Travel Tips & Info

Tips for Your Safety and Health

The information from this section is excerpted from the guide books, “India” and “Vrindavana and Braja Mandala:  A Practical Guide by John Howley”
Basic Dress Code

As the MVT is situated in the Holy Dham of Sri Vrindavan there is a recommended standard of dressing that should be followed. Women and men should dress conservatively. Traditional Indian clothing is recommended. Women should cover themselves and appropriately and should ideally have their head covered when visiting a temple. This can be done with a simple shawl or piece of cloth.

Getting Around Vrindavan

Of course you can walk to many of the shops and sacred places in Vrindavana. A bike rickshaw to Loi Bazaar, from the ISKCON, MVT Bhaktivedanta Ashram, costs around Rs 20. To visit the 7 major temples in Vrindavana takes about three hours and costs Rs 40/hour. Many of the rickshaw-walas know where all the major temples are located.

Valuables & Security
When you travel there are three things that are very valuable to you – your money, passport and plane ticket. It is best to keep these things with you at all times. Carry your valuables in a money belt, a pouch under your shirt, or a pocket sewn into your clothing, not in your pockets or exposed bags. You should try to never let anyone see your money belt in public. Should not even think of putting any valuables in your check-in baggage on plane flights. Valuables should not be left in your hotel room if possible, especially in lower class places. You can leave valuables at the front desk of respectable hotels. If you are carrying a lot of money it could be a good idea to carry two money belts. When you go into a crowded area, for example, a railway station, be very conscious of your money belt at all times. In general it is a good idea not to keep all your money in one place. If you get robbed, what will you do? Travel bags should be made of strong material so that they can’t be cut open. You should be able to put a lock on them. The external pockets on the bags should not be used to carry valuables. Women should not keep valuables in their pocketbook. They are easily slit with a razor or pickpocketed. Don’t carry valuables in your back pockets or shirt pockets. It is best to keep your valuables in the front part of your body. You should be careful about leaving your shoes in front of temples. If you have an expensive pair of shoes there is a good chance you will loose them if you leave them unprotected in front of temples. People and monkeys take shoes. A good idea is to get a cheap pair of Indian shoes to wear to the temples and to separate your shoes or hide them. Another good idea is to pay someone a rupee or two to look after your shoes. Do not leave any items lying around the temple room. I have seen people amazed that someone stole their bag, which included their money and plane ticket.
Personal Finances
You can change money at the State Bank of India on the Krishna Balarama Temple campus (an Axis ATM is there also). You may have to give them a day or two advance notice to change a large sum of money. There are bank branches of HDFC and ICICI about 1km away from the MVT on Bhaktivedanta Marg (both banks have ATMs).
The Weather in Vrindavan
The weather is perfect from late September to the middle of November, during the month of Kartika. Also the month of March and the first half of April is good. These are the recommended times to visit. Vrindavana is one of the hottest places in the world in the summer, during May and June. Temperatures range from 22 °C (71 °F) to 50 °C (122 °F). It is very cold in the winter, from the end of November to mid-February. Temperatures range from 4 °C (40 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F). During the winter you need warm woolen clothing in the morning, but the weather is usually pleasant during the day. The rainy season is from the end of June to September.
Shopping Tips for Vrindavan & India
To shop properly in India you have to give yourself at least 50% more time than in the West, so you can bargain properly. The longer a merchant spends with you, the more likely you are to work the price down. A merchant does not like to totally waste his time, he wants to make the sale. So even if you are in a hurry, you should still act like you have all the time in the world. You can and should bargain when on the street. Never accept the first price given. Many times it can be four to five times the normal price. Many times it is a matter of pride to bargain for a lower price. Government emporiums, expensive shops, and department stores often have fixed prices and you cannot bargain. When there is a fixed price, many times you can get a price discount if you purchase more than one item. Shopping in Vrindavana: The important judgement on which merchant to purchase from is good communications and consistent good quality. This means getting what you asked for without wasting time. Getting a money back guarantee, in case there is a defect in any of the products is important. A good merchant will do this, as they will not want to ruin their reputation. These are a list of merchants recommended in Vrindavana:

  • Ganga Prasada, end of Loi Bazaar. Cloth merchant.
  • Rasbihari Lal & Sons, across from Ganga Prasad. Devotional items, pictures and books.
  • Dinesh, Loi Bazaar. Cloth merchant.
  • Mahesh, Loi Bazaar. Cloth merchant.
  • Khadi Bhavan, at the beginning of Loi Bazaar. Government cloth merchant.
  • Rajendra Tulasiwala, Loi Bazaar. Bead shop.
  • Radheyshyam Puja Bhandar, Loi Bazaar across from tulasi bead shop. Brass puja items.
  • Heera Jewelers, beginning of Loi Bazaar. Silver, etc.
  • Gopaldas Emporium and Shriji Jewelers, both on the left side of the road as you go from Loi Bazaar to Banke Bihari. Silver, etc.
  • Six Fingers Narayana, go right at the intersection at the end of Loi Bazaar. Tailor
  • Matang Perfumers, across from ISKCON Temple. Incense and oils
  • Shishu Kumar Agarwal, next to Ganga Prasad. Trunks and shipping.
  • Rambabu Bartan Bhandar, at the beginning of Loi Bazaar. Stainless steel cups, plates, etc.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Vrindavan?
Most of the tap water in Vrindavana is dangerous to drink and tastes horrible. Even if the water tastes all right, unless you are used to drinking it, there is a good chance you will get sick. It is best to drink bottled water, purified water or boiled water. If you do drink water from a tap or well it is best to ask the locals what water is safe to drink.
Medical Care in Vrindavan
Brij Health Care Hospital, approximately 2kms from the MVT is well staffed, clean and modern. There is the Methodist Hospital in Mathura. If there is a serious illness it is suggested that you go to a major hospital in Delhi.
Cultural & Social Norms
Here are a few tips:

  • In India people use their right hand to eat, as well as to offer and take things from people. The left hand is considered unclean, as that hand is used for the toilet. It is considered impolite to give or accept something from someone with your left hand. It is considered unclean to serve food with your left hand or to put your left hand in your mouth.
  • Women do not generally shake hands with men. Also men and women should not touch each other in public, especially in holy places and temples.
  • To greet someone, it is good manners to put your palms together and say “Namaste” or “Hare Krishna”.
  • When you enter someone’s home you should take off your shoes.
  • After someone has begun eating, they should wash their hands before serving themselves or others more food. You should not take a bite out of something and then hand it to someone else to eat, or eat off the same plate as someone. After eating, Indians wash their hands and mouth.
Etiquette for Temples & Holy Places
  • It is best to dress conservatively. Women should not overly expose themselves. Women should ideally have their head covered in a temple. This can be done with a simple shawl or piece of cloth.
  • You have to leave your shoes outside temples. One tip is to use an inexpensive pair of sandals when visiting temples or pay someone a rupee or two to watch your shoes for you. In most temples it is all right to keep your socks or stockings on, but not always.
  • A number of temples are off limits to non-Hindus. Other temples may allow non-Hindus to enter parts of the temple, but not the inner sanctum where the deities are located. Temple authorities can be very strict about this and can be violent if you do not follow the rules.
  • You may have to pay a small fee to take pictures of a temple. Many times you can take pictures of the temple building but not the deities. You should ask permission to take pictures of the deities and of persons in the temple.
  • Smoking is strictly prohibited on temple grounds.
  • You may be approached by persons asking for donations for you to take photographs. Do not blindly accept that these persons are bona-fide.
  • Leather items should not be taken into temples. At Jain temples they are strictly forbidden.
  • Men and women should never touch each other in a temple and great respect should be shown in the temple.
  • You do not have to make a donation in a temple, but even a small donation will help both yourself and the temple. You can consider it like a donation fee.
  • If you take any items in the temple from a priest, such as a flower, prasada (food), etc., expect to give a donation. In many cases no matter how much you give it will not be enough. So give what you think is correct and smile.
  • If you circle the deities (circle the temple) this should always be done clockwise.
  • If you bow down before the deities (pay obeisances) you should bow down with your left side to the deities, not your right side.
  • While sitting in a temple, you should not point your legs toward the deities.
Should I Give Money to the Beggars?
There are beggars and then there are sadhus or saintly persons who accept donations. I do not think it is a good idea to give anything to the average beggars, unless you give them food. Giving to a saintly person is actually to the benefit of the giver. The difficulty with giving to a saintly person is to know who is actually saintly. One problem about giving to beggars by temples and holy places, especially if they are children, is that if you give to one, you may have a hundred persons surround you and ask you for money. It is also a bad policy to give any money to small children, because they usually give all the money to their parents or some other adult. In this way the parents do not have to work nor is it profitable for the parents to give their children an education.
Tips for Avoiding Monkeys
You have to be careful of the monkeys, because they will steal anything they can from you, if you give them a chance. They go especially for your eye glasses, bananas (small surprise), and other fruit. They can jump down from a roof and snatch your glasses off your face in one swipe. They also bite, especially small children who bother them. Monkeys won’t take any nonsense from them. Monkeys also sometimes carry rabies. Most of the time monkeys are sneak thieves and will not steal from a formidable opponent. Keep your eyes open for them, and never let them get too close to you without looking at them. Give them a look and let them know that you are there. Never turn and run from them, as they are extremely fast. If they go for your bananas and challenge you, renounce the bananas. This is a life and death situation for them. They are willing to die for a banana.