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Highlights of Northern India

Anonymous
Sat, 02/26/2011 - 21:55

Hey folks,

Exodus first timer here, but very much looking forward to the sights, smells and sounds of Northern India later this year :)

Is a bit early I guess, but wondered who else is going on this little adventure. Will be my first time anywhere in Asia and I can't wait!

 

- Chris

Wed, 05/18/2011 - 17:38

Hi Chris,

I'm really looking forward to this trip too. I've already been to India, so I have some idea of what to expect, but I'm sure it's going to be a surprising and enriching experience. Looking forward to meeting you!

Peter

Anonymous
Thu, 05/19/2011 - 14:55

Hi guys,

I'm new to exodus too, never been to India but really looking forward to it. Looks like it's going to be a whistle stop tour theres so much to take in. I'm most looking forward to the tigers & the food (tho I don't do spicy lol). This is my first trip for a couple of years, will be great to finally meet everyone, it'll mean we're on holiday :0)

 

Fri, 09/09/2011 - 21:16

Hi - I did this trip last year - it is a lovely (but busy) trip - you'll really enjoy it.

 If anyone has any questions that I might be able to help with - feel free to ask and I'll try and help.

Hellsbells - don't worry about the food being spicy - I found a lot of it fairly mild - just avoid the meat woudl be my tip to have a bug free tummy for the trip!

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:50

Hi All

Looking forward to this trip, certainly going to be a whirlwind tour and I'm sure a completely different holiday experience!

Look forward to meeting you all in a couple of weeks!

Jules

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 12:36

Hallo all!

 Just a few more weeks to go. I agree about the spicy food. On my last trip, there was a good mix of spicy and not so spicy, and even very mild dishes. It's easy to find veggie food in India, as indeed I believe it's safer for the tum.

I've started my packing with my exodus travel list. I've bought creams, medication, and I've had my vaccinations. Luckily, the malaria risk is very low, so I've been advised I don't need Malarone, which is a relief for two reasons: it's very expensive, and the medication itself is quite harsh, and best avoided, unless the risk of malaria warrants such a precaution.

I've also got some travellers cheques to tide me over. I'm assuming we'll be able to pay with a Visa card/Mastercard, and withdraw money, but a little money should also be useful. First of all, to keep down the risk of card fraud, which is unfortunately rife, and to avoid excessive banking charges. We shouldn't need much money in any case, as prices are low for those of us used to European prices.

I look out for other people with the Exodus luggage tag. I received mine a few days ago.

All the best

Peter

Anonymous
Mon, 09/19/2011 - 14:30

Wow, feels a long time since my first post. Really looking forward to this now!

Sounds like you're nicely prepared Peter, and I'm of the exact same opinion when it comes to money. Has everyone seen the first place we're going to be staying? I'm quite impressed!

Not received by luggage tags yet, will keep a lookout for those...

 See everyone soon :)

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 16:17

I've just checked out the hotel for the first night in Jaipur and I'm suitably impressed! What a way to start the trip :-)

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 16:33

Hi guys, where did you find the information about the hotel in Jaipur?

Are you both flying out on the Thursday eve? Myself and friend Carolyn are flying out on Wed 5th and have a night in Delhi hopefully to get some sleep before the trip starts!

I've not had luggage tags either yet so hope they will turn up soon.

I've had the vaccinations and got the tablets.. my doctor's recommended and since I normally get bitten I'm not taking any chances.

 

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 17:22

I'm on the Exodus flight with Kingfisher Airways on Thursday, as I assume most of you are, unless you've made other arrangements.

I'm bound to get bitten too, which is why I'm taking lots of repellent, to reduce the number of bites. Last time, I had my clothes soaked twice with a special solution you dissolve in the bath; on top of that I sprayed myself every day with various concoctions, but I still got bitten a few times. The pharmacist told me last week there was no need for the areas we are going to, but I understand your not wanting to take any risks.

 I'm sure everybody will get their tags before the trip. I'll be on the look-out for Exodus people at the check-in at Heathrow ;-)

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 22:06

Thanks for the link Chris I didn't get that email, that looks a great place! 17 days and counting ;o)

Anonymous
Tue, 09/20/2011 - 09:04

Hi Jules. I did receive the final joining instructions the other day, but assumed you would have as well - I'll send them through.

 Chris/Peter - Hi, I'm Carolyn. Nice to hear from you before the trip. Jules and I met on holiday in Cyprus earlier this year and the plot to 'do India' was formed before we left!!

The hotel in Jaipur is very impressive - I had imagined 'basic' accommodation being far more basic than that ... looking forward to it even more now.

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 09:25

Hi All,

I previously took much more basic accommodation in India, one hotel seeming more like a family home. I was received in a doti, and treated with a long chat, suggestions for visits, and tea. I had a large room, enormous bed, a mosquito net so big you could live in it, a huge picture of Christ on one wall to keep an eye on me (!), and a few friendly luminous green lizards. All this for the price of about £ 8-9 a night. The hotel for our first night is about £40 a night for the basic double, so accordingly we get that much more grandeur!

See you not next week, but the week after :-)

Peter

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 11:55

Hi folks,

 I just stumbled across your posts.  I did this trip this time last year (same one as Catherine who commented earlier), my first with Exodus too, and had a fantastic time.  I wasn't bothered by bugs, expect a wee bit in Ranthambore, take Jungle spray.  There's lots and lots of curry, but I've had spicier in Glasgow.  I think they tone it down for tourists, but you can ask for spicy if you want. I stuck to veggie, but some folks ate meat every day and were fine.  Just take plenty of hand gel, and use it regularly.  Most of all, enjoy yourselves, it's going to be a such an experience (especially the Taj and Varanasi).

 Douglas

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 20:07

A tip I have just remembered - it was one I got before this trip and found useful.  Take either a sleeping bag liner or cheap duvet cover with you (I took a duvet cover which I left behind in India) to sleep in on the train.  The blankets on the train are used over and over again so it is something clean to sleep in and you can also put your valuables (camera and money) in it so that you know it is safe when you sleep.  Oh and I found the upper bunk best on the train - despite the air con - I found it very hot and hard to sleep the night I had a lower bunk, but slept fine when I had an upper one on the return journey.

When we reached Varanasi the hotel we stayed in had a beauty salon - I decided not to do the trip on offer one day (it was to a Buddhist temple if I remember right) and booked for a massage - it was lovely (and cheap!).  It was really nice to take a bit of time out of a really hectic (but great!) trip for a bit of relaxation. 

And as Douglas says - enjoy it - it will be an assault on the senses (in a good way!! Varanasi is amazing and the Taj well...................stunning!) that you will remember for a long time!

Douglas - have a fabulous time in China - hope you are going to put some pics on Facebook when you get back - look forward to hearing about it! xx

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 22:20

great tips thanks!!!

Anonymous

Lovely to read all your posts. I'm struggling to decide how much cash to take. I really don't want to have to use any cards having had problems in the past. Exodus don't seem to give details of optional trips & prices. I realise everyone will have different budgets but how much would you suggest I take?
Thanks H x

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:15

If I remember correctly - I think I took about £500 (in dollars) and that was enough to cover expenses. I don't recall there being much in the way of optional trips - we did all chip in together to pay the bus driver to take us on a tour of Delhi.  

Throughout the trip they do take you to various speciality shops (carpets, marble items and gemstones) which are all pretty pricey - I bought a small rug as a wall hanging and I paid for that with my credit card and did not have any issues with that.

If I am remembering right, I don't think I ended up changing all my dollars in to rupees so didn't spend the full £500.  

You can change money into rupees at the airport, but the people who held of until the hotel got a better rate, so I would only change a small amount at the airport (you will need some rupees as you go straight from the airport to Jaipur and will stop off en route for food)  Catherine x 

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 10:42

Thanks Carolyn! They all look wonderful; not basic at all, as suggested, if I remember correctly, by Exodus. The basic part of the trip will be when we're on the overnight trains :-)

Anonymous
Fri, 09/23/2011 - 12:48

... and apparently there are 15 people on the trip - 9 female, 6 male - ranging between the ages of about 25 and 55, so a nice spread of people. I'm getting seriously giddy now!

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 13:07

Yes, it's nice seeing everything falling into place! After this weekend, we'll be able to say "I'm going to India next week!" I'm looking forward to meeting you all.

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 15:36

Apart from the Dehli hotel, they are all the ones we stayed in last year - they do look a little more swanky on their websites - but were all very comfortable hotels and not basic at all.

I recommend a massage at the Varanasi one - think it was about £8 for a back and head massage.

Have fun!

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 15:56

I think I'll go for a massage. Last time I was in india, I had the full kerboodle: a full-body ayurvedic massage with the aromatic oils. I think the whole thing, lasting almost 2 hours (!), only came to around £10 (it was a little "expensive" because I was staying in the smartest hotel in Trivandrum (which still only came to around £40 a night). Trivandrum isn't on the tourist trail, and I understand why, but I'm very glad I went there, as I saw a part of India I would otherwise have missed: I saw the no-frills, chaotic India without any attempt to lure foreign (or Indian) tourists! This meant of course no pavements, scrambling over concrete, earth, and through goats on the "high street" to get anywhere; it meant run-down temples, some of which I wasn't allowed into; I got waved at from people on buses; I got laughed at because of my silly hat to prevent me getting sun-burned; I was led through the maze of the markets by a total stranger who just wanted to help, because I looked lost (I was). I'm sure I'll see some of this India on this trip, as well as the modern side of India in Delhi.

Mon, 09/26/2011 - 19:47

Yes, indeed! Next week we're going to India to see tigers, the Ganges... the Taj Mahal :-)))) And to eat yummy food, take in the sights and sounds, to witness wonderful calm, and total hectic chaos!

Tue, 09/27/2011 - 08:21

Can't wait! ;oD

Dan
Tue, 09/27/2011 - 23:28

Hi all, Dan here - another member of the gang for the trip next week!

Seemed like the sociable thing to do to pop in and say hello before the off.  Only five more work days to go, not that I'm counting... woo hoo! :-)

Looking forward to meeting you all next week!  Flying from Manchester to London on Thursday and catching the Kingfisher express to Delhi at 9.05pm.  Will carry a copy of the Guardian and wear a red carnation for visibility... or failing that the Exodus luggage tag has arrived and will be worn proudly on my rucksack.

Starting the course of malaria tablets on Thursday - was also recommended to take them by the Treatment Nurse (despite seeming low risk).  Proguanil and Chloroquine for seven weeks - ugh!

Also was reckoning on about £500-£600 cash, though by all accounts that may be excessive.

All the best and happy packing!!!

Dan.

P.S. don't know if you've seen the Lonely Planet for India but it's huuuuge! 

 

Wed, 09/28/2011 - 09:17

I was just trying to work out how much money I took last time. I stayed 10 days in an ashram, which cost almost nothing, and was all inclusive so I won't count that, but I also spent a week visiting Kerala. I think I spent around £ 500-600 for the week, and that included hotels! So for that amount I had hotels (one chic, and the rest quite basic), food (all meals, including snacks and sweet chai on roadsides), train tickets (up and down the coast), boat journey (a day long tour of the backwaters, a series of canals inland from Alleppey, going to villages, visiting a school...) rickshaws (very cheap, and would have been even cheaper if they'd used the counter), taxis (including a 40 mile journey to the airport to come back home), a full day out with a driver to the Southern tip of India, clothes (most items no more than a few pounds, after haggling), souvenirs (just a few trinkets) ...

I still need to get a guide book. I know we'll be taken around, but I'd like to read up a bit of background. Perhaps there's a guide just for Northern India so it won't need to be as big :-)

Wed, 09/28/2011 - 10:09

I'm on the 9.05 too, which I assume that most people are. Apparently, some people have made their own plans for getting to Delhi. I'll be looking out for the Exodus luggage tag. Has everybody received theirs now? Mine will be attached to my big black case. I've decided against the rucksack because we're been driven around, and won't need to be lugging our stuff around too much (I hope). The only time I'll be doing that is when I have to get from Euston to Heathrow - fewer steps in the tube would be nice, but I've managed before :-)

Has packing started for anybody else?

Anonymous
Wed, 09/28/2011 - 10:40

Not even begun my friend. I have managed to nip out & buy a couple of t shirts but otherwise I'm completely dissorganised. Just the small matter of 7 12 hour shifts to get thru before we go. I have a much needed day off tomorro so hopefully get a few bits done then. When you were last in India did you have any problems changing sterling. If I can avoid changin into US dollar I would prefer that than pay 2 conversion rates. It's going to be a whole blank canvas for me having never been before. Did anyone catch natural world on BBC 2? They had a piece on Ranthambore, the story of broken tail the tiger. Sad story but it was amazing to see the place & build up the excitement.

Anonymous
Wed, 09/28/2011 - 10:46

Hi Dan, I was reading the posts backwards (my brain is wired a little odd). So just noticed your post. I too fly from Manchester to Heathrow on Thursday. I have to leave rather early tho, think it's around 10am flight :( That's a lot of time to kill at Heathrow. What time are you heading down? I will choose to wear a poppy & carry a copy of Focus magazine so keep ur eyes peeled.

Wed, 09/28/2011 - 11:48

Hi all

I have started a packing pile which will be reviewed over the weekend!

I was also wondering about cash and converting, doesn't seem to make sense to convert into USD and then convert again?

 I've got the DK India guidebook which is huge too!

 

Wed, 09/28/2011 - 13:08

Last time I went I was living in France so I had Euros - I had both travellers' cheques and cash, and had no problems changing it at all. I used the exchange bureau at the aiport, and changed some more at a hotel. At the hotel I was told to go to a bank because it would be cheaper, but I couldn't find any banks (I found signs, but the arrow led me up narrow alleys, and up fire escapes, and winding uip in a dead-end...), so I changed it at the hotel anyway. You can change whatever currency you want - at the airport at least, they were displaying rates for dollars, pounds, euros, Swiss francs, and a number of other currencies. I've got some travellers' cheques, some cash, and I've put some money on a top-up Mastercard (at least if it were to get stolen, they wouldn't be able to take more money than was on it, so damage is kept down). I hope I don't sound paranoid, but I think a few precautions are necessary. My idea is to spread the risk, although I'm sure that we'll be fine as long as we're just a little careful.

Dan
Wed, 09/28/2011 - 22:51

Hi HB and all,

My flight from Manchester is a touch later, I'm booked on the 17.20 landing in Heathrow at 18.20, so won't catch you in Manchester alas.  Maybe we should try and arrange some sort of group rendezvous at Heathrow for those on the 21.05 on Thursday?

As for packing, I've got as far as drawing up a blank sheet of paper - itemised list pending!

Came across an interesting note in the LP about money changing...  they mentioned that you need to retain receipts (encashment certificates) for when you need to change Rupees back on the way out. 

Hi Peter - hope you don't mind a quick question if I may draw on your experience, did you notice last time whether there were many (or any) ATMs taking Maestro?  Wondered if that could be a top up alternative to the Credit Card?

Cheers!

Dan. 

Thu, 09/29/2011 - 19:12

Hi Dan,

Last time I was in India I didn't use a cash point at all; in fact I don't remember seeing very many. But I was in the back of beyond. I know that Visa and Mastercards are accepted and can be used in ATMs in India. Maestro is apparently part of Mastercard, and Maestro prepaid cards do exist, so I'm guessing that where Mastercards are accepted, the Maestro card probably will be too. From what I saw on the Internet, Maestro is widely used in India, so you should be fine with that!

As for receipts, I'm told, and I've read that indeed you need to keep them in order to change any rupees back into your own currency. It is illegal to take rupees in and out of the country so they claim to keep a tight check on that. In reality, when I went last time, I was living in Paris, and all the exchange bureaux offered rupees. I didn't get any because I didn't like the idea of being in trouble no sooner had my foot landed on Indian soil. At the airport when I was flying back, there were perspex boxes everywhere to put any "unwanted" rupees in. But, once you got past the security check into the departure lounge, they only accepted rupees for drinks and snacks, which you of course weren't supposed to have (I might add that all the flights from that lounge were international so they knew we weren't supposed to have any ruppees left). Hey ho!

Thu, 09/29/2011 - 19:27

I was just looking through the final joining instructions, and I saw that we were supposed to have received a kit bag. I haven't received anything apart from the luggage tag. Has everybody else received theirs?

Dan
Fri, 09/30/2011 - 00:10

Thanks Peter, great intel!

For reference have received a luggage tag but no kit bag.

Cheers.

Dan.

Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:18

Peter - trip notes say- Exodus kitbags are available for purchase at £25, which includes postage, packing and VAT. 

under FAQ it says  - If you live in the UK or Eire and book a Walking & Trekking holiday that uses a porter on the trek we provide a complimentary Exodus kitbag to pack your luggage in.

Our trip doesn't come under Walking and Trekking I'm afraid..

Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:14

Well, that's fine. We won't need a bag. I hadn't read that it was only for walking/trakking trips. I'm happy with that. Perhaps, the next trip will be a trekking holiday :-)

Anonymous
Tue, 10/04/2011 - 17:03

2 sleeps :D

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 17:18

Indeed! Two sleeps here, then one sleep on the plane (I hope), and then a big wake-up on another continent, thousands of miles away, ready for an adventure!

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 17:22

Have you all packed yet? I was going to use a case, but then I mailed Exodus to ask their advice, and I was told that a soft bag/hold-all would be better. I'm sure a case would have been fine too, but I've got to get through London on the tube too: a case is difficult to handle (for me), and I'd probably end up whacking somebody if I were to use a rucksack, so a soft bag it is. It holds as much as my case, but it's narrower, and deeper.

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 19:39

Have a fantastic trip folks - somewhat jealous here!

From my experience last year, I would say a holdall type case will be better than a traditional suitcase - and wheels is always an essential with me!  You won't have to carry them at the train stations though - the porters took care of ours - they carried about 4 at a time!! 2 on their head and one on each arm - amazing!

Have fun!  :o) 

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 19:46

Thanks Catherine for confirming that. At least I know I haven't made a pointless purchase. I've got a bag with a solid base, and with wheels, but with handles, and a strap. The upper part is supple, so it should fit into a smaller space, and because it's narrow, it's more manoeuvrable!

I'm sure we'll have fun. Perhaps you'll come back and see our photos Catherine :-)

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 22:39

That sounds perfect - you'll be able to squash it under the seats on the trains.

I'd love to see photos!!

 Not sure if this will work - but this is a link to mine to give you a taster - that said - you might not want to see in advance!

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1540416863629.2077655.1031131171&type=1 

Anonymous
Thu, 11/10/2011 - 01:31

I am going on this one in March next year.  It is really useful to read everyone's tips and the excitement is infectious!

Thu, 11/10/2011 - 12:18

Hi QueenVic! I'm sure you'll love it. It's quite a full-on trip, with lots of getting up at dawn, but well worth it to see the Taj Mahal, or to see the Ganges at sunrise. They both knocked my socks off, and I don't see how anybody could not love those two parts of the trip. Highlights of the highlights for me. But everything you'll see from the palaces, fortresses, via the dusty roads with crazy lorries and cows wondering around, the villages, and possibly a school, will stay engraved in your mind!

Anonymous
Thu, 11/10/2011 - 23:15

Hi Peter. Thank you! I am so excited already and you're not helping! How will I wait till March? The hotels looks so luxurious, not at all what I was expecting and to be honest I am a bit disappointed not to be re-living my great vagabond days of the 70s but hey! The sleeper train sounds good!

Anonymous
Thu, 12/29/2011 - 19:05

I have started a thread entitled "Hello Fellow Travellers".  Would love to meet the rest of the group who will be doing this trip with my friend and me.  Will be visiting the Travel Cliinic next month to see what meds I will need.  None I hope - I already rattle!

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