Misc answers

I've just finished this tour and will post some observations here, and the same on the Portrait Of India tour. This will be in reference to some previous questions I've seen, or if I think someone would be interested. Let me know if you have any questions!

1. This tour was a perfect way to see India. You will have a culture shock, and it's nice to return to a great hotel to offset some things you will see. It was nice to have everything handled.m all you have to remember is what time to be packed and what time to be in the lobby. BE ON TIME! Also, it's not 100% required to go on all the tours (I actually bailed on one in the afternoon), but do try because there's a large variety of things to see and learn about.

2. The logistics of the tour work in your favor;e.g., seating on the coach rotates, the duffel bags, the train, etc. listen to your guide, but rest assured there's a rhyme and reason to it all.

3. Bathrooms: You will always have access to a western toilet on the tours Tauck pays for the toilets, so no need to worry about that either. Do carry Kleenex or a roll of toilet paper, because you'll be given some but only a little.

4. Clothing: no one wore a skirt for the day tours. I didn't find it necessary to wear long sleeves at all. It got hot so I find this would have been a nuisance. I agree with not wearing sleeveless tops or shorts or even a skirt above the knee. The mornings were cool, so I brought along a light sweater or light jacket, but you can always leave items locked on the bus later, as it heated up. There were two nights that were dressier than others: the welcome reception and the last night. I wore a black dress the first night, and I think only a couple other women wore dresses, if that. Most wore long pants and a nice top. No men wore ties either night. The last. Ight,mo wore pants and a dressier top.

5. Safety: NO issues! Tauck had a wonderful guide to greet me upon arrival and ride with me and the driver to the Oberoi. All the hotels have security not just at the gate, but also before entering the front doors. Out in the streets, I assume because you're with a group led by an Indian guide, no one harassed anyone at any time. The guides give you advice before you get off the coach. This silly nonsense of "don't make eye contact and don't smile" that I heard before I left was immediately put away after one day in India. People WILL stare, but it's only curiosity and interest, not sexual or hostile.

IF anyone has any questions, I'm happy to answer!
Felicia

Comments

  • Greetings Felicia, Many thanks for your feedback on your Spotlight on India experience. I'll be taking it in February, going solo and my first time in India, BIG bucket list item!! Any comments or suggestions on the Delhi airport? My flight departs at 3:40am so I'll be there in the middle of the night, an intimidating thought....many thanks
  • The Delhi airport is indeed just as busy and crazy in the middle of the night as during the day. But you will find your Tauck representative very easily where they say they will be. We always look around to see if we can see others at baggage claim with Tauck labels on their suitcases. If they are the same color, then we know they are on our tour and we introduce ourselves and then there are more eyes to spot the Tauck rep. The drive to the hotel was the only time we saw quiet peaceful roads the whole time we were in India. Even going back to the airport after midnight on our return home we were stuck in a massive traffic jam and the airport was crazy busy, I did find that time quite frightening because we were out of the Tauck bubble, about ninety five percent in the airport were men.
  • Felicia,
    Thank you for the info in your post. My wife and I will be on the Feb 2016 SpotLight on India tour.
    When entering the various religious sites, one must remove their shoes. Can you then carry them with you in a bag as you tour the site? I wear laceup ankle braces, would those need to be removed also?
    Many of the sites have images of no Cameras and no Cellphones. I realize that we can not use them within the site, but can we still carry them with us or do they have to be checked before you go in?
    Thank you in advance for your reply.
    Michael
  • edited January 2016
    Hi, Felicia.
    I remember you had concerns about safety and being a solo female traveler, it looks like you had a great time, I'm glad.
    I'm finally going next Oct. cannot wait.......
    I do have some questions, I would like to know in Varanasi, is there enough time to take pics? how far out is the boat from the Ghat during the night & early morning ceremony and the boat is it a motor boat or a rowing one? strange question but not if you are a photographer :))
    Also when in Agra, if I take the early visit to the Taj. do we get enough time for pics.? overall did you felt rush to get back to the hotel? or did you felt you had enough time to enjoy the sites. next the duffel bags? are they to keep? and are they big enough? and of course....
    How about the money? did your tour guide help out finding any ATM's or is it better just to exchange @ the hotels, I'm a ATM fan.. and last @ the airport did the Tauck rep. escorted you to the security gate? They did when I went to Thailand it did make me feel safe.
    Well, Thanks for your help. Hope to hear from you soon.
    My regards.

  • I have not seen any posts from Felicia for quite a while. I can answer all these questions if you like.
  • edited January 2016
    Hello British.
    Yes, if you could I would really appreciate it.
    I'm checking all my camera lenses and planning on taking a wide angle lens as well as a 70-200mm for Varanasi , that's why I was asking about the boat.
    Also, I would like to know.. on the arrival day in Agra , would I have enough time to add an xtra visit on my own to the Akbar Mausoleum or should I schedule for next day after the Taj and Fort. visits? it looks like on the second day we get the afternoon @ leisure .
    Please advise.
    My regards.
  • edited January 2016
    Hello Milena.
    Duffels---yours to keep and plenty, plenty big enough, we just got back from a trip and used one as an extra bag for our return.
    Varanasi---plenty of time for photos. Boats powered by small motor. Can get busy with lots of boats. Boats keep a respectable distance from the funeral pyres. The 'Putting the River to sleep' is very nice but it is really only a fairly recent tourist attraction.
    No eye contact and so on---- I think Felicia got the wrong end of the stick here. The reason you don't look or speak to people is so they will not harass you by begging extremely persistently and walk along beside you throwing crying babies in your face and empty feeding bottles. The women look very post memopausal to have a baby and my husband noticed them pinching the babies to make them cry. This was in the streets of Varanasi. Even though Tauck pay people to keep the locals away in some places, the beggars still get near and they persist. Many of this type work for a sort of Fagin by the way. I assume the regulars know exactly when the Tauck groups come, so I assume some people from Tauck give in and give money or it would not be worth their while following us along the street. You really have to be strong to resist the temptation to give in to give them something out of compassion or to get rid of them, but then you could attract even more if you seem a pushover.
    Taking photos--- this was was one of the areas that I was disgusted with some of my fellow travellers. Members of our group took photos of people who were literally putting their hands in front of their faces because they did not want their photo taken but they still took the photos. Can you imagine someone doing that to you while you were trying to go about your daily business, a full size iPad being thrust near your face, yes saw it happen! Also, you should never take a photo of a priest. There are people who dress up as priests and encourage photos for a fee. In fact, it is good protocol to carry small denomination money to give when you take a photo, like when you see the snake charmers and things like that--- just think the fake Disney characters in Times sq situation.
    Time in Agra---- your itinerary is different than when we took the tour two years ago. We arrived in Agra late at night having driven in a bus and saw amazing everyday sites along the way, then experiencing a train station, fascinating, and a train ride. We chose not to do the very early morning trip to the Taj because it was very misty. But those who went said that the guides showed them exactly where to stand to take the best shots. There was plenty of time to take photos, but hardly any time to get some breakfast before heading back out to the Taj again.
    I think that afternoon was when there was a paid for optional tour, that does not appear to be part of your itinerary now, I assume Tauck took it out to give people some down time. If most of the groups are like ours where only three people took that amazing tour, including my self and husband, then Tauck probably thought it was not worth including the option. By this time on the tour, most people are getting extremely tired. I would strongly suggest that it is worth arriving two or three days early to Delhi to get over jet lag before the tour begins, most do not and they spent time napping instead of touring which is such a shame. I am not sure how people cope on the longer tour. It's not just the length of tour and the early mornings, it's the assault on the psychi too.
    I think if you do some research about a tour to the places you mention and call the hotel concierge to ask about options before you go on the tour, that would help you make decisions. You might find that it being India, tour times and itinerary may have to change beyond the control of your tour guide, so bare that in mind when you make extra plans for supposed free time.
    ATM---- you may have read my post where I say that on the only stop the bus made for a few people who needed an ATM, no-one's card would work apart from my husband's. He got out to get money while it was an option. The tour guide then waited and brought these people back to the hotel while the rest of us went back on the bus. We rarely use an ATM while traveling, we take a small amount of local money and use cards for everything else. Money should be obtained in very small denominations because their are lots of opportunities to buy trinkets along the way and to give out for photo taking. We obtained rupees in the US before we left, apparently there is a law that says you cannot take rupees in or out of India, but my research did not reveal that to me and our bank got us rupees like it gets us any other types for our travels.
    At the airport---- I think I remember that you can only actually enter the airport building if you have an airline ticket. So there would be no-one to take you to security. I am sure that there might be others on the tour who may be going back on the same flight as you, so don't worry. Our tour guide left the hotel hours before any of us were even due to fly, something that some were not happy about, but it was her last tour and she was headed home.
    Shoes--- you can keep shoes on at more places than you expect. Where you cannot, you are traveling with Tauck, so of course they hire people to guard our shoes specially! Extra bags and clothing can be kept on the bus, which is either locked or the driver stays with it. Cameras can be kept with you.
    Cell phone, unless you are taking a photo with it, I think that the time differences between there and the US plus the rules Tauck have about making calls on the tour, is pretty much a useless item in India, unless your relativeslike to text you in the middle of the night.
  • OMG! British...
    You have put a big smile in my face as I open the Blog and saw your reply ;)))
    This is all so exciting, I cannot wait till Oct. to go on this trip.
    I have done my homework and do have a local tour company Delhi Magic, that I hired for full days tours before and after the Tauck ( car-driver & guide included) . I did 2 pre-day booking and 1 post @ the end so I can visit temples etc.. in Delhi.

    I could not stop laughing about the post menopausal comment!, crazy world. The sad part is that babies are being abused for money... Now the no- eye contact suggestion..I tell you, regardless of what any guide wants us to do ..... I would never deny a smile or a gesture of affection to anyone... So I will do. :))
    And regarding the photo issue, I do agree with you, some people are clueless while they're traveling.
    Thanks for all the info.
    Have a lovely weekend.
  • edited January 2016
    Gearing up for the snow and coping with jet lag as I write. It made me laugh about you not denying a smile to people, you may find yourself with an entourage. Instead of smiling, look at your feet while you are walking along or you will have some cow poop surprises to clear off your shoes, especially in Varanasi. I had friends go to India last year, but they did not go to Varanasi and I think they missed out on an amazing spectacle.
  • The only thing I would add to British's excellent summary is that at Varannassi you are not allowed to take pictures as you pass the funeral pyres out of respect.
    The other matter of ATMs, we found it simpler that the hotels are usually happy to let you draw cash from reception.
    The security at the airports is very tight, making you show your boarding ticket at every stage you pass through, like going through the gate, arriving on the tarmac to walk to a plane, again at the bottom of the plane steps and again on entering the aircraft.
    Richard
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