How Active are the days in Delhi?

I am traveling on the Spotlight on India tour in 2023. I booked on Qatar business class to arrive a day early and enjoy the amenities of the hotel before the tour, However, Qatar rebooked by flight to arrive at 2:00AM on the first day of the tour which begins at 2:00PM. I know this is not ideal, but will it ruin my experience in Delhi? I realize you do not know how I react to long flights, time changes, etc. but would love some feedback from those who have done this tour as to the activity level in Delhi. I can rebook my flight on a United flight (I use points) but United is charging 3 times the points and does not come close to the quality of the Qatar flights. I appreciate any feedback.


  • Can you book on Qatar yet another day before and stay in the hotel two days before the trip begins? That’s what I would do. Plus, your flight may change several more times.

  • I have been told by Qatar that no other dates are available, but to look again two weeks out. Because I use points and not revenue, my options are limited.

  • The travel on Qatar via the beautiful Doha airport will be memorable in a positive way. I would keep the flight.

    We had a full free day in Delhi. You may have interest in some of the things we did as you plan to use what free time you have.

    If Tauck is still using the Leela Palace, then there is a large public market about half a mile from the hotel that is worth exploring. It is the Sarojini Nagar Market. It's not geared to tourists (where locals shop), so if you go, keep track of landmarks to avoid getting lost in the maze of vendors. We didn't buy anything, and enjoyed just soaking up the culture. We just walked to it, and the only tricky part is crossing the first busy street by the hotel.

    We also got help from the Leela folks and "rented" a cab for 4 or 5 hours (it was not expensive). We had the cabbie take us to places we wanted to see that would not be on the Tauck tour. We went to the Lotus Temple, the Lodhi Gardens, the National Museum of India, and the Central Cottage Industries Emporium. The cabbie parked somewhere and waited for us while we explored each stop, then I'd call his cell when we were ready to go. All the places were good, and the Emporium (which I think is operated by the government) is a top notch shopping spot as they sell quality handicrafts from all over India (we DID buy a few things there).

    The India tour is fascinating, memorable, and at times, very disturbing. It isn't a place we would go back to on a second trip, but we were so happy to have gone, and to learn so much about a place very different from home. Safe travels!

  • Thanks so much MGCGKC. I truly appreciate your input. Would you consider it safe to go to the market as a single female traveler?

  • I sympathize with your plight. I too use points for my business class flights and wouldn’t be happy to ‘lose a good deal’. I went on the portrait tour. We went 2 days early for some extra touring and some great dining in Delhi as well as to acclimate to the time change. Only you know how you deal with the time change. That being said, as a single woman I would arrange a driver through the hotel (preferably a woman). The cost was not significant. You will feel more protective with some who can accompany you, explain local customs and speak the language. I wasn’t traveling solo but I often went off with my 2 female friends and felt safe - but always with an escort. It was an amazing trip — and I would go back!

  • edited October 2022

    You flight arrives 2am, you likely won’t get to the hotel until 4am. When we took the tour, we did arrive a day early but when we got to the hotel we slept until about 11am. You only have a few hours before 2pm. You will see most of what Delhi has to offer with Tauck. I would agree that if you do explore, Please have an escort or driver. There are not many women around outside the home, so I think it might be difficult finding a woman escort or driver. Be mindful of men in crowded places. Please also note that a fair number of people on our tour had to miss some touring because they were too tired, so pace yourself.
    We hope to take the India/Nepal tour soon.

  • Denise Rei. I was on the Portrait of India tour which started at the Leela Palace. I traveled United Business Class. The United Polaris cabins and lounges to/from India were great. I flew out of Newark. I traveled solo but met up with another female solo traveler (we arrived on the same flight and traveled to the hotel together). We arrived one day early and asked the Leela Palace to arrange a car and guide for us to tour Delhi. We had one and a half days to explore as the welcome didn't take place until late afternoon on the start day of the tour.

    We had a male driver (Mercedes Benz) who also served as a tour guide. We didn't wander off on our own--except once night we ventured to the Spice Route Restaurant which is located in the Imperial Hotel. I'm excited as that is the hotel Tauck uses in Delhi for the Northern India/Nepal tour which I'm taking next year...I thoroughly enjoyed the Portrait of India tour and I'm looking forward to my return.

    That said--The Qatar flight will no doubt be fabulous. I traveled on Qatar for the Jordan-Egypt tour. It gets high marks in every category. I hope you can resolve the ticketing issue - but you will have a good experience with United Polaris Business Class.

  • My wife and I did the Northern India and Nepal tour in 2017 and I can comment on our experience on arrival.

    We arrived a day earlier mostly to get semi acclimated to the time difference. We had a 15 ½ hour time difference. We did not have anything planned for the day prior to the start of the tour other than explore the neighborhood around the Imperial hotel in New Delhi. We arrived late at night.

    The next day we wanted to explore around the hotel and get some rupees from and ATM. Once we exited the hotel, we were approached by several men who insisted on “helping” us. We were also approached by many Tuk Tuk drivers who also wanted to help us and take us anywhere we wanted. We obviously looked out of place as Westerners in this environment.

    On our way to the ATM we were followed by at least a couple of the men who wanted to “help” us. One was quite persistent and wanted to know all about us. As far as the ATM, we had to visit 3 ATM’s before we could find one with any cash.

    Although I don’t think we ever felt threatened I would definitely not recommend single women venture out alone outside of the hotel.

  • I don't convert currency often, but when I do, I try to find one in the airport. Less likely to be exposed to riff-raff.

  • Cathy. Looking forward to your report. Could you please note what temperatures are like at that time of year when you get to Mumbai, I haven’t been there and wondering whether to book October or November as we prefer cooler weather. Also, could you repo the type of clothing that is most popular in your tour group. I know each group will be different. Almost everyone wore black on our Spotlight on India tour. I’m not thinking we need Africa type safari gear for this trip as there is no tent accommodation or dust worries or tsetse flies.

  • JohnS...thanks for the info. As I toured a few areas in Delhi prior to the start of the Portrait of India tour, I will probably use my pre-arrival day to fully enjoy the Imperial Hotel amenities. I remember arriving in Delhi at a reasonable time ~9PM. I remember having tea at the hotel and settling right in. The next morning I was up and about early and started the private tour.

    The only activity I didn't experience was a visit to the Chandi Chowk market--my doctor (who is from India) advised against it--to chaotic to visit on your own. She was concerned I would find it difficult navigating my way through it.

    I would love to hear about your experiences on this tour in areas besides Dehli and Agra. What month of the year did you travel? My tour date is December. I'm looking forward to Cathy's report.

    Like BKMD, I exchange monies at the airport upon arrival--It's easier and in my opinion, safer.

  • Could you please note what temperatures are like at that time of year when you get to Mumbai, I haven’t been there and wondering whether to book October or November as we prefer cooler weather.

    British: My Portrait of India tour started mid-month December. We were in Mumbai the first week in January. The weather was very pleasant. I didn't need a light jacket or shawl. In my photos I have on a gauze long sleeve top with exposed shoulders. Funny how most people wore black on my tour as well....I chose to wear colors because India is so full of color B)

  • edited October 2022

    I do have one note about leggings. Tauck recommends loose pants. Leggings will reveal too much and draw unwanted attention.
    When we did the Spotlight on India, it was February and very warm, that’s why I’m thinking November might be best for us. Not too hot and the rains over.

    This is from the Tauck clothing list
    Loose slacks

  • We usually get cash from an ATM at the airport but our arrival in Delhi was extremely late and we didn’t want to take the time at the airport since we had a driver waiting. As I recall we didn’t get to the hotel until sometime between 1 and 2 AM. We had one day GOT and we bought a second pre night due to this very late (or extremely early) arrival.

    Here are a few photos to give some idea about the chaos we encountered while on a short walk from the hotel. On our actual first day of the tour (the day of the reception dinner) we hired a private guide who took us around some of the places in Delhi that the Tauck tour didn’t go.

  • A fun thing to do before going to India is to watch the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there is a second movie too. I loved the outfits Judi Dench wore.

  • Prior to the TAUCK tour, we arranged with the hotel for a private tour of Chandi Chowk. The driver/guide gave us an incredible introduction to Delhi. We started in a car but when we approached the markets of Chandi Chowk he transferred us to tuk tuks - the guide stayed close by, directing the tuk tuk drivers. this was an eye opening tour - the activity, the exotic smells, the vibrant colors and so many people!

    We made a few stops (I.e. a spice shop; a fabric shop) with our guide giving commentary. I highly recommend this adventure.
    We also made dinner reservations at the Spice Route at Imperial Hotel and at Bukhara at the IHC Hotel. Both were exceptional for the food and decor.

  • I cannot thank all of you who responded to my inquiry. This forum has been very helpful (and sometimes entertaining). All you travelers are so kind to share your expertise.

  • NancyCohen awesome. I'll ask the hotel to arrange a tour of the market. That's the only thing I really want to experience on my next trip to Dehli.

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