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First time to INDIA, questions

Anchorage,Alaska
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First time to INDIA, questions

Planning a trip, ticketed Dec.28 to Jan 15. arrive Delhi want to visit Agra,Varanasi,Jaipur,Jodpur and ?. Wife is concerned about travelling with 11 year old daughter and getting sick etc. Read about a train trip for 4 days out of Jaipur,"Heritage on Wheels" any thoughts on that ? Is it best to fly to Varanasi or take a train ? Anyone use Compass travel agecy for arrangements. Want to keep wife happy so where is best shopping, like to do that at end of trip to not carry stuff around. Thanks for any advice.

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Jaipur
Jaipur
Jaipur District, India
Varanasi
Varanasi
Varanasi District, India
Village Women Craft
Gift & Speciality Shops
Dhonk
Gift & Speciality Shops
Rural Women Craft
Factory Outlets, Gift & Speciality Shops
Sydney
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1. Re: First time to INDIA, questions

Everyone shares the same concern about travelling with children; I have two daughters whom we normally take everywhere with us, but we finally made the decision to leave them with relatives for the duration of our India trip (it was our first visit there, too). They were eleven years old and nine years at that time.

In retrospect, would we have made that decision if we had our time over? Well, I don't really know; a friend of our who works in a children's hospital was adamant that India is a risk for young children.... he said that he treats a lot of children for stomach problems that the hospital can't even identify, much less cure, and that the usual scenario is that these kids have recently returned from India. So maybe we did the right thing; however, my wife and I travelled in budget accommodation and restaurants for the whole five weeks, and we even ate from station and roadside stalls, and we didn't get sick at all, so maybe we were over-reacting. And here's the main point of all this rambling: we loved India so much -- I rate it as my favourite holiday destination -- that we are currentlyy saving to go back, and this time we are definitely taking the girls! (However, they will both be in their teens by then.)

Now, to some of your other questions. For that question mark after Jodhpur, write in Jaisalmer. It is the most exciting city in India (well, maybe Varanasi would give it a run for its money), and it's only a few hours by train from Jodhpur. You simply must not miss this amazing place -- see it before they reopen the airport and it becomes too touristy. Right now it's like something out of the Arabian nights. Stay at the Shahi Palace, and ask them to organise a camel safari for you. DON"T take the camel safaris being offered by most of the other places.... they all go out to the Sam Dunes, which is, I hear, now becoming as crowded as Times Square and as polluted as LA. The Shahi Palace has access to a special, deserted part of the desert where no other groups go (their organiser, Setan, comes from a village out near the border with Pakistan, and he takes you there, where you pick up yoiur camels). When the sun sets over the dunes, and you are all alone except for your camel and the driver, you will feel like you are on the surface of the Moon. Just amazing.

A few other tips: either give Agra a miss altogether (and you are cramming quiet a bit into two-and-a-half weeks), or just get in there, see the Taj first thing in the morning, and be out of the town straight after breakfast. Agra is the least-appealing town we saw in five weeks. You may also find the Taj less-than-appealing if you get there late in the morning when there are about half a million people swarming all over it, clamouring for photos: day-trippers from Delhi, school bus groups from all over India, and the rich tourists being led around in parties of thirty by their guides. Just terrible. At six in the morning, however, when the Taj has just opened its doors, when there's no waiting at the ticket queue, and when there are less than twenty people in the wholw comples..... ahh, then the Taj shows you the ethereal "other worldly" appearance that you see in the photograpphs. Just magnificent.There is a hotel in Agra -- the Sheela -- whose front gate is about fifty metres from the entrance to the Taj. A night there, up at 5:30, at the gate by 5:50, in and out of the Taj from 6 till 8, and then back to the Sheela for breakfast.... THAT, in my opinion, is the way to see the Taj!

Varanasi airport is a bit of a trial, and it is not very close to the city, so maybe the train -- overnight -- would be preferable. Certainly you must not miss Varanasi under any circumstances. You also must not do it just as a day trip, as a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges (every hotel runs one) is an absolute must.... and walking along the ghats at night is a pretty marvellous thing to do, too. Stay in a hotel in the old quarter, right on the water. Most of these will have balconies with a view to die for.

Frankly, I loved the trains of India, and while I can't tell you a thing about the Heritage on Wheels experience, I can tell you that trains are fast, frequent, and fun! You can get sleepers at a price that will astonish you (even though don't think "sleeper class" means what it sounds like it means -- that's a bit like cattle class; choose either 2AC or 3AC for overnight trips), and most cities nowadays are connected by overnight expresses. If you travel 3AC class (always our first choice), ask for SL and SU tickets, as these are just as good as the class above.... I slept like a baby every night. Travel light so that you can stow your pack right there in the berth with you.... this will save you the oft-told horror story of the tourists who had all their belongings stolen while they slept.

Shopping.... any big city, really. Wherever you spend your last day. Avoid tourist areas for this.... find out where the locals shop and head there. They always wear the best sarees, and they don't pay a fortune for them. We found the best shopping town to be a little town whose name I forget in Goa -- on the way back from the vastly-overated Anjuna (?) Markets, where we bought nothing at all. This town, with not a tourist in sight (they were all at the tourists markets) was a shoppers' paradise.

I can't tell you anything about Compass Travel Agency; you don't need an agent, as India is easy to self-manage; there is a lot of English spoken, and with the help of forums like this an www.indiamike.com, you can easily find out the best trains to catch, the best places to eat, and the best hotels to stay in. If you must have an agent, the only one I can recommend out of personal knowledge is a great guy in Delhi named Sanjay -- we found him on the net, and he organised our accommodation in Delhi for two nights, plus our early-morning transport to the airport for a 7 a.m. flight to Leh. We found that he was honest and really interested in making things pleasant for his "guests".... he even invited us to his home for a meal, and he still sends us reular "best wishes" emails, nearly two years later.He works for a travel agency, but I can't tell you about the standard of service of anyone else in the agency, so if you contact Sanjay at the agency's email address, you should ask for him by name -- and maybe mentione that I recommended him to you. I posted a bit about him on this forum not too long ago; check this thread: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293860-i511-k3971… .

Hope all this has been of some small help. Rest assured, you are in for a great holiday, and at a great time of year, too!

Mentioned in this post
Jodhpur
Jodhpur
Jodhpur District, India
Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer District, India
Varanasi
Varanasi
Varanasi District, India
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
California
Agra
Agra
Agra District, India
Goa
Goa
India
Anjuna
Anjuna
Bardez, India
Leh
Leh
Leh District, India
Australia
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2. Re: First time to INDIA, questions

Hi Coccan - We've jsut returned from a Rajasthan tour using Compass and I can highly recommend them. They wer professional, prompt and courteous. They provided us with a mobile phone and contact numbers in each region in case anything went awry and we we met at each point by a company representative. i would not hesitate to use them again!!

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Anchorage,Alaska
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3. Re: First time to INDIA, questions

Alan & Lucinda- Thanks for your advice,appreciate it greatly.,am investigating Jaisalmer (everything I read is positive) and will use Compass for some of the arrangements. C.

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Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer District, India
australia
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4. Re: First time to INDIA, questions

have any contact information for Compass?

5. Re: First time to INDIA, questions

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