Tibet World offers several travel and volunteer services to ensure your experience volunteering with us is as safe and as seamless as possible.
This includes, for volunteers arriving by plane in Delhi: an airport pickup; pre-arranged accommodation in Delhi for one or two nights (as necessary); and a bus ticket to Dharamsala.
Tibet World will offer three pre-arranged options for volunteer accommodation in McLeod Ganj:
- Tibet World Hostel: Its near main market and its very nice mountains view. From bus station, its 10 minutes walking distance. Two beds in a room, bathroom attached and 24 hour hot water, western toilet and free WiFi.
- Monastery/nunnery: This is a more basic option which offers volunteers simple rooms and shared facilities. The cost differs from monastery to monastery, but breakfast and dinner are often included.
- Guesthouse. Available for both short term and long term stays, the prices and facilities of guest houses vary throughout McLeod Ganj.
Volunteers are welcome and able, of course, to arrage your own accommodation to suit your needs.
To ease your transition to life in India in general, and volunteering in McLeod Ganj in particular, Tibet World will provide an orientation when you arrive, including: information on the Tibetan Community and its challenges as well as on effective and sensitive volunteering; a walking tour with a free map and a free Tibetan cooking class. To better orientate you to life in McLeod Ganj, we will also provide our Tibetan Buddy Program, which pairs young Tibetans with new volunteers for their first week here. Volunteers will gain local insight and Tibetans will have an excellent opportunity to share their knowledge of the community and to practice a foreign language.
There are a number of things to think about when travelling abroad, especially to a country or region in which customs and ways of life may differ from those at home. Below we have included some information that our current volunteers feel is useful for anyone thinking of volunteering. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to India or to McLeod Ganj. If you have any questions or concerns that are not covered below, there are several excellent travel guides with information on India and on McLeod Ganj (a tip, however: these guides can be a bit pricey in some countries. They are much cheaper and fairly widely available in India). We also encourage volunteers to contact us directly with any inquiries you might have.
Every foreign national requires a Visa to enter India. A Tourist Visa is the best visa for most prospective volunteers, however because requirements may vary from country to country, we recommend volunteers visit the Government of India website to ensure they acquire the appropriate visa before making any travel arrangements: India Visa Online.
McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamasala in the Kangra District of Himichal Pradesh. It is located about 500 km north of Delhi on the Dhauladhar Range of mountains. Since 1960, it has been the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile and of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Because of the large Tibetan presence, it is sometimes called “Little Lhasa” or “Dhasa.” To know more about McLeod Ganj, and what all you can do here during your visit, volunteers can get some additional information here:
Travellng abroad as a volunteer in a foreign country is an amazing experience but there are also dangers and risks. Although McLeod Ganj is relatively safe, here are a few tips all volunteers should keep in mind:
- Wear minimal jewellery
- If you carry a handbag keep it in front of you. If you carry a wallet, keep it in your front pocket.
- Be cautious around street kids, beggars, or crowds
- Do not accept food or drink from people on public transportation as they might be drugged
- Do not eat food from unknown sources
- As a general guide for food: “boil it, peel it, cook it, or forget it.”
- Drink either boiled or bottled water
- Make copies of all your travel documents
- Keep your passport, debit, and credit cards in a waist or neck belt under your clothes
- Keep a reserve of cash
- Alert your country’s department or ministry of foreign affairs of your travel plans
- Stay in contact with family and friends so that someone knows where you are and what you are doing
- Take out private health insurance/travel insurance.
- Avoid political demonstrations
- When hiring a taxi, agree on the price before you set out and pay when you reach your destination. This way the driver will have no reason to take you on a detour and no reason to drop you in the wrong spot. If he demands more money when you reach your destination simply pay the agreed upon price, ignore any swearing or threats, and walk away.
- Beware of unofficial tour guides and tourist offices selling accommodation or train and bus tickets: they often charge much more than you would otherwise pay and what you receive may not be what you pay for.
It is also a good idea to talk to other travellers, learn about their experiences, and ask for more tips. And above all: Be Alert!
The climate in McLeod Ganj varies depending on the time of year. Here are some average temperatures and rainfall for McLeod Ganj:
Month Average High (Cº) Average Low (Cº) Average Rainfall (mm)
January 13.5 5.1 114.5
February 17.8 10.3 100.7
March 21.6 14.7 98.8
April 26.9 16.3 48.6
May 29.1 20.1 59.1
June 30.5 22.9 202.7
July 27.2 21.4 959.7
August 26.1 20.2 909.2
September 23.7 17.5 404.8
October 23.7 14.8 66.3
November 19.8 10.7 16.7
December 16.4 7.4 54.0
Year 23.1 15.1 3054.4
Culture and Customs
Being aware of, and following, the local customs and culture can help volunteers to avoid some potential problems and to show respect. Here are a few tips:
Although you will find it is a lot less necessary in McLeod Ganj, you will have to say No quite a lot in India. From people offering services such as taxis or rickshaws or to act as guides, to vendors and merchants beckoning you to their stalls or into their stores, or pressuring you to buy something once you do approach, to people on the street asking for money or food, many demands will be made of you. The best course is to be polite but firm, even in the face of persistence. Above all, don’t lose your cool and remember to treat always people with respect.
Always ask permission to take pictures of people and religious ceremonies. If in doubt in other circumstances, just ask.
Casual but modest dress is recommended for McLeod Ganj, as for the rest of India. McLeod Ganj can get cold during winter, so it is advisable to bring warm clothes. But not to worry if you don’t bring enough: there is plenty on offer once you arrive.
Tips are not required or expected at restaurants, but most places have a tip box for the staff and a tip is always appreciated.
McLeod Ganj is very multicultural and many languages are spoken. Basic English is common, but it is always well received if you can say a few basic phrases in someone’s native language.
Your electrical equipment must be able to accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz for you to use it in India. If it doesn’t, you will need to purchase a voltage converter. There are different types of voltage converters so it is important to make sure you purchase the right one for your electrical devices. You will likely also need an adaptor to plug your electrical equipment into India’s wall outlets. The following three types of wall outlets, and corresponding wall plugs, are found in India.
There are several communication options available to volunteers in McLeod Ganj.
Internet is widely available in McLeod Ganj. There are several cyber cafes, which charge Rs30 for an hour of internet, and which have backup generators in case the power goes out. Many restaurants, cafes, and some hotels also offer free Wi-Fi with for patrons.
Several internet cafes offer phones for international calls, at rates of ranging from Rs. 5-15 per minute depending on which country you are calling and whether you are calling a landline or a cell (mobile) phone. Purchasing a phone and/or a SIM card in India is relatively easy and inexpensive. A very basic phone may cost between Rs. 1000-1500, and a SIM card without credit usually costs Rs. 100. All SIM cards must be registered, which requires an address and an individual to act as a reference to verify your identity and address. It is a good idea to register your SIM card in a spot where you will stay for several days, as sometimes the store will not immediately follow through on the registration and several follow up visits and reminders may necessary. If you will be volunteering in McLeod Ganj for a length of time, it is the best place to register your phone.
The McLeod Ganj post office is located on Jogiwara Rd, on the right hand side, about a two minute walk from the main square, and just after a vegetable market. It is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled. But if you don’t see it, just ask a local and he or she will be able to direct you.
Most places in McLeod are accessible within a ten to fifteen minute walk. Even places a bit farther away, such as Bhagsu, Dharamkot, the Tibetan Library, and even Dharamsala, can be reached on foot. The respective walks, moreover, provide a great opportunity to explore the surrounding area and many of the views of the mountains and of the valley below are well worth the walk. If you do require transportation in and around McLeod Ganj, or to destinations farther afield, there are several options. Be aware that the prices quoted are as of a specific date, and are subject to change, and that the destinations are by no means exhaustive of your options.
From the taxi stand in McLeod Ganj, on Mall Rd. Just north from the Main Square, four-person taxis can be hired, for example, to: the Tibetan Library/Tibetan Delek Hospital, Dharamkot, and Bhagsu (Rs. 100 one-way/150 return, each), Nadi (Rs. 180/280); Dharamsala, (Rs. 200/350); and Norbilinka (Rs. 400/600). You may be able to negotiate a lower price with individual taxi drivers.
From the auto-rickshaw stand in McLeod Ganj, some representative destinations and costs are: Dharamkot and Bhagsu (Rs. 130) and Dal Lake (Rs. 80). As with taxis, the cost of hiring an auto-rickshaw may be negotiable with the individual driver.
There are regular buses between McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala which take approximately 30 minutes and which costs Rs. 10 one way. From the bus stand in McLeod Ganj, regular buses travel daily to, for example, Pathankot (Rs. 110), Delhi (Rs. 420) and Manali (Rs. 350). From the bus station in Dharamsala, regular buses run daily to many destinations, including Kangra (Rs. 20), Amritsar (Rs. 195), Chandigarh (Rs. 250), Shimla (275), Manali (290), Haridwar (Rs. 450), and Delhi (12 hours, Rs. 480). Deluxe Volvo buses are also available from both McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala to, for example, Shimla (Rs. 415) and Delhi (Rs. 1100).
The closest rail station to McLeod Ganj is Kangra Madir, 22 km away, but it is not a heavily trafficked station. The closest main rail station is Pathankot, 85 km away, but a bus can take you the rest of the way to Dharamsala.
Living costs, of course, vary from person to person. As a general guide, however, volunteers can expect to pay Rs. 150-1000 per night for accommodation and Rs. 50-250 for a meal in a restaurant. A coffee will usually run you Rs. 40-50 and a bottle of water Rs. 20.
You will be able to find most personal items, toiletries, and food stuffs at various small stores in either McLeod Ganj or in Lower Dharamsala. There are also small fruit and vegetable vendors throughout the town and many stores selling outdoor clothing. As in the rest of India, while the price of some goods is fixed and non-negotiable, the price of some other goods can be bargained over. Menus in restaurants are almost always fixed, as are most packaged food items in stores, with the cost in rupees on the package. The initial prices quoted for clothes in many stores are, however, often negotiable.
There are two options for washing your clothes in McLeod Ganj: volunteers can take their clothes to a laundry service, or volunteers can wash their clothes by hand and hang them to dry. Note that some hotels do not allow you to wash clothes in your room.