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Please Help India First Timer with Itinerary

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May 26th, 2011, 08:39 AM
  #1
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Please Help India First Timer with Itinerary

I am struggling to finalize my itinerary for a trip to India this fall (30-33 days) -- and am hoping that you Fodorites can help me sort it out as you have so often in the past.

A bit of background: we are 60ish retirees who have traveled extensively on our own. We prefer a slow travel mode, and while we are anxious to see the major sights, we prefer small towns and really want to learn about life in India.

I plan to use a travel company to hire a car and driver for at least some of the trip. It is tempting to let them handle it all, but I would like to handle at least some of the touring myself. Any suggestions on which parts of the trip would be best done on my own?

I am not sure how the car and driver thing works. Is the car available to us anytime -- i.e. if we wanted to drive somewhere for dinner at night or take a day trip one day? Also, I have seen recommendations to go with the Toyota Innova. It looks awfully big for just 2 people -- is it that much better than the Tata Indigo?

Here is our rough itinerary:

Delhi -- 3 nights
Red Fort, Chandni Chowk (rickshaw ride) Ghandi Smriti, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Minar Complex, Sulabh International Museum of Toilets (DH choice -- don't ask!)

Overnight train to Varanasi (want to experience one of these)

Varanasi -- 3 nights
Banaras ghats, Golden temple, Dasaswamedh ghat, dawn boat ride, Sarneth

Flight to Khajuraho

Khajuraho – 2 nights
Temples

Drive to Orchha – 2 nights

Evening train to Agra – 2 nights
Taj Mahal, Baby Taj, Agra Fort

Drive to Jaipur -- 4 nights
Stop at Fatehpur Sikri, Amber Fort, palaces, astronomical observatory

Drive to Bundi -- 3 nights

Drive to Udaipur -- 4 nights
Stop at Chittorgarh, palaces etc. day trip to Kumbalgarh Fort

Drive to Jojowar -- 2 nights
Visit small villages

Drive to Narlai -- 2 nights
Splurge on dinner at step well

Drive to Jodhpur -- 3 nights
Meherangarh Fort

Fly to Delhi -- 1 night

Possible variarions to this plan would be to carve out two days (maybe delete a day from both Jodhpur and Bundi) to add Gwalior (after Orchha), or I am also intrigued by the possiblity of staying at Bhainsrorgarh. But, I hate to shorten our stays since I already have a lot of 2-nighters. Any stops that you would suggest I eliminate?

Thanks for your help!
Magster2005 is offline  
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May 26th, 2011, 10:05 AM
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Yes,for the long drives, the Innova IS that much better than the Indigo. The indigo is fine just for local drives. But usually, once you have a car-driver--they are a team. That is "your" team while you are on your trip.
Yes, the driver is at your disposal for whatever you want to do. eg you want to shop for aparticular item; you settled into the hotel at evening, you fancy dinner ...you just tell the driver, or you have the hotel page the driver, and he'll be there waiting before you even make it to the hotel entrance--at least, that has been our experience with the drivers we booked via travel planner for the last two trips to India.
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May 26th, 2011, 11:17 AM
  #3
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Thanks CaliNurse -- sounds great. Especially in India, I think it will be a great benefit to have a driver and not just for driving but also for advice, conversation etc. I have your read your very positive (and helpful) reviews of Indian Panorama which is one of the companies I am considering.
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May 27th, 2011, 08:07 PM
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Magster, for much more feedback on some of your destinations, i recommend the fantastic travel forum Indiamike. you'll find a huge number responses from travelers of all ages and economic and national-origin.
BTW, both Lipgirl and Rinda on this forum used Faith to plan their trips, and were happy with the results. There are several very highly recommended companies/travel specialists named on this forum. You are smart to consider different companies...but be sure you're comparing apples to apples (i.e.same sort of transport, same level hotels. etc)
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May 27th, 2011, 08:37 PM
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we are the same age as you and have done an 11 tour of the golden triangle only....this time (nov) we have almost a month and will start with kolkata and work our way westward. we fly on the eastern legs but start the auto with delhi and westward, hitting many of the same places you will...

i think you might find the small towns disappointing in some ways, i.e. lack of decent/read safe restaurants, same for lodging, and lack of significant sights..

with flights be aware of the annoying fog at that time of year which often holds up flights, esp. in delhi...

get the biggest suv for safety if for no other reason.

your prior travels have very little to do with indian travel...its a whole new ballgame.... english is often a problem away from civilization.
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May 28th, 2011, 03:24 AM
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Unless a veteran India traveler might consider

a nice upscale tour or more budget group tour

for less dodginess hassle and to save.

tucantravel.com was great for me for budget

affordabeltours.com more upscale options

Both will save you money time and hassle.

makemytrip.com

yatara.com

top local providers

Unless very savy super easy to get scammed at many levels.

travel.state..gov for safety entry insremytrip.com

always wise for me...

Happy Travels!
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May 28th, 2011, 06:58 AM
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Thanks so much for the comments!

CaliNurse -- I just spent the last hour roaming around the India Mike website. Amazing -- lots of information! I have contacted Indian Panorama, Legends and Palaces, and Namaste India -- hoping that will give me a good selection to choose from.

rhkkmk -- I don't really know how to prepare myself for India since it seems beyond anything we have ever done. My husband wanted to do something more exotic, so I guess this should be it.

thursdaysd -- Appreciated your comments about traveling independently. The tours just make it sound so much easier.

Any concerns about me starting our with Varanasi? I know some would reverse the itinerary to do Varanasi last. I thought it better to dive in while we were still fresh.
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May 28th, 2011, 07:48 AM
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we did an "11 day" tour above
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May 28th, 2011, 07:57 AM
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india is exotic and chaiotic both..... there is NO PREP for it... do good planning. things move very slowly there so do not over extend yourself... allow as much time as possible in each place, which i think you have done...

be very careful what you eat.... consult a travel clinic long before you go...

we found that having a driver available was a great advantage esp. on a first trip...
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May 29th, 2011, 06:20 AM
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rhkkmk -- I am jsut curious. What was about India that makes you want to return a second time?
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Jun 1st, 2011, 06:07 PM
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I have been to India 16 times and for the last 10 times I have had a fabulous driver who has taken me from Simla to a comprehensive tour of all of Rajasthan. His name is RAJESH RANA and his email is [email protected]. He has a spanking white car - perfect for 2 people - and is very knowledgeable about the whole area. Personable and charming, an EXCELLENT driver in the crazy Indian traffic, he is a delightful person to chauffeur your around those areas. He is also much more reasonable than someone you could hire from a tour company. I usually have the car from 9AM to 6PM and sometimes I ask for it to go to a special place in the evening. In addition to what he charges I tip him at the end of the trip (about 500 rupees a day) - believe me he is worth every penny - as mentioned by CallNurse, he is at your disposal.
You mention Jodhpur - outside of Jodhpur is a exceptional place - ROHETGARH. No place like it in India! Originally a manor house in which the charming owners still live, it is now a small and unique hotel with comfortable rooms decorated in Rajasthani style. Lovely staff, beautiful grounds filled with flowers, a magical pool - and in the nearby desert they have a Wilderness Camp in which can overnight in a gorgeous tent complete with hot shower, etc. and further out yet, their new addition is a replica of a small Rajput fort - luxury such as you have only dreamt of! You have your pick. Look up ROHETGARH on the Internet.
If you send me your email I can send you a copy of my journals for some of these areas you are going to.
As for a tour operator I would recommend ASTRAL ANTIKE PVT LTD (a weird name I know) run by a Mr GOPINATH. I have known him - and used him - since 1985! His email is [email protected]. Tell both him and Rajesh - and mention it at Rohetgarh - that you heard about them from Tamara. I have travelled extensively throughout the world and am very picky - you can be sure to have a fabulous experience with these recommendations. If you want recommendations for hotels or shopping, please email me at [email protected]. India is indeed INCREDIBLE!
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Jun 2nd, 2011, 03:52 AM
  #12
peg
 
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I just returned from India a couple of weeks ago. I normally plan everything on my own as its easier being a solo traveller, but I worked with Mr. Singh, and I think the car and driver are the way to go. I was much less stressed.
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Jun 2nd, 2011, 07:49 PM
  #13
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Hi Peg,

I read your trip report with great interest because I am also considering Mr. Singh for our tour. Sounds like you were very satisfied with his services. Did you consider many other companies before making your decision?
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Jun 5th, 2011, 05:42 AM
  #14
peg
 
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Yes, I looked into other companies. What I liked most about him is that he answered all my questions (and quickly), never turned me away for being a solo traveler, came up with a reasonable and afforadable itinerary and his knowledge is quite good. I will be heading back to India and wouldn't do it without Mr. Singh. I have sent him some pics to post on his website and am in the process of writing a letter or recommendation for his agency for others.
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