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First time to India - Two simple questions

First time to India - Two simple questions

Nov 13th, 2006, 03:00 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2006
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First time to India - Two simple questions

I've never been to India and I'm determined to finally go next year. I bought a bookguide and, to be honest, I am overwhelmed by everything that there is to see.

I like travelling on my own, but even my bookguide recommends to use a tour operator to visit India. My problem with tours is that you're not given enough time to enjoy anything, but I'm a little concerned about India not being a safe place to travel by myself or simply being a difficult place to visit by myself.

I know I want to visit Delhi and the Taj Mahal along with Goa. I also want to visit the Rajasthan, but I don't know whether to visit Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur all together or just pick one of those three cities. I also would've liked to visit Varanasi, Kolkata and Kochi, but they are too far a away.

1. Should I book a tour or travel by myself?
2. Am I expecting to see too much in one trip?

Thank you so much for sharing your opinions!
Castellanese is offline  
Nov 13th, 2006, 04:27 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
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Dear fodorite
I wish to suggest you that there is no harm in travelling alone. It is good for your basic purpose of travelling that seeing a enjoying a place thoroughly. In my view except Kashmir and UP province whole india is a safer place. You can walk and roam in any city alone. And among all the states Rajasthan is the most safest place.
But there are few suggestions also for you for your financial health.
They are as follows
1] When you wish to see any city and its main historic and other venues than dont hire any tourist guide. They are all rubbish , just will like to take you in shops by tricks and there you will end in spending endless money.
I dont say that dont shop. It is a great place perticular in Rajasthan ,very cheap and great items but in all the shops of jaipur, jodhpur, udaipur, jaiselmer, Agra and Delhi all shops pays 40 to 45% commission for the total amount of purchase what a tourist do.
It is a horrible.
In all the places you will go people will try to over charge you. So bargain hard.
In shops people will make false cliams that they make things for big brands like Hermes , Armani, DKNY, Dolce and gabbana. But in reality they all make us fool. They just over charge by making false claim. but in few shops we can get good value if we are not wish any guide or driver. if they are with us than they have to pay them hefty commission which they call [CHABBI] in local slang.
In jaipur, Agra, jodhpur, udaipur and jaiselmer you will find many touts also in main tourist areas , there they will try to lure you by their talkings and will offer their help in seeing the city and finally they will recommend some shops there they get their shares.
I met British Doctor who lost huge amount in jodhpur due to some local touts.
2] stay in good hotels.
In city guest houses also they will try to take unwanted benefits by recomending shops and hotels to eat.
3] Agra is a little dangerous , it is not safer to travel alone in nights , rest in all cities you can travel and walk by you own.
4] Dont take any anonymous persons help.
5] Beware of SPICE SHOPS in Jodhpur city's main CLOCK TOWER market. They are big cheats. They just sels few rupees items in thousands and than take you in textiles and jewellary shops by telling that they are government and cooperative shops.
6] Remember one thing in india many people who are attached with tourism they will only make false claims , like claiming that few shops are cooperatives and their shares of benefits goest to village woman they are all fake.
7] To enjoy better and using you time optimumly in india better travel in few adjoining states. like Delhi, Rajasthan and than go to goa and other nearing south states. bettter to avoid Calcutta , you will loss your time in just travelling.
If you need any specific suggsstions than write me at [email protected]
markus0291 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2006, 05:22 AM
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India is safe to travel by yourself if you take basic precautions, but it can be pretty overwhelming for the the first time visitor.

You can easily set up a private tour in advance with trains, internal flights, car and driver, daily tour guides, hotels, etc by using a tour guide in India. This way, you set the itinerary but all the logistics are done by the time you arrive.

Another option is to just pre-arrange the main items that are important- hotels on arrival night, major flights or trains, some airport station pickups. This can be done online by yourself, or again, using a Delhi agent who is willing to do individual arrangements.

Or you can just arrange things as you go. It is not impossible, but your travel time will be taken with making those arrangements each day. I know I was not comfortable seeing India that method my first time.

The costs for using Delhi agents are very reasonable. In addition, they can often get rooms and drivers at a better price than you could, so the cost of the agent may cost the same or less than you arranging things on your own.

But first:

How much time (and money?)do you have for this trip?

What time of year will you be there?

Those will be your limiting factors on how much to see. India is not an easy place to travel, and you have to allow extra time for distances, delays and the weather.

If you have three weeks, you could do a trip that includes Delhi, Jaipur, Agra,and Varanasi, and gives you time to enjoy them. You could use the train or car between the first three and then long train (from Agra) or flight from Delhi to Varansi.

If you want to visit Goa, you could visit the same triangle Delhi/Agra/ Jaipur, then head to Goa in the same three week time frame. Figure that you need a full day to travel between many of these cities, and you'll see why you might want to limit the number of destinations.

There are quite a few travel reports here that detail independent, but pre-arranged trips, and also recommendations for reliable agents. (There are also several questionable agents who pretend to be posters here, but thats another story).

Let us know more details and we'll create links for you.
lcuy is offline  
Nov 13th, 2006, 08:50 PM
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a. First & foremost, I congratulate you for choosing to travel to India next year. It is a wonderful country & some fodorites are known to have said that it changes your personality & outlook a great deal. It is a perfectly safe country to visit & has a lot to offer in the way of sight seeing, very nice hotels, good food & shopping.
b. An individual, independent traveler has enough time to enjoy him or herself, for though the tour operator makes & executes an itinerary to suit your interests, you still remain in complete control of the same. For this reason you may very well book a tour through a competent tour operator.
c. India is a vast country & needs to be focused on region by region. For example, The Golden Triangle of Delhi – Agra – Jaipur, along with Jodhpur, Ranakpur where you have those breathtaking Jain temples, Udaipur can be visited first. You may also fly to Goa as a part of this tour, and spend a few rejuvenating days on the beach there.
d. If you plan a visit sector by sector, you will be able to enjoy & assimilate the entire socio-cultural gamut of stimuli, bombarding your senses.
e. The rest of the far a field destinations on your mind can be dealt with on a next visit. Unfortunately, the intensive sight-seeing in India, spread over a time frame of a thousand years & more, tend to wear you out. The climate, driving on Indian roads, though not once without excitement & the motor horns, , in no way helps diminish the exhaustion you feel mentally.
f. Not many of our valued American customers have had more than 15 or 16 days, to spend on a holiday. So time at your disposal may also be an important factor.
Very best for your plans!
vp_singh is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 12:53 AM
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Thanks Markus, Icuy and Singh for your valuable advice.

If you had to choose one city from Rajasthan, which one would it be? My bookguide states that Udaipur is the most beautiful city in that region, but what about Jaipur and Jodhpur?

Are the beaches the main attraction in Goa or the region itself offers an interesting culture experience? I mean, I like beaches but since Goa is kind of away from Rajasthan, I wouldn't like to trouble myself just for beaches.

Suppose I leave out Goa, how long should I spent in Varanasi? From what I've read, to be present at the morning rituals along the river Ganges is the main reason for going there, isn't it?

Thanks again!
Castellanese is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 05:36 AM
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Most people go to Goa for the beaches, and even if you're not a becach person they are worth a little down time, but there is definitely more to do. I spent more time in Panaji (Panjim), the capital, than on the beach, as a base for visiting Old Goa (I was there for the St. Francis Xavier festival in December, just fantastic), temples and a spice plantation. I also visited the Dudhsagar Falls, which was quite a trek inland. I can recommend this place: http://www.panjiminn.com/

While I swear by Lonely Planet, Footprint is also very good for India. If I had to choose between Goa and Varanasi I'd go to Varanasi. While the morning boat trip and the burning ghat are standard sightseeing activities, just wandering old town is great - the atmosphere has to be experienced, not described. You can also visit Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon, as a day trip. Don't worry about traveling in India on your own! Just learn to say no, and be prepared to bargain.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 07:18 AM
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i'd skip Goa for the first trip. Of the three J cities, Jaipur makes the most sende if you're visitng Agra and Delhi. It has the fabulous Amber fort, city palace, old observatory, and old city shopping.

My daughter spent several weeks in Varansi, but I found two half days and one full day plenty. Boat trips on the Ganges in the evening and dawn, wandering the old market, walking along the ghats, visiting some temples, Sarnath are all things to do. It is quite a small city to explore.

Again though, your available time is the first thing you neeed to determine, and then choose the itinerary that works within the time frame.
lcuy is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 07:23 AM
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Hi Castellanese: I am a woman in my fifties and will be traveling alone to India for the first time in January or February 2007. I have about a month to spend and want to see all I can of Northern India. I have not decided whether to take a tour (just for part of the trip) or go completely independent. I have done a lot of research and can give you a better idea if you tell me how long you plan to stay. Also, if you are traveling at the begining of the year (nice weather) maybe we can meet somewhere and accompany each other for part of the trip. Keep me posted!
Caprimax is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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Thanks again guys for your opinions!

I have from two to three weeks. It all depends on how much the trip will be. I can't say I'm a backpacker, but I'm definitely not the kind of traveller who don't travel unless it's fancy.

I say I have from two to three weeks in terms of money because the last two times I was in Europe I couldn't spend more than that. I usually stay in convents when I go to Europe, so I guess I can't spend more than 80 Euros per day for a double room, and no more than 40 Euros per meal daily.

Thanks Thursdaysd for telling me about Goa. For some reason, I feel that I must go there. However, I have to set my priorities in terms of what I want to visit, so I'll also take into account Icuy's advice about skipping Goa for this first trip.

Thanks Icuy for telling me about your daughter. I definitely want to go to Varanasi.

Caprimax for letting me know that you'll travelling to India for the first time and on your own. That's the kind of encouragement I need. I'm thinking about going in September since I still need a lot of reading and research to do about it.
Castellanese is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 09:21 AM
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Castellanese - I also traveled alone in India the first (and, alas, so far only) time. I'm female and was early fifties at the time. You'll do fine! Also, Asia can be much cheaper than Europe. If you're willing to stay in budget accomodation (private room with bath & AC), 80 euros should be more than enough. Take a look at specialplacestostay.com for some suggestions. And 40 euros is way more than you need to spend on food, although I'm sure you could if you wanted to. Not sure which guidebook you're looking at, but Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Footprint will all give you an idea of prices at the budget end.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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Hi, Castellanese,
just because you might go through a tour operator does not mean that you have to join a group or take a set tour. As you have found out, India is just like a big, juicy fruit cake, and you must limit yourself to a slice at a time. It is killing, trying to tick off all the places people and guide books talk about. I create itineraries that are agreed for content and pace prior to getting it priced in Delhi. We can then adjust in order to make it fit your budget, Not working to one in the first place. They can make pre-bookings in hotels and trains, as well as local guides.
FanofIndia is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 09:06 PM
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a. Your guide book is quite right that Udaipur is the most beautiful city. The Lake Palace in the middle of Pichola, a wonderful city palace on it’s banks lit up every evening, the sun-set terrace dinners at Fateh Prakash Palace, the boat ride to Jag Mandir island where CB Singh, an old friend & an ex-planter, will show you around, the fabulous crystal gallery – some items like a crystal bed just exclusive – the maharana’s car garage with all those Rolce Royses cars & the one-of-four hunting jeeps ever built by them, Cadillacs & Plymouths; Along with the tales of gallant Rajput Chivalry in face of a ruthless medieval repression, make it a great destination.
b. Jodhpur, a bewitching medieval city with Mehrangarh Fort sitting atop a huge rock cliff, a photographers delight, the temple-cenotaphs of Mandore, wide, clean streets & a visit to the Umaid Bhawan Palace residence of the Maharaja, will linger with you for many years after your tour!
c. Jaipur, the erstwhile Princely state brought on the world map by her flamboyant Polo playing maharaja & his fairy-tale wedding with Gayatri Devi, The Rambaug Palace Hotel, Amber Fort which can be reached on a gaily caparisoned elephant ( Bill Clinton was mesmerized in 2001) & a home to some exquisite handicraft shopping, are delights not to be missed.
d. All three cities have adequate claim to fame & must not be missed.
e. Goa not only provides beaches for relaxation but also offers a lot more in way of sight-seeing. You ‘explore’ Goa. The grand cathedrals of Old Goa, including the rarely visited St. Augustine Tower, the museum of Christian Art at Rachol, Old homes 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.
Happy Travels!
vp_singh is offline  
Nov 14th, 2006, 09:38 PM
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One of the best pieces of advice that I've heard about going to India is that it IS too much to take everything in all at once. Instead, focus on one or two things that interest you (music, textile, people, etc.) and then discover those things as best you can. If you try to take it all in, you'll be overwhelmed.

I'm headed there in January myself and have spoken with a few friends about recommendations and then narrowed down my options from there.
Bethwhitwa is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 01:07 AM
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Thanks Singh for that description of Rajasthan and Goa.

Thanks Beth for your advice. I'll definitely try to focus on two things.

If I visit Rajasthan (Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur), can I base in one city and daytrip to the others? How long should I spend on each city?

If I visit Goa, how long should I stay and where should I base?
Castellanese is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 01:16 AM
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Hi, once again.
Each of the cities Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur are a good day's drive apart. No way of making a return same day journey.
I would leave out Goa, or if it is a must, then work a route that gets to Udaipur, then fly via Mumbai to Goa.
FanofIndia is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 07:57 AM
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Thanks again FanofIndia for your advice.

I want to know how long I should stay in each region so I can know what to leave out and what to keep.

I'm still doing a lot of reading and researching. I've been using the internet and the National Geographic bookguide of India. I'm thinking of getting another one. It will probably be Lonely Planet's.

Thanks again!
Castellanese is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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Check this website. These guys are genuine and excellent, though they operate primarily in the Dehlhi/Agra/Jaipur are.

Mitch04 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 01:34 PM
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Hi, again.
2-3 days in Delhi, 2 in Agra, 2 in Jaipur, 3 in Jodhpur, 3 in Udaipur, as a rough guide, plus of course the travelling. When you have pinned down your priorities, I can suggest an itinerary, and get it costed in Delhi. You could be surprised at the result.
FanofIndia is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 03:27 PM
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I just came home from India yesterday. I did a 2 week tour of Rajasthan with Intrepid. I am fairly well travelled but was overwhelmed with India. I was not adjusted until 2 weeks in. I would suggest joining with a tour for a week or so and then venturing on your own.

Udaipur was beautiful and a lot cleaner than many of the other places. I highly recommmend it. I also recommend spending time outside of cities so that you can visit some smaller communities and get a fuller sense of the area. I would also put Jaiselmer (excuse spelling) ahead of Jaipur and Jodhpur, though the fort in Jodhpur was among my favorite.
hlsam is offline  
Nov 15th, 2006, 08:25 PM
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We went in December last year for the first time and used Cox and Kings to guide us and transport us in Mumbai , Delhi , Agra and Goa . It is more expensive and we did it in comfort . This was largely because it was our first trip but having seen it we decided we could do more independent travel next time . We adored India and the Indians.Fabulous food , lovely shopping and the weather in December was excellent. So try and strike a balance depending on the time you have available . The walks and written commentary in Fodors book are unbeatable .So get your self to the spots you want to see and use the book as you will save a lot in not paying for a guide / tour price . That said our guides were mostly excellent and took us to some good shops as well but the book gives good tips re shops .Have a car meet you at the airport .There is a lot to be said for the engine running in your waiting when 20 hawkers with a lack of legs / arms / lips and waving babies at you descend outside the Taj . But I have had more trouble from beggars / hawkers in Bali than India . If your budget allows stay at some memorable hotels eg Taj Palace in Mumbai .There is nothing quite like them elsewhere .
JohnFitz is offline  

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