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Help with trip to India trip (possibly Nepal as well)

Help with trip to India trip (possibly Nepal as well)

Jan 5th, 2011, 11:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,282
Help with trip to India trip (possibly Nepal as well)

Help! Inspired a number of trip reports on this forum. We are hoping to take an (almost) last minute trip in Feb/March and are looking at a number of options in Asia and South America and could do with some help coming to a decision. Asiais in pole position and we are primarily considering India, or India plus a trek in Nepal or maybe Sri Lanka (mainly because this is where my grandfather ran a tea plantation in the 40’s and 50’s). We have around one month to play with.

Our travel style is very much to travel independently and make it up as we go, but with a broad outline of the places we want to visit. Our interests include food, culture, photography and getting off the beaten track. As far as accommodation is concerned we prefer to stay in smaller cheap (ish) places, B&B, home-stays, guest houses rather than 5* hotels (although we do like the occasional splurge). We have tended to arrange our accommodation on arrival or maybe a couple of days in advance, but having read a number of TRs here, I wonder if this is really practical or indeed possible in this region?? As far as getting from place to place to place is concerned we prefer local transport such as train or bus where possible rather than flying.

For India I have always wanted to visit Himachal Pradesh/Ladkah but understand that this in not the best time of year due to the snow and so I am looking at flying into Dehli and doing the “Golden Triangle” plus Darjeeling & Sikkim (which, according to the guide books is a little better weather-wise) plus maybe flying south to Kerala for some chill out time -but not sure whether time would permit or whether it is horrendously busy at that time of year.

Any general thoughts on the above?

A few specific questions on India and Nepal:
1.With one month to play with is it better to focus on India alone or a combination?

2.Is Feb a reasonably good time for trekking in Nepal?

3.Organized trek or DIY trek in Nepal?

4.Is it easy enough to arrange guides on arrival or better to book in advance?

5. How easy is it to arrange train or air on the spot in India (or better done through an agency)?

6.Likewise organizing a car and driver – is this the preferred method of travel for all but the longest trips.

7.Is it necessary to book basic to mid range accommodation in advance?

8.Any specific recommendations for accommodation, places and experiences not to miss?

9.With a month play with should I include another region in our travel plans?

10.Is Sri Lanka worth further consideration?

I appreciate that this is a little vague and some of my questions may seem a little naive but I am doing other research and have little time left to get this sorted out so any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.
crellston is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 02:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 24,599
It's easy to use up a whole month just in India, but you could do three weeks in India and a week in Nepal. You would have to chose Nepal or Sri Lanka as the second country. You need to read the thread on Indian visa restrictions - do not plan to fly to India, go to Nepal and return to India.

I would say that your chances of winging it successfully are better in Nepal than in India, but you will be traveling out of the high season, so your chances are still better than mine in December!

You can book Indian trains ahead - booking opens 90 or 60 days ahead (I think it just changed to 90 days). Again, out of high season your chances are better, and there is always the 48 hour taktal quota... Check out cleartrip.com as well as the Indian railways website. (And read seat61.com on Indian train travel.) There are budget airlines in India now, which you will want to use to get from north to south or vice versa. Besides cleartrip, travelguru is useful for Indian hotels. I booked my flights directly with the airlines.

Whether you want a car and driver depends on the length of the journey and the state of the roads, you should ask again when you have a firmer itinerary. They can always be booked last thing, through your hotel or a local travel agent.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 03:08 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Hi Crellston,

Congrats on your trip...


has some nice adventure trips you might want

to have a peek at...

India was/is quite chaotic/confusing for me

worse than CA/SA where I mainly go.

a a first timer I was happy to go with an adventure group.

www.weather2travel.com Climate Guides for weather.

Avoid monsoon season no fun,

Happy Planning,
qwovadis is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,668
So many places, so litle time...

As you know, we loved Sikkim and highly recommend it.

There is so much about India on the board right now, you will have lots of suggestions from others about India. The consensus seems to be that you need to book ahead because you aren't just cometing for space with foreign tourists but also with domestic tourists. See dgunbug's thread about reservations.

Let me put in a plug for Sri Lanka. We loved Sri Lanka (take a look at my trip report and the photos) and would like to return. Given your family history, it would be of even more interest to you. A diplomat we met told us that the Chinese have gotten permission to build an airport at Bentota in 2012-3 which will change Sri Lanka enormously. Dogster earlier gave a link to this
Do take a look, it will give you an idea of things you could do staying a small guesthouses or B&Bs. You would want a car and driver.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 07:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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i am working on an indian trip for next fall with about a month to play with as well... as you know i like to do everything myself as well, but find that for india getting partial assistance from an indian agency helps a lot... i use castle and king and the owner avrind is a big help.... tell him that you are our friends if you contact him:
[email protected]

things are not like the rest of SEA for planning.... everything is a hastle... a driver really helps to cut through the red tape and blazes the way for you ona daily basis... plus driving through the countryside allows you to see daily indian life that trains and planes avoid... we plan to fly from major area to major area and then drive in that area for best coverage... you should know that driving is very slow and roads can be rough, even "highways"...

hotels in general are very expensive.... rather than the $250 splurge it is the $800 splurge....yikes!! but there are other options, like the heritage hotels and many B&B's some of which are livable and some less so... i think that using an indian agency will help you cut through to the best small and reasonable places...

caroline deserves a night or two at neemrana fort palace hotel not far from delhi....

i am very concerned with the entry/exit issue in india... i asked avrind about this and he called the immigration office in delhi for me.... they told him that nepal is not considered a "foreign country" and thus you would have no problem going there and back to india as long as you have the tickets and a written it. showing your movements.... just present them to the immigration officer for verification.... i'm not fully sure that i buy this line, but i think i may try it...

check out the visa situation carefully...

i think that if you did the golden triangle: delhi, agra, jaipur, jodphur, jaismaler, udiapur and some other small towns, plus varanasi and kolkata, and then sikkim and dargling (sp), you would have filled a month easily...

jet lite, kingfisher and jet airways are the best of the discount airlines to assist you...

remember too to be home in time for the wedding...
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 08:19 AM
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Bob, it's interesting that your contatc was told that Nepal is not considered a "foreign country." I've read of people who did a side trip to Nepal and couldn't get back into India and people who went to Sri Lanka and couldn't get back in. I'd do everything I could to not challange that rule.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 08:28 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 24,599
The trouble with all these answers is that they're not going to help you when the immigration officer you're dealing with decides that Nepal IS a foreign country. Or, if you fly, when the airline does so. I'm flying Colombo-Singapore-BKK-LHR (with time in SEA) instead of Colombo-Chennai-LHR precisely to avoid the hassle.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 09:12 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 7,282
Many, many thanks for all your insightful and comprehensive replies. After due consideration we have decided to give India a miss this trip. As I feared it does seem a little difficult to go it alone in India and with our timescales we will have little time for pre planning everything even with the help of an agent.

Qwovadis - Thanks for the link to tucan travel - they do seem to have the type of trip we would enjoy (particuarly the Delhi to Katmandu trip) but not sure we are ready for a group type trip on this occasion).

Bob - carolyn sends her regards and appreciates you efforts in trying to source lux accomodation on her behalf!! Aftwer subjecting her to a year of backpacker holstels, camping etc. you are problably right she does deserve it (at least tahts what she tells me!)PS If you are refering to the wedding in April then it may be a good time to leave the UK for a while if only to to avoid the crowds!
Thursdayds - Thanks for your input particuarly on the VISA side it does seem horrendoulsly complictated, particualrly if including Nepal which we would want to do.

Having gone back and re-read Kathies 2007 trip report this, together with the family connection. has inspired us to pay Sri lanka a visit. Kathie - thaks for the link to Redottours you supplied this is going to provide the base for our trip, possibly with some cycling and scuba diving thrown in. Anyway I am off to do more reseach and will start a new post with deatils. tahks once again.
crellston is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 11:11 AM
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Great! I'll look forward to your trip planning!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 11:19 AM
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ok, in that case carolyn deserves at least a week at tea trails...

i'm not saying i buy the advice i have been given about immigration..
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 11:28 AM
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i just spoke with travisa in nyc.. they are the ones who handle visa requests for american citizens for india...

they told me that when i arrive in india i should show them my onward flight tickets and i would have no problem with a reentry to india...

we will see...
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 05:29 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Well, this should be interesting, Bob... Of course, by the time you get there the situation may have completely changed for the better. Or worse.

crellston - when are you planning to arrive? I fly to Sri Lanka tomorrow, and will be there until Jan 27th.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 8th, 2011, 12:11 AM
Original Poster
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Good luck with the visas Bob. Let us know when you are about to attempt entry and I will keep an eye on the Reuters news feed for reports of international incidents in the region!!

thursdaysd - I hoping to source flights in the next few days and am planning for the first week in Feb. Shame as it would have been good to meet up. If things change I will post here. Have a good flight and I await your posts with interest.
crellston is offline  
Jan 8th, 2011, 05:16 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,735
So to combine a trip to Sri Lanka and India,I am I allowed to fly US to Columbo transiting through India (but not leaving the airport), and then Columbo to Chennai? Alternatively, is it ok to spend a couple of weeks in India, then fly to Columbo and fly back to the US transiting through India(but not leaving the airport). I am not a risk taker and want to avoid any forseeable problems.
shelleyk is offline  
Jan 13th, 2011, 04:18 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 41
Just wanted to add to the discussion about the new re-entry rules with the Indian Visa.

We just did it with no trouble. When we applied for our visa we supplied them with our itinerary showing that we would be going to Nepal from India and returning to Delhi for a few more days. They also wanted to see the flights we had booked for that part of the trip. We requested a 'double entry'. All went fine - I held my breath wondering if all would be fine, but it was note brought up by either the officials in the Kathmandu airport or when we arrived back in Delhi.

I was very relieved!!
mistygirl is offline  
Jan 13th, 2011, 07:49 PM
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misty---thanks for this first hand report... i shall follow your example... how is an indian jail?? haha
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 14th, 2011, 09:04 PM
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Posts: 677
End of February & March would be perfect weather for you in Himachal Pardesh. There is a morning Kingfisher flight from Jaipur which arrives in Chandigarh at 10:40am. Simla is just 4 hours smooth drive by car. Let me assure you the walks in Shimla, especially the one starting from Cecils to viceregal lodge & returning to the scandal point & the one which begins from here to the Barnes Court are very interesting. You will not experience anything remotely like that in Darjeeling! Shimla bazaar has some fine heritage shops to pick up a thing or two for back home, as well. You have several good hotels to choose from & restaurants for fine dining.
Apart from Simla, Pragpur & Dharamsala are good destinations & along the river Beas several very nice haveli hotels are under restoration. Dhauladhar peaks are snow clad & visible close at hand. The rhodendron & Flame-of-forest flowers add to the mystery of the jungle.
You could also visit Amritsar on the way back. I don't care much about the Wagah Border ceremony, making a 'tamasha' of the normal military drill! I wonder why this is not being stopped altogether. It is promoting much jingoism & animosity between the two countries & peoples. Be that as it may, the nightly Palkhi ceremony at the Golden Temple & stroll in the old city is indeed interesting. The Amritsari food is enjoyable & so is the hospitality.
On the other hand, you could visit Rishikesh & Corbett in the east. This is one big un-sung sector which yet needs a travellers attention.
Happy travels!
vp_singh is offline  

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