TRAVEL TO DHARAMSALA
It takes a lot of planning and preparation to travel to a new destination, and we’re here to help you every step of the way! Whether you’re purchasing your plane ticket, applying for a visa, or getting ready to pack, this guide (along with your expert Program Specialist) is your ultimate resource for a successful experience. So read on to learn more. And remember that we’re always available to answer any questions that you may have, and to share our personal expertise.
Your fellow volunteers will be from all over the world, and some of you may even end up on the same flight. Regardless of the flight that you choose, your arrival airport for India is the Gaggal Airport (DHM) - also known as the Dharamsala-Kangra Airport.
Flight to India: Arrive at DHM on the flight departing New Delhi at noon on SUNDAY, the day after your program start date
Departure Flight: Depart from DHM on the 1:45 pm flight on the FRIDAY right before your program end date
As flights to Dharamsala involve both an international and domestic flight, please read the information below carefully, and reach out to your Program Specialist with any questions.
The program start date in Dharamsala is on Saturday, but volunteers should plan to arrive in Dharamsala on Sunday. Your program end date in Dharamsala is also Saturday, but please book your flight to depart from Dharamsala on Friday to allow time for your international departure flights.
Volunteers should arrive at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) before connecting to a domestic flight to the Gaggal Airport (DHM) in Dharamsala. All domestic flights can be booked online through SpiceJet (SpiceJet.com or www.makemytrip.com). Please ensure when booking your flight that you use a credit card that you will carry with you during your travel, as this may be requested when boarding.
Your international flight to arrive in India (to the New Delhi airport) may arrive the day before your flight to Dharamsala. In this case, we recommend the following hotels in the New Delhi airport complex for your overnight stay, which all provide shuttle buses from the airport to the hotel:
Occasionally, flights from New Delhi to Dharamsala through SpiceJet are cancelled. If your flight is cancelled in either direction, you can just take the next SpiceJet flight to Dharamsala, or if you prefer, you can take a comfortable overnight bus to enjoy some of the Indian scenery! You can book a bus ticket right online, once you've created your user ID, at http://hrtc.gov.in/hrtctickets. The overnight bus ride is approximately 11 to 12 hours, and we recommend that you take the Himsuta (Volvo/ISU) bus that departs from the Delhi ISBT Kashmiri gate to Dharamsala. Two buses depart each night, one at 8:06 PM and another at 8:50 PM.
Should any of your flight plans change, please contact us using the contact information sheet further down on the page (print this out for details on how to reach us 24/7!). If you need a reputable taxi driver during your stay in New Delhi, or prefer to take a taxi with other volunteers instead of the bus to Dharamsala, we recommend Jassi at 9810111487 (Indian cellular phone number). Jassi can also help with travel and arrangements for a bus, if needed due to a cancelled flight, to Dharamsala.
Of course, many volunteers choose to arrive early, or stay a bit longer in order to experience all that India has to offer! If you’ll already be in India or have any questions about scheduling your flights, just let us know.
There are many online resources available to purchase your flight, but here are a few recommended by our team of volunteer travel experts:
Call Key Travel
Call STA Travel
Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll be greeted by a friendly CCS driver or staff member, like Kewal.
We’ll be waiting for you right outside of the arrival gate, so keep an eye out for a smiling face with a “Cross-Cultural Solutions” sign! It’s a 40 minute drive (depending on traffic) from the airport to our Home-Base in Dharamsala, so you’ll be able to take in some of the sights of India as you relax after your journey.
CCS Driver, Kewal
We want to make sure you're healthy during your CCS experience, so take a moment to review the recommended vaccinations for your destination at the Centers for Disease Control, or by visiting a travel doctor.
If you're traveling to India with a U.S., Canadian, or British passport you'll need a visa to enter the country. Please start your application 90 days before you arrive in India. The recommended visa type for your travel is a TOURIST VISA.
For US passport holders: An e-visa is available for volunteers staying for fewer than 60 days, which must be applied for in advance online, and takes 3 days to process. This is the best option for volunteers. For US citizens, the cost is around $75 (plus fees if you go through TraVisa), and is good for up to 2 entries to India. Apply online through this E-Visa Website page. For volunteers staying for longer than 60 days, visa applications and processing are completed through BLS International Services. However, many volunteers prefer to submit their application online through TraVisa, which will be processed by TraVisa through BLS International Services.
For UK passport holders: Visit VFS Global to process your application online
For Canadian passport holders: Visit BLS International – Canada to apply in-person or through mail
If you're asked to provide a contact person in India on your visa application, please use: Bela Singh, SFS 5 Hauz Khas, New Delhi, 110016; Tel: 91-11 2696-8424
Is your passport issued from a country other than those listed above? Find out if a visa is required for your travel!
As a CCS volunteer, you’ll automatically be covered by our comprehensive Travel Medical & Emergency Evacuation Insurance while you’re participating in our program. If you’re traveling before or after your program, you may choose to extend your insurance so that you’re covered every step of the way.
Need to upgrade your insurance? There are alternate plans available to you, which can increase your medical expense limits to $500,000 and your trip cancellation insurance up to $5,000. Just log on to the Core Travel website to print your card, extend your insurance, or upgrade!
What to Pack
India is a subcontinent, so the weather conditions can vary as you travel across this vast country. In Dharmasala, the climate is generally cool year-round, with wide variations in the temperature by season. In the summer (starting in April through June), expect slightly warmer temperatures are often above 71 °F (and often up into the 90s). Temperatures remain near these levels in July & August, but with the addition of monsoon season, be ready for brief heavy rains on a daily basis.
India’s currency is the rupee – you can exchange your currency into rupees when you arrive at the New Delhi airport, or withdraw rupees at a number of ATMs throughout the city and near the CCS Home-Base in either New Delhi or Dharmsala (which often have better rates than the airport). Remember to contact your bank and credit card companies before travel to let them know that you’ll be out of the country!
While everyone’s spending habits are different, India is a relatively inexpensive country, so we recommend that you budget between $100 and $150 USD per week. Keep in mind that women are required to wear Indian clothing to your placement, so budget around $40 to $50 USD per outfit (volunteers often purchase 2 or 3 outfits, although only 1 is required). If you’re planning on traveling a bit further in India, a flight will often be required, so budget accordingly.
Emergency Contact Information
It’s helpful to inform family and friends of your travel plans so they know how to reach you. Just input your flight information and you have a handy Travel Contact Sheet to email or print for your family and friends.
Remind friends and family that if they’d like to make an international call to reach you at the CCS Home-Base, US and Canadian residents should dial “011” before the number, and UK residents or residents of other countries should dial “00” before the number.
Citizen Services Abroad
Your safety is our top priority, and to make sure you comprehensive support, we request that all volunteers register with their government for access to emergency support and safety information. Please select the appropriate link below to follow some simple steps (it only takes a minute) to register your travel information:
US Citizens: Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the State Department
UK Citizens: Foreign Commonwealth (FCO)
Canadian Citizens: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT)
Australian Citizens: Smart Traveler Program through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
CCS partners with and verifies information for your safety in-country with several resources, including OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council), the UK High Commission, the US State Department, and iJet. You can learn more about services available to you through the US State Department (for US volunteers) at http://www.state.gov/travel/.