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Quick Trip Report of Group Trip to the Tourist Triange (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur)

Quick Trip Report of Group Trip to the Tourist Triange (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur)

Old Jun 19th, 2009, 10:43 PM
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Quick Trip Report of Group Trip to the Tourist Triange (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur)

For the first time in our lives my wife and I went on a dreaded group tour. We have travelled independently everywhere previously from Tanzania to Cambodia to Peru to Egypt. But to be frank, the hassle of doing an independent tour to India was more trouble than we were willing to put in to get there and the fact the group tour worked out to be less than $1400/pp all-in from Los Angeles was too good to pass up. When I say all in that includes, airfare, hotel, some meals, taxes, Visas, guide, entrance fees etc.

I havent seen many, if any, reviews of group tours on here. Trust me, I looked before I booked, so we made a leap of faith and headed out to India with Friendly Planet on their June 10th tour. It was advertised as 8 days, but we knew that it was just going to be 5 nights, 1 in Delhi, 2 in Agra and 2 in Jaipur.

Overall, the trip exceeded our expectations (not wildly, but marginally), though we will likely never go on another group trip again unless it was next to free.

The highlights were a great hotel in Delhi, the Lalit, visiting the Taj Majal and the other must see tourist sites throughout the traingle in a relatively organized, timely and stree free way. We were able to bail from the group when we wanted (to avoid see textiles factories and such) and then catch up again with the later when they were doing more interesting things. Also, it helped that our bus had only 21 folks on it, which seemed like a manageable number.

Also, the tour guide was excellent and i would recommend him for private tours. His name is Devender Rathore if anyone wants his contact information, feel free to ask. He handled some of our crazy companions with ease and knew his stuff. He was with us from the airport to the farewell dinner (which we skipped).

The lowlights included a crappy hotel in Agra, the Clark Shiraz. Definitely avoid it. Some bizarre companions in our group (including a Russion etiquette coach and 2 cruise ship ballroom dance instructors) and lots of driving of 5 days on the ground. But then again, what do you expect when you sign up for a whirlwind tour.

If anyone has any specific questions, let them rip. For some reason, there doesnt seem to be many threads on group travel to India, so if I can be of any help, just let me know.
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Old Jun 19th, 2009, 11:03 PM
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I can see why you went for the tour, what a great price! Where did you stay in Jaipur?
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Old Jun 19th, 2009, 11:13 PM
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Oh wow, jersey - write some more about it. You're right, nobody much talks about the guided tour experience in here. Tell us what it was like, day by day. I'd love to know what goes down on those tours. Bizarre companions are my favorite. The reality is, tour or no, your itinerary mirrors many of the trips people do individually, so being able to compare and contrast is great.

And a Russian etiquette coach! That's worth the price of trip alone.
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 01:16 AM
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Thanks for the kind replies. I will write some more in the next few days. Its 130am here in Los Angeles and I should call it a night if I ever want to get back on PST. And by the way, sorry for typo in the title, that's just plain embarrassing.
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 06:20 AM
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yes give us all the details and exactly what you did moment to moment...
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 06:27 AM
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for the price it is not all that bad....how was the airline and which one did you use?

if you just want a taste of india and have little time, it sounds great..
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 06:40 AM
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So, 5 days on the ground in India all the way from LA? I want to say that's crazy, but I've done similar trips to Thailand (6 nights) only difference being that I'd been before and we stayed in one place.
Which airline did you use? How was the food offered on the tour. Did your experience make you want to return to India and travel solo next time?
I'd also like to know how you were able to break away from the group and catch up later when you were traveling by bus.
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 06:45 AM
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Another vote for more detail jersey, please tell us all about everything -- including the crazies. They are a great entertainment source when you have to take a group tour!
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 12:11 PM
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I hope you dont mind the details piece-meal as I dont quite have time time to sit down and write a book in one sitting. But to answer your specific queries.

The package itself included roundtrip airfare from JFK to Delhi on either Air India or Jet. We went with Air India to avoid the layover in Brussels in one of their new 777-200LRs. It was fine, a bit above the Delta's and American's of the world with private televisions and good service. That being said it was no Cathay Pacific, Singapore Air or Virgin Atlantic. We got our own connecting tickets LAX-JFK based on having a short as possible layovers in JFK. We flew United going out and Virgin America coming back and were able to pick up tickets for just over $200 round trip/pp. Strangely enough all flights were on time or early.

The trip did not want me to return to India solo. I saw they highlights that I suppose all tourists want to see and there are enough other places in the world to take up my time for the foreseeable future. And to be frank, India appeared to be a definite pain in the butt to do solo, even compared to other places we have gone solo in the supposed third world.

The food offered was fine. Buffet breakfasts at the hotels were adequate. We generally skipped the group lunches/dinners when offered to go out on our own and explore.

We broke away from the group by taking a taxi/tuk-tuk when they were at something we werent intered in to go to see something we wanted to explore. We coordinated with our guide who gave us a specific time/place to catch back up with group when they were done with their rug factory tour/group lunch which usually gave us 2-3 hours to go explore a bazaar or see a few sights on our own. We did this 3-4 times throughout the trip.

I will try to find time to start a blow by blow report later in the day.

Michael
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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thanks for this added info....

you might change your mind about india....i felt the same way after an 11 day trip there, but now i yearn to return....
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 06:15 PM
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Day 1:

Ridiculously early 430am taxi ride to LAX to catch our 615am flight to JFK. We opted to go with carry-ons only given that the trip was so short, plus it would make our connections go much smoother (and this was indeed the case). Our United flight was on-time into JFK giving us just over 2 hours to make our connection. We hopped on the airtrain to terminal 4, got our boarding passes and made it through security with an hour to spare. We grabbed a bite to eat at a rather mediocre bar/restuarant while waiting to board.

Unfortunately, the plane was full and given the 3+3+3 configuration I had the pleasure of occupying the middle seat for the 14 hour ride (not counting the the hour wait to take off as we were number 28 in line). Also amazingly they weighed our carryons right before we walked on the plane for the first time in my life and told us they were too heavy. So, we moved some stuff into our backpacks until they said it was ok. Once we were on the plane we moved everything back to where it belonged.

Air India is a fine airline. The personal tvs are a good size but half the features (games, maps) didnt work and the movie selection is poor, since when is Mama Mia or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 a new release? Also, there were all of 10 movies (both new and classic) to choose from. Fortunately, I slept a big part of the flight away. I cannot comment on the food, except to say there were 2 meals and a snack served. We avoid airline food whenever we fly coach as it tends to make us feel worse than if we just stick to our granola bars, fruit strips and Chex Mix.

We landed just a bit late as we had to circle Delhi for about 20 minutes and then the airport couldnt connect the bridgeway to the airplane because of wind (but it wasnt even windy out). After everyone made it through customs, got the luggage etc., we headed out of the airport about 6:30pm (we were supposed to land about 4:30pm). There were 60 of us on the tour, spread across 3 buses. Our bus #1 had 21 people, and we rarely saw the other 2 buses for the rest of the trip.

It was about an hour with traffic to the hotel. The Lalit is a very nice, modern hotel where you have to put your baggage and yourself through a metal detector to get in the door. We honestly didnt check it out much that night. After waiting for the room keys to be distributed which took 30 minutes (the wonders of group travel) we headed to the room for the evening.

But before bed we walked across the street to the ATM and took out 10,000 Rupees, which would last us the entire trip. We then went to the Chinese Restuarant on the top floor called WOK. We looked over the menu and were starving. Their special was all you can eat dim sum for 800 Rupees per person and we both ordered that. It was quite excellent and we made it through 8 of the 10 courses before we gave up. It also came with soup and ice cream for desert. Total bill with drinks and tax was about 37 dollars. We could live with that, though it would turn out to be our most expensive meal in India.

From dinner, we went to the room showered and went to bed knowing that the wake up call was for 6:30am tomorrow.
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 07:11 PM
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Thanks for giving us the details. I look forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Jun 20th, 2009, 08:03 PM
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great detail now...keep it coming
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 11:33 PM
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Wonderful start to your report.

I am glad you enjoyed your short trip to India. More details please...sounds interesting.
(Personally, I shy away from short trips to faraway places, and group tours as such.)
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Old Jun 30th, 2009, 10:41 AM
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Hate to pressure you but I want more. You are just way too entertaining to drop it now....thanks
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