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First time to India - tour group required?

First time to India - tour group required?

Dec 12th, 2005, 11:35 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 252
First time to India - tour group required?

I will be going to Bangalore India for two weeks in January on business. A friend will meet up with me at the end of my stay for sightseeing. We're interested in the Golden Triangle and Varanasi. Or maybe a stay in the Ranthambhore at Sher Bagh.

I've traveled in Europe without tours but am a little nervous about traveling around India without a guided tour. Is this easy to do for first-timers? If not, any reputible tour companies that have flexible start dates?

Has anyone been to the Sher Bagh that can give me some input?

Thank you so much for your help.
Parker is offline  
Dec 12th, 2005, 11:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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There have been a number of reputable India-based tour companies mentioned on this forum, including the one we used, Compass Tours - they can arrange a flexible, private tour if you'd like. We really enjoyed Sher Bagh when we were in India last February. Your biggest challenge right now will be getting reservations on such short notice. You may be better off directly contacting the places you want to stay for availability and arranging transportation and guides through them.
Craig is offline  
Dec 12th, 2005, 04:02 PM
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I LOVE Sher Bagh. Be aware tho that it is a tented safari type experience and not a lap of luxury experience like say Vanya Vilas. The Golden Triangle plkus ranthambore is very doable - we did the same thing last year over 8 days, 1 night Ranthambore, 2 nights Jaipur, 1 night Agra, 3 nights Delhi. We used a Delhi based agency, President Travels, [email protected]. I reco makign your plans thru an agency esp for a short trip as u can get more done when everything is booked ahead. Also, end Jan is peak time for hotels so figure out budgets and start working with the TA now.
hobbes is offline  
Dec 13th, 2005, 08:11 AM
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Thanks for your input. As soon as my busines trip is booked, I'll look into some flexible tour companies that can help. We are two women in our 40s and would like to define our itenarary then have someone to help us with reservations and booking cars/trains.

On another note, is train travel safe in that area for two women traveling alone? I know to be cautious but I can't tell from reading the input if it's a really stupid idea for us. As I said, I've traveled all over Europe by train. Is it drastically different?
Parker is offline  
Dec 13th, 2005, 08:36 AM
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Train travel in India is relatively safe. I would suggest purchasing tickets in a first class a/c car which will be quite comfortable even though the decor is rather 1950's. If you use a tour company, have them purchase the tickets for you. We took the train from Sawai Modhpur (the town near Sher Bagh) to Delhi. At Sawai Modhpur the hotel representative that drove us to the station stayed until the train arrived and helped us find our cabin. When we arrived at Delhi, the Compass Tours representative literally hopped on board the train when it arrived to help us with our belongings - preventing us from having to deal with the many porters at the train station that very aggressively push their services for tips.
Craig is offline  
Dec 13th, 2005, 10:04 PM
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Craig - we are trying to locate your wonderful trip report and can't seem to find the thread (may be blind...). Can you post the link? Thanks!
WinterTravel is offline  
Dec 14th, 2005, 05:41 AM
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Craig - thanks a million! We've now enjoyed reading it again.
WinterTravel is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2005, 04:57 AM
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You can have the information from the site www.hotelineweb.com
Tomy is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2005, 10:30 AM
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Parker- I should have my most recent trip report posted tomorrow. We took a couple of train rides, and found it very safe, fairly easy and quite comfortable. Hardest part is getting the tickets (if you don't use a TA) and finding the proper car at the station.

As said abouve , in India you can easily plan a private tour. You'll have a car and driver for the trip, and guides in each city or area that you need one. It is a very affordable place to do this.

Another alternative is to just book all your hotels and rail or air transportation and ask the hotels to arrange pick ups at the train or airports.

To me, the hardest part of India travel is arriving in new places, not knowing exactly where your hotel is and getting a taxi to take you there.

If you travel at night and take 1st class AC sleeper, be aware that you may share your cabin with 2 men. After this happened to us, we heard from several Indian women that they take 2nd class sleepers because they have curtains instead of doors and they feel if you have a problem you can be heard.
lcuy is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Hello Parker, I have just returned from India. I don't think you need a guided tour at all. I booked my hotels on-line and got my trains booked through the hotels. I did not go to Delhi. We went by train from Jaisalmer to Jaipur, so I shall start with Jaipur...

Jaipur - Stayed two nights at Jas Villas - great service and beautiful rooms. Mahendra, the Manager, arranged a car/driver to take us to Amber Fort, car to Ranthambore, and bought us our train tickets from Agra to Varanasi (overnight train). They will provide complimentary pick-ups from the train station.

Car to Ranthambore (approx 3 1/2 hours)

Ranthambore - Stayed one night at the Ranthambore Regency. Mr. Ravindra Jain, the Manager, and his staff were most helpful and made our stay and safari most enjoyable. We saw a tiger doing a hunt! FYI, there are two safaris either by jeep (max 5 pax) or canter (max 20 pax) per day. We arrived Ranthambore late morning by car from Jaipur (approx 3 hours), had lunch, then an afternoon safari. Next day, we had a morning safari, breakfast, complimentary late check-out before departing by train to Agra. Train ticket was bought by Ravindra Jain on our behalf and his driver dropped us at the train station and waited until we got safely on the train. FYI, Mr. Jain could have booked the train from Agra to Varanasi.

Agra - stayed two nights at Hotel Atithi. It was an ok, nothing elaborate hotel and service was friendly. There was another hotel next to Hotel Atithi that looked nicer (from the front) that you might wish to consider - Hotel Amar. However, a better and more expensive alternative would be to stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas, which is near the TM too. Booked in advance with Rakesh Sharma, the Hotel Manager, for pickup, dropoff, and a car/driver for a day to take us to TM, Fatephur Sikri and Agra Fort - cost us 1550 rupees. Please note - ticket to TM is 750 rupees and with this ticket, you can get discounts to Fatephur Sikri, Agra Fort, Baby Taj, and another place or two if visited all within the same day.

Overnight train to Varanasi

Varanasi - 4 nights at Schindhia Guest House on the Schindia Ghat - basic, clean lodging with fantastic views of the Ganges. It is near the burning (cremation) ghat. Kush is the Manager and he is very friendly and helpful with boat trips, etc.. If you ask for a pickup at the train station(complimentary), he will personally meet you at the train station to take you to his guesthouse. Please note you will have to walk part of the way to the guesthouse as motor-rickshaws are not allowed in that part of the old city. Porters will carry your bags. If you plan to stay, please ask for a room with balcony.

Hope the above helps. Sorry for the long post.
periwinkle is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2005, 06:11 PM
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We too are about to be first time travelers to India (in March) and have decided not to use an agent. We are now in the process of deciding on an exact itinerary for our 18 day visit.

We have traveled some in SE Asia and E Asia as well as a lot in Europe and feel confident that we can pre-arrange our hotels from home and maybe some of our train journeys.

Our tentative itinerary is: Delhi for the first five days, Agra for two days, Bundi for about four days, an overnight train to Simla for a few days and then fly back to Delhi from Chandigarh to connect to our flight to Amsterdam. We intend to use rail transport whenever practical but will also use local guides and drivers when necessary.

On this trip we intend to spend several days per stop to avoid having to rush, and to be able to soak up the culture of the places that we visit and to be relaxed as much as possible. We have in the past done the go everywhere try to see everything approach and now wish to take a slower pace.

Iím sure that we will experience some confusion from time to time, but with a lot of study and pre-planning I am confident in our experience and feel that we call pull it all off. After all, for me the planning is almost half of the fun.

tatersalad is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2005, 06:28 PM
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Just to add a note about train travel, please be careful about which class of ticket you request. My understanding is that there are actually three different tiers of travel with AC being the highest. First class actually falls into the second tier.


The above web site with its links will explain all about the tier and class on India trains.
tatersalad is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2005, 04:43 AM
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You don't need a tour - unless you want to whizz around and see as much as possible - cos, let's face it, tours are good for that - all organised for you but you lose your freedom to chose.

I've travelled extensively in India - alone - it's perfectly safe and the trains are a social microcosm as well as being a way of getting from A to B.

But you need to do the research, be familiar with the geography, and relish an adventure.

Have fun.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Dec 25th, 2005, 09:17 PM
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I went with a local company for getting around to the sites. But if I were mostly staying on one city, I would go on my own.

The Ranthambhore Regency was great and I TRULY evy anyone who got to see tigers hunting!


waynehazle is offline  
Dec 26th, 2005, 03:14 PM
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Thank you all for your advise. Things are heating up now as my airline tickets for the business part of my trip have been purchased. In to Bangalore on Jan 20 for two weeks in that city.

My son (17) and my friend will meet me in Delhi on Feb 3. We'll fly back home on Feb 13. A short trip so I want to spend as little time as possible on travel. But train travel is a fun and easy way to mix into the culture.

I think I'll try to do this myself and, as everyone suggested, get the hotels to provide pick-up or arrange guides as needed. My thoughts are now to travel counter-clockwise from Delhi to Jaipur, to Agra, then to Varanasi and fly back to Delhi for our flight back. The first two destinations are easily traveled by train. The idea of an overnight train from Agra to Varanasi sounds doable. Or we may fly. Have emailed some hotels to see if rooms are available. I'm looking for rooms less than $100/night so no 5-star hotels for us.

I attempted to look up train travel online but got confused. Since I'll be staying in a very nice hotel in Bangalore (on my company's Rupees), should I see if they can help me book train tickets once I'm there?

Thanks again for your help with this. It is fun doing the planning yourself!
Parker is offline  
Dec 27th, 2005, 08:52 AM
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All the hotels I mentioned were less than USD100. The stay at Ranthambore Regency includes 3 meals plus morning and afternoon refreshment before and after the safari. Suggest that you email your hotel at Bangalore with the train requests. It gives the hotel ample time to get your tickets.
periwinkle is offline  
Dec 27th, 2005, 10:18 AM
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Thanks for the info! I've gotten reservations at the Palace on Ganges and will ask for rooms away from the generator if possible. I've also gotten two tents at Sher Baugh. Looking at the Mansigh Palace in Agra. Will continue the process.

In the meantime, I'm reading "Shantaram" and am really getting excited. Has anyone read it? The scene where the Indian guide saved seats on the train is amazing. Just the whole mixture of every level of man and animal together is amazing.

thanks again for your help!
Parker is offline  
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