Tiruvannamalai Resources for Visitors
India can be chaotic, noisy and confusing to visit. But we have found Tiruvannamalai can be an easy place to visit or live – with a little help. I list resources and information that might be useful to you, and that have been especially useful to us. This includes”
Cash in India
Computers, Phones and Cameras
Information about visas and residency permits
Doctors and Hospitals
Travel on buses and trains.
This is not a comprehensive guide, just what we have figured out so far. For Westerners, life in India is more of an ongoing process.
What to See in Tiruvannamalai
Here is my recommendation of the eleven top things to see and places to visit in (and near) Tiruvannamalai: Top Things to See in Tiruvannamalai.
Our approach is to find people who are reliable and we can trust. Then to use them as our aides for life in and around Tiruvannamalai. This has made our life much easier. We recommend some here.
Our rickshaw driver is our main helper locally. He helps you tour and visit the city. He knows what festivals are happening and what spiritual teachers are available. He helps with local people and shops. We have also found the driver as translator as very important. As long as the driver knows his way around, where to buy what you want, and do what you need, and has good English, then interacting with the local Tamil-speaking people is much easier. You want a driver you can trust to be your ally. You want a driver who can rescue you if it’s needed.
We use Rajan (091)9442415221, and think he is one of the best.
Our taxi driver is the main helper for travel within driving distance. Taxi drivers usually are your initial way to get into and out of Tiruvannamalai from the Chennai Airport, and then to nearby places like Pondicherry, Mamalapuram, Chennai and Bangalore. A good taxi driver has fair English, good driving skills, knowledge of the roads and areas, and does not drink alcohol. A very good driver will be able to handle whatever problems that may come up during your trip, and in India problems often occur.
Before coming into town you should set up an airport pickup so a driver will be waiting for you when you arrive.
We use Valen – Call or email Rajan, above, or call Valen at (091) 9842630700
Use your ATM. Many ATMs are available, some near Ramana Ashram. Withdraw rs 10,000 per day (unless you make special arrangements with you ATM provider). Do not bring travelers checks, hard to use in India.
Many Westerners who come to Tiruvannamalai to visit Ramanasramam and Arunachala may want to see more of India. Here are some tour companies that I know give good service and provide great tours that can be customized to your specific interests;
Auro Usha’s - across from Sheshadri Ashram. Western food and Indian fusion.
Hotel Ramakrishna – on the northeast side of the mountain. Tamil, Veg – Good breakfasts, especially after walking the Inner Path, and good thali lunches.
Hotel Arpana – Near the Ramakrishna, also a good breakfast leaving the Inner Path, not as spicy as Ramakrishna. Pricey, by Tiruvannamalai standards.
Trishul – Near the Big Temple -Tasty food – Tamil and Chinese Veg and Non-Veg. You can get beer with meals in the bar.
Sparsa Hotel – On AHAM Road. High end lunch and dinner, usually buffet. Other than the dosa, we do not think much of their breakfasts. Pricey, by Tiruvannamalai standards.
Sathya’s Cafe on Perumpakkam Road – Veg, inexpensive, gathering place near Mooji’s satsang. Very good wood-fired pizza on Saturday nights. Popular for inexpensive breakfast.
Shanti’s Cafe near Ramanasramam – Fresh croissants and baguettes delivered daily from Pondicherry, Wi-fi. Roof top.
Tasty Cafe up from Agni Lingam – Veg Western and Indian cuisine. Try the lasagna. Roof top. Now Wi-fi.
Pumpernickel Bakery – Across the street from Tasty Cafe. Some Westerners say this is their favorite place.
The Dreaming Tree – Down the hill from Usha’s, near Shiva-Shakti Amma Ashram. New for 2011, roof top, small menu, popular new place.
Manna Cafe – around the corner from Usha’s. Western and Indian veg. Music on the roof some nights.
Hotel Ashreya – Bar and Restaurant – Beer, other drinks, Veg and Non-Veg food. Big screen TV with football matches. Pricey, by Tiruvannamalai standards.
Arunai Anantha – We no longer recommend this place. See this article: Terrible Service at Arunai Anantha in Tiruvannamalai.
There are new restaurants and cafes opening each year to cater to the tourist influx during winter.
Ramana Supermarket, across the street from Ramana Ashram, caters to Westerners.
Veera’s Market – on road to Agni Lingam, near corner.Small Indian shop.
More - Thiruvoodal Street, on the way to vegetable market. Good Indian Supermarket.
Vegetable Market, Thiruvoodal Street and Car Street, near the Big Temple. Usually chaotic.
Earth Care, Fourth Street. Down Post Office road, the left, the around the corner to the right. Organic and Natural food and products. Nice products, breads from Pondicherry.
Nilgiris, Across from Ramana Ashram, in Aakash Hotel building, caters to Westerners, clean, good selection.
Computers, Phones and Cameras
Lotus IT Park, Computer supplies, laptop and table repairs, cameras and repairs.
110C/89 Big Streetlotusitparktvm@gmail.com
Oasis, Mobile phone support, IPhone and Smartphone Support, SIM cards. 9442010143, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shanti’s Internet Cafe, near Ramanasramam, with wifi in the restaurant.
Arunachala IWay, near Post Office Road, 9-Manakkulavinayagar Street, 9443 423328
Post Office Road – several Internet cafes along the road.
Poombukar Shopping Centre and Super Market, on Car Street
Sarees & Cloth
Bharani, on Car Street
Poompukar Shabna, on Car Street
Designs, on Car Street
Salwar Kameez, aka “Punjabis”
Guides can take you to see the places shown on this blog. Often they will know stories associated with the place. They may know stories that have not been written down. A good guide is concerned about your well being and enjoyment of the trip. Two of the best are listed below:
Jagan – 9380621891
Lodging and Housing
In addition to rooms at Ramanasramam, there is much other housing available, with more being built. This includes many guest houses, hotels, and even other ashrams that offer housing to spiritual seekers. Air conditioning and hot water are available in some places (for extra cost). For long term visitors there are houses and apartments for rent in and near Tiruvannamalai. Lodging prices range from rs 100 – 4000 per night, with most places being less than rs 1500.
Most years, lodging can be found even in the busy season (roughly December through February), but the selection may be less and costs higher.
If you plan to stay at Ramanasramam, you must make arrangements before you get here. Here is a link to their booking page. Until 1 November, 2012, stays at Ramanasramam will be limited, due to construction.
Medical and Dental Care
Adequate care is available in Tiruvannamalai for most routine medical and dental issues. For more serious problems, some of the best facilities in the world are nearby in Chennai, Pondicherry, Velore, and Bangalore.
The local hospital that Indians and some Westerners use is Rangamal Hospital, on the southwest side of the mountain, about 4 km from Ramanasramam.
Shantimalai Clinic is also a good clinic with laboratory facilities, located near Rangamal Hospital. We use this clinic for our basic care.
Shafa Nature Care Clinic and Yoga Center is a good local source for Naturopathic healing, massage therapy, and yoga lessons. Call Dr. Mumtaj for a consultation at 9952721333.
We use Acharya Dental Clinic in Chennai for dental work.
I have also had very complete cardiac testing done at Apollo Cardiac Clinic in Chennai.
We have both used PMI Hospital in Pondicherry, and would use them again.
Indian visas only allow stays of 180 days. To stay longer requires a Residency Permit. To get one of these, go to the main Police office within two weeks of your arrival in India and apply. Rajan (see above) or Kumar at Shanti’s Internet Cafe can help you.
Two-Month Rule for Tourist Visas
The Two Month Rule is no longer in effect. See this post.
Ramanasramam does not have any laundry service. There is a stall on the road next to Usha’s cafe, near the corner, that can do your washing. They do a good job of ironing too. In September 2013 we had a report of someone who had a serious problem with this place.
There are others, too, we do not know enough to recommend at this time.
Buses and Trains
India has an extensive network of inexpensive buses and trains. This kind of travel is not for the faint of heart, though. It may be physically harder, hot, crowded, etc. You may get to unfamiliar places where there is little English spoken, and this can be a challenge.
The Tiruvannamalai Train Station has reopened in 2011. See Train Service to Tiruvannamalai. No direct train from Chennai, though.
Bus and train travel in India is an inexpensive adventure, recommended for experienced and able travelers. We have ended up using private taxis more than not.
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