I strongly recommend a visit, the longer the better, to the Osho Meditation Resort. It was and is a unique and wonderful place, set up and designed to support the deepest inward search, in an atmosphere of love and aliveness. This guide is aimed to make the visit as easy as possible.
For addresses and contact details of shops and landladies etc, see the “Directory” section at the bottom of the page.
General information about India
Mumbai was formerly Bombay and Pune was formerly Poona. Pune, pronounced “Poony” by its inhabitants, is the fastest-growing city in the world. With Bangalore, it is one of the flagships of India’s amazing technological success.
Pune in itself never was a tourist attraction and now it is mega-successful is even less so. However, located up in the hills, the climate is much milder than Mumbai; that is why the colleges which founded its technical dominance originally located there.
Pune and Mumbai are 5.5 hours ahead of GMT.
There are three seasons in Pune:
Winter, mid November to mid-February. Very pleasantly warm in the day, cool in the morning and evening, cold at night. In December and January you need a jacket, and leggings under your robes morning and evening.
Summer, March – May/June. The weather is hot and dry and at night you hardly need bedclothes. Have no fear, the resort is air-conditioned! This is a great time to visit. The water in the swimming pool is perfect. The main trick in this season is to get a room which is not on the top floor of the building, ie does not catch the sun directly on the roof.
Monsoon, June to October. Personally I love the monsoon. You get maybe one period of rain each day, and often a spectacular tropical storm – they are wonderful, I miss those storms. For most of each day, the weather is quite nice, warmish and overcast. The last month or so the rain is much less. The ground can be muddy, laundry takes a while to dry, and you do get lots of mosquitoes. But there is no malaria in Pune, so the mosquitoes, though irritating, are no more than that. If transiting Mumbai just use lots of mosquito repellant. You will need raingear, which you can buy locally. This is an excellent time to visit if you want to be quiet and just meditate.
Currently (Feb 2010) the pound is around 70/- or 72/- to the pound on the internet. The rates you get in India are at best about two rupees less than the internet, at worst about four rupees less.
You either can’t buy rupees at all in the UK, or only at an unfavourable rate. Take a couple of hundred pounds sterling cash to change at Mumbai airport. Note: There is a State Bank of India branch artfully located just before the exit to the customs hall, but you get a better rate by walking 20 yards to the banks just outside the customs hall. Welcome to India!
The best ways to get currency are ATMs and cash. There are several ATMs very convenient to the Resort (the nearest are at the Inlaks Hospital and near the German Bakery.) These will charge you as per your credit card company at home, say a 3% cash handling fee plus interest and the exchange rate is around 2 rupees less than the internet rate. I’m not sure what the daily drawing limits depend on.
Banks and exchange bureaux will charge in addition a 3% fee of their own, plus their rate may not be so good. You need your passport.
The Osho Meditation Resort does not take credit cards, and accepts only payments in cash. It has an in-house exchange bureau (Travel Masters, see directory) where you can get cash on a credit card. However their exchange rates can be bettered outside the Resort.
All rates are lower on Saturday and Sunday when the banks are closed.
Everyone you meet in India will speak enough English. Many are fully bilingual (indeed some Indians speak four languages: the language of their home state, the language of the state they live in, plus Hindi, plus English). English is widely used in many areas of commerce, science and public life, and for educated people is a first not a second language.
The Osho Meditation Resort
Arriving at the Resort
In order to be admitted to the resort you have to go through a registration process, which doesn’t take long unless perhaps there are many people waiting. The Resort Welcome Centre is open 9:00 – 12:30 and 2:00 – 4:00. So to enter the resort that day you need to arrive well before 4:00; I think the official cut-off time is 3:30, but 3:00 is better. You can then go in, but if new also need to attend a Welcome Morning orientation the following morning. (If you are staying in the resort guesthouse you can arrive any time.)
You need your passport.
Part of the arrival process is a rapid and painless AIDS test. Only people who are AIDS negative can enter the Resort.
Osho set it up that everyone in the Resort wears maroon mediation robes
(a) for all meditations
(b) for all activities from 9:00 – 4:00 each day.
This does sound weird, but actually feels good and completely natural. It helps release the universal humanness behind our masks. For the evening meditation meeting, Osho said that white robes should be worn. Robes are available in the Resort shop.
The welcome process is efficient, well-organised, friendly and makes everything simple and easy.
Resort costs as at March 2010
The registration formalities cost 265/-
The daily entry to the resort is 700/-
Then you need a locker, either either 30/- a day for a big locker (recommended) or 10/- a day for a small locker;
plus 140/- for the first month for a safe deposit envelope (essential), thereafter 3/- per day.
You will need a few maroon and white robes at 450/- each in the Resort shop; (say 3 maroon, 2 white). Unless you can sit comfortably on the floor without, you’ll need a meditation chair for the evening White Robe Meeting meditation, 950/- in the resort shop. Plus maybe a couple of shawls, and maybe a mat to lie on. You need maroon swimwear. You can also get these outside the resort, where quality and price will both be a little less. Check also that robes bought outside are completely plain maroon or plain white, and are robes not dresses. Remember that in India all dyes run, until proved otherwise.
I spend around £9 per day on food; it could be more.
The cost of workshops is only decided at the last minute due to currency fluctuations. As a guideline, in Feb 2010 short workshops are 5000/- per day or maybe just a little less. Trainings are around 6000/- per day. Residential groups are around 8000/- per day, or a little more; 7-day satori was 57,200/-. I don’t know the cost of the Path of Love, but it must be the same or more. All of these of course plus gate pass, 700/- per day. Prices are likely to rise each October.
Sessions are 3600/- per hour or 4200/- for 90 minutes. Couples sessions are 4200/- for 1 hour, 4700/- for 90 minutes.
Food, water, health
Do not ever drink the tapwater (=city water) or use it for brushing your teeth. Do not eat uncooked foods such a fruit pulps, milk shakes, lassis or anything else which could contain tap water or ice. (Commercial icecream is OK.)
No need for water purification tablets. Bottled water is everywhere available and is safe, as are bottled soft drinks.
The drinking water inside the Resort is completely safe – and I would know, for a period I was in charge of the water purification! It is not city water, but comes from the Resort’s own borewells. The water at the designated drinking stations is completely safe (and regularly tested); drink only this or bottled water. Most people also use water from the handwashing taps in the resort to brush their teeth, though I personally use drinking water for this.
The resort is probably the cleanest food in India, even cleaner than the kitchens where food for international air flights is produced. Both food and drinking water are tested daily in the resort’s own microbiology lab by a full-time lab technician. And the food’s delicious, too.
If you have only a short trip and you don’t want it spoiled, eat only in the resort and you won’t go wrong. If you want to eat out, only go to restaurants which are recommended as clean by regulars.
If you need to eat during eg a road journey, then personally I would only eat factory-produced food such a crisps and similiar snacks, or fried / toasted food such as toast and jam or egg and chips. Oranges and bananas with the skin intact are perfect food. Never under any circumstances eat at roadside stalls; I knew someone who got typhoid.
I speak from experience. For years I ate every type of food, and I got every type of diarrhoea and dysentery. And for a period I was in charge of plumbing and water purification, and worked closely with the microbiology lab. I’ve visited the city water purification plant. Believe me, eat with confidence in the Resort and with great care outside.
Outside the resort, if you need to use a toilet, you need to carry something to use as toilet paper.
Vaccinations and health
There is no malaria in Pune and you do not need malaria tablets. In Mumbai you only need precautions if you spend extended time there, otherwise carry DEET in the wet weather.
Your GP will only do vaccinations if there is 10 days after the last jab before you travel. Travel clinics have no such qualms. In Bristol, three central London locations and elsewhere there is Nomad Travel Clinic & Store, see directory, and in London also the British Airways Travel Clinic, see Google.
You need innoculations against [Nomad prices] hetatitis A (£44), typhoid (£24) and polio / diptheria /tetanus (£22.50 the lot).
Sun and mosquitoes
The main mosquito season is May/ June to October. In the cool and hot weather , say Mid-November to April / May there are few mosquitos; last February I used no mozzie repellant and was not bitten even once.
Mosquito repellent sold locally is very effective but a bit oily and a bit smelly. In the wet weather worth bringing a bottle of DEET from the UK, to cover the journey from Mumbai.
In the monsoon, winter, and early summer you do not need sunscreen. Even in the summer you only need it if you sit directly in the sun for long periods. I never used sunscreen in over 30 years, and only got mild sunburn once. This is this positive side of air pollution!
Map of Koregaon Park
There are maps of Pune on eg www.multimap.com, but the google earth map on
is useful because it give the names of the side streets, so you can see where proposed accommodation is. The scale of this photo is that it is around 1.2 km from where Lane 1 intersects North Main Road to where Lane 6 intersects North Main Road.
If you look up the live version of Google Earth, the Resort front gate is 17, Koregaon Park. This is marked “Gateless Gate” in the middle of Lane 1.
Rooms in flats
See “Directory”, below, for names of landladies.
Most people live in rooms in flats, and most now pay for rooms by the day unless staying long enough to get a monthly rate, which should be a good deal less than the daily rate.
The quality of flats varies enormously. You are better to rent from a sannyasin, who understands what Westerners want. At the top end are flats so delightful you think “if only I could live like this all the time.” At the bottom end, well, respectable Indians often take as normal a surprisingly clunky state of disrepair, and you have to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Flats score points for:
- short walking distance to the Resort, avoiding daily rickshaw hassles. NOTE. While Pune is a safe city, women should not walk alone at night. The resort has a free shuttle bus in the evenings.
- At the budget end, check 24 hour hot water supply and shower. To shower before the evening White Robe meditation, you need to go home. Also clean and well-flushing toilet.
- en-suite shower and toilet – this puts the price up a bit, and is not necessary.
- picturesque location and property, high quality fittings and elegant design.
- mosquito proof and with good mosquito net. Less important outside the mosquito season.
- clothes laundry service included (may get better quality washing if you use an outside laundry)
- optional extras such as a meditation chair for use in the Resort
- it may seem obvious, but is bedlinen provided and changed?
- with high-end rooms you can of course take all these for granted, but in the 400/- or 600/- per night end, and especially with non-sannyasin landlords, you need to check.
Depending on all of these, in the high season you should get a room something like 500/- to 550/-, maybe 600/-, possibly less in a less well appointed room. In the low season less. Or, you can easily pay 1200/- or 1800/- for very nice rooms.
Obviously, arrange this before you leave the UK. See directory for details of landlords. Some of the contacts in the directory need you to book months in advance if you want space during December / January / February.
Your first stop for a hotel should be the long-time sannyas friendly Hotel Surya Villa, 5 minutes from the Resort down German Bakery lane. See directory. It is run by two sannyasins. The asking price for a single-occupied room with double bed is 1200/- in the high season. The Hotel Executive Regency next door has an asking price of 3000/- for basically similar rooms, immediately coming down to a “discounted price” of 2000/- on mentioning the Surya Villa’s prices. I don’t really understand this discrepancy, but can’t see any need to pay more than the Surya Villa for a hotel.
Some hotel rates, certainly above 3000/- and maybe all, attract 10% luxury tax. Rates easily reach 10,000/- per night (7000/- “discounted”) at posh hotels. Of the posh lot, the original one is the Blue Diamond.
There are many other hotels and service apartments in Pune; if you need to explore these, then search on Google www.google.in With a hotel anywhere in the world, it is always worth saying “I am looking for a room and my budget is X; what do you have at that price?”
I also mention the Hotel Sunderban. Located at 19 Koregaon Park, right next to the Resort front gate, the Sunderban is like the Surya Villa a well-known old-time hotel. Though small, it’s very attactive. Their rooms are mostly expensive, an asking price of 3500/- per night or more. However their tariff lists a couple of rooms at 700/- and 800/- per night. These are probably very small, but so close to the Resort they are a bargain if you can get one. See directory.
Staying in the Resort
The Resort now has a very lovely guesthouse. Room prices are 4500/- single occupancy and 5000/- double per night in the high season, plus 10% luxury tax. That is not expensive; upmarket local hotels such as the long-established Blue Diamond are in the 7000/- to 10,000/- per night range.
By design, to support meditation, there are no phones and no wi-fi or internet access in the guesthouse rooms. If wi-fi in your room is essential, then for similar prices you can stay at the old-time Hotel Sunderban, right next door to the Resort.
If you stay in the guesthouse you can arrive at the resort at any time, and complete the registration process the next day.
Make use of Google.in
You will find much more information about hotels etc if you search on Google India, www.google.in
Phones and internet
The Resort has a phone and cybercafe open 9-1, 2-4 and 21-23 local time. Pune is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT. Rates to UK landlines are very cheap via clever internet telephony, I think 2/- plus 2/- per minute, to UK mobile 4/- plus 12/- per min.
Internet is 1/- per minute.
Check with your provider, but your UK mobile should work in India. The place to go to get an Indian SIM near the Resort is Mahalaxmi Stores, near Prem’s restaurant (see directory). To put an Indian SIM in your phone you may or may not need an unlocking code; it depends on the handset model. Mahalaxmi can get your phone unlocked for 450/-. However they will sell you a new Indian handset [thought not a clamshell type] for 1250/- and then buy it back for 800/-, so no need to unlock.
Mobile phone tariff to the UK is 10/- per minute. If you only want to call UK landlines, then it is cheaper to use the Resort cybercafe.
If you do use a mobile, you will need a photocopy of your passport and visa, a photocopy of your landlady’s electricity bill as proof of address, and if your phone is already unlocked, then you need the unlock code. There are many local photocopy machines.
Air fares and visas
I got my insurance from www.insureandgo.com , no particular reason. Trailfinders are also good.
I parked at Heathrow via www.airport-parking.co.uk They claim to charge customers the same as if you dealt directly with the parking company. For a three week trip it was actually cheaper to have a valet parking service pick up and deliver the car outside the terminal – around £75-00. Be sure to have the parking phone number to pick up when you return!
For full information on Indian visas, see http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk
It takes “minimum” 2 – 3 working days to get a tourist visa (if in a hurry, beware Indian national holidays.) You can use an agency, or do it yourself; if you make a visit, the office atHayes in London is closest to Bristol. Note:-
- You now have to have a gap of TWO MONTHS between leaving India and entering again on the tourist visa.
- The website says you can apply for a 12-month tourist visa, but you can’t, only 6 months. This is a mistake in the website. A six month visa is £59-odd, plus £10-ish courier fee to return the passport.
- The visa runs from the date it is issued, not the date you enter India.
- You cannot extend a tourist visa while you are in India.
- The website says where not to park at Hayes – by the Fiat showroom – but does not say that it is easy to park in the shopping centre a hundred yards past Fiat on the left.
- Avoid a long wait by making an appointment by internet.
- The website claims you can’t take mobiles etc into the visa office, but they weren’t searching people when I went.
- It is useful to get 3 photocopies of your passport and visa. Why? – One, your landlord in Pune will ask you for; one, you will need to get a mobile phone (plus proof of address in Pune); and one for spare. There is a photocopier in the visa centre.
- The website says that you need to have a photocopy of the collection receipt, but this is optional. You don’t require it.
Travel to India: fares and tickets
http://www.ticketstoindia.co.uk/ has a very helpful website offering “3 days before and after” flexibility in your dates, but in the end I got a slightly better price, and excellent service, from good old Trailfinders, http://www.trailfinders.com/
NOTE!!! As a first-time customer, you cannot pay for your ticket by phone! Both Tickets To India and Trailfinders wanted to me to either fax in copies of my passport or go into the Trainfinders officer with my credit card, “for my protection.” This takes time. Travel agents cannot guarantee to hold a booking with the airline, and I actually lost my reservation in the time this all took; Trailfinders were beyond praise at getting it back for me. I’m not sure if this would apply if you were booking earlier before your flight date than me, but you should ring and sort this out before you select your travel dates.
It is much more expensive over December, with fares like £650 or more, as against £350 after new year.
Basically, most people travel to Mumbai and then get to Pune by road (or maybe rail.) You can try for a integrated flight booking to Pune but it restricts your choice of international flight a lot, as there are only 2 flights a day from Mumbai to Pune.
Travel in India
From Mumbai airport to Pune
Long ago I worked on the then-Osho Times magazine and I wrote a piece on travelling to Pune. It started: “The journey from Bombay to Poona is a little awkward; rail, road and air all have their advantages,” followed by a page of detailed research. The editor red-pencilled the lot. The final version read, in full, “Poona can be easily reached from Bombay by rail, road and air.”
Fast-forward 20 years and that’s finally true(er). Take advantage of the new six-lane expressway linking the two cities by getting a private hire car to meet you at the airport. It is so simple. Cost should be around Rs 2500 or Rs 2700, or maybe Rs 2000 for a smaller car. The journey is still long; yesterday (this stuff is hot off the press) it me took four hours, and on the return to Mumbai, from pick-up to check-in time, allow at the very least five hours. Service offered by, among many others: Maruti Devakar, Hotel Surya Villas, or the Resort travel agents, Travel Masters, Deepak Taxi. (See Directory).
Next simplest is by air, a mere 30 mins flight. Your international flight needs to connect with the two flights a day between Mumbai and Pune to give you time to get from the international to the domestic air terminal. Keep an eye on this option as budget airlines are going to be offering more and more Mumbai – Pune flights. The Resort website has further useful information on flying, under Resort > Travel information > flights to Pune
And the Resort website offers this useful advice: It is a good idea to have travel insurance in India. As there are often flight delays, it is also useful to book your internal flights with a credit card that gives travel delay insurance.
If your luggage is light and you are determined either to see India or save every paise, then you can also go by rail (taxi from the airport to Dadar railway station; no quicker than hire car), by shared public taxi or by bus. By shared taxi, get a taxi from the airport to the Mumbai-Pune taxi stand, where you wait and share with the next 3 or 4 strangers who turn up. If you do this, ask for the “Poonawallahas” taxi stand, ie the drivers who are licensed in Pune. They can take you to your door in Pune for a little extra; a Mumbaiwallah driver hs to drop you at Pune Railway station. Bus is probably cheapest of all, but may be very slow (7-8 hours).
For the journey you need bottled water, maybe some snack bars, and something to use as toilet paper.
Rickshaws – go for a ride, don’t get taken for a ride
In India, the meter in taxis and autorickshaws shows the fare as it was circa 1935. Then the driver looks the meter up on a “tariff card” to give the fare you pay. For rickshaws in Pune it is roughly seven times plus 3 rupees, ie if the meter shows Rs 3, you pay around Rs 24. To avoid ripoffs:
- always ask for a journey “on the meter”
- check the driver inverts the flag of the meter to start the journey
- at the end, ask to see the tariff card. The driver ALWAYS has one, and you can buy them in the Resort shop. It is also here: http://www.punediary.com/html/taxi.html
- check the driver is showing you the black column in the tariff card, not the red one which only applies to journeys after midnight
- you do not have to pay for “empty return journey” during the day
- midnight to 5 am is 50% extra plus half of empty return journey. But at these times you will probably have to bargain for a fare anyway.
- you don’t have to pay more for shopping but there is a charge for big luggage.
- when you pay, if the fare is Rs 40 and you give a Rs 100 note, the driver sometimes gives Rs 10 change and is mysteriously holding a 50/- note … maybe it was 50/- you gave him after all …? No; shout “police!!!” at the top of your voice and the 50/- note will change back into a hundred.
- if the driver won’t take you on the meter, walk away; another driver will. If not, and you have to bargain, then “tariff card plus 10” or “tariff card plus 20” lets you know where you stand.
- all in all, I don’t mind rounding the fare up by 5 or ten rupees; rickshaw-wallahs don’t earn much and it is the immutable law of the universe for the rich to pay more. But I don’t like to feel tricked.
Bikes and scooters
You can also hire bikes and scooters, though I havn’t done this for so long that I have no up to date information. I’m told there is a scooter vendor/renter in Burning Ghats Lane up near the little temple just before German Bakery Lane.
Pune Diary is a website with a lot on practical information about Pune. You’ll probably never need any of it, but if you do: http://www.punediary.com/
Maruti Davakar Reliable local businessman/fixer who has a good reputation among sannyasins. He organises taxies to and from Mumbai airport, sells and stores trunks (trunk storage 75/- per month) and acts as an agent for rooms in Movi House, located I think on Lane #4 in Koreagaon Park. email@example.com 9822509203
Travel Masters run the travel agency and money exchange bureau within the Resort. Their exchange rates are low and can be bettered outside, plus they charge a 3% fee, which you don’t pay if you get cash from an ATM. www.travelmastersonline.com +91-20- 4106-1400 They offer taxies from Mumbai airport to Pune. Reliable, but probably not the cheapest reliable service.
Deepak Taxi advertise a Mumbai airport – Pune taxi service in Viha Connection magazine. www.deepaktaxi.com
Mahalaxmi Mobile Shoppe Mangesh and Suresh Choudhary, near Prem’s Restaurant. Everything to do with mobile phones. Mob: 9822055719 / 9823339663 Landline 26153136 Also 9561725000
New Jai Stores Down German Bakery Lane to the end, 3rd or 4th shop on the left. A source for robes, chairs etc. Also sells trunks.
Nomad Travel Clinic & Store Non-NHS vaccinations in Bristol. 38 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5JG 0117 922 6567 Also wide range of travellers items. www.nomadtravel.co.uk
Surya Villa Hotel www.hotelsuryavilla.com firstname.lastname@example.org +91-20-26124501 / 26121911 Tejas 9595341133 Long-established hotel run by two sannyasins, 5 mins from the Resort. Next door is the more expensive Hotel Executive Regency +91 020 261 22933 / 020 261 19097 email@example.com
Hotel Sunderban www.tghotels.com 2612 4949 / 2612 8383 Mostly expensive but very close to the resort.
Landlords and ladies:-
Giri Rieger advertises rooms in Viha Connection magazine firstname.lastname@example.org +91 98230 59146. If you want space in December / Jan / Feb, you need to check with him some months in advance.
Maruti Davakar, see above in this list.
Krishna has rooms available only for sannyasins, with river view. Prices are 10-12 Euro in the high season. Contact at email@example.com and cell +91-9890712340
Ekanta has rooms in the Rahul Society. Prices are 14 – 22 Euro from 15.12. to 15.3. and 8 – 14 Euro 15.3.-15.12. +91 93 70 64 69 55 http://livingbeautifully.weebly.com
Space Mentors http://www.spacementors.co.in Dhyan Shanto has rooms € 20 to € 26 single occupancy in the high season. Also rooms with shared shower € 14 to € 16 high season single occupancy.
We had a comment on the blog from simone16de[a t]yahoo.de that
“we are a german indian couple at pune koregaon park and we rent out rooms and flats of all levels and budgets to sannyasins, travellers and company customers. The good thing we speak english, german and french and we have beautiful places in koregaon park (near the osho ashram) for off season and season. Contact us at 0091 97 666 54 308 or 98 60 0513 63 at any time in India.”
Buddha Paradise Apartments, in I think Lane C, has notices for cheap apartments, though you have to be there to make enquiries.
I’m also told that “Mac at Riverside A4 (Sultanate Housing Society) charges, in season, 1200/- a night for river-view room, 700/- courtyard room”. If anyone has contact details for this or the previous, please let me know.
Shanti highly recomments a woman called Omega who runs a house called Shivleela, which is 25 Damco Society, Lane D, North main Road, Koregaon Park.
Her phone numbers are: 0091 9881152079 (mobile) 0091 2065236117 (home). Shanti says “her place is clean, quiet, near the ashram and very reasonable.”