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”

Guides
Tours
Rickshaws
Taxis
Cash in India
Restaurants
Computers, Phones and Cameras
Internet
Stores
Information about visas and residency permits
Laundry
Doctors and Hospitals
Housing
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.

Tiruvannamalai Retail District - Car Street

Tiruvannamalai Retail District – Car Street

Autorickshaws

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.
email: king_rajanjan@hotmail.com

rajan2

Rajan

Taxis

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

Valan

Cash

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.

Touring 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;

Sacred India Tours
Enchanting India Yoga Tour
Ramana Maharshi Tours Visit all Ramana Maharshi places in and near Tiruvannamalai.

Restaurants

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.

Food stores

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, gonzalestravels@gmail.com


Internet Cafes and other help for Westerners

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.

Local Shopping

Household items:
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”
City Garments

Mountain Guides

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:

Saran – 9944638811, http://www.mountainsarantours.com. Email him at mountainsarantours@gmail.com. Personable, knows Arunachala very well. Good English.

Saravanan

Saran

Jagan – 9380621891

Jagan

Jagan

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.

Residency Permits

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.

Laundry

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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Related Posts

To see other posts that may interest you, follow this link: Touring and Travel in India

30 Responses to “Tiruvannamalai Resources for Visitors”

  1. Soma Ali Says:

    Thanks for the prompt response.

    Unfortunately on the links there is no clear presentation of Vayu lingam on any of the photos; just too bad but thanks all the same. On one of the photos that was definitely the ‘swami’ who intimidated us.
    The walk to Skanda Ashram is just I remember it. Thanks for refreshing the memory.

    • maryjoma Says:

      Ali: From your name it seems like you are a Muslim. It is wonderful that you made the trip to see Arunachala Shiva on a moonless night.

      May be you don’t know this, the diety in the temple is who who is really in control. If the ‘swami’ seemed intimidating to you, may be you did or thought of doing something that was not in line with Hindu dharma.

      Review what you were thinking at that time and you will realize the ‘swami’ was acting at Lord Shiva’s behest.

  2. Soma Ali Says:

    Richard having read your blogs I felt the pull of the mountain and travelled from Delhi by train to do the girivalam of Arunchala. My cousin and I walked the outer path at the beginning of the month on a moonless night to see the lingams. No problems at any except at Vayu Lingam where the priest came out shouting believing I would take a photo. We felt frightened and bullied and left so never had a darshan. That is unfortunate because that means I didn’t really complete the walk. Do you have a photo for darshan? I can find no close-up on the net anywhere.

    For the inner path we got conned by a guide arranged by our taxi driver who claimed that one needs forest commission permits. All he did was he took us on the walk from behind Ramana Ashram to Skandashram which everyone was clearly doing for free and charged us 1000 rupees for the privilege. Felt really annoyed. Please help with a photo if you have one.

  3. xualtez Says:

    Thank you very much for all the information, Richard! I am planning a trip for July and I know you blog will be a great aid in preparing for my trip! I love how you have included contact information for trusted guides an drivers!!! I hope to be in contact more over the next several months.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Good luck with your travels. It is good that when Arunachala calls, you come here. If you have more questions, please ask.

  4. una fox Says:

    Thank you for your blog. You mention going to a dentist in Chennai……I’m staying in Tiru for the next month and thinking if I could get some bridge work done as well, it would be great. Do you think the dentists in Tiru would be ok for this type of work?

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      The Chennai dentist is Acharya Dental Clinic. There is a local one that some Westerners like. I can not vouch for him. When you get here, contact us and we will tell you what we know.

  5. Simone Torreggiani Says:

    Hello,
    just a note of warning about the laundry service mentioned above: today the old man in charge there refused to give me back several items I had left at his place for washing and ironing. Some people outside his hut told me he drinks a lot and is a bit crazy, a policeman was also there but couldn’t help, so I would definitely recommend against bringing stuff there for cleaning.
    Twice he tried to overcharge me, this time he simply denied that I had left anything there -_-
    May the Self be our Self
    Simone

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Thanks for the report. I will remove it, or maybe put a warning.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Is there a laundry service near Ramanasramam that you would recommend?

    • Simone Torreggiani Says:

      I don’t know of any other place for laundry in Tiru; I’ve been taking care of that mostly on my own, but sometimes it’s convenient to have someone else to do the job. I’m leaving India today but I’ll be back soon, so if anyone knows about other options around I’d be interested, too

  6. Sue Redman Says:

    Dear Richard,
    Many thanks for your thoughtful and helpful blog. i will be staying in Tiru for a week in early March. It is my second visit, but the last time i was there was 20 years ago; so much has changed! if you have time I was wondering if you could recommend a hotel for me please? I’m looking for somewhere simple bit safe and (hopefully!) cool. The information on the internet is overwhelming.
    Namaste
    Sue

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      I nice one near the ashram is Lakshmi Residency Inn, http://www.lakshmiresidency.com/

      People like it, good location and facilities. I think cost is about rs 1400 per night.

  7. Srinivas T (@srinivast) Says:

    Dear Mr.Richard:
    Many thanks for detailed and painstakingly chronicled information. It would certainly help the first time visitors to this wonderful place.
    Srinivas

  8. S. Arunachalananda (@Arunachalananda) Says:

    Re.Visa. Had a look at some pages of indianembassy. There are big differences from state to state. Austria 6 month or up to 5 Years with entry visa. Germany, visas seem to be generally for up to one year.. Spain, touristvisas and entryvisas up to 5 years. I (Austrian) will try to get a 5 year visa. Had already one 20 years ago.
    Om Arunachala ki jay
    Shankara

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      We are from USA. There you can get visa for one year or ten years.

  9. sshomi Says:

    That would be lovely! I would very much enjoy meeting you and Carol and will be in touch again as the trip plans get firmed up.
    Thanks.

  10. sshomi Says:

    This blog is a feast! Thank you for the wealth of information you’ve provided. I’m planning a trip for the last two weeks in October but wonder if you would recommend delaying a few weeks to come in November instead? Is there a significant difference in weather between October and November?

    • richardclarke Says:

      It all depends on the year. I would think October would be OK. Good that you are able to come. When you do, let me know, perhaps we can mee?

  11. Bessie Citrin Says:

    Beautiful, helpful blog!

    Can you recommend any (inexpensive?) hotels near the Chennai airport in which to stay after arriving, before the trip to Tiru?

    Thanks

    • richardclarke Says:

      Don’t know much about this, sorry. Also I am now travelling in Viet Nam, so cannot check with anyone.

  12. Daniel N. Reid Says:

    Re restaurants, you have a couple of restaurants listed where I have been served food that was (to me) inedible. I will not list these as tastes do differ. However, I do wonder how you could have omitted Pumpernickel bakery and restaurant, which I and many others consider the best and most consistently good place to eat anywhere in the Ramana Ashram area.

  13. Henri Chero Says:

    Beautiful info and work.I hope to be there this year.
    Can you clearup for me the new law re staying out of India 2 months with tourist visa.
    Thank you
    Henri

    • richardclarke Says:

      I would like to be able to give clear information about this, but we have not been able to find it. WE head different things. I can find nothing on India governmental websites. We did get a confirmation from the immigration official who checked us back into India on our last vist out of the country that the rule is still in effect, but that you are allowed to make trips to nearby countries and not be required to stay out two months. This is because, I think, that many use India as a base for travel and business in South Asia. We would like to get clear rules so we would know what limits our travel, but we have not been able to find them, and are told different things by different officials.

  14. kburtsev Says:

    Hi Richard agree, it’s very helpful. I also interested in finding place to stay and would greatly appreciate if you could post some of them with contact info. Thanks.

    • richardclarke Says:

      Here is one:

      Hillview Residency, close to Ramanasramam, rooftop cafe. non CA rs 300, ac rs 600.
      hillviewresidency@gmail.com
      (91) 9442712441

  15. tarzania Says:

    What a fantastic report. Thank you very much Richard. I cam to Tiru about 10 years ago and am coming back in a few weeks. I am trying to find some guest houses which are relatively inexpensive but which would also be able to be booked prior to arriving. If you were able to suggest any such places I would be very grateful.
    MAny thanks,
    Jane

  16. vpkumar Says:

    Dear Sir,

    Fantastic blog. We are indians. I am a naval Architect and my wife is a doctor. We are 60yrs old. We would like to settle down and spend our retirement years in Tirunamalai or near by. Is this possible say to buy a small cottage .

    • richardclarke Says:

      Yes, very possible. My wife and I find retirement life here to be very good. For us, I think maybe no place is better. Email me at richard@infinitepie.net with more questions.

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