India

Pross
Pross Posts: 41,390
I know some of you are much more well travelled than me so would appreciate your thoughts. My wife and I hit our 50th birthdays within a few weeks of each other around this time next year and are starting to consider a trip to India in late October / early November. This fits in the middle of the two birthdays and from my brief research is the start of the best time to visit weatherwise.

We would like to see as much as possible and tend to get bored hanging around one place so have found a tour that does 3 nights in each of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur before finishing in Goa for 5 nights for a bit of R&R. The first three are all pretty close as things go in India with coach transfers between them then a flight to Goa. Does anyone have any experience and, if so, is this likely to cover most of the basis a 14 night trip is likely to allow or would there be other destinations we should consider? We've never travelled much outside of Europe (Florida and New York plus I've done LA / Vegas) so want to get the most out of the experience although hopefully with kids grown up and more disposable income we'll be able to explore a bit more in future.

Comments

  • I have travelled more than most but less than many and my advice would to definitely not to cut your teeth on India. If you do go ahead ditch the coach and get yourself a driver so you are not spending 2 weeks waiting for the same numpties.

    Sri Lanka is a much more manageable place than India.

    Easier places on my list would be Thailand and Vietnam.
  • dabber
    dabber Posts: 1,929
    edited October 2021
    We went there for a special anniversary a few years ago and had a wonderful time,mainly in Rajastan but also up at Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas. We used Great Rail Journeys and did their "Place on wheels" tour..... a great way to to travel, slept on the train overnight whilst it moved on to the next stop. Breakfast and dinner on the train.... dinner in beautiful dining carriages. The downside is that it's not cheap but it was a great experience. The itinery varies a bit but most of the main places are consistent.

    Lots of memorable sights and certainly a big "hit" on the senses. Some sad sights of course.
    “You may think that; I couldn’t possibly comment!”

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  • wilberforce
    wilberforce Posts: 302
    edited October 2021
    We did a similar trip two years ago (Late Nov, early Dec). We spent 12 days in India and covered Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Kolkata and Hyderabad (Hyderabad was to visit son who was working there at the time). As SC has said, get yourself a driver who meets you in Delhi and then stays with you for the Agra and Jaipur legs at least. A guide in each location is also invaluable to show you around. There is obviously a lot of poverty and some of the towns such as Agra are sh*tholes but you are only really going to Agra to see one thing. We loved it and had a brilliant time. I may still have the full itinerary from our trip somewhere if it is any use.
  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 73,708
    Pross - @dish_dash spent his formative years there - he might have some views.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 41,390
    Thanks all. The reason for India is that my wife has always wanted to go as her grandfather was based there with the RAF in WW2 and she's got loads of photos of him out there. She had hoped to be able to take her nan out there but she became unwell and passed away before we could afford it.

    I've looked at the railway journeys previously, they really appeal to me. Not just India, I'd like to tour all sorts of place by rail for the reasons mentioned i.e. you travel whilst sleeping at get to see so much whilst travelling. I'll take another look but I suspect it will be too expensive as the trip will already be coming out of money I'm saving to buy myself a custom built Ti bike for my 50th!

    I will also look into the option of a private driver - is this expensive / difficult to arrange or can it be done through a holiday company? The wife has asked a company to put prices together so it may be that it can be tailored into a package. I don't want to skimp on cost for what is intended to be a very special holiday, especially as the one we had planned for our 25th anniversary / daughter's 18th this year had to be shelved, but we won't have an enormous budget. Originally the plan for next year was to go to NYC again with me doing the marathon whilst there but getting a place is going to be hard with all the deferred entries and as we've been twice before it feels a bit selfish.
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922
    India has a vast array of things that can be seen including jungles, forests, deserts, mountains, beaches, people of all religions, buildings old and new etc. It would be helpful if you could narrow down your main interests, and more importantly, your tolerance for suffering and hassle.

    Personally, I'd say two weeks is too short especially if you are planning to spend five on a beach.
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922

    I have travelled more than most but less than many and my advice would to definitely not to cut your teeth on India. If you do go ahead ditch the coach and get yourself a driver so you are not spending 2 weeks waiting for the same numpties.

    There are plenty of pitfalls with drivers though such as endless diversions to carpet sellers. I think a good driver would be an excellent option though - just not sure how you guarantee that.

  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922
    I'd just jump in the deep end. Pack light, take public transport and have an experience.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 41,390

    India has a vast array of things that can be seen including jungles, forests, deserts, mountains, beaches, people of all religions, buildings old and new etc. It would be helpful if you could narrow down your main interests, and more importantly, your tolerance for suffering and hassle.

    Personally, I'd say two weeks is too short especially if you are planning to spend five on a beach.

    Tolerance is very low, especially with the wife - she likes to know what she is doing and when (her plans for our last day in Venice last week were hit by a public transport strike which meant a tough day for me!). Obviously such a vast and varied country so I would say the criteria is doing as much of the 'must see' (predictable?) stuff as possible and avoiding spending huge amounts of a relatively short break travelling between places. Goa is one of the essentials for some downtime which surprised me as lying around on a beach isn't generally high on her agenda.

    I would like to stretch it to 3 weeks and think that is probably more cost effective but it would involve leaving the dogs with one of them in kennels.

    Obviously Covid may well still be a factor and scupper things completely but we'll have to cross that bridge if we come to it.
  • MattFalle
    MattFalle Posts: 11,644
    Ciao

    Spent a year there - moved from Trivanderum through country up to Nepal border, further 3 months in Nepal.

    Happy to discuss off thread if you want.

    .
    The camera down the willy isn't anything like as bad as it sounds.
  • laurentian
    laurentian Posts: 2,418
    I've been to India a couple of times.

    The last time was cycling across Rajastan in March 2020 (managed to finish the cycling part of our trip but the rest was curtailed as we had to get home due to the pandemic) so went through Agra and Jaipur (both brilliant) and stayed in Delhi for a few days too.

    The national monuments were getting closed as we got towards Agra and so I didn't really see the Taj "up close" . . . I'd love to go back to see it properly.

    I've also been to the southern (i.e. around Bangalore) area but out in the sticks rather than in the cities.

    Goa is lovely if you pick the right parts - the beach at Agonda is somewhere I remember as ticking most boxes for me a (lthough I'm not really one for lying on a beach). I beleive other parts are full of ex pats saving on UK heating bills

    Your tour is bound to take you to the main points of interest in the cities you visit and as far as you question on whether there is anything else "worth seeing", the answer is "yes", absolutely loads and loads and loads. I would imagine you would need to be in India for decades to even scratch the surface of what there is to see.

    I remember hearing something once that really summed up India for me. It said that a man could travel around the world and write a book four inches thick about his travels. The same man could walk down one street in India and write a book just as thick about his experience.

    I would say just go to wherever it is you are going, see whatever it is you went there to see and then walk around . . . you're bound to find amazing and intreresting things.

    Wilier Izoard XP
  • Ben6899
    Ben6899 Posts: 9,686
    I'd go to Japan, tbh.
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  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922
    Pross said:

    India has a vast array of things that can be seen including jungles, forests, deserts, mountains, beaches, people of all religions, buildings old and new etc. It would be helpful if you could narrow down your main interests, and more importantly, your tolerance for suffering and hassle.

    Personally, I'd say two weeks is too short especially if you are planning to spend five on a beach.

    Tolerance is very low, especially with the wife - she likes to know what she is doing and when (her plans for our last day in Venice last week were hit by a public transport strike which meant a tough day for me!). Obviously such a vast and varied country so I would say the criteria is doing as much of the 'must see' (predictable?) stuff as possible and avoiding spending huge amounts of a relatively short break travelling between places. Goa is one of the essentials for some downtime which surprised me as lying around on a beach isn't generally high on her agenda.

    I would like to stretch it to 3 weeks and think that is probably more cost effective but it would involve leaving the dogs with one of them in kennels.

    Obviously Covid may well still be a factor and scupper things completely but we'll have to cross that bridge if we come to it.
    Low tolerance and India don't combined that well! If the only requirement is India, then somewhere like Kerala is more relaxing with less hassle. The difficulty with only visiting Rajastan is that there is a lot of tourist specific hassle which you will get less of elsewhere.

    It would probably make sense to go to a national park as well even if you are just visiting the Golden Triangle.

    I think surrey_commuter's idea of a car and a driver is a good one, provided you are able to get a vaguely reputable one that will try to mitigate some of the challenges. For example, if a driver gets you to go in a carpet shop, he will be paid, so there is significant potential for disagreement, but I imagine a reputable firm will manage that, and charge more.

    Anyway, the advantage of a car is that you can stop where you like, so you will see a bit more of India. It is slightly more hazardous on the roads though, so perhaps not one for the easily frightened.

    Also, 3 days in Agra is way too long.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 41,390
    I did wonder about the amount of time in some of the places but wasn't sure what there is in those parts other than the obvious tourist traps.

    I did a site for a new golf resort complex in Bangalore about 15 years ago but sadly no site visit was necessary!
  • I was born and raised in Delhi and can help off line if you need suggestions. Private care hire would be highly recommended - a 7 seater is the preferred way to travel interstate for the family and for me when I’m visiting.

    If you’re going to end up in Goa then stay in South India rather than travelling the north sector first. I personally find travelling in and around Delhi a pita, but have to do it because all my family is based around there. I’m a regular visitor to Amritsar and Dehradun and although both have plenty to offer, with former having the best food in India, it’s all a lot of meh places in between.

    South India is very beautiful and I prefer it to Delhi and other parts of North India. Kerala is a very good shout and you have many places of interest in that part of India. The geography is different to North India and you’ll have a relatively more relaxed time of it down South. Lots of glorious temple architecture, hill stations, backwaters, etc. to see. The food is very nice too.

    You will still get to experience the whole “shock to the senses” in any part of India so can check that off your list too. My wife has travelled extensively in South India and her family is from Chennai. Other than Kashmir, South India, for her, is stunningly beautiful.
  • laurentian
    laurentian Posts: 2,418
    edited October 2021
    Among a load of other places, I went into the Gurdwara in Delhi (the big one) and found it a very interesting and enjoyable experience so would recommend if you're looking for somewhere to visit when there.

    Local Knowledge is always a huge advantage when travelling anywhere. It sounds like Abishek (above) has plenty of this and it may be well worth your while talking to him about a driver to suit your needs
    Wilier Izoard XP
  • dabber
    dabber Posts: 1,929
    Btw, it's a small world. When visiting Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur I bumped into a work colleague (and friend) before I retired that I used to regularly meet in worldwide meetings.. me representing EMEA, him representing AP/Pacific. An Indian national living in Sydney.
    He was on holiday, I was on holiday...what are the chances? A population of over 1.3 billion people.

    And yes, Abishek sounds like a great source of good info.
    “You may think that; I couldn’t possibly comment!”

    Wilier Cento Uno SR/Wilier Mortirolo/Specialized Roubaix Comp/Kona Hei Hei/Calibre Bossnut
  • jimmyjams
    jimmyjams Posts: 755
    On finishing school, and before going to uni, my daughter took a year off, of which she spent 3½ months doing voluntary work at a home for orphans, handicapped children and widows in West Bengal, after which she then went travelling through NW/central/north India for 2½ months, back-packing. She so liked it, after graduating from uni, she then went back to similarly travel around for 6-7 months, mostly the eastern side. Since having started gainful employment, she has been back again, for a month-plus to visit the south-central and SE, meaning she has probably visited a bit of everywhere except up Kashmir way, and those states north of Bangladesh.

    Of the 10 months total she has spent travelling there, her then- future partner was with her for the last 3 months. So I asked them both (independently) where they would suggest for a 2 week visit - 3 towns for cultural stuff, not too far apart, and then a few days on the beach.

    Her partner (who has never been to the north of India) said Mumbai should be one of the towns, and for the beach, somewhere in Kerala or Pondicherry would be better than Goa, as the latter is too full of 'yuppie-hippie' types. Visiting/staying on a tea plantation was also recommended (they visited one in the Nilgiri Mountains, about 100 km S of Mysore – there is a tiger reserve there too).

    My daughter first said she would find it hard to skip the Taj Mahal, so would include Agra and choose other towns in that vicinity for the cultural bit – she said she particularly liked Rajasthan and would have a taxi-tour to there with start/finish in Delhi and including Agra, but spending most of the time in Rajasthan and only the shortest necessary time in Agra and Delhi. And that she might then choose Goa if a bit of a luxury beach holiday was fancied. (I didn't say what your original plans were, Pross, and so unknowingly she wasn't far off them)

    However, after only 1 minute's thought, she changed her mind, and said, two weeks is far too little to try and cover much ground, so if it's only 2 weeks, she'd spend the whole time in Rajasthan, visiting not just Jaipur, but other towns like Jodhpur and Udaipur, and she'd do a schedule like 3:2:3:2:3, where the 3 is days moving/sight-seeing, and the 2 is days of R&R, in a luxury hotel with a big pool somewhere in Rajasthan, e.g. Ranakpur. And if you fly in/out of Delhi, you might still be able to go by the Taj on your last full day, so have the most famous highlight as end climax.
  • Personally I'd spend less time on sightseeing in the north and a bit more time in the south, which I found a bit more relaxing.
    Haven't been to the north for over 20yrs, but after about 10 major architectural sights I started to become a bit jaded!
    I'd echo views on Agra - I absolutely hated it, it's the Mos Eisley of India. In and out in a day, or a one-nighter if you need more time, should be more than enough.
    The beach resorts around Goa and further south around Kerala are nice enough, but a very different vibe to European beach resorts - slightly more hassle, fewer creature comforts and less relaxing. The sea is often a murky grey rather than blue.
    For proper relaxation (and you'll want a few days minimum if you have a hectic schedule) I'd also be looking at inland or city luxury hotel deals where you can unwind beside a pool as an alternative to beach resorts.
    The pollution in some cities can be pretty bad, so make sure you have a few more 'rural' days too.
    If you head south, I'd really recommend Hampi for a couple of days. Amazing architecture and history and well worth a visit. We stayed at Evolve Back hotel just outside Hampi - lovely if you want to treat yourselves. They can organise drivers, guides, etc. Hampi airport can be a bit hit and miss in terms of flight schedules though.
    Big cities in the south can be extremely busy and polluted (they seem to have become as bad as the bigger northern cities) but do offer some interesting experiences too. We spent some time hanging out with the hip young things in Bangalore at a local beer hall, which can be a nice western-style experience if things get a bit much. Mysore is a lovely town about 1.5hrs drive from Bangalore, with the palace looking like Harrods at night! Lots of cheeky monkeys everywhere.
    Southern food is quite different and delicious. Especially the breakfasts.
    The north is great for sightseeing, but I'd personally be tempted to skip Goa afterwards and head south (somewhere like Kerala perhaps) where the atmosphere is a little more chilled.
    It sounds like your wife likes to be well organised. Be warned that she will get frustrated at times.
    It's a great country to visit - have fun!
  • Mad_Malx
    Mad_Malx Posts: 5,042
    The brand new Mrs MM and I did the dehli, Jiapur, Agra tour for our honeymoon, 30 years ago. Finished off with a trip to Rishikesh and Mussori. Both loved the trip but didn’t get round to going back. Did find the crowds, beggars and heat a bit much.

    10 years ago did Kerala with the MM minors, aged about 11 and 12. Liked that more - beaches, fantastic fresh food flavours (lots of fish, obvs), scenery, wildlife. Also a trip to a rubber-plantation home stay in the hills, which was really memorable. Even did a fantastic guided cycle ride with the whole family on rural roads. Locals were very friendly and genuine too, and we didn’t find it at all threatening, even when off piste.
    If I was recommending somewhere in India to a newbie, I would definitely recommend Kerala. I think Kerala is a bit less commercial than the Goa resorts, but I haven’t been to Goa. That time we did an Explore trip, which was well worth it because it was a group of 5 families all with 11-16 yo kids, and kids really bonded. They still say best holiday ever. Still want to go back
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922
    @Mad_Malx did you do any other trips with Explore when they were younger?
  • Mad_Malx
    Mad_Malx Posts: 5,042

    @Mad_Malx did you do any other trips with Explore when they were younger?

    Yes - that holiday set a new bar for what they fancied doing.
    We did Morocco at Christmas a couple of years later, which was great but there were only us plus one single mum and daughter. Got on well but needed a few more for the social aspect. Also did a Croatia family/teen summer cruise when they were 14/16. Had a good time but the local guide was poor. These escorted tours really depend a lot on how good the local guide is; India and Morocco guys were excellent and really wanted to tell us about the places (at the level we wanted, and from what seemed a reasonably balanced perspective), for the Croatia trip the boat crew were great with us and the kids but the guide wasn’t interested and spent most of his time on his mobile.
    Overall the trips were pricey compared with what we were used to paying, but we didn’t regret shelling out. I know you can diy for a lot less, but at a time when we all had limited time it was great to have all the activities lined up. We and kids are still (vaguely) in touch with the other families from Kerala 10 years later.
    Also might like to note, at that time at least, you could ring the company up to ask what other families they had (age/gender). When you’re thrown in a small group for a week or so it makes a huge difference for to the kids to have others to hang out with.
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922
    Thanks. Looks like the min age is 7 so I have a few more years to think about it, but it would be tempting given how much easier it would make planning when constrained by school holidays.
  • Has anybody else been to Sri Lanka as well and think it would be a lot easier for people who have not been to that part of the world before?
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,922
    edited October 2021

    Has anybody else been to Sri Lanka as well and think it would be a lot easier for people who have not been to that part of the world before?

    Yes I have, and yes it is mostly easier, but it's not India, so doesn't really meet the nostalgic following in ancestor's footsteps criteria from Pross.

    The same could be said for Nepal.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 41,390
    Found a Tour that did a few days in Nepal at the end which appealed to me but less so to Mrs P. I also found one that did the pick of southern and northern India, it was a recommended Tour by an operator that allows you to customise the itinerary which I quite like if it is within our budget. I've been looking into the beach element a bit more - I really fancy Havelock Island but it's a long trek from the mainland.
  • laurentian
    laurentian Posts: 2,418

    Has anybody else been to Sri Lanka as well and think it would be a lot easier for people who have not been to that part of the world before?

    Yes - been to Sri Lanka twice (similar to Mrs Pross, the reason fpr my first visit being that my Dad was stationed there with the Navy during the war).

    Went for a second time because I liked it so much first time. I would describe Sri Lanka as "India Lite" but it does have some of the best food in the world! Definitely "easier" than India and there's a lot to see in a very small island.
    Wilier Izoard XP