After 20 years of travelling all over India I have accured quite a bank of travel tips and experience that I am always happy to share with those visiting for the first time. I thought I'd break it down into a series of Travel Notes, covering eating, shopping, staying and getting around. Because our artisans are based in Rajasthan - so it's where I tend to visit most, a lot of the tips will focus around Delhi and Jaipur, but many are transferable across the whole of India!
First up - travel. Navigating between regions and within cities can sometimes feel daunting to the uninitated! Here are 5 quick tips to consider when planning your trip itinerary (even now, I still create a spreadsheet!):
If you're arriving into Delhi, book a cab from the Government regulated taxi booth outside, opposite arrivals - you will pay a flat rate to the office rather than an often inflated fee from the taxi rank, or if you get stuck in Delhi traffic, a huge metered fee.
For getting around the city, download the Ola app (similar to Uber) for safe, quick trips within all major Indian cities.
Trains are a great way to see and travel through Rajasthan sustainably, I would ask your hotel to book your tickets for you, book a 1st class ticket (still super cheap!) and get to the station early. Look for a porter (they wear red hats) and pay them to get you and your luggage to your compartment - the trains are very long and over-crowded, it's definitely worth it!
If you're looking to visit a number of sites in a day, a cost effective and safe way of getting around is with a private driver, booked through your hotel. Expect to pay anywhere from £20-£40 for the full day, depending on how far you want to travel.
If you are staying in Jaipur, the Pink Rickshaw Company is a local social enterprise that trains women to be rickshaw drivers and take visitors on tours around the city - you can choose from cultural or foodie trips - or the 'dawn tour' where you get to watch the city wake up as the sunrises. Touristy fun, but with a social element.
Finally, a note on traffic (and pollution) - especially in the major cities of Jaipur and Delhi, the traffic can be horrendous - and snarl up at a moment's notice - rather than at typical 'rush hour' times, so it's hard to avoid. When planning your itinerary I would definitely recommend planning to do less in each day than more, everything takes longer than you think in India! It will mean you are rushing less and will get to really experience and absorb each place you visit, rather than feeling you are just 'ticking it off the list' before moving on.
Very useful tips for people travelling to India for the first time. It is such a huge country that it is impossible to do it all in three weeks.
We are in Kerala now staying in small hotels and home stays, five or six days in each. Homestays are amazing, usually only two rooms and serving the most fabulous food you will ever eat.
Today I am sitting looking at the River Periyar, watching birds and listening to their songs, watching life on the river and just enjoying the peace of staying in a small teak cabin with two rooms and we are the only guests. For us it is perfect.
Sadly we fly home on Saturday after a wonderful month.