Which tour to India?

Aug 30th, 2004, 02:00 PM
  #1  
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Which tour to India?

We are a group of four planning our first trip ever to India on February 2005. After reading a lot of postings of Fodorites, I'm not sure which tour to take. These are my to options:

Option 1.

New Delhi
Agra
Jaipur
Jodhpur
Udaipur
Jaisalmer
Mumbai

Option 2.

New Delhi
Agra
Jaipur
Kahj...?
Varanasi
Katmandu
New Delhi

Which tour would you take if is the first time to India? Are the cities in option number 1(Rajasthan Area) similar to each other or can you expect a differente experience in each city? Is the month of February a good to visit these regions?

Thanks for any help you can give.
Gilberto is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 02:47 PM
  #2  
 
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YOU DIDNT SAY HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE!!!
Craig is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 05:19 PM
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Ooops! Sorry

The Le Passage to India (Rajhastan)tour was 14/13 and the Smartour was 15/14 days.
Gilberto is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 02:43 AM
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First, consider doing this on your own without a tour. Most of us on these boards prefer independent travel to tours. There are 4 of you and you seem to want to go to places very much on the tourist route, so you can easily do this on your own. English is widely spoken, and the train, airline and car\driver infrastructure are all good, esp in the places on your list. If you can find a tour that can get you good deals on international airfare and hotels but lets you plan your own itinerary, I think that would work best. A car and driver for some portions might be good, but really you can hire these easily and cheaply on your own, even for longer trips like Agra to Jaipur.

Now for the itineraries, I prefer the second one because it gives you a broader range of sights and experiences. The first concentrates almost exclusively on Rajasthan, which is a great part of India but there are other parts. Varanasi is fascinating and very different from the forts and castles of Rajasthan.

I am not sure I would include Khajuarho. The temples start to look the same after about the third one. There is not much else to do there besides visiting the temples. I would spend more time in Varansi and Agra\Jaipur rather than going to Khajurao.

I would not include Mumbai except maybe to catch an international flight out of India. There are many, many more interesting places.

I have to say I am not a fan of Katmandu. The current security problems with the Maoist insurgents make travel there difficult (and make travel impossible at times) and I just did not like Katmandu at all, too crowded too touristy and just unattractive. I would see if you could go to Bhutan instead or go to Ladkh (not sure about the weather in Feb in either, take a look at worldclimate.com and weatherbase.com for info)

February is an excellent time of year in India, esp north India. Temps in the low to mid 70s F during the day, cool at night, little or no rain, sunny days. A great time to go. Beaches in Goa and Kerala are also great at that time, in the event you want to include some beach time. I would go to Goa or Kerala over Mumbai in a heartbeat, not even a choice.

One thing to remember about February is that early morning and late evening fog can cause delays or cancellations of flights, esp in Delhi, Agra, Varanisi and Khajurao. Try to use trains or a car\driver to the greatest extent you can, and otherwise schedule flights for between 11 and 3 pm to avoid fog delays.

Finally, it seems that the tours cover a LOT of ground in 13 or 14 days, too much IMO. You will be moving every day or so, and I think you will spend more time on buses, planes, trains, etc than you will actually seeing anything. If you have 13 or 14 days on the ground I would say that visiting 4 places at the most is the best way for you to actually experience and enjoy the country. It would be a shame to go all that way and not see sunrise or sunset at the Taj, IMO, and I am guessing the tours do not include that, or adequate time in places like Delhi.
Cicerone is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 05:15 AM
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I agree with Cicerone re Nepal i..e it is currently going thru a longish period of instability and planning it could lead to disappointment. I find it a fascinating place but on a limited schedule feel you would also be better off covering just india. Feb is an EXCELLENT time to be there. Weather will be great. Envy you! Comments on your itinerary. I like 1 for the foll reasons - I think flying into Delhi and out of Mumbai is great. Mumbai is not great frrom a sightseeing perspective but gives a great flavour of a cosmopolitan Indian city, has great night life, restaurants, shopping - if u can do it I would. I also feel u are covering a lot in 14 days but prob is a doable pace. I would suggest u substitute 1 of Jodhpur or Jaisalmer with Ranthambore - then u will get a chance to do a wildlife safari as well. I assume your last stop would be Udaipur as Udaipur is well connected to Mumbai by air.
hobbes is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 05:30 AM
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Gilberto, Cicerone is a frequent poster on this board and has provided a wealth of helpful information. I have used the advice of Cicerone and others to craft our own itinerary for next February. Unfortunately we will only have 12 days/11 nights. For comparison purposes, here is our itinerary:
Day 1 Arrive Delhi early morning (fog permitting) - transfer to Agra by car
Day 2 Agra
Day 3 Agra to Jaipur via Fatephur Sikri by car
Day 4 Jaipur
Day 5 Jaipur
Day 6 Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park by car
Day 7 Ranthambore
Day 8 Ranthambore to Delhi by train
Day 9 Delhi
Day 10 Delhi
Day 11 Delhi
Day 12 Depart Delhi late afternoon (fog permitting)

Ranthambore would add some additional variety to your itinerary. It is a wildlife sanctuary famous for its tigers. We have planned 2 morning and 2 afternoon game drives when we are there - don't know if this appeals to your group.

If we had the extra time you have, we would add Udaipur or possibly Varanasi (but not both!). I have heard that Varanasi is quite different from the other cities but it really has no first class places to stay if that matters to you.

We have opted to work through an Indian travel agency. We have set our own itinerary and our agent reserved the hotels of our choosing at substantially lower prices than we could have arranged on our own. Our agent also made our train reservation from Ranthambore to Delhi. For a car and driver you can arrange through your hotel or you can use an agent. Same goes for a guide. We are leaning toward using the agent as I have priced arranging these things through our hotels and it is about the same for what we want. If you have 4 people, you will probably be more comfortable with a Toyata Qualis SUV or similar vehicle.

Good luck in your planning.
Craig is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 09:01 AM
  #7  
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Thanks a lot to Craig, Cicerone and Hobbes for your comments and recommendations. Now I'm in a much better position to re-think and prepare a new itinerary. I'm sure that a lot of questions will come up later after re-organizing the trip.

Regarding the tour or independet travel, two of our companions are near 70 years old, so I don't want to be improvising what to do when travelling. How easy or difficult is to find an agent to organize what you want? Do you have to wait until you arrive to India, or can you contact that person previous to the trip? On the idependent trip, are you just going with your group or your added to others in a car or bus? I ask all these questions because I've always travelled by tour (and enjoy it) and not sure why is best to do it independently.

Thanks for any additional coments.
Gilberto is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 09:38 AM
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Gilberto, I am using Compass Tours in Delhi and am making all of the arrangements in advance via e-mail. Compass Tours is one of several that have been recommended highly on this board and others. I sent e-mails with my requirements to three agencies that were recommended and picked Compass because their hotel pricing was excellent. Durjay Sengupta is the contact at Compass. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. I like to have everything arranged in advance as I don't "improvise" very well. It sounds like you also would like everything prearranged. We will not be with a tour group - it will be just me and my wife. You will hear varying opinions on what it means to travel independently - to me it means to be able set our own pace and agenda while utilizing the sevices of drivers and guides when needed. It also means that we exercise more control over our hotel and room selection, where we eat our meals and where we shop. All in all it adds up to a higher quality experience for us. That being said, independent travel is not right for everyone - there are many that prefer the commaraderie of a tour group as well as not having to do a lot of advance research and planning. There is no right or wrong but the travelers on this forum tend to shy away from organized tours, I think. I hope this helps - if you are interested in the independent approach, you will find that those on this forum are ready, willing and able to help you.
Craig is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 12:27 PM
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Gilberto, I used Trade Wngs Tours to do my Ranthambore, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi trip in April this year. We were very satisfied (4 of us) with all arrangements - train booking Del-Ranthambore, car (Toyota Qualis a/c with excellent driver; another advantage of this was we could just keep dumping our shopping in the car!) Ranth-Jaipur-Agra-Delhi, guides at each place (this really helps - we picked up our guide at each place) and importantly hotels. We were on a budget which did not include Vilas properties everywhere but knew we wanted to stay at Amar Vilas in Agra. Our travel agent recoed hotels in Ranth and Jaipur which balanced out the budget nicely so we could do Amar Vilas in Agra. My comments on using a travel agent in India are that for a group on a tight schedule it often works well to have some things looked after. We also decided our own meals, shopping (never went shopping with the guide to avoid any sort of pressure, being taken places where he got a commission, etc),. Also, I agree with Craig that in peak season esp a good agent can often manage a good rate for u with a hotel. Finally, in India travel always has an unexpected element to it - the unpredictable. E.g. both Cicerone and I looked at your itinerary and felt too much Rajasthan - on paper it looks all right but one of the reasons I would not suggest it in addition to the culture overload (and hence substituted Ranthambore) is too much road travel. A good agent will also give u an itinerary which combines road, rail and air so that u do not e.g. have to deal with the vagaries of traveling by road daily.
hobbes is offline  
Sep 4th, 2004, 03:26 PM
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Thank you again Craig & Hobbes for your good recommendations. Following your suggestions I e-mailed Compass Tours and Trade Wing tours and receive quotes in just hours (Great Service). Now I'm organizing a new itinerary that would left out some of Rajhastan, but will include Varanasi. Regarding Rajasthan, which of the cities would you left out, as I stated in my original itinerary?
Gilberto is offline  
Sep 11th, 2004, 06:33 AM
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Sorry - been out of action for a couple of days as moving apts in HK. Re cities to leave out - tough question. Either Jodhpur or jaisalmer I'd say. Udaipur will be your connection to Mumbai by air I presume. Between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer I'd drop Jodhpur but this is very personal. Feb is great in terms of temps. Are you cosnidering adding ranthambore?
hobbes is offline  
Sep 13th, 2004, 02:52 PM
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Welcome back Hobbes

Yes, I'm considering Ranthambore as one of my options in tour. My actual itinerary will look like this:

Delhi (2) nights
Agra (2)
Jaipur (1)
Udaipur (2)
Ranthambore (2)
Varanasi (1)
Kahjuraho (2)
Delhi (1)

After leaving India, I'm heading to Bangkok for 5 days. The air fare is quite steep ($560-roundtrip). Any recommendations on how to find a better price?

Thanks again for your input.
Gilberto is offline  
Sep 13th, 2004, 03:19 PM
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I would reduce Ranthambore to 1 night unless that includes transit time. In 1 night you can do 2 game safaris. On the other hand 1 night in Jaiur is really short and you could increase that by a night IMO. I also think 1 night in Khajuraho is enough as primarily you will see the temples. Add the extra night to Delhi. Delhi-Bangkok airlines are indian Airlines, Air India, Thai and Cathay. Have u checked all?
hobbes is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 06:06 AM
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Sorry, IMO, this itinerary still has too many stops and you aren't spending nearly enough time in each place. You will be exhausted with this itinerary. If there is a flight or train delay (both possible esp in February with fog delays) you may not even be able to make it to a place like Varanasi where you have only one night. You will spend more time getting to some of these places than you will actually in the place. To get from Ranthambore to Varanasi will take you most of an entire day if flying, more if going by train, and more if there are any delays.

I would leave our Khajuraho. One night in Jaipur is not enough, I would either skip it entirely or leave out Udaipur or Varanasi. If you have been on safari in Africa, I would leave out Ranthambore, as I think you would be disappointed.

I would skip Thailand this time. 5 days in Bangkok is not really a good way to experience Thailand, you need to get out to other areas. Spend the 5 days in India and you could include one or two of the places I encouraged you to skip above. You could also go to a beach in India for your last 5 days if you wanted to chill out, consider Goa or Kerala.

Cicerone is offline  
Sep 15th, 2004, 05:08 AM
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Cicerone, thank you for your alert regarding my in-progress itinerary. People like you, Hobbes and Craig, among others, can really make a difference in a trip like this. The Bangkok addition is because we're travelling with two 70+ parents and, for them, maybe this will be the last trip to this region. Thank you again for sharing your thougths..
Gilberto is offline  
Sep 15th, 2004, 05:59 AM
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OK with parents in their 70s this itinerary is VERY inappropriate. YOu really need to slow down. I live in Switzerland and my parents are in their 70s and in good health but even here they cannot keep up the same toursist schedule as younger people. YOu need to plan flexibility as well in case one of them is not feeling great and you decide to stay put for another day.

With that in mind, 3 days in Dehli is enough. The pollution there is pretty bad, it even bothers me and I generally have an iron constitution. It will bother your eyes and make also make you cough. I think you are breaking it up into 2 days on one end and one end on the other, a good way to do it.

I think your 70 plus parents will have a hard time dealing with the heat, humidity and pollution of Bangkok, which is another reason to skip it. Temps are in the high 80s F and it is almost 100% humiidty. It really does take its toll. My parents went in their early 60s and would not go back now...
Cicerone is offline  
Sep 16th, 2004, 01:20 AM
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Actually the pollution in Delhi is much better nowadays as all public transport has compulsorily moved to CNG...I lived there in Feb-March and was pleasantly surprised at the massive change. If your parents really want to see Bangkok Gilberto I woulr restructure as below :

Delhi (2) nights
Agra 1 or 2 nights - the transfer Del-Agra by train or road is not too long or tiring, 1 night gives you the opportunity to see the Taj at 2 different times of day but depending on what time you leave Del you may still want 2. You could also use the 2nd night to have an early sleep and get a dawnish start to your Agra-Jaipur transfer giving you most of that day in Jaipur.
Jaipur 2 nights - u will really not do justice to Jaipur in 1 night. IMO you could even make this 3 - it is a fascintaing city.
Udaipur (2)
Ranthambore 1 night is enough as I said for 2 safaris - keep this in - we LOVED seeing the Great Bengal tiger at just 10 feet distance and 1 of my friends said she thought that was the highlight of her India trip. Also, Ranthambore will be a different type of sightseeing i.e. safaris and more down time so will provide a welcome break
Varanasi (1)
I would cut out Khajuraho altogether as it is getting too hectic.
Delhi 1 or 2 - figure out what time you will come in then decide. You could also use the extra night to chill out and recover so you are all fighting fit for Bkk.
hobbes is offline  
Sep 16th, 2004, 11:59 AM
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I tend to agree with hobbes on his programme ideas. Just make sure that if you stay only one night in Varanasi, you use the evening well. You absolutely need to go out on the river and witness the ceremony on the ghats in the evening. It is a unique experience. So, make sure you arrive in Varanasi well in time, at the latest in the late afternoon. If that is not possible you should consider making it two nights in Varanasi and leave as early as possible the next morning to the next destination.
A second remark I have is about Ranthambore. Some are lucky to see tigers, some see them only from the pictures in the dining room of the lodge (my case). I tend to agree with the analysis in the Lonely Planet guide book, first: in any case you must accept that this is not a zoo, and that you have no guarantee that you will see tigers; and second: you increase your chances of seeing tiger if you stay for a couple of days. In one day you have in fact only two rides into the woods and maybe that is a bit too little to stand fair chances. Anyway, even if you do not see tiger, Ranthambore is a nice place to spend a day in the nature, changing you from the crowdy cities, etc.
cram is offline  
Sep 17th, 2004, 01:28 AM
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One correction on Varanasi: sunrise is a more interesting time to be on the river to observe the morning rituals as people greet the sun by immersing in the river. Cremations occur virtually round the clock as demand is great so I don't think you have to plan a special time for that.
Cicerone is offline  
Sep 17th, 2004, 05:38 AM
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Agreed, Cicerone that a very early morning boat ride is magic too. There is however something very special to the evening atmosphere on the shore at the ghats as well. Ideally both should be done, in my opinion. If time allows, of course.
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