North India in December - advice please!

#1 May 28th, 2011, 17:17
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  • solliu is offline
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It's been two days since I returned from a three-week trip to India and I'm missing it so acutely - the sounds, the smells, the people, the animals! Needless to say I'm planning my next trip already, as I've a month's break in December. The alternative I have is a week's break in September, but that's hardly long enough!

I'd like some advice on where you think might be good to go. I want to stick to places where I can speak my fairly decent Hindi, and have loved Rajasthan (especially Udaipur, Ranakpur and Jaipur), so perhaps that is an option. I realise December will be winter, but am not particularly fond of cold weather - idiotic, I know, to travel in December then, but it's the only long break I've got! Can anyone suggest any places which might be a bit warmer and less frozen, preferably in the North? Or should I just prepare myself to freeze? I would love to go on camel safari again, but am not sure if I can bear the cold temperatures at night.

I plan on sticking to the same driver who took me around Rajasthan (I can recommend him very strongly to anyone who wants). Excluding this, my budget for the month, including hotels, will probably be around US$2-3k - can anyone advise if this is a decent amount for decent 3* hotels, etc.? From recent experience I know this totally depends on how much you spend on shopping, but I've read on the forum that India is way more expensive in December, just want to know if I ought to budget a lot more than I had this trip (spent about US$2k, but had a fairly serious injury and expenses for those were not insubstantial, and shopped a lot as well). Is everything going to be way more crowded and expensive in December then?

It's great to be able to seek help on this forum for my India addiction; as someone else said in the "You know you're missing India when..." thread, maybe planning for the next trip is the only way to assuage the nostalgia!
#2 May 28th, 2011, 22:13
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If you don't go up into the mountains, it's not gonna be that cold; expect temps. in the northern plains to drop to say 5C'ish at night, could be around 0 (or could be say 10C); daytime should then just be pleasant, say maybe higher tens to higher twenties, lower thirties even. See also the several charts in this whole thread: http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...e-chart-t4062/.

But, yes, that can still be chillier than you might imagine (and it can be foggy and clammy to boot); however if you carry some warm stuff, say jeans and a sweater, a shawl, maybe a locally bought blanket, you should be alright. It will also just vary per year. (Sleeper Class train travel by night with its open windows can get cold, btw! Do carry a blanket if you do. Same on the cheaper state buses, etc. Open rickshaws, indeed.)

So in fact this is what makes it a good and popular time of year to travel, as it isn't so hot.

I also think it won't make things that much more expensive; though could depend a little per place. Your room for bargaining over hotel rooms (or conversely, of more-or-less automatically being offered a discount) could diminish some. I don't think food and shopping etc. would be affected; well, maybe bargaining over the latter could get a little more fierce. Though could as well be that the greater competition works to your advantage in this field.

I've been to Rajasthan in winter once and barely needed my warm clothes; though this previous winter (early 2010) around Delhi was pretty cold, yes (and completely foggy when I was there! All the time!) So, well, it just varies. If you come prepared, it's no big deal. That fog situation btw can (but doesn't have to) severely affect any travel arrangements; be flexible, and don't rely on any tight connections.

Alternatively of course: Head south! (Where however arguably your Hindi may not get you very far. Would probably depend a little on where you go precisely.) The above weather pattern extends roughly into Central India btw, I'd say. Winter is also quite brief; early or late Dec. could already make a huge difference.

(One thing to keep in mind is very few places will be heated, so if you get cold or wet, it can be very hard to warm up anywhere. So even though temperatures may not drop that low, it makes the cold much more pervasive. Being underdressed in winter in Europe, where though colder you know that every shop and home and restaurant and public building and transport etc. will be heated, really isn't quite the same experience. And then of course as a tourist you just tend to be out & about a lot.)
Last edited by machadinha; May 28th, 2011 at 23:53..
#3 May 29th, 2011, 12:51
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Thank you, that was a lot of really helpful information, especially re the lack of heating. I'll probably arrive in early December (probably the 4th), and staying for a month, so I expect I'll be getting the brunt of it. I think that means I'll avoid Shimla and Manali for now, though I was looking forward to the horse riding there, and maybe explore Rajasthan in greater depth. Heading South is a great idea, but I'm bent on using my Hindi before I forget too much of it - I can speak it passably enough to be occasionally mistaken for a local, since I'm half-Indian - and I've had such positive, warm, wonderful experiences speaking it this trip, I want to give it another go!

Rajasthan was gloriously, blazingly hot this May, so I hope that this December it will be as you said it was previously, just slightly chilly enough to be enjoyable. I'm a tropical girl and I can't imagine 0 degrees at night without heating! Perhaps I should look into booking hotels in advance, though previously my driver would drive us around to hotels he knew - and which can't be found on the Net - and let us have a look at the rooms, before deciding. Also need to figure out if all my SKs and lehngas can be worn in winter!

But these are minor questions, thanks for answering the important ones up above, they've given me a good framework to base my research on. Thanks loads xoxoxo
#4 May 29th, 2011, 20:00
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Cheers, y'r welcome. I think even the lower mountains can be done; this previous winter, I didn't find them essentially that much colder. It notably doesn't get quite as warm by day; maybe 15C or thereabouts. But, well, it's chilly yes, and I wasn't very happy there; but then I've finally convinced myself I'm just not much of a mountain person Beautiful views, of course. See to it that your room catches some sun at times when you'll be likely to need it; sitting in the sun is what people do to warm up. Or there must be places up there that provide heating, I didn't always find them easy to find though, or very affordable when I did. And those little electric contraptions may not produce much warmth, either. Rooms can otherwise be a real bargain there in winter, btw. (Well, I don't know about Shimla-Manali.)

I guess take some long-sleeved shirts & long-johns to wear under your SK, and you should be alright. (Thermal underwear would be excellent.) An extra sweater and shawl, sure.

You can read about my packing list for that wintry mountains trip (I went to Uttarakhand, maybe to around 2000 meters up, in January), here; as you can see there, I was in fact packing quite lightly.

I'd been thinking if you are in fact Singaporean (and seeing how you enjoyed Rajasthan in May! Phew!), then who knows how you'll find it yes (I'm from the Netherlands myself, temps. here were dropping to -20C by night when I left, around or below 0 by day. By way of perspective ) I don't know, maybe sticking to Rajasthan would be good. A real desert trip could be chilly by night I suppose, but in the cities chances are you'll find it quite alright. Gujarat to the south of it is an interesting state, and the cold doesn't reach there; or it didn't when I was there in around January.

Have fun with it!
#5 May 29th, 2011, 20:07
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Ah ps re: booking hotel rooms, I think you'll normally find a place on the ground alright. Over Christmas and New Year's eve and in the more popular spots, it would make sense to book ahead.

I'll often just call some places from my guidebook just before setting off to the next town.

If you have a driver, I think he'll normally know where to take you yes, or otherwise find you something.

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