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North India Explorer QIN

Visiting: India
Trip Duration 16 Days
 

Reviews for North India Explorer

Travellers were asked to provide a review of the trip, including highlights and tips.

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North India Explorer reviews verified by reevooReevoo

33 reviews

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North India ExplorerScores 8.3 out of 10 based on 33 reviews
(9 out of 10)

Catherine

London
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.

OTHER TIPS:

- 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.
Confirmed traveller: 03 April 2017
Published on: 07 April 2017
(9 out of 10)

Sarah

Bognor Regis
We have just returned from an amazing trip to North India and it was definitely an adventure. This trip is not for the novice traveler or someone who likes their creature comforts, at times the chaos, noise, heat and dirt can be overwhelming but if you can handle that then the beauty, the people and the wonderful experiences make it all worthwhile. Our guide Gordon was fantastic, always looking out for us and making sure everyone got the experience they wanted, he found us some great places to eat and lots of places to see in addition to the itinerary, he was very knowledgeable and helpful and I would highly recommend him.
The highlights of the trip were Udaipur which is a beautiful place on lake Pichola and camping by the Ganges which was extremely well organised. The Taj Mahal was awesome and breathtaking and well worth getting up early for.
The accommodation was better than we expected and the sleeper trains were actually quite an enjoyable experiences and we slept well on them.
The down side was the early starts and the pace is quite full on, my only suggestion to the itinerary would be to have 1 day less in Varanasi and longer in Kolkata.
Overall I would definitely recommend this trip if you want to experience the real India, I will be booking again through Explore for next year.
Confirmed traveller: 03 April 2017
Published on: 06 April 2017
(8 out of 10)

Denise

Portsmouth
Exhausting,exhilarating,an assault on all the senses at once.
Lots of early starts but a chance to see so much.
Some lovely hotels and some pretty basic ones too.
Sailing down the Ganges and a night camp on the banks was a definite highlight as were the rickshaw rides in Varanasi.
Our guide Narji was super organised, very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour which made the trip for me.
It was full on and more so a few days relaxing somewhere as an add-on would be perfect.
Confirmed traveller: 07 March 2017
Published on: 13 March 2017
(8 out of 10)

Joanne

Bristol
Full on tour but experienced true India! Absolutely fantastic tour leader who went the extra mile to make it such a well organised and enjoyable tour. Very good value for money.
Confirmed traveller: 06 March 2017
Published on: 08 March 2017
(10 out of 10)

Pauline

Formby, Merseyside
The North India trip is fantastic. We has a fabulous tour leader with Raj who kept us busy and looked after us all. The Taj is out of this world, and sailing down the Ganges provided a well earned rest after a very busy time.
The advice to travel light is the best advice. The laundry services at the hotels are very efficient.
The overnight train journeys are an experience but Raj looked after us and ensured we were all in the correct bunks.
The trip gives you a real insight into North India the people, and the environment. Give it a go you won't be disappointed.
Confirmed traveller: 21 February 2017
Published on: 25 March 2017
(9 out of 10)

John

Poole
This was a full-on tour that took in the major tourist towns and pilgrimage sites across North India. I saw wonderful buildings and experienced India at its noisiest and busiest. The Taj Mahal was incredible and so was the Red Fort and Amber Fort, the City Palace of Jaipur and the Ghats of Varanasi. Our tour leader was exceptional in his care for the group and made sure that we were safe; that we ate and drank safely and always had an experience to enjoy.
The hotel accommodation was good or very good but I do not enjoy sleeping on trains. The trains do not run to time and can be hours late. Camping was good and the food wonderful. Sailing on the Ganges was a personal highlight.
I spent £450 on food, drink, optional excursions and tips.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Confirmed traveller: 21 February 2017
Published on: 23 February 2017
(10 out of 10)

A

Bridgnorth
From the first meeting our tour guide Rajesh was unbelievably supportive and informative with regards to the itinerary for the trip and also his attention to sharing his knowledge of the North of India. He demonstrated an understanding of the needs of individuals within the group and responded to these with insight and patience.

We had a really full itinerary and I felt that I really experienced the culture of India from stays in hotels; overnight train journeys; travelling in jeeps, Tuktuks (motorised and cycle powered); camel ride; sailing along the Ganges; camping on the banks of the Ganges; eating with a family that cooked the most amazing meal for us all; visiting historical temples/monuments/forts and markets and so much more.

This is the first Explore holiday I have experienced and the first group holiday. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the experience and the enjoyment and entertainment that was afforded through the group. It is a life experience I will never forget and will remember with happiness.

I would not hesitate in recommending this trip to both singles and couples.
Confirmed traveller: 20 February 2017
Published on: 09 March 2017
(10 out of 10)

Susan

This was my first trip with Explore .
I really liked the variety of experiences -camping by the ganghes ,a meal at a family home , travel by local transport ,a camel ride ,cultural experiences,time spend at a wedding etc
our guide ensured that we were all safe and looked out for us .At the same time I felt that we were really experiencing something of the country .I've been on trips with another company where the country was mainly seen through a coach window but Explore definitely isn't like that '
Our guide was excellent -friendly and always helpful
Confirmed traveller: 20 February 2017
Published on: 23 February 2017
(8 out of 10)

Theresa

Thorough tour of the areas covered. Intense and feeling quite busy at times, but all good.
Confirmed traveller: 23 January 2017
Published on: 02 February 2017
(8 out of 10)

Stephen

High Wycombe
Bad points:
- This trip has a “full on” tour pace, but relies on 5 train journeys. We missed 2 days of our 2 week itinerary due to delayed trains. The indiarailinfo web site lists the average lateness of the train to Kolkata that we and previous groups were delayed on as 5 hours 56 minutes – so sometimes better, sometimes worse. One train with an average delay of 3 hours 45 minutes has a punctuality rating considered “Excellent”. Expect to miss chunks of the advertised itinerary.
- There was thick fog for day of the Ganges sailing trip that we didn’t miss. I gather this is common for late December to early January, so Christmas was probably the wrong time to do the trip. Also, the boats were too far from the banks to see much and the boat men kept insisting I lie down to keep the heavily loaded boat balanced, so it was hard to see or photograph what I could see.
- The tour guide organised excursions for a subset of the excursions listed in the trip notes. He gave no information on other options and did not ask what we were interested in seeing. He did help me organise the excursions I was interested in when I asked for help, but this meant that I was doing excursions on my own, and having to pay the whole cost as a single participant.
- Excursions tended to be organised for a short period in the middle of the morning or afternoon with the rest of the time hard to make use of. In free time after arrival, I would go out and explore the area near the hotel, then we would have an orientation walk and be shown the same things I had just seen.
- Many sites made an extra change for photography. Some sites made a big extra change, split between the group, to allow our tour leader to act as guide.
- Some sites banned photography.
- Some of the hotels used, especially in Varanasi and Kolkata, were a long way from the things to see.
- The cities visited have a lot of dust and traffic pollution.
- Constantly people on the street chat to you and you think you are getting a meaningful meeting with a local. Always after a few minutes they then get to now please come and look in my shop/art gallery etc. The result is that if you want to make it more than 100 metres from the hotel you have to ignore them, the result of which is that the shop keepers have blocked you from having any meaningful interaction with any locals. Very frustrating.

Good Points:
- This seemed an excellent itinerary with many varied things to see and do. As always with this type of tour, there was never enough time go to all the places I wanted to see at each city or to see everything at the places we went. Some of the forts and palaces were very impressive in area and decoration.
- I was surprised at the good standard of the hotels.
- I liked the idea of trying so many different forms of local transport.
- Our tour guide was a walking encyclopaedia. He was very helpful in organising optional excursions, finding things in shops, changing money etc. He was exceptionally thorough providing information on city to city travel.
- Each use of an overnight sleeper train saves a day for sightseeing and a night of hotel costs.
- When travel plans on the train were not working out, this was clearly being monitored early and there was good communication between the tour leader and his company, with alterative plans quickly put in place to get things back on track as well as possible.

Tips:
- When comparing with other trips, note that Explore are providing just city to city travel and accommodation. Almost all food, entrance fees and travel on excursions is extra. You will only have time to see some of the things described.
- Eklingi Temple is worth a trip out of Udaipur if you are interested in Hindu temples, but be aware that the big temple and all the smaller ones are inside a walled enclosure and you are not allowed to take a camera inside at all. (There are lockers outside.)
- The 'camel safari out into the desert' is a 60 minute ride through back streets to the edge of town where there is a photo opp. next to a sand dune.
- There is plenty to do in Varanasi if you research it a bit in advance. I suspect the problem some people have had is not being given much information combined with being stuck in a hotel in the middle of nowhere.
Confirmed traveller: 02 January 2017
Published on: 05 February 2017