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echobeach Feb 15th, 2012 03:10 AM

Intrepid india or go it alone ?
I have been trying to put together a Northern india itinerary for a 28 day trip but have been getting bogged down in all the details and logistics. Train timetables, places to go, guesthouses etc.

I am an experienced traveller, 47 years old and have backpacked on numerous occasions but wonder if i am getting to the point where taking some of the stress out of travel would be a good thing.

i normally hate being tied to a timetable and being pushed from place to place, normally preferring to relax and get to know a place a little better. adapt my schedule according to likes and dislikes. I am a photographer and can spend hours attempting to get that ideal sunrise or special moment.

However i have still been considering an Intrepid tour and then a week on my own in a chosen favourite location. i was considering one of Intrepid's 22 day Rajestan tours and then take a week to explore Varanasi in depth.

So Intrepid ? How are they ? It seems you pay a lot more to take the hassle out of the trip. Comments and opinions on organised group travel please.

Thanks , Phillip

kuluk Feb 15th, 2012 04:14 AM

How about an in-between option? Having a travel agency handle your hotels and transportation, but set to your own agenda? If you are a photographer who wants to wait for the right shots and lighting, you will probably go crazy with the tour groups' rigid schedule "everyone meet in the lobby at 8...dinner at 7" and timings.

India is a fantastic photogenic place and the forts and palaces, people and places don't really lend themselves to snapping away in a hurry, in my opinion. I am a real museum junkie and having a private tour meant that I could take my time and absorb everything without worrying that I was holding up the bus. Plus imagine lugging all your photographic equipment around with so many other people. And when you talk to travel agents, I would tell them you will need special help to carry your tripods and other equuipment etc. It could make a lot of difference to you so you don't have to worry about equipment gettting lost.

echobeach Feb 15th, 2012 04:41 AM

True and for that reason my other option is to choose two or three places only and stay put. Varanasi and Udaipur perhaps + another.

dogster Feb 15th, 2012 04:50 AM

Trying to wrap your head around India at first is really confusing. Cut to the chase. Follow kuluk's advice.

Here's an example of what a good agent can do for you - just for you, not a bus-load of fool flashpackers:

Click around at the top of the page for more options. Remember, you can mould this any way you like.

There are many companies around - ask in here for advice on who to choose if you decide to go this option.

thursdaysd Feb 15th, 2012 05:09 AM

Intrepid has excellent itineraries, and is more laid back than many tour companies. You can use them just for transport and hotels and go your own way during the day if you choose - in fact they tend to have less built-in sight-seeing than some outfits. They will not put you in the most comfortable hotels, but if you think Intrepid is expensive, you will find other tours more so.

Still, you might be better off with one of the local travel agencies often mentioned here. I've never used them, I go it alone, but people here have been very happy with some of them.

Have you looked at for info on trains? is a good site for booking.

echobeach Feb 15th, 2012 05:34 AM

Thanks everyone.

I have looked at Seat61 and Cleartrip and they are easy to use.

Intrepid looks promising and I may combine a two week tour with two weeks on my own. I particularly want to spend time in Varanasi alone where I can spend several days photographing the place.

Carries on reading.

julies Feb 15th, 2012 05:42 AM

I've seen several tours aimed specifically at photographers. But, they are pricey! Look at their itineraries to try to get some ideas, and then duplicate the itinerary on your own using a good agent for aprivate tour.

Kathie Feb 15th, 2012 05:47 AM

I'm a "go it alone type." Group travle would drive me crazy. But one of our regular posters here went on an intrepid trip to India. Read her report and see what you think.

dogster Feb 15th, 2012 07:39 AM

There's nothing wrong with Intrepid if that's your thing and
you want to spend time with enthusiastic newbies and their
bloody stuffed animals.

If I was on that tour, after a day or so Blip would be found crucified, surrounded by flames with a crazed Dog dancing wildly around him, howling curses to the moon. Then, one by one the other participants would vanish mysteriously, until there was just me, smiling strangely.

echobeach Feb 15th, 2012 07:59 AM

Thanks for the blog link Kathie.

It has put me off Intrepid. Their brochure suggests you have plenty of time to do your own thing but that blog suggests its group outings each day. It sounds far too organised for my tastes and ideas of a trip. So it will be less places and more time in each destination.

Yes I would hate being told to hurry up and get on the bus and then annoy everyone because i was lagging behind or deciding to spend the day away from the group.

Dogster we have a similar sense of humour i think.

dogster Feb 15th, 2012 08:06 AM

Then you might like these stories, echo...

thursdaysd Feb 15th, 2012 08:53 AM

I mostly travel alone, but I certainly wouldn't write off tours on the basis of one trip report. Holding people up is a total no-no, but going off on your own is perfectly acceptable. Note, for instance, that Karen could have stayed at the fort at Jasper instead of going off on the shopping ops (those surprised me, my Intrepid tours have been very light on shopping).

There are some other Intrepid TRs on Fodors, including one that found GAP Adventures preferable to Intrepid.

For my solo travels in India see: (train, includes Rajasthan) and

echobeach Feb 15th, 2012 09:06 AM

Drat (polite word for something else ) i wish I could make up my mind. As a painter/photographer/ spiritual but not religious in the conventional sense, then my ideal trip would allow me to wander during the day. Then allow me to meet up with others at night for a meal and a natter and to share thoughts on the day.

Having the hassle taken out of travel arrangements and bookings and getting to and from rail stations but without the rush from one destination to another.

I know that comes at a price.

dogster Feb 15th, 2012 09:13 AM

I've always thought, thursday, that group touring had as much to do with the group as the touring. In fact, more. Imagine being stuck with a stuffed animal for 14 days... horrible.

echobeach Feb 15th, 2012 09:23 AM

For me its less who you are travelling with and more the loss of flexibility to change itinerary if something grabs your attention.

thursdaysd Feb 15th, 2012 09:36 AM

dogster - it's true that your companions are important! My last tour experience was somewhat spoiled by the discovery that some tea party types had infiltrated the group. First time that had happened with that outfit (not Intrepid, very unlikely there, I would think) but fortunately there were enough kindred spirits to balance things. The other tours I've been on there was one annoying room mate (it was a "singles share" itinerary), but we rotated her, otherwise I've had great fellow travelers.

echobeach - yes, you can't change the travel and hotel arrangements without dropping out altogether. However, this is your first visit to India, maybe not your last. I keep reading that cruise people see their brief port stops as "tasters" for where to revisit, maybe you can look on a tour that way? It is true that independent travel in India can be pretty strenuous.

dogster Feb 15th, 2012 10:34 AM

'Pretty strenuous' is an understatement.

Thursday is hopelessly intrepid - only a very brave few follow in her footsteps. She walks through blizzards in a bikini, travels alone on the roof of Indian trains, has been known to wrestle an angry elephant and win - she is one tough dame. Now I note she's even been prepared to brave 'singles-share' touring. Incredible.

Dogster is a positive wimp in comparison.

Marija Feb 15th, 2012 11:28 AM

Indeed thursday knows no fear but would she survive a 'singles-share' with dogster?

thursdaysd Feb 15th, 2012 11:28 AM

Dogster - totally ROTFLMAO!!!

echobeach - not a word of truth.... I haven't owned a bikini in years.

qwovadis Feb 15th, 2012 01:29 PM good group budget provider #1 rated in the UK there for me in the remote past. Intrepid out of Oz seen good repots. has lots of good threads. India lends itself well to group travel for firstimers.

Happy Trails!

Amy Feb 15th, 2012 05:22 PM

My first (and so far, only; my travel time is sadly limited) trip to India was on my own. While it is true that I was a bit incoherent for a while after coming home, I'm glad that I did go on my own, not with a group. There's something very...visceral, I think is the word I want, about wandering about and finding your way. (But do find a good place to stay in Varanasi; you might need a respite. I enjoyed the Hotel Ganges View there, myself.) is really, really helpful.

CaliNurse Feb 15th, 2012 06:26 PM

Echo, I just returned from a third trip to India in three yrs (lucky me). This time, I traveled alone and booked most myself, using a travel planner for a just a few t hings.It was a fantastic trip!!

Agree with those above who recommend a good travel planner for a first trip. Search this forum for recs. There is sooo much that is wonderful and remarkable, but overwhelming, and it helps to have it be relatively seamless the first time (something as simple as having someone meet you at the train station, and get you settled in a place to stay) while you find your India sea legs.

If you decide to entirely d.i.y, people are fantastically helpful. Note that some areas, little English is spoken or understood.

Dog, you're wicked !!!!!! (:

lswswein Feb 15th, 2012 06:38 PM

Hey echo
Maybe you can look into travel with a photography group. There is an expanding interest in India for photography travel.If you get in touch with them they can recommend outfits if the dates they have don't work for you

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