We recommend you withdraw/change money in Delhi before travelling to Himachal. There are several ATMs and exchange booths at the International Airport. If you are staying overnight in Delhi, you will get better exchange rates at banks and moneychangers around Connaught Place and Paharganj. Delhi also has ATMs for most international cards.
Once you get to Bir, the nearest place where you can change cash or traveller’s cheques is Western Union in our local village or Dharamsala (2 hours taxi ride away). The nearest State Bank of India ATM is in Baijnath (20 mins by taxi), but it is often out of order or out of cash. State Bank also has ATMs in Dharamsala, Palampur and Joginder Nagar. They accept most – but not all – overseas cards.
Phone and Internet
If you wish to have a local mobile connection, it is recommended to bring a GSM unlocked mobile phone. Once you arrive in Himachal, local SIM cards are available in various packages, starting at around Rs.100 per card and Rs.0.60/min for local calls. Note that under new government regulations it is no longer possible to buy SIM cards over the counter – applications now take around 4 days to process.
Wireless internet facility is available in Deer Park’s dining area from 7:30am to 7:30pm, subject to server reliability and power supply. There are also internet cafes in the local village (Rs.40 /hour). Data cards, which can be used to access the internet from your laptop in most places around India, cost around Rs.1700-1800 including SIM.
Travel medical insurance and vaccinations for India are strongly recommended.
There is a small clinic in Bir, which can deal with minor issues or refer you on to a doctor. There is also a Tibetan medical clinic in the village. There are a hospital and diagnostic centre in the nearby town of Palampur, and more specialist facilities further afield in Kangra and Chandigarh. We would suggest you bring a good supply of any prescribed medicine.
The weather is very cold in winter, December – February (down jacket and thermals required). It then warms up and is fairly cool and dry through March – April. May and June are warm (25-30 Celsius), then rainy season is from late June until early September. Autumn, September – November, is usually cool and dry.
Possible things to bring
- Water bottle
- Adaptor and special batteries for any electrical items
- Towel and toiletries
- Torch (flashlight)
- Flip flops
- Comfortable clothes for the season, plus a set of smart clothes for special occasions
A basic selection of toiletries and everyday items is available from local shops in Bir. Dharamsala, a two hour taxi ride away, caters more for tourists (speciality foods, clothing, etc.)