Below is the article I wrote for www.FlyDuos.com which was published back in Dec 2015. They are an amazing couples travel blog with lots of insider info and tips. Check them out for other ideas and posts. *Note the original article had different photos than pictured below. Enjoy!
FLY DUO: NAHIR AND CLARENCE TAKE INDIA
DECEMBER 30, 2015
Prior to meeting Clarence I had always had a knack for traveling and leaving my home city (Boston, Ma) monthly. I would get anxious if I didn’t travel somewhere for long periods of time. Clarence used to and still does a large amount of travel for his employer which is an international company.
Over the years we talked about creating a goal, a 100 by 50 goal, which is to visit 100 countries by the time I turn 50. We have taken so many trips but one of the trips that has stayed in my heart and mind was our trip to the beautiful country of India.
This country was mind-blowing in every sense, to say the least. We traveled to India in May 2015. We found a great airline deal/tour deal and committed. We flew with Air France, round trip pp was $726. We found this on cheaptickets.com. The dates that we visited are considered their summer and temperatures can go well over 100 degrees making this an unpopular yet more affordable time to visit India. We flew into New Delhi and we were greeted by local tour company Glimpses Holidays Pvt. Ltd. Over a period of 10 days we visited New Delhi/Old Delhi, Agra; Red Fort, Taj Mahal and then drove to the city of Jaipur where we enjoyed an elephant ride up to Amber Fort. We also visited the Palace of the Wind and the Hawa Mahal. From Jaipur we drove to the city of Jodhpur to Desert Camp Osian. We enjoyed a camel back ride through the desert which also provided gorgeous views. From Jodhpur we flew to Mumbai. During our 2-day stay in Mumbai we toured the city, exploring the sites and shopping from local vendors. The city of Mumbai is very vibrant and busy with so many things to do. From Mumbai we returned to New Delhi and flew home.
Our particular itinerary was very on the go. The tour agency we used took care of all our accommodations and transportation to all places we visited. They were extremely flexible and very friendly. In New Delhi we stayed in Inn Tawang www.inntawang.com . In Agra we stayed in Crystal Inn www.hotelcrystalinn.com. In the city of Jaipur we stayed at Fort Chandragupt www.fortchandragupt.com. In Jodhpur we stayed in Mandore Guest House, A Leafy Resort www.mandore.com. I absolutely LOVED this guest house, wish we could’ve spent more time here. It was incredibly beautiful, clean and most importantly, their mission resonated with me, they host a lot of volunteer projects for India having to do with drug addiction and other community issues. Go on their website to read more about these projects and opportunities, definitely something I would look into doing in the future. In Mumbai we stayed at the Savoy Suites www.ssuites.co.in It is important to note that though all these Inns offered wifi it is very spotty and sometimes didn’t work at all. I didn’t bother too much with my phone out there since good working wifi was very tough to find. We ate at different locations every day. We tried local restaurants as well as fancy ones throughout the trip, keeping up with their names and locations was tough. We were advised not to eat anything from outside vendors. I’m usually very risky and love to try new things but after walking around and noticing how they prepared and kept their food I decided against it. I don’t mean to share that in a negative way because some of our group members did try street food and were totally fine, others got sick so I guess it depends how your body reacts to foreign food.
We felt that going in such a large group (all friends of ours) had its pros and cons. Things took a long time to happen but there was the convenience of guides doing all the leg work for the trip. They knew the history and I was able to learn a lot from them about the places that we visited.
While in Mumbai we walked the shore of the Arabian Ocean. I recommend you dip your feet in a safe area of the shore, the water is actually hot, not warm but hot which blew my mind. I also recommend going out to bars/clubs in the different cities. It’s fun and very interesting, you won’t find a lot of women out dancing or drinking, mostly men. The music is mostly EDM; they love to dance and are quite friendly. Most are very nice and respectful to tourists, especially tourists from the US and Europe. Some will ask if you know President Obama and smile saying “He’s Good!” others will have a conversation with you and pick your brain about the states and share knowledge about India. My favorite part of traveling is sitting down with locals sharing a meal, a conversation or both and I did just that out there. Clarence and I would talk to different business owners and exchange information for future references and contact. They helped us with tips and suggestions. What I wish I had known though, was that nothing is free and I mean nothing. Indians expect a tip for whatever it is they do. If you ask someone for directions, for example, they expect a tip from you. If you say no, they don’t force the issue but they are very upfront about asking for money once they help you. Keep that in mind.
As far as wardrobe rules. For ladies I recommend wearing conservative clothes, though the country is becoming a bit more progressive they still stare if you are showing too much skin. I opted for bringing very little clothes from home and buying their clothes and wearing that throughout the trip. I also wore lots of bangles and jewelry. It’s very inexpensive to shop in most places. Our tour guides brought us to the local bazaars and we were given free time to explore on our own. There are many outdoor vendors and everyone takes US currency, they prefer it actually. You have to be aware that in more touristy areas the vendors will hike up the prices of things that sell for much cheaper around the corner at a more local shop. I bought 2 full Sari’s and 3 pant suits. The pants suits I bought them with the head scarf, which proved to be a life saver later on with heat. In one pant suit I spent $15 but this depends on the vendor. More than that is considered expensive. The Saris were much more detailed and gala-ish so I spent $35 on each. Men wore head gear to protect from sun (turban or scarves), regular collar shirt with pants vs jeans was the norm. I didn’t notice many men in jeans but it wasn’t that uncommon. Clarence bought a traditional men’s pant suit made of 100% linen which he paid $35 for. It helped greatly with the heat. The time of year we went was very hot, while we were there India experienced one of their worst heat waves in a couple of years, according to many locals and tour guides. The temperature rose to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. On some days we were advised to stay indoors during the afternoon hours which proved to be the hottest time during the day. The heat is a dry heat, no humidity. It didn’t feel suffocating to me like heat with humidity usually does, it felt intense and direct. It is during this time that tickets to India are most affordable. I would recommend this time for that reason only, just know what to expect and prepare accordingly. Covering up and using the linen they use will save your life, literally. I was covered from head to toe and to a foreigner that may seem like “oh my gosh, aren’t you hot with all that on?” but its the exact opposite. This was also another reason why I opted to buying and wearing the clothes they wear there vs my own. Shopping in India provided me with light outfits that covered me from the sun, dust and heat.
Typically we travel on our own creating our own itinerary as we go and discovering cool new things with the flow of the trip. We opted for a tour to India because neither of us had ever been to the country, neither was familiar enough with the language and/or culture, the country was huge and transportation is very difficult when you aren’t from there, they drive like maniacs! We wanted to make sure that we got the most out of our short 10 days there given the large size of the country. We experienced Indian children and adults coming to us begging pretty relentlessly and our tour guides were good about keeping them at a distance from our group which we felt relieved about. My heart would break every time I had a child come to me asking me for food or money. Through our tour and prior research we learned that these children are sometimes part of a larger scheme that exploits them. This was an eye opener for us and truly educational.
India is an amazing place to visit and spend time. It is incredibly rich in culture, colors, food and festivities. The country is immense and the population so high that being alone is quite the challenge, there are people everywhere. Tourists cannot escape the intense poverty the country suffers from and the huge challenge they have on a daily basis lacking clean drinking water, however, it is this that the tourist should and need to see. The realness of their lives, the difference it is to live in a third world country that is struggling to take care of its billions of residents. It was a truly humbling experience, nothing like I have experienced before. I learned that even though they drive like crazy there are hardly ever any accidents, unique fact! The most breath taking moment was of course the Taj Mahal and the children we met that work around the Taj Mahal. The Taj was surreal and truly an unbelievable experience, a MUST when in India. It is important to note that almost nothing in India is free or “govt sponsored”. Museums, Taj Mahal, all the Forts we visited, etc. all had pretty pricey entrance fee. Entrance fees ranged from $5 to $15 per person depending on site.
My biggest advice for anyone traveling to India is to go equipped with an open mind. They do things quite different over there. Hygiene, water quality, labor laws, personal boundaries, food cleanliness are held at a much lower standard. Understanding that it is a third world country and really accepting that amenities will be hard to come by (unless traveling luxuriously) will help with mental preparation. It was truly an amazing experience, not a “relaxing throw your hands back and chill” kind of vacation but it was very much worth it.