Traveling To India For The First Time | Travel Package, Budget, Social Media vs Reality, Etc.


One of the most misunderstood countries that I went to is India. The first thing that comes to mind are all the things that media has shown me prior experiencing this beautiful country myself: It is scary, it is dirty, crime rates are high, etc. 

Through this 10-day trip though, I realized that about 50% 80% off the things we just hear around and read on social media are not true! I like the advice given to me by my friend @beingmisseast on my first day in Delhi:

"Oo mainit ngayon, haha! But enjoy Indiaaaa. I wish I wasn't as praning when I went. I would have enjoyed 200% more. But there's always a next time. I'll be viewing your stories!"


If you felt that little nudge in your heart that you want to go and see the Taj Mahal or the Pink City, then I hope this blog post will be your BIG PUSH to do so. I love Japan and Korea, and I thought can only enjoy a place during cold season, but India is my exception. Travelling here during the hottest month of the year didn't take away anything from the experience--you won't need the best weather or the best whatever to enjoy this eccentric and colorful country. Everything's new to me, and if you haven't been here too, I am sure you'll feel the same! India, you have captured my heart!





INDIA TRAVEL PACKAGE

First of all, I was not in involved in organizing this trip. 😁

I've always wanted to go to India, but like all the stories I kept getting on my DM, wala ako mahatak na kasama. The moment I received an invite from my sister Cea to join her friends for an India trip this year, hindi na ako nag isip--GO NA YAN!

We were a mix group, yung typical na friend of friend, friend ni ganyan, and me--sister ni friend. Haha! But we truly enjoyed each other's company. 


Cea's friend Stacy contacted a travel agency based in India that a relative has already tried. In short, may good reviews and experiences na so dun nadin kami kumuha. 

For around $815 each, the travel package already covered all our hotels in all the cities we went to (walang bababa sa 4-star, Cea and I had our own room all-throughout), and our transportations the moment we arrived in the airport til we went home. Drinking water may be an issue in India, but our private van was OVERFLOWING with bottled water so hoard ako everyday sa icebox hehe! 😀



One of our local guides during this trip. They all have so much stories up their sleeves, and magaling din sila mag picture! Hehe!

And lastly, the package also includes our driver (Kuya Khan, who is the best!), fuel and toll-tax, and parking charges. We also have different local English speaking tour guide for every city we went to, which is important to me. Through these guides, I was able to learn more about India through the eyes of someone who lives here. 

Meanwhile, package is not inclusive of entrance fees so you can decide on the last minute if you want to pay and enter a palace or museum. Package is also not inclusive of all meals (except breakfast, which comes with the hotel booking), but they brought us to safe restaurants with affordable rates. Also, there are places that require you to pay for bringing a camera, this is also not included yet in the package.

Here's how our 10 days travel package in India looks like:

Accommodations

New Delhi - 2 Nights - Jivitesh Hotel (4★)
Agra - 1 Night - Radisson Hotel (4★)
Jaipur - 2 Nights - Sarovar Premier (4★)
Jaisalmer - 2 Nights - For Rajwada (Heritage)
Jodhpur - 1 Night - Ranbanka Palace Hotel (4★)
New Delhi - 1 Night - Transit Hotel near airport for our red eye flight

- Cea and I have separate rooms from her friends
- All hotels have free breakfast buffet

Our very first room in India, Jivitesh Hotel in New Delhi, left a good first impression!


One of my favorite hotels during our India trip was in Jaisalmer:


Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in India via Delhi International Airport

Pickup and transport to hotel c/o Kuya Kahn
Nighttime na when we arrived so we just stayed in our rooms and rest

Day 2: Explore India's Capital City, Delhi

Old Delhi 

Red Fort
Humayun’s Tomb
Jama Masjid
Chandini Chowk
Qutab Minar
Akshardham Temple
Gandhi Memorial at Raj Ghat
Drive around Govt. impressive buildings of the British Era designed by Lutyens such as India Gate, Parliament house of India and President Palace. 
Rickshaw Ride to glimpse the colorful streets and local bazaars of old Delhi.




Day 3: Transit To Agra

4 hours Drive from Delhi to Agra
Check in Hotel
Red Fort of Agra
Mehtab Bagh - A beautiful garden for a glimpse of the Taj Mahal

Day 4: Taj Mahal + Transit to Jaipur

Taj Mahal before sunrise!
Back in hotel for breakfast and check-out
Long drive again to Jaipur, the Pink City of India
Side-trip to Fatehpur Sikri
Check-in hotel in Jaipur



Day 5: Jaipur

Amber Fort
Panna Meena Ka Kund - Jaipur's Stepwell
Albert Hall
City Palace
Palace Winds (Hawa Mahal)
Jantar Mantar
Lunch at Hotel Sujan Rajmahal Palace
Shopping in Jaipur (near Hawa Mahal!)
Check-out hotel for Sleeper Train to Jaisalmer



Day 6: Transit to Jaisalmer, the Desert Town of Rajasthan

We were suppose to take the plane to Jaisalmer, but it was off-peak season so there were no other passengers that they have to cancel the flights! We opted for the sleeper train to maximize our time.

Upon arrival, Kuya Kahn was already waiting for us at the train station.
Checked-in our beautiful hotel, had lunch, and settled a bit for our afternoon activity.
Sunset camel ride in the middle of the desert! 




Day 7: Full Day in Jaisalmer

Rajasthan "Golden Fort"
Gadisar Lake 
Patwon Ki Haveli (Mansion) 
Salim singh Ki Haveli

Really enjoyed this tour day! I love Jaisalmer, sobrang unique city niya it feels like I am inside a movie set.




Day 8: Jodhpur

5-hour van ride
Check-in, and immediately explore the Blue City (we only had 1 day here)
Old Town
Mehrangarh fort
Jaswant Tada
Clock Tower and Sardar Bazar



Day 9: Jodhpur to New Delhi

Breakfast + Check-out
Plane to New Delhi
A new driver welcomed us back to the capital city, and drove us to our hotel near the airport.
Our flight back to Manila is still at around midnight, so we had an afternoon to go malling!
City mall for last minute shopping, tried McDonald's India!
Back in hotel to freshen up, take a nap, before our transportation to airport picked us up.


In less than 10 days, we were able to see 5 cities of India, and enjoy the highlights this country has to offer. Medyo nakakapagod lang because ang dalas ng transfers, but worth it naman. I really commend that we booked a private tour coz wala na akong kailangang isipin from directions, where to eat, etc. Come to think of it, iwas scam and fraud nadin siya coz we're under a reputable agency the whole time.

If you're also interested in getting this tour, you can contact our travel agency's owner Himanshu Mendiratta of Leisure India Holidays at +919829257777, or email info@lih.travel. If you have a specific budget, they will adjust the activities for you. They also have a website http://www.lih.travel. I highly recommend them! 


BUDGET

Here's a rough estimate of my total expenses for this trip:

1) Airfare, we got a roundtrip flight via Thai Airways - Php 27,000
With 30 Kilos luggage allowance, all meals - mine is vegetarian, and convenient layover in BKK airport

2) Indian Visa - Php 4000
We applied online via this website: http://indianvisaonline.gov.in (paid via Paypal) 
Then received our E-Visa around 2-3 days after application! 

3) Tour Package - Php 48,000
Inclusions above (all hotels, all transpo, all tour guides and driver)

4) Pocket Money - Php 20,000 to Php 50,000

This one varies per person! We have a friend who only spent Php 20,000 during our ten day trip, spent on all her entrance fees, tips, and all meals. I am a shoppingera and bought carpets worth Php 3000-6000, Indian style clothes and knick knacks for pasalubong, went grocery shopping, and I also enjoy coffee breaks and room service haha. My personal estimated pocket money is around Php 40-50,000.

PERSONAL TOTAL EXPENSES = Php 129,000



FINAL THOUGHTS AND ADVICE

1) Water issues. Here's a friendly advice I received from friends who had been to India before me: Never drink tap water straight from the faucet. Nagka diarrhea si ganyan. They say that it's better to use bottled mineral water even to brush your teeth when in India. I am not sure about this, but I still complied with this advice for fear of spoiling the trip when something goes wrong with my stomach. I have Imodium with me on my bag, in case. 

We also bought bottled water to drink (or hoard the free ones in our van), but mid trip, I also drink filtered "house water" in restaurants and wala naman nanyaring masama.

2) Since we went in the middle of the summer, super init talaga pumapalo ng 40-50 degrees ang temperature everyday. I made sure to bring the following with me:

- Tissue and Wet Wipes
- Alcohol
- Face Mist
- Small Battery-Operated Fan
- Lots of Sunblock for Body and for Face (re-apply in the middle of the day)
- Scarves are the best to cover the face and arms during walking tours

It's a good thing we're being transported by our own private airconditioned van, so I just left these things in my backpack or big tote on my seat during short stops.



3) Just to be sure, I also brought small bottles of insect repellent and potty spray. I got them in Messy Bessy. I wasn't able to really use them as much as I thought, though!

4) I was also able to withdraw money from a local ATM machine, with no worries! Just make sure to ask your tour guide for a reputable bank.

5) Again since it's the summer season, I only brought one pair of sandals for the whole trip, and a pair of sneakers during our plane rides. I used the rubber version of the 2-strap Birkenstock.

6) Hindi ko siya naisip coz I always dress conservatively even here in Manila, but I also got an advice not to wear anything above the knee or show too much legs. But then again, during our malling ang dami ko namang nakitang millennials wearing short shorts! Even one of our friends wore shorts when we went to Taj Mahal and okay naman siya.

They say that aside from preventing stares, wearing modest OOTD is also to show respect nadin especially for tours that require entering temples and sacred places. Tip is to pack black leggings that you can wear underneath your skirt.





7) Marami talaga mag sesell sayo ng products especially sa streets during walking tours. An advice from one of our guides (if you're not interested) is to not even say anything at all, wala ni "sorry" or "no", just walk straight daw. Effective naman siya! Haha! 

But ako talaga whenever I see something interesting, and they even say the price na agad agad, some of the best finds I bought during this trip are the ones I scored from the streets! 

8) Ready your pang-tip! Almost in all establishments they require tipping, public toilets, restaurants, bell boys, etc.

9) Food. If you're into Indian food, you'll definitely enjoy! But for instance, my sister is not a fan of saucy dishes and spicy foods, she skipped some meals or we tried looking for Western or Chinese food alternatives. It was easy for me as a vegetarian because they have a lot of options, but by mid-trip I was also looking for dry dishes like veggie burger or cheese pizza.

Cea and friends also brought with them baon like delata na sausages or instant cup noodles. They were able to eat these on nights na tamad na lumabas for dinner. 



Fine dining in Delhi, Indian Accent. Our most expensive meal for this trip, but food and service are very good!


Last night in Delhi, Cea and I tried their Mcdo! Wala silang beef sa India--so Cea got the chicken burger. I tried naman their McVeggie!


10) Shopping. Aside from markets, I super enjoyed shopping for clothes in India malls because most of their shops cater the size of up to 2XL! I love that most of their clothes are made of linen, very lightweight, and apt even for Manila weather. Some recommended local clothing stores are Anokhi and FabIndia.





Also, like in most guided tours, expect that the tour will end in shops. Okay naman these shops and I actually got pieces from these stop overs, BUT! If you have no plans of buying, tell your guide straight up that you don't want to go in these stops coz it will really take up your time and they are very persistent in selling. 

Final Words:

It's okay to be praning but not too much as this is the perfect recipe for taking away the fun from your trip! One of our tour guides gave us these words which left a mark in me after I asked if the Sleeper Train is safe for us four foreign women: Anything can happen anywhere. 

Like traveling in any part of the world, it's better to be cautious, to look after your self, your things, and your friends more than the usual to prevent any unfortunate incidents. 

The only kakaibang encounter we had, and this was usually in tourist spots and streets and not the malls, was that men will stare at you. Men, women, and kids alike will want a picture with you. We asked our tour guide about this, and he said it's because they rarely see foreigners. We look like Bollywood celebrities to them! Haha! It was weird at first when they asked for selfies, minsan yung parents pa ang mag pupush sa kids nila to have photos with us lels, but eventually kahit kami we also take out our cameras na and take pictures with anyone who asks for photos with us hehehehe--tabla tabla lang! 😂 But during our malling in Delhi on our last day, wala ni isa ang namamansin samin hahaha! 

Feeling celebrities, haha!




And lastly, hindi nakakatakot. The whole time we were in India, we were always welcomed by kind locals from our hotel receptionists, tour guides, store staff, and restaurant waiters. They are all very helpful and very polite, asking us if everything's okay! Minsan nakaka touch na yung pagka accommodating nila, we Filipinos are almost the same with them when it comes to hospitality. People were also asking me on DM if mabaho, BUT HINDI. 

Nakakamiss din! There's still so much to write about our trip, so I hope you'll read on till my last blog post for this! Worth it ang traveling and blogging break for July to September, coz finally I can reflect and look back on one of the best and most unique travels I've had in a while.

Before saying good bye to Kuya Kahn, our driver in India! We were with him during our whole trip, sobrang sepanx when we left him na in Jodhpur. Huhu!

Do you have any questions about India? Is India also on your travel bucket list? Feel free to leave me messages below!

PS: A big thank you to my Instagram friends for watching my India stories! If interested, you can watch my videos on my Instagram Highlights @anagon.








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