We’ve come to the end of my travels for 2012! I went to a lot of places this year, in part due to having saved up vacation time in 2010 after I bought my house (and couldn’t afford to leave it, let alone travel) and partly because of two weeks of “sabbatical” given by my company once every seven years on top of my regular vacation. I took a total of 10 weeks off throughout the year and it’s probably one of the most memorable times I’ve had.
India has been one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, and also one of the hardest. I had so much fun traveling around with a large group of people from all over the world. Usually I travel alone or with one other person, so it was quite a different experience for me, and taught me a lot. I’ve always been a big planner on my trips, with spreadsheets and emails and a lot of time on Google figuring everything out. And India, more than any other country, required a lot of planning, but even more of allowing myself to go with the flow. I’ve allowed this to carry over into other trips since and it’s been really nice. I will always be someone who loves to plan, but I also know how to play it by ear much better now.
Target Audience –
- India overall – This isn’t your typical vacation destination and it’s a far cry from Europe. You can find beaches in Goa, but it’s not the main reason you come here. India requires a great deal of patience and flexibility, and you certainly can’t come in with the mindset that the world should work the way you expect, because it absolutely won’t here. But if you’re looking for a place with a long and rich history, different from everywhere else you’ve ever been with endless things to do, India fits the bill to a T.
- Amritsar – Amritsar is a very holy city in the Sikh religion and should be treated as such, regardless of your own religious views. They are very welcoming to all people, but to enter the Golden Temple, you must follow their rules. That being said, it’s a beautiful place for quiet reflection, and you are practically guaranteed to get some amazing photos.
- Kerala – Looking for a place to relax for a day or more? Renting a houseboat in Kerala and floating the backwaters definitely fits the bill. There isn’t a lot to do here besides that so if this doesn’t interest you, no need to come to this out of the way place. But I highly recommend it!
- Rajasthan – This is the place for the history buffs. The Mughal empire built many of its palaces in this area and they seem to be scattered everywhere. In later years, they branched out to Delhi and Agra, but the highest and earliest concentration of their influence is found here.
Cost Analysis –
I dug deep into my emails and credit card statements to find as much as I could so I can tell you what I spent on this trip. Unfortunately this isn’t a cumulative breakdown of everything, but hopefully it will at least be a good jumping off point if you want to plan a trip like this yourself. All flights included travel insurance. It should be stated that most everything was booked within a month or two of leaving as I wasn’t even sure I was going (in November) until about September. For everything paid in rupees I used a rate of 62.42 rupees to $1USD.
- Airfare: $1914.83
- Seattle > Delhi round trip on Lufthansa – $1265
- Delhi > Amritsar round trip – $252.79
- Delhi > Bangalore – $100.63
- Bangalore > Kochin – $115.16
- Kochin > Delhi – $180.78
- Visa: $187.28 This included FedEx overnight return as it was the only option to get my passport back. It was expensive!
- Hotels: $214.59 This is only what I paid for the hotel in Delhi for 6 nights and 1 night in Bangalore.
- Taj Mahal: ~$20
- Entrance to the museum was $12.02 and we gave Abishek about 100 rupees each for driving us.
- I’m rounding this to $20 as I’m sure we tipped our guide in the monument, but I don’t remember exactly how much.
- Rajasthan 6 Day Guided Tour: $693.21 – This was listed as $695 on the brochure, but due to the exchange rate, I only paid $693…though with transaction fees, it was probably more than $695.
- Foreign Transaction Fees: $58.61 – I really need to not use my Bank of America credit card when I travel. Too many fees!
- Sari fabric: $103.84
- Souvenirs: $222 – I did nearly all my Christmas shopping while I was here since I was coming home in early December. This number also includes the $10.34 I spent on jewelry for the wedding that was stolen.
- Kerala House Boat: $26 Our dinner and breakfast was included in this price.
- Travel Meds: $15 It’s really important to bring anti-diarrhea meds to India as ‘Delhi-belly’ is very common.
Total: ~$3455.36 over 21 days
I’m surprised at how much information I was able to find 3 years later! I think this number is underestimated by probably $300. Missing from the totals above are most of our food and water which was really cheap, our tuk tuk and taxi rides, entrance fees to Delhi monuments (usually only a few dollars), the cost of getting our sari’s made and our hotels for 3 nights in Amritsar, 2 nights Coorg and 1 night Kerala. All our hotels included breakfast in the price. Due to being on a semi-tight schedule as we needed to get to certain places in time for the wedding ceremonies, we ended up flying pretty much everywhere. This inflated our budget a bit compared to what most people would possibly pay. The trains are considerably cheaper, but are far from a reliable mode of transportation. It’s also worth noting that we were well taken care of by our friends that lived there which saved us some money.
This is the route we ended up taking. All trips except Bangalore to Coorg and back, and Udaipur to Jaipur and back to Delhi, were flights.
Here’s some things I learned on this trip that I think might be helpful for someone else planning a holiday to India.
- Indian food is so good. That might not be news to most people. But eating it for 3 weeks, breakfast, lunch and dinner does wear on you after awhile. Normally I would never recommend eating McDonald’s in a foreign country when there is so much good food to enjoy, but eating there is an experience itself. It’s a nice break from the Indian food, but it’s not the same as what you get in America or really anywhere else as beef is not eaten here. You can try the Chicken Tikka Masala Burger or the Spicy Paneer Burger for something more Indian-like.
- Speaking of food, I have no idea what I ate most of the time. India is largely vegetarian, so I figured it was probably lentils, paneer and naan most of the time, but it was often hard to tell. That being said, I don’t think we had a bad meal the entire time. It’s a great place to just close your eyes and point at the menu as you really can’t go wrong.
- Internet was often hard to find. Our hotel in Delhi was really nice, but my only option to connect to the internet was to use the front desk computer. Fortunately they weren’t to put out by this. Other hotels had computers you could use for a small fee, and our hotel in Amritsar actually had wifi!
- The Indian head wobble is notoriously difficult to understand. It means yes, no, maybe, maybe not, I understand, I don’t understand…anything really. I found trying to avoid yes or no questions helped the most.
- I don’t mind haggling when shopping in foreign countries, but we didn’t have much opportunity for this. In Delhi, it was recommended to us that we shop at Central Cottage Industries, a government owned co-op with set prices. They had everything we could ever have wanted to buy there (except that bowl I’m still looking for!) and no haggling required. Be careful though, it’s easy to go crazy! I did most of my shopping for the entire trip here.
- Be careful when you tell your taxi or tuk tuk driver where you want to go, especially if in involves shopping. We were flat out lied to about the shop above, being told that it was closed, even though it wasn’t. Fortunately for us, we had locals looking out for us, but if you don’t, insist on the driver taking you where you want to go anyway and see for yourself if it’s closed. It’s worth the possible extra cost of the taxi.
- Before leaving for India, I colored my hair brown as a way to hopefully blend in a little better. It maybe worked a little…Meike and Sierra are both blonde and definitely got the most attention, but I had my fair share as well. If I were to go again, I probably wouldn’t bother.
- Everyone will want to take your picture. It most commonly happens at the bigger tourist attractions. At first we weren’t bothered by it and agreed when asked, but soon it got to be really annoying as it would prevent us from getting to see what we came to see. We got used to holding something in front of our faces and having to be rather firm in declining. It’s up to you how you feel about having your picture taken, but you certainly don’t have to agree to it and sometimes you may have to just walk away.
Miss a post? Links to everything I wrote about India are below!
India: Land of the Exotic
Delhi and the Qutub Minar
What to Wear to a Wedding in India
The Taj Mahal: Is It Wonder-Worthy?
Amritsar and the Golden Temple
Taking a Peek at Pakistan
Bangalore For a Night
Celebrating a Coorgi Wedding or 3
Floating on the Backwaters of Kerala
The Final Reception
Getting Blessed in Jagdish Temple
The City Palace in Udaipur
Frolicking in the Courtyard of the Maidens
The Holy City of Pushkar
Innovation in the Amer Fort
Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar
Tiger Safari in Ranthambhore NP
The Red Fort and Chandni Chowk