Delhi, Agra, Jaipur India Trip Report

Aug 5th, 2008, 07:56 AM
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Delhi, Agra, Jaipur India Trip Report

Trip Report

This report is not so much as on the sights (as I am a frequently India traveler) but more on the flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. I’ve made some notes on historical sites that I feel have changed over my trips, however.


Continental CO 82 Nonstop Newark to Delhi:

Flight in BusinessFirst was very nice, we had the newer version of the 777-200ER that had new entertainment systems on. If you can stand a 12.5 hour flight, this is the way to go (nonstop), even in coach. It saves a lot of time instead of connecting through Europe. The continental presidents club is nice there, even if you are flying coach if you have an Amex platinum card you can get in.

Delhi Oberoi – Lobby, Restaurants, Pools and other public areas are very nice. The pool could use a few more chairs. The spa is smaller, with just one shower in the men’s locker area. The workout area is superb with excellent, brand new equipment.
Rooms: The rooms have a musty smell. While everything in the room is nice and updated, I think the carpet needs replaced. I viewed three rooms during our stay and they all have an odd smell. The views of the rooms that look at Humayan’s tomb were nice as were the pool/golf course views. The staff were not as nice as other Oberoi hotels. In addition, they were a little slow with requests for ironing board, room service, etc. Pool service was also slow. In addition, the drains in both of our rooms were broken and it took quite awhile for someone to come look. The restaurants were excellent in food and service. The lobby bar is not as nice as the 360 restaurant bar, use that one instead. The drinks there were top notch. Sunday brunch at 360 is excellent, as is all the food, including the Sushi. The internet is VERY expensive at 800 rupees per day ($20) and sometimes did not work. There were adapters in each room for foreign plugs. Overall, I would NOT stay at this hotel again, I would try the Taj Palace or Imperial.

I like the Cottage industries store for handicrafts. Soma Store at Connaught was nice, as well as FabIndia at Khan market. If you like small stores and haggling, try Janpath market near the Imperial hotel (right across from Cottage Industries).

Restaurants in Delhi to try: Chopsticks, Oriental Octopus, House of Ming (get the date pancakes). They were all excellent.

Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India – the hotel and restaurant were very nice. The rooms with a balcony overlooking Taj are amazingly close and beautiful. I recommend splurging the extra $50 in difference between the balcony rooms and non-balcony. Sunrise/Sunset on the balcony make for beautiful photos. The staff are wonderful here. Completely different than the Oberoi in Delhi. If you can afford it, stay here. They transport you via golfcart to the Taj right from the hotel and wait for you. Otherwise, the ITC and Taj View hotels are good as well at a cheaper price. The welcome to the hotel was amazing. Normally it is a 3 to 3.5 hour drive to Agra from Delhi but there was some construction this time on the four lane highway so the drive took 5 hours. I recommend driving (with a driver) though over the train. Taj looks great as always, I wish the fountains would be working though! The Agra fort has also been improved. I would stay at this hotel again.

Agra to Jaipur drive. This took 6 hours, very painstaking as they are building a new expressway. Please budget time appropriately. Toll entering Rajasthan was 500 rupees.

Fatehpur Sikri – 47 KM from Agra has gone down hill dramatically. Recent changes made it so you cannot drive to the top anymore, you have to park in a holding area and take an Auto Rickshaw to the top (50 rupees each way). Be warned: you will get swarmed with guides, salesmen, kids, beggars, autorickshaw drivers, etc. This is worse than any other site I can remember in India, including Taj, Old Delhi, etc. They make you take off your shoes to go inside, the place is filthy with urine, etc. It was not a pleasant experience. In addition, the salespeople are now allowed INSIDE the building (unlike other world heritage sites) and they follow you around the entire time you are in there. (Guide or Not – Multiple People). As well, when you enter the Salim Chisti tomb there is a religious man that screams at you if you do not give some rupees. Also, when leaving the man who held the shoes also screams at you if you do not tip him. Overall, it was not a pleasant experience overall has gone down hill a lot since my previous visits. I will not go again and my fellow traveler who was on her first trip said that was the worst part of her experience of the trip.

Jaipur

Oberoi Raj Vilas

Very nice hotel! Great service, though food is pricey. Both the premier rooms and the tents are worth trying. The pool is very nice and service there is excellent, each time you go there (the pool) you get two bottles of water, cold towels, sunscreen, fruit smoothies…and throughout the day they gave us different smoothies and different fruit snacks for free. The restaurant had great dinner…we had a great amuse bouche (veg bruschetta) at dinner one night and they gladly made it for us for lunch the next day. The spa is beautiful and the treatments we had were great. If you stay here, try the free cooking classes (offered by the exec chef). We had one to teach us to cook a simple Indian meal and it made the stay. (and was free!) Internet here was again very expensive, at 800 rupees per day. If you have a few minutes, walk around the Royal Vila where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie & Bill Clinton stayed when they visited. Also, in the early evenings I suggest visiting the temple, it is a very nice experience. I would stay at this hotel again, though I may split my time at the Rambaugh palace as well. If you are driving, be careful not to miss the hotel as all the signs are down because of the construction.

Other hotels to try if you can’t stay there, I’ve stayed at the Rambaugh palace a few times and that is very nice. We had dinner at the restaurant there (very good food) but they do not serve Chinese food there anymore! For those interested in taking Elephant rides due to new restrictions you need to get to Amber fort BY 9:30 AM, the ride was 285 rupees per person. On the way back to town I recommend stopping at the camel stop (you will see them) and getting your picture taken with them or taking a ride. Also, the cottage industries store (not the govt owned one) on the same road is a very nice store to visit that has everything and the prices are not too outrageous, and they will bargain on the bigger things.

City Palace is always nice but now they offer a private tour of the Maharaja’s current residence for addition $65 per person if you feel like spending it for the private tour.

Jaipur – Delhi drive was GREAT! The best highway in India, the four lane expressway made the trip a breeze and it did not take more than 4.5 hours.

Delhi Oberoi again: Our flight was not until 11 PM, they extended check out until 2 and offered to hold our bags until we were ready to go and let us use the facilities: Spa, pool, etc. until we were ready to leave. That was one plus of the hotel…

Flight home, the continental flight CO 83 was again great, though this plane had an older entertainment system and that was the only downside. The 14.5 hour flight arrives in at an empty Newark airport at 4:30 AM.

Let me know if you have any questions. I utilized this forum for alot of information prior to my trip, so I feel I definitely should post!
riversair is offline  
Aug 5th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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Nice report - too bad about Fatephur Sikri.
Craig is offline  
Aug 5th, 2008, 07:07 PM
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thanks for this unique layout report....good info...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 6th, 2008, 03:13 PM
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Why do you recommend driving over taking the train from Delhi to Agra? How much was your driver to Agra from Delhi? Would you recommend this person again? How might I contact him?

I will be going in September.
Leburta is offline  
Aug 6th, 2008, 08:26 PM
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I might have missed this, but how long were you in India? (how many days?) and can I ask approx. cost? I am trying to get a sense for future trip if you don't mind. Thanks!!
krissypoo4 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Economy tickets on continental were $1400, Business class were $3800 (a bargain).

Amarvilas, Raj Vilas were about $350 per night for basic rooms. $500 a night for the tents. Oberoi Delhi was about $300 a night. Internet at all the hotels was $20 per day. If you stay in Oberoi, you can get a package all inclusive price if you are staying long enough - check the website out for more info.
riversair is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 10:05 AM
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I used New Abchal Tourist Taxi Service, in New Delhi (Subramanium Bharti Marg), phone 697320. My driver name was Ranjit Singh. I paid $620 for 5 full days and 4 nights...which again, is a good deal. The road from Delhi to Agra is good, better than the train... The train is hot, crowded, noisy, sometimes late, and sometimes really late. Plus you need to take a taxi to the Taj from the train station. And..while the train is later the facilities for waiting at the Agra or Delhi station are dismal. You could hire a car for the day to take you to Agra Fort, Taj for about $150. Let me know if you have any questions.
riversair is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 10:07 AM
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I was 8 full days, plus a day each way. I left on Friday 25th at 8 pm, arrived Saturday 26th at 8 PM in Delhi, Departed the following Sunday night at 11 PM and arrived back in New york at 4:30 AM.
riversair is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 10:10 AM
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Actually, the Shabadhti (sp?) express train from Delhi to Agra is air conditioned, with big comfortable seats, and they serve breakfast and tea. I'm not sure of the cost now...two years ago it was about US$14.

It takes about 2.5 hours vs 4-6 hours in a car.
lcuy is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 10:35 AM
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Riversair's impressions of the hotels are right on the money. The Delhi Oberoi is probably the worst Oberoi hotel. By Oberoi's world-class standards, the service is shockingly disappointing, as are some of the physical spaces.


agtoau is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 01:28 PM
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Thanks for the tips!
krissypoo4 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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Hi Riversair,
I appreciate the update on Fatehpur Sikri as we were considering going there this December.

We also do the Newark-Delhi CO non-stop in coach (there's 4 of us, so BusinessFirst gets pricey ), but it's still better than flying through Europe and losing that time (and possibly your luggage).

The best train is the Shatabdi Express. It is the fastest train and has priority on the tracks. Slower trains have to pull over so Shatabdi can pass (not exactly sure how that part works, but that's what they do). Book your seat in First Class A/C.

Thanks for posting your info.
Jaya is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 07:57 PM
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i still would visit FS as it is an amazing place... we found it spotless less than 2 years ago...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 7th, 2008, 10:15 PM
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FS consists of two sub-complexes with in the total area. It is a pity that what is supposed to be 'sacredotal' (Shrine) is more profane than the 'profane', which is incidentally the other major sub-complex associated with the medieval mughal city & is a world heritage site. You need to remove your shoes while visiting the tomb of Salim Chishti. One does not remove shoes while visiting the other side.
If such is the behaviour of those at the shrine, who will come to pay obeisance there? Better take a picture of 'Buland Darwaza' from a distance, and visit the mughal city of FS!
I wish the caretakers at the FS moslem shrine took a leaf out of our Sikh temples which are spotlessly clean, foreigner friendly & service most polite...and here lies the difference between progressive as against retrogressive outlook!

vp_singh is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 06:41 AM
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If you had a good experience on the train, go for it. One of the additional reasons I drove was because I was going on to other places. The train stations still are lousy though

Regarding FS, they made us remove the shoes for the whole thing... carry them with you!
riversair is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 08:31 AM
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I am curious how you got a rate of $350/night at the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India. We're going in early November. When I look at their website, the best rate is 33,000 Rupees, which is almost $800.
Thanks.
Drebby is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 10:30 AM
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Thanks so much for your interesting report, Riversair.

Thanks also to everyone for their insights on the pros and cons of train vs. driver for the Delhi to Agra trip.
Leburta is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 03:43 PM
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If you're new to taking a train in India - a few pointers.

The "koolies" (the porters at the train stations) will hoist your luggage atop their heads and you follow them to the platform where your train will arrive (show them your ticket and they take it from there). Carry your own purse and bags with valuables.

Only use koolies who are in uniform! No freelancing here.

Fix the per bag payment rate with them before they take your luggage. Be firm that there is no extra fee after they arrive at the platform.

Before you give them your luggage, make it clear that they cannot go faster than you can walk to keep up. Either way, you need to keep an eye on them.

I recommend First Class only. Even then, it's not glamorous, but at least the seats are generous and there is A/C.

I personally don't eat food served on trains (just politely decline the server), but if it's steaming hot and you're hungry, then I'd leave it to your discretion.

Bring a travel hand-gel or hand wipes and tissues or travel toilet paper. If possible, just use the bathrooms if you really have to go - but at least you'll have some supplies with you just in case.

Like any public travel, keep valuables on you and if you carry a purse, tuck it under your arm if you think you will dose off.

Have something you can put on for warmth - sometimes they really crank the A/C up.

Sometimes the train will just come to a complete stop during the journey for several minutes to let another train pass.

If it's daytime, you can see a lot of villages and farms. The train windows are usually hazy from the dust outside so pictures may not come out good.

As the train approaches your final station (the last 10 - 20 minutes), it's common for the passengers to get up from their seats and start getting all of their luggage together. **You should do this too.** Get your large bags from the luggage area and take down anything in the overhead shelf. Put all of your luggage on your seat and you stand (total opposite of what you can do on an airplane!). This is done mostly so that someone else doesn't get off the train with YOUR luggage.

Then when you get off, the koolies are right there to take your bags again and the price bartering starts again.

Don't be shy to scold them if they start picking up your luggage without your permission and you don't HAVE to use a koolie. If you can carry your bags on your own then just shoo them away.

And one final note...train stations and the parking lots are poorly lit at night - a pocket sized flashlight can be real handy, the mini ones with a real bright light.


Jaya is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 07:15 PM
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I am broken-hearted about FS

I always urge people to go there and not just to see the Taj

waynehazle is offline  
Aug 10th, 2008, 03:45 AM
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Would you recommend a guide for New Delhi and Agra? We will travel there for the first time April 14 & 15, 2009.
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