks, and $6000 for 4 weeks.

Tours can be booked through our travel partner Maritime Travel, Attention Hana Talimalo. 505 Bute St at Pender, Vancouver. 604-681-6212.

You can book your flight to Delhi (DEL) or Chennai (MAA) yourself, or through Hana at Maritime Travel. Depending on the itinerary you choose, your return flight will be from Mumbai (BOM), Goa Dabolim (GOI), Trivandrum (TRV) or Chennai. You may need to make a connection within India on your outbound flight.

Several routes are available to both Delhi and Chennai:
- Air Canada over the North Pole non-stop to Delhi
- Air Canada/Lufthansa via Frankfurt
- British Airways via London Heathrow
- Eva Air via Taipei
- Air Canada/Cathay Pacific via Hongkong

Visas and other notes

All visitors to India must have a valid visa. You should apply for your visa at least one month before departure.

Travel insurance is highly recommended.

Consult with a travel clinic for advice on vaccinations and other health issues.

Photos: #focusonindiatours

Facebook: FocusOnIndiaTours

Please contact Jean-Philipe at for further information.


"The time I spent in south India with Jean-Philipe as my guide was one of the best experiences of my life. He handled everything so competently, hotel reservations, train travel, money exchange, and so on. This was very important to me because I was in my 81st year. I was always positive that whatever emergency arose, he could handle it. Thank you JP for wonderful memories!"
- Mary B, Kemptville ON

"JP will organize your trip to the last detail and you will not need to worry about transportation, accommodation or anything else. Just relax and enjoy your ride. However, make sure to discuss in detail your travel preferences (i.e. visit beaches or temples, travel by train or airplane, etc.)"
- Jan K, Vancouver

"Please accept my confirmation and approval of Jean-Philipe as an excellent tour guide. During my six-weeks in southern India I found him to be very knowledgeable, well organized and efficient – just what you need when travelling in India. I highly recommend Jean-Philipe as an experienced, pleasant and intelligent tour guide!"
- Sheila F, Vancouver

"I traveled with JP in India in 2010 for a month. He made my India experience completely seamless so that all I had to do was enjoy getting to know some of the many new things and experiences India has to offer. His local knowledge is extensive and his wide acquaintance of people in the travel industry in India made his help really valuable. Please consider this my warmest recommendation to take advantage of his personable and thorough approach to travel planning."
- Alex G, Burnaby BC

"Thank you JP for a lovely tour. It was way more than I expected. I look forward to travelling with you or your assistant at another time."
- Amelia C, Surrey BC

See also this great article:

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Key Dates for This Season's Tours

Up to Aug 31 - reserve your place with a $100 deposit for November (north India) or January (south India) yatra

Aug 31 - deadline to pay $1000 advance to avail current pricing ($150/day, twin share basis, single room supplement 25%)

Sept 1 - tour price increases to $175/day, s.r.s. 25%

Sept 15 - balance due for November yatra

Oct 31 - balance due for January yatra

Monday, July 23, 2018

Open House and planning meetup

Please join us on Sunday July 29, 2018, at 11:30am, at Desi Rosa Madras Restaurant, to co-create the detailed itineraries for this season's tours.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Announcing our tour itineraries for 2018/19

- North India Yatra (Delhi Agra Rajasthan Goa), depart YVR Friday November 16, 2018
- South India Yatra (Chennai Mysore Hampi Goa Kerala), depart YVR Friday January 4, 2019 

for 15, 22 or 29 days. Return to Canada on Sunday 2, 3 or 4 weeks later.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Tour Maps

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Goan Goan Gone -- the Ultimate India Travel Adventure

I will be giving a talk on India travel on Thursday June 23rd, 7 to 9pm, at a Meetup group event, at The Cranium Group, 308 East Fifth Ave, Vancouver.

Goan Goan Gone -- the Ultimate India Travel Adventure

Three Reasons You MUST Visit India

(It's the same event, promoted by two different Meetup groups.)

Hope you can join us.

See also:

10 Best Places to Go in India


Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Spaniard in the Works

... wrote John Lennon (In His Own Write).

That's what the FRO (Foreigners' Registration Office) has handed me.

The new DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police) was very polite, very friendly (even invited me to lunch in the senior officers' canteen), and very firm.

"I'm sorry, sir, I have discussed your situation thoroughly with my superior officer, and we cannot extend your visa any more. You have already had eight years, and the maximum is supposed to be five years. You must leave India by June 22 {my annual renewal date}, get a fresh visa abroad, and we will welcome you back."

Basically that leaves me with two options:

1. Go to a nearby country such as Sri Lanka or Singapore for a visa. However, I know that they would only issue me a 6-month tourist visa, and in December I would have to leave India again. I'm not sure how easy it is to get back-to-back tourist visas abroad.

2. Travel to Canada for a while, get a fresh visa, and return to India. At least there would be a (very slight) possibility they would issue me another long-term renewable visa instead of just a 6-monther. But that could ONLY happen in Canada.

I think it makes more sense for me to go to Canada for the summer, and return to India in the autumn, when the weather is best here.

So I leave India on Sunday 22nd June, arrive in Toronto, stay with friends there overnight, visit with my Mom in Grimsby for a few days, then fly to Vancouver, for a summer of music and film festivals, great weather, and visiting many friends after so long. Maybe do a little part-time work tutoring to provide some extra cash.

What I do from there will depend on whether I can get another long-term renewable visa, or just a 6-month Tourist visa. A long-term visa will let me continue to live in India. If I can only get a Tourist visa, I'll have to go back to Canada every year.

I have only booked a one-way ticket to Vancouver. It was not much cheaper (less than $100) to buy a return ticket instead of two one-ways, and this keeps my options much more flexible, both in terms of when I leave Canada and the route I take to return to India.

At this point my plan is to stay in Vancouver until the end of September, then come back to India in October. I'll spend a week or so at home in Chennai, then hit the road for my annual trip to the west coast of Karnataka.