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Luxury Tax: Lets not ignore the fine prints

When was the last time you were out for a vacation or business? Strong chances are you are already traveling and reading this post on your laptop. Have you ever taken note of a small but mighty thing printed innocuously on one small corner of your hotel Bill? Perhaps you haven’t. You are not alone as tourist fraternity does not give this a thought and only when you have to loosen the purse string an entity called “Luxury Tax” start biting you. It is this tax that sometimes keeps one of your favourite hotel or destinations out of your budget.

Let’s understand what a luxury tax is. Luxury Tax is a tax that is levied by most of the state governments (not all) to fill their coffers at the expense of you and me. And the funniest part is, you have to pay it actually on the official tariff of the room where you had put up. Take a hypothetical situation consider you are on a holiday, say at Ooty and the Hotelwallahs happily gave you a discount of 20 % on the rack rate. The rack rate is the one that is mentioned on the reception and the usual official rate. Supposing accommodation you chose was for Rs 1500 and the reception lady smilingly gave you the room for 1200, a 20% discount as it was off-season. You felt on top of the world to strike a good bargain in the hard times.

Now when it is the time to say adieu and pay the bills you are up for a rude jolt. You find that on the bill a 14% luxury tax has been levied and that too upon the rack rate which in this example was Rs1500.

Furious with anger at the thought of being cheated, you start haggling. Alas, not much headway could be made and you have to pay the tax of 14 % as applicable for hotels in Karnataka on the rack rate.

Coughing the extra amount you felt helpless and started cursing the agency which booked your hotel or the hotel owners. Little did you realize that the LT not only irks the ordinary travelers but is adding to the woes of hoteliers and the travel agents. Hit by recession and terror the hospitality industry is facing a lull, the luxury tax is not making it any easier. Most of the time we at IHR have to face a not so amused client venting his ire at the exorbitant Luxury Tax after the holiday is over.

Luxury Tax is something which varies in India from 5 to as high as 25%. Let’s see which states of “Incredible India” are the worst offenders. In the South the charge is led by Kerala with a whopping 15 % slap of Luxury Tax and then it is Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with 12.50 %, Andhra fares better with a somehow moderate 5 %.

Gateway to north, the capital Delhi fares worst with a levy of 12.5 % on room rents above 1000. Himachal and Rajasthan the two most oft visited tourist destination taxes @ 10%. UP with the Taj Mahal and Uttarakhand is better not only in terms of attractions but also light on your pocket with 5%.

Coming to the west and Central India Maharashtra and MP leads the brigade with 10 % , while Gujarat it seems is not only a good destination for investors it is tourist friendly too with only 4 % as Luxury Tax. In Matheran, a lovely hill station 80 km east of Mumbai inaddition to 10 % luxury tax charges another 5 percent as service charges.

On the eastern front Orissa, Bihar and Bengal does not make life easier for visitors with a 10% LT. Finally the North Eastern States, one had seriously hoped that the State Governments to be as friendly and simple as the local people. Putting all hopes to water the onslaught is led by Asaam, the gateway to the seven sisters of NE with a luxury tax of 20 %. The situation becomes additionally worse in Guwahati with a levy of another 5 % as service charges.

By this time you might feel suffocated under a “burden of statistics” Hold on! After all our intention is not to hurt you or mar your vacations. There is something to cheer about also. The Union territories are not only scenic and make a nice vacation but they are not heavy on your purse also. So Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands have not yet thought of burdening the tourists. They do not have a LT. One exception among the states is the vivacious Goa where good sense prevails and the tourists breathe easy without luxury tax.

The union Government must do something to cap the LT at an uniform rate at all the states. Till that time ignoring the one in fine print can….

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

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Perfect Breaks: Weekend Hideaways North of Mumbai

We are back again this week with more destinations off Mumbai. This time we decided to stick to NH8 and ventured north of Mumbai to make inroads into the territory known as North Konkan. Lo and behold! We came out with some startling gems of a destination – on and off National Highway 8 and further into the Gujarat Coast. We were greeted with myriad attractions ranging from hot springs, dense greens, Chikoo orchards, pristine beaches, meandering roads, sacred religious spots…. The attractions never cease. So stop dreaming and start journeying with us to these Konkan getaways and make the most of your weekends.

Marve, Manaori and Gorai: Beaches to Begin with

Marve is just 50 km north of Mumbai in the Thane district. Marve though is home to a large number of high society Mumbaikars but offers many things to enjoy for common mortals. Marve Beach is a tiny beach with clear waters. The Beachfront is filled with stalls selling fresh seafood. The place sees heavy rush on the last day of the Ganesha Chatuthi as immersions take place here amidst the sound of drums and chants.

Other attractions include low hills along the beach and the beautiful bungalows to envy upon. Look forward to magnificent views of sunrise and sunset.

Just across the creek from Marve, a fifteen-minute ferry ride will take you to Gorai and Manori. Gorai and Manori used to be the part of the Portuguese colony of Bassein.

Gorai Beach is a good place to have a swim but be careful as the waters are known to have strong underwater currents. Nearby attractions include the crumbling Holy Magi Church, Church of Our Lady of the sea at Utan and Esselworld, the amusement park.

Manori has 2 km long stretch of beach lined with palm trees and rows of seafront hotels is an ideal place for parties and picnics. Aksa and Erangal Beach are nearby attractions.

Vajreshwari: Get Soaked in Devotion and Hot Springs too

Vajreshwari is 81 km north of Mumbai and is a meeting place of devotees and weekend travelers. The Vajreshwari temple a relic of Maratha glory is the main attraction of this place. The temple is supposed to have been built by Chimaji Appa, the younger brother of the great Peshwa Bajirao I. to celebrate the fall of the Portugese Bassein(Vasai)n 1739.

The temple dedicated to goddess Vajreshwari stands atop a hillock and you can take your car halfway up the temple. Apart from the grand temple other attractions here include the cluster of Hot water springs at a place called Aklola a km away from the temple.

Ganeshpuri the place synonymous with the great saint Swamy Nityanand is 2 kms from here. Do not miss the Nityanand Mandir housing the Samadhi of Swami Niyananand and Sri Gurudev Ashram.

Palghar: Bask in Nature amidst the Chaos

A 3 hours journey takes you Palghar around 120 km north of Mumbai. Palghar offers some serene beaches for you to take leisurely strolls. The first point is a little known beach Shirgaon. The backdrop to the beach is formed by the imposing Shirgaon fort. This 18th century fort now almost in a ruinous state once housed the brave Chatrapati Shivaji and his soldiers. Nothing much to see on the fort though, other than catching a good view of the Arabian Sea and the Shiragaon village from the roof of the fort.

A 25 minutes drive through uneven narrow roads surrounded by thick trees takes you to Satapati Beach. The Beach is nothing unusual with a fish market very near. If you are a fish aficionado this is the place to be to pack some fresh sea fish before they are transported to Mumbai and sold at exorbitant prices. Local Ram Mandir is another attraction here. Another attraction of Palghar is the Kelva Beach stretches for 7 kilometers and is relatively a clean and unexplored beach. Rows of Suru trees line the beach. The16th century Portugese built Kelva Fort lies at the southern end of Kelva which is accessible only during the times of low tides. Good for trekkers, not advisable for persons with low energy though. Sheetladevi Temple is located very close to the Kelva beach. It houses a shrine with an unique idol of Goddess Devi. Kelva Dam is located around 10 kms away but the journey can be a bit tumultuous considering the roads.

Manor is 18 km before Palghar if you are coming from Mumbai. Manor is also known as the gateway to Kelva-Mahim coast. Manor is the confluence Point of Vaitarna River and its tributary Deherja. Do not miss the local Baazar here for striking some good bargains. A very scenic place but hidden behind the façade of secrecy is a pplace called Devkop that falls on the way between Palghar and Manor. Devkop Lake and the accompanying dam is almost picture perfect. Have a boat ride here, trust us you will remember it for a long long time.

Sajan: Awakening the Sleeping Beauty

The Sleepy town of Sajan is 134 km north of Mumbai and a slight detour from the NH 8. Sajan with the natural beauty as its USP provides the perfect getaway from the humdrum of urban stress. Palusa Waterfall 12 km from Sajan is a thrilling sight. The waterfall plunging from the height of 30 feet is shaped like a horse-shoe. The pool extending beyond some distance provides the perfect spot for a leisurely swim. However during the non monsoon months when the water dries up but the place is used in river crossing activities. A light trek across the jungle would lead you to Mohkrud Dam. It is one-and-a-half kilometres from Vikramgad. If you are in the right season then get ready to be greeted by a large flock of migratory birds. Another nearby attraction of Sajan is the Tiger Caves 16 km on the Vikramgad Manor Road.

Jawhar: The Cradle of Civilization

Jawahar just 25 km from Sajan and 166 north of Mumbai is the seat of the Warli tribals. “Nature at its very best”- that’s what sums up the innate beauty of Jawahar. Things to see here include the Jay Vilas palace, the residence of the tribal kings here. Then there is the seasonal Dadra-Kopra falls. Hanuman Point allows you to get a good view of the valley. Sunset Point is a vantage point here from where you can see one of the best sunsets ever. Shirpamal just outside Jawahar on the Nashik Road is as much sought after as a historic place as also for its riveting natural beauty. Besides, Jawhar is also known for its now world famous Warli paintings.

Bordi: Look beyond the Chikoo Bowl

Long stretches of white beaches, miles and miles of Chiku orchards and hospitable people makes Bordi a much sought after destination of the harried Mumbaikars. Yes Bordi has come of age in comparison to its better known neighbours of Dahanu, Umergaon and Daman. The prime attraction of Bordi is the 17 km beach. Here you can be at peace with yourself without getting disturbed by anyone. The Casurina Trees and The backdrop chikoo orchards add to the beauty of the beach. Nearby attractions include Dahanu 14 kms away and Umergaon (10 km). Dahanu- Bordi is 179 km north of Mumbai.

Silvassa: Drool to the old-world charm

Sandwiched between the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Silvassa still shows sign of the old-world and has an air of relaxation.. For the uninitiated Silvassa is just 185 km north of Mumbai. Silvassa very much part of the Portuguese control is yet to shed its colonial past fully. Infact the very name Silvassa has Portuguese connotations. Silva means ‘woods’ and ‘glades’ in Portuguese One of the remnants of the past colonial masters is the Our Lady of Piety Church located on the Naroli Road. Attractions of Silvassa include Hirwa Van or the Pipariya Udyan a fun place for kids with a mini zoo. 6 kms away is the Vanganga Lake and the Island Garden, complete with c wooden bridges, paddle boats jogging paths, thatched huts lures you for an old-world romance.

Just 25 Km away from Silvassa is a place called Nargol. Nargol with its breathtakingly beautiful coastline offers unspoilt virgin Beaches- all for you to explore

Daman: The last of the Portuguese Bastions

Daman our last destination is 192 km north of Mumbai. Daman also shows a strong Portuguese influence who left the place as late as in 1961. Daman is essentially divided into two parts Nani Daman and Moti Daman. Some of the attractions of Moti Daman includes Governor’s palace, Cathedral of Bom Jesu, The Church of our Lady, the ruins of Dominican Monastery. Satya Sagar Udyan offers a good place for evening stroll. St. Jerome fort is the prime attraction of Nani Daman. Devka Beach (5 km north of Daman) and Jampore Beach to the south of Nani Daman are the other attractions. Hope you enjoyed these journeys as much as we did.

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