India trip report
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Feb 3, 2012 7:52 PM Last Post By: vasenka
Jan 25, 2012 10:01 PM
India trip reportHello fellow travelers. Here is a post-mortem trip report for India that I hope is some help to a few of you. As you can read, I move around very quick; the objective was to spend a short amount of time in each location, see the sights and not (except for beaches) hang around too long. I can always go back to places I really like. Most things are graded with either a poor - average - good - excellent mark, and I tried to put prices on most things. To differentiate buses, I use the word coach for long distance, and bus for short distances, but across India they generally use the word bus for both. Lastly, I was not there for spiritual/ religious places, instead was keen to check out the forts, ruins, museums and cities.
HOTEL - Smyle Inn Rs655/ room - average, no WiFi
- Red Fort (Rs250) - good
- India Gate - excellent
- National Museum (Rs300) - poor
- Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's House) and Sansad Bhavan (Parliament) - nothing to see
- Connaught Place - nothing to see
- Qutb Minar (Rs250) - good
- Humayun’s Tomb (Rs250) - good
- Purana Qila (Rs100) - average
- Firoz Shah Kotla and Ashoka Pillar (Rs100) - average
- 17:30 train to Agra, arrived 20:37
Key learning - trains are the best way to travel, but are very often full
- Fatehpur Sikri (Rs250) - excellent. Take a bus from Agra bus station (Rs27), takes over an hour
- Taj Mahal (Rs750) - excellent
- 18:35 train from Agra Fort to Jaipur was delayed 7 hours, caught the next one after many hassles
Key learning - should the train cancel, head straight to the coach station
Breakfast @ Indian Coffee House - excellent
- City Palace (Rs300) - poor
- Hawa Mahal (Rs50) - excellent
- Amber Fort (Rs200) - excellent, take a bus outside Hawa Mahal (Rs10), takes less than 30 mins
- 20:00 sleeper coach to Jaisalamer (Rs370), arrived 09:30
- Trotters Camel Safari (Rs1,700) overnight - excellent
- Very kindly gave us access to a room where I could sleep. Tour included a visit to a village (poor), a lake (poor) and deserted ruins (excellent)
Lunch @ Monica's - excellent
- Jaisalmer museum (Rs300) - average
- Inside the fort walls were very cool
- 23:30 sleeper train to Jodhpur, arrived 05:15
- clock tower and markets in centre of town were good
- Mehrangarh (Rs300) - good
- RSRTC bus to Udaipur (Rs185), poor, stopped everywhere and took forever
HOTEL - Hotel Shiva @ Rs250/ room - good, cheapest room on whole trip, no WiFi
- Palace Hotel and Boat Tour (Rs400) - good, takes in a lot of the palaces you can't normally see
- 16:00 sleeper coach to Mumbai (Rs800), took 15 hours and did not get much sleep because it was so bumpy
- Lonely Planet walking tour from 7:30-9am
- Rajabai Tower - not accessible
- Town Hall - shockingly poor
- Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Hotel - excellent
- Chhatrapati train station (Victoria) - excellent
- Prince of Wales Museum (Rs300) - average
Key learning - walking tour covered most of the sights in a small time
- Elephanta Island (Rs5 island entry, Rs250 caves entry) - good. Take a boat (Rs130)
- NYE drinks involved numerous tuk-tuks to nowhere
- Girgaon Chowpatty beach - poor, rubbish everywhere
- Nehru Park - good
- Crawford Market - poor
- 23:05 train from Mumbai CST, arrived Thivim 09:06
HOTEL - Evershine Guesthouse @ Rs300/ bunk - excellent, free WiFi
- Drinks @ Lilliput - excellent
- Wednesday market - average
- Day lazing on the beach at Tantra
- Relaxing on the beach
- 16:00 overnight sleeper coach from Goa to Hampi was Rs1,400, arrived 06:00 - poor. Took tuk-tuk to stop, shuttled to a larger bus, shuttled to the coach terminal, spent 30 minutes looking for the right coach. Coach driver expected a Rs10 tip.
- Ruins around the city - excellent, free and similar to the stuff you pay for
- Vittala ruins (Rs250 incl Royal Centre) - poor
- Royal Centre - good, spread over a wide area
- 22:30 KSTRC coach from Hospet to Bengaluru (Rs523), arrived 05:00 - excellent, best transport the whole trip
- stayed at a friends place
Key learning - there is little to do in Bengaluru
Brunch @ Cafe Noir UB City - poor. Accidentally broke a glass and they charged me for it
- markets in and around MG Rd - average
- 19:00 coach to Alleppey, arrived 06:00 (Rs950) - poor. Turned lights off at 9pm and they played loud, crap music until midnight
- head to jetty east of town before 11am where all the boats dock for availability. A 2 room is Rs9,500, 1 room is Rs6,000 at the prepaid counter, you can generally negotiate Rs500 less directly
- Houseboat was Rs10,500, quite luxurious, my contribution was Rs4,000 as I found a couple willing to share a 2 room boat. Overall, good but overrated, you don't cruise very far.
- early morning start back to dock, arrived 9am
- KSTC bus to Varkala (Rs80), took 2 hours
HOTEL - Cliff House Residences @ Rs600/ room - good, free WiFi
- laying on the beach for the afternoon
Key learning - keep track of my camera, lost it for 1/2 an hour on the houseboat and went mental
- 10:30 train to Trivandrum (Rs50), took an hour, then went to the coach station across the road to book next ticket to Pondi
- Bus to Kovalam beach (A/C = Rs26) - need to take this from the southernmost stand at Fort stand
HOTEL - Dwaraka Hotel @ Rs500/ room - good, no WiFi
Dinner @ Volga - poor
Key learning - look for restaurants that are full
Jan 12 - 14
- sun bed and umbrella hire = Rs120
- great beach for bodysurfing
- get ice-cream from the Chill Zone off the main strip, everything is delicious
- 14:00 coach to Puducherry, arrived 06:00 (Rs485), poor. Another state bus that stops everywhere
HOTEL - Continental Hotel @ Rs450/ room - average, TV was nice, no WiFi
- tour of Puducherry - average, really not much to see
Key learning - Puducherry is a day trip not an overnighter
- 08:30 bus to Mamallapuram (Rs60), two hours
- Five Rathas (Rs250 incl Shore temple), average, not much different here
- Shore Temple - average
- 15:00 bus to Chennai (Rs85), 90 mins
Key learning - better to do Puducherry morning, Mamallapurum afternoon and then get to Chennai
Jan 17 - 18
- Fort St George museum (Rs100) - average
- Valluvar Kottam - good
Key learning - there is not much to see in Chennai
- overall, four weeks was about right, it covered a lot of ground and enough time to see most of the places I wanted to see
- my daily average expense was Rs1,700, making it a very reasonable trip
- the food is almost always good. Always go with fresh seafood in beach towns, otherwise the masala prawns/ calamari are made from frozen product
- there is no need to carry large sums of cash, ATMs are in most places.
- accommodation in the sub Rs1,000 range is generally pretty poor. Whilst it is not a lot of money, they fall below my expectation that in 2012 you should get WiFi, a hot shower and a reasonably comfortable bed.
- overnight coaches are good for covering large distances, but do not expect much sleep as it is very bumpy. Locals use the state transport companies effectively as local buses, getting on and off a lot. This makes the journey very long; it is not uncommon for a 250 km journey to take 8 hours. Unfortunately private coach companies are hit and miss.
- get an Indian SIM card as soon as you arrive. If you have a smartphone, get a pre-paid data plan. Texts and calls are cheap, and can really get you out of a spot when you need to make bookings
- in my opinion the museums in India are pretty poor across the board. I did not visit all of them, but the ones I did always seemed to be full of unremarkable stuff. Similarly, the markets are full of the same-old-same-old you get everywhere.
- there are ~15 sites managed by the archaeological survey of India. The tickets are all the same for foreigners, Rs250 and include the ticket and a tear-off piece that goes to the guy at the gate. Be careful, because on three separate occasions, the ticket seller tried to give me just the tear-off bit, allowing him and his buddies to pocket the whole Rs250.
Edited by: welda, caught a few typos
Jan 26, 2012 12:44 AM
Jan 26, 2012 5:12 AM
Jan 26, 2012 5:20 AM
Jan 26, 2012 5:39 AM
4Yeah...wow...I'm tired too after reading that.
My advice after reading that is when possible look at booking trains and planes...flying is cheap in India...and the trains are by far more comfortable than 15 hour coach trips.
Also take time to see the places...going to different cities from one day to the next will leave you utterly exhausted and less likely to enjoy the places you see.
Jan 26, 2012 6:31 AM
516 towns in 27 days with at least 200-250 kms between each place. Add to that the potent mix of India's cr*p bus system and sh*tty roads. No wonder India left OP underwhelmed :)
Jan 26, 2012 7:03 AM
Jan 26, 2012 4:41 PM
7Thanks for the report!
However have to say, just one day in Hampi? When you are surrounded by that wonderful landscape with its paddy fields, weird rock formations and river? I recently spent seven days there (second visit at that) and had to be almost dragged away at the end because I didn't want to leave!
Recently visited about 15 Archaeological Survey of India sites (in five+ weeks), and didn't once come across the problem with the tickets.
Jan 26, 2012 8:14 PM
Jan 27, 2012 9:13 PM
9Now that your back and can reflect, did you go through everything to fast?
I am planning on leaving 3rd week in Feb and not sure about itinerary?
I hooked up with a tour company in India and he is helping, what are your suggestions?
Feb 3, 2012 7:52 PM
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