Keen on travelling to India but not sure what you’ll experience? At Pentravel, we know because we go. We believe it is essential for our travel agents to experience the places and products they sell.
Pentravel Expert Loryn Holmes recently got back from an epic trip to India and we sat down with her to hear about her experience.
What was your overall experience of India?
India has so much more to offer than I ever imagined. It is rich in beauty, with it’s culture firmly rooted at the heart of it all. The people are warm and inviting, and despite the appearance of “hard times” they embrace what life has to offer and view every opportunity as a blessing unto others. The history and religion provides hours of enticing stories and you can’t help but be drawn into them all.
Someone told me you’ll either love it or hate it, and my experience of India had me returning to South Africa, longing to see more and imprinting such fabulous memories on my heart.
Please give us a brief overview of your itinerary.
We flew into Delhi from Dubai on Emirates, and were there for 3 nights; onto Agra for 1 night to see the famous Taj Mahal, then 3 nights in the Pink City (otherwise known as Jaipur). We spent 2 nights in Narlai, 2 nights in Udaipur and then a short flight across to Mumbai where we spent the last 2 nights of our trip.
Tell us about your first experience travelling with Trafalgar Tours.
WOW! From the moment we arrived to the time we left, we were treated like royalty and showered in experiences like no other.
Our Tour Director, Pankaj Sharma was definitely one of the reasons for the magic and had a way of ensuring that each of the tour members were treated as if they were the only person on tour. His attention to detail, his abundant patience along with his knowledge and first-hand experience of his country, earned him the title of Best Tour Director ever in my books!
What were your biggest highlights and why?
There were so many! Flying kites on the roof terrace at a local home in Jaipur, admiring the size of the Amer Fort, visiting a Sikh Temple in Delhi… and then the multitude of incredible temples, forts and palaces.
If I had to narrow it down, I would have to say the Taj Mahal. There are certain iconic landmarks around the world that each have their own value and meaning, but this beautiful monument is not just beautiful. The story behind it is as powerful and moving as it is seeing it with your own eyes. No one could ever explain the emotions that come over you as you admire true love in its grandest form!
What are some of the challenges that travellers may face in India, and what would your suggestions be to overcome these?
ATM’s are available for cash withdrawals but can often be out of service, do not read international cards or have insufficient funds. When you get the chance to withdraw cash, take more than you think you’ll need. Credit cards are accepted at most retailers but it’s always good to have cash on you for the markets, local transport and of course tipping.
Make sure you carry local currency in small denominations (10, 20 or 50 Rupees). Tipping is an expectation in many ordinary duties (toilet attendants, service related functions, etc).
Although I never encountered it, pack medication for the “what if” cases of Delhi Belly! The food is very different to what you might find in more Westernised Countries, and if you are sensitive to this, it’s always good to be prepared with the essentials of buscopan, imodium, rehydrate and valoid.
What are your top 3 tips for first-time visitors to India?
- Never ask for ice in your drinks!
- Carry hand sanitiser and tissues for just in case.
- Go with an open heart, expect the unexpected and be prepared to have your 6th sense come alive!
Tell us about the food.
The food was delicious! I’m not one for overly spicy food, but the dishes prepared during our stay provided a more tasty experience, catering for all spice thresholds.
Eating from the roadside stalls is not always advisable, but having an experienced and knowledge Trafalgar Tour Director we were often guided towards what we could or should try, and what was rather “at your own risk”.
As with street side food, also be cautious of eating fresh fruit or vegetables from local stalls. Ensure these are washed with bottled water before consumption. If it’s cooked or fried, it’s generally good to go but one can never be too confident.
Tell us about the transport.
India has various modes of transport to choose from with the Tuk Tuk being the most popular and everywhere! In Delhi, we experienced the organised chaos of the Old City roads on a Rickshaw. Hooting is a sound that can be heard for days afterwards and there is no such thing as lanes, yet it works! It’s amazing to watch, but even more amazing to be right alongside a car, a motorcycle and another Rickshaw all etching to move forward.
We travelled most of the trip onboard a Touring Bus that seated all 8 of us very comfortably. We were a smaller group, but that made for more meaningful experiences and space to spread out on the long travel days! The bus was air-conditioned (essential in India), had ample leg room, Wi-Fi and the seats reclined further back than my seat on Emirates did.
What’s the shopping like?
This is one area I was very unprepared for, despite having been told by numerous people before departing to take along an empty suitcase. For what? OH MY. The clothing in India is insanely beautiful and for around R300 you can have a beautiful cotton shirt made and delivered to your hotel just hours later! The hardest part was deciding which fabric to choose… Knowing what I know now, and how easy it is to have a new wardrobe whipped up in just a few hours, I’d go far more prepared next time.
The spices are also out of this world, and a visit to a local specialist in Delhi will enliven your senses. Then there are the usual trinkets and souvenirs that can be purchased from any major city – magnets, ornate bags, cotton shirts, ornaments, postcards, etc.
Has Loryn inspired you to travel India? Browse our India travel packages and you too could experience it firsthand.