Agra at Beginning or End of Trip?

Old Dec 2nd, 2010, 07:09 PM
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For the dawn boats in Varanasi, I have done it both via my hotel and by just walking down to the ghats in the dark. Either work. The boatmen at the ghat will be looking out for you, believe me. Perhaps ask your hotel what a good rate would be (I have no recollection) or see if people here have reccos. For a first-time visitor, having your hotel arrange it is probably the easiest, even if it is a little more expensive (which is quite relative really).

For seeing the cremation ghats during the day, I do think a guide is helpful as they can find the best areas. Otherwise, you may be wandering around the alleys for a while. But to just walk around the town, IMO you don’t need a guide.

Sarnath is definitely worth the trip. Esp as you have 3 days. You can do it in a half day. A guide is not necessary, but a guidebook is helpful. There is not a lot of signage.

The evening aarti is also a great event and you should try to attend that.

I am always an advocate of day trains in India, to see the countryside as well as speak with fellow passengers. (I also am sort of beyond the age where a night train is a pleasant sleeping experience…) The day trains do appear to take 2-3 hours longer than the night trains, the fastest seems to be about 10 hours. Certainly doable if you don’t mind the length. (The best train I see is the West Bengal Sampark Kranti Express/2380, departs 7 am and arrives around 5 pm.)

Nothing leaps to mind as a good layover place for a night along the way if you wanted to break up the journey, and looking at the map I don’t see anything which is immediately apparent as a major tourist stop. But if you do some research, you probably could come up with something. I think the area around Durgapur has some sights, but that is so close to Kolkata that it is not really useful as a layover, IMO.

Actually, on the train route between Delhi and Varanasi would be Kanpur, which could be interesting (scene of the start of the Indian Mutiny, or as the Indians prefer to call it, the First War of Independence.) It’s about a 5-hour ride from Delhi from the schedules I see. Lucknow would not be too far from Kanpur and could be interesting as well. From Kanpur its about 4-5 hours to Varanasi. So perhaps day trains to Varanasi, via a day or two in Kanpur/Lucknow; then a night train to Kolkata.

I should point out that you can fly non-stop from Varanasi to Kolkata on Jet Airways (and possibly others). It takes just over an hour. If price is not an issue, that may be the best way to go.

Also if there is any way you can work out your international flights to arrive into Kolkata, rather than Delhi, that would save you a good bit of backtracking. Flying into Kolkata and out of Mumbai would actually seem to make the most sense given your itin. Lufthansa has non-stop service from Frankfurt into Kolkata and Emirates has non-stop service from Dubai. You can also go via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Getting a flight home from Mumbai would be even easier.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2010, 04:50 AM
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Thanks.  On your advice will look at train options more thoroughly.  In that context I seem to be having a problem with schedules.  I'm sure I am missing something obvious, and will keep trying to figure it out, but if you could offer some insight I'd be grateful.  Problem is this#160;
- on cleartrip, when I plug in "from" Varanasi and "to" Kolkata, only 8 trains show up, all of them overnight, and none of them the one you mentioned. 
- on the Indian Railways website, I can't figure out which station code to use.  There are two for Varanasi ("city" & "junction") and and also two for Kolkata but with apparently no differentiation other than two different codes. Even when I mix & match it says "no trains" which is hard to fathom.  
Again, I assume I am making some beginner's mistake and will look at Seat 61 or whatever to try and solve, but if you have any ideas.......
Also, I appreciate your comments on the overall itinerary but for better or worse the international flights in and out of Delhi are booked.  Our thinking was that this would work since the second half of the trip, on which we are still working, is from someplace like Trivandrum or Kochi to Mumbai, then north again to Rajasthan, winding up in Agra and then (at your good suggestion) right to the airport.  Make sense?  Thanks.  
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Old Dec 5th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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Just to close the loop and answer my own question as posed in my last post in this thread (about seemingly limited choice of trains listed on Cleartrip from Varanasi to Kolkata), it looks like you need to plug in Mughal Sarai on Cleartrip separate from "Varanasi" itself. When that is done a much wider range of choices, including daytime trains, appears.
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Old Dec 5th, 2010, 05:10 PM
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Thanks for the tip abut trains from V
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 12:07 PM
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For train online ticket booking, try or
Usually trains need to be booked many days in advance for long journeys. Or you can book on 'Tatkal' (urgent)basis for some extra fee within 48 hours prior to departure of a train.
If you are unsure about the city sub-station, just choose JN i.e. Junction.
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