Location & Travel Information
Tushita is located on a forested mountain slope at an altitude of 2100m (7000ft) in the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas, in Himachal Pradesh, Northern India. To get to Tushita you first need to go to Dharamsala (elevation 1220m), roughly 12 hours drive north from Delhi. From there it is a 20min bus ride up the hill to McLeod Ganj (elevation 1770m) and a further 10min taxi or rickshaw ride up to Tushita (near the village of Dharamkot). You can find McLeod Ganj on Google Maps here.
Please note: Even though Dharamsala is often taken to be synonymous with the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile, the actual Tibetan settlement is up the hill, in McLeod Ganj.
The following basic information is to assist you in making a general assessment of your travel options. This is NOT a full list of all travel options or details. Please note that we are not able to provide any further travel information than what is written below. Please check your travel guidebook for further details, keeping in mind that all travel information in India is subject to change at very short notice.
Mother India is an excellent teacher of the art of surfing life's vicissitudes. One Buddhist teacher explained this further here. Few other places help you to identify and re-negotiate your boundaries of patience, time and expectation as vividly. It's partly why India's spiritual soil is so fertile. With an open, relaxed and realistic attitude to travelling in India, it can be an extremely pleasant, even joyful and truly liberating experience.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that all students plan to arrive in the Dharamsala area by at least the day before your course starts, given that travel delays are common, particularly in cold or Monsoon months, and to give yourself time to rest after your journey. Tushita wishes you safe, happy, magical travels!
There are 4 main means of transportation you can use to get here:
For all these, you might find our
and when in town,
And a word of warning, mostly for Indian citizens: Please do not travel here by private vehicle! Traffic congestion is becoming a major problem as this area becomes more popular with weekend visitors from neighbouring states. In addition, the McLeod Ganj area is small and well served by auto-rickshaws and taxi's and there is nowhere to park nearby. We very much hope that private cars will be restricted entry to McLeod Ganj in the future.
The train is definitely our favourite mode of transportation in getting here from Delhi. Unfortunately however, it's becoming increasingly difficult to book a ticket in advance - ironically because it's so much easier that ever before! Ticket booking used to involve long, frustrating queues, so people only bought a ticket when they were absolutely certain of their plans. Now that online booking is so straightforward, it makes perfect sense just to get a ticket anyway, and trains often book up as soon as they become available on railway websites.
Recently, the period of ticket availability was extended from 3 months to 4 months - meaning that you can now buy train tickets online from 120 days before the day of travel. So, our best advice is to book as far in advance as you can, or (if you're travelling on a Tourist Visa) to use Tourist Quota, available at major train stations (see the "Booking tickets in person" section below). Otherwise, be warned that getting a train ticket for this busy Jammu Tawi line might be difficult.
The two nearest stations to Dharamsala are Pathankot (PTK) and Chakki Bank (CHKB). These stations are on the main line to Jammu Tawi. Both these stations are around 3 - 4 hours by road from McLeod Ganj, so you then have to take a bus or taxi - see the "Getting to McLeod Ganj from the nearest train station" link below.
There are a number of trains from Delhi, the most popular are:
#4033 - Jammu Mail. An overnight train which leaves OLD DELHI Railway station (NOT New Delhi Station) at 9:25pm each night and stops at Pathankot Station around 7:20am (before continuing on to Jammu Tawi).
#2919 - Malwa Express. A day train which leaves NEW DELHI at 5am and stops at Chakki Bank Station around 1:45pm (before continuing on to Jammu Tawi).
There are also a number of others, you can search for them here (enter Jammu as the destination station).
Please note: If you are catching a taxi to Old Delhi station, allow plenty of time as the traffic can be very bad on the last part of the journey through Old Delhi streets. The traffic can often be at a standstill at various points along this road.
Pathankot is quite a big station and the train stops there for about 15 minutes. If you are worried about missing it, just ask the man on the train, who gives out the blankets etc, to tell you when the station is coming up. Usually there are people awake in the carriage who will also help you get out at the right place. It's not difficult!
Chakki Bank is a smaller station just a few minutes before Pathankot station. The train stops quite briefly here, so be ready to get off the train. The train guys or people in your carriage are usually very helpful in telling you when to get ready.
Booking train tickets online
There are two websites where you can book train tickets online using a credit card:
1. http://www.irctc.co.in/ (The official Indian Railways website)
It is possible to book from overseas using a credit card on the IRCTC website, but many people find it difficult to use.
In this case, there is another website which is much more user-friendly...
You have to pay a slightly higher charge to book this way, but it is much easier to use than the IRCTC site. You can also check for train availability over a certain period of time (useful if you don't have specific dates in mind) here.
Booking train tickets in person
While in Delhi, there is a very convenient and easy way for foreigners to buy a ticket for any train in India. Go to the NEW Delhi Railway Station, and on the first floor you will find the INTERNATIONAL TOURIST BUREAU (8am-8pm Mon-Sat, 8am-2pm Sun). It is located on the first floor of the main station building (touts are particularly active around here - don't believe anyone who tells you that the office is now located across the street, it will be a private travel agency painted to look like an official railway office!).
This railway office arranges tickets on "Tourist Quota". Booking a ticket this way often means that (if you are a foreign passport holder on a tourist visa) even if a train is otherwise sold out, you may still have a good chance of getting a ticket. Although most travel agents will be able to arrange train tickets for you for a small charge, you will only be able to get Tourist Quota tickets in person at major train stations.
Train Costs and Classes
When booking in person, you can pay two ways (you need your passport and a valid visa for both):
Sleeper - Approx 200 - 300 rupees.
Provides: Padded berths in 3 tiers to sit/sleep on, no bedding provided so bring your sleeping bag. Used by average Indians and is usually quite acceptable, but it's always a good idea to keep an eye on your bags.
3 Tier Air Conditioned Carriage (3AC) - Approx 600 rupees
Same capacity as Sleeper class, but with air conditioning/sealed windows.
Provides: Padded berths in 3 tiers to sit/sleep on with sheet, pillow and blanket given out after the train departs. Generally middle class Indians and foreigners travel this class because it is a bit safer from bag thieves as the carriage doors are locked at night so people don't wander through the carriages. People who have never travelled by train in India before may prefer this class (though Sleeper is fine, too!).
2 Tier Air Conditioned Carriage (2AC) - Approx 900 rupees
Provides: Padded berths in 2 tiers to sit/sleep on with sheet, pillow and blanket given out after the train departs. Generally middle class Indians and foreigners travel this class because it is a bit safer from bag thieves as the carriage doors are locked at night so people don't wander through the carriages. People who have never travelled by train in India before may prefer this class (though Sleeper is fine, too!).
You can see pictures of the class systems here,
and find general information about Indian Trains on: http://www.seat61.com/India.htm
Getting to McLeod Ganj from the nearest Train Station
When you reach Pathankot or Chakki Bank, you can catch a local bus from the bus station (approximately 80 Rupees and takes around 4 hours). There is a bus that leaves Pathankot bus station at 8:30am, which matches up quite nicely with the arrival of the #4033 Jammu Mail from Old Delhi, at 7:30am (if it's running on time!). The bus station is a 10-minute walk (or 5-minute cycle-rickshaw ride) from the train station. There is a small restaurant at the bus station where you can wait for your bus. This bus takes you all the way up to McLeod Ganj, but most of them stop in Dharamsala, from where you have to take another bus or shared jeep to McLeod Ganj (10 rupees). Ask when you get on the bus.
Alternatively, there will be many taxis at the train station. A taxi up to McLeod Ganj will cost approximately 1,600 rupees. You can cut this cost by looking around for some other Westerners when you get off the train and asking if they'd like to share. Other westerners are almost guaranteed to also be coming here! There are taxi stands at both Pathankot and Chakki Bank stations. The taxi journey takes about two and a half hours and drives through beautiful scenery.
At McLeod Ganj, you may need to take another taxi up to Tushita (all the taxi drivers know Tushita) which is 80 Rupees (60 rupees by auto rickshaw).
If you're already in India and booking at fairly short notice, it's much easier to get a ticket on a bus than a train. It's also more direct (although less comfortable). All bus journeys between Delhi to Dharamsala take around 12 hours (usually an overnight trip).
There are several different private operators travelling from Delhi to McLeod Ganj nightly (eg. Bedi, Laxmi, A.N. Holidays and many more). They leave either from close to Paharganj or Majnuka Tila (the Tibetan settlement, about 30 minutes outside of central Delhi), departing Delhi in the early evening and arriving at McLeod Ganj in the early morning, and some may offer higher class or A/C vehicles. A restaurant in McLeod Ganj put together its own list of bus timings, which you can see here.
There are also Bus Services run by the Himachal Pradesh State Government which you can book online: You can travel to Dharamsala from New Delhi by the Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus from Kashmere Gate ISBT (Inter-State Bus Terminal - Delhi Metro Map can be seen here)
All buses stop once or twice during the night for toilet & snacks. It's a good idea to take your own drinking water on the bus. Bus tickets cost from 450 to 1000 rupees, depending on the season and the type of bus. For more information and booking please visit the above websites or one of the many travel agencies in Paharganj or Connaught Place. Most Government buses will terminate at Lower Dharamsala, so check when you board, and be prepared to take a further taxi (250 rupees), bus or shared jeep (10 rupees) up to McLeod Ganj when you arrive.
Bear in mind that Indian bus terminals can be quite a sensory overload, and if this is your first trip to India and/or you're feeling sensitive, we'd probably recommend that you take the train or plane as a first option. Travelling by bus is fine though, so don't worry - go for it!
CURRENTLY THERE IS NO AIRLINE SERVICE TO DHARAMSALA - After many months of severe financial diffculties, in February 2013 the Indian government announced the withdrawal of both domestic and international flight entitlements allocated to Kingfisher Airlines, the company that had formerly run the Delhi flight to Dharamsala/Kangra (DHM) airport (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingfisher_Airlines).
We can confirm that there has been no flight operating on this route since October 2012. So far there has been no confirmed news about this route being taken over by another airline. We are awaiting further information and will update this page as soon as we hear more.
The two nearest alternative airports are both a 5-hour, 4,000 rupee taxi ride away, clearly a disadvantage to flying here.
See online travel search engines such as Make My Trip or Cleartrip for further flight information and booking. Both Jammu and Amritsar have public bus services to and from Dharamsala, but these can take almost twice as long as a taxi and are only recommended for hardcore travellers - who are unlikely to be flying domestically anyway! Taxis are usually arranged on arrival, or via a travel agent such as listed at the bottom of this page.
***("We recommend that all students plan to arrive in Dharamsala by at least the day before your course starts, given that travel delays are common, particularly in cold or Monsoon months, and to give yourself time to rest after your journey")
Travel advice from Delhi International Airport
The new Indira Gandhi International Airport opened in late 2010 and has radically improved comfort levels for International travel through New Delhi. You can expect to find most standard International Airport facilities here (ATM, Money Changers, Tourist Info etc). The Airport's website is here.
By far the easiest and safest way to travel to and from the International Airport and Central Delhi is by the new Airport Express Metro Line, which opened in February 2011. The Airport Link runs from 4am to 11pm and should take around 20 minutes. In June 2011, it cost 80 rupees for a single journey, but this cost is expected to rise to 150 rupees within a few months. This line only has a few stops and terminates at New Delhi Metro station, which is convenient for onward rail travel.
Most backpackers stay in an area called Paharganj, where there are many reasonably priced hotels (and a few nice ones too), travel agencies, money changers, cheap clothing and gift shops. Paharganj can be accessed by 2 Metro stops; New Delhi itself and Ramakrishna Ashram Marg on the Blue Line. They are located at opposite ends of Paharganj, but most people will find Ramakrishna Ashram Marg more convenient than cutting though hectic New Delhi station to get to their hotel.
You can still travel from the airport by bus or taxi, and information about these can be found here.
If you do plan to take a taxi, for a fair price and safer journey, we recommend that you use one of the "Delhi Police Pre-Paid Taxi" counters in the arrivals area (best to ignore all the offers for taxis from the people standing around). Just tell them the hotel / area you want to go to and how much luggage you have (you have to pay a few Rupees extra for big pieces), then you will get a receipt (which you will give to the driver AFTER you arrive at your hotel). The receipt will give the driver's number on it, so you then follow the pre-paid taxi signs outside where usually a driver will find you. A taxi to Paharganj / Connaught Place costs approximately 350 rupees, though we still recommend the Metro if you're going to this area, a taxi only really makes sense if you're going somewhere that isn't easily accessed by a Metro stop.
Wow, travelling to the airport is MUCH easier than it used to be!
From McLeod Ganj to Tushita
It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from McLeod Ganj to Tushita, up a very steep hill. At the Main Square in McLeod Ganj there is a Hotel called "Asian Plaza". To the left hand side of this building, there is a path that leads up past a few jewellery/thangka shops, and an imported foods shop called "Osho". Just around the corner is the "Common Ground" cafe.
This is the same path that you climb to get all the way to Tushita, so just keep following it up, up, up and expect to meet many monkeys on the way! After 10-15 minutes you'll see the "Regional Mountaineering Institute" building. At this point you're about 3/4 of the way there, just keep following the same path.
Around the corner from the Mountaineering Institute you'll see a small white stupa and the Tushita signboard.
Come through the gate and keep climbing up the steps for another 5 minutes, passing by a few small cottage-style buildings on the way (Monks and Nuns live there in retreat, please don't go in!). When you run out of stairs, you are there!
Of course, the easiest way is to take a taxi or rickshaw!
You can pick them up easily just below the Main Square. A taxi will cost 80 rupees, and a rickshaw will cost 60 rupees. It takes about 10 minutes. You can also walk to Dharamkot/Tushita on this road. It takes longer to walk, and is sometimes busy with traffic, but is at a much gentler incline.
We are sometimes asked for travel agency recommendations. This can be a tricky area since people often have very different experiences from the same agency, especially in India. However, one agency that has given us reliable service so far is "Dream Holiday" in McLeod Ganj.
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