The first Night Sky Sanctuary in Southeast Asia is set to come up in Ladakh. It will be set up in Hanle village inside the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary. Hanle village is a fantastic location for stargazing as the village is set up at a high altitude and hence is away from light pollution and hence is being
promoted as a Dark Sky Reserve. This will also help India carve a little niche in the astro-tourism sector. Recently foreign tourists were granted permission to stay overnight by the Home Ministry.
Nightclubs, Karaoke bars and entertainment venues in Thailand will now be open for extended hours. Bars and clubs in popular tourist destinations like Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Samui will now be open up to 4AM.This move has been brought in to attract more tourists to these already popular destinations. This new regulation will start from 15th Dec 2023 and is expected to provide a boost to the economy of the country which relies heavily on tourism and which
had been affected due to COVID related travel bans.
Indian Railways will be introducing Bharat Gaurav Special Tourist Train for South Canara Temple Tour. The journey which will start from 7th Dec 2023 will be 5 nights long. It will start from Kochuveli in Kerala and will end upon the train reaching back to Kochuveli on 12th Dec 2023. The train will travel through Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka during its 5 nights journey. Passengers will be able to get in and off the train at select stations to visit important tourist attractions and religious places. The train’s maximum capacity will be 768 passengers and it will have 3AC and sleeper coaches. It will have two classes economy and comfort. Passengers will be able to visit Udupi Shri Krishna temple, Mookambika temple, Murudeshwar temple, Sringeri and Horanadu temple. The economy class fare will be INR11750 per passenger and it will be INR19950 per passenger for comfort class and will be inclusive of meals, travel insurance, tour managers and accommodation.
Darjeeling has decided to reintroduce Tourist Tax which it had done away earlier. A tourist tax of INR20 will be applicable on visiting the city after almost 10 years of its abolishment. Darjeeling is extremely popular among tourists and is also called “Queen of the Hills” as it offers some of the best views of
Mt. Khangchenjunga. Hotels already collect a tourist tax from visitors, however now they government too will be collecting a tax from the hoteliers. Earlier a levy of INR3 & INR10 was imposed in 2011 & 2012 respectively after which it had been discontinued.
After Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand, Malaysia too has announced visa-free travel for Indians. Starting from 01st Dec 2023 Indians will no longer need a visa to visit Malaysia and will be able to stay in the country for 30 days without applying for a visa. However security screening procedures will still be in place. Indian tourists are the fifth largest group of tourists visiting the country and hence Malaysia has decided to offer a visa-free entry to them in order to lure more tourists by making their travel simpler.
Tourists planning a safari at Ranathambore will no longer be able to opt for a pickup & drop from their resorts. Instead the tourists will have to assemble at the point advised by the forest department at the time of booking or at the entry point of the park. This major operational change is being done in order
to smoothen the safari process. As traveling to the park from their hotel might be time-consuming, tourists will now be offered 15min extra over their scheduled safari time. In case of any delays in reaching the park, the tourist is expected to communicate the same to the guide & driver, failing which he may be left behind as the safari proceeds with those available.
Sikkim which had been closed to tourists due to the heavy floods is now open again! The state government has announced that tourists can now easily visit all the famous tourist attractions except the extreme Northern region which is still closed. Popular areas like Gangtok, Soreng, Namchi, Pakyong and Gyalshing are now safe for tourists to visit. Sikkim attracts more than a million tourists every year.
Vietnam is considering granting visa free entry to Indian and Chinese tourists. The Vietnamese PM also put forth a proposal to offer visa waivers to citizens of Australia, USA and Canada as well as the entire EU. At present citizens of only 7 European countries can travel visa free to Vietnam while to most other
countries it offers a 90 day e-Visa. Recently Sri Lanka and Thailand too have started offering visa-free entry to Indian tourists for a limited period of time. Sri Lanka will be visa free for Indians till 31st March 2024 and Thailand will give visa free entry up to 10th May 2024 as a majority of tourists visiting these
nations are Indians.
As winter sets in in the North, the Manali–Leh highway has been closed for vehicular traffic. The highway was closed on 20th Nov and is expected to reopen after 6 months. Due to the bad weather conditions the highway has been closed in order to avoid any accidents due to the slippery roads and bad visibility.
Key roads such as Gramphu-Kaza, Darcha-Sarchu and Darcha-Shinku La have been shut down. The highway will be back in operation only in May after the snow has thawed and the weather condition has improved. Vehicular movement between Manali and Darcha however is still allowed.
A tiger safari zone is in the offing in the southermost district of Chamrajanagar. Imitating the success of famous reserves at Nagarhole and Bandipur this safari will be spread ovr 18km starting from Lokkanahalli in PG Palya Range. While on the safari the guests will be able to explore stone age structures while passing through dense forests. The first safari is scheduled for December. As the safari’s route lies along the elephant corridor visitors will be able to spot wild elephant herds as well as tigers, deer & birds of various species, Indian gaur, leopards, etc.
Passengers may soon be able to book a business class seat on Indigo. The airline after becoming a massive success using a no-frills approach has decided to start a dual class configuration on its AirbusA321. A premium cabin with 8 seats arranged in 4 rows, 2 on each side will be introduced in 35 aircrafts. Passengers selecting premium class will also get a few complimentary items like priority boarding, meals on board, a flexible itinerary, etc. These changes are being introduced to attract business travelers as well as those who are willing to spend on a leisure.
India has resumed e-visa services for Canadian tourists and businessmen. This service had been suspended two month ago after a diplomatic tussle between the two countries. Earlier India had restored visas for 4 categories out of the total 13. The tourism sector has welcomed this decision as the tourist season is about to begin. The President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) has also requested the government to begin e-visas for Chinese travelers. While it will take some time for the ties between the two countries to normalize, this step is being considered as a positive move in that direction.
Air India Express is set to increase its connectivity. The airline has introduced 2 new flights linking Bengaluru to Mangaluru. The other cities which will be connected to Mangaluru by air are Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Kannur & Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The Varanasi – Mangaluru flight will be run only up to 25th Nov 2023 after which it will connect Mangaluru to Chennai via Bengaluru.
Starting next year, Mumbaikars will be able to travel to Ayodhya directly. The Indian Railways has announced a direct train connecting Mumbai to Ayodhya. The train will start from Dadar. At present there are no direct trains from Mumbai to Ayodhya. Pilgrims usually tavel by Bhagalpur Express which departs from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus and reaches Prayagraj after nearly 20hours. From Prayagraj, pilgrims board another train to reach Ayodhya after 5hours. A direct train will thus reduce the time taken as well as be of great convenience to the elderly pilgrims. The Ayodhya Railway Station is also being developed so as to cater to the needs of the countless pilgrims who will visit the city for darshan once the Ram Mandir opens in 2024.
Air India had placed orders for five Boeing 777s, six AirbusA350s and 20 A320 aircrafts and delivery of all the orders is said to running according to the schedule. Hence Air India will soon be adding four more destinations on its international routes. Air India will soon be flying to Phuket, Ho Chi Minh city and Boston & Los Angeles. The flights to Asian cities will begin from December while those to the USA will start from early next year. It will also be increasing the frequency of its flights to Australia especially flights between Delhi – Sydney & Mumbai – Melbourne and Europe. Recently Air India launched new flight connections between Bengaluru – Singapore, Kochi – Doha, Kolkata – Bangkok & Mumbai – Melbourne. By 2024 it plans to add almost 400 flights weekly on its domestic and international routes.
The Bharat Gaurav train which aims at providing an immersive experience to tourists and also promote tourism will begin its journey on 17th Nov from CSMT at 4:50AM. The train will run on a circular route and will cover many popular destinations like Pune, Solapur, Rameshwaram, Renigunta, Madurai, Kanyakumari etc. It will begin its return journey on 25th Nov. The train will halt at multiple stations including Thane, Kalyan, Karjat, Lonavala, Pune, Daund, Solapur in Maharashtra. Passengers will have three options to choose from – Economy, Comfort & Deluxe with facilities like meals, accommodation and transport being included in the fare.
The Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) recently announced the opening of Ginger Mumbai near the domestic terminal of the Mumbai airport. The 371 keys hotel will be a good choice for both business as well as leisure travelers. Located close to the airport, guests staying at the hotel for business purposes will be close to many business areas of the city like BKC and other exhibition & convention centers nearby. For leisure travelers they will be in the heart of the city with easy access to beaches, amusement parks and with the townside being only a short travel away.
The Annual Camel Fair in Pushkar will be held from 20th Nov to 28th Nov this year. This world famous camel fair draws visitors from all over the world and showcases some of the finest of Rajasthani cuisine and culture. The Pushkar Mela is a fair where livestock is traded but for the ordinary tourist it means
watching thousands of beautifully decked camels, camel races, dance & music performances, puppet shows and many other entertainment activities put up by the locals. The moustache competition which happens here is now a world-famous event.
Passengers flying by Vistara will now be able to enjoy Wi-Fi access inflight helping them to stay connected to the outside world while flying. While the inflight Wi-Fi service is common on international routes, this is the first time that it is being introduced by an Indian company. Free inflight Wi-Fi will
be available on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners between flights from Delhi airport (DEL) to London Heathrow airport (LHR). This is an introductory offer which will be available only for a short period. The airline also plans on introducing inflight Wi-Fi on its Airbus321neo aircrafts. This will prove very beneficial for business travelers as they will be able to use their smartphones & laptops in the flight. The charges for the same will be announced soon.
A motorable road has been developed at Amarnath to facilitate tourists. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has developed roads leading up to the cave shrine in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Road between the Sangam base ahead of Chandanwari in Pahalgam to Sangam Top has been broadened and the roads have also been widened between lower cave area to the main shrine which is visited by thousands of Hindus every year. This will greatly help the pilgrims who visit the cave, especially those with health issues and senior citizens.
Dudhwa National Park located in Uttar Pradesh will reopen to visitors on 15th Nov. The park is near the Indo-Nepal border and is 490sq. km. wide. This year the park has reduced its entrance fees and will also be offering a helicopter service for tourists. There are plans to introduce a helicopter service from
Lucknow to Dudhwa thereby reducing travel time between the two by almost 4.5hrs. The helipad is located 7km from Dudhwa and it will take about half an hour to reach the National Park from the helipad. School students and children below 5yrs of age will have complementary entry to the park from next year while the entry for adults has been reduced from Rs. 300 to Rs.150. The state government also plans to set up hotels around the national park. Recently Dudhwa Tiger Reserve was listed fourth among tiger reserves in the country.
Vande Sadharan Express, which will be the non-AC version of Vande Bharat Express had its first trial run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The train will provide an economical option for travelers and over the next few years will be introduced on many other major sectors including Delhi – Mumbai. Vande Sadharan will have 22 non-AC coaches which will include luggage compartments, general second class coaches and sleeper cars. A single train will have a passenger capacity of 1800 and one of its distinctive features will be that engines will be present on both the ends of the train. At present this train reaches a speed of 130km/hr which makes it a good choice for long-distance journeys. The train will also have enhanced security and CCTV cameras.
From 10th Nov the hilly state of Meghalaya will be resounding with the beats of 100 drums. The Wangala Festival, also known as the 100 drums festival is all set to begin from 10th Nov and is a special celebration of the Garo community. This festival is celebrated at the end of the agricultural season where
deities and Gods are thanked for this years harvest. People also pray to the Gods for a good produce next year. The drums used in this festival are made out tree trunks and along with the rhythmic beats of the drum there is the Wangala dance accompanying it which is performed by the locals. It is also an excellent
time to explore the local Garo specialities like bamboo shoot curry, rice cakes, etc and go souvenir shopping for traditional handicrafts. This festival not only attracts visitors from within India but is also popular among international tourists.
Kerala is not only known for its natural beauty but is also a place of great religious importance for pilgrims. In order to facilitate the various pilgrims visiting the state the Government will soon launch microsites which will highlight the state’s heritage as well as talk about the significance of the
various religious sites. The most noteworthy among these microsites will be that for Sabrimala which will have content in English and multiple Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu & Kannada. The microsite will also provide information about travel routes, hotel & transport options and will also shed light on the shrines history as well as the region in which it is situated. The Government will also be developing similar microsite for its Islamic heritage. Earlier too the state had developed such microsites for places of religious importance for Hindus, Jews & Christians.
If you have not visited North-East India yet, now might be a good time! The Hornbill festival will begin in Nagaland from 01st Dec 2023 and will end on 10th Dec Nagaland is famous as the “Land of Festivals” and Hornbill is one of its biggest festival which is attended by many visitors from all over the world.
The festival is named after the bird Hornbill which commands great respect among the Naga tribes. During this festival 17 Naga tribes come together to celebrate this festival unitedly. All the events of the festival are held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, 10km away from the capital city Kohima. The main
highlight of the festival is the Traditional Naga Morungs Exhibition. Domestic tourists need to get the inner line permit from state government while foreign tourists have to register at the Foreigners Registration Office within 24hrs of arrival in order to attend the festival.
On your next international tour you can now save spending money on international roaming charges. Sensorise, an M2M service provider has launched a consumer travel e-Sim. This e-Sim is India’s first and offers connectivity to countries all over the world. This will provide an affordable substitute and will be
of great use especially for frequent travelers, people who travel for business purposes and for students. Priced at less than $10 the eSim will work in more than 190 countries and will have almost 1000 different plans which can be customized by users according to their needs. With an eSim you need not replace your physical SIM card. In addition you will also be able to customize your data plan according to the country you are in.
The time is just right to visit Thailand! Indians can now visit Thailand without a visa from Dec 2023 to May 2024 and can stay there for a maximum of 30 days under this scheme. Malaysia, China & South Korea are the top three countries visiting Thailand while India stands fourth. Earlier Sri Lanka too had announced visa-free entry for Indians. As Indians travel more to various countries, many more countries are opening up avenues to facilitate Indian tourists. So far UAE, Saudi Arabia, USA, Singapore, Thailand, UK, Qatar, Kuwait, Canada & Oman are popular among Indian tourists.
The Tourism Minister of South Africa is considering easing visa restrictions for tourists from India & China. South Africa has an unemployment rate of 33% and feels that promoting tourism will help bring the country out of this crisis. Getting visas is the biggest challenge most visitors face when traveling to
a foreign country. Hence the country plans to ease visa restrictions for the two most populous countries. The current visa system is bogged down by operational issues and complicated security screenings thus increasing overall turnaround time for visa processing. So far travelers from UK, US, Russia & Brazil enjoy
visa exemption for short stays and the Tourism Minister plans to extend the same privilege to Indian & Chinese visitors if everything goes according to plan.
Foreign tourists who wished to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland had to apply for Restricted Area Permits (RAP) and Protected Area Permits (PAP). These permits were difficult to obtain. However now the Central Govt has made it easier for foreigners to visit these three states. According to the new regulations foreign tourists can easily visit these states provided they do so as a part of organized tours conducted by registered tour operators from these states. The Indian Govt wishes to encourage tourists from Asian countries to visit India, especially the North East region with special focus being on tourists from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar and Indonesia. India also plans to start border tourism and will be opening up area of up to 4km near the borders with China and Myanmar.
Punekars will now have their own safari to visit in their neighbourhood. Only a few kilometers away from Pune are developed two safari zones – Kadbanwadi in Indapur district and Shirsuphal in Baramati district. These two safaris have a track of 30km & 40km respectively and run through many villages. Here you can spot a variety of wildlife like striped hyenas, Indian gazelles, Bengal fox, Indian grey wolf which is known for its elusive nature, jackals and chinkaras. These safaris also have nearly 350 different species of birds including rain quail, ashy-crowned sparrow lark, grey-necked bunting and painted francolin. Unlike the safaris in Ranthambore or Kaziranga which are open only for a select few months every year, these two safaris will be open all year long. There will be two slots everyday, the morning slot from 6AM to 9AM and the afternoon slot from 3PM to 6PM. These safaris will be an ideal one day trip destinations from Pune, especially for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers. While the forest department does not provide any vehicle for the safaris, private vehicles with maximum 7 passengers per car (including driver & guide) are allowed. Trained guides are provided by the forest department.
India’s longest ropeway will come up in Dehradun which will connect it to Mussoorie. This ropeway will be a 5.5km long mono-cable ropeway. The project is expected to go on till September 2026 and will bring the two main tourist destinations closer by reducing the travel time between them to just 15min.
At present it takes almost 1.5 hours to reach from Dehradun to Mussoorie in normal traffic conditions but the time can increase up to 3hrs in case of traffic jams. Other unique features of this ropeway will be a 10 seater cabin which will be enclosed, fully ventilated, glazed and with automatic opening and closing
doors. These cabins will be able to ferry almost 1300 passengers one way. The ropeway will be operational in all weather conditions and is expected to prove a boon during heavy tourist season.
India has restarted some of its visa services in Canada. India’s High Commission has stated that they will be begin the visa issuance process for a select category of visas including Entry visa, Business visa, Medical visa and Conference visa. Entry visas are for persons of Indian origin and their immediate
family members. However so far there is no news about resumption of tourist visas. Visa services had been stopped by India because of a diplomatic row between the two countries in September.
Dhordo village in Kutch, Gujarat has won the Best Tourism Village award by United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Dhordo rose to fame after the development of Rann of Kutch & the Rann Utsav which began in 2005. Over 70 villages across 40 countries have won this award so far. The UNWTO announced about Dhordo winning this prestigious award at Samarkand in Uzbekistan. This award is given to those villages which develop their village while still maintaining their original culture & heritage, provide employment opportunities to locals, and promote sustainable tourism. Dhordo has won on all these counts. This year the Rann Utsav will be from 10th Nov 2023 to 25th Feb 2024.
Indians can now visit Sri Lanka without the hassles of a visa. The Tourism Ministry of Sri Lanka has announced that tourists from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia & Thailand can visit the island nation without a tourist. This initiative will continue till 31st Mar 2024. Earlier Indians had
to apply for Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) but with this new rule there will be no more need of an ETA as well. Sri Lanka is very popular among Indian tourists due to their historical connections with one another as well as being one of the closest country to India geographically and relatively cheaper
than most foreign tours. Other than Sri Lanka, Indians can also visit popular destinations like Bhutan, Mauritius, Macao, Nepal, Kazakhstan etc and other almost 20 countries without a visa.
There will be no flights flying in and out of Thiruvananthapuram airport on 23rd Oct 2023 from 16:00hrs to 21:00hrs. Twice a year Lord Vishnu is taken for a ceremonial bath to the sea from the Shri Padmanabhswamy Temple. This yatra still continues on the traditional route even though the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport has come up on its place. Twice a year the airport remains closed for a few hours so that this yatra can take place. The first ceremonial bath of Lord Vishnu happens during the March – April period at the time of Panguni festival and the second bath happens during October – November period to celebrate Alpasi. All the airlines are informed well in advance about the procession dates in order to avoid inconvenience to passengers.
The travel time between Delhi to Amritsar & Delhi to Katra will soon be reduced once the Delhi-Amritsar-Katra (DAK) greenfield expressway opens up. Amritsar to Delhi will then be covered in 4 hours while it will take 6 hours to reach Katra from Delhi. This expressway runs through the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana & finally Delhi passing through many important cities in all the states. This corridor will include Asia’s longest cable-stayed bridge over the Beas river which is 1300m in length. This expressway will also help connect many places of religious importance for the Sikhs like the Golden Temple, Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Tarn Taran, Sultanpur Lodhi Gurudwara in Kapurthala as well as Mata Vaishnodevi temple in Katra.
In an exciting development for travelers the IRCTC which is responsible for providing the delicious meals you enjoy in your train journeys has partnered with delivery food app Zomato. This partnership will help provide a wide variety of options for travelers on their train journeys. The IRCTC has launched a Proof of Concept (POC) at five main railway stations in North India; Delhi, Prayagraj, Kanpur, Varanasi & Lucknow. Passengers traveling on this route will be able to easily enjoy pre-ordered meals using the IRCTC e-catering portal with ample help from Zomato. IRCTC is already gearing up for the festival and holiday season and has introduced Navratri thalis to provide special meals for passengers fasting during the nine nights of Navratri.
Now there is one more reason to visit Uttarakhand. The Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand is finally open to tourists. At the moment Bijrani, Dhela, Jhirna and Garjia zones have been opened up for tourists while the remaining four zones viz. Sonanandi, Pakhro, Dhikala and Durga Devi will be opened up next month for day time safaris. Reserve Forest Rest Houses too have started accepting bookings for night stays. The reservation system at the park has been upgraded and many new amenities have been added for visitor convenience. The Park remains closed during the monsoon season as rains greatly damage forest roads which need a lot of repair post monsoon so that visitors can have a safe safari. Jeep safaris are available at the Park in the morning and afternoon sectors. Dhikala zone is scheduled to open up on 15th Nov 2023. Corbett Park remains open to public for 6 months a year and nearly 3 lakh tourists
visit it every year.
Soon there might be a lion safari park along the Gujarat-Diu border. The park will be modeled on the lines of Sasan-Gir in Gujarat which is very popular amongst tourists and will be a home for lions who are bred & born in zoos. Bus and jeep safaris will be available for visitors and the park will include
lions as well as other wild animals present in the nearby forest areas. The park and safari will help promote tourism along the coastal highway. An open safari park is also being planned at Kevadia which is near Statue of Unity where visitors will be able to observe lions and tigers and will also have a
geodesic dome aviary.
The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Karnataka has earned the title of the Most Punctual Airport in the World for the third time! In a survey conducted by Cirium which is an analytics firm focusing on Aviation KIA was recorded to have the most timely departures. In Sep the airport had a record 88.51% of punctual flight departures. KIA is the country’s third busiest airport and last year almost 31.91 million passengers have traveled through KIA. With such large passenger volumes it is no mean feat to have such an impressive record of punctual departures. The other airports in the top 5 on the list were Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah (USA), Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad (India), Minneapolis St. Paul International Aiport (USA) and El Dorado International Airport (Colombia).
The Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam will be open for visitors from 15th Oct 2023. The park will allow access to only two areas for exciting jeep safaris, one being the Kaziranga Range in Kohora and the other being Western Range in Bagori. Both these sectors will be closed to visitors on Wednesday afternoons. The Kaziranga National Park usually remains closed for 6 months from May to October to prevent any possible mishaps due to the flooding of the Bramhaputra river. Kaziranga is world famous for its one-horned rhinos and is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site owing to its biodiversity and its many wildlife conservation programs.
Rajasthan has started an exclusive Valley Queen Heritage Train Service running between Marwar Junction to Khamlighat. This train has the appearance of a 150 year old steam engine with a 60 seater Vistadome AC coach. The train will be operational four days a week with the ticket being INR2000 per person. The train will begin its journey from Marwar Junction in the morning at 08:30hrs and will reach Khalimghat by 11:00hrs. It will begin its return journey from Khalimghat at 15:00hrs and return to Marwar Junction at 17:40hrs. The route this train will cover passes through beautiful green valleys, water streams,
two century old tunnels and 172 bridges.
A new Vande Bharat Express has been announced between Tatanagar, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. While the date of launching the service has not been announced yet it is believed that the train service will start during the auspicious Durga Pooja days. This train will have 8 coaches. It will start from 06:00hrs from Tatanagar and reach Varanasi at 13:50hrs while on the return journey the train will start at 14:35 hours and will reach Jamshedpur at 22:00hrs. In this almost 8hr long journey which it will undertake 6 times a week, it will stop at Purulia, Bokaro steel city, Gaya, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay stations. Another VBE will also be launched between Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh & Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
You can now travel to Sri Lanka from India by a ferry. The ferry will connect Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, India with Kankesanthurai in Jafna, Sri Lanka. The travel time will be around 3 hours and this ferry will be operated by Shipping Corporation of India. This will prove to be a cost efficient option for citizens of both the countries. The ferry is called Cheriyapani and passengers will be able to travel with 40KG of free luggage. The ferry will be able to carry 150 passengers at a time. Earlier too a ferry service operated between Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram and Talaimannar but it closed down after the civil war in Sri Lanka. This new ferry will help connect both the countries and help increase trade and religious tourism.
With Navratri round the corner Himachal Pradesh is all set for the International Kullu Dussehra Festival 2023. Dussehra celebrations in the hilly state have been famous since olden times going back to the 17th century. This year the International Kullu Dussehra Festival will take place between 24th Oct to 30th Oct
in Kullu. The Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath will mark the beginning of the festival. There will also be an International Carnival on 25th Oct and the Kullu Carnival Fest will be held on 30th Oct. Visitors from over 20 countries including Russia, Malaysia, Croatia, Vietnam, Thailand, some African countries etc will be participating in the cultural festivities. The organizers believe that due to improved connectivity between Kullu and nearby cities like Amritsar, Chandigarh and Delhi by air routes more visitors will likely come to the festival.
Soon Amsterdam in Netherlands will have the highest tourist tax in Europe. The tourist tax will be raised to 12.5% from 2024 which will have a great impact on tourists coming in via cruise ships and those staying overnight. The city’s Mayor for Finance said that this hike will help the city deal with over-tourism
and help them provide more funds for keeping the city tourist-ready. This will also help their citizens from not being overburdened by taxes. Along with Amsterdam, Iceland as well as Venice have plans to introduce greater taxes for visitors to help them achieve their climate and sustainability goals and help
them deal with the burden which over-tourism is causing.
According to a survey report released by Bounce; India was the second most popular tourism destination in the world. The first place was bagged by Maldives. The third most popular destination was Singapore. Maldives is very popular amongst honeymooners and beach lovers. On the other hand India is perfect for family holidays while Singapore is world famous for being a unique blend of cultures & as a shopping and foodie paradise. The other countries in the list were Costa Rica, Mexico, Japan, Jamaica, Greece, Bahamas and Australia.
Ullada in Tamil Nadu has bagged the Union Government’s “best village tourism” award. The 100 year old Nilgiri Mountain Railway passing through it, lush tea-fields, vegetable farming on the hills, a eucalyptus distillery unit and many such little factors helped the village win this award. The tradition,
culture and cuisine of this village are all unique thus offering everything a tourist looks forward to experience when he books a rural holiday. The houses in this region are built in the badaga style which is a specialty of this region. While this has been an agricultural community tourism too is picking up in the village as increasing number of homestays are coming up.
Sikkim faced flash floods this week owing to which the Government has advised tourists planning to visit the state to postpone their tour plans. 14 people have lost their lives while 102 are missing due to the flash floods with nearly 3000 tourists, both domestic and foreigners stuck in the state. The state
Government has begun with the evacuation process and also requested tourists to postpone their visits. The Government has also stopped issuing permits to popular tourist spots like Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu La from Friday. The North of Sikkim experienced flash floods when the Teesta river overflowed after a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake leaving many people stranded.
Heavy snowfall has been occurring in Himachal Pradesh area leading to the shutdown of the Manali – Leh highway. Tourists were also advised to not go beyond Darcha due to the bad weather conditions. Ice has formed on the roads at Darcha, Baralacha Pass and Shinku-La making the roads extremely slippery and hence prone to accidents. Snowfall had occured at Koksar, Baralacha La, Rohtang Pass, Shinkula, Jingjingbar & Chandertal. After the initial light snowfall the temperature in the area has dropped considerably and the weather department has also predicted moderate rainfall and more snowfall especially in the higher altitude areas.
The world’s highest steel arch bridge is in India and runs across the Chenab river in Jammu. The 1.3km long bridge which is at a height of 359m above the river is being redeveloped. The Reasi district which is home to Mata Vaishno Devi temple welcomes a large number of tourists annually. Other than the
Vaishno Devi temple the area also has other landmarks like Shiv Khori, Salal Dam & Bhimgarh fort which the administration plans to develop and open up to tourists. The Government plans to better the connectivity between various places in the state with the 119km long railway project which will help link the Himalayas with the rest of the country via train.
The 136 year old iconic Hanging Garden in Mumbai maybe shutdown in the near future. A reconstruction project of a reservoir under the Malabar Hill is being planned because of which it might become necessary to close the Hanging Garden for several years. The reconstruction will be complete in 7 years after which the garden might reopen with a completely new look. The reservoir is in a bad shape and needs to be completely demolished and rebuilt. Owing to this many trees in the Hanging Garden will have to be removed while some will be transplanted in nearby areas which is causing concerns among the nature loving citizens.
Hanle, a high altitude village in Ladakh was so far open only for domestic tourists. Hanle is famous for it Hanle Observatory which is notified as a Dark Sky Reserve by the Wildlife Department of the Union Territory Administration of Ladakh. Dark Sky Tourism has been gaining popularity in recent years and
keeping this in mind the village of Hanle will now be open for International Tourists as well. They will also be allowed to stay overnight. This will help promote the village as a major astro-tourism destination. The high alitude and minimal light pollution make it an excellent location for studying the night sky or simple stargazing. Other than Hanle, Sko Valley and Martsemik, both of which are excellent destinations for trekking, too will be opened up for visitors.
Children above 2yrs of age were earlier given concession by Air India. However suddenly the airlines has done away with this concession. The airline has also doubled its charges for the help provided to kids in the age group of 5 to 12 travel alone which has led to a lot of discontent among the young generation which travels alone. This travel option was particularly popular on the India – Middle East route where many a times young children travelled alone to meet their parent living & working in Dubai or other Middle Eastern countries.
Gulmarg in Kashmir has received its first snowfall turning it into a beautiful winter paradise. This marks the onset of winter in the region. While the region is famous for its flowers once winter sets in it gets ready to welcome winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world. In 2022 it had also opened a unique
and world’s largest igloo cafe in which diners could enjoy a leisurely meal while taking in the breathtaking sights of the surrounding mountains. Other than the winter sports and beautiful views Gulmarg is also famous for its Gondola ride, the grand Maharaja Palace, Maharani temple and the beautiful Drung waterfalls.
Luxury train Deccan Odyssey is back on the tracks! The train which had started its journey in 2004 had enjoyed a great run till it had to be stopped in 2020 owing to COVID. But the train is finally being reintroduced with the inaugural run concluded recently. The train’s first journey will be a 7N-8D trip
starting from Mumbai. It will then travel to Vadodara, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra, Udaipur, Sawai Madhopur and finally end its journey at Delhi. The MTDC has planned 6 itineraries for Deccan Odyssey. The train also has upgraded its facilities and now will have fire extinguishers in each coach, bio-tanks in toilets, spacious gangways, air suspension trolleys and induction stoves in Pantry cars. It will also have modern amenities like Wi-Fi, intercom, music system, etc. The cost will vary according to itinerary but a single ticket will cost about INR6.5 lakh while on twin sharing the cost will be about INR 9 lakhs.
Germany’s Lufthansa is set to upgrade its cabins on flights over short- and medium-haul routes. This upgrade will be done during normal maintenance of the aircraft and hence no aircrafts will be out of service for the upgradation. The new and upgraded aircrafts are likely to be introduced by 2025. Overhead lockers holding almost twice their current capacity, USB ports for every seat, a separate holder for phones and tablets, more legroom and an ergonomically built seat are some of the new features which will be included in the upgrade. While the storage capacity will be doubled the cabin luggage capacity per passenger will still remain unchanged.
The Central Government has approved Akasa Air to fly on international routes. Akasa was launched last year in August and by the end of this year will begin its international operations. At present they will be flying concentrating on South East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East while also try to grow their
presence in Indian sectors steadily. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has granted Akasa Air the “International Scheduled Operator” status recently after it inducted its 20th aircraft last month.
Both the runways of the Mumbai airport will be closed for maintenance work on 17th Oct 2023. In order to carry out post-monsoon maintenance work both the runways will be closed from 11AM to 5PM. All flight companies have been informed about this closure six months in advance and all the flights flying in and out of Mumbai have been scheduled accordingly so that passengers do not face any inconvenience.
Keeping passenger convenience in mind Singapore’s Changi airport is doing a major overhaul to its immigration procedures. As a result of this overhaul select travellers will be able to depart from Changi airport without needing a traditional passport. Biometric data will be collected at various checkpoints
throughout the airport for authentication thus making the passport redundant. These automated checkpoints will be positioned at various key points like baggage drop, immigration clearance and the final boarding point. This will reduce the need of carrying documents and showing them at every step leading to a more smooth checkin process. These changes are likely to be implemented in the first half of 2024.
Myanmar also known as Burma had opened up to tourists in 2011 and had become an instant hit among travellers. However following the military coup in the country in 2021 it once again closed down tourism. While Australia and USA have warned their citizens against travelling to country India which shares a border with it has still maintained cordial relations with the country. Hence Myanmar is now considering offering a visa on arrival for Indian tourists. Currently Indians have been asked to apply for a visa online or at the Myanmar Embassy. But the country is planning to attract visitors and for this plans to grant visa on arrival to Indian and Chinese tourists and will also be wooing Russian tourists which is another ally of the country. Myanmar is a culturally rich nation and has many famous attractions like Bagan, Shwedagon Pagoda, Inle lake, etc.
The UK Government has announced a hike in visa fees. This hike will be applicable from 04th Oct 2023. The fee hike is applicable across all visa categories. Cost for a visa for stay for less than 6 months has been increased by GBP15 while cost for student visa has been increased by GBP127. Earlier the UK PM Rishi Sunak had announced that visa fees would soon be increased with work and visit visas seeing a hike of 15% while priority visa, study visa and certificates of sponsorships seeing a hike of 20%. Even fees for health and care visas, citizenship applications, entry clearance have been increased.
UNESCO has updated its list of World Heritage Sites. It has added 27 new places to the list which include 2 from India. Shantiniketan in West Bengal and the Hoysala era temples in Karnataka have been added to this esteemed list. To be added to this list a site must have universal value and must meet at least one out of the ten criteria like a “masterpiece of human creative genius”, “areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”, etc. 27 sites from across the world have been added to this list which include sites from various countries like Cambodia, China, Korea along with India as well as Germany, France, etc among others. Shantiniketan was founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1901 as a residential school and arts center. Shantiniketan is the 41st World Heritage Site in India and the third in Bengal. The Hoysala temples in Halebidu, Belur and Somnathpura are the 42nd World Heritage Site in India and were constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Ajanta & Ellora caves were one of the first sites in India to be recognized by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1983.
The brain damaging Nipah virus has been detected in Kozhikode in Kerala. So far five cases have been detected and two people have lost their lives. Hence to stop its spread Kozhikode has been put under a lockdown like during the COVID days. Nine panchayats of Kozhikode have been declared as containment
zones with over 800 people under observation. The state has also issued an advisory for tourists visiting Kerala. While no tourists will be allowed to visit attractions located inside the containment zones the rest of the state is still welcoming tourists. Masks have been made mandatory in the state and one has
to wear it all the time in public places. The Champion’s Boat League race on Chaliyar river which was set to begin from 24th Sep 2023 has been rescheduled.
The Government of Goa launched the “Goa Taxi App” in the state on 14th Sep 2023. Using this app travellers will be able to hire a cab for use anywhere in the state. Tourists often complained of the taxi being so excessively high that they ended up paying more for the taxi than for their flight ticket. This app will help tourists get a fair price for their journeys. It has been operational from the Manohar International Airport for the past six months with more than 500 taxi operators already using the app. Operators who register for this service will get added incentives for themselves as well as families from the Government.
China has eased certain visa rules for Indians. Travellers intending to visit China for tourism, business, family visits or transit will no longer need to submit their biometric data when applying for visa. This will make the visa application process quicker and smoother for Indians. This will be of great benefit
to senior citizens who often face issues while giving fingerprints. Those applicants whose fingerprints already exist with the Chinese embassy will also be exempted from this. One can apply online for China’s visa after ensuring all the requirements of passport, photographs, proof of residence/work etc is handy. The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi has also opened up helplines to provide upto date information to travellers.
Air India Express will soon start a direct flight between Thiruvananthapuram & Doha. The first flight will take off on 29th October 2023 running four times a week. Doha to Thiruvananthapuram flights will be operative on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays while Thiruvananthapuram to Doha flights will run on Tuesday, Thursdays, Fridays & Sundays. Ticket bookings for the same have already begun. This direct flight will prove of great benefit to people in Thiruvananthapuram and its surrounding areas like Kollam, Allappuzha, Kottayam as well as Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi & Tenkasi in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. While Qatar Airways does have a direct flight between Thiruvananthapuram and Doha, passengers find the fares very high & hence often are forced to choose the Air India Express flight from Doha to Thiruvananthapuram and vice-versa via Kozhikode. Doha to Thiruvananthapuram flight will be just four and a half hours long and help save the many extra hours which travellers spent when travelling via Kozhikode.
As Ayodhya is gearing up for the grand inauguration of the Ram Mandir in 2024 the city is also changing slowly and steadily. The beautiful Saryu river now has a cruise running on its calm waters. Called the “Jatayu” cruise service it is run by a private operator between Nayarghat & Gupatrghat from
8th Sep 2023 and based on the Ramayana theme. This will help tourists explore the historic city of Ayodhya through its waterways. A round trip on the fully AC cruise will cost you INR300. The total capacity of the cruise is 100 passengers and will cover major temples located along the ghats as well as the Saryu Aarti. Meals will also be available onboard. Another cruise service by the name of “Pushpak” will also start its operations soon. Pushpak will be a Premium service with a capacity of 150 passengers.
The country’s longest cantilever glass bridge has been opened up in Vagamon in Kerala. At a height of 3600ft above sea level, this bridge situated in the Vagamon hills is 40m long. Surrounded by greenary it offers soothing views of the the green hills and valleys and of the neighbouring towns of Koottikkal
and Kokkayar. The bridge can take the weight of 15 human beings at a time offering stunning views of the surrounding natural beauty. The glass bridge is situated in the DTPC adventure tourism park which in itself is a great place to for adventure enthusiasts. The glass bridge was built at a cost of Rs. 3 crore and Government is positive that this bridge will help boost tourism to Vagamon.
While planning a trip is exciting, trying to get a suitable flight option can be exhausting. Especially when you need cheaper options, have less time & find there are no direct flights available! This is about to come to an end with the launch of several direct flights from India to various cities around the world.
Some of these routes are brand new while some have increased their frequency & reduced their fares. Now you can start flying direct to Egypt from Delhi, to Malaysia from Ahmedabad & to Abu Dhabi from Goa. A direct flight will soon be made operational by Lufthansa between Bangalore to Munich from November while Air Asia X has reintroduced its Amritsar to Kuala Lumpur flight with tickets costing less than Malindo Air. From December there will also be a direct flight from Ahmedabad in Gujarat to Kuala Lumpur operated by Malaysia Airlines. Cairo Air which had direct flights between Mumbai and Cairo has also started operating direct flights between Delhi & Cairo from August. From October flights will also ply between Kozhikode in Kerala & Fujairah in UAE with a layover at Muscat while direct flights between Goa and Abu Dhabi are already operational.
Tourism to Russia suffered greatly due to COVID pandemic first & later due to the ongoing war with Ukraine. The Russian Government has been coming up with various plans to boost tourism in the country. Recently it introduced e-visa for citizens of a number of countries including India which will help tourists
apply for a visa from the comfort of their home. In a recent development Russia will soon introduce a Foreign Tourist Card which will work like a bank account. Travellers can deposit money into that account and when in Russia use the Foreign Tourist Card to make payments from that account. This will help
visitors make cashless transactions thus reducing the risk of carrying cash. One can apply for the Foreign Tourist Card in advance before even entering Russia. Seven tourist centers have also been set up in Moscow which will help tourists in case of any emergency. There are also plans to make the navigation
system in the country into English which will help foreign tourists a great deal.
Recently Himachal Pradesh suffered greatly due to heavy rains, floods & landslides. This affected the tourism industry badly. But finally the rains have passed and things are slowly getting back to normal in the hilly state. Roads leading to Kasauli, Kinnaur, Narkanda have now been opened up. McLeodganj,
Dharamshala, Dalhousie, Palampur, Khajjiar & Chamba too are ready to welcome back tourists. The Government of Himachal Pradesh has also announced subsidized rates for air fares between Shimla & Dharamshala and the fare between these two cities has been fixed at INR3000. Pawan Hans is also operating helicopter services between Chandigarh to Shimla & further from Shimla to Rampur, Kullu, Mandi and Dharamshala in order to help tourists easily visit multiple cities in the region.
Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh has got a world class international cruise terminal. This will help the eastern coast of India in becoming a hub for leisure cruises operating both domestically as well as internationally & for cargo services too. The luxurious terminal has lounges for rest, restaurants, shopping
areas, convenient parking spaces, along with the usual customs, immigration, quarantine counters, conveyer belts for baggage, etc. From November to March the terminal will operate cruises from all corners of the world but from April to October it will work as a cargo terminal only. Cruises to & from India are gaining popularity & Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi have well established ports. Cruises from Mumbai to Dubai, Kochi to Maldives & the Ganga River cruise from Kolkata to Varanasi which plies on the Ganga river instead of any ocean are popular cruise routes in & from India.
As India and Delhi gears up for the G20 summit there has been a growing apprehension among tourists who had plans to visit Delhi during that period. There were rumours of flight cancellations & rescheduling & a lot of travel restrictions have already been announced in Delhi which added to the anxiety of travellers who had business or important work in the capital. To put travellers at ease flight companies like Air India & Vistara have announced a one-time waiver on tickets for those travelling from 7th to 11th September. Passengers who wish to change their travel dates will be given a one-time waiver of applicable charges & will only have to pay the fare difference between the old & new flight. Passengers are also being requested to visit the flight company official websites in order to be notified of any changes to flight schedules. Spice Jet has also requested its passengers to be present early at the airport as check-in counters will close 1hr prior to departure.
Passengers on Air India flights will be able to journey across over 100 European destinations, even those without airports. Air India and Access Rail have signed an agreement under which Air India passengers can travel across the length & breadth of Europe on one buying single ticket of Air India. Under this agreement AI passengers will be able to use railway & bus services across various cities & town in Europe along with the same baggage allowance which their AI ticket allowed them onboard. The intermodal AI ticket will give passengers easy access to bus and railways services like Avanti West Coast (U.K.), National Express (U.K.), Trenitalia (Italy), ÖBB Austrian Railways (Austria), SNCB Belgian Railways, and Thalys (Netherlands/Belgium). Earlier this year Vistara too had joined hands with WorldTicket to offer its passengers connections via DeutscheBahn. Currently these intermodal tickets can be purchased through international travel agents only but soon Air India will open up bookings via its own sales channels as well.
Seven new cities will be connected to Jaipur in Rajasthan. Flight companies like Indigo & Spicejet have come forward to start direct flights to & from Jaipur to seven cities across India including Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Bagdogra, Jaisalmer, Bhopal & Patna. These new routes are likely to be opened up during winter which is peak tourism season. Jaipur is an extremely popular destination for both domestic as well as international tourists. Jaipur airport has seen a steady increase in the number of tourists leading to an overall increase for tourism in the state. At present Jaipur airport has direct flights to 23 cities across India
The Covid-19 pandemic had caused a huge backlog at the US Visa office with appointments available 2 years away from the date of application. This had caused many problems for applicants wishing to visit families & even those having business interests in the country. But the US Consulate General Mumbai has announced that it has finally managed to clear all the backlog. Immigrant visa interviews can now be scheduled by applicants as per the standard time. Over 9 lakh non-immigrant visas are under process at the moment with their goal being. The US Ambassador to India also added that they will continue exploring methods in which visa processing time can be further reduced. Recently US also allowed Indians working in the US to renew their work visa in the country itself without needing to travel home for it. New American consulates will also be opened up in Bangalore and Ahmedabad thus helping reduce the pressure on the existing consulates.
Uttar Pradesh is seeing a massive surge in tourism. In the first half of 2023 nearly 14 crore tourists visited the state which is a massive increase of 1.1 crore over the previous year for the same period. Authorities expect that with the opening of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya the state tourism will receive a massive boost next year in January. Religious, cultural & historical sites are the main attractions of Uttar Pradesh with pilgrims & history enthusiasts visiting many cities and sites across the vast state and not just limiting themselves to Taj Mahal. This has also led to an upsurge in the employment opportunities in the tourism sector across the state.
Thailand is looking to increase tourist footfall in the country. In a bid to attract more tourists it plans to allow visitors to stay longer in the country. It will also consider easing visa rules for Chinese & Indian tourists. The Prime Minister of Thailand is aware of the visa costs which Chinese & Indian tourists have to pay & in order to make it easier for tourists plans on increasing the number of visa-exempt countries. The fourth quarter is the busiest tourist season for the country and the PM plans to bring about these changes as soon as possible so that more and more tourists visit the country. There are plans to increase the number of flights to Phuket & Krabi and also to grant visas for longer duration to tourists from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia as they tend to spend more time in Thailand than tourists from China and Malaysia.
After getting cheetahs from Africa, the Madhya Pradesh government is planning to start a cheetah safari. The cheetah safari will be in the Saisaipura area of the Kuno National Park. A proposal for this has already been sent to the authorities for approval. The safari will have cheetahs which are unable to survive in the wild and hence spotting them will be easier for tourists. The safari will also be a breeding center which will help in boosting the population of the species in the state. Kuno National Park is a relatively unexplored destination in India. It was established in 1981 and is home to a variety of rare animals and plants along with the Cheetahs.
After failing to revive tourism as per its expectations post Covid Bhutan has decided to half its tourism fee. In Sep 2022 it had increased its tourism fee from USD65 to USD200 per night! But this led to sizeable reduction in the number of international tourists visiting the country. Hence the authorities have
now halved the tourism fee and have high hopes of attracting tourists. This change will come into effect in September and would last for four years. Bhutan had remain isolated for centuries before it opened up to public for tourism in 1974. In that year it received 300 visitors. Over the years the number of tourists
visiting the Himalayan country increased drastically reaching up to 315,600 in 2019.
In order to depict the architectural heritage of Hindu temples the Uttar Pradesh government has announced a temple museum in Ayodhya. The museum will showcase the history of Hindu temples and plans for the same are already in progress under the UP government. The museum will help visitors understand the science behind temple construction, its architecture, its designs, philosophies which guide their construction, use of advanced techniques by our ancestors in temple building, the role temples played in dispensing education in ancient India, the role of Mathas & Peethams, etc.The museum will have 12 galleries, a garden, pond as well as a cafeteria & basement parking area for visitors.
Air services between Mumbai & Sindhudurga will resume from 1st Sep 2023. Earlier there used to be regular service between the two cities which got discontinued due to various reasons over time. However the services are set to resume via the Chipi airstrip by Indigo & Air Alliance flights. This became possible
after active coordination between the Maharashtra & Central government. This news will be greatly welcomed by the state residents as well as tourists who visit Sindhudurga which is a popular destination in the Konkan belt.
From 31st Aug 2023 all domestic flights will fly from Terminal T1 of the Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore while all international flights will fly from T2. This change will begin from 10:45hrs on 31st Aug 2023 with SQ508 of Singapore Airlines being the first international flight to land at Bengaluru’s
T2 terminal on 31st August. The T2 Terminal was inaugurated by PM Modi last year and operations began at the terminal from January 2023. T2 is now equipped with immigration counters, duty free shops, custom offices, retail shops & food courts. A complimentary shuttle service is also available between the two terminals. All passengers who are flying to & from Bangalore on 31st August are requested to recheck their terminals to avoid last minute hassles. Presently Air Asia India, Star Air & Vistara have domestic flight from T2. Reports suggest that people from Bengaluru prefer flying to Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok, Bali, Istanbul, London, Colombo, Maldives, Kuala Lumpur and Phuket while within India they prefer flying to Delhi, Mumbai & Kolkata.
In a first of its kind, a cycle safari has been started at Pench Tiger reserve in Maharashtra. So far we have heard of jeep & canter safaris but at Pench Tiger Reserve cycling enthusiasts will be able to cycle on the Kolitmara to Kunwara Bhivsen stretch which is has a rich variety of plants & birds. In spite of being
a tiger reserve this stretch is a peaceful & calm place which is perfect for cycling. Visitors who bring their own cycles will have to pay an entry fee of INR100 while those hiring cycles at the reserve will have to shell out INR300. 2-6 people will be allowed in a group which will be headed by a an experienced
guide whose charges will be INR1000.The cycle safari started on 20th Aug 2023 & 80 cyclists across all age groups participated in the maiden run. Cycle safaris are not only environment friendly but also cheap on the pocket.
The Bhutanese Government had submitted a request to the Central Government of India for the development of a Bhutanese temple dedicated to Buddha at Sarnath. However Sarnath had no available space for building any new temples. Hence the project was stuck for many years. However the Government has now granted them land for the temple at Varanasi. Varanasi is the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon. This request has now been approved by the government. The UP government will provide the land for the temple & the Bhutanese government will build the temple & the guest house. Varanasi is frequented by Bhutanese pilgrims. Even the members of the royal family had visited Varanasi when they came to India. The land would be provided on a lease of 30 years against a token of a minimal amount of INR 10 with a monthly rent of INR 1.
There has been an exponential rise in air traffic from & to Pune. To meet the demands of this growth the Lohegaon airport in Pune will have a new terminal building. The new terminal will be inaugurated next month & operations will begin from October. The new terminal building is spread over 50,000 sq.m. area
and will have 10 aerobridges & 72 check-in counters. It will also have multi-level parking as well as a new cargo complex. Pune airport expansion was in the planning phase for a long time & is finally nearing completion after overcoming many obstructions & delays. The new complex is almost 95% complete and test runs by various departments have already begun.
Passport Applicants will now have to create a DigiLocker account before applying for a passport. DigiLocker was launched by the Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information by which individuals will be able to upload copies of their essential documents to the DigiLocker server & access it anytime, anywhere as needed. Now anyone who applies for a passport will have to upload their documents on to DigiLocker, especially if they plan on using AADHAAR card for the purpose of verification. After uploading all the essential documents the applicant need not carry hard copies to the appointment center on the date of
appointment. This move is expected to speed up the application process & make it more efficient by reducing the need of document collection & verification by the Passport Seva Kendra.
Bali is a popular destination not just among Indians but also for travelers from all over the world. Hence Indonesia is planning on launching a Golden Visa by the end of 2023. Other countries like Mexico, Greece, Canada, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, etc already offer such visas to tourists who stay in the country for longer periods of time & make a sizeable investment in the tourism industry. Indonesia’s Golden Visa will be valid for 5-10 years providing expedited services to the visa holder. The Golden Visa holder will be allowed to buy property in Indonesia & his application for citizenship will also be fast-tracked.
Now there is one more reason to visit the Andamans! The A&N administration in its efforts to promote responsible tourism will be encouraging Caravan Tourism. Caravan Tourism is an eco-friendly option which also offers tourists a unique way of exploring beaches & the islands. This move is expected to help create a balance in boosting tourism as well as preserving the delicate ecological equilibrium of the islands. This plan is still in the draft stages & the administration is inviting all stakeholders to participate & contribute to making this plan a success.
VFS Global which manages visa applications for various countries has partnered with the Indian Hotels group & Radisson Group. Under this partnership new Premium Application Centers for UK Visa will be opened up at various hotels belonging to the Taj & Radisson groups. These application centers will be like
any other center where visitors will be able to submit their application form & biometric data. As they are Premium Application Centers, they will be open for only a limited period of time & will be operative only on select days with each center having its own different time & date. Appointments at these centers will cost extra over & above the regular visa fees. Currently this facility is being made available at Vivanta Bengaluru, Whitefield; Vivanta Mangalore Old Port Road; The Gateway Hotel Beach Road, Vishakhapatnam; Radisson Blu Hotel, Amritsar; Radisson RED Chandigarh Mohali; Park Plaza Ludhiana &
Radisson Hotel, Noida
The Taj Mahal in Agra has always been the number one tourist attraction in India. Many a time foreign tourists visit India just so that they can pay a visit to the beautiful marble tomb. Apart from being one of the seven wonders it is most famous for its beautiful architecture & the gardens around it. It comes as no surprise then that The Taj Mahal has won the “Most Instagrammed Cultural Heritage Site in the World” title. In a hashtag study the “#monumentoflove hashtag has been mentioned more than 23 lakh times on Instagram alone. On the second place stands the Palace of Versailles in France while the third spot goes to the Statue of Liberty in New York, USA. The Grand Canyon also in the USA was declared as the most Instagrammed Natural World Heritage Site in the world with the Amalfi Coast in Italy bagging the second spot. The most Instagrammed World Heritage City was Istanbul in Turkey followed by Rome in Italy & on third place was Prague.
While Andaman & Nicobar Islands are often written together, Andaman is more popular among tourists. However tourists can now visit Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Island. Since January this year almost more than 8000 tickets have been sold for Campbell Bay. The Government has been taking measures to encourage tourism on the island by starting helicopter services, trying to provide high speed internet & including the Great Nicobar Island under the UDAN scheme. Inter-island boat service from Port Blair are available to reach this island. Little Andaman, Nancowry & Car Nicobar are other islands nearby which are
worth visiting. Campbell Bay is a great place for nature lovers and its star attractions include Campbell Bay National Park, trekking, bird watching, visiting Indira Point, etc
As Saudi Arabia opens up to tourism it is trying to woo the Indian tourist. Last year nearly 10 lakh Indians visited the country & it plans to attract a crore Indian visitors by 2030. In order to make it easy for Indian tourists to visit Saudi Arabia the country will now allow Indians who have a USA, UK, Schengen visa and have used it at least once will be allowed to apply online for an e-Visa to Saudi. There are already 7 direct carriers connecting the two countries & a new route from Jeddah to Ahmedabad has also been opened up recently. It has also started its 96-hour stopover visa & has opened up 9 visa offices in India.
Europe is fighting mass tourism! For the past few years popular destinations in Europe are getting extremely overcrowded making it difficult for even the locals to carry on their daily life. The Governments of various countries are thinking of putting a few restrictions in order to ensure that visitors can enjoy a
beautiful & safe stay while at the same time the locals too do not suffer. Venice in Italy has banned tourists from jumping into canals & walking around naked. Sitting or sleeping on footpaths, near fountains & on bridges is also prohibited with violators being fined. The city has also been thinking of limiting the number of people it allows inside the city per day. There are plans to introduce an entry fee for tourists who will not be staying overnight but are just on a day visit. Access to famous beaches in Italy too are now being strictly regulated & tourists are not allowed to bring their own vehicles in some places
in order to ensure the narrow lanes are not clogged with traffic. Certain zones in the country which are famous among Instagrammers are marked as Red Zones where heavy fines can be levied for lingering & tourists gathering in large numbers. Italians also expect visitors to be on their best behaviour & follow
proper etiquettes so that everyone can enjoy their vacation time.
Processing time for Schengen visa to Germany has come down to 8 weeks & the German Embassy is trying its best to decrease it even further. They have already increased their staff in Mumbai & this has resulted in the lessening of processing time. Of late the delays occurring in visa processing of European countries & even to the USA has disrupted travel plans of many tourists. The processing time begins only once the visa application reaches the Embassy and all applications are processed on first come first serve basis only. Neither the staff at the embassy nor the visa agents have any say in expediting the process or giving preferential treatments. While more and more Indians are traveling to Germany for tourism & other purposes the current numbers are still only 65% of the pre-pandemic levels.
Traffic on the India – UAE route has increased tremendously over the past three years leading to air ticket prices soaring to almost 200% as compared to off-season rates. UAE is a popular stop for a break on long – haul flights to Europe & USA as well as being a popular tourism destination by itself. However the volume of traffic on the India – UAE sector is surprising even travel experts. Air fares are expected to be high on this route till first week of September with fares especially high to South Indian states like Kerala. This rise is said to be due to the sudden closure of Go First & the reduction of flights in second tier cities by Air India. This is affecting many middle class families who were looking to visit their home during school vacations. Many customers are also opting for traveling via Muscat, Oman or Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) in order to get cheaper fares. They are also choosing low cost carriers with Indigo & Air India Express being the top favourites.
You will soon be able to visit the Western Ghats while still in Bangalore. To know how, read on! Lalbagh Botanical Gardens is developing its own little Western Ghat. On 1st Aug 2023, thousands of saplings of over 132 different species were planted in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. These saplings have been
collected from seven districts of Karnataka & over the next few years there are plans to bring in more saplings to increase the biodiversity of the planned Western Ghat. The saplings chosen are from the endemic, rare, endangered & threatened group of species. This mini Western Ghat will be developed behind the Lalbagh Rock on the south gate side. At present the garden has over 2350 species of plants including some trees which are more than 200 years old. This new block will be opened up for the public in the next 3-4 years after successful transplantation & growth of the saplings.
Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka will soon start wildlife safaris in the Gopinatham area which is the birthplace of the notorious Veerapan. For many reasons the area was avoided by tourists but now the state Government is making an effort to encourage eco-tourism in that place. On this safari visitors
will be taken on a tour of places associated with the infamous dacoit & to the memorial of IFS officer Srinivas who was slain by Verrapan. The jungle safari will cover Namdarihalla, Kurimande Camp, Mailumalebetta & Hogenakkal Falls. The safari will cost about INR400 per person & will have 2 slots, morning slot of 6AM to 10AM & evening slot of 4PM to 6PM. Along with the jungle safari there are also plans to start water sport activities at Hogenakkal Falls. There will also be the traditional boating facility & coracles available to view the rich bird life in the area while floating on the waters.
Acropolis is Greece’s most popular tourist destination with thousands of tourists flocking to the monument daily. However from September 2023 only 20,000 visitors per day will be allowed to visit the Acropolis. He said this was being done to avoid overcrowding at the monument which in turn might cause damage to the structure itself. The rule will be introduced on a trial basis from 4th Sept 2023 & will be finalized on 1st Apr 2024 if everything goes according to plan. While the number of visitors will be capped there will be no restrictions on the amount of time they spend at the site. The ideal time is about 45min. The monument opens at 8AM and during the first hour only 3000 tourists will be allowed to enter while in the following hour only 2000. Number of visitors allowed entry will vary with each hour. If this succeeds the Government plans to introduce the same at other historical sites as well.
The Uttar Pradesh Government is keen on developing water tourism & adventure sports destinations in the state. It also plans to develop nine heritage buildings to promote heritage tourism. Water tourism would be developed along all rivers, lakes & pond while the hills of Bundelkhand & Vindhya are being considered for adventure tourism. Set at the base of the Himalayas surrounded by forests & full of waterfalls, reservoirs, lakes, etc this reason is ideal for challenging the adventurous spirit of travelers. Ex-servicemen would also be included in the adventure sports units. Under heritage tourism 75% or more damaged forts and other historical monuments would be restored under the PPP model and will hotels, resorts, museums, banquet halls, etc would be developed on their premises. A few names being considered for redevelopment are Qaiserbagh & Chattar Manzil, Lucknow; Barsana Jal Mahal, Mathura, etc.
Akasa Airways is all set to fly international! The airlines which was launched just a year ago has been growing in leaps & bounds. It has added its 20th aircraft to its fleet which now makes it eligible to cater to international travelers. Akasa is considering flying to Middle East, tips of Eastern Africa, SE Asia & to our neighboring countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh. It plans to start its international flights by the end of this year and will have 100 aircrafts by 2025. At the moment it is flying 900 flights per week to 16 cities across the country.
The Swiss embassy has clarified that it has not suspended visa appointments for Indian group tours. Earlier there had been reports that the Swiss embassy had suspended giving appointments to Indian tour groups till October 2023 due to the high number of pending applications. However the embassy has clarified that this is not the case & at present they have almost 800 daily appointments booked up till September 2023. Out of these 22 are of Indian groups! They also elaborated that in 2023 the Swiss embassy has processed more applications than the pre-Covid times in 2019. Multiple measures have also been brought in to make it easy for applicants to apply for Swiss visa which include applying 6 months in advance (earlier it was only 1 month in advance) & opening up new Visa Application Centers in the country with the current number being 13. The embassy also revealed that the maximum time taken to come to a decision regarding the visa of an applicant is 13 working days thus ensuring that travelers do not have to wait long to get their visa.