Staying at Dharmalaya Institute: Food & Lodging
Dharmalaya Institute is an educational institution, and thus provides accommodation only for participants in our programmes (including our students, interns, and volunteers staying at least two weeks) and sometimes for meditation/yoga retreat practitioners. We do not provide accommodations for casual visits or holidays. If you wish to stay on the Dharmalaya campus as a participant in one of our programmes, we currently offer two types of accommodation: shared accommodations (dormitories and comfortable tents) and private accommodations (four private rooms in the main building, a private cottage, and the option to request a private tent, all subject to very limited availability).
Campground: Dharmalaya Institute’s campground currently offers six comfortable, four-person tents (year-round except during the rainy monsoon season from approximately 1 July to 30 September, give or take). All tents are furnished with mattresses, sheets, pillows, and blankets. Our campground can accommodate up to 24 people (plus more if you bring your own tent). Group leaders are welcome to enquire about availability of the campground for group programmes. If you’re coming to volunteer or study and you have your own tent, you’re welcome to set up on campus for free (donations welcome but not required). There is a composting toilet near the campground (and more toilets and showers in the main building).
Dormitories: The Institute currently has two shared dormitories. Normally, one of these is reserved for women and the other for men (though at certain times the men’s dorm could be co-ed if a family/group is staying together and all group members are comfortable with that arrangement). The women’s dorm features six bunk beds (three lower and three upper), while the men’s dorm features five individual beds. Each bed has a single mattress, pillow, sheet, and blanket. Unlike the tents, dormitory accommodation is available throughout the year (subject to limited availability).
Private rooms and cottage: Dharmalaya offers several private rooms in a beautiful, traditional-style adobe building, as well as a private studio cottage with loft, attached bath, and kitchenette. Note that often these private rooms are occupied by long-term residents (including faculty, interns, and long-term volunteers), so they may not be available for new guests. See below for details.
Reservations: Advance booking is recommended, as accommodations are subject to availability and currently are very limited. Private rooms, in particular, tend to be booked for most of the year, especially in the high seasons. To book a private room in advance requires a nonrefundable deposit. See below for bookings and enquiries.
Costs for Accommodation at Dharmalaya Institute
Shared tent accommodation is provided on a voluntary donation basis according to the dana principle (see below).
We also offer several private bedrooms, a private cottage, private tents, and two shared dormitories, all of which are priced on a sliding scale (see below).
Please note that, due to inflation in India, the costs presented here may be subject to gradual increases (usually not more than once per year). This page will always display the rates currently in effect.
Shared Tent Accommodation (on Donation Basis)
Traditionally, basic shared accommodation at ashrams and retreat centres in India is provided on the dana system. The spirit of dana is to give an amount that feels generous to the other while also feeling good for oneself. In other words, ideally it would feel to you like a ‘win-win’ amount. Each guest staying in Dharmalaya’s shared tents is completely free to donate whatever amount feels appropriate in this spirit.
Many of our guests have asked us to suggest an appropriate donation amount for shared tent accommodation. Recognising that our guests have varying financial means, we provide a suggested range rather than a specific amount, taking into consideration both the costs of maintaining these accommodations and the typical rates in the region. As a guideline, the suggested range for shared tent accommodation is Rs 50-150 per person per day (or Rs 1000-3000 per month for long-term volunteers/students/interns), but you are free to give more or less at your discretion.
Shared Dormitory Accommodation (on Sliding-scale Basis)
Dharmalaya Institute offers beds in a shared dormitory on a sliding scale of Rs 100-200 per person per day (or a discounted monthly rate of Rs 2000-4000 per month for long-term residents). ‘Sliding scale’ means guests may pay any amount within the specified range.
Private Accommodation (on Sliding-scale Basis)
Dharmalaya Institute also offers a small range of private accommodation options for those who wish to have more personal space, comfort, or privacy. You are welcome to request a private room or a tent for your exclusive use (subject to limited availability) on a sliding-scale basis. ‘Sliding scale’ means guests may pay any amount within the specified range (and long-term residents can avail of discounted monthly rates). The sliding-scale price ranges for each option (per room, not per person) are as follows:
- Private tent (1-2 people): Rs 200-450 per day (or Rs 2000-4500 per month)
- Private room M1 (ground floor, small, 1-2 people): Rs 300-600 per day (or Rs 3000-6000/month)
- Private room M2 (ground floor, large, 1-4 people): Rs 450-900 per day (or Rs 4500-9,000/month)
- Private room M3 (upper floor, with loft & view, medium, 1-3 people): Rs 550-1100 per day (or Rs 5500-11,000/month)
- Private room M4 (upper floor, with loft & view, table & chairs, large, 1-3 people): Rs 750-1500 per day (or Rs 7500-15,000/month)
- Cottage #C1 (cozy & quiet, with loft & view, 1-4 people): Rs 1000-2000 per day (or Rs 10,000-20,000/month)
Please note that Dharmalaya currently has very limited private accommodation options in high demand, so we cannot always guarantee a private room or tent, depending on availability (which can vary seasonally). If it is important to you to have your own room or private tent, please tell us so beforehand (with as much advance notice as possible) and we will let you know whether we can confirm availability of your preferred accommodation. (You can specify your accommodation preference on your volunteer/programme/internship application, and it is not necessary to submit a separate accommodation request.)
The Dharmalaya kitchen offers 100% natural, vegetarian (plant-based, vegan), mostly-organic, mostly-locally-sourced meals. We recognise that different people have different appetites and different budgets, so we offer these wholesome meals priced on a sliding scale from Rs 75-150 per person per meal. In other words, you can spend anywhere between Rs 225 and Rs 450 per person per day (total for all three meals plus tea), depending on what feels most appropriate to you considering your budget and your appetite.
If you are a committed long-term volunteer/student/intern with very low income and you are unable to pay the minimum amount for meals, please let us know in advance and we can discuss work-study options with you (subject to limited availability and a work commitment of at least three months).
Whenever you wish to take a meal at Dharmalaya, please book your meal at least four hours before the scheduled meal time by adding your name to the list kept on the notice board.
- Bathing: There are two showers in the main building, one in the women’s dormitory, and one in the cottage. Hot water for bathing is available via two means: the showers in the main building have solar hot water, while for bathing in the dorm and cottage, water for bucket baths can be heated in bukharis (simple and efficient, wood-burning water heaters).
- Toilets: The main building has three flush toilets (two western style and one Asian style) and a dry composting toilet (Asian style). The cottage has an Asian-style flush toilet. There is also a composting toilet (an ‘arbor loo’) near the campground.
- Kitchen: We cook group meals in the kitchen of the main building, sometimes supplemented by the chulas (earthen stoves) in our campground kitchen. We do not have provisions for individuals to make their own meals, so if you are staying at Dharmalaya and plan to take your meals here, it will be as a part of the group meals. If you have special dietary needs, please let us know in advance and we will do our best to accommodate you. Please note that the Dharmalaya Institute is 100% vegetarian and vegan (purely plant-based, with no animal products at all) and, to the best of our knowledge, our kitchen complies with guidelines for halal and kosher meals. Catering for special events or group meals can be arranged on request with advance notice. Whenever you wish to take a meal at Dharmalaya, please book your meal at least four hours before the scheduled meal time by adding your name to the list kept on the notice board.
- Electricity is available most of the time. There is enough power for recharging mobile phones, tablets, and notebook computers, but not enough for power-hungry appliances like heaters, hot water kettles, immersion heaters, etc. so please do not bring such hungry appliances.
- Valuables: The Dharmalaya Institute has a simple locker for keeping valuables safely, but cannot accept responsibility for any loss, theft, or damage. Please consider not bringing wads of extra cash or expensive personal items if you can avoid doing so. In our experience, this area is very safe, but misfortune can happen anywhere, so please be mindful.
Please settle all bills (including payments for food and donations for accommodations) with our hospitality manager every Saturday.
Dharmalaya Institute accepts payments by cheque/demand draft, bank wire transfer, or cash (all of which can be made in Indian Rupees only). There are ATMs in Bir and Baijnath that work with many Indian and international ATM cards (but not all cards are accepted at all ATMs). We can also accept credit/debit cards and PayPal payments via our website (contact us for details).
Reservations & Bookings
The appropriate way to reserve accommodation at Dharmalaya Institute depends on the purpose of your visit. Dharmalaya Institute provides accommodation only for volunteers, interns, students, and participants in Dharmalaya’s programmes and retreats.
If you are coming as a volunteer, student, or programme participant, the application/registration form includes a question about your preferred accommodation, and answering that question is all that you need to do (there is no need to submit a separate request for booking accommodations at Dharmalaya — but of course if you plan to stay elsewhere then you’ll need to book your own accommodation separately).
If you are an experienced practitioner of meditation/yoga wishing to do a personal practice retreat at Dharmalaya, please use our Retreat Acccommodation form.
Other Accommodation Options in the Greater Bir Area
For other possibilities, see the Bir Portal’s listing of hotels, guest houses, and other accommodation options in the Greater Bir area: Bir Beds.
Protected Area Permits (Only for Guests Planning to Stay in the Bir Tibetan Colony)
If your plans include a possible overnight stay in the Bir Tibetan Colony, either before or after your visit to Dharmalaya, or as a base for your activities in the area, you will need to apply for a Protected Area Permit (PAP), which since 2012 is required by law for overnight stays in the Tibetan colonies of Bir and Tashijong. Note that, according to the clarification we have received from the government, the PAP is not required for overnight stays outside of the Tibetan areas, which means a PAP is not required for Bir proper (Upper Bir) or Dharmalaya. Also, in practice there seems to be an unofficial grace period of 2-3 days, so if you arrive at a hotel in the Bir Tibetan Colony without a PAP, they might let you stay for a night or two before you need to get the permit. The PAP can be obtained either when you apply for your India visa or at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Dharamshala. For more information (or to download a copy of the application), see this post at the Bir Portal.