• General Information
    • Welcome to the Alliance
    • Student Handbooks
  • Travel Arrangements
    • Booking Your Flights
    • Orientation
    • Packing Guidelines
    • Varanasi Program Calendars
  • Getting Your Visa
    • Visa Application Instructions
    • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Health and Safety
    • Student Health Insurance
    • Street Smarts, Food, and Water
    • Medication and Immunization
    • Personal Property Insurance
  • Staying Connected
    • Electrical Appliances
    • Money Matters in India
    • Varanasi Office Contact Information
    • Student Mailing Address
    • Telephone and Internet Access
  • Additional Resources
    • Books, Films, and Websites about India

Information for accepted students in Varanasi

Welcome to the Alliance

Congratulations on being accepted to an Alliance program!

Now that you have been accepted, it’s time to secure your spot and upload important enrollment documents. Check your online application to see what to do next. Most required documents can be submitted online, but certain application pieces must be mailed, faxed, or emailed per the instructions provided once you've logged in.

You are about to embark on the experience of a lifetime - one of exploration and discovery, great learning, cultural immersion, and new friendships. The Alliance staff wants you to get the most out of your experience and we know that you have many questions. Your Student Services Manager is Anna Stewart. If you have questions that are not addressed on our website, please do not hesitate to contact Anna at 888-232-8379 or astewart@allianceglobaled.org.

If you will be applying any financial aid toward the cost of your Alliance program, you should print, complete, and return the Financial Aid Arrangement form. You can read more about transferring financial aid by visiting our Financial Aid section.

The Alliance for Global Education
1730 M St. NW, Suite 402 / Washington, DC 20036

Fax: 202-822-2046 / Email: forms@allianceglobaled.org

Student Handbooks

All Alliance students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the policies, recommendations, rules, cultural expectations and information outlined in their respective Program Handbook prior to departure. 

Pune Student Handbook

Manipal Student Handbook

Varanasi Student Handbook

Please also review the following contracts that will be signed at orientation: 

Academic Policies Contract (signed at orientation)

Student Behavior Contract (signed at orientation)

 

 

Booking Your Flights

Airline tickets

Students are responsible for booking their own airline tickets to India. See "Program Calendar" for arrival and departure dates. Only these dates should be used when making any travel plans.  Please not that it is mandatory for all students to attend their in-country Alliance orientation at the beginning of the program.

Students are required to arrive in Delhi between 8:00 pm and 12:00 am (midnight) on their program start date.  If you are flying from the U.S., most flights will arrive in India on the day after they depart from the U.S.  Be sure to confirm that your flight is arriving on your program start date. All students should fly to Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, IN. The airport code is DEL.

Students will be greeted in Delhi by the Resident Director. As required by Indian law, ALL STUDENTS MUST CARRY A PRINTOUT of their DOMESTIC TICKET CONFIRMATION in order to enter the airport for the group flight. The following 3 days students will undergo program-orientation in Delhi. On the fourth day, all students will fly to Varanasi as one group, accompanied by the Resident Director. All students are required to fly to Varanasi on the designated group flight. The group flight is not optional. The airport code for Varanasi is VNS. 

Advantage Travel of CNY is the travel company that assists Alliance students to book their required group flight. To book your seat on the flight to Varanasi, email Sally Curtis at scurtis@advantagecny.com and she will assist you.  

The one-way flight to Varanasi is the only required group flight. Keep in mind that you will need to book your return flight to Delhi for a day you choose after the conclusion of the program.  Return flights should depart Varanasi the day after the Closing Ceremony as indicated in the Program Calendar.

Once you have booked your flight, including the required flight to Varanasi, be sure to complete and submit your Flight Form through our online application system.

Suggested websites to browse for discounted tickets:

Arriving in India

Students arriving within the mandatory time window in Delhi will be met at the airport by the Varanasi Resident Director and transported to a Delhi hotel. For this purpose, you MUST communicate your travel plans to the Alliance before you depart for India.

After you leave the customs area and exit to the main arrival hall at the airport, look for the Alliance Resident Director holding a sign that says "The Alliance for Global Education."

Students will stay the first four nights with fellow program participants and Alliance staff in Delhi where on-site orientation will take place. Following the three day orientation in Delhi, students and the Varanasi Resident Director will take a mandatory group flight to Varanasi.  Upon arrival in Varanasi, students will continue orientation until classes begin.

You will likely experience jet lag during your first few days in India. To help you adjust to the time difference, try to sleep on the plane and drink a lot of water during your trip and after you arrive. Do not consume alcohol or drinks with much caffeine.

Additional arrival details will be provided to participating students.

Early Arrivals

If you will already be in country or will arrive earlier than the official program start date, it is your responsibility to report to the hotel in Delhi for the commencement of the program. Alliance staff in India will not be able to assist students before the start of the program.

Staying After the Program

Students planning to stay in Varanasi or travel in India beyond the official program end date should research all of the required visa and registration requirements before arriving in India. Alliance staff in India will not be able to assist students after the program ends.

Orientation

A mandatory orientation led by your onsite Resident Director will take place after arrival in India. Orientation will take place in Delhi, India's capital and largest metropolis, and conclude at the program site in Varanasi.

Your orientation will include the following activities:

  • Introduction to the Alliance program
  • Overview of the academic program and Alliance expectations
  • Program policies (academic, student conduct)
  • Health, safety and security tips
  • Individual meetings with your Resident Directors
  • Experiencing and coping with cultural shock
  • Neighborhood and city tour
  • Meeting your Indian host families

The orientation is designed to meet the following goals:

  • Deepen your understanding of the program and what to expect during the semester
  • Facilitate your introduction to Alliance staff, host families, and your fellow students
  • Create an Alliance community and culture
  • Familiarize you with your surroundings−neighborhood and city
  • Teach you how to use local transportation,  safely navigate your new environment and eat safely and healthily
  • Establish individual academic and personal goals for your semester
  • Prepare you for the new semester both academically and emotionally

 

Packing Guidelines

Download the Packing List for Varanasi.

Here’s what alumni have to say:

I wish I had packed…

Socks, warm socks. And electrolytes.

More plastic baggies, flip flops, headbands, plain cotton underwear that I didn't care about.

More warm clothing such as multiple sweaters.

I wish I had left behind…

I would have only brought 1-2 western-style clothes and depended solely on Indian clothing once I got there.

Books, there was tons of reading material there and I wasn't in the mood for reading about the west anyway.

 

 

BAGGAGE RESTRICTIONS

Alliance students will be permitted only one checked bag and one carry-on. After the Delhi orientation we will be flying on to Varanasi. It is important to note that many Indian airlines have weight allowances lower than that of U.S. airlines, some of which are 15kg/33lbs, so pack accordingly.

We also strongly recommend that your one checked bag be a big backpack. Sidewalks are rare in India, and with train and bus travel as well, backpacks are much more manageable than large rolling suitcases.

Women's Clothing

Please plan on dressing modestly during your time in India. Varanasi is a traditional city, and you will find that wearing Indian dress may be the most comfortable and appropriate option.   

The four areas that need extra attention are your shoulders, bust, bottom and thighs. Check for coverage, clinginess, and transparency especially for these areas when dressing in India. If you miss one, you will know almost instantly by the funny looks or extra attention you receive.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your personal style while in India! You will be given the opportunity to shop for salwar-kameez during Orientation in Delhi, and you can pick out beautiful colors, fabrics and patterns that you will treasure. For formal occasions, you may even buy a sari.

Men's Clothing

Men may have things a bit easier when it comes to clothing, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you’re packing. Shorts and tee-shirts are not appropriate for school, internships or field visits. Short or long sleeve light-weight button downs or local kurtas with light-weight trousers are the most comfortable and appropriate option. 

Varanasi Program Calendars

The 16–17 week semester begins with an off-site orientation. Students are acclimated to their new environment through introductory sessions on Indian culture and program policies, training on health and safety, and excursions into the surrounding area. Upon arrival in Varanasi, students are given more in-depth orientation to their new home and hosts before beginning their coursework. Excursions during the semester may include field visits to locations such as Kolkata (Calcutta), Lucknow, Agra, and various hill stations in the Himalayas. The semester concludes with a final two-day seminar where research is presented and discussed, and students are prepared for their return home.

Given the program’s busy academic schedule, weekly local activities and excursions, and field study trips, the Alliance STRONGLY DISCOURAGES students from hosting visitors until the end of the semester. Please encourage family and/or friends to visit AFTER the program has ended. Students should make their travel plans accordingly.

2014 Fall Semester Calendar

24 Sugust 2014          Flight departure from U.S.
25 August 2014          Arrival in Delhi
26 August 2014          Orientation begins
11 December 2014      Closing Ceremony
12 December 2014      Return flight to Delhi and U.S. (after 5:oo pm)

2015 SPRING SEMESTER CALENDAR

18 January 2014          Flight departure from U.S.
19 January 2014          Arrival in Delhi
20 January 2014          Orientation begins
23 January 2014          Group flight to Varanasi - Orientation continues
09 May 2014                Closing Ceremony
10 May 2014                Return flight to Delhi and U.S. (after 5:oo pm)

 

Visa Application Instructions

In order to study within India, all students are required to obtain a student visa. You will not be permitted to enter India without securing a visa in advance, so it is imperative that you complete the visa application process before you depart.

Instructions on how to obtain your student visa from Travisa are listed below. Please read through this information carefully. These instructions are intended for US citizens. If you are not a citizen of the United States or hold a OCI/PIO Card, please contact your Student Services Manager for assistance.

Please remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that the appropriate visa is obtained for participation in the Varanasi program.

How to Apply

Complete the AIIS Student Visa Authorization Form and submit this document in the student application portal. Your student visa sponsorship will be based on this information. For question 15, you must list the consulate that corresponds to the address on your driver's license or a major utility bill. Please refer to the consulate jurisdiction and contact details listed below to determine your corresponding Indian Visa Application Center.  It is critical that you select the correct Indian Mission on this form.  You will not be able to adjust this at a later time.

Upon acceptance to the Alliance program and with AIIS's approval, your Student Visa Sponsorship Letter will be sent to you via email approximately six weeks prior to your program departure date. You cannot proceed with your student visa application without this letter.

Do NOT proceed to Step 2 to initiate the online India Visa Application form until you have received your Student Visa Sponsorship Letter from your Student Services Manager.

Please read and closely follow the instructions listed on the Alliance-Travisa Varanasi program page.  Here you will find important information about applying for your Indian student visa, the required documents and forms, and how to submit your application.

The Indian visa application form must be completed online. Travisa has prepared a step by step guide for your program; please use this guide as a reference as you complete the Indian visa application online:  Travisa Varanasi Visa Application Guide.

You will submit your visa application form and additional requirements to the appropriate Indian Visa Application Center that you have identified for your region in Step 1. The processing of visa applications is jurisdictional, so you must submit your materials to your assigned application center, which is dictated by your present location. Please see addresses below

Submit the following items to Travisa:

  1. Online Visa Application Form: must be signed by the applicant. 
  2. Passport: Passport must have a minimum validity of six months from the program end date with at least two blank visa pages. Last 2 amendment pages are not acceptable. Must be the actual passport, NOT A COPY. The visa will be a sticker in your passport.
  3. Photograph: One recent, color passport-size photograph (2x2 inches) on glossy photo paper depicting front pose of applicant's face against light background. Paste or paper clip photo on application form; do not staple.  The photo specifications are very strict.  You must follow the following instructions carefully. The instructions are also posted on the Travisa website.
        ​Photo Requirements
  • Center head within frame and present full head from top of hair to bottom of chin.
  • The face should cover about 60-70 percent of the photo area.
  • The applicant's head, including both face and hair, should be shown from the crown of the head to the tip of the chin.
  • The head must be centered within the frame.
  • Photo should present full face, front view, eyes open.
  • Background should be plain white colored without borders with contract colored clothes (not white clothes).
  • Photos with dark, busy, or patterened backgrounds will not be accepted.
  • No shadows on the face or on the background.
  1. Proof of Address: Applicants must submit a photocopy with proof of residence/address that matches the address on the visa application exactly. Examples of proof of address include: photocopy of state issued ID (Driver License or ID), major utility bill (Water, Gas, Electric, Sewage), or copy of valid lease with signature of landlord and tenant. The following items are not accepted: cell phone bill, credit card statement, bank statement, cable bill, or insurance forms. The address cannot include a P.O. box. Minor applicants (under 18) must provide a copy of both parents’ birth certificate or any government issued document which shows parent’s name, date of birth, and nationality.
  2. Admission Letter / Confirmation Letter: A letter confirming admission from a recognized institution along with evidence of financial arrangements for stay in India. This is your AIIS Student Visa Sponsorship Letter provided by your Alliance for Global Education Student Services Manager.
  3. Certification Letter: A letter from the U.S. institution with complete detail of the study abroad program, and whether credit will be earned. This is your Alliance Certification Letter provided by your Alliance for Global Education Student Services Manager.
  4. Additional Particulars Form
  5. Dual Citizenship: (if applicable) Applicants who have dual citizenship with the U.S. and another country must apply on their U.S. passport if living in the US. This requirement does not apply to applicants who hold dual citizenship with Pakistan. Pakistani citizens who have also acquired U.S. citizenship must apply for a visa on their Pakistani passport only.
  6. Fees: All fees will be paid directly to Travisa by the student.  Fee and payment option information will be found on the Alliance-Travisa Varanasi page once you have started your Global Service Order form.  All fees are nonrefundable, even if the visa is denied. If payment is not paid in full, processing delays will occur. The payment method should be selected when completing the visa application.

MAKE A COPY OF ALL VISA APPLICATION FORMS AND MATERIALS FOR YOUR RECORDS 

*Please note that the shipping fees may vary.

Estimated Processing Time: 

Travisa does not guarantee processing time.  Incomplete/incorrect applications will increase the processing time.  Please diligently track the status and location of your application.

For more information about the visa application process for India, please refer to the Alliance-Travisa page or contact a Travisa office directly by telephone.

  • Visa application processing times vary by jurisidiction.  Please allow for at least 2-3 weeks processing time.  
  • Applications submitted by non-U.S. citizens or U.S. citizens who require references may take longer to process.
  

Please make sure that you have a correct and valid visa.  

  1. Visa Type should read "S"
  2. No. of Entries should read "MULTIPLE"
  3. Endorsement should read "STDY. AT AIIS., VARANASI"
  4. Visa Agent's Signature should appear

Scan your visa upon receipt. Keep a copy for your records. You must submit a copy of your visa to the Online Application Portal.  

Travisa Application Centers

APPLICATION CENTERS
ADDRESS
DISTRICTS
Atlanta, GA
 Travisa - Atlanta
 
3475 Lenox Road, Suite 465 
Atlanta, GA 30326 
 
Tel: (404) 465-3575
Alabama
Florida
Georgia
Mississippi
Puerto Rico
South Carolina
Tennessee
Virgin Islands
Chicago, IL
 Travisa - Chicago
 
120 S. State Street, Unit 3 
Chicago, IL 60603 
 
Tel: (312) 332-1161
 
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Michigan
Minnesota
Missouri
North Dakota
South Dakota
Wisconsin
Houston, TX
 Travisa - Houston
 
1001 West Loop South,
Suite 645 
Houston, TX 77027 
 
Tel: (713) 961-3500
Arkansas
Kansas
Louisiana
Oklahoma
Texas
New Mexico
Colorado
Nebraska
New York, NY
 Travisa - New York
 
 
290 5th Avenue, 4th Floor 
New York, NY 10001 
 
Tel: (347) 602-9457
Connecticut
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Vermont
San Francisco, CA
 Travisa - San Francisco
 
220 Montgomery Street, 
Suite 991 
San Francisco, CA 94104 
 
Tel: (415) 527-0888
Alaska
Arizona
California
Guam
Hawaii
Idaho
Montana
Nevada
Oregon
Utah
Washington
Wyoming
Washington, DC
 Travisa - Washington, DC
 
1731 21st. St. NW 
Washington, DC 20009 
 
Tel: (202) 463-6166
Bermuda
Delaware
District of Columbia
Kentucky
Maryland
North Carolina
Virginia
West Virginia

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are our answers to some frequently asked questions about passports and visas. If you still can't find what you're looking for, we're happy to talk to you!

 

Do I need a passport?

YES!!!! Please visit the U.S. State Department travel pages for the most up-to-date information regarding passport application and fees. If you don't have a passport, you should apply for one immediately when you begin to think about studying abroad.

 

What is a visa and what kind of visa do I need to participate on an Alliance program in India?

In addition to a valid passport, you are also required to secure a student visa to enter India. A visa is an official document/seal that is glued into your passport that permits you to enter the country.

 

Where do I go to get a visa?

Instructions accompanying your visa application forms will tell you how to apply by mail.

 

When should I secure my visa?

You first need a valid passport. You can't apply for your visa until you receive a Student Visa Authorization letter from the Alliance, sponsored by the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS). These visa documents are sent to students according to the following timeline, and this mailing will also include detailed instructions on how to apply for your visa.

  • Fall term students - early July
  • Spring term students - early December

Should I make copies of my visa documents?

YES. Please make a copy of all visa-related paperwork

 

Is it possible to extend my visa so I can travel around India at the conclusion of my program?

The Alliance's sponsorship of your student visa cannot be extended for travel, research, or volunteer conducted outside its auspices. Students planning to stay in Varanasi or travel in India beyond the official program end date should research all of the required visa and registration requirements before arriving in India. Alliance staff in India will not be able to assist students after the program ends.

 

Is it possible to travel to other countries at the conclusion of the Alliance program and then return to Delhi to fly back home?

Yes, this is usually possible, but visa regulations are constantly changing and can be complicated. It is best to check with your Resident Director before making any plans.

Student Health Insurance

Disclosure

The first step to staying healthy in India is to fully disclose any pre-existing health issues or concerns on the Medical Form before you go. This allows Alliance to be sure that your needs can be accommodated in the local context, and to anticipate any care that you might require.

Failure to fully disclose any and all physical or mental preconditions might not only impact our ability to provide adequate care in India, it might be grounds for you to be sent home. Please know that all medical information is treated confidentially by Alliance staff, and shared only on a need-to-know basis.

Student Health Insurance

All Alliance programs include comprehensive accident and illness insurance. The Alliance’s plan is offered through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and underwritten by ACE American Insurance Company. The insurance is included in our program fees and is mandatory for every Alliance student. The plan is effective throughout the duration of the participant's program. There is no deductible per injury or illness, and the maximum medical expenses of the policy for accident or sickness is $500,000. Additional information about the Cultural Insurance Services International plan is emailed to students upon acceptance and enrollment in an Alliance program.

Student Information

Personalized information and support for participants about health care and prescription medication is available after you log into myCISI Participant Portal at http://www.culturalinsurance.com/allianceglobaled/. CISI e-mails accepted students information about coverage, their CISI Participant ID card, and a claim form. Students must print their CISI Participant ID card and carry it with them at all times while abroad.

Parent Information

We encourage parents to work with students when reviewing all resources and coverage. Students have access to provider information and health and safety services. Plan information is available at http://www.culturalinsurance.com/allianceglobaled/.

Insurance Certificates

A copy of the Alliance's insurance certificate with Cultural Insurance Services International is available here.

Questions?

Please contact Anna Stewart, Student Services Manager, India Programs, via email or at 888-232-8379. Your Resident Director will also provide information during orientation about where to seek medical attention in Varanasi.

Street Smarts, Food, and Water

Street Smarts

Staying safe in India involves many of the same behaviors as staying safe anywhere in the world. Be aware of who and what is around you, avoid putting yourself in risky situations, and dress and behave in culturally appropriate ways in order to avoid making yourself a target.

Another component of personal safety that students often neglect is road safety, which is actually the number one cause of American fatalities overseas. India in particular has very high rates of road-related fatalities, and students should maintain high vigilance as they are walking (on streets which rarely have sidewalks), speak up if you are in a vehicle with a driver who is behaving recklessly, and use seatbelts wherever available.

Alliance resident staff will provide a thorough orientation to personal safety matters, with local and culture-specific tips for minimizing risk. We want you to stay safe and healthy throughout your study abroad experience, so please never hesitate to let Alliance staff know if you have any concerns about your health or safety.

Food and Water

Paying attention to the food and water you consume is the number one way to stay healthy in India. You'll be given a thorough overview of do's and don'ts during your onsite orientation, and travel guides such as the Lonely Planet offer good standard rules to live by, but the first rule of thumb is: HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! Dehydration is a leading cause for students having to seek medical attention, and is the most easily preventable.

Of course, you want to make sure that the water you consume does not make you sick. Safe filtered water will be available at the program center. Plan to carry a plastic bottle around with you to always have handy and to fill up whenever you can,. When you are eating out or traveling on your own, always ask for bottled water instead of drinking whatever is provided to you. Bottled water is inexpensive and widely available.

Also pay attention as you are showering--try not to let the tap water inadvertently pass your lips--and when you are brushing your teeth, use filtered or bottled water.

Be aware of plates or glasses that are still wet, and watch out for juice drinks that have water blended into them--even ice cream scoops left in water can be the cause of great discomfort. Coffee and tea are always safe choices, as they have been boiled. Soft drinks, too, are a safe bet.

For food, fruits and salads are the main culprits. Rule of thumb: if it is cooked, it is okay. Another rule of thumb: if it can be peeled, then peel it and it should be okay. Grapes, for example, are not a good idea, nor the tempting salad fixings you may see.

That said, chances are good that at some point you will succumb to something food or water-borne. In most cases, though it will not be fun, it will pass within 48-72 hours. The key is to keep yourself well-hydrated to flush it out of your system. While electrolytes are available in India, many students like to bring Emergen-C electrolyte packets or powdered Gatorade with them from the U.S. to help combat dehydration, either heat- or stomach-related.

As with all health-related matters, keep the resident staff fully informed about how you're feeling, even if you don't think it's anything serious. Our staff is familiar with the kinds of medical issues U.S. students experience in India, and it is important that they be able to keep tabs on how you are doing.

Medication and Immunization

Prescriptions

If you plan to take any prescription drugs while in India, we recommend that you take a supply to last you the entire term. Also, pack a prescription from your doctor for any medications you take to India. This is an extra precaution in case your luggage is searched and you need to verify why you are bringing the medication with you. If you plan to purchase any medication in India, you will need to present a copy of your prescription and see an Indian physician to obtain a new one. While most prescriptions and medications are available in India, it is best to bring all of the specific medications you think you will need for the term with you.

Bringing enough prescription medication is particularly important as prescription medication and even over-the-counter drugs are often held up in customs when shipped from the U.S. The student health insurance program (CISI) can help with prescription drug replacement/shipment if needed.

If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you should bring a copy of your prescription. It is easy and inexpensive to have glasses made in India. Contact lenses and solutions are also available in India, though not all brands you are familiar with will be available.

Immunization

Vaccinations are not required for entry to India, but we recommend that you consult the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and consult with your physician to determine which vaccines you may need. You should also make sure that all of your regular immunizations are up to date. The CDC also operates an international traveler's hotline that provides up-to-date vaccination requirements for any region or country you select. The number is 1-877-FYI-TRIP (394-8747).

Personal Property Insurance

We strongly encourage you to obtain insurance against theft and/or damage to your personal effects for the period of time you will be abroad. The Alliance for Global Education does not provide insurance for your possessions, nor do we provide travel insurance for any travel arrangements made by individual students. It is a good idea to check first with your home insurance provider to see what is already covered, how coverage might be extended, and the possibility of Renter’s Insurance for your time abroad if your program houses you in apartments.

Electrical Appliances

The electrical current in India is 220 volts, 50 cycles whereas the US is 110V/60Hz. If your appliances are not dual voltage (110/220V) you will need a voltage converter or transformer, which can be purchased in India a few weeks after your arrival. If you require the immediate use of your lap top or other appliance, however, we recommend that you bring a voltage converter from home, as well as a plug adapter.

It is easy to purchase appliances (such as a hair dryer) that use the correct Indian electrical current after you arrive. A picture of the most common outlets in India can be found here. Please note that power strips allowing you to plug in your computer and other hardware of variously pronged plug types are readily available at many stores and they are inexpensive. These are not power adapters, but they do allow you to plug in almost anything.

Money Matters in India

India's currency is the rupee. At the time of writing, USD $1 = INR Rs 60.

Exchanging Money

It is best to change money in banks, hotels, and other authorized locations to which our resident staff will direct you. Do not under any circumstances exchange money on the black market. This is illegal, it may put you in an unsafe environment, and you may receive fake money. ATMs are also widely available around town, and are addressed in more detail below. The best approach overall is to have several different sources of obtaining funds in case cards, cash, or travelers checks are lost, stolen, or not viable in a given location.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are becoming widely accepted in India, but generally in larger stores or in nicer hotels and restaurants. In Varanasi most everyday money transactions in India still take place in cash. It is always a good idea to have one or two credit cards on you for emergencies, for travel outside of your host city, and/or for any higher-end shopping you might want to do, but don't plan on using them around town as you might in the U.S. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express less so. Some vendors accepting credit cards will add an additional 2-3% to the purchase price with a credit card payment and require a photocopy of your passport.

ATM Cards

A convenient way to withdraw money from your account at home is to use an ATM card that has a VISA or MasterCard logo. You should not rely on ATMs as your only source of cash as they may not always work, but in general this is your best bet for getting the best exchange rate, and for avoiding having too much cash on you (or stashed at home) that could be lost or stolen.

Be sure to carry the PIN number in a safe place separately from your card, and also confirm with your bank that your ATM card will work internationally. It is best to test your card in the U.S. before you leave. We also advise that you call your bank or credit card company to let them know that you will be using the card in India. Sometimes banks may obstruct card transactions overseas in the interest of customer security. Also be sure that you are aware of any international withdrawal charges that your bank or credit card company might charge for these transactions.

In Case of Emergency

When you go abroad occassionally financial emergencies arise - whether it is losing your credit card, your PIN not being accepted at an ATM, or needing to send or receive funds home.  Its a good practice to keep copies of both sides of your credit/debit cards in your suitcase, to know your bank account numbers (usually found on a check), have your bank's customer service phone numbers and website written down, and to have a trusted person at home who can assist you in case of a financial emergency. Having this information at your fingertips will make recovering from a financial emergency significantly easier.  As with all financial information, its vital to keep this information secured either on your person or in a safe place. 

Varanasi Office Contact Information

Mailing Address:

The Alliance for Global Education
B2/262-G-1-2 Bhadaini
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
221001
INDIA

All student parcels should be sent to this address, not to student residences.  Please be sure not to send any items of value or medications, as these may increase the risk of theft or be held up in Indian customs.

Phone:

+91-542-2310075

The Alliance for Global Education, US Office

1730 M Street, NW, Suite 402
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: 1-888-232-8379
Fax: 1-215-572-2174
Email: info@allianceglobaled.org
Website: www.allianceglobaled.org

Director of International Operations: Jonathan Ferguson
Student Services Manager: Anna Stewart

If you are experiencing an emergency outside of US business hours, please dial our 24/7 Public Safety number at 1-317-940-9396 and await instruction from the operator. You will then be contacted by an Alliance member who will assist you.

Student Mailing Address

It is most convenient to have all of your mail, including FedEx packages, sent to you at the Alliance Program Center, where packages can be received during the day. Regular airmail takes approximately two-three weeks to arrive in India from the U.S.

Please note that nothing of value should be sent, especially through regular mail. It is common for packages to be opened and for anything of value to be taken. 

Mail should be sent to:

The Alliance for Global Education
B2/262-G-1-2 Bhadaini
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
221001
INDIA

Telephone and Internet Access

TIME DIFFERENCE

There is only one time zone in India: 10.5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. When it is 10:00 pm in New York on Wednesday, it is 8:30 am in India on Thursday.

When Daylight Savings Time begins in March, India is only 9.5 hours ahead, as India does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Thus, when it is 10:00 pm in New York on Wednesday, it is 7:30 am in India on Thursday.

TELEPHONE

During orientation, you will receive more information about how to call home.  As with most of the world, cell phones are now the most common way to communicate in India. The Alliance will provide all students with a pre-paid cell phone in Varanasi. You will be responsible for maintaining a balance on your phone, and the value can be easily added at nearby shops. Incoming calls and text messages on Indian cell phones are usually free. Airtel, the local provider used in Varanasi, offers a special package deal for calls to the US.

Host families may have landlines, but you should not use them except in emergencies. Students may wish to contact their U.S. long distance carrier before they depart the U.S. and request an international calling guide. Keep in mind that using calling cards purchased in the U.S. is much more expensive than using local options.

INTERNET ACCESS

Two student computers and general internet access are provided at the Alliance Program Center for academic use during program hours. For personal use, internet cafes are available, although there is not much privacy there and these computers often carry viruses.  You may consider purchasing a broadband data stick, which connects via a computer’s USB port. Students will be able to purchase this connection during the second week of the program and should budget approximately $40 to purchase the data stick and the first recharge. After the initial purchase, you should expect to pay as per your data usage. Students should not expect internet access during orientation or at their housing placements.

Past students have strongly recommended bringing a personal laptop, though the Alliance assumes no responsibility for personal items damaged or stolen while in India. If you are going to bring a laptop, consider purchasing a special insurance policy before you go. See the Travel Insurance section for more information.

All students should bring a USB flash drive with them to use for class presentations, printing assignments and saving work on other computers.

It is important to keep in mind that internet access and land-line phone service may not always be available. Power cuts are a frequent and regular part of life in India, so plan as best you can to allow for more time than you might usually need to accomplish even the most humdrum of tasks online. 

Critical skills for success--with all things in India--are patience and an ability to roll with the unexpected.  Also, remember that your priority in India is to immerse yourself in your local environment!  Too much dependence on communication with home can not only hinder your ability to adapt and integrate, but it can actually exacerbate homesickness and culture shock.  Try to set realistic expectations with your family and friends in the U.S. that will allow you to fully focus on this experience and your own personal growth and transformation throughout your semester.

Books, Films, and Websites about India

If you need a break from pre-departure logistics, check out these books, films, and other resources about India -- the personal recommendations from Alliance staff and students!  These materials introduce many social, historical, and economic aspects about life in India and help prepare you to make the most of your Alliance experience.

Books

Films

Web-Based Resources

Journals and Newspapers