Flight Centre consultant Sally McCutchion was tempted by the colours and culture of India as depicted by an On the Go India brochure. After booking a last minute tour she shares with us her first impressions of the country people seem to love or hate, as well as giving some invaluable advice on how to prepare for your own trip there.
It’s fair to say that most people fall into one camp or another when it comes to India, love it or hate it, you can’t deny it provokes a response not dissimilar to marmite. So when I was planning my next holiday and glanced across the office to see the On The Go India brochure, the colourful image of the Taj Mahal and the beautiful saris on the front cover made me put my fears aside and 2 weeks later I was on the plane!
I wouldn’t recommend booking so last minute, a trip to India requires a fair amount of planning. You need a visa that you can no longer get on the same day at the Embassy. Most companies need 2 weeks minimum to get your passport and visa back to you. I had to fast-track my application and subsequently paid more for the pleasure. The visa itself costs around £37, fast tracking is an additional £70 plus you need a very specific sized photo (the cheapest place to go to get these is Snappy Snaps, £15 for the 2 photos you will need). As well as this you need to consider the health risks: www.greenlightpharmacy.com gives free advice over the phone and has the cheapest rates for Malaria tablets and jabs in London. You will need to have a plan of where you are going, as different areas require different vaccinations.
So in a last minute dash, my visa was delivered to the office by courier and my ticket was e-mailed through to me by Virgin Atlantic. I booked the tour on page one of the On The Go brochure, Taj Express, so I flew into and out of Delhi. Virgin offer a direct flight and given I was only staying for one week I didn’t want to mess around changing planes in Dubai, Amsterdam or Frankfurt! Taj Express is designed to be a whistle-stop tour of some key destinations in India. Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are the main points of interest although my favourite stop was probably the second to last night when we drove 6 hours out of Jaipur to a little village called Surajgarh. We stayed in a stunning Royal Fort and it was great to get away from the hustle and bustle for 24 hours. The density of the population was probably the biggest culture shock for me during the trip. There are 20 million people living in Delhi and I felt like I saw all of them!
Other highlights included dinner at The Imperial Hotel (said to be the most luxurious hotel in India where a room only rate in low season starts from £150 per night plus tax and a Luxury Suite starts from £900 per night plus tax), a hot air balloon ride over Jaipur (book before you leave the UK to guarantee your place and get a discounted rate) the Taj Mahal visit (quite the highlight for everyone on the tour), the food (made better by the fact that our tour guide selected every restaurant we ate at), the photo opportunities (stunning colour, light and contrast everywhere you turn) and last but not least, the people I met on the tour. There is always a certain amount of risk involved when you book a group tour but On The Go attracts like-minded travelers and if you’re traveling solo they will pair you up with someone of the same sex to share a room. On my tour there were singles, couples and friends aged 25 – 65 so it was a great mix with plenty of people around to chat with and share the amazing experience.
So love it or hate it, it’s hard to say. I felt like I needed a holiday after my holiday, it was dirty and it was hectic, some of the things we saw were shocking and I’ve never looked forward to coming home from a holiday before this! On the flip side, it was an experience I will never forget. It was enriching and inspiring and On The Go made the whole experience hassle-free. Now I am home, safe and rested it is easy to say I loved India but there is no denying that the country chews you up and spits you out again. For me it’s not as simple as love it or hate it, I sit somewhere in the middle of the two. My friend asked me one simple question though and the answer was easy. Would I go back to India? Oh yeah!
Take a trip to India and find out if you love or hate it yourself. Sally can give you more insight on her Indian experience and book your trip for you. Send her an email – we’re sure she would love to hear from you!