In August 2016, my wife and I travel to Delhi, Amritsar, and Rajasthan (i.e., Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer) over the course of 2 weeks. It was an amazing experience.
I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts:
10 Tips on India
- August is a great time to travel to India!
The peak time to travel in India is from November to February/March. Traveling to India in August (i.e., Monsoon Season) is considered by many tour books to be a bad choice. I disagree with their assessment and recommend it with a couple of caveats. It is a great time to travel to Rajasthan, Delhi, Far North India, and Far East India. I am not positive about farther south, such as in Mumbai. It was hot, but it was no hotter than the weather in NYC or London in July/August. The primary advantages are smaller crowds and cheaper hotels. We were able to stay in hotels for ¼ t ½ the price. This allowed us to stay in a number of palaces where we would have been staying at far cheaper places. The main drawback is that Ranthambone National Park (see Tigers) is closed during this time period.
- Trains are good way to travel if looking to save money!
We took a train from Delhi to Agra. You don’t need to stay in the highest train class to have a nice/safe trip. We ended up taking the second highest class and only paid about ~$12 per ticket for 3 hour ride. We felt safe on the train, and there weren’t any rats as some articles have mentioned. From our limited experience, there appears to be an official taxi cab station outside of every train station.
- Hire a car if have some money!
If you need to save money, I would recommend traveling by train. If you have some cash, I would recommend hiring a car and/or flying between cities. It cost us roughly ~$70 for us to travel between Udaipur and Jodhpur. It is remarkably cheap to hire a driver for multiple days. My recommendation is to NEVER hire a car from a hotel or a car from website mentioned in a tour book. These sources will typically cost 30 – 50% more than a taxi in India. You will get the best prices by asking an official taxi (e.g., driver at airport). We also would often ask two different drivers to make sure that we received the same price. It is best to book this transportation in India.
Uber is a great service in India. Uber is not available in every city, but it is available in Delhi. We would be able to get between sights for only a couple of dollars. If we had cell phone service, we would have utilized Uber instead of hiring a car to get between locations. This would be the most cost effective option in India.
- Cities are not much to see!
While the historical attractions in these different cities are amazing, the cities themselves are unremarkable. They are often sprawling cities and not that exciting. As an example, Agra has three main attractions – Taj Mahal, Red Fort, and “Baby Taj.” All three of these sites could be done in half a day. You will most likely prefer spending the rest of the day at the pool than walking around the city. This is the rationale behind most trips in Rajasthan only spending a day or two in each city.
As said in my earlier comment, the cities themselves are fairly unremarkable. As a result, most hotels will try to entice you to eat at the hotel. However, the food is significantly more expensive than other restaurants. My recommendation would be to eat outside of the hotel as much as possible. Most hotels will include a buffet breakfast that will include both traditional Indian and English food.
- Get a nice hotel!
Looking back on the trip, many of my highlights were staying at nice hotels. Since it was August, we were able to stay in 4 palaces that ranged from $75 to $150. The cities aren’t amazing, and you will want a nice hotel with a pool after a long day of sightseeing.
- Forts all start to look the same after a while!
Every city in Rajasthan has a Fort/Palace. Many of them start to blur together after a while. I wouldn’t recommend skipping any of them with the potential exception of Kumbhalgarh Fort. Rankapur Temple is amazing and was one of the highlights. You should not miss this location.
- Google Maps! Helpful
We would often make sure to download the map to our destination before getting into a taxi or tuk-tuk. This would allow us to make sure that we were going in the right direction. There were two instances on the trip where it saved us from getting lost. When taxi cab driver knows that you have a map, he is also less likely to try anything funny.
- India is Safe! (Least for a Couple) / Not Everyone Speaks English
My wife and I generally always felt safe when traveling around in India. I don’t know how comfortable that we would have felt traveling alone. As a couple, there isn’t anything to worry about. We were also surprised at the number of individuals that don’t speak English at all. If you are traveling somewhere via cab, it is best to have the hotel write down the name of your destination and location.