I think Agra is a difficult place to negotiate and we were fairly happy with our choice here.
First the space:
We found the room comfortable and clean and thoughtfully decorated. We were warm and didn't go without anything. It was fairly good value for money for the city I think.
We were provided with breakfast at any time which was basic but fine and we could have seconds of anything we wanted.
The homestay is an auto rickshaw or taxi ride away from the Taj Mahal but this was totally fine for us as we prefer somewhere peaceful and the area near the Taj where many tourists stay was hectic!
Now the issues:
Mahatma (the owner) and his assistant (sorry can't remember his name) helped us out a great deal, but we were sure what was going on between them and taxi drivers.
Mahatma arranged for us to be picked up at the station at 3am at no extra cost - great! We thought it was a rickshaw but it ended up being a taxi.
The drivers who picked us up at the station waited for us outside of the house even though we had not asked for this. They were angry at us for sleeping in late (we went to bed at 4am) and demanded money and it seemed not negotiable even though we had never asked for a tour! The assistant got in touch with Mahatma by phone and he was helpful but there were a lot of heated negotiations (regarding costs and taxi versus rickshaw) and we weren't sure of the assistants role in all of this.
Eventually Mahatma made a deal with the drivers for them to take us around for a day for no extra cost on top of our accommodation. We weren't sure about sticking with these drivers as we did not like/trust them. It ended up being ok. The drivers were nice enough. But we were always on our guard as the tried to up sell (e.g. another day of touring, going to shops). They talked us into a restaurant that was over priced where they clearly got a cut from their mares.
Perhaps other tourists who are not so concerned with money and prefer convenience would have been fine with this situation. We found it annoying and exhausting. We just wanted a basic auto rickshaw ride to the Taj and would go from there (we prefer to see things at a slower pace rather that be rushed to lots of things) and it had all become so complex!
During our stay, Mahatma was nowhere to be seen except by phone while his assistant helped up with everything directly. Mahala materialised the night before we left bearing sweet spot and hung out with us for breakfast before we left and was very friendly and accommodating and we appreciated his attempts to smooth over the situation.
Having said all this, this is kinda how things work in India and given that Agra is known to be a bit dodgy we were happy after all. It could have been worse and we were never really unsafe or at risk.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A Family running homestay in Agra ,Set in a downtown area , our homestay is situated in a calm and quiet place in a residential township Gulmohar Enclave at Shamshabad Road with all modern amenities and facilities. Me and my family staying on the same house ,Our home stay near Taj mahal 2.5 kms distance , its 6 individual room with en suite bath all are air-conditioned with LED TV , 24 Hrs hot / cold running water , room service with all modern facilities and amenities. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Col. Lamba Indian Homestay Hotel Agra