Read below for Anandra’s straightforward advice on everything India and getting to Parmarth Niketan Ashram for the 200-hour RYT Course: The Heart of Sound
At the Heart of Sound you’ll learn that we’re meticulous planners in every way possible. After you join the course, you’ll also learn that the answer to most of your teacher training questions is #itsinthemanual. Similarly, the answer to most of your logistical questions is #itsintheFAQ. It’ll be more efficient for everyone if you can PLEASE read the entire document before contacting us with your individual questions. Thanks!
You can ask our travel agent to book all of the arrangements for you, but here are the considerations for the various options. If it’s your first time to India, welcome! We’ll do everything we can to ensure your journey is in a bubble of Grace!
For basic travel questions like “What kind of plugs do they use in India?” and “Where is Rishikesh?” we trust you’ll find Google a handy resource.
Basic Travel Details
Indian visas are now available on arrival for passport holders from 180 countries! Please read the link THOROUGHLY and proceed with the online application process.
**If you’re getting a tourist visa on arrival, note that you still need to apply online in advance. (For any updates in that process, again, please check the Indian government website!)
**Also please remember that if you’re arriving early as well as taking Module 1 & 2 in succession, the duration of your stay might exceed the length of the e-tourist visa. (As of July 10, 2017, the length is 60 days, extended from the earlier limit of 34 days.)
**If you’re using the e-visa, you may need to show your OUTBOUND ticket (departure out of India) in order to board the airplane.
Our FAQ page is meant to be a resource for your further research into these official subjects. If we were to copy details to our website and offer them as official information, that’s a huge risk, since we can’t monitor their site daily for any changes on the part of the Indian government. Also, since every student is from different countries with different rules and also has different travel plans, the requirements vary. Again, please read the link THOROUGHLY.
In case you’re required to fill out a contact form for your Visa application, or are asked at the airport at immigration, please use the following information:
Parmarth Niketan Ashram
Phone number: +91 (0) 135 243 4301 / 243 4302
Check “tourist,” rather than “education.” (Education is the designation you’d use if you were attending a University course. Learning yoga is allowed under tourist activities in India.)
You probably won’t have to specify what you’re doing or where you’re going, but if required you can mention that you’re going for a yoga course at Parmarth Niketan. It’s a very famous ashram, especially in Delhi (North India), and they will very likely just wish you a great time. The Heart of Sound course is run as a “yoga tourist” retreat at the ashram, but no one in immigration would recognize that name, so better to just use the ashram name.
March weather is absolutely lovely during the day and a bit cold at night and in the early mornings. By April it starts getting hot, and that’s why we’re heading higher up into the mountains for Module 2! Please pack warm socks, room slippers, sweater, a lightweight down or fleece jacket, hat, and a few other cozy, fuzzy things to keep you warm at night. (You can buy beautiful cashmere and wool shawls in Rishikesh. Nice cold-weather gear is cheap and not great quality – bring it from home.) By April, it will start getting hot during the day, and you’ll want to take refreshing afternoon dips in Ganga!
DETAILED ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE SCHEDULE
Your arrival date:
If you’re arriving from outside India, you should plan to reach 1-3 days in advance of our March 17th start date in order to adjust to the time difference and recover from jet lag. When you book your room, please be advised the ashram in Rishikesh is VERY busy during the season prior to Module 1 and we highly recommend booking your reservation at http://www.parmarth.org/reservations/ as soon as you register AND explain that you are part of Anandra’s Heart of Sound group. If you arrive on your own to ask for a room, and they don’t know you’re with Anandra’s group, it’s likely you’ll be turned away. The ashram is actually completely booked during our retreat, so only double rooms will be available in our reserved block from March 14th (for those that want to arrive a few days early) through April 7th (when we head up to Uttarkashi and Module 2). The rate is approximately 800 rupees per night/ per person, and the payment for your room will be payable to the ashram, in person, before the course is completed.
If you wish to arrive before March 14th, you will need to book a local hotel or guest house and can move to the ashram closer to the start date.
Our start time for Module 1 is March 17th at 7AM in our meeting room (which you will be guided to when you check in to the ashram on the previous day). We’ll start with a brief introduction and a blissful nāda yoga and mantra practice, break for breakfast from 9-10:30, and return for morning lecture and more practical orientation.
The program ends at about 7:30PM on the 13th day (March 29th), after evening Ganga arti and our group kīrtan jam on the banks of Ganga. If needed, you can schedule trains from Haridwar for midnight (or later) departure, or flights from Dehradun for the next morning.
AFTER Module 1, if you plan to stay on, it should be easy to get a room during the week between Module 1 and departure to Module 2 in Uttarkashi, but we do still recommend that you inform them in advance.
AFTER Module 2, if you wish to go back to Rishikesh on April 21-22 for a few days, booking a room should be no problem, but you’ll definitely want a (more expensive) A/C room since it’ll be very, very hot!)
Getting to/from Rishikesh
Flights from Overseas
It’s easiest and usually most economical to book your international flight into New Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport. If you’re travelling straight through to Rishikesh (not stopping in Delhi), book all the way to Dehradun (40 minutes to Rishikesh by taxi).
In Delhi you’ll have to disembark, collect your luggage, and go through immigration. Dehradun does not have international facilities.
Check your luggage allowance – domestic Indian flights usually have a limit of 15 KG for checked bags, but if you’ve booked it in conjunction with your international flight the domestic Indian airline will sometimes give you the full international baggage allowance (usually 30 KG). You may have to double-check this when you check in for your first flight, get a note and confirmation from a supervisor, and show the note to the domestic Indian airline so they will accept the larger weight limit. Otherwise, you might end up paying quite a bit in excess baggage fees, usually about $6-9 USD per KG. Check it and plan your luggage weight for your return trip as well!
Also, keep in mind that the Delhi airport has two terminals which are quite far from each other. Jet Airways is the only domestic airline that always flies from T3, the international terminal.
Getting to Rishikesh by Air
If you haven’t booked the flights all together, you can purchase a separate domestic flight. Just keep in mind that the standard luggage allowance is only 15 KG.
The flight from Delhi to Dehradun (just 40 minutes by car from Rishikesh) is less than one hour. If booked in advance, you can expect to pay 2500 RS – 5000 RS for a one-way (approx. $35-$85). The convenience is well worth it!
If your international flight arrives during the daytime, it might be easiest for you to book a connecting flight from Dehradun Jolly Gant airport (just 40 minutes by car from Rishikesh.) Give yourself at least 3 hours to go through customs and transfer to the domestic terminal (10 minutes by shuttle from the international terminal).
If your international flight arrives in the early evening (between 4PM-9PM), you’ll want to either drive by taxi or stay one night in Delhi before resuming your journey in the morning. There are several international quality airport hotels to choose from ranging from about $50 per night to $150+. Look for one which has a free airport shuttle, such as those listed here:
Please do not book a hotel far from the airport (and least desirable, in the cheap Pahar Ganj area which used to be popular with backpackers but is now notorious for tourist-related crimes).
The Delhi airport (Terminal 3) is a facility of international standard and has a transit hotel as well, if you’d prefer not to leave the airport.
About Delhi Airport: Delhi Transit Tip from Anandra – Layovers or Meetup Location
I had a 5 hour layover in Delhi in the middle of the night recently and I went to the transit hotel just outside of baggage claim (where you’d have to go to exit the airport, or to transfer between the international arrival and the domestic departure area). It’s an indoor strip just outside before you go outdoors to the street area. After getting hot idli and sambar at Vaango! the South Indian place, I got a 30 minute back massage and a 30 minute foot reflexology and a shower. (They didn’t have any beds available.) The facilities were really nice, the therapist was a very nurturing kapha lady from India’s Northeast and pretty good for India, and the whole deal cost me about $50 USD. I recommend it if you have time.
If you’re meeting a fellow student and have a bit of wait time, this area also has a coffee shop and a convenience store. It’s about the length of a football field – not so large that you’d have a hard time seeing your fellow student.
The Delhi airport also has 30 minutes of free wifi (usually) if you can enter a local Indian number to get a one-time password. There are also some Airtel pay phones, or people are friendly if you need to ask someone to borrow their phone to make a short (local) call.
Do not go outside if you want to be able to come back in!
Pro: Convenience, safest for solo travelers, shortest duration. Especially if this is your first time in India, we strongly recommend you fly to Dehra Dun for the most graceful entry experience.
Con: Could be expensive if booked at the last minute. Limited schedule of only daytime flights. Consider the extra cost of luggage (see above). Sometimes flights get delayed at Dehradun because of Himalayan winds/weather.
Getting to Rishikesh by Taxi
Getting a taxi directly from the Delhi airport is the most highly recommended option, especially if your flight arrives between 9PM and 5 AM. Most international flights do arrive (and depart) in the middle of the night, so the taxi option is great. If you leave at night it takes 5 hours by taxi and you don’t have to shuffle your luggage around; it’s airport gate to ashram door. You can sleep in the backseat if you bring earplugs and roll up a sweater for a pillow. If you leave Delhi after 5AM or before 9PM it might take 8-10+ hours with the added traffic. The road is good and newer, but if you tend towards carsickness you’ll probably suffer due to the Indian way of driving, which includes a lot of stop and go and swerving. (To avoid cows, camels, elephants, old men with walking sticks, bicyclists, and all manner of other traffic!)
Also, if you’re traveling with several people and don’t mind the long drive it might be an economical way to go. Make sure you ask for an AC taxi so you can close the windows and set the air on internal circulation to minimize dust and pollution inhalation. Expect to pay 3800-6000 RS depending on the size of your car. Tipping is not necessary, but you can add 100-200RS if you want. (See more details about reserving a trusted taxi below.)
Your driver will probably stop at the Indian version of a truck stop – a complex with a regularly-cleaned bathroom, a McDonalds, and the wonderful Haldiram’s North Indian/multi cuisine convenience food store. (If you’re hungry, try the aloo tikki or raj kachori, the typical Delhi street food items that are done very well there! If you’re gluten-free, get the South Indian plate. Dosa, Idli, and sambar are all GF.) They’ll usually let you taste the sweets at the sweet counter, too. 🙂
Pro: Most convenient and quick (if you drive at night and taxi can pick you up directly from airport or hotel). Skip the entire hassle of Delhi, and wake up on the Ganga! For more than one traveler it may be the most economical.
Con: Possibly longest duration, riding in traffic is stressful and exposes you to a lot of pollution. Long car travel in India especially is exhausting.
Getting to Rishikesh by Train
There are several trains traveling to Rishikesh from the New Delhi Railway Station in central Delhi (less than $10 for a one-way train ticket). To catch a train, you have to travel from the airport by taxi (60-150 minutes by car depending on traffic) or by Delhi Metro (30-40 minutes with one station change which includes a long walk and several flights of stairs. The metro doesn’t run at night.). If you don’t have much luggage (i.e. a backpack only) and you’re up for the adventure and traveling with a buddy, this could be a reasonable option for you. The train stations have porters (as a foreigner you won’t pay less than 100 RS for them to carry 2 bags to your platform – may be much more!) but don’t count on finding a convenient elevator. The stations and the train are relatively clean by Indian standards, but grimy, funky, and smelly by Western standards. Don’t be surprised when you see horrifically poor-looking or very sick people and animals in and around the train station. Be extremely cautious of pickpockets; carry all of your valuables in a money belt on your body and under your clothes.
Train tickets must be booked 2-6 weeks in advance to ensure a seat. I like booking on www.cleartrip.com. When I travel by train on this route I choose the AC Chair Car on the Shatabdi (fastest) train.
From the train station at Haridwar, it’s a 40-60 minute taxi ride to Parmarth Niketan Ashram if you’re arriving before 7PM. 60-80 minutes if you’re arriving after 7PM.* The travel agent can arrange a taxi to meet you at Haridwar, so you don’t have to haggle or take an untrusted driver from the railway station.
Browse and purchase train tickets on www.cleartrip.com
Pro: Cheap if you’re already in Delhi or coming from elsewhere in India, and very “local” flavor. You’ll probably meet some very curious Indian friends on the journey. If the train is in the daytime it’s nice to see the villages and farm life passing by. It’s fun if you travel super light (only a backpack with no valuables in it), have a buddy, and are not at all jetlagged.
Con: The whole travel experience takes several hours longer than the flight (and sometimes, the taxi). Requires booking another taxi from Haridwar train station to the ashram Rishikesh anyway (1.5 hours, 1500-2000 RS approx). Can be difficult to reach from the airport. You’ll probably end up having to carry your own luggage at least part of the way. You won’t want your luggage to be out of your sight, ever. Risk of theft is significant. The whole experience may be too dirty and crowded for your liking. Long travel in India especially is exhausting. DO NOT TAKE THE TRAIN ALONE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A FEMALE, it’s your FIRST TIME IN INDIA, or WILL BE SERIOUSLY JETLAGGED OR OTHERWISE IMPAIRED.
*For ALL modes of transportation, it’s important to plan your arrival time to Parmarth Niketan Ashram!!!
The ashram is in the area of Rishikesh which doesn’t allow cars except from the back side of the mountain through a forest reserve area. The reserve closes at 7PM, so if your car tries to drop you off after 7PM, you have to go about 30 minutes out of the way to approach the ashram from the other side (through the town, over a bridge, and backtrack to the ashram on the other side of the river). There’ll be no one at reception if you arrive in the middle of the night (before 8AM) without prior arrangement, so be sure to inform Ashu of your planned arrival so your ashram-based taxi driver can have your room key with him.
You may also wish to review the ashram reservation and information website itself:
RESERVING A TRUSTED TAXI
If you need a taxi from the airport (either Delhi or Dehradun) or train station, please read carefully below. We will put you in touch directly with an ashram travel agent Anandra works with extensively named Ashu Mishra. He is another travel agent that works with ashram clients, and after the introductions on our end, he will be in touch with you directly about the details of your pickup (Driver name, phone number, and taxi license plate #).
Please contact Ashu Mishra: firstname.lastname@example.org or (+91)09997888988 for India domestic travel. You may contact him for travel assistance, such as an airport pickup from Dehradun or Delhi airport to Rishikesh, for taxis in and around Rishikesh, or, if you’re coming to Module 2, to book your own travel to Uttarkashi or beyond if you don’t want to join the shared transportation on April 7th. For Module 1 students arriving to Rishikesh, the Heart of Sound team will confirm and double-check your arrival plans with Ashu (since we will be in Rishikesh from March 1, 2018 onwards), but it’s best if you arrange your own airport pickups directly with Ashu so you’re in touch with him directly in case of flight schedule changes.
Please arrange directly with Ashu, and tell him you’re Anandra’s student! We recommend you re-confirm with him 1-2 days before travel.
How it works:
1. You provide Ashu with your exact travel details and the request for a taxi (specify what size car) to drop you to Parmarth Ashram at least 48hours in advance.
2. You get a driver name and car number by phone (if you have a local number) or email, usually 4-5 hours in advance.
3. His driver as noted in his communication picks you up outside of baggage claim, with a sign bearing your name. If you did not get a driver name/number because you were travelling and unable to accept email, just look for someone with a sign. Enjoy the ride! If you arrive during the day, you’ll go through the Rajaji National Forest so watch out for elephants! 🙂 If you arrive at night, you go through Rishikesh town and the journey is a little longer.
4. The driver will take you to the back gate of the ashram. If there are porters nearby, they may offer to take your luggage for you to reception and then up to your room. (If you use the porters, ask at reception how much you should pay them based on their glance at how much luggage you have.)
5. If you are able to exchange some money at the airport ($100-$200) you can pay the driver when you are dropped off. If for any reason you are unable to get rupees before arriving to Rishikesh, we will collect money and pay Ashu later. You can tip 100-200 rupees if you wish, directly to the driver. You can also tip later if you don’t have cash on you.
6. It is unlikely that your driver will speak English. Keep Ashu’s phone number in case you need to reach someone.
7. When you arrive to the ashram, go to directly reception and tell them you’re checking in for Anandra’s teacher training. You’ll have to fill out some forms and let them copy your passport, and then you’ll get the room keys. If you’re arriving between 8PM and 8AM please make sure to connect with Ashu so he can arrange for the driver to have your room key in advance. Also note for late night/early morning arrivals, the guard at the gate will give you your room key in exchange for your passport that you can pickup later in the day when you fill out the necessary check in forms in the registration office.
Travelling solo? As a Lady? At night?
Use the trusted taxi drivers and all will be well. We do NOT recommend arranging your taxi to Rishikesh at the Delhi airport; do it in advance.
Airport taxis, MeruCab, or UBER are available in Delhi for rides to your hotel nearby, if necessary. Drivers tend to be reliable and courteous, but there are occasional exceptions.
Staying at other ashrams, guesthouses, or hotels before or after our training:
I have spent a lot of time in Rishikesh over the years, but I can only recommend a few places from personal experience:
Parmarth Niketan Ashram, of course, where we’ll be having the course! It’s a vibrant place right next to the Ganga and the volunteers who run the place are all truly lovely. There are good shops and restaurants nearby. See below for more About the Ashram.
Dayananda Ashram is my other favorite. I’ve stayed there for more than a month at a time. It’s quiet, more secluded and peaceful (which also means it’s a 1-3 KM walk or auto rickshaw ride to shopping and restaurants) The only drawback is that they can be a bit funny about accepting reservations if you’re not attending one of their courses. (They want to see the person’s vibe first! Lol!)
Akhanda Yoga Ashram of Yogi Vishvketu is also nice. I haven’t stayed there myself but I’ve seen the rooms and a good friend did her āsana teacher training there and enjoyed it.
As for hotels, I can recommend the Dewa Retreat and Aloha Rishikesh, both of which are quite far from Parmarth Niketan in a different part of town. Another lovely option that is closest to the ashram is the Green Hotel.
I also stayed once in the Rainforest Guesthouse, which would be a very nurturing place to land if you don’t mind the hike down the hill. The owner is a British man and his Indian wife, and they make clean, lightly spiced Indian food and you hear nothing but the Ganga and the waterfall which goes through the property. Most of the rooms are musty, however.
You can also check this:
Note: FYI – I don’t recommend Omkarananda ashram because it’s right on the main road and if they book you in the road-facing rooms you’ll hear horns blaring day and night. I also don’t recommend the Osho Dham ashram; very funky and moldy. The Divine Resort is also on my blacklist due to horrendously rude service and bugs in the bed.
My Humble Opinion
If you’re coming in advance… For what it’s worth, if I were you, I’d fly directly to Dehradun and get a taxi directly to Parmarth Niketan ashram and settle in there. See below about Extra Room Nights at the ashram.
Or, if you’re coming a week in advance, stay at Dayananda Ashram for a week and then move to Parmarth.
Or, if you want to land in a cushy hotel, stay at Dewa Retreat, Rainforest Guest House, or Aloha Rishikesh for a few days and then move to Parmarth Niketan.
The International Yoga Festival is March 1-7 (every year) and is a fantastic experience! We curate a special Sacred Sound Stage with events and classes all day, every day.
Anandra is also leading a Bhakti Yoga Retreat dates TBA as seva for the ashram.
If you have time to come as early as that, do consider it. You could take a tour of North India and visit Dharamsala (Dalai Lama’s home), Amritsar (the Golden Temple, one of the great holy places of the world), Agra (The Taj Mahal), Vrindavan (Krishna’s birthplace and sporting ground), and have a fun shopping day in Delhi before departing India.
Thinking about spending a few days in Delhi?
Please research and weigh the health risks of spending time in Delhi, the most polluted city in the world. Google “PM 2.5 levels in Delhi” and read up on the permanent damage to heart and central nervous system, not to mention setbacks with immunity, sinus, lungs (all of which directly affect your hearing & singing ability crucial to your maximum enjoyment of the course). Delhi’s pollution is seriously no joke!!! If your health is at all fragile please shimmy out of there as soon as possible.
If you must spend more than the hour or so in the taxi on your way out of town, track the PM 2.5 levels on a monitoring website http://aqicn.org/city/delhi and avoid being outdoors if it’s in the “very unhealthy” (purple) or hazardous (maroon) zone. (It often exceeds the hazardous range by 2-3X in most areas of the city). Buy a Vogmask (about $30US on Amazon) before you come and wear it when outdoors, when riding in taxis, and even sleep with it on if you’re in a cheaper hotel or someone’s home without proper air conditioning and filters. Drink lots of pure bottled water, and take your favorite natural anti-inflammatories (like turmeric) and antihistamines. Bring over-the-counter pharmaceutical ones as well just in case your symptoms are on the more serious side.
If you experience dizziness, wheezing, difficulty breathing, mild chest pain, difficulty concentrating, eye irritation (burning, itching), sinus problems (sneezing, runny nose, congestion), coughing, a sudden loss of your vitality and sense of well-being, or anxiety from experiencing any of the symptoms above, that’s probably Delhi’s pollution having it’s way with you. Get indoors, use your Vogmask, and get out of town ASAP! (If you have any serious symptoms, obviously go to the hospital! Many Delhi residents are on steroids to manage their symptoms.)
The Old City, Lal Quila, etc are beautiful and interesting, and actually there are many things to love about Delhi… but anyone with even the slightest tinge of asthma, heart disease, allergies, or weakened immune system should avoid Delhi as much as possible.
As far as the Heart of Sound is concerned, the pollution wreaks havoc on your sinus (and mucus is not great for your singing voice). Weakened immunity from the hazardous pollution exposure would make it harder to fight off and recover from any viruses you were exposed to on the airplane or might encounter in Rishikesh. Getting a cold, bronchitis, sore throat, congestion, etc. or a more exotic virus from your travels may affect your ability to both hear and sing, making a major impediment to your ideal experience of the course. Please do everything you can to come healthy and stay healthy in Rishikesh! 🙂
Air quality in Rishikesh (of the PM 2.5 levels) is usually 10-100X better than Delhi, but there can be quite a bit of particulate matter (the larger, but less dangerous particles) from smoke, trash burning, and the wind blowing from the plains (Delhi and Uttar Pradesh state) instead of the more typical springtime Himalayan breeze. In March & April we often get thunderstorms which completely clear the air, but if there’s not enough rain then forest fire season (from lightning, villagers doing controlled burns, and accidental causes) can start by mid-April. Those with serious asthma should come prepared with inhalers just in case there are some bad days.
About the Ashram
Parmarth Niketan is a true spiritual haven, lying on the holy banks of Mother Ganga in the lap of the lush Himalayas. It is the largest ashram in Rishikesh, providing its thousands of pilgrims who come from all corners of the Earth with a clean, pure and sacred atmosphere as well as abundant, beautiful gardens. With over 1,000 beds, the facilities are a perfect blend of modern amenities and traditional, spiritual simplicity. Parmarth Niketan is located in Swargashram, on the main road, just on the banks of the sacred Ganges River.
Parmarth Niketan Ashram rooms
To get an idea where we’re staying, several great traveller pictures are posted on tripadvisor. The best part about the ashram is that it’s right on the Ganga, the music and chanting are quite good, and the volunteers are really vibrant in their service. It’s a dynamic place, and I’m sure you’ll love it!
Most of the rooms we’ve reserved are in the Yamuna block, with rooms facing an inner courtyard/garden. Most of the rooms for our group will be part of the newly built section with two beds and bathroom, and they are quite spacious for two people to share. Keep in mind that while it’s not a hotel, rooms are simple and clean, and the basic amenities are there including hot water, toilet paper, towels, and soap. Our training staff ensures that each room is freshly scrubbed clean and stocked with new clean bedding before you arrive. The simplicity of ashram life allows us to focus inwardly; it’s brilliant! One student says that as long as you think of it as “glamping”, it’s great fun! You’d be wise to keep in mind that it’s an ashram run by volunteers and not a hotel. Please don’t expect hotel-type service, but do expect family-style love and care. When you show up at your mother’s house, you always get a room, right? 🙂 If you’re family of Anandra, you’re family at Parmarth! Make your booking as advised in the registration emails you’ve gotten after signing up for the course, and start the surrender to the flow of Ganga… any issues can be sorted out after you arrive. In India, anything is possible
FAQ – How do I book a room?
You will need to go to: http://www.parmarth.org/reservations/ to book your DOUBLE room (directions are also on the Detailed Rishikesh Registration Form). If you wish to stay at the ashram, PLEASE book as soon as possible and make sure to include “Anandra’s Heart of Sound Course”. We’ll be in mostly Yamuna rooms that cost between approximately 800 RS per person/per night, and will look something similar to the room above.
FAQ – Can I book a single room?
Because the ashram is fully booked during the month of March, rooms are on a shared basis, and single rooms are not available. If having a single room is really important to you, please look into other options that are very close to the ashram like the Green Hotel, Vashisht Guest House or other area accommodations that you might find on Google.
FAQ – How do I pay for my room?
All room bookings will be at your own expense. If you choose to stay in our block of rooms at the ashram, you can budget approximately 800RS per night/per person. Since the rooms are doubles, you will be assigned a roommate that is a fellow student in the course. If you are traveling with a friend and want to request your roommate, that is possible on the Detailed Rishikesh Registration Form. Please Note: Unmarried men and women may not share rooms at the ashram. They allow married couples or same sex roommates only. (Same sex couples may share rooms and no one will know if you’re married or not.)
You can pay the ashram directly before the end of the course or upon checkout. They do accept all major credit cards, but paying in cash is always helpful because you never know when the power might go out!
Please relax and be patient if the ashram does not reply right away. They usually take 3-7 days to reply. Emailing them multiple times does not help them reply faster, but makes it slower! 😆
When you fill out the ashram’s reservation form, you might get an email back from them with a graph of room types with location and pricing. Please disregard the graph and remember that we will have an allotted set of double rooms that will be assigned to us and students won’t be able to choose other options. For 2019, we have reserved a set of Yamuna rooms for the Heart of Sound Course and they will be available from March 14th (for early arrivals) to April 7th (when the group departs for Module 2); all rooms will be doubles and in our set block. However, depending on the ashrams open rooms at the time, when we check in we may be allotted a different type of room. If you’re arriving early or staying late, you will be placed in one of our reserved rooms, so please don’t ask for a single room separate from our set block.
Lodging Alternatives for the Course:
If room service, maid service, Westernized food options, guarantee of a private room, and other such comforts are important for you, you may want to rent a room at the nearby Green Hotel. They have pasta, pizza, brown rice, steamed vegetables, butter toast, and a more Western-style menu in general.
It’s a 3-minute walk from the back gate of the ashram, just slightly increasing your walking time during breaks. Please do NOT try to book a different hotel or stay elsewhere and commute (unless you really know what you’re doing). The breaks will not be long enough for you to get back and forth, and a nap is highly recommended during lunchtime to facilitate your greatest learning for the afternoon and evening sessions.
At normal exchange rates (62 INR/$1), the cost would be from $800-$1000 for the 14 days depending on which type of room you chose. If you want to share, it’d be half that plus a few hundred rupees per day for food for the 2nd person.
Vashishth Guest House nearby has also been recommended. However, we’ve heard that neither of these hotels are very good about online reservations, so you might have to call or email or sort it out once you arrive.
We do NOT recommend staying outside of Swarg Ashram and the immediate vicinity of Parmarth Niketan during the course. Staying in other parts of Rishikesh could be as much as a 1 hour walk away from our meeting room (other transportation is complicated and/or not available), and you need your breaks to rest and do assignments, not to travel back and forth. Look it up on Google Maps – if the place you’re thinking of is more than a few blocks away from Parmarth Niketan ashram, please don’t book it.
More FAQ About the Ashram
FAQ – How is the food in the Ashram?
The ashram serves breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner in a pay-per-use cafeteria. It’s delicious, simple Indian vegetarian food using mostly rice, lentils, and local seasonal vegetables. It is not very spicy (Most Indians would say it’s quite bland; most Westerners would say it’s a little spicy.) Here are photos of a sample lunch and dinner:
FAQ – Can I eat salad?
PLEASE READ YOUR GUIDEBOOK for all of the other basic stuff about India travel, dietary/water precautions, etc. There are some places (including the ashram) where other foreigners eat where it is safe. Nonetheless, I strongly advise starting with one carrot stick, or a sip of raw juice and working your way up to a full salad within a week IF you are otherwise feeling fantastically healthy and you don’t have any digestive problems. Eat a few spoonfuls of yoghurt and/or the pickled vegetables (achaar) daily to establish the local colonies of bacteria in your belly. IF YOU EAT ONLY INSIDE THE ASHRAM IT’S HIGHLY UNLIKELY YOU’LL HAVE STOMACH TROUBLE.
FAQ – Are there hot water and showers at the ashram?
There is hot water, but the showers often spray the water everywhere. Bathe the Indian way and fill a bucket with hot water and use the smaller scoop to pour water over yourself. It feels nice, and it’s much more efficient!
FAQ – Can I take a monkey home with me? 😉
PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS
They’re darn cute, but they get aggressive when they view humans as food sources. Please don’t contribute to a situation where someone may get hurt later on. Don’t walk around anywhere in Rishikesh with visible food. Put it in a thick, opaque carry-bag especially if monkeys are around. They will crowd around you and one of them with come right up and snatch your bag if they see you with a bag of chips or a thin plastic bag of bananas. The teenage males are especially known for hooliganism (no doubt where we get it from!), and I once witnessed a crowd of them ransack the laundry hanging in the hallway, drag it around on the floor for fun, and try to open every door. Latch your screen door from the inside whenever you’re in the room, or you may wake from your nap with a monkey digging through your purse! It happened to me!
FAQ – Is there a laundry service at the ashram?
Yes. There’s a man who will wash and iron your clothes for about 20RS per piece, and the service is available at a laundry counter in the ashram. You drop it off one day and get it 1-2 days later (depending on the weather). Don’t give him any fine clothing, but cottons and general day wear is fine. Note that you’re expected to handwash your own underwear.
Phone & Wifi Connectivity
FAQ – Is there wifi at the ashram? Or in Rishikesh?
Not currently. The closest and most pleasant place to sit to do wifi work is the Green Hotel, which is a 3 minute walk out the back gate, or the cafes Urban Sip or the Honey Hut, about 3 minutes from the front gate. Do not expect to be able to do big downloads, stream video, or handle other data-intensive tasks while you are in Rishikesh. If you can manage it, it’ll be a small miracle!
FAQ – Can I use my mobile phone for data/3G/4G?
Yes, in Rishikesh the signal is fairly good.
In October 2017 the Indian government changed the laws to made it more difficult to get a local SIM card. However, there are a couple of shops in Rishikesh where you can apply for a SIM card with a photo, your passport and your fingerprint. The process may take several hours (or more) to sort out the application and possibly several days for it to be activated. You’ll most likely also have to provide a local address (the ashram), and two local contacts (use our event coordinator). This would be the best option for cheap and reliable service.
If that feels like it would be too complicated for you to navigate, you may want to get an international data package from your current home mobile phone provider if that’s easier for you.
However, please make sure you do have some sort of data package that is available even off of Wifi. We request all students download the free app Whatsapp for group communication during our time together. This allows us to share news and important info when we are not all together.
The other alternative is to get an Indian person to register the SIM card on their personal government issued ID.
For US citizens: If you get domestic service from Sprint, it comes with free international data (slow, but functional for the basics) and local phone service–so you keep your same # and voila, you are Googling away, using WhatsApp, and your friends at home are still getting your texts. (This was recommended by a former student. We’re not sure if the same type of service exists for other countries – check with your local providers.)
General Travel Advice
On November 9, 2016 both the 500 rupee and 1000 rupee notes were taken out of circulation and there have been limits on the amount of money you can change or extract from ATMs. As of September 2018 the money situation is stable, it’s easy to change currency, and ATMs are working. We’ll let you know if something changes.
Our Advice: Use your credit card for everything you possibly can! (Hopefully you have one with no foreign fees, such as the Barclay Arrival card!)
General money advice:
Change a small amount of cash at the airport or a potentially larger amount at Forex places in Rishikesh (such as the Green Hotel right behind the ashram). If you’re using our taxi guy Ashu, you can exchange enough money at the airport (the equivalent of $100-$200 USD) and pay your driver the confirmed emailed price upon drop off. If for any reason you are unable to exchange or get money at the airport, you can also be in touch with Ashu and pay him later in the week.
Get money as you can, and as you need it, from ATMS via your debit or credit card. (DO tell your bank in advance that you’re going, find out about fees, and try to use a card that doesn’t charge fees if possible.) Please read the guide books like Lonely Planet for their advice on money issues in India.
The good news is that you don’t need much money in ashram life! 🙂
FAQ – Can a credit card may be used in Rishikesh?
Most shop owners selling jewellery and nicer things will take credit cards. You’ll have to pay in cash for small purchases like groceries, meals, and cheap clothes.
FAQ – Do you suggest to exchange some money in USA for Rupees or are ATMs available close to Ashram?
There are a few ATMS in Rishikesh, as well as money changers, however, sometimes the ATMs are out of money or finicky with certain cards. I suggest bringing most of what you plan to spend in cash, but there is no need to change money into rupees before you arrive in India. Change $100-$200 at the airport and the rest when you get to Rishikesh (there’s a money changer just outside the ashram who will give a better rate than the airport.) Check with your credit card company about their foreign transaction fees and foreign ATM fees, and if you have a card with no fees, use your card for larger purchases (like jewelry or musical instruments).
FAQ – How much cash would you suggest is normal to have available?
If you don’t plan to shop, $5-10 per day will be more than enough. If all you’ll buy is a chai and some popcorn, 50 cents per day is enough. If you plan to shop or eat regularly outside the ashram, bring more.
Rishikesh Health Issues
Since it’s a place of pilgrimage, prayer, and miracles, many people from throughout India come to seek healing, sometimes from rare diseases. Please be vigilant with hand-washing and take good care of your immune system. Keep it strong with vitamins, herbs and proper rest.
Please take any fevers very seriously and consider testing when you get home if you still have symptoms like exhaustion, fevers, intense headaches, and joint aches.
Leptospirosis is carried in the cattle, dogs, rats and monkeys, and contaminates the water supply as their excretions wash into the drains. Bathing in Gangā after a rain is not advised. Petting street animals is also probably not worth the health risks, unless you can immediately wash hands with antibacterial soaps before touching your face, rubbing your eyes, or eating.
Flies can also carry Leptospirosis and Hepatitis from the excreta in the street, so avoid eating in restaurants that don’t have fly control.
If you are a huge animal lover, and know you won’t be able to avoid petting the street dogs or fondling the baby cows, you may want to consider Leptospirosis and Hepatitis vaccines before coming. Please check with your doctor if you have any concerns.
After 20 years of coming to India with no vaccines, Anandra has recently gotten the Hepatitis A & B vaccines because she’s spending longer periods and has regular contact with hundreds of people in the Rishikesh ashram. For a short visit, you and your doctor can decide if vaccines are advised. (There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C)
FAQ – Do you suggest any immunizations / vaccinations?
If you’re planning to be in India for a long time, Hepatitis A/B/C is highly recommended, and you may also consider Typhoid and a tetanus booster if yours is not current. Japanese encephalitis and malaria do not seem to pose a major risk in Rishikesh, but things change. Please ask your doctor, follow your instinct, and review this from the CDC: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india
If you’re just coming for the training and you don’t plan to venture out and eat street food, fewer vaccinations may be your choice. However, we are up close and personal with hundreds of people every night at arti, so do consider it deeply if your intuition says “yes” you should. Up until 2015, I had never taken vaccinations beyond the basics required as a child in the US, but now I have since I’m living in India mostly. Interestingly, I had to argue extensively with the Indian doctor, who didn’t want to give them to me!
FAQ – Can I drink the water?
No. Also please don’t open your mouth in the shower or brush your teeth with tap water.
You can drink what’s called “RO” or UV filtered water in nicer restaurants, or order the bottled water version of the same if you’d prefer to stay on the safe side.
There are numerous water filters around the ashram that have safe drinking water, so you can bring your own reusable water bottle for daily use.
FAQ – Where can I receive medical attention?
Parmarth has their our own clinic with dispensary onsite called Parmarth Niketan/Swami Shukdevanand Charitable Hospital. Hours are Monday to Friday, 10am to 12pm and 3pm to 5pm. If you require attention outside these hours, please go to the reception and someone will contact the resident doctor. It is always advisable to carry any regular/prescription medicines that you take in the amounts you will need, instead of trying to find them here.
There are hospitals with extended services in nearby Rishikesh town (20 minute taxi ride) and a fully modern, well-equipped hospital in Dehradun 60-90 minutes taxi ride).
FAQ – What about the air quality?
The air in Rishikesh can vary from clear and sunny blue skies with Himalayan fresh air blowing down, or when the winds blow the other way the smog of the industry-rich plains of Uttar Pradesh can make it’s way towards the foothills and make the air hazy (though not nearly as bad as Delhi). The local people also use wood for burning, and the municipality tends to burn trash (including plastic). If you have asthma or other respiratory conditions you’ll want to bring your inhaler. So far we’ve have only had one asthmatic student report difficulty, and she used her inhaler and was fine.
FAQ – What if I catch cold / lose my voice, etc.?
The common cold does often make its way through the group, so we request that anyone coming down with an illness wear a facemask during class time to avoid spreading it to others. We will have some available for your use. Anandra learned this kindness in Japan, where it’s considered extremely rude if you’re sick and don’t wear a mask in public! It also helps keep the air moist around your nose, and you can add essential oils to keep your passages open and speed healing. Wearing it to sleep is especially nice! 🙂 All manner of ayurvedic remedies are available just outside the ashram gate to help boost your immunity.
If you get ill during the training you can either rest in the back of the room to absorb the teachings, or listen to the recordings in your room to stay with the pace of the course.
Often, things will not turn out the way you think they should. Or, they’ll take a lot longer than you think they should. If you want to enjoy your time, you’ll have to relax into “Indian time.” It’s a lot like the chaotic traffic; everyone gets where they need to get to, eventually, but the path is not typically as ordered as you’ll get in the West. Have fun with it! It’s part of the adventure.
Keywords to remember in India: Tolerance & Acceptance
If getting your way is really important to you, huffing and pushing your will is unlikely to help. Appeal to the person’s sense of humanity, and explain why you need what you need, with a lot of “Please?” Get them on your team, and be patient as they work with you to get it done. You don’t have to fall for the sneaky “pass the buck” aversion technique typical in India, and you don’t have to take “No” for an answer. Calm, pleasant persistence usually works for me.
Most beggars, especially the aggressive ones, and those most horribly pitiful looking posted up in major tourist areas, street crossings, shopping malls, and temples are hired or coerced as part of a gang. The money goes to the overlord. It’s a sad life, and if you want to support them, it’s better to donate a larger lump sum to a charity that provides education and job training (Like Parmarth Niketan’s programs). Or buy food from a nearby vendor to give it to them, or carry biscuit packs or candies with you to hand out in lieu of money; at least that way they can have some momentary pleasure and you can feel like you’re contributing.
Once, I secretly followed a local professional beggar home and noted that he went back to a family with a television, at a proper dwelling. This indicates they’re not necessarily poor. Begging is a legitimate career in India, if you support it.
Swamis and Holy Men:
I’d also suggest avoiding wandering orange-robed Swamis and other “holy” men you might come across on the streets (outside of the formal context of a lecture or ashram with a distinguished teacher). A simple, respectful “Namaste” is enough.
Just because someone is wearing orange and shouts “Hariḥ Om” to you holding out a begging bowl does not mean you have to be reverent to them. The real ones will give off a holy atmosphere; use your intuition and give reverence where it is due, and cordial respect to the rest. Being a fake swami is good business in Rishikesh (full of idealistic foreign spiritual tourists) so there are a lot of impostors. Give your money to the social organizations or organize a swami-feeding through one of the ashrams instead; they’ll invite those who are valid and not just orange-robed beggars.
Additionally, I have had so many try to hug me and kiss me in Rishikesh it’s a disgrace to the tradition. Swamis should never seek touch from a woman. But it was my fault; I smiled, made eye contact, and engaged conversation with them in a friendly, respectful way, like any nice American person would. Just that little bit was too much “nice.”
Some truly ascetic swamis won’t even allow women to physically touch their feet (the traditional gesture of respect and seeking blessings). Err on the side of caution and respect with these real swamis and if you have a chance to give your pranams, don’t actually touch his feet unless you see Indian women doing so.
WHAT TO WEAR
For safety and respect reasons, dress modestly. Loose clothes, very little skin showing. Legs are not shown, so anything but ankle length skirts are out. Necklines are high. Clothes are loose. Anything that shows your shape should stay home. Butts and breasts should be covered with two layers of something loose. Chances are, your home wardrobe won’t fit these requirements, but the Indian wardrobe is designed to do so. (See packing list for details.)
Tip: Always have a shawl with you (they’re called “dupattas” in Hindi). It can cover your head and hair when you’re out on the street to avoid dust, shade your face, and add one more layer of loose fabric over your breasts. Use the end, folded over a few times, as a breathing filter in traffic. (In the area of Rishikesh where we’re staying, there are no cars allowed so traffic pollution is not an issue but elsewhere it is.)
Long pants and t-shirts are fine for men. Indian men don’t wear shorts, sleeveless shirts, and don’t go shirtless unless they’re bathing.
- Men can bring swim trunks. No swimsuit is required for ladies – they must bathe in the Ganga in full clothing. Sorry! (However, we will visit a more private beach upriver from the town where ladies can swim in a normal bathing suit.)
- yoga pants
- tevas, chacos or water shoes if you’d like to do river rafting (optional for day off)
- proper shoes or hiking boots if you plan to do serious hiking (optional for day off)
- prescription medications
- reusable water bottle (filtered water is available at the ashram)
- reusable shopping bags (Rishikesh is a “no plastic bag” town)
- slippers (the marble floors can get a little cold at night)Also Recommended:
- If traveling in cold, a featherweight down jacket doubles as a pillow.
- An old, unlocked cell phone so you can buy a local SIM card for $2 and prepay for minutes. A phone is really handy to make arrangements, coordinate with taxis, hotels, friends, etc.! And, most companies have schemes where you can call the US for 1-2 rupees per minute. (You can probably buy a used phone here for $20, but bringing your own is better.) If you have an old phone, call your carrier before you leave the US, and ask them for the procedure and codes to unlock it.
- iPad or iPhone- it’s a flashlight, camera, calculator, journal, phone if you have wireless, iPod, calendar, and so much more, even if you can’t use the cell networks or 3G/4G. You can buy the lonely planet online via PDF and transfer PDFs to your iTunes, then synch and view using the iBook app. It beats lugging around a 5 pound book!!!
- Earplugs- the smushy kind. (I cut them in half and then they don’t fall out in the night.) Ounce for ounce, they’re the most important travel gear by far!
- In-ear, noise canceling headphones if you like to listen to music and are planning any train or car trips.
- A small steel thermos to make your own tea, which doubles as a water bottle.
- Good Jeans- can be purchased in India also, but the cheaper ones are outdated (90’s) unless you want to pay the same or more than you’d pay in US.
- Underwear & bra. They’re seriously lagging in underwear technology.
- Yoga pants. You can’t get the foldover top here.
- Shoes. Cheap and pretty shoes for ladies abound, but your feet will thank you if you bring a pair of well constructed, supportive sandals and walking shoes, like Dansko, Merrel, Tewas, etc. They should be dark colored and easy to clean, since the roads are mostly filthy. You can buy some brands like Clark’s in the bigger cities, but they’ll be from a few years ago and will be the same price or more than you’ll pay in the US.
- It’s always good to have a couple of extra passport photos with you. You’ll need at least two if you plan to get a SIM card for a phone. (You can also get them done in India cheaply.)
- Really good chocolate is hard to find, and expensive. (You can get Lindt and Ritter Sport in some places, but for $5 per bar.)
- Good coffee is also hard to come by, I’m told. (I am a chai drinker myself, and of course that’s easy to find!)
- EmergenC Vitamin C packets are really handy. You can sometimes find Amla powder, and the Ayurvedic tonic formula Chyavanprash is a good substitute for bio-available Vitamin C.
- Note that you do NOT need to bring your prerequisite reading books with you. If you’ve completed the reports, that should be sufficient. If you’d like to pick up another copy, the local bookstores usually have the David Frawley books but not the NVC book.You can purchase inexpensively in Rishikesh at shops nearby the ashram:
- a sarong or light beach towel
- beach tote or small backpack (the most awesome beaches are 5-15 minute trek from parking)
- snacks for your adventures (granola bars, trail mix, etc.)
- Greens powder (chlorella, spirulina, moringa, etc.) or protein powder if you like that sort of thing.
Things you can easily find and buy in Rishikesh:
- purchase at least one nice “Indian” outfit for ceremony. Gentlemen can wear trousers and an Indian shirt. Ladies can wear saree or a matching shirt-pants-scarf combination.
- Small coil water heater so you can make tea in your room- 50 Rs or an electric kettle for 500 Rs
- Many medicines are available and are 1/10 the price as in US. Unless it’s a newer brand-name medicine, you can get most things easily without a prescription.
- Ayurvedic herbs – 1/10 the price as in US. The Organic India and Himalaya brands are in practically everywhere.
- Toiletries – good natural brands are readily available for 1/10 price.
- Food- unless you’re super picky, there are yummy snacks, nuts, and even fresh gluten free cookies available in Rishikesh.
- You can buy a simple yoga mat for 200 rupees, and a nice cotton woven yoga mat for about the same.
- Clothes- Unless you’re only going to Mumbai (which is the most westernized city I’ve been in in India) or a super touristy place like Goa, you’ll feel uncomfortable and out of place wearing most of what you think you should pack. LADIES: Buy a few pretty, long shirts (called “kurta”) in India for $3- 20 and a matching shawl “dupatta” for $2-5, and wear them over your jeans or yoga pants (which you brought from home) with some nice comfy sandals and you’ll look hip. MEN: Regular pants, jeans and t-shirts are fine. You can buy them in India or bring from home.
- Even nice backpacks (knockoffs of north face etc) can be found here for 1/10 to 1/20 what you’d pay in US.
- Books – the cities and all touristy places have some very nice book stores, where you can pick up just about anything. There are some great spiritual bookstores in Rishikesh.
ANANDRA’S JET LAG TIPS
- Take NO JET LAG, a homeopathic remedy, according to package directions
- Drink lots of EmergenC Vitamin C packets with green powder throughout the flight
- Sleep kit: an inflatable neck pillow, smushy earplugs, and an eye mask (I like Eagle Creek’s because you can still blink your eyes)
- dab a bit of sesame oil mixed with Theives (Young Living Essential Oil) or On Guard (Doterra) on the inside of your nose when you board the plane. It helps guard against airborne viruses and bacteria. You can also drink 1-2 drops of the essential oil in water.
- Fitted (tight) compression socks for runners help keep circulation going throughout the flight and reduce achiness and jetlag. They should be really hard to get on, and fit over your calf. The good ones cost $40+ but it’s worth it! (Check with your doctor if you have high blood pressure, because they do increase circulation as soon as you put them on!)
- Take an over-the-counter sleep aid if you want to sleep more soundly for a long flight.
- Take triphala or a very mild laxative pill or tea at the beginning of your travel so you don’t get constipated from the dry air and travelling. (You might want to try it in advance of your journey so you know how your body reacts to it.)
- If you’re flexible and small enough to sit cross legged in your seat, do it!
- Get up and walk around when you’re not trying to sleep. Stretch out, do squats, and make friends with the flight attendants!
I made an Amazon “wish list” of some of my favorite things to take to India + jet-lag prevention secrets. Check it out!
SPECIAL ADVICE FOR LADIES
If you’re just coming directly to the training and leaving immediately afterwards, you don’t need to know much of this. But if you’re planning to travel around or engage with the local boys, there are some special things to consider if you’re a woman (especially a young, pretty one).
Over the years I’ve compiled this from my experience living in New Delhi (which is by far the toughest city for a woman). Again, it’s probably cautionary overkill for my trainees, but I’m making it accessible in case you’ll find it helpful.
Thank you for checking the other frequently asked questions before you contact us for your individual questions.
FAQ on Course preparation: Prerequisite and Instrument Ordering and related links to Dropbox folders and ordering forms.
FAQ on the 200-hour RYT in general
Please contact email@example.com if you have a concern that’s not listed in our FAQ sections.