Need Help Planning Trip to India

Nov 19th, 2004, 07:57 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 2
Need Help Planning Trip to India

Hello All-

I am a first time Fodor's poster seeking quick advice for my trip to India. My husband and I have decided on a last minute whim to travel to India over the winter holidays. We will be flying into Mumbai on Christmas Day. While I am extremely excited and up for the adventure, I am overwhelmed by the size of the country, the numerous "must see" sites, how to get around etc. Where do I begin the planning?

We are very experienced travelers, having experienced Kenya, Central America, Mexico, Europe, etc. so I consider us being very tolerate and adventurous travelers. I am hoping to have a very "authentic" Indian experience and would enjoy getting outside of the larger, crowded cities to some of the backwaters, and more rural/beautiful/less visited areas. I'm sure we will also go to Agra to see the Taj since I feel like I couldn't visit India without visiting this wonder.

I also am an amateur photographer and am hoping to capture the real flavor of the country.

That being said, I am hoping that someone can help me plan the "perfect" itinerary. How many nights do you suggest in Mumbai? Are there things worth seeing in that city, or is it better to move on from Mumbai right away?

Where would you recommend we go for a camel safari? (I heard a suggestion for Bikaner?)

What about visiting Kerala for the backwaters tour? Is this recommended? Would "tourists" enjoy this experience?

Would we need to stay overnight in Bikaner or Kerala? Or are they day trips from another larger city that is worth seeing?

Finally, while in Agra, are there other must visit sites besides the Taj? I would love to visit some of the "off-the-beaten" path locations.

Please help! Every recommendation is useful to me! If you could plan the "perfect" two weeks in the Northern part of India, where would you send me?

Thanks!
Rachel
RandO is offline  
Nov 19th, 2004, 08:05 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 3
Hi,

If you want to travel only in Northern part of India its going to be hard to get to Kerala. If you want to get to Kerala there are so many nice places to visit in Southern India. There are couple of beautiful hill stations and lots of historic places.

So choose what you want and spend enough time there so that you could enjoy everything around.

Let me know if you need more info.

I am basically from Southern India.
flyunited is offline  
Nov 19th, 2004, 08:35 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
We are visiting India for 12 days in February and have done extensive research on this forum and elsewhere. It is not clear from your post how much time you have other than your reference to spending two weeks in northern India. If two weeks is the amount of time you have, then I suggest you do spend it in northern India and Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan in particular. I suggest this for 2 reasons: (1) December is a great time to go weatherwise and (2) it is where most India first-timers go. That being said, you may have difficulty finding accomodations at this late date - India is very popular this year. I suggest you work with an Indian travel agent such as Compass Tours in Delhi to arrange hotels and a driver. If you choose to do northern India, I also suggest you change your flight to one that flies into Delhi, if you can. I do not think our itinerary will accomplish all of your objectives but I will share it with you anyway:
Day 1 arrive Delhi early AM, drive to Agra
Day 2 Agra
Day 3 Agra to Jaipur via Fatephur Sikri
Day 4 Jaipur
Day 5 Jaipur
Day 6 Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park (hopefully to see tigers)
Day 7 Ranthambore
Day 8 Ranthambore to Delhi
Day 9 Delhi
Day 10 Delhi
Day 11 Delhi
Day 12 Delhi - depart late afternoon

To answer some of your other questions:
1) In the opinion of most other posters on this board, Mumbai doesn't have much to offer and is not worth spending much time there.
2) If you have been to Kenya and traveled by road to the Masai Mara then you know all about bad roads. There are bad roads in India too so getting around is difficult. Plan on long travel times between destinations and consider rail or air as alternatives.
3) I am pretty sure that an "authentic" Indian experience would include more time spent in cities than rural areas. Time spent on a tiger safari at Ranthambore or a camel safari in western Rajasthan will provide a nice break from the chaos of the cities.
4) Besides the aforementioned Fatephur Sikri (an hour or two outside of Agra)
the other things to do in Agra include Agra Fort, Jami Masjid, Akbar's Tomb and the "Baby Taj" Itmad-ud-Daulah's tomb. Most people do the Taj and Agra Fort. I have heard more negative things about Agra than anywhere else in India.

Good luck in your planning. I am sure there will be many other helpful posters chiming in.
Craig is offline  
Nov 19th, 2004, 12:41 PM
  #4  
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Thank you for your thoughts! I made a mistake...we ARE flying into Delhi (not Mumbai.) And we do only have about two weeks in total to be there.

Thank you Craig for you advice and for sharing your itinerary. We have been working with a travel agent here in the states for tickets and will most likely use him to book us hotel rooms.

Any other advice about "off-the-beaten" path attractions?

Rachel
RandO is offline  
Nov 19th, 2004, 12:58 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Not sure if a US based TA is the way to go. You do need a driver to get from place to place. A tour guide is also helpful at various sites. You can arrange this through the TA or through your hotel. "Tours" are not a good idea - you will be taken to a lot of places to shop where the tour guide or company earns a commission. With Compass Tours and others you can customize an itinerary. If you are able to do that with your US TA that's great but you will overpay and most likely will be steared to the standard tourist attractions. Are you going high-end or budget?
Craig is offline  
Nov 19th, 2004, 03:42 PM
  #6  
 
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Here is my tips:
Some hotels in New Delhi offer a day trip to Agra with a tour. If you prefer, you can do that because there isn't a whole lot to see in Agra other than the taj mahal and the palaces.

Some cities worth looking into:
Jaipur, Udaipur, holy cities on the ganga river (ie Venaras would be an interesting place to go to).

There is also a luxury/old world charm train called Palace on wheels that travels to three cities in Rajastan (i beilive jaipur, udaipur and agra)It might be pricy though.
rv224 is offline  
Nov 19th, 2004, 03:46 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,638
Hi RandO

I agree with Craig. If you must use a travel agent, use a local agent in India. They are much cheaper, have local contacts who know what hotels are best value, etc. I would email Lily at Jasvilas and ask if she can help. She has been really great with assistance for our upcoming trip in mid Dec 2004. You will almost certainly pay too much using a US based agent. Check out www.jasvilas.com for Lily's email address. I fear you may have left the planning until too late. I hope not! Best of luck to you.
Lyndie is offline  
Nov 20th, 2004, 08:42 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 245
I agree you'd rather take a local agent. There are always, always unforeseen situations popping up during the trip, etc, a flight cancelled, or so, and then you need a good agent on the spot to find alternative solutions for you, unless you want to turn the rest of your visiting programme upside down. I have been travelling quite extensively in India, several times, and I have a very good experience with Incentives, in Delhi. I herewith forward the email address
Incentive Destinations
[email protected]

If you have only two weeks and start out of Delhi, I would do Jaipur, Agra and maybe also Udaipur. Maybe you will want to consider also Varanasi and/or Khajuraho. Nothing really off the beaten track, but all very different experiences. You can cover quite a bit of territory by using domestic flights, which are not really expensive and spare you the hassle of long car rides (average 30 km ph) or very crowdy and not always very clean night trains.
Good travels
cram is offline  
Nov 20th, 2004, 09:16 AM
  #9  
 
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RandO, I have one little piece of advice for you: India is a large country, so it is best that you select one (or two) region(s) as your focus. Otheriwise it will get very hectic and you will not be able to do justice to your travel experience. As others may have pointed out, one possibility is to train your sights on the nothern highlights (Delhi, Agra) and then a side trip to Rajasthan. Another set of possibilities is you do Mumbai, Goa, Kerala. A third possibility is the Kerala, Bangalore, Mysore, Chennai arc. Given that you are flying into Delhi and that this is your first Indian trip, my recommendation is that you stick to Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan.


agtoau is offline  
Nov 21st, 2004, 04:16 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 669
If you are flying into Delhi and only have two weeks then you must CHOOSE.
Of course u will want to spend some time in Delhi - and then?

North - Simla and Himachal Pradesh - would be cold!! But amazing if you want to travel slowly and don't need to see the sights that have to be ticked off.

South - Kerala - quite different from the pix you will doubtless have seen of "India". Or Tamil Nadu - big temple hot spot - Madurai, Trichy, I like Madras/Chennai too. But you would have to fly to get there.

West - Rajasthan - easy peasy - standard fare - not to say it ain't worth doing.

East - Varanasi, Khajaraho, Calcutta - even Darjeeling.

All of India is amazing. You can't just go once!!
alice13 is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2004, 08:28 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 86
For a mid-range tour plan to pay around USD 55 to 65 per night per person and this should include
Car and driver
Hotel room and breakfast.

If any TA or hotel in Delhi offers you this, ask for the list of hotels and if you approve, go for it!
Rajhelp50 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2005, 08:10 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 18
If you plan to travel in kerala,avoid dealing with TOURINDIA,Trivandrum,Kerala.This outfit charges more than double the going rate for their old and non air-condtioned boats.Donot prepay by cash,as we did.We didnot get the services we paid for and worst of all the terrible things they did,we had no recourse.We compained and complained--no use.Pay by CREDID CARD only.These people are unethical and unreliable.There are several other honest travel agents.Just ask the local state travel offices.
raichand is offline  

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