11 April 2013

Holiday Research - India!!

Researching a new holiday is sometimes almost as much fun as the journey itself! A new country that you have never visited before, is an occasion to brush up on those old forgotten geography lessons. Such is my task now with India, a country not yet visited and also our first trip eastwards. Crazy that we have never ventured further east than Mauritius but it now means an entire new culture and experience. Which is what travel is all about.
So my Atlas has come out, many e-mails have been sent off to India Tour operators and loads of Googling has taken place! What we ever did before the Internet  arrived seems a scary thought in this age of technology. Imagine trying to organise a trip whilst being reliant on snail mail? The mind does not even want to go there! Travel Agents were the best bet before the Internet exploded - these days, they specialise in group tours and last minute specials. They don't seem able to compete with online prices which is sad in a way.
My first trip overseas was booked with a lovely, chatty lady who was a mine of information and I looked forwarded to sitting at her desk, sipping some tea and going through various options. Mind you, they did not offer so many options those days - today there is just so much information available.
So back to India.
Firstly, we received many quotes from Indian operators as we were considering doing a tour. If you really want to be pestered, give your phone number to an Indian in India. Cell phone charges must be cheap as they called me every day on my cell phone. Such persistence actually put me right off the idea of using these guys. There was one operator, Culture Holidays who was not pushy and we would most probably have used his services had we decided to go for his itinerary.

The really irritating thing is that a foreigner is NOT allowed to hire a car for a self-drive in India. All car hire comes with a driver and most are only for 8hours unless you have booked with an agent who then books your driver into lodgings as well. Being so used to being independent, has irritated me as the thought of being subjected to crazy driving when I suffer so badly from motion sickness, put me off this idea for our first trip to India. Whilst we will still need to catch taxis, hopefully it won't be too bad.
If you watched  the Jeremy Clarkson show of their drive in India, you will see why no foreigners may venture behind the wheel! Drivers are just plain crazy?
So we have that fact to look forward to!!!
Anyway, we eventually decided to forget about the Golden Triangle which everybody does and concentrate on just 3 areas of India on our first visit.
Next were the reviews to find a hotel in Mumbai. Oh my gosh - some of the comments! Cockroaches, smelly bathrooms, no air-con, surly staff. Does one really want to go on holiday and be subjected to that? No me.

We used Trip Advisor, Agoda, Booking.com and Venere to research hotels with fairly good reviews. And so the price just started going up and up as the only ones with half decent reviews appear to be the 5 Star hotels. And even some of those have negative comments! Oh well, let's go for broke and book a 5 Star hotel in Colaba, the tourist area of Mumbai. Once again, if you want to pay in your local currency, try all the hotel booking engines first.
We booked with Venere - purely based on the fact that we paid in ZAR. Going overseas and paying with the Credit card and then arriving home to a "way over budget"  figure due to exchange fluctuations is no fun. OK so the money has gone off the bank account early but that means more time to save again and perhaps have extra spending money!
This is a personal choice, many would prefer to use local currency on arrival.
Air-tickets - another run-around. Just keep an eye on your favourite booking engine and also check with the airline itself. You can sign up for price increases or decreases with sites like Skyscanner, Travelstart, Flitesite or the airline web itself.
For now, I am taking a breather, reading as much as I can about India, chatting via e-mail to my Flickr contacts and just trying to psych myself up for this trip into the unknown. Not being the most adventurous person, and with a very staid partner, who refused to dance on the square at Lisdoornva in Ireland, what hope do I have? The most exciting thing he has done recently was to swim in his UNDERPANTS (heaven forbid!!) in Gabon. Thankfully, I was not there to witness this breaking out!
Perhaps, we can have a replay in India? Hope springs eternal!
If anybody has any tips, please pass them on!

PS - we enjoyed a fabulous trip - see the Blogs on India!
© Judelle Drake

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