International Airlines information
The majority of people travelling directly to Tiruvannamalai from around the world, arrive at Chennai International Airport, which is approximately 200km from Tiruvannamalai. Most then complete the journey by taxi which takes about three and a half hours and is relatively cheap by western standards. Some travel via Bangalore which is a five hour taxi ride.
Taxis can be hired at the airport, but it is recommended that visitors book a taxi in advance via one of the services in Tiruvannamalai. The costs are fixed beforehand and the drivers are more experienced in dealing with foreign tourists.
The following airlines fly into Chennai with links from all of the major cities in the world. The destinations listed next to the airline are the primary embarkation/debarkation cities.
Air Arabia - (Sharjah)
Air France - (Paris-Charles de Gaulle)
Air India - (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Dammam)
Air-India Express - (Colombo, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore)
Air Mauritius - (Port Louis)
British Airways - (London-Heathrow)
Fly Emirates - (Dubai)
Gulf Air - (Bahrain)
Indian Airlines - (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Colombo, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Muscat, Sharjah, Singapore)
Jet Airways - (Brussels, Toronto, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo)
Kuwait Airways - (Kuwait)
Lufthansa - (Frankfurt)
Malaysia Airlines - (Kuala Lumpur)
Oman Air - (Muscat)
Qatar Airways - (Doha)
Saudi Arabian Airlines - (Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh)
Singapore Airlines - (Singapore)
SriLankan Airlines - (Colombo)
Thai Airways International - (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Dubai)
Tiger Airways - (Singapore)
Accommodation and Weather information
You should book at least three months in advance for accommodation from November to February.
November to February - the winter months - this is the busiest time of the year, when average daytime temperatures rarely exceed 28 celcius and nightime temperatures can fall as low as 18 celcius. This is also the time when Karthikai Deepam, Bhagavan's Jayanti, Deepavali and Pongal are celebrated. To obtain good accommodation at this time of year, you MUST book well in advance.
February to March - this period is often busy but there is generally accommodation available in the town.
April to July - this is the quiet period during the hottest months. During April and May the average daytime temperatures will reach 43-46 degrees celcius in the shade and nightime temperatures will not fall below 32 degrees. From July/August onwards the temperature will reduce when seasonal rain comes to the coastal areas of India.
August to October - this is also a quiet period and marks the start of the rainy season throughout India. Temperatures at this time start to fall. Devotees who cannot tolerate the higher temperatures should book accommodation during this period.
The temperature information above is only a guide. The monsoon period for South India is generally in October/November, but the gathering monsoon clouds from June onwards sometimes help to reduce the average temperatures, even though the rain does not come until later in the year.
Accommodation - Accommodation is available inside ashrams throughout the year, but is usually limited to a few days only. During the winter months accommodation outside ashrams is quite expensive, varying in price from Rs.150 to Rs.350 per day for a room in a lodging house, and from Rs.3,000 up to Rs.30,000 per month for a small house. Out of season these prices fall considerably. There is no booking agency for outside accommodation and devotees normally look for it when they arrive.
Since the start of 1999 the number of visitors to Tiruvannamalai has increased dramatically. It is very important therefore to book accommodation at least three months in advance, otherwise you will be disappointed. There are a number of new hotels and guest houses in Tiruvannamalai, but these vary in quality and price. All will demand full payment in advance for your anticipated stay and none of them will give you a refund if your stay is curtailed for any reason whatsoever. It is therefore advisable to pay on a daily basis or no more than three days in advance!
A new website has been launched to provide devotees with information on the accommodation available for rent outside of ashrams, you can also advertise your requirements free of cost - this is an independent service having no connection with any ashram or other organisation in Tiruvannamalai, it can be found here: Arunachala Property
To enquire about or to book accommodation at Sri Ramanasramam email firstname.lastname@example.org
Advice on visiting Tiruvannamalai
This page now contains clear information for visitors - information that you will not find elsewhere.
Since September 2005 foreigners are required by law to register with the local police upon arrival. The police are taking this very seriously. This new rule has been brought in to end identification problems for the police. Please obey the law and register upon arrival.
Fly to Chennai (Madras) and from there take a taxi to Tiruvannamalai, which is 105 miles away. This is the most trouble free and efficient way to do it. The taxi driver will receive you at the airport, holding a sign with your name on it. Also, you may want to change foreign currency into Indian rupees while you are waiting for your luggage in the airport. The airport foreign exchange banks are probably the easiest place to exchange currency, but you will probably get Rs. 5-10 less per Pound, Euro, Dollar depending on which one you go to.
If you are staying at Sri Ramanasramam they can order a taxi for you and have it meet you at the airport upon arrival (the charge is now Rs.2100 for non-air-conditioned). There are many other taxi services in Tiruvannamalai who can meet you at the airport.
A new taxi service owned and operated by the Sri Ramana Supermarket in Tiruvannamalai is now available, providing modern vehicles at lower than average cost, you can contact them via this link - Satguru Ramana Maharshi Travels
There are also buses direct to Tiruvannamalai from Madras, the fare is Rs. 60, but in this case you should try to catch the Express service and not the normal service which stops at least a hundred times on the journey and is always crowded. This service runs from 5.00am.
You do not need to bring many clothes with you and what you bring should be summer wear only. A sweater may be required in the winter months (November to January) when the temperature can drop to 13 or 14 degrees centigrade at night. Clothing is very cheap in India and the quality is very good. Those who intend to stay for long periods usually have clothing made for them at the local tailors shops.
Other items of use include mosquito repellent (very important), a voltage converter for any 110/120V appliances (it is 230V there), a towel, your credit cards, travellers cheques, a good quality padlock, medicines for loose bowel movements (often Westerners have a short bout with this problem). If you wish you can also take some small special food items that you are used to, however, there is now a well-stocked store offering Western foods and toiletries opposite the ashram ... you can now buy items like good quality toilet paper, personal sanitary items, toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorants, cleaning liquids, soap, shampoo, good washing powder .... packaged cakes and biscuits, sweets, chocolate, plus a large variety of food items such as pasta, baked beans, powdered and canned soups, canned fruit and lots more.
What follows is for the benefit of foreigners or those who have spent their lives outside of India. It is NOT meant to put you off travelling to India, but to assist you should you encounter any of the following problems. The vast majority of visitors encounter no problems at all, but prevention is always better than cure.
Food and water
Our bodies are very susceptible to the pathogens that proliferate in India and extra care should be taken where food, drink and personal hygeine are concerned. In 2001 after two bouts of dysentry I consulted a local well-respected Indian doctor. He gave me the following advice - word for word: 'If possible prepare and cook your own food - do not eat any food offered to you by hand, locals think they are already clean, but they are not!' A startling statement from an Indian doctor, but true nevertheless. This is of course not possible for the majority of visitors, so the following advice has particular importance.
The food available in Tiruvannamalai is generally vegetarian, but is usually lacking in nutrition and is often unclean - a fact of life in India. Visitors are advised to supplement their diet with sealed and packaged dry food purchased from supermarkets.
The local water is not safe to drink and recent reports in 'The Hindu' newspaper have stated that there is no safe drinking water in the South of India, including most bottled water. The safest is considered to be bottled Pondicherry water, but you must be careful to ensure that the bottles you purchase are properly sealed before you buy them ... if the cellophane seal is loose over the cap, insist on opening the bottle and sniff at the water, if there is any odour or there are bubbles visible then do not purchase the water - also, destroy the plastic bottles by crushing them after you have used them to prevent the locals from refilling them with tap water. According to government advice, the safest thing to drink is bottled fruit juice - mango, orange and the like.
Since 2007 a number of new cafes and hotels catering to visitors have opened and these are much cleaner than the average place.
Malaria, Chikun Gunya, Denghue Fever (pronounced 'dengi') and Typhoid
The risk of malaria, chikun gunya and denghue fever has increased in Tiruvannamalai due to the vast crowds that now come on full-moon days. During this past few years a large number of Westerners and Indians have caught the diseases - including myself in 2006.
Devotees visiting Tiruvannamalai should obtain the correct anti-malarial drugs for their needs before leaving for India and follow the recommended regime throughout their stay and after they return home, this will certainly prevent malaria - they should also purchase high-quality mosquito repellant and use it daily, especially in the early morning and evening. All of the above diseases are transmitted by mosquitos - chikun gunya and denghue fever are from the mosquitos that bite during the daytime - these mosquitos only breed in clean water, so the most dangerous period is during the rainy season. Malaria comes from the mosquitos that bite during the night - these mosquitos breed in contaminated water, so their season is longer.
There is no known preventative for chikun gunya or dengue, but homeopathic medicines relieve the symptoms in some people. Typhoid is also very common in Tiruvannamalai, due primarily to contaminated groundwater. Vaccination prevents this.
If you do contract Malaria, then I recommend visiting Dr. Manickam (the real one and not the fake one who simply cheats people out of their money), who has a fast acting 100% herbal cure for malaria, which was created by his father and Bhagavan during the 1930's. Go to this page for contact information and a photograph of the real doctor. He also has a cure for SLE and many other intractible diseases.
If you get into difficulties or have some problem, then consult one of the Westerners who reside in Tiruvannamalai, or ask at one of the stores near Sri Ramanasramam. They will be helpful and will guide you in the right direction.
Under no circumstances whatsoever should any westerner, especially females, go anywhere or meet with any male/s that they do not know extremely well. Females should not go around or climb the hill alone and under no circumstances should they wander off the road alone. If you want to go around the hill then find other females to go with or go in a group and always be wary. Arunachala is a holy place but that does not mean that people here share that holiness and placing yourself in danger is stupidity not faith. Because someone wears orange or works in an ashram does not make them holy, the fact is that 99% of those wearing ocre robes are just beggars and social misfits who ply their living by deception.
Do not confuse anyone in Tiruvannamalai with Bhagavan - There is no similarity whatsoever. Also, do not take anything that you are told at face value - many things are not what they appear to be at first sight and I speak from seventeen years of experience.
There are other unpleasant things happening in Tiruvannamalai today and these are dealt with on the News pages of this site.
When you travel to Tiruvannamalai for spiritual purposes then attend only to that. Do not get involved in anything, just dedicate yourself to Bhagavan and Arunachala and you will return home with your faith intact. It is most certainly true that for those who aspire to deepen their spiritual experience and establish or fortify a personal link with the guiding presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi, a visit to Arunachala is certainly worth the time and expense.