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India Lodging Primer

Although Western travelers might expect to get more bang for their buck when it comes to lodgings in India, accommodations and facilities vary widely throughout the country. Luxury hotels may seem especially costly for this part of the world, but the facilities and service are nothing short of the royal treatment in most cases. At the same time, mid-tier hotels aren't always as consistent in service or facilities when compared with their Western counterparts, so adjusting your expectations before you arrive will make for a smoother stay. Prices peak sharply during the November to March high season—and even more so during the Christmas to New Year's week—so it's best to book in advance.

The following is an overview of the different types of lodging options you can expect to find in India. As anywhere else, to avoid any confusion on the ground, make sure to confirm your reservations and arrive as early as possible to check in, or let them know you'll be getting in late.

The lodgings we list in this book are ones we consider the best in their price range. Mid-range hotels will often have only a shower rather than a bathtub. Keep in mind that rates across the board have dipped a great deal from their highs earlier in the decade, so don't be afraid to bargain.

Luxury Hotels

The cream-of-the-crop luxury hotels in India often surpass their counterparts in the United States and Europe when it comes to service and general splendor—often in sumptuously converted palaces or havelis (mansions), or properties built using traditional architectural styles (like the intricate stonework and turreted balconies at several Rajasthan properties) and decorated with local artisanal crafts. Although you might feel like you're shelling out quite a bit to stay at a Taj or an Oberoi, the price usually translates to the best location in town, a generous and delicious buffet breakfast, plush beds, marble baths, and wonderful service. Also look for heritage hotel chains like Neemrana, which has lovely properties. You'll see more and more familiar high-end names like Aman Resorts, the Four Seasons, and JW Marriott, but these tend to have a more contemporary look compared with the heritage properties.

Midrange Accommodations

While the mid-tier is where you might expect most properties to fall, India actually suffers from a dearth of mid-range lodgings, though the situation improves with each passing year. Recognizable chains like Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hilton, Sheraton, and Westin do have quite a few properties across the country, but the branding doesn't always guarantee a stay on par with a Holiday Inn in California or a Westin in Washington, DC. Their Indian counterparts might have rooms that look a bit worn, and service can be spottier than you'd expect.

Guesthouses and Budget Lodgings

Bed-and-breakfasts, better known as guesthouses in India, are plentiful across the country, especially in remote areas or smaller towns. They can vary widely in cleanliness, service, and even safety. Amenities will be limited, not all will have a restaurant or food available on the premises, and there's a good chance there will be shared bathrooms.

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