Help for India itinerary!!

May 26th, 2014, 06:35 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm glad others clarified that I meant contacting an agent in India. Never having traveled in India before, I don't think you have an appreciation for just what can go wrong. Having someone to call when your flight lands at a different airport than scheduled or the train you were going to take isn't running or.... can make all the difference between a minor glitch and a major disaster.

Generally, in traveling to India, I like to have plenty of flex time built in so that the minor glitch don't mean I miss a whole stop. Unfortunately, you don't have that luxury as you are scheduled so closely, so you'll just has to roll with it. But if you have a local agent, they can quickly arrange for Plan B.
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May 26th, 2014, 06:41 AM
  #22  
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Has any of these glitched happened to any of you? Or are we just talking about having the agent for 'what ifs'?
europe2011 is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 07:28 AM
  #23  
 
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I have been following this and IMO listen to Kathie. She is a well experienced traveler and gives good advice.

Having been to India 7 times myself I would say its wise to have a plan B.

We once were scheduled to fly from Del. to Jaipur and the plane was so late we could have gotten to our final destination (Ajmer) faster by taking the train.

Also traffic is India can be horrific. Long delays are common. Plan well I think.

Good luck, Larry.
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May 26th, 2014, 10:03 AM
  #24  
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Jacketwatch- Good idea to have a plan B. Did you have an agent during your travel? What exactly did they provide?

I am still confused on what they would provide that I wouldn't be able to figure out in a scenaro where the train ended at the wrong place. Wouldn't we just find another way to get to our destination? What would the agent do? Just figure it out for us and make it easier?

I am certainly open to the idea of an agent but you guys tell me exactly what they will do for us that we can't do on our own?

Thanks
europe2011 is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 10:25 AM
  #25  
 
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As my wife is from India our trips there were mostly for family visits.

We did use a local agent a few times and they arranged cars, hotels, etc. Its nice to know you are a phone call away from a local trouble shooter. Your own arrangements may go well but what do you do when they are problems? A local agent can help with this as well as provide advice on where to go, when to go and how to get there and that can valuable. For example for our trip to Chandigarh last Oct. We got a local guide who provided a car, guide and a good deal on a hotel, the new Marriott which worked out well, better than we could have done on our own because of his inside knowledge. If you think you are fine on your own, ok but if you have never been to India, well it's not like anywhere you have been before.

Good luck, Larry.
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May 26th, 2014, 11:22 AM
  #26  
cwn
 
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For us in the planning stage, the thing was the big price difference between what the Hotel was quoting for drivers to take us from one city to another and then for the touring in the cities. We would have spend at least three times as much and had to arrange every one of our own transfers without the agent. As I said, the agent was able to get a lower price on the Oberoi package and I should have taken that also. But like you, I was very unwilling to put the whole trip in the hands if the agent.

At least email some of the Indian agents mentioned here, send them your itinerary with as much detail including hotels as you have and see what they offer. You may be surprised. Having been to India one time, when we go back I will again use an agent and drive as many places as can be done in a day. Traveling by plane or train is not my first pick in India and for the shorter day trips does not save much if any time. Yes, we made stops on the road to Jaipur...the sites are the reason you should use a car on that leg.

Our driver had the big picture and we just told him as we went about each day where we wanted to go...we changed this up easily as we went along. The local working cell phone was also wonderful as sometimes the arrangement we made for a site pickup changed after we were in the site. So we just called the driver and told where we were and he came and got us. We rent a car, if at all possible, where we visit..so we had the best of both worlds completely on our own schedule, but someone to do the driving!

We have traveled independently on the arrangements I made over the internet in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Japan, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa and nothing prepared me for what I would have faced trying get taxis etc to move around from place to place in India.
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May 26th, 2014, 11:55 AM
  #27  
cwn
 
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You asked for an example of things going sideways...I am not good with this stuff so will cut and paste...this is from Elainee's Fodor's trip report last Feb......

"Why you need an Indian travel agent.

We got on an Air India plane in Varanasi to go to Agra. The plane was then going on to Khajuraho. But they took us all to Khajuraho and said get off the plane. No apparent reason.

There we were about 25 Agra passengers. We were much worse off than if they had cancelled the Agra flight. It was then 4pm. We were 500 kilometers from Agra. If they flew us to Delhi there is now good toll road to Agra. They said the next open seat would be two days. They provided a bus (no toilet on it) to Agra. Take it or leave it.

Our wonderful Mr. Singh called us even before we got off the plane.
He arranged a car and excellent driver. We took two young Japanese women with us so they did not have to take the bus.

More than 120 kilometers of the road had been removed for a new road. But they never built the new road.
So we drove on bare ground that had been highly eroded with gullys, deep holes, etc. and so much dust that the driver had to stop to clear the headlights.
We often had to crawl along. Remember, this is during the night. How many times have you read to never be driven at night in India? Good advice.

We got to our hotel at 3am after 10 hours.
The bus got to center Agra at 5:30 and then the tired passengers had to get to their hotels.

We are grateful to our agent."

If you will read some of other's trip reports, you will find how an agent can help. There was a report recently about the train being fogged in and being 12 hours late....India is (wonderfully) different....you can have a wonderful experience or a nightmare...just go prepared to go with the flow.

Happy planning.
Carolyn
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May 26th, 2014, 12:06 PM
  #28  
 
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We too used Mr. VP Singh and were very happy with his services. His address;

Www.legendsandpalaces.com.
jacketwatch is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 02:25 PM
  #29  
 
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I have done two long trips to India (ten weeks and six weeks) without using an agent. BUT I had plenty of time. You are scheduled practically to the minute, which is a huge mistake for India, and you have no room to recover when something goes wrong. If I was trying to travel in India on your schedule I would use an agent.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 02:57 PM
  #30  
 
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You know, I don't doubt it's doable on your own, but this is a country where the infrastructure is really limited, and should something happen, it would be much more difficult to navigate on your own.

My initial reasoning for having an agent was primarily to have someone to turn to, should there be a medical emergency that came up. I didn't want to be in some small region and not have someone that could arrange for GOOD care.

Having the agent arrange the driver and car meant that when our train arrived 8 hours late into Agra, my driver was waiting for us. We were in touch daily, so that we could make changes if needed, but also gave us a sense of connection.

India is wonderful but exhausting -- having someone pave the way made it more manageable.
progol is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 05:34 PM
  #31  
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I am understanding the idea of working with an agent now. Thanks for everyone's help.

I looked on a few sites (http://www.legendsandpalaces.com/) and TGS Jaipur. I haven't contacted them yet, but I plan on doing so this week.

Does this make sense for our trip- we have now decided to add addiotinal time to our trip:
** Revised**
Arrive in New Delhi in late pm. Spend 3 days
Agra: 2 days
Jaipur: 3 1/2 days
Amristar: 2 1/2 days
Varanasi: 3 days

Fly into Delhi arrive late pm
Travel without any driver or guide in Delhi
Spend 3 days in Delhi

Take 6am train to Agra (Spend 2 days in Agra)
Have driver meet us at train station and drive us in Agra

Early am train or drive to Jaipur (any more input on this decision would be nice)
Driver to be with us for our time in Jaiper

Amritsar- on our own?

Varanasi- Taxi from airport to hotel or arrange for a driver?
Have a guide during our Varanasi days

Head off to Nepal

We really want to travel at our own pace, spend as little or as much at sites, eat wherever we want etc... Having a driver will still give us that freedom, right? I've only hired a guide for a day once before in Rio for the Tijucia forest and it was still up to us to see and do what we wanted at our own pace. That is what we are looking for.

Please let me know of other agencies to contact. Any idea of cost for this?
europe2011 is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 05:38 PM
  #32  
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We have already booked our flights from Jaipur-Amritsar, Amritsar-Varanasi and Varanasi-Kathmandu using miles so we don't need any help with that. Also, most of our hotels (all except Varanasi) are booked with award points, so we don't need any help on those either. We want to stay on the river in Varanasi.
europe2011 is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 06:04 PM
  #33  
 
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One other highly recommended agency to consider: Castle and Kings

I think your itinerary is much improved by adding some time. Yes, you will have the freedom to choose your destinations and pace with a driver.
Kathie is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 06:08 PM
  #34  
 
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If you can handle Delhi without a driver you can handle Agra. Hire a rickshaw for the day in Agra. A driver is useless in Varanasi, you can't get a car, or even a rickshaw, through the streets near the river. A driver actually makes sense for Delhi as it's much bigger and the sites are more spread out.

Although I'm a fan of slow travel, that sounds a bit long for Amritsar. The Golden Temple is fantastic, but what else are you planning to do?
thursdaysd is offline  
May 26th, 2014, 06:51 PM
  #35  
 
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An answer to your question, thursdaysd, might be the daily ceremony closing the border between Pakistan & India at Wagah. I've seen it from both sides, and who would imagine closing a gate could draw such crowds or be so much fun. A taxi ride from Amritsar, I recommend it highly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9y2qtaopbE
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May 26th, 2014, 06:59 PM
  #36  
 
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We too saw the changing of the guard at the border and its well worth it. However I found this in Amritsar to be very moving.
http://www.jallianwalabagh.ca/pages.php?id=4
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May 26th, 2014, 07:04 PM
  #37  
cwn
 
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Ok, a little more time sounds better and sounds like you have lodging and most transportation from place to place set. At least if you have a big delay with the air or train travel you have some fix it time without missing the whole city.

Using points for the in country air will probably put you own your own for the last part of your trip, but an agent sure could smooth your entry into India on the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur section. An agent will work with you event if all you want is a car and driver. That is the only service we used, I stated that in my first contact. That was all we agreed to though he told me just to let him know if we wanted a guide for any thing.

I would hire a driver starting with the Delhi airport to hotel pick up...is that late at night like after 8PM? Have the driver for your stay in Delhi...he will be on what ever schedule you want and will take you anywhere when you want to go. He will drop you off and pick you up later, just call and tell him you are ready to move on, if he can't park (there are big parking lots full of cars and drivers waiting) near all the interesting places and you will know you always have a clean cool car that runs well and a safe driver. He can drop you at the train station that last morning.

Have a driver pick you up in Agra at the train station and take you around for your time in Agra. Literally we could call our driver many time. Keep that driver through your Jaipur departure.

To me, it is worth driving from Agra and Jaipur just to see some of the rural India and the sites along the way. The train will not be any faster and probably less comfortable, plus having a car and driver gives you so much more flexibility on the travel day.

You do not need a guide anywhere in those three cities really, but we found one helpful at the Taj for sunrise and he met us at the site.
cwn is offline  
May 29th, 2014, 04:45 AM
  #38  
 
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Day trip to Sarnath from Varanasi is good idea.

This is the place where Lord Buddha said to have preached his first sermon to his disciples after attaining enlightenment. This is one of the four most significant Buddhist pilgrimage sites namely Bodhgaya, Kushinagar and Lumbini in Nepal. Main attractions here are various Stupas, historical monuments, Dear Park and Museum..

Allahabad can also be stretched out in a day trip if you are a kind of religious guy.. 130 km away from Varanasi..several temples and the place of cultural significance in Hinduism. It is one of the four places in India where Kumbh Fair--the largest hindu congregation is held in after every 12 years.
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May 29th, 2014, 09:17 AM
  #39  
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Seems like in Delhi we would be able to get around with the metro mainly. We don't plan on having a driver there. For us part of the travel experience is using the metro system and walking.

@cnw- we do arrive late in New Delhi 9:20pm arrival

As for Amritsar we are going to spend time at the Golden Temple and the closing the border between Pakistan & India at Wagah.I just noticed that I typed 2 1/2 days in Amristar and it should be 1 1/2 days.

I am in the process of getting quotes from the above mentioned agents for a driver for the Agra and Jaipur part of the trip.

I am trying to figure out a few things:

1. Is it worth it (price wise) to have a driver in Agra all day or just to meet us to drive us to Jaipur if we choose to drive there.

2. Take train to drive from Agra to Jaipur? What are the pros and cons of both? We love taking trains so is it really faster and more comfortable to drive?

We are getting closer to having a plan in place. Thanks again for making this all come together.
europe2011 is offline  
May 29th, 2014, 09:33 AM
  #40  
 
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You don't need a car and driver in Agra, use a rickshaw.

The reason to drive from Agra to Jaipur would be to stop off at Fatehpur Sikri and the Bird Park on the way. If you did those as a day trip from Agra I would take the train. Have you read seat61.com on train travel in India?
thursdaysd is offline  

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