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The Travel Guides Return for a Spiritual Tour of Northern India and Nepal

27th May 2024

Did you catch the @TravelGuides spiritual tour of Northern India and Nepal last week? @TravelMoneyOz is the official currency card of the show. Check out our episode recap to see exactly where the Guides travelled and get some inspo for your next trip! Spoiler alert: all the Guides were awestruck by the Taj Mahal. Tune in to #TravelGuides Sundays at 7pm on @Channel9 and @9Now and read our recap via the link in bio.

The Travel Guides are back for another season of adventures across the globe. Once again, Travel Money Oz is coming along for the ride as the Official Currency Card of Travel Guides! We’re here to make the globetrotting Guides’ journey that much easier. No matter what challenges they face, they’ll always have the security of our Currency Pass on hand ¬– or in their wallets!

This season, along with The Fren Family, Kevin and Janetta, Matt and Brett and The Boys – Kev, Dorian and Teng, there’s a new pair of Guides. Bri and Karly first met on Beauty and the Geek and have been inseparable ever since. Their previous travel experience is limited to Bali, so you’ll get a fresh perspective from these first-timers.

The Guides’ first trip is a spiritual tour of Northern India and Nepal, with an action-packed itinerary that is set to take them out of their comfort zones. India and Nepal are both popular with Aussie travellers and you’ll discover in this episode that there’s a lot more to the region than the Taj Mahal.

Generally, the best time to travel to Northern India is over the cooler months, from October through to March. If travelling on to Nepal, the peak season is October through to December, as temperatures start to get very cool from January onwards. Monsoon season hits Northern India and Nepal from June through to September, depending on the region, so this is a less popular time to travel.

When travelling to India, you’ll need to get your Indian Rupees ready, while in Nepal you’ll need Nepalese Rupees. You can also use your Travel Money Oz Currency Pass wherever Mastercard is accepted, including at ATMs.

Now it’s time to jump right in and see exactly where the Guides travelled this ep, so you can get some inspo for your next trip to India and Nepal.

Your complete Travel Guides Itinerary for Northern India and Nepal

Travelling to India

 

The Guides set off to New Delhi, India from Sydney International Airport. Our new guides Bri and Karly used check in as an opportunity to suss out the on-board cuisine and were thrilled to learn there would be curry served on the flight. Matt and Brett travelled in style in Business Class, enjoying all the bubbles – and the leg room.

Once landing in New Delhi, the Guides boarded what’s known as ‘The Yoga Express’ from Delhi to their first stop, Rishikesh. The train was a true culture shock for the Guides with passengers packed to the rafters for the 7-hour journey.

Costs
Flight from Sydney to New Delhi on Air India: Economy, from $1059 return, Business Class, from $5699 return
‘The Yoga Express’ Train from Delhi to Rishikesh: Tickets from $10 a person

Stop one: Rishikesh, India

 

The Guides’ first stop is the town of Rishikesh, which sits on the bank of the holy Ganges River. This spiritual destination is known as the yoga capital of the world and is visited by 300,000 travellers a year. Even The Beatles visited for meditation training in 1968!

Their accommodation on this stop is suitably spiritual – they stay at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram. With 1000 rooms, it’s the largest ashram in Rishikesh. However, its back to basics aesthetic doesn’t quite meet the expectations of many of the Guides, especially the discerning Kevin and Janetta.

The Guides take up the opportunity to try a yoga class at the ashram with varying degrees of success. Bri and Karly jump right in, while Matt and Brett struggle to touch their toes. For the Guides who are less keen to test the limits of their flexibility, a laughing yoga class provides a light-hearted reprieve – no downward dog required. FYI: there are at least 500 yoga schools in Rishikesh, so there’s no shortage of places to practice your poses.

After yoga, the Guides go in search of inner peace at the Veda5 Ayurveda & Yoga Retreat. They specialise in traditional spa treatments, including the Ayurvedic oil therapy Shirodhara. While it’s designed to calm the mind and body, Kevin is less than impressed, describing it as “greasy”. Matt and Brett try the “one of a kind” green leaf therapy, which concludes with the pair being tied up in banana leaves and shuffling off to the showers.

After mixed experiences in Rishikesh, the Guides largely agree on one thing – the Ganga Aarti ceremony on the bank of the Ganges River is truly moving. It takes place every evening at sunset and pays tribute to the goddess of the Ganges River. While the Fren Family regret sitting next to the speaker, Karly and Bri, The Boys and even Kevin and Janetta are impressed.

 

Costs
Accommodation at Parmarth Niketan Ashram: Rooms from $9 a person
Yoga Class at Parmarth Niketan Ashram: Class included in stay
Laughing Yoga Class at Parmarth Niketan Ashram: $10 a person
Ganga Aarti: Free entry

Stop two: New Delhi, India

 

The Guides make their way back to India’s capital, New Delhi – a city the size of Melbourne that’s packed with 33 million people. First stop is the Chandi Chowk Market to pick up wedding attire as the Guides are set to attend an Indian wedding. Karly and Bri get glammed up in traditional Indian Sarees, while Matt finds his dream sparkly suit for the occasion.

Believe it or not, you can actually purchase a ticket to attend a real Indian wedding in Delhi. It is a true immersive cultural experience that’s incredible to witness. The Fren Family took the opportunity to gift the groom with an iconic Australian gift – a stubby holder – which appeared to get lost in translation.

Delhi is known for its delicious (and affordable!) street food and the Guides give it a try on their trip. Janetta describes her fresh fruit ice cream as “the most beautiful ice cream I’ve had in my life”, while the Fren Family tries Jalebi – described by the cook as an Indian version of churros.

Costs
Join My Wedding: $230 a person

Stop three: Agra, India

 

No trip to India is complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. While other stops on their spiritual tour of the country received mixed reviews, the Guides were all awestruck by this remarkable 17th century monument, which was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

While there, Brett and Matt took the opportunity to recreate the iconic photo of Princess Diana, sitting alone on a bench in front of the Taj Mahal, with mixed results.

The Guides did this visit as a day trip – the drive from Delhi to Agra can take anywhere from 2.5-4 hours one way. However, if you have the time you can also opt to stay overnight to take in the Taj Mahal at sunrise or sunset and explore the historical Agra Fort.

Costs
Private Taj Mahal Tour from Delhi with Keeper Landwey Tours and Activities: From $50 pp

Stop four: Kathmandu, Nepal

 

The last stop on the Guides’ spiritual tour is Kathmandu, Nepal. Around 40,000 Aussies a year visit Nepal’s capital, which is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. 

Their first stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Boudhanath Stupa, a sacred Buddhist monastery. The Guides circle the stupa and spin its prayer wheels in an attempt to bring them a dose of good karma.

The Guides’ accommodation in Kathmandu is quite the contrast to the simple Rishikesh Ashram. They check in at the luxe Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, the largest 5-star hotel in the city.

The Guides then take the opportunity to try the local Nepalese cuisine at Newa Lahana Restaurant. It’s a truly authentic experience with spinal cord and intestines on the menu. It’s a feast that challenges even the self-proclaimed adventurous eater, Victoria from the Fren Family.

The Guides are keen to get a glimpse of Mount Everest, so they head to the Chandragiri Hills Cable Car. There’s just one problem… heavy fog has set in and they can’t get a peek at the iconic peak. The Guides enjoy the ride regardless, with Matt and Brett tapping their Travel Money Oz Currency Pass to get their tickets.

Costs
Boudhanath Stupa: Entry from $5 a person
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu: Rooms from $300 a night
Newa Lahana Restaurant: Mains from $5.50
Chandragiri Hills Cable Car: From $10 a person

 

As the trip concludes, the Guides give their final rating for their 10-day spiritual tour of Northern India and Nepal…

Bri and Karly: 4.5 stars
Matt and Brett: 4 stars
Kevin and Janetta: 3.5 stars
The Fren Family: 3.5 stars
Kev, Dorian & Teng: 4 stars

Top Travel Money Oz Tips for Northern India and Nepal

Are you inspired to go on your own spiritual search in India and Nepal? Here are a few quick travel money tips to keep in mind.

  • Cash is king in India, so get some Indian Rupees in advance, so you’ll have money ready when you arrive. It is important to note that visitors to India can only bring up to ₹25,000 into the country. Unless you’re an Indian citizen or permanent resident, you’ll need to exchange the rest of your money into rupees on arrival. USD is often easier to exchange than AUD in smaller cities, so it’s worthwhile to exchange some USD as well.
  • Tipping is common, so you’ll want to keep small change on hand at all times.
  • While there is fairly good ATM access in India, to avoid fees, don’t hit up ATMs on the reg. Even with our Currency Pass, there’s a standard Mastercard ATM withdrawal fee of AUD$3.50 (read more here), plus many ATMs charge their own fees. When you do go to an ATM, make sure it’s from a reputable major bank and get out larger amounts at a time. For more info on ATMs, check out our handy blog here.
  • Wondering how to pay for stuff on your trip? If it were us, we’d use our we’d use our Currency Pass as you would your bank card (always selecting to pay in local currency), bring some local currency (which we’d have gotten from a Travel Money Oz store before our trip, of course) and only going to the ATM if you really need extra cash.
  • Check out our India Travel guide before you go for our insider tips and tricks.
  • Heading to Nepal? We can arrange a special order of Nepalese Rupees for your trip – so just give us a bit of notice and we’ll get your spending money sorted.

Win Your Dream Holiday with Travel Money Oz!

Has the latest episode of Travel Guides inspired you to take off overseas? We’re offering you the chance to win a $20,000 holiday pack! The winner will score a $10,000 Flight Centre gift card and a $10,000 Travel Money Oz Currency Pass to spend on your trip. Get more details here!

 

Make sure you tune in to Travel Guides Sundays at 7pm on Channel Nine and 9Now!