When traveling, you can’t and you shouldn’t try to completely behave as a local, but you should check out the customs and rules of your destination before each trip. This saves you and the locals many uncomfortable moments. The people in Sri Lanka are very friendly and you are always welcome as a traveler, but if you want to make friends, here are some important things to keep in mind.

 

 

Sri Lankan etiquette: what to avoid

 

1 No Selfies in front of Buddha statues

For many travelers, selfies come almost automatically – they naturally want to be part of each captured memory, and share every new sight, landscape, building or event with their friends via social media. BUT please take care when taking pictures of Buddha statues: turning your back to a Buddha statue is a sign of disrespect. Better yet, keep your distance and save (and savor) the moment in your heart and your mind.

 

Photos – also selfies – are of course ok. Just not in front of Buddha statues.

2 Dress properly on beaches

Sri Lanka has many wonderful beaches perfect for sunbathing. But keep something on! Full nudity or even topless bathing is not a welcome practice and can turn problematic. Back on the streets, or anywhere that is not a bathing place, try to wear more modest clothes: ideally, shoulders and knees should be covered! However, you will find that many young Sri Lankans, especially in larger cities, are already a bit more liberal. It is not that important anymore. But try to adhere to this rule always anyway, and especially when travelling through rural areas.

 

3 Correct clothes in the temple

When visiting a temple, you should take off your shoes and keep your shoulders and legs covered. In many Buddhist temples, it would be nice if you also can wear white (or at least light-colored) clothes – for example, in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy or in Anuradhapura. You will also see that most locals done their whitest clothes! Many temples can have stricter or additional rules and check at the entrance whether one dresses correctly.

 

White clothes are the perfect choice when visiting Buddhist temples!

4 No public display of affection

Traveling with a loved partner is wonderful, but not all countries like to see couples kissing in public. Dial back a bit and save it for later: kisses, hugs and other gestures of romantic affection are better left for private moments behind locked doors! Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka homosexuality is still a punishable offense… therefore same-sex couples should for their own good be especially careful and avoid public displays of affection.

 

5 Greeting properly

In Sri Lanka one traditionally greets with folded hands at about chin height and a slightly bowed head. The Sinhalese greet each other with the word Ayubowan, and the Tamils with the word Vanakkam. Young men greet each other with the usual western handshake, but women are a bit more reserved still.

 

6 Legs away from Buddha

While not as rigorous as Thailand or other Buddhist countries, it would be nice if you could avoid putting your legs pointing at a Buddha statue. Whenever sitting in front of a Buddha statue, if possible, sit cross-legged or in a position where your feet don’t point towards the statue.

 

7 Stay polite

Western concepts of privacy are not well understood or appreciated in Sri Lanka. In effect, one is often suddenly asked by complete strangers personal questions like “Where are you going?”, “Where do you come from?” or “What’s your name?” This may annoy you after a while, but please try to stay polite! A smile and short answers are more than enough.

 

The people or Sri Lanka are usually polite and curious.

 

8 Asking before taking a picture

Most people in Sri Lanka like to be photographed. But out of politeness and because you wouldn’t want it for yourself, we recommend you to get an OK in advance (especially for close-ups). A bit of body language, facial expressions and a friendly smile are often enough.

 

9 Keep a right hand or use both hands

Sri Lankans use no cutlery and eat with the right hand (the left one is considered unclean). You do not have to do without cutlery (which is offered almost everywhere), but you should avoid using your left hand when handshaking or handing over things or money. If you want to do it correctly, hand over money and smaller objects with the right hand while touching the right forearm with your left hand.

 

10 Don’t make a big deal of it

The Sri Lankans are very welcoming hosts. If a faux pas happens to you, apologize but don’t worry, people aren’t going to get mad over a candid mistake.

 

Hast du Lust auf Sri Lanka bekommen? Weitere Infos zu Sri Lanka findest du hier: Destination Sri Lanka

Gerne arbeiten wir an deiner maßgeschneiderten Traumreise nach Sri Lanka. Ein Mail genügt.




3 changes for the Online-Visa for India

 

The indian government has further liberalised its visa regime aimed at bringing more tourists and business travellers to the country. The new changes came to effect on 1st April 2017. No it is not an april fool 😉 Here are the 3 most important changes regarding the Online-Visa.

 

With the e-Visa it is even easier getting to see the Taj.

 

1. 2 new Visa-categories for travelers

With effect from April 1, e-visa has been sub-divided into 3 categories: e-tourist visa, e-business visa and e-medical visa. Till now, e-visa was only for tourists

 

2. More nationalities & more (air-)ports

E-visa facility has been extended to nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh,Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum & Varanasi). and three ports: Cochin, Goa and Mangalore.

 

3. More time for application & longer duration

The window for application under e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days and duration of stay on e-visa has been increased from 30 days to 60 days with double entry on e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry on e-medical visa.

 

So what’s keeping you from going to India? Now it is even easier. Go to application for your e-visa: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html




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“Are you going alone to India? But you’re a woman! That’s too dangerous!!” Too often have I heard these words – from best friends to work colleagues or even my own family doctor. In the meantime, I have already traveled seven times to India. Sometimes accompanied by friends, but very often alone. And I have had almost exclusively good experiences.

by Ulli Felber

 

Through India as a woman: dream destination or danger zone?

Since I have developed such a close relationship with India, the negative coverage of this unique country makes me quite sad. At the same time, it is good that all these terrible incidents were and are frequently and thoroughly reported in the media, because that has set things in motion – and there’s still a lot to be done. Rape is a horrible crime that must be punished – everywhere in the world.

The vast majority of my own personal experiences in India have been good or very good. Even more so: I have enjoyed many beautiful and surprising moments. Often, people helped me spontaneously – with honorable intentions, without someone being intrusive. The few dangerous situations in which I found myself in could have been avoided, if at the time I had been already following these tips:

My 10 Tips for women travelling alone in India

  1. Dress with moderation
    In India, shoulders, cleavage and knees are considered particularly erotic, as is any sort of tight clothing. There are some differences depending on the region, too. For example, touristy Goa is relatively relaxed in this aspect, while the opposite is true for the conservative and strict Muslim region of Kashmir. In principle, however, and this applies to all regions, a moderate dress is fashionable – something wide and airy that keeps your shoulders and knees covered. Tank tops, wide necklines, leggings (except when combined with dresses or skirts), shorts and hot pants are complete no-gos. Note: This also applies to yoga classes! (Even when the courageous instructor is used to it.)

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Dressing moderately prevents many awkward situations. Here pictured: Ulli Felber.

  1. Just in case: avoid eye contact
    Eye contact is a very big deal in India. Strangers can start behaving in an uncomfortably friendly way (or worse, a threatening or confrontational one) after locking eyes for just a second. Whoever wants to be left alone – by pushy taxi drivers, random strangers or inquisitive (if very dear) Indian extended families – must learn to look away quickly. This is specially recommended in areas where you do not feel comfortable, or in the evening hours. In any case, never lose sight of the situation!

 

  1. Girls only!
    In recent years a lot has been done to specifically improve the quality of life of women in India… or at least in its major cities. There are taxis that are only for women – and have also exclusively female drivers (for example, in Delhi: “Meru EVE”). At metro stations, there are sections that are reserved for women, and the trains themselves have cars and compartments destined only to women. The same applies to buses. Wherever you may have to go through a security control (Airport, Train Station, museums, shopping centers, etc.) there is always a separate line for women and a female security officer performing the check.

 

  1. Be smart
    Travelling alone as a woman, one is naturally more exposed to danger than when in a group – no matter where in the world. Common sense goes a long way in many situations:
    • Ideally, always research previously in which areas you will be travelling.
    • Do not wander alone in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, especially at night.
    • When riding taxis alone, try to do it during daytime.
    • When on the (night) train, best to be seated next to a local, nice family.
    • Do not fall for the lies of illegal traders, transport pirates and other opportunists that claim to offer supposedly better accommodation at train stations and airports.

 

  1. Fake wedding ring
    Those women who’d like to have peace and quiet to travel should purchase a false wedding ring. A smaller, cheap gold ring can be worth a lot! Once in India, you will be asked soon enough, and very frequently, by an endless list of suitors of all ages, eager to become husbands. To throw water on such unwanted propositions, just show your ring and tell briefly of your beloved husband at home… maybe add a few children to your story too, just in case ;-). Optionally, you can also say that your husband is already on the way “here”, etc. Especially when a woman has reached the 30-year-old-limit and is “still” travelling alone, a false wedding ring can do wonders in keeping unwanted attention away – like pityful looks at you or, on the other side, well intentioned Indian families who try to match you with a relative.

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Any woman travelling alone on the train is best suited next to a family. That can also be fun!

  1. Good Story
    For emergencies, a good story can always be a good deterrent. Depending on the situation: the husband is coming soon to…; the father has a high position in the government; etc. Sounds silly, but it can have a big impact.

 

  1. Always with you
    For anybody that doesn’t want to travel without her trustworthy pepper spray on the handbag: this great defense tool is cheap and easy to find in many Indian drugstores.

 

  1. Don’t touch me!
    From time to time one hears of travelling women that they were groped by anonymous men in the thick of a busy street. Just to embarrass this disgusting kind of man, you should scream loudly: “Do not touch me!” As my Indian friends recommend, the first step should be just verbal and without personal insults. For an Indian, this simple call to attention is incredibly embarrassing and they will usually disappear in the blink of an eye.

 

  1. Be calm, firm and explicit
    In extremes cases, when things go really bad, this has helped me: first, calmly but very firmly express your discomfort and anger – without being rude. Even better, follow up (always keeping calm and firm) with an oversized side-dish of lies (the best ones always include mentioning some important or famous character that we know personally!). It’s worth to try… In my case, it has always worked out.

 

  1. Shout it out loud
    When all else fails: leash out and defend yourself vociferously. Take it all out. Just don’t show any fear! Indian men don’t expect such a reaction and can be easily intimidated. But ATTENTION: Here I speak from personal experience. This is not a universal panacea and can also sometimes have the opposite reaction.

 

To summarize: Travel smart. I feel that India is not more dangerous than other places that I have visited. Naturally, something can always happen. But for me India was and remains as worthy destination! And whoever pays attention, respects the local ethos and generally travels with open eyes and an open heart, will without question enjoy an indescribably great country and many beautiful experiences.

 

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Ladakh is much safer for women than most other regions of India.

 

Alone as woman in Ladakh
Alone in Ladakh as a woman: Ladakh is culturally very different from the rest of India – here it is much safer for a woman to travel alone, and one hardly sees herself exposed to dangerous situations.

WITH US YOU ARE ALWAYS SAFE
Whoever doesn’t want to travel alone in India despite the advice from Ulli Felber, is in good hands with us. We know our drivers, guides and all other staff. And if you travel in a group, you are even safer: to our group tours!

 




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Like every year also 2017 will have it’s cultural highlights which are really worth to be seen. To be able to plan already now your trip 2017 to Ladakh we put the most important dates together. 

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Ladakh: Monastery festivals & and other important dates for 2017

 

Name of festival
Venue
2017
Spituk Gustor Spituk 25.+26. January
Dosmochey Leh & Likir 24.+25. February
Yargon Tungshak Nubra (Yarma) 2.+3. March
Stok Guru Tsechu Stok 6.+7. March
Matho Nagrang Matho 11.+12. March
Saka Dawa All of Ladakh 9. June
Yuru Kabgyat Lamayuru 21.+22. June
Hemis Tsechu Hemis 3.+4.July
Dalai Lama’s Birthday
Jivatsal, Shey 6. July
Sachukul Gustor Sachukul 11.+12. July
Stongde Gustor Stongde, Zanskar 12.+13. July
Ladakh Polo Festival Chushot 11.-17. July
Karsha Gustor Karsha, Zanskar 21.+22. July
Phyang Tsesdup Phyang 21.+22. July
Korzok Gustor Tsomoriri 26.+27. July
Dakthok Tseschu Thakthok 2.+3. August
Sani Nasjal Sani, Zanskar 6.+7. August
Diskit Gustor Diskit, Nubra 17.+18. October
Thikse Gustor Thikse  6.+7. November
Chemde Wangchok / Padum Chemde 16.+17. November
Galden Namchot All of Ladakh 12. December
Ladakhi Losar (New year)
All of Ladakh 19. December

 

 

To get a little taste of what it is like have a look at this short video from the monastery festival in Matho 2016.

 

 

Do you need help with the Design of your tour?
We’d love to help you planning your trip to Ladakh – either in a pre-designed group tour or in your tailor made individual travel. We will choose the right festival for your and your tour.
Note: If you are truly interested in the cultue of Ladakh, we strongly suggest you to come in winter and be part of a monastery festival during this season as they are really special.




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Many tourists travel with a bad conscience and think that travel, in general, brings more harm than good. It destroys the environment, the traditions and the culture of the host…  And yet they travel, hoping to be the exception.

Every traveler leaves traces. Every step does, even at home. It is the nature of a step to leave a footprint. But it is up to us to decide what shoes to wear and how to act. If we put the shoes with spikes on, and trample carelessly through the neighborhood, the footprints will be very different to those we would leave while walking softly with leather slippers. The choice is yours!

There are several arguments for staying home. Let’s take a closer look to some of them:

Argument 1: Tourists destroy traditions

Tourism is hastily blamed when mobile phones, televisions and Co. suddenly appear in formerly idyllic places, changing or downright replacing old traditions and outdated ways of communication. Let’s take Ladakh: How easily is the tourist made responsible for the way in which, nowadays, the local girls and boys prefer to don jeans instead their traditional Gonchas, or the monks ride colorful mopeds, take selfies with their smartphones, and would rather look at the world through trendy Ray Bans than from a Buddhist perspective. It is quite obvious that things have changed, and that today’s Ladakh is very different from that of the 70s. But isn’t that true for the whole world? Many cultures have also changed, sometimes radically so, without the intervention of tourists. In Austria, with the exception of special holidays and festivals, people no longer wear Lederhosen and Dirndl or go around yodeling. Therefore, we claim here that Ladakh would have changed even without tourism, because no region of the world is completely secluded from the rest. Even centuries ago, during the apogee of the Silk Road trading routes, it was practically impossible to remain completely isolated and avoid intercultural exchange. And so it is now that every corner of the Global Village is just a mouse click or a touch-screen tap away.

On the contrary, we say: Tourists are strongly interested in ancient cultures and traditions, and so their interest promotes and revives old customs and rituals, bringing new life to what would otherwise, maybe, be lost to the local youth.

Gochak – a buddhist ritual

 

Argument 2: Tourism destroys the environment

Yes, they do exist: the littering-prone tourists who leave garbage everywhere and do more harm than good. That is undeniable. Let’s use Ladakh again as an example. Leh has become a “big” city thanks to tourism, hotels and guest houses sprouting all around like mushrooms, with barely a thought given to sustainability and environmental impact.

And yes, the solar energy hot water system has taken roots, plastic bags are banned, and the sewage network is growing steadily, but there are still many shortcomings and a general disregard (mostly ignorance-fueled) for environmental protection. But let’s see more closely! Who throws carelessly his garbage away? Most waste is naturally caused by the Ladakhi and the Indian guests themselves, and cutting tourism completely would have a negligible effect on the problem. In societies such as India, in which just a few years ago non-biodegradable trash was basically unknown and then, suddenly, faced a sudden invasion of plastic packaged goods, you have to start at school… just as we did back in the 80s. Subject: Environmental awareness. Those who don’t see the problem, will continue to throw plastic bottles carelessly out of the car window, or leave chips bags everywhere for the wind to lift up and carry away. Also on the trekking routes, seldom are the European and American tourists the ones leaving their trash behind – rather, it is the accompanying trekking crew that is to blame, always reluctant to bother to collect the garbage and bring it back to Leh.

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Trekking in Ladakh (c) Roland Amon

And again, just like we said about the local traditions: it is usually the (Western) tourist that demands an ecologically gentler way of life, and thus, many local agencies and administrations are forced to make a change.

 

Argument 3: tourists have no respect for the hosts of their travel destination

Constantly putting their monstrous camera lenses in the face of their photo subjects, sitting on the tables of the praying monks, speaking disparagingly of their hosts, repeatingly disrespecting the values ​​and traditions of the country they are visiting: this is the 3rd category of tourists in our prejudice-list. We have seen (and silently condemned) many. And we have also dealt with people expelled of their staying place, because they have simply gone too far. Often, the transgressor isn’t even aware of what rule or norm he or she has broken. That’s why it is so important to inform yourself beforehand. We always recommend to put yourself in place of the people visited. What wouldn’t I like if it happened in my own home? Would I enjoy someone entering my garden and taking a close-up picture of me? Would I feel happy if a horde of loud, fast-clicking people would disturb my herd, drive my clients away or interrupt the Morning Prayer while scurrying from one corner to another?
For more about respecting localtraditions in Ladakh, read: 10 rules forLadakh

Leh (c) Roland Amon

 

There are many arguments against it, but like so many things in life, tourism has two sides. It is important that all parts of the golden triangle (the guest/traveler, the host/local, and the tour operator/organizer), find a common solution as balanced as possible, giving everyone what they want, while respecting what they need.

 

So put your light shoes on and watch your step – we’re together in this!