Help with a tour plan!

Feb 1st, 2005, 11:45 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2
Help with a tour plan!

I am going to India next week for 9 days and it will be my 1st time in India and I wanted to see Varanasi, Taj Mahal, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Ellora caves. The agent suggested me this travel plan:

Mumbai – 2 nights, flight to
Varanasi -2 nights, flight to
Agra- 1 night, drive to Jaipur
Jaipur 1 night, flight to
Jodhpur 1 night, flight to
Udaipur 2 nights
Mumbai flight back home

Do you think it is too intensive?
The agent gave me a price for this tour $1800
Does it look legitimate?
I have a place to stay in Mumbai, so Mumbai is not included in this price.


Thank you
maia2000 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 02:47 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,430
Hi, maia 2000!

I did my first trip to India in October/November, and it was the best holiday I have ever been on. What's more, we saw ALL the places on your itinerary (starting and ending in Mumbai, as you are) with the exception of Ellora Caves (we chose Ajanta Caves instead). So, while I am not what you'd call an expert on India, I think I can offer you some advice on your itinerary, and, in fact, I have a couple of important points to make, and I hope you will heed them, because I think this can make a HUGE difference to your holiday.

I think I'd tell your agent to go take a running jump. I bet HE (if he's ever been to India) wouldn't spend nine days on 5 planes, which is what he's asking you to do. This is a really bad move, and when you go through the ordeal of your first flight, you'll see why. For a start, some of these airports (Mumbai and Varanasi, to name just two) are FAR from the city, and require you to sit in a taxi or bus for about an hour. Then, the check-in procedure in India is a nightmare of security checks... sometimes up to four different sets of people x-raying or going through your luggage. I think it was in Varanasi that they were so thorough that they took out (and confiscated until we reached our destination) the BATTERIES in our camera! Don't forget, this is a country that has been at war with irs neighbours for countless years, and if you thought security was tight in the Us, you're in for a big shock when you travel even on an internal flight in India!

The announcements at the airport are often confusing, the waiting facilities not always the best, and (if your agent has booked you on Air Deccan, the only low-cost domestic airline in India) there are no booked seats, so getting onto the flight means a mad scramble into the bus or across the tarmac (waiting in an orderly manner in queues is not the strong point of many of the locals). I can see many hours of your very-brief holiday being swallowed up in unattractive airports or getting to and from them.

I think, if I were you, I'd start off with the flight from Mumbai to Varanasi, but from there I'd travel by train, overnight wherever possible so as to maximise your sightseing time. If you prebook your train tickets, you don't need to arive at the station (always, except maybe for Agra, right in the centre of town) until a few minutes before departure. Transport from the station to the sights (e.g. the Taj Mahal in Agra) is always instantly available and cheap, as there's so much competition (an autrickshaw will take you almost to the gate of the Taj for no more than 60 rupees, less than two dollars).

You have chosen some great places to visit, though I think you've been a little over-ambitious for nine days. I am tempted to advise you to leave out Agra, as it's the least-pleasant of the
destinations in your itinerary, and the Taj Mahal, while pretty, is over-rated... after you've looked at it for fifteen minutes, there's not much to do with the 750-rupee entrance fee you've just forked out), but I know that, were I going to India for the first time, I would find it hard to cross the Taj off my list of must-sees; but, certainly, there's no need to spend a night there! Choose a train that arrives at Agra before dawn, hop an autorickshaw so that you get to the gate before 7 a.m. (preferably before 6 a.m.; by 8 the crowds are starting to swarm and the car park is awash with tourist coaches), and be on your way again before lunch time (you can get another autorickshaw from the Taj to the Fort for 20 rupees, and the rail station to Jodhpur is Agra Fort, right near the Fort).

It sounds terrible to say it, but if you had to cut back on one of those cities, and you can't bear the thought of ditching Agra, then I think I'd leave out Udaipur. It's lovely, but it's not the easiest city in the world to get to and out of by train... being on a narrow-gauge line, it's not serviced by most of the expresses that whizz between Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Mumbai.

You mentioned Jaisalmer in your opening paragraph (my pick for the most fascinating city in India .... but, once again, not that easy to get to!), but you don't say how you planned to fit it in to that schedule. Your agent couldn't send you there by plane even if he wanted to, as the airport is closed nowadays except for military aircraft. We did it like this:

Agra-Jodhpur overnight train.Day and night in Jodhpur.

Jodhpur - Jaisalmer morning train (arrives Jaisalmer 1155). Two nights in Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer- Jaipur overnight train. Day and night in Jaipur.

Even if you cut Jaisalmer down to one night and 1 1/2 days, this part of the journey still takes 5 nights out of your nine-night trip. Adding Udaipur, and then going from there to Ellora, might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back. I'd be returning directly from Jaipur to Mumbai by overnight train, and letting a local travel agent in Mumbai organise a trip to Ellora Caves with whatever time I had left.

How much will all of this cost? Well, overnight trains in class 3AC (which gives you a nice sleeping compartment, especially if you specify berth SL or SU) will cost you around 750 rupees per time. Multiply that by 5, add a bit for luck, and we're talking 5000 rupees. The hotel accommodation in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Varanasi, and Jaipur shouldn't set you back more than 500 rupees per night: that's another 2000 rupees. The air fare from Mumbai to Varanasi I haven't a clue about, as I don't know what airline your're planning to use: we used Air Deccan (Mumbai-Delhi), and that set us back 1600 rupees each, but I don't know if Deccan fly to Varanasi, so your ticket may well cost you three times that much: let's "ballpark" 5000 rupees. Add another 1000 rupees for all the autorickshaws from airports and stations to the sights or to your hotels (by the way, don't be talked into a taxi from Varanasi airport... there's a bus that does it for around 60 rupees, and it meets every plane). That gives you a total budget of around 13000 rupees, which is so much lower than the price that the travel agent yis asking for the same trip (even if he is including entrance fees to Ellora and the Taj and transfers between your five-star hotels and all those airports)that I really wonder how he arrived at his figures (I am assuming you're talking American dollars when you quoted $1800; if you're talking Canadian or Aussie dollars, then I will apologise -- but only a little bit -- to your agent).


You need to look at a few interesting sites (which I am sure your agent has already told you about, but just in case):

first, a rail map: http://www.indianrail.gov.in/testmap.html.

Next, an information site about Indian trains: http://www.seat61.com/India.htm

Next, an online train timetable, with prices for all classes:http://www.indianrail.gov.in/ (click on "trains between important stations" and have hours of fun doing your own planning).

The Air Deccan homesite, for REALLY cheap internal fares if you simply MUST fly (but they don't fly from Mumbai to everywhere yet!): http://airdeccan.net/airdeccan/home.asp

Next, a site which tells you exactly how far from the airport the cities you want to visit are (remember, all the roads are choked just about all the time, so this travel distance will often be VERY slow, unless you can take a train, as you can in Mumbai): http://www.toandfrom.org/airport/India.htm

Finally, a board which has a lot of information about India and all the places that you are planning to visit: www.indiamike.com

I haven't mentioned bus travel, which is cheaper and more frequent than train travel, because it's slower and less-comfortable, especially on long distances. However, if you can't find a train at a time that suits you, remember there is bound to be a bus! And buses and trains are a great way to see the REAL india and meet the people.... travelling by plane means you are meeting only a very select few of the vast population.

If I can help with any budget accommodation inquiries (i.e. accommodation under 500 rupees for a double room... we never went near a 5-star hotel, and only in Mumbai were we obliged to go over 500 rupees for a decent room) then get back onto this thread, or email me at [email protected].

You are on the threshold of a GREAT holiday.... but can't you extend it by just a few more days? Nine days is SO short, and if you happen to come down with a case of Delhi Belly and have to waste one or two of them, there's so little time left to see what you want to see!

Anyway, good luck with your planning!

Alan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 05:29 PM
  #3  
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Join Date: Feb 2005
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Thank you very much for your reply.
I think I should make a choice between Varnasi and Jaisalmer, since I don't want to spend my precious days on trains or planes a lot.
In your opinion what would you recommend to see for the first timer in India Varanasi or Jaisalmer?
Unfortunately I can’t extend my trip since I am accompanying my husband on his business trip to Mumbai and we have to comeback to the US.
I decided to travel on my own while he will be in Mumbai
Thank you
Maia
maia2000 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 06:46 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,430
Oh, maia, maia! Varanasi or Jaisalmer! That's REALLY "Sophie's choice"! Those -- along with Leh -- were my VERY favourite places in all of India. I could only recommend cutting out one if you absolutely promised me that you'll return one day soon and "do" the other.

I'd have to say, leave out Varanasi.... for no other reason than it saves you a heap of time and money. You can EASILY get a cheap Mumbai-Delhi flight with Air Deccan (as we did -- my advice is book it soon, as Air Deccan's policy is that the fare is at its cheapest the earlier the booking is made) and actually be in Agra the same evening, holed up in a pleasant hotel just fifty metres from the entrance gate to the Taj Mahal. Air Deccan leaves Mumbai at 1600 (for the airport, take the train from Churchgate in Mumbai to Andheri, and from there an autorickshaw; total cost, about 60 rupees), arriving in Delhi at 1755. The train from Delhi's Nizamuddin Station leaves for Agra at around 2100, arriving there just before midnight (once again, an autorickshaw will take you from the airport to the station in forty minutes, and there's a good restaurant right next door to the station entrance where you can wait in peace and safety; on this train, you won't even need a sleeper, as you're on it only a short while). In Agra, there will be lots of autorickshaws at the Agra Cannt station to take you almost to the door of the Hotel Sheela (450 rupees a night, double) -- I say "almost" because this hotel is SO close to the Taj entrance that it's inside a small "no-go" area for autorickshaws, and the driver will have to walk you the last 75 metres on foot -- and you will be in your bed by 12:30, ready for a 5:30 rise-and-shine which will see you first in line at the Taj ticket booth, 50 metres away.

Your other proposed destinations -- Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur -- are all in the same state (Rajasthan), and transport between them is fairly easy, fast, and frequent. Varanasi is the one destination that is half-way across the continent, all on its own. That's why it maybe best to cut it instead of cutting Jaisalmer.

Who knows: with Varanasi out of the way, you MAY be able to put Udaipur back into your schedule again! It would be tight, but not impossible.

But remember -- you made a solemn promise to return ASAP to see Varanasi... and, while you're at it, Leh and Khajuraho!
Alan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 08:10 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 37
Maia,
6 cities in 9 days is not hectic. Its Hell. Don't forget that in India time & schedules can go haywire for reasons that you may not be able to comprehend in addition those that you can think of. Surface & air travel can equally be daunting with their own set of logistical problems & other travel factors & conditions that tag along.

From my own solid Indian experience, I could suggest -
1. Either cut down on the cities or increase your overall trip durtaion.

2. A ideal itinerary for a nice 9 days "Indian Sampler" would be -

Day 1: arr New Delhi (presuming gateway city for arr from USA). Overnight N.Delhi

Day 2: New Delhi sight-seeing. Full/half day with a bit of shopping for Indian handicrafts. O/N Delhi.

Day 3: New Delhi - Agra - New Delhi (return on same day. 221kms/6hrs one way). This is a full day tour to Agra which starts very early from Delhi & gets one back the same day late in the night. You can book a join-in coach tour or private car with guide for the entire day which includes all sights enroute/in Agra.I recommend Taj Mahal for all first timers. O/N Delhi.

Day 4 : New Delhi - Jaipur
You can take any early afternoon flt after a good nights rest. Arr Jaipur and you have half the day & night to catch the sights & smells. O/N Jaipur.

Day 5 : Jaipur - Udaipur.
Half day tour in Jaipur followed by late afternoon/nigh flt to Udaipur. O/N Udaipur.

Day 6 : Udaipur - Full day tour & O/N.

Day 7 : Udaipur-Mumbai. Any early afternoon flt and O/N in Mumbai.

Day 8 : Full day in Mumbai with a wide variety of tours to select from. Ajanta & Ellora could be a bit tiring for a full day.

Day 9 : in Mumbai & fly back to the States or O/N in Mumbai & next day flt back to the USA.

Notes:

1. you may fly Udaipur-Mumbai on Day 6 if there is a late afternoon/night flt to get a additional day in Mumbai for the Ellora/Ajanta or other side excursions/ trips.

2. I have no idea of the costs now, but your US travel agt will have to deal with a good solid (not cheap) Indian tour agent based preferably in Mumbai or n.Delhi, who has the resources, experience & the expertise to handle your itinerary.

3. Do as much reading on customs, traditions, people, dust & dirt before you depart the US to avoid all the first hand shocks that erupt on a regular basis.

Good Luck from -
Your neighbourhood rickshawdriver
rickshawdriver is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 04:40 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 245
I agree with some other comments that you are really rushing it. You do not want to spend all your time on transfers. Domestic flights are time consuming, because you need to report early and there are delays from time to time. Take also into consideration that by car you make an average of 30 kms/h except on the good road between Delhi and Jaipur. All places you want to visit are great and it is very difficult to drop one or two of them, but you will have to, if you do not want to punish yourself into a constant struggle against time. I would just drop Mumbai and just try to travel on like this:
arrival in Mumbai and directly on to Udaipur/ Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jaipur - Agra / fly to Varanasi / from Varanasi to Delhi or Mumbai, and back home. This may be possible.
Also, I think that your travel agent is a bit steep on his price. You can get far better deals than that. I am leaving on a twelve day trip to India with 5 domestic flights and excellent hotels, and I am paying less per person than what this agency is charging you.
cram is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:52 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 37
Maia
I would strongly urge you to drop Varanasi and Jodhpur from your itinerary if you can to give you the extra space to fit in Ajanat/Ellora or other sights around Mumbai.
Rickshawdriver
rickshawdriver is offline  

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