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getting from delhi to jaipur then agra -train?

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As I said in my previous posting, my nine year old son and I will be in Dehli in Dec or Jan. Would like to spend a couple days in Dehli then do Jaipur and Agra. Hotels seem to have alot of info, but train or other travel between the three hard to figure out. Does anyone know, can you train around the golden triangle? How much should a first class ticket run ( I heard 2nd class is rough)? Hiring a driver?Can you do the trip to the other 2 cities in 4 days? Do we have to take a tour to do the trip to the 2 other cities? Any advise would be apprecited> thanks

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    I have travelled in India many times and am a huge fan of the country. I have seen your various messages on this board, and have a response to some of them:

    1. Hotels in Delhi y My favourite hotel in Delhi is the Imperial hotel on Janpath. It is not as luxurious as the Oberoi, but I think it is much nicer than any of the Sheratons, and the location can't be beat: you can walk to the Parliament buildings and Rajpath in one direction, and to the Handicrafts emporium and Connaught Circus in the other. I find it a very convenient location and I like the lower key of the hotel, the gardens and the friendliness of the staff. It has old-world colonial charm and a very nice garden with pool. (Won't need the pool too much in December.) You can view the hotel on their website at www.theimperialindia.com. The price is also better than the Sheraton. If budget permits generally in India, the hotels run by the Oberoi group, especially all the "vila" brand hotels run by the Oberoi group are wonderful, go to oberoihotels.com to see what they offer. The Oberoi in Delhi is excellent although I don't like the location as well as the Imperial. The "vila" brand Oberoi hotels are in Jaipur, Agra, Ranthambore and Udaipur. I have stayed in the one in Jaipur and it was fantastic. The hotels I am referring to all have "vila" In their name, like Rajvilas in Jaipur, Amarvilas in Agra, etc.

    2. Trains between Delhi/Agra/Jaipur - You can take a train from Delhi to Agra in as little as 2.5 hours. Trains from Agra to Jaipur take about 7 hours. Trains from Jaipur to Delhi take between 5-7 hours. Look at the train schedules at www.indianrail.gov.in. I would pay for first class because you will have a little more room, but have also gone second class and it is fine. You don't need AC or air-conditioning in the winter. You can also drive on all these routes, although I personally do not like Indian highways y too many trucks and too many speeding cars. Lastly, you can fly between all these destinations as well, although for Jaipur-Agra you might have to go through Delhi which kind of defeats the purpose.

    3. Tiger viewing y I rarely say that anyone "must" do something, but as you will be in India at the perfect time of year and have your son with you, please must try to get to Ranthambore National Park to see tigers and other wildlife! I think your son would love the whole experience. The park is about a 4 hour drive south of Jaipur. There are several hotel options, my recommendation is that you stay at the Sawai Madopur Lodge, run by the Taj Group. The website for Taj hotels is "tajhotels.com". Ask for one of their tents which they put up in the cooler months. These are tents built on concrete platforms with attached baths. They are lots of fun and I think nicer than any of the regular rooms at the hotel. If you really want to splurge, consider staying at the Vinayavilas run by the Oberoi group. The park is really at its best in the winter; although it is definitely cold on the sunrise jeep rides to view the wildlife, bring hats and gloves. You might do the park on your own after a weekend in Jaipur with your friend. The hotel will organize all the jeep rides and meals, so you don't have to do anything but make the hotel reservation and get a driver to take you there and back. The hotel can arrange this for you, as could your hotel in Jaipur.

    4. Agra y definitely doable for a weekend by car or train. . In Agra, try to see the Taj at sunset and sunrise and as often as you can because it looks different at different times and in different weather. (The entrance fee is pretty steep these days, so this may cut down on the number of times you want to visit). The Sheraton mentioned above is pretty standard, but fine. If you can afford it, stay at the Oberoi hotel there with a Taj view. Go to oberoihotels.com and look at Amaravilas The preserved city of Fatephur Sikri about an hour away by car should absolutely be on your itinerary as well. If you hire a driver in Delhi, he should take you there, ferry you around Agra for the weekend, and take you back to Delhi all for one price. Agra is very small and bicycle rickshaws are cheap and fun, so compare the price of the train to Agra vs. the driver. One benefit to having the driver is that he can take you to Fatephur Sikri, however, you could also hire a regular car taxi in Agra to make this trip for you.

    5. Jaipur - I agree with the above recommendation about the Rambagh Palace, lots of colonial charm. There are many different types of rooms there, so take a look at several before committing. The basement rooms are generally to be avoided as they are rather damp. They have an indoor pool which is unusual in India and good for that time of year. Another great hotel choice, although much more expensive is the Rajvilas run by the Oberoi (and no indoor pool).

    6. Bernares/Varanisi y this is a fascinating city and doable for a weekend. I can't say for sure that your son will like the cremations, so if you think these would bother him I would skip Bernares as that is the whole point of the city.

    7. Weather y December is the best time to be in north India! Delhi is at its best in the winter, and pollution is somewhat minimized. I agree with the above poster about pollution in general in Delhi, I would definitely tell you to take your son out of Delhi at least every weekend if not more often. The deserts in Rajathstan will be beautiful and not hot. Mornings and evenings will be cool and there should be very little rain. The only thing to keep in mind is that morning and evening fog is a problem in Delhi, Bernares and Agra in the winter months. This can mean delays in air travel. I would definitely go by car or rail from Delhi to Agra, as it a short journey. If you are flying between any of the above cities try to take late morning, afternoon or evening flights to avoid fog delays

    8. Travelling with Children in India y I once travelled in India in a group which included a family of 3 blond Caucasian children. The only "problem" they had is that everyone wanted to talk to them and touch them. From time to time, the children (ages 2 to 8 years) found this a little annoying. You should probably tell your son to expect this and not to be frightened by it or become angry; however he should also be allowed to tell you if they are reaching the breaking point and you can take a time out at your hotel.

    You might want to check the website for the US embassy in Delhi to see if they are offering any activities for children or links to sites with activities. The website is usembassy.state.gov/delhi. Also, you will need to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival, check the website for the Indian embassy in Washington DC at www.indiagov.org.

    For all of the above trips, with a little work and patience, you can do this all yourself, there is no reason to join a tour. In a place like Jaipur or Bernares, you can arrange guides for the day with your hotel, they are not expensive. You don't need a guide in Agra (except at Fatephur Sikri where I think they are helpful). You can hire a guide for a day in Delhi as well, your hotel can help you arrange for this.

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    One thing to follow up on from pool point that Cicerone makes. I was there in November and found the pool at Rambagh Palace bloody cold as no heating. Also pool I thought was actually quite gloomy with paint peeling all around the ceiling and so on. The outdoor pools in Nov were absolutely fine - Jai Mahal was really nice even at 10am. And reiterate point of pre booking Agra trains - I tried 3 days before and no luck, so do it at least a week in advance, unless tourism has dropped off significantly.

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    As a postscript to Cicerone's remark about the Imperial Hotel on Janpath - this hotel has been renovated and is now very costly and not really an option unless having a very high budget. Quite a shame as the location is perfect. You could check out another one called Hotel Kanishka which is a little further away from Janpath shopping but can easily be walked. We stayed there end 2001 but in November 2002 they were also being renovated. Otherwise Hotel Oberoi Maidens is reasonable and one of olde world charm, but is located north of Old Delhi, so may not be suitable for you. We were a small group so had a small van to get around in.
    In Agra I recommend that you also visit the Red Fort - it is excellent and far better than the Red Fort in Delhi, which is really not worth viewing these days, apart from the shops just before you go in (no need to pay the entry fee).
    It costs Rs.750 to visit the Taj now so you can't just pop in and out like the old days. To go near to sunset and then remain for an hour or so is excellent.
    The road from Delhi to Agra is excellent so I would recommend hiring a car and driver, perhaps a non-airconditioned Ambassador, such a cute looking vehicle. You could then visit Fatehpur Sikri on the way to Jaipur without having to come back to Agra. If you leave Agra early, I advise plan to leave around 8.00 to arrive at Fatehpur Sikri when the sun has burnt away the fog.
    In Agra we stayed at the Jaypee Palace and the Holiday Inn in Jaipur.
    It will be cheaper to book hotels through an agent as they get a much better price than we could. I can recommend the agent I use. You can email Arvind Mehtani of Spectrum Travel. His email address is spectour@bol.net.in. He also has a web site http://www.spectrumtour.com/
    He will need you to send a deposit though via t/t in usd. He can help you avoid the misery of getting train tickets, etc.
    I used to live in Delhi, now in Kuala Lumpur, but visit 3 times a year, taking a group to the Pushkar camel fair every November.

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    I stayed at the Imperial right after its renovation a few years ago and did not find it costly, especially compared to other hotels which I consider to be in the same class like the Taj Mahal and Taj Palace, the Sheraton and the Hyatt.

    I just ran a check on websites and got a rate of US$129 per night including breakfast at the Imperial-- not overly expensive IMO. The rate is about US$100 less than the cheapest rate quoted for both Tajs and in line with the rates quoted by the Sheraton and the Hyatt -- and the Imperial is in a much better location than the Sheraton or the Hyatt.

    I don't know the Hotel Kanishka, but it is an IDTC Ashok hotel, which are a chain run by the state. They generally are more like 3 star hotels, and there are some that I would not stay in as they are old and have not been kept up. The Oberoi Maidens would be in the same class, this is Oberoi' 3 star product.

    I also disagree about using an agent, as given current conditions you can get a good rate. I haven't used an agent in India in more than 10 years, as you used to need them because of exchange regulations which are no longer in place. I also would hesitate to pre-pay though an agent, as I have had bad experiences with this in the past.

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    Thanks for the info Cicerone, when I checked the Imperial it was more like USD290 which is far above my budget. I couldn't stay at any of the hotels you mentioned though, as Delhi hotels are just too expensive. When I stayed at Kanishka, before any renovation, it was fine. As long as I have clean rooms, with hot and cold running water and comfortable non-Indian hard beds and decent pillows, I'm happy.
    This agent that I mentioned though is very good and reliable, but of course I understand about being wary, especially in India.
    The rooms at Oberoi Maidens were quite lovely and large and in summer last year were USD60 and USD90 in winter, so that is a bargain in my book. Even USD190 is too much for my pocket, being almost RM722 or AUD288, but good luck to those who can afford Imperial, as it is number one.

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    Hi all,
    Just registered on this site. This will be my 9th trip to India but first to Rajasthan for Pushkar fair. (Fenno maybe you could please post on the Pushkar thread. I'll check out your agent.) I always do my own bookings but what about train and plane tickets? Cicerone can you book internationally thru the websites? Veronica2 for Delhi/Jaipur leg take Shatabdhi express train (fastest) Thanks all.

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    p.s. I know all the Dehli Hotel discussion has been regarding several day stays but does anyone know about the Uppal's Orchid Hotel that opened near the airport for overnites? It's supposed to be really nice (?) Years ago I stayed at the Centaur (yuck) and have heard in years past that the Radisson has been the hotel of choice for overnites in Delhi. Now I'm considering this new one. Please let me know if anyone has info.Thanks.

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    Message for Cathy S : The agent I mention above arranged for my train and plane tickets. Don't forget though that we pay much more than locals for airfares, so train/car much cheaper. If you have to fly anywhere Jet is excellent. Did you need more info on Pushkar? We stay in Swiss style tented accomm which is fine, hotels etc. are expensive.

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    Thanks Fenno. Yes, I have a few questions for you regarding Pushkar...There is a seperate discussion about Pushkar on another thread that someone else started, maybe you would be so kind as to enter it...getting there and back from Dehli, etc. M

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