First time India question

Oct 6th, 2012, 09:12 PM
  #1  
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First time India question

I am trying to plan a trip to India for mid February. I should have around 8- 10 days on the ground, and want to go to the North and see Agra, Udaipur, Jaipur...etc. I'm not sure exactly which places are of the most interest to us, but probably those three and maybe another depending how long I decide to take off of work.

I plan to travel over Chinese New Year from Hong Kong, so I'd like to book my flights to and from Hong Kong ASAP. Does it make sense to just go in and out of Delhi both ways? My husband was just in Mumbai last week and doesn't want to go there in February, so that doesn't make sense. Would you recommend trying to return to HKG from a smaller city, or will I likely have to pass through New Delhi anyway?

Also, I don't use travel agents typically, but have been warned that for India, I should enlist the help of an agent to book train tickets/transfers/any internal flights. Any advice and recommended agents appreciated.

Thanks!
tansmets is offline  
Oct 6th, 2012, 10:19 PM
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I think flying in and out of Delhi will give you the most flexability, especially if you want to buy your tickets soon and then work on a specific itinerary afterward.

Regarding your itinerary then, that's a very short time by India travel standards. My first trip there was for a month to take in Delhi, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Shimla. Granted, I tend to go a bit slow and stay a bit longer but that style of travel I've found works very well in India where there's a lot to see eveywhere and going from one big name sight to the next would be doing yourself a huge disservice.

I suggest if it's just 8 days the so-called Golden Triangle, Delhi, Jaipur and Agra would be about all that would be practical. With 2 more days you might add one more.

If I were choosing for you, remembering my first trip, I'd spend a couple of days in Delhi, fly to Jodhpur, back to Delhi for the train to Shimla then return by air to Delhi to fly home. 2 in Delhi, 2 Jodhpur, 1 train, 2 Shimla, 1 or 2 more Delhi.
MmePerdu is offline  
Oct 6th, 2012, 10:25 PM
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Re a travel agent, there are loads and you'll get a lot of suggestions. I think it's a good idea on your first trip. I used Indian Moments and was completely satisfied. On such a short trip it should be easy for whatever one you choose. If you decide to return later you should be able to do it on your own and even as you go.
MmePerdu is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 01:26 AM
  #4  
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Thanks for the help. Shimla is one of the destinations I'm most interested in within India, however I figured I'd skip it in February due to the cold (I do ok with really hot weather, cold is not my thing). However, it might be gorgeous in February and less crowded.
Looking at the calendar, it looks like we'd have 10 - 11 days on the ground. I want to push my husband to take a little extra vacation to make more out of the trip.
Could we do the Golden Triangle + Shimla? I know it is a bit rushed and I am fine just having one day in Delhi. I really do need to do more research to decide which places interest me the most. I do know I want to skip Varanasi though, so that's not in the realm of possibility (personal reasons).
tansmets is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 03:25 AM
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Delhi is a very interesting place, not just for changing planes. Jodhpur is my favorite place in Rajasthan, maybe in all of India. I'd go there instead of Jaipur. But just my opinion. You can go wherever strikes your fancy of course. Personally I think the Golden Triangle is a PR person's invention for selling quick tours to the uninitiated. The toy train to Shimla is great fun and you can get warm things there if you need them. It's a walking town which for me is part of the charm.

I know what you mean about being warm vs being cold. Me too but I recommend Shimla even so. Pretty nervy since I write this from a tropical place, Vietnam.
MmePerdu is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 05:07 AM
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I agree that Delhi is well worth seeing - you can easily spend 2 full days there. Since it is so spread out and you are on limited time, it would probably be best to arrange a driver ahead of time.

IMO, while I did not go to Shimla, I think you should concentrate on the golden triangle area and include Jodpur, Jaipur, Udiapur, and Agra.
dgunbug is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 06:54 AM
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I didn't find Delhi very interesting, but I'd already been in India for some time when I got there. If you're OK with skipping it I think that's fine.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 08:24 AM
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I agree about Delhi - We were there for 36 hours and had fun, but if you only have 11 days, as we did, I would skip it - a huge city that lacked the magic we found in all the smaller places. (And I do love cities, but I like walkability and Delhi is very spread out with insane traffic.)

If you decide to cut out Delhi, you could fly directly to Udaipur or Jodpur from DEL on your first day. Agra could be your last stop and you could go directly back to the airport on the new super highway.

BTW, we would have loved to stay in India longer, but we couldn't take more than two weeks off - for us 11 days on the ground was absolutely fine and not too rushed. (Also you won't have jet lag issues.)

For us, the key to relaxation was staying four days in one place at the beginning of the trip (Devi Garh near Udaipur) and also having everything taken care of by guides, drivers and handlers.

Would definitely recommend at least 3-4 days in rural Rajasthan in addition to city stops.
crosscheck is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 02:23 PM
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Skip Shimla on this trip. It's lovely, but better to do as part of a larger itin in that area (Himachal P) when you have more time.
CaliNurse is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 06:58 PM
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Thanks for all the great advice. After thinking more about our likes and dislikes, I'm leaning towards cutting time from Delhi and maybe flying straight to Udaipur (as we need to transfer planes anyway). I should have put a bit more about us in our original post - we are city dwellers and prefer places a bit more relaxed, so Jodhpur is probably better than Jaipur. Some people love developing world cities - there is a lot to see, eat, and do, but some people (my husband) find them stressful and unpleasant. Ie you may love the medina in Marrakesh, we hated the touts, pollution, crowds and noise, and it bothered my husband's asthma. Same for Cairo. So what I am looking for, is the less crowded (some may say more boring) scenic India, hence the interest in Shimla and the Himalayas rather than Mumbai/Delhi.

That said...I think we want to limit our time in Delhi. We will likely pass through it in the future on another trip.

As for weather in Mid February, is Jodphur going to be cold? Is mid Feb, weather wise, a better time to go than in early April?
tansmets is offline  
Oct 8th, 2012, 11:12 PM
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Any thoughts on this itinerary....welcome. trying to sketch something out before I book flights.

day 1 - Fly HK to Udaipur (stopping in Mumbai i think)
day 2- Udaipur
day 3 - Udaipur
day 4 - Udaipur to Jodphur (train or driver?)
day 5 - Jodphur
day 6- Fly to Delhi from Jodphur (noon flight), drive to Agra, overnight Agra
day 7 - Agra
day 8 - drive back to Delhi, board toy train to Shimla
day 9 - Shimla
day 10 - Shimla
day 11 - train back to Delhi
day 12 - Leave Delhi, back home.

I am aware touring in Delhi is missing here. There is a lot I want to see in India, and given the main gateways are Mumbai and Delhi I am confident we'll get there on a later trip. We also don't enjoy big cities as much as smaller towns with spectacular natural surroundings and wildlife.
I also left out Jaiphur in favor of Shimla, since the scenery in Shimla looks gorgeous and something that we'd enjoy. Alternatively, I really enjoy the desert so if there are recommendations for something to substitute for Shimla, please suggest them. Maybe Ranthambore National Park or Jaisalmer?
tansmets is offline  
Oct 8th, 2012, 11:15 PM
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Keep in mind that, depending on traffic, the Delhi-Agra drive can be as long as 6 hours (that's how long it took us last time - we barely made our flight!).
BangaloreExpat is offline  
Oct 8th, 2012, 11:19 PM
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In fact, I think that Day 8 is going to be exhausting. You might think about leaving Agra the night before and staying overnight in Delhi (after the Taj & the fort, there isn't that much to do, imo).

You probably know this, but make sure your day at the Taj isn't Friday.
BangaloreExpat is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 01:12 AM
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Given the short time you've got I don't recommend both Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. I've spent time twice in both and Jodhpur is, for me, the more interesting place and travel to and back less time consuming. Shimla is something completely different from all the others so keep it if you can.
MmePerdu is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 02:45 PM
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Can you fly on one of your trips Shimla to/from Delhi, or vice versa? That train ride is LONG and doing it twice in a three day period is a waste of a day, IMHO. (I think that particular "toy train" was overrated, but that is just me ) In any case, it takes hours, and is not worth repeating on Day 8 AND 11. You make a connection in Kalka to get back to New Delhi.

I love Shimla,and in February, you should be able to get some great bargains for lodgings. Since you will be back to INdia, i would still recommend saving it for a larger trip into the area of Himachal Pradesh, but i realize you are set on it.

Shimla will be cold, and quite likely snow covered in February, which will add to its beauty. But pack accordingly!
CaliNurse is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 04:46 PM
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Thanks all for the advice. I am rethinking Shimla, and once I did my research on the train realized it was too long of a journey! The annoying thing with going to Shimla is it means packing extra heavy weight items, along with a winter coat that will not be needed in other destinations. Maybe I should leave it for a spring/fall trip to India...
After chatting more with my husband and an agent, we decided a desert safari is out, so no Jaisalmer. We did an amazing desert trip in Namibia, and there certainly is enough else to see in India! If we skipped Shimla, should we go to Jaipur instead?

Also what is a reasonable price for a driver for the day? I got a tour quote from Indian Moments for 12 days that seemed rather high. ($6700 for two people, without flights, and the hotels were not that expensive). I figured things should be relatively cheap in India - less than $70 US a day for a driver, but I really have no idea.
tansmets is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 06:26 PM
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We took a car with driver, who picked us up from Jaipur and drove us to Udaipur, with a stop in Chittorgarh for a couple of hours. The price came to around Rs 5500 (they charge for both ways). This was arranged by the owners of Jaiwana Haveli, where we stayed. It was an awesome traditional mansion, called haveli, with a great view of the Lake Palace hotel. The owners were great, and arrnanged a car for us to tour Udaipur. They deserve their top rank in tripadvisor.
Sandeep_Menon is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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All Indian travel agents, including Indian Moments, will initially offer you a trip with extras that you didn't ask for, presumably to get the price up. Stick to your guns, as I did and ended up with quite a reasonablely priced tour. It's a negotiation so know that the first price is not what you should pay, especially if ask them to remove unnecessary items.
MmePerdu is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 08:31 PM
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Bangalore expat, when did you do the Delhi to Agra road? There is a brand new highway that opened a few months ago, called the Yamuna Expressway . It cuts the trip by two hours (i got there in four hrs on the old highway; friends say it takes two on the new one!
CaliNurse is offline  
Oct 9th, 2012, 08:35 PM
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Tansmet, dont assume hotels will cost less $. Some do, some are outgrageousy expnsive! Depends on what you want. That said, you can get a perfectly fine place for less than $100/night for the two of yo.

When drivng, be sure to request a toyota Innova,not a regualr sedan. IT adds to safety AND the ability to see from the car..which other than modern highways, will be l ike watching a movie! So much vibrancy and life and color!

$6700 sounds high--check some other agencies. Many are recommended on this forum.
CaliNurse is offline  

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