- This is a really fantastic trip. I chose this tour because I wanted to see more than the golden triangle and especially Varanasi. You cover so much ground in the time and see lots of the ‘real’ India. Many forms of transport, many beautiful sites and fantastic curries. So photogenic. Excellent value for money.
Our guide (Gordhan) was excellent – he held the group together, guided us expertly through the Indian chaos and was obviously passionate about people experiencing the best of his country. If you particularly want to see something, say, and it can be arranged. The tour is good and flexible for that.
I’d never been on a group tour before but thought it was a good idea in India for safety and organisational reasons – I would definitely do one again, it well exceeded my expectations. About half of us were singles.
The trip is not for the faint-hearted or those who particularly like comfort! ‘Full on’ and ‘simple’ are accurate descriptions. Be prepared for long railway delays, early starts, chaotic traffic, pollution, grime – but all this is part of experiencing India. If you’re open-minded and try things, you get amazing experiences on this tour.
All the hotels were really good except for the one in Agra which was not clean and needs improvement/changing. There was one day too many in Varanasi and one day too little in Kolkata. Kolkata surprised me with its beauty, I wanted to see more.
I RECOMMEND BRINGING:
- Lots of antibac and wet wipes (carry both everywhere)
- Swimming gear (two hotels have a pool)
- Sleeping bag liner and padlock for trains
- Solid book to while away significant time in case of delays
- Couple of cereal bars
- Torch for camping
- Thin scarf for ladies for temples/mosques.
I wore walking sandals continually. Trainers/closed shoes helpful at a couple of points. Mosquito repellent also needed, especially at Taj Mahal and Varanasi. A portable charger/spare batteries needed for the two boat days when you have no electricity.
- Clothing - vest tops and shorts were acceptable apart from in temples, though I personally covered shoulders and knees as any single blonde young lady already attracts a lot of photo attention :) People dressed casually, with one or two nicer tops for evening meals. Travel light; laundry cheap and available wherever you stay two nights, and there are lots of steps everywhere!
- Money - ATMs were not always reliable – I personally brought out the full quantity in sterling to change as I went along at the hotels and that worked really well.
- Cost - I spent about £500 in total excluding souvenirs and including doing all excursions, entrance fees, tips and eating well (no alcohol, you’d need a bit more for that).
- Shopping - Jaipur was recommended for shopping but I found it better in Udaipur and Pushkar markets. Be aware that your guide will tend to take you to government-run factories for shopping; these produce very high quality, relatively expensive goods. Definitely worth a visit (especially marble in Agra) but we told our guide we really wanted slightly lower quality lower price shopping and he took us to some good shops in Varanasi.
- Temperature - if you go on the tour beginning in mid-March, be prepared for temperatures around 40 degrees. It drops to minimum late 20s at night. I took one thin jacket and only used it on flights.
- Get the phone number of your guide and others in your group at the start. It is easy to get separated and lost in Delhi.
Also, if you book fairly late, be aware that on sleeper trains you may not be booked a bunk near the rest of the group. Our guide was great at rectifying this at the time, but I think Explore need to think about how to handle this better: as a young woman I was not comfortable with a bunk three carriages away from anyone I knew and in a more crowded class. I understand why it happened, and perhaps my instincts of danger were too strong, but I think as a minimum I should have been told what to expect in advance and the situation should preferably be avoided all together.
Published on: 07 April 2017