Feedback on Indian Itinerary

Jul 17th, 2008, 07:37 AM
  #1  
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Feedback on Indian Itinerary

Hello Cicerone and Everyone!

My friend and I are traveling to India in late November/early December and would appreciate your input into our two week itinerary:

Wed - ORD to DEL nonstop on American
Thu - Arrive DEL (staying at Oberoi Delhi)
Fri - Delhi -sightseeing and shopping
Sat - Shop in the morning and then afternoon flight to Agra on Kingfisher (stay at Sheraton Mughal)
Sun - Sunrise at the Taj Mahal. Afternoon return flight to Delhi (stay again at Oberoi Delhi)
Mon - Mid-afternoon flight to Udaipur on Jet (stay at Oberoi Udaivilas)
Tue - Udaipur - sightsee and visit markets
Wed - Evening flight to Jaipur on Kingfisher (stay at Rambagh Palace)
Thu - Jaipur - sightsee
Fri - Morning flight to Goa on Kingfisher (stay at Taj Fort Aguada)
Sat - Goa - visit town and beaches
Sun - Afternoon flight to Mumbai on Kingfisher (stay at Four Seasons Mumbai)
Mon - Mumbai - sightsee and shop
Tue - Sightsee in morning, and afternoon flight to London on British Airways
Wed - LHR - USA

We realize that we are moving around quite a bit but felt that all of these cities were an important introduction on a first trip to India. We are confident that we have chosen the proper hotels (any word on the new Four Seasons Mumbai?) and airlines (what do you think of Kingfisher?). All of our domestic flights are booked except for the Delhi-Agra-Delhi flights. We have heard horror stories about the Delhi airport and wonder if it might be better to hire a car to take us to Agra as opposed to driving to/from the Delhi airport four times. Any thoughts? The Kingfisher flight is certainly quicker (and probably safer) but is the best option? We would greatly appreciate your opinion! Thanks Cicerone and everyone!
IG_AG is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 07:56 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 24,364
Why don't you take the train to Agra? And either the train or a car and driver (not expensive in India) back? You can't see much of India from an airplane. See seat61.com for info on trains in India. I would strongly suggest staying longer in fewer places, but that's clearly not the kind of trip you're planning.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 08:46 AM
  #3  
 
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Posts: 3,172
Its too much for such a far trip. I do this for work 1 day in a city and travel the next and it kills me. I would slow down a bit and get caught up on Jet lag before really throwing yourself in.
SiobhanP is offline  
Jul 17th, 2008, 10:23 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,121
Well, everybody will tell you you're doing too much way way waaaay too fast - but, this is the kind of trip you want to do - and sometimes a 'tasting menu' can work just fine.

See 'Dogster's Great Stumble Forward India' for a description of Kingfisher. They're great. Relax. Fly with them - and while you're at it join their Kingfisher Club. Maybe you'll be back, maybe not, but there's just an extra level of safety and concern on their part if you do. AND fly business class. That way if there's a delay blah blah they'll look after you. Plus they have nice lounges. If you can afford it - do it.

Better get those hotel booking in right now. You're travelling mega peak season. Oberoi Delhi is 40 mins from the airport [domestic terminal]unless you get a lunatic taxi driver. Which happens A LOT. Then it might take 2 hours as you drive around and around. And around. Sobbing. After a twenty four hour trip. No fun. [happened to me.]

Even tho' your trip is totally crazy [I'm smiling as I say this, not snarling] you've obviously put some research and effort into it. So good on you. By the look of it you'll end up spending more time researching your trip than actually being there... heh - but that's your choice.

As you'll see if you persevere with my trip report [and really, it's long you don't have to] you'll note that I'm a slow-moving kinda traveller, but, on the fabbo new luxury train in Karnataka I found myself in a complete whirlwind seven days - different place every day - and yup, it was a blur - but a FABULOUS blur - and that's what you'll get on your trip.

Ain't nothing wrong with that if that's all the time [and $$] available.

So your real issue is transportation. Don't faff around too much in here. Make some bookings FAST. You're not only travelling in the busiest, highest of high seasons, the prices are just as high.

If you had to lose anything - dump Goa. In the short time you have, all you'll see is fat package tourists and Indians doing a pooh on the beach - or worse. See my report. Goa needs longer to find the magic - IF indeed, there is any there at all.

But, you're correct, it's all part of the Indian experience. [But all you'll see are the crappy bits in a day ish I'm sorry to say]

Do a time and motion study on your travel. Remember - a plane flight is
A/ Pack
B/ Check out of hotel
C/ Transport to the airport.
D/ Check in at least one hour before - security - hang around - you know the drill
D#1/ lol I nearly forgot the most important thing - the FLIGHT itself
E/ Arrive, get to airport, wait, get bags
F/ Get out of airport, find driver/cab/whatever
G/ Drive to new hotel
H/ Find it. [you'll understand this later]
I/ Check in. Get to room.
J/ Hey, maybe even a shower and a cuppa coffee before you hurtle BACK OUT again to sightsee.

Then, 36 hours later - do it all again.

[I could almost do this for you - but, Dogster's time on this earth is short...]

So, do your study. How many minutes to do each of the above? People in here will help you with travel times from airport to hotel etc. Then do the trip you planned - but be totally aware of what you're doing.

Then pray that Cicerone answers your post.

Then go and have an amazing time.

Oh, and before I forget, just to confuse you more - Varanasi is a great alternate option and doesn't involve quite as much shlep. Quintessentially India. Goa ain't.





dogster is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 01:12 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,126
Agree with Thursday about taking the train to Agra.

Apart from anything else, a journey by rail, and time spent in the stations, really is a quintessentially Indian experience.
Not to be missed IMHO!

Delhi-Agra is the pick of the bunch given your itinerary - and it's short - and there are options from super luxe and very speedy to more sedate and ordinary.

Have a fantastic time.
afterall is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 09:10 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 69
I would also recommend dropping Bombay & Goa and adding Varanasi and Jodhpur. Save Bombay & Goa when you visit the south of India.
npjai is offline  
Jul 20th, 2008, 03:32 PM
  #7  
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Many thanks to all of you who have posted a reply (especially you, Dogster!!!) I should probably provide a little extra background about this trip. My dear friend and travel companion of over 15 years is of Indian origin, has family residing in India and has offered me this fantastic opportunity to join him for my very first Indian experience. He has visited India many times but has never had the opportunity to visit Udaipur or Goa. Since all of India will be 'new' to me, I thought it best that he enjoy something 'new' as well (hence our inclusion of both destinations). He also spent some of his childhood in Mumbai and would like to show me the highlights of the city. I'm not sure if I'll ever have the opportunity to return to India (it is after all half way around the world from here!) so I'm opting for the 'testing menu' as Dogster suggests. Different members of my friend's family plan to welcome us at various stops along the way so I'm confident I will get a sense of some real Indian "magic".

Dogster, I can't thank you enough for referring me to your "Great Stumble Forward India" for a full description of your Kingfisher experience. Not only was it very enjoyable, LOL reading, it has really put my mind at ease. And yes, all of our hotels and flights (and even some restaurants!) are already booked. All we need are our visas and vacinations and we're ready to go. We are flying Business Class as you suggest, but two cabin aircraft are only offered on the Dehli-Udaipur and Goa-Mumbai flights. The rest are single cabins (ATR's most probably). We have also joined the King Club as you suggested (wish we had done so earlier as we've missed out on the 500 mile bonus per on-line booking). Arranging these domestic flights have been challenging to say the least (almost as much as some intra Zambian flights I've taken!). We booked all of our Kingfisher flights in March, but for some odd reason, Kingfisher dropped certain routings, cancelled some our flights, immediately refunded our money and then unbeknownst to us, reoffered the same routing this summer without notifying us. For instance, just last week, we serendipitously noticed that Kingfisher reinstated their wonderful Udaipur 7:00PM flight to Jaipur. We quickly cancelled our hellish Jet flight at 7:00AM (rush out of the Udaivilas at 5:00AM at $1,000USD/night? I don't think so!!!). We wonder if we booked our tickets TOO early...and that Kingfisher and their new Air Deccan are in the midst of strategically aligning their new combined routes?

As for ground transportation, we are planning a combination of hotel escorted private cars and private drivers provided by my friend's family. I'm sure there will be some elephants scattered here and there as well

And finally, I must 'tip my hat' to Cicerone. Cicerone, if you're reading this....WE ARE IN AWE OF YOU!!! Even my Indian friend has cut/pasted Cicerone's invaluable advice into an email library for reference during our journey. We have read the discussion threads in this forum for the past year which have provided the inspiration for the itinerary you see above.

And Dogster, my friend and I are still "praying" as you put it, that Cicerone will honor us with an answer to our post. Again, many thanks to all of you who've replied.
IG_AG is offline  
Jul 21st, 2008, 01:37 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,689
Thank you for your kind words. I wish I could instill that kind of awe in my clients so that they would take my legal advice as seriously as you all seem to take my travel adviceÖ

My random thoughts are as follows:

1. I also donít see the point in flying to Agra. The flight itself takes an hour. And by the time you spend an hour getting to Delhi airport, get to the airport and hour or so before your flight), thatís 3 hours, and you have not even factored in the very possible flight delays with an afternoon flight (for which Kingfisher will be no advantage). You also have to then deal with baggage claim and the drive in from the airport to the hotel in Agra. IMO flying is going to take the same or longer than taking the train or driving down. Note that the super fast-trains to Agra which take 2 hours are only in the morning, but there are several afternoon trains which only take 2.5 or 3 hours, and those may work as well. The drive will take about 4, but perhaps a bit longer if you have to depart from the Oberoi. For the trains, if you can get a train departing from Nizamuddin Station rather then Delhi Station, you are better off, as Nizamuddin is just a few minutesí drive from the Oberoi.

2. Your current itin looks more like a tour of Indian domestic airports than a tour of India (and believe me, the airports are not worth visiting. Donít expect good lounges from Kingfisher, in most of these airports the ďloungeĒ is the local restaurant.) Why donít you reverse the itin and DRIVE from Agra to Jaipur (stopping at Fatepur Sikri on the way)? I donít see the point in returning to Delhi just to leave it to go to Udaipur. Then fly from Jaipur to Udaipur. Kingfisher has an early morning flight from Jaipur to Udaipur. Jet has a flight from Udaipur to Mumbai and then you can connect to Goa. (Or you might first see Mumbai, and save Goa at the end of the trip as a last bit of relaxation before leaving India.) If you are going to overnight at a Delhi hotel, then make it the Trident Gurgaon (also operated by Oberoi) which is wonderful, and much, much closer to the domestic airport than the Oberoi Delhi.

3. I also personally would cut out Goa and spend the time in the deserts areas of Rajasthan. I donít see the point in flying all the way to Goa for less than 48 hours given the flight times. Arriving Friday afternoon (assuming your flight is on time) and leaving Sunday afternoon will hardly give you any time to see anything and also relax on the beach. You may find it more relaxing to stay in Udaipur or Jaipur, or take an overnight camel trek into the desert areas around Udaipur or Jaipur. You really only have 1 full day in Jaipur, which is not going to give you enough time to see it all. How you will see the City Palace, the Palace of the Winds and also get out to the Amber Fort will be tough, IMO, and may mean cutting out shopping, and Jaipur offers some of the best anywhere. I would do 2 nights and then try to arrange an overnight desert trek as well either there or in Udaipur (I can imagine that the Oberoi people would put on a very nice oneÖ). Yes, there are nice beaches in Goa, but the desert is beautiful too. In November and December, virtually ALL of India is in the best weather and worth going to see, so it is hard to make choices. (Shimla would be quite lovely then, or Rikisesh would be too, really it is hard to choose in those months. I note in passing that you donít have Varanasi on your itin, which IMO is really interesting culturally, historically, etc and quite ďdoableĒ in 2 nights. If your friend is Hindu, the opportunity to see Varanasi with a Hindu would be something that I would think would make the experience extra special. Kind of like seeing Jerusalem with a devout Catholic, they can explain all the rituals and stories. You can fly back and forth from Delhi -- and with luck and no delays, from Varanasi to Agra via Delhi on Kingfisher.)

4. If you are gulping at the Udaivila prices, they also operate the Trident next door, which I have heard good things about. I have not stayed. Just a thought. Some of the Tridents are quite average and I would not recommend them (like in Agra), but their Gurgaon/Delhi property is outstanding, and I believe that the Udaipur hotel is quite nice too. I do not think it is on the same luxury level, but then the price is not the same either. But it is the same location as the Udaivila. See http://www.tridenthotels.com/udaipur/index.asp, and also read tripadvisor. com for reviews. If you do the Trident in Udaipur, then that may justify staying at the Amarvilas in Agra, where their gorgeous views and the ability to walk to the Taj (which you cannot do from the Sheraton or the Taj View) are a real plus. Or if budget allows, stay in Oberois in both places.

5. I would not put Mumbai on a list for a first-time visitor, but as your friend has some relatives there, I can see why you want to go there. I would use them shamelessly for good home cooking (if I am there, can I come over for dinner??!). The Four Seasons Mumbai is quite nice, but it is in Worli, and is not near the sort of main tourist area of Mumbai which is along the waterfront by the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Gateway of India (to the extent Mumbai has a tourist centre, it really does not have a historic core like some other Indian cities, i.e., Delhi). It may also not be near your friendís relatives, and no kidding, it may take hours to get to the relatives or the tourist areas with Mumbai traffic. Your friend may want to confirm where the relatives are, and what areas he wants to take you to see and whether Worli makes sense for this given your very limited time in Mumbai. The Taj Mahal hotel may be a better choice as a tourist, esp for shopping as you can walk to some areas or a quick cab ride. The Intercon also has a nice location. I like the Oberoi. If you want or need to be up in Juhu, the JW Marriott is excellent (and very close to the airport.)

6. Your hotel choices generally look good to me, subject to my comments above. In Agra, a Taj view room at the Taj View hotel may be another option you want to consider, it should not cost you much more or be the same as the Mughal Sheraton, see the Taj hotel website. If you end up at more than one Taj or Oberoi, I would see if you can get a deal from them, not sure they offer it but it is worth asking. Love the Rambagh, please read the memoirs of the last Maharani before or during your trip to really appreciate the place (reading it ON the verandah of the hotel in the winter sunshine is a great experience, and another reason to stay longer in Jaipur!)

7. I love Kingfisher, but Jet is also a perfectly fine alternative if they are going to a city which Kingfisher does not fly to or if they offer a better flight time. Air Deccan is too. The only airline to really avoid is Air India. Do not let all of Dogster's hyperbole overrule your good sense. Jet was the first private airline and is still quite good. Kingfisher has even slipped in some ways from its initial, even loftier, days before Dogster flew themÖ.


Cicerone is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2008, 09:27 AM
  #9  
 
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You should definitely drop Bombay & Goa and add Jodhpur & Jaisalmer
npjai is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2008, 05:05 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
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I'm going to highjack this thread for a moment to tell Cicerone, I love your commentaries. I inquired a week or so back about going to India in August (remember?). After a few really hot and humid days here, we turned into wimps and decided we're no match for India in the summer.

I'm now mapping out my DECEMBER itinerary and am grabbing comments from here for planning. Thanks everyone.
Jaya is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 03:02 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 674
You may consider staying at Varanasi only if you wish to see India - warts & all - & experience the hindu cultural heritage from close quarters. And if you wish to do that staying on the banks would be a good idea. However, there are not many hotels right on the banks that would match any of those already on your list. These are only small guest houses on the Ghats.
Goa has been identified with, usually, beaches. However, Goa is much more than that. The grand cathedrals of Old Goa, including the rarely visited St. Augustine Tower, the museum of Christian Art at Rachol, Old homes in all goan villages & especially at Loutolim. Big Foot at Loutolim, where Goanese village life is recreated in an exhibition-style setting. The Latin Quarter in Panjim or the Fontainhas, is Goan heritage at its best.
The Leela Palace or the Taj are some of those properties, which make up for a truly memorable experience, with great restaurants & service. Taj Exotica which lies near the Colva beach with it's sea-facing villas, overlooking the Arabian sea, is a gem of a place to spend a couple of nights in.
Happy Travels!
vp_singh is online now  

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