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North India--travel by train, plane or car--Please help

North India--travel by train, plane or car--Please help

Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 03:05 PM
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North India--travel by train, plane or car--Please help

We want to go to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambore and Udaipur--I am getting a lot of mixed messages on how we should get around to all of these places. Time is limited unfortunately and we will be there from December 26th-January 6th..I am looking for help on the break down of days in each location and the easiest fastes way to travel...any help would be much appreciated.

I'm thinking:

Delhi-2 nights

Agra-2 nights

Jaipur-2 nights

Rathambore-3 nights

Udaipur-3 nights

Thanks so much for helping with this.
ladia is offline  
Old Sep 3rd, 2003, 11:21 PM
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Ladia, do a search for India and you'll see Rocco's itinerary. He is going to many of the same places you are. With that many cities in such a short time, you don't have a lot of choices about how to get around - you'll have to fly. I might take one night off of Udaipur (I hope you are at the Palace and preferably a suite) and put it somewhere else (or account for travel time).
Clematis is offline  
Old Sep 4th, 2003, 02:59 AM
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I can?t help you with Ranthambore or Udaipur, but we did the ?triangle? some ten years ago using a car, driver and guide. We arrived in Delhi one evening and stayed at Claridges Hotel, which made us very welcome.
The rest is from my diary.

Next morning we took a taxi to the Red Fort. Our driver, who was a large Sikh offered to wait for us at the fort for the princely sum of Rs10 per hour, an offer we promptly accepted, as it was knee deep in beggars and tricksters of every description. Our trusty driver was particularly solicitous of our valuables, warning us to guard our purses and wallets well - as we were to learn he had his own designs on them.
The fort was the first of our Mogul experiences and paled into insignificance when compared to some later ones. It is a large complex within which are the old mid 1800's style British barracks still in use today.
Fighting our way out of the fort, we found our trusty driver waiting and promptly asked to go to the Jama Masjid, as we still wanted to try the highly recommended Karim's! He turned distinctly pale, "No way Sahib, it is still under curfew from the riots." (Our visit was shortly after the riots over the mosque that was destroyed in Ayodhya).
So sadly, we abandoned the mosque in exchange for a view of Jawaharlal Nehru's memorial. Next came what I can only described as Imperial Delhi, which is magnificent. The avenue up to the old Viceroy's palace makes the approach to Buckingham Palace look like a tradesman's entrance.
From there, we sped across Delhi to the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid. The oldest mosque in India, parts of it are still in remarkably good condition.
We left there feeling peckish and so decided to return to the hotel, but "Sahib there is a Kashmir community near here, would you like to see some carpets made?" The simple answer was "not really," but that didn't seem acceptable so we replied we would but that we wouldn't be buying anything. "Sahib, you look you do not buy" was the reply, from one who, having eaten our salt, was mortally offended at the suggestion that he was trying for a commission!
We entered to experience the hardest sell to date! Carpets were strewn in all directions and so cheap! A six-foot by four foot Kashmir carpet cost only Rs30,000! When we suggested that we would drop back on Saturday after looking round we were promptly told that we had to buy now or the carpets could not be moth proofed in time! That really sold us and we left, shouldering off an assorted dozen other merchants. Our trusty driver was nearly in tears. I am sure because of the reception we had been offered. It would be unworthy to suggest that it was because of his lost commission that he had probably spent three times over in his imagination.
After lunch, we emerged from the hotel and the magnificent doorman whistled us up a taxi. Who should be sitting in the front next to the driver but our trusty driver of the morning! Such devotion was unlooked for, unexpected and unwanted! We wanted to go to the Government Central Cottage Industries Emporium on Janpath. "Oh no Sahib, that is now closed. Janpath very bad place all private shops. Government shop now in Connaught Place." Sure enough, he dropped us off outside the Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Connaught Place. Entering we were attacked from all sides by voracious sales people! We escaped out a side door, hopefully our trusty driver and his apprentice are still waiting for us!
We walked back up Janpath and there, just as the guidebook said, was the Central Cottage Industries Emporium. There, we wondered around un-accosted by any of the staff. It is a bit on the dusty side and the quality leaves a little to be desired but it does give a good indication of what prices should be.
Outside all of that changed! The beggars were three deep and the traders aggressive. My personal problem was a young lad who wanted to sell me a long whip. Nothing would convince him that I didn't want a whip! The price started at Rs550 and he appeared to stick at Rs250. It broke his heart when I escaped.
An early start on our second full day, as our driver and car arrived at 7:30 a.m., depriving us of our free breakfast and we set off for Agra. En route, we stopped at various checkpoints where the driver registered. Clearly, these were well known points, as there were wall-to-wall beggars. As we neared Agra, we saw our first camel trains, also our first wild peacocks. We missed out on Akbar's tomb as nobody told the driver we had to stop there. One oddity was the number of dancing black bears being led along the road - our driver insisted by gypsies. What has ceased to be an oddity was the snake charmers, there was at least one almost everywhere. As the locals ignored them completely, brushing past the cobras with their vicious fangs, we assumed that they were harmless - but we don't experiment!
We duly arrived in Agra and booked into our hotel. After lunch, our guide arrived and gave us excellent value. First stop was the Taj Mahal and that is really just impossible to describe. One must see it. Suddenly all the problems of getting there didn't matter, it was just sufficient to sit there and let in sink in.
From there, we moved to the Agra Red Fort that is much nicer and better preserved than the Delhi example. The old Moguls certainly knew how to live - provided of course you belonged to the right social group. I don't imagine being a hewer of wood or a drawer of water would be much fun. It was here that Shah Japan spent his last years imprisoned by his son and mourning his beloved Mumtaz Mahal who had died bearing her 14th child. Mind you, he was not exactly chained to the walls or interred in a dungeon and he did have 300 concubines with him in his imprisonment. So, his son did not deprive him of all of the basic enjoyments of life.
From there we moved on to see marble being inlaid by "descendants of the family that built the Taj." Of course! It would be churlish to believe otherwise! That was a pretty hard sell too, but we managed to escape unscathed. I think that our guide read the signs and decided there was little point in trying other outlets. Our Guidebook described Agra as "Rip-off-Ville" and was quite right.
We had an early start planned on our third full day and accordingly set the telephone alarm for 5:30 a.m. Sadly, it didn't work and it was after 8:00 a.m. when we emerged from the hotel, having again missed out on a free breakfast. Our guide was waiting for us and we were quickly on the road to Jaipur with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri. This was fascinating as it was built, occupied and abandoned within the space of 15 years. The guide book informed us that it was built by Akbar, whose tomb we had missed on the previous day, "a man of exceptional intelligence and enlightenment." He may well have been such a man but he wasn't a practical one. The reason it was abandoned was that there was insufficient water to support the population. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating place, boasting among other things the highest gateway in India. There is a courtyard laid out as a chessboard where Akbar played chess using his courtesans as chess pieces. This somewhat unorthodox use of courtesans may have accounted for him reaching the old age of 26 without having fathered an heir, despite having some 300 wives and a harem of 5,000. Somebody must have put him straight as he produced three sons between 1569 and 1572.
As well as a magnificent mirrored room, there is the marble tomb of Shaikh Salim that may have served as a model for the Taj Mahal.
There is also, of course, the peddlers and the beggars. I took a risk and bought some film. A risk because there is always the chance that it is used, out of date or non-existent. There was no risk about it being expensive - that was a certainty. In the event, I was lucky and it was the genuine article.
Here we left our guide to catch a bus back to Agra and continued to Jaipur. A stop for lunch at a wayside hotel resulted in one of the best meals that we had in India. Made doubly delicious by being eaten on the lawn.
On day four the hotel alarm did not work but ours did and we managed breakfast before meeting the guide at 8:00 a.m. First stop was the Amber Fort with an elephant ride up to the courtyard. We plodded up the hill hanging on for grim death whilst our elephant stopped at frequent intervals to void its massive bowel, a photo wallah was standing there braving the splashes to take our photograph. By this time, Mogul forts were all starting to look alike but this one has some unusual features. One is the monkeys that swarm all over the place, the other is a Hindi temple where long and loud prayers are offered. Yet another is a mirrored room - not really very clever but one feels that one has to be polite and make appropriate oohs and ahs!
On the ride up the height of the elephant had saved us from the peddlers. On the walk down there was no escape and we were badgered constantly. On the way back from the fort we stopped off at a block printing factory "just to look" and settled on a tablecloth and some bedspreads. The bargaining went on for hours thoroughly enjoyed by both sides.
Next stop was a carpet manufacturer. This one was a lot more authentic than the one in Delhi. To nobody's surprise, we bought a six ft by four ft Kashmir wool carpet. The prices started at half the opening price in Delhi and by the time that my wife finished with him the salesman was close to tears. However, I think it very unlikely that he sold at a loss!
The observatory was the first stop after lunch. Standing outside the gate was a sales wallah with our photograph; he wanted Rs50 for it. We declined the offer.
We never really worked out the observatory. There is a sundial that tells time to within two seconds, and then there are another dozen or so instruments that appear to do the same thing with various degrees of accuracy. One clever device tells you if the sun is in the northern or southern hemispheres - as does a calendar. Jai Singh who must have been well aware that European advances had outdated such monsters built them all between 1728 and 1734.
Our next stop was the palace part of which doubles as a museum. Our sales wallah intercepted us en-route and the price of our photo had dropped to Rs30. Still no sale. The palace is nothing startling but it does house some interesting exhibits, including some 400 year old carpets. We shall be interested to see if ours wears as well.
After that we went on to a jewellers "just to look." Too damned right it was just to look! But on our way to the car our sales wallah friend was back again. He had by now realized that he was selling a highly perishable commodity and the haggling started in earnest!
The guidebook spoke of the romance of wandering the bazaars of Jaipur in the early evening. This looked attractive, but we decided that the writer must have had a military escort at brigade strength to keep the beggars at bay. We settled instead for a meal in the rooftop restaurant and a very good one it was too.
Our final full day started with a return to Delhi. Until now traffic had been light and the standard of driving deplorable. On the Jaipur - Delhi road all of that changed! The traffic became heavy and the driving near suicidal. Progress was slow and it was well after lunchtime that we stopped off at Claridges to pick up our left luggage..
We went off down to the Janpath for some last minute shopping. Our first encounter was with my young friend with the whip. There was instant recognition and the one sided negotiations recommenced where they had left off "What you say to Rs150?" I escaped into the nearest shop.
That occupied five days plus our arrival time. By flying you could probably save a day, at the cost of missing out on Fatehpur Sikri. You could save another day by rushing Jaipur a little ? we had a lazy afternoon after transferring from Agra. With an early morning flight it should be possible to arrive from Agra and do everything in one day.

I hope this helps, email me at [email protected] if I can help further.

Tangata is offline  
Old Sep 4th, 2003, 06:15 AM
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If you don't mind paying the price, try palace on wheels
You can check out info on www.palaceonwheels.com

JBTravel is offline  
Old Sep 4th, 2003, 07:02 AM
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Your schedule looks good. I would drive or take the train as much as possible. The distances you are going are not that far, and driving is probably your fastest option except to get to/from Udaipur. If you do choose to fly, take mid-day flights, as early morning and late evening fog is a problem in Delhi and Agra in the winter months; delays are common.

I would only spend 2 nights in Udaipur and add an extra night in Jaipur as I think there is more to do and see there and the shopping is much better.

I would say two nights at Ranthambore are fine, provided you arrive around lunch on the first day. There are only two wildlife rides a day: at sunset and then around 2 or 3 pm. If you arrive around lunch, you can have lunch and then take the afternoon ride, stay over, do both rides the next day, stay over, and do the morning ride the next day. You may feel you have done enough at that point, or if your schedule is flexible, stay for one more ride and then head back to Jaipur later in the evening. Bring gloves, hats and a warm jacket as the sunrise rides are cold in the winter months.

I would take one of the nights at Ranthambore and add it to Delhi, as there is a lot to see in Delhi as well. You could also stick with your original 3 night plan for Udaipur.

I believe the Taj is closed on Fridays (confirm this with your hotel) so be aware of this when planning your time.

I would do the itinerary as follows (assuming you are landing in Delhi in the very early morning hours):

Delhi 2-3 nights - drive or train to Agra (2-3 hours)
Agra 2 nights - drive to Jaipur, stop at Fatephur Sikri (drive is 4 hours)
Jaipur 3 nights - drive to Ranthambore (drive is 4 hours)
Ranthambore 2 nights - drive back to Jaipur overnight before flight to Udaipur
Udaipur 2-3 nights - fly to Delhi for connection to international flight

Although you could fly between Agra and Jaipur, I would drive, as there are very limited flights out of Agra, most of which require connections through Delhi and all of which are on Indian Air, not my preferred carrier in India. Driving would be faster than going by air via Delhi.

I prefer Jet Airways. There is a daily flight on Jet Airways at 7:15 am from Jaipur to Udaipur. Costs $90. Jet Airways has two daily flights from Udaipur to Delhi at 8:10 am and 3:20 pm. Costs $115. ( If you are connecting on to your international flight in Delhi on the same day, note that you will have to change terminals. You will arrive at the domestic terminal and have to get to the international germinal which is about 3 miles away. Both are called Indira Ghandi Intl Airport, so don't be confused if you see this on you Udaipur-Jaipur ticket.) There is a shuttle bus, but I would actually take a taxi as it is much less confusing than trying to figure out the shuttle bus, and if you have several pieces of luggage, a taxi is more convenient.

Website for Jet Airways is jetwairways.com. Website for Indian Airlines is http://indian-airlines.nic.in/ (Not to be confused with Air India, which is international flights only.)

Re the Palace on Wheels, I have not been on it myself, but know people who have and were disappointed with the condition of the train, the service and the cabin size. Run a search here, there was a thread a few months ago. IMO you are better off doing this on your own with car/train.
Cicerone is offline  
Old Sep 4th, 2003, 11:29 PM
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Dear Ladia,

Hi again!! Couldn't help posting again, until or unless you are where you are (planning to be as shown in your message) due to accommodation availability, you may like to think and consider this sequence -

New Delhi - 02 Nights Stay, drive to Agra on the 03rd Day. Takes 04 Hours atleast if you have started as early as 8:00 AM. The Road is a Double Lane Highway, closest they come to a super highway in India (IMO)

Agra - 02 Night stay at Agra for 02 nights and on 3rd Day leave for Ranthambore and not Jaipur as Ranthambore is first on the way and you will save to and fro trips as in your original plan.

Here you have TWO Options -

1. Driving, this takes atleat 07 Hours, considering you would stop for only lunch and have done Fatehpur Sikri, sightseeing a day earlier.

2. Take a Train to Ranthambore from Bharatpur which is just 01 hour drive from Agra. The best train for this is the "Golden Temple Mail" leaves at 10:50 AM from Bharatpur and reached SawaiMadhopur Station at 13:10 PM which is under 2Hrs 30 Minutes. Later in the day you have "Jan Shatabadi" Train.

Both these trains have A.C Seating and tickets can be pre-booked.

This would drastically reduce your travel time and you would be far more comfortable.

If this suggestion appeals to you and you have a love for the wild life then here is another suggestion.

Reduce your stay at Agra to 01 Night and drive the 02nd day to Bharatpur, book yourself at the Heritage Laxmi Vilas or the intriguing Forest Lodge and enjoy some birding. With good monsoons this year in India the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary would be a haven for some very rare species of birds.

On the 03 Day you can take the train to Sawai Madhopur.

Ranthambore - 03 Nights Stay on 4th Day Drive to Jaipur, this would atleast take 04 hours.

Jaipur - 02 Nights Stay on 3rd morning take a Jet airways flight to Udaipur. Or if you wish to tarvel by train take a overnight train on the 02nd night to Udaipur called Chetak Express leaves at 21:30 and reached 10:00 AM next morning at Udaipur. Though here i would recommend a flight connection and specially Jet Airways.

Udaipur - 02 Nights, on the 3rd day take the Flight to New Delhi as the road travel would take atleast 10-12 Hours. Use jet Airways here too they fly fine and regularly, there should be two flights see what suits you fine.

Rest the poster above has covered very well.

sarahtown is offline  
Old Sep 5th, 2003, 02:47 AM
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Sarahtown, I made the mistake of doing the drive from Agra to Ranthambore 3 years ago. The most bone-shaking horrible ride of my life, basically going on dirt tracks over the desert, as there was no paved road for most of the way. I have traveled a lot in India and Asia generally, and am familiar with the state of many roads, but this was bar none the worst driving experience I ever had in 10 years of living and traveling in Asia. I know on the map they look close, but the drive was so bad that had I known I would have gone Agra-Jaipur first (via a great road) and then gone down to Ranthambore from Jaipur (another good road.)

Have you done the Agra-Ranthambore drive since 2000 and can confirm that the road is paved and the drive is bearable?
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Old Sep 6th, 2003, 10:53 PM
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Road condition wise both Agra-Ranthambore and Ranthambore -Jaipur are nothing great to report home. Both these roads are spotted with small villages and have dust tracks. Yet ranthambore-Jaipur is better.

But train still remains the best way of doing Agra-B'pur-ranthambore. Still see no reason why with this option someone would like to back track.
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Old Sep 9th, 2003, 11:57 AM
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Thank yous so much to everyone for all of your thoughts! It helped us so much!
ladia is offline  
Old Nov 2nd, 2003, 03:57 AM
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have u finalized trip or do u want more inputs? Email on [email protected]
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