My husband and I are doing the tour on September 23, 2019. Any advice?
Don't drink the water.
Brenda, can you be more specific? Have you done much travel, have you already had lots of vaccinations for other trips, what are your interests, can you handle beggars coming up to you with crying babe in arms, are you ready to avoid stepping on all the cow poop. India is incredible!
BrendaH, my advice is to go with the flow and enjoy yourself. I just completed this trip earlier this year. You're in for a spectacular tour. The variety of the sights and ceremonies that you will see is amazing. One oddity that I found with this tour is the packing for the intra-India flights. For security reasons, the tour director told us that all electronics (anything with a battery) should be kept in the carry on luggage. If they detected them in your checked luggage they might pull you off the flight at the last moment and you could miss the flight. This made getting through security for these flights a little more difficult as they inspected the carry on luggage. They would investigate things like electric toothbrushes, etc.
If you arrive in Delhi early, book a tour through the hotel concierge desk. Private tours are relatively reasonable. Delhi is the least pedestrian friendly city I've ever visited. British told you to avoid stepping in cow poop. You're lucky if it's cow poop. Prime Minister Modi is trying to encourage the use of toilets, but old habits die hard.
Regarding the water - bottled only - even for tooth brushing. Put a washrag over the faucet to remind yourself.
But seriously, this is a great tour, one of our favorites. You will be overwhelmed by the luxurious hotels. Happy travels. Namaste!
All good advice from everyone. Here are a few places we included outside of the regular tour...Delhi: As Ken said, we booked a full day tour with a taxi driver. The concierge (stayed at the Oberai at that time) picked a taxi, sat down with the driver and explained what we wanted to do. She negotiated a price for us (he did not speak English, but we still managed to communicate). We started in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, where our driver hired rickshaws, one for him and one for us (he followed along). What a great, frenetic, fun experience!! There we were with buses, rickshaws, pedestrians, cars, bicycles and tuk-tuks coming at us from all directions! We rode through the streets and toured Jama Masjid, India's oldest mosque. We then went to Akshardham Temple, quite a showplace. One brochure described it as Disney-esque, but we took a pass on the rides and concentrated on the temple itself and the grounds and found it both interesting and beautiful. One of the messages in the garden area read,__ "Art is ageless, Culture is borderless, Values are timeless." Quite meaningful....We had a wonderful meal at The Spice Route. The interior is beautiful and each room is named. We dined in "The Room of Good Fortune & Good Food", and it was! Don't be put off by the name as they will do the spice level to your liking. Since it was the beginning of our trip, we opted for the milder side. Not a place for the faint of wallet, by the way! We also took a terrific cooking class at the hotel where they treated us royally (this was at the Oberai)!
In Agra we had an opportunity to go to a colorful show depicting the Shah Jahan/Mumtaz story (right by the inlay marble factory that we could tour). The show was very colorful with beautiful costumes, fun dancing, but it would not win any acting or script awards. However, that didn't matter as it was a lot of fun! From Agra, a few of us paid extra to take a trip/tour to** Fatehpur Sikri! Do not miss this!! It is amazingly well-preserved with beautiful carvings! One of our Agra guides did the tour. By the way, let me say right here, that with one exception (in Mumbai) , the local guides on this trip were probably the best we have had on any tour!! Also, unlike many instances where there are two guides and the larger group breaks into smaller ones and then people try to gravitate to the better guide, we found that each area had equally interesting, insightful and informative guides!! Finally, when we were in Udaipur, we had the opportunity (again only a few went) to visit **Nagda Temple, an 11th century complex (with erotic carvings, etc.), again, with one of our local guides who was so wonderful in explaining the spiritual meanings and the concept of religion vs. spirituality. I would rank all of these extras five star experiences!
My only regret is that we did not plan better for Mumbai as we had some extra time there (tour ends at a weird time, and planes depart at even weirder times). We did tour Elephanta Island with the group which was okay. I see the tour no longer goes there. We did go to the Taj Hotel and Colaba area with lots of street stalls, etc. The slum or Bollywood tours did not interest us (actually watched a film being shot down the street from the Oberai). If anyone wants the slum experience, read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and that should cure one of the need to visit the slum area! Perhaps others will chime in with some worthwhile suggestions for Mumbai. This is just a great tour...be open-minded and prepared for contrasts, colors and some of the friendliest people in the world!!
Hopefully, you are going into Delhi early and will have some time to acclimate. When we went, we stayed at the Oberai and took a cooking class. It was great fun, and they treated us royally. As Ken suggested, we had the concierge arrange a day out and about for us. She found a taxi driver, sat down with him, told him what we wanted to do and negotiated a price (VERY reasonable) for the day. We began in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, where we rented two rickshaws, one for the taxi driver and one for us. It was frenetic, interesting and fun! We has pedestrians, buses, cars, bicycles, rickshaws and tuk-tuks heading for us all at once! What an experience! We visited (via our rickshaws) Jama Masjid, India's oldest mosque. After the rickshaw ride, we visited Akshardham Temple, sometimes described as Disney-esque. We took a pass on the rides, and concentrated on the beautiful carvings, interior and gardens. In fact, one of the messages in the garden said, "Art is ageless, Culture is borderless, Values are timeless." A moving, timely message, to say the least. We ate at The Spice Route in the Imperial Hotel. It was excellent...beautiful interior and each room named. We ate in "The Room of Good Food & Good Fortune." Don't be put off by the name as they will regulate the spice level for you. However, it is not for the faint of wallet!
In Agra, we went to a show depicting the relationship of Shah Jahan/Mumtaz (it was right by the inlay marble factory...also, fascinating). While the show would not win any acting/script writing awards, it was colorful and very entertaining with fun dancing!
I should say that the local guides (with one exception in Mumbai) were the best we ever had on any tour! Sometimes, with two guides one will be better than the other...not in India! When there were two, they were both wonderful! I cannot begin to write about all that I learned. I found myself taking notes as so much was new to me, and I wanted to be sure to remember it!
In Agra, on the free afternoon, a few of us went with one of the local guides(an extra trip) to Fatehpur Sikri, a World Heritage site. Do not miss this one! It is amazingly well preserved with beautiful carvings in arches and columns. Only 6 of us went, and that was a shame. A funny memory..our guides really looked out for us on these side trips. The guy at the bathroom scammed me into paying a bit more to use the facilities. Our guide got so angry, he went back and made him give back the overtip!
While in Udaipur, a few of us took an extra trip with a local guide to Nagda Temple, an 11th century complex with erotic carvings as well as engravings depicting scenes from the Ramayana. Our guide explained the spiritual meanings as well as religion vs spirituality. So worth the trip.
When you are in Kumarakom, if offered, do not miss the opportunity to take a stroll through the village with one of the hotel staff. It was so sweet to see the children getting ready for school and the tuk-tuk driver doing his laundry in the stream. In fact, my advice is that any time you are offered an extra trip (whether it is extra or not) take it!!
My one regret is that I did not feel that I maximized our time in Mumbai. The tour ends at a weird time and planes depart at even weirder times. We had some extra time there and went to the Taj Hotel and the Colaba area with the street stalls and shops. We did see some Bollywood film being filmed around the Necklace area. A Bollywood tour did not interest us, and a slum tour had no appeal (read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and that will turn you off to slum tours). Our tour included Elephanta Island, which was interesting. However, we had seen so much at that point, it felt anti-climatic. Perhaps why Tauck no longer includes it.
This is a wonderful trip! Be prepared for many, many smiling faces, contrasts in levels of wealth, the most colorful country you will ever visit. Be ready to learn about an entirely different culture, and, most importantly, be open-minded!!