There are some places I’ve always dreamed of visiting – but interesting enough, India was never particularly high on the list. It’s not that I didn’t want to visit (I’ll go almost anywhere) but there were a lot of other spots that appealed more for some reason.
With a potential four day weekend on the horizon though, India suddenly became an option for me. After hatching a last-minute plan with my friend, Tracey, we booked our tickets and began planning. Less than a week later, we set off for India, a little unsure of just what would greet us on the other side (though reading a guide like this beforehand would have been handy!)
The good news? India totally surprised me! It was only a few weeks prior to our departure that tourists were warned off wearing skirts for their own safety and we’ve all heard the horror stories of the awful things that periodically happen to women alone on late-night buses. The truth though, is that India is a remarkably large country (which makes the likelihood of anything happening low) and all of the people that we had encounters with were nothing but warm, welcoming and pleasant – even as woman, we had nothing at all to worry about.
Both Tracey and I were pleased with our decision to head to India – the sights and sounds were unlike anything either of us had experienced before. Though our visit was short, it was a fantastic taster to the country.
If you are planning to spend more time there, we’d suggest you get an Indian SIM card to make communication easier – as it turned out there were a few times when it would have been handy to call someone (like when we were on our tour).
The following guide will hopefully help you plan your trip to India’s Golden Triangle too!
India’s Golden Triangle Timeline
- Day one: Arrive Delhi early morning + sightseeing.
- Day two: Delhi sightseeing + late train to Agra.
- Day three: Taj Mahal + mid-afternoon train to Jaipur.
- Day four: Sightseeing + Elefantastic
- Day five: Early morning flight.
Jaipur to Delhi on Jet Airways. This flight was on a relatively small plane but was comfortable and unremarkable; exactly what you want a flight to be!
Though we were told by almost everyone inside of India to hire a private car and driver, we made the decision to use the infamous train system and were pleased with our decision to do so. Not only did we save money but we got a better feel for the ‘real’ India in the process!
We were told to book only first or second class on the trains and ended up with one of each – the trains from Delhi to Agra and then Agra to Jaipur worked out at about 2400 rupees per person (NZD50 or GBP25) so not bad value considering the distance covered. First class included heaps of food but we would happily have booked only second class had we realised just how similar everything else was.
Trying to book the tickets was a bit of a challenge in itself though – the online booking system really only works if you have an Indian phone number (which of course, we didn’t) and and for some reason the travel agents in India were adamant that there weren’t any train tickets left and that we should hire a car. When they understood that we would not be hiring a driver suddenly tickets became available on the system and upon boarding each train, we found they were practically empty – funny that!
If you decide on a self-guided tour of the Golden Triangle then rickshaws will be one of the best ways to get from A to B within cities. Not only are they cheap and plentiful but their open nature lets you really take in all of the sights, sounds and smells around you. Be sure to set a price before you jump in and enjoy the ride!
Though only an option in Delhi, we found the subway to be a great way to get into town from the airport and to cover longer distances in the city without the potential headaches that come from the manic Delhi traffic! To use the subway system, buy yourself a single-ride token and make your way to the right line. If you find yourself a little confused, you won’t be for long – we found the men to Delhi to be incredibly helpful and we were appreciative of the way they so happily assisted us, wanting nothing in return.
Delhi: Hotel City Star
Fairly well located, Hotel City Star is within walking distance of the main Delhi train station and not too much further to the subway station you’ll arrive in on if you catch the airport rail service. Breakfast was pretty average but the rooms were comfortable and the hotel modern. Be sure to ask for a room on the upper floors – we were on the first floor and ended up with a pop-up market under our window and dogs barking through the night… probably to be expected in Delhi, but not ideal!
Agra: Hotel Taj Resorts
A comfortable option nice and close to the Taj ticket office. Located in one of the nicer parts of Agra, we were happy with our choice to spend a night here. Breakfast was included (and adequate) but the butter chicken they served up in the restaurant at lunchtime was the real highlight!
Jaipir: Pearl Palace Heritage
By far the best accommodation we experienced during our time in India (and without doubt, the best boutique hotel I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in) – read here about the how amazing the Pearl Palace Heritage Hotel is!
Activities and Sightseeing
Delhi is exactly the busy, hectic city that you imagine when you think of India but amongst the chaos, there’s a sense of beauty and plenty to be learnt.
Having read another travel blog we decided that we wanted to visit the slums and though we initially had some reservations, I look back on it now as one of the best things I’ve ever done. We booked in through PETE (Providing Education to Everyone) with a local guide and were blown away to see just how happy they were – a life lesson on what is really important for sure. Stay tuned for my upcoming post!
Whilst in Delhi we explored both the newer and older areas (though mostly New Delhi) by rickshaw. India Gate, the Parliament Houses, Connaught Place, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the Red Fort and the madness of the Old Delhi markets, we spent our time in Delhi immersing ourselves in the madness of this huge city, awestruck by just how different to anywhere else we’d experienced.
We’d heard such mixed things about Agra and the Taj Mahal before visiting – well to be honest, let’s make that fewer mixed reviews and more negative ones! With that said, both Tracey and I were really impressed by how gorgeous this symbol of love is in real life. There’s not a whole lot in Agra to warrant spending more time there, but for the Taj, it’s definitely worth making the stop.
Jaipur is one of India’s cultural gems – gorgeous buildings thanks to its strong colonial ties, a more relaxed pace of life and culture in spades, it was one of the highlights of our time there. We hired a taxi and made a quick trip into town to see the infamous Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) before heading out to Elefantastic.
We had planned to see and do more in Jaipur but off the back of three busy days and a lot of travelling (not to mention we were both a little tired from a full week at work) we elected to take it easy and relax a little. Should you have more time, there’s definitely more to do there than we managed.
India is a beautiful conundrum, at times confronting, at times, full of life. I saw poverty on a level I never have and came away with a fresh reminder of just how fortunate we are but also of what exactly is important in life. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but I think looking back on our flying visit, I’ll remember India for it’s beautiful people and life lessons as much as the place itself. If you have the opportunity to visit, snap it up with both hands – even if a trip to India isn’t on the top of your list, the life lessons you’ll learn whilst there should be.
Thanks India, until next time!
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