A Spicy Trip To India

In November 2012, I traveled in India for three weeks. Frankly, I don't know where to start writing about this incredible country. As you might know, India Tourism Office home page is called "Incredible India". I have good reasons to suspect that they keep the country on purpose as is, for marketing reasons. How is this country then? Let me try to explain in a series of posts, and here is the first of the series to serve as an overview and planning help. As I use inter-webs for my planning extensively, I would like to take my turn to contribute a pinch of curry to your planning. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a message.

Ganga river - Varanasi

THE PLANNED ITINERARY

DateRoute Hotel
Thursday, November 01, 2012Delhi arrival Hotel Shivdev International
Friday, November 02, 2012Delhi tourHotel Shivdev International
Saturday, November 03, 2012Old Delhi tourHotel Shivdev International
Sunday, November 04, 2012Delhi -> VaranasiKedareswar
Monday, November 05, 2012Varanasi Kedareswar
Tuesday, November 06, 2012Varanasi, Sarnath -> AgraTrain
Wednesday, November 07, 2012Agra
Thursday, November 08, 2012Agra -> Fatehpur Sikri -> JaipurPearl Palace Heritage
Friday, November 09, 2012Jaipur Pearl Palace Heritage
Saturday, November 10, 2012Jaipur->Pushkar
Sunday, November 11, 2012Pushkar
Monday, November 12, 2012Pushkar->Jodhpur
Tuesday, November 13, 2012Jodhpur
Wednesday, November 14, 2012Jodhpur->Udaipur, en route Ranakpur templeKankarwa Haveli
Thursday, November 15, 2012Udaipur Kankarwa Haveli
Friday, November 16, 2012UdaipurKankarwa Haveli
Saturday, November 17, 2012UDA-BOM->Aurangabad
Sunday, November 18, 2012Aurangabad -> Ajanta
Monday, November 19, 2012Aurangabad -> Ellora
Tuesday, November 20, 2012Aurangabad -> MumbaiResidency Hotel Fort
Wednesday, November 21, 2012Mumbai Residency Hotel Fort
Thursday, November 22, 2012Mumbai (leaving at night)Flight
Friday, November 23, 2012Home

THE EXECUTED ITINERARY

DateRoute Hotel
Thursday, November 01, 2012Delhi arrival Hotel Shivdev International
Friday, November 02, 2012Delhi tourHotel Shivdev International
Saturday, November 03, 2012Old Delhi tourHotel Shivdev International
Sunday, November 04, 2012Delhi -> VaranasiKedareswar
Monday, November 05, 2012Varanasi Kedareswar
Tuesday, November 06, 2012Varanasi, Sarnath -> AgraTrain
Wednesday, November 07, 2012Agra No need to know
Thursday, November 08, 2012Agra -> Fatehpur Sikri -> JaipurPearl Palace Heritage
Friday, November 09, 2012Jaipur Pearl Palace Heritage
Saturday, November 10, 2012Jaipur->Pushkar Hotel Diamond
Sunday, November 11, 2012Pushkar Hotel Diamond
Monday, November 12, 2012Pushkar->JodhpurHotel Devi Bhawan
Tuesday, November 13, 2012JodhpurHotel Devi Bhawan
Wednesday, November 14, 2012Jodhpur->Udaipur, en route Ranakpur templeKankarwa Haveli
Thursday, November 15, 2012Udaipur Kankarwa Haveli
Friday, November 16, 2012UdaipurKankarwa Haveli
Saturday, November 17, 2012UDA-BOM->GOADreamcatcher
Sunday, November 18, 2012Palolem Dreamcatcher
Monday, November 19, 2012Palolem Dreamcatcher
Tuesday, November 20, 2012Palolem Dreamcatcher
Wednesday, November 21, 2012GOA-> MumbaiResidency Hotel Fort
Thursday, November 22, 2012Mumbai (leaving at night)Flight
Friday, November 23, 2012Home

WHAT I WOULD AMEND
  • Delhi 2 nights at most (depending on your arrival/departure time, even 1 night and 1 day could be enough). In Delhi you are likely to have many incredible experiences in a just single day, which is sufficiently overwhelming, if you are short on time. 
  • Varanasi 2 nights instead of 3. Although we enjoyed Varanasi very much, and we thought we could have spent more time, 2 days would be enough to see everything and experience the city.
  • After the first week, plan a break in e.g. Goa. You will need a rest after so many unbelievable impressions.
  • Skip Fatehpur Sikri, it was too much of the same thing. Agra Fort and Red Fort in Delhi are similar.
  • Don't stay in Agra. Run away as soon as possible.
  • Skip Udaipur, or stay only 1 night for the sake of Ranakpur Jain Temple. The "white" city is nothing special.
  • Adding Amritsar or Rishikesh (or both) instead would be nicer I think.
  • Ellora Caves seem beautiful but I am still not sure if it would be worth the distance, if you are not traveling to somewhere else along the way.
  • Hotel Shivdev and Kankarwa Haveli were the only bad choices, never ever stay there. 
Chicken Tikka Masala - Diili Haat, Delhi
TRIP HIGHLIGHTS
  • Historical sites in Delhi (Musts: Qutb Minar, Humayun's Tomb, Lodi Garden; Nice to have: Red Fort & Old Delhi if you have time)
  • Chicken tikka masala and garlic naan at Dilli Haat, Delhi
  • Varanasi as a whole
  • The night on the train with a wagon load of Indians -fart to fart, burp to burp (seriously :-))
  • Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in Agra
  • Our room in Pearl Palace Heritage Hotel, Jaipur
  • Watching a movie in Raj Mandir Cinema in Jaipur
  • Pushkar and its not pushy vendors
  • Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
  • Diwali festival
  • Ranakpur Temple and the landscape between Jodhput and Udaipur
  • Sunset from Monsoon Palace, Udaipur
  • Feeling far far far away in Goa
Udaipur during Festival of Lights (Diwali)
TRIP LOWLIGHTS
  • To realize for the first time, how slow the time might pass.
  • Aggressive people trying to collect money for entering mosques. When you are reluctant to pay entrance fee for house of God, they push you away aggressively.  
  • A failed attempt to visit Nizamuddin Dargah on our first day.
  • Trying to walk in Old Delhi and giving up after 100 meters.
  • The endless lies of Paul, our driver for the Rajasthan tour.
  • Bureaucracy of Indians - at the airport, at the hotel check-ins etc.
Palolem beach - Goa
PRACTICAL TIPS
  • Book your train tickets as early as possible (at least 2 months ahead of time). I used cleartrip.com for train and flight bookings. You need to register by sending a scan of your passport per e-mail, but it worked without issues. The website seat61.com provides detailed information on how to book train tickets. 
  • The train tickets are usually bought by Indian travel agencies to sell it later on more expensive. If you are desperate enough, you can try them as well, once you arrive in the country. 
  • Get your vaccinations refreshed, unless you are going to stay and eat in fancy five and more star hotels and restaurants.. I got all vaccinations except typhus and rabies. I took no malaria medicament - not even as stand by, due to its high price. Biological mosquito repellent was sufficient.
  • Print out a map of your hotel. At first, all drivers said they don't know the hotel but they found it, upon showing the map. They try to drive you to an alternative hotel, so be aware.
  • Print out all your tickets. If you don't have the printouts, you are not allowed to enter the terminals at the airport. In Mumbai we had to pay 100 INR for a piece of paper, whilst trying to enter domestic terminal with mobile ticket. Again in Mumbai, a business man was not allowed to enter the international terminal, as he had the ticket only in electronic form. No joke.
  • Bring wet wipes, as much as you can. Believe me, you will need them all.
  • Bring some bonbons or chewing gums with you. You can give them to the kids, women, or old men who will insist on that you buy something, or beg for money. Don't support them. Even the adults are happy with sweets, when they see, they can't get anything else.
  • Indian chewing gums are tasteless. If you bring some with strong peppermint flavor for instance, they will love it.
  • When you give presents to the kids, like notebooks, make them use it instantly to prevent reselling (like asking them to write their names down). 
  • Start your trip in Delhi. No matter in which city you start, you will hate it. If you start with Delhi, you will hate it for a good reason, plus you will like the other cities after the craziness of Delhi.
  • In Delhi don't stay in the backpacker area, as it does not have the amenities what a backpacker area should offer. It has nothing to do with Khao San Road in Bangkok; believing so was a bad illusion. Pick a nicer hotel in New Delhi area to ease your first shock.
  • If someone asks you about your plans, make sure to tell them that you booked all your tickets and hotels. They will not leave you alone, until they sell you a travel package. If you are in favor of booking a package, don't pay more than 20% as deposit. 
  • Don't get into any private cars. We did twice; luckily nothing bad happened, but this was pure luck I think.
  • When you buy a ticket at a prepaid taxi booth at the airport, don't hand out the receipt until you arrive at your hotel. However, with the exception that when leaving the airport, the driver needs to show it to the officer. When he asks for the receipt at that moment, don't panic, unlike me :)
  • Restrict your friendship with Indians to "Hello, hi" - as an Indian guy himself recommended to us. Never accept cigarettes, drink or food from foreigners. Yeah, as your mom would say: don't talk to strangers :)
  • Be careful if you see wet areas on the streets - it is most probably urine!
  • When walking on the streets, keep your hands and belongings close to your body, try to be as compact as possible; it is just a matter of seconds to get caught your hand by a motorbike!
  • Bear in mind that you will visit one of the most populated, the poorest, the dirtiest and the craziest countries in the world -if not it is already the superlative of all.
  • I promise, you will experience a lot. Be strong, be patient and enjoy! It is certainly worth.
Baby at Mehrangarh Fort
Freedom (!)
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About Maho

Nature lover, diving and travel enthusiast, Asian looking, Russian sounding, Turkish raised, Munich based stranger on Earth.

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