Varanasi to Delhi through RAJASTHAN (2 wks), how much can I fit in?

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#1 Aug 22nd, 2014, 13:40
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#1
Hello

I've been checking this site for a few weeks and I've picked up so much useful information already. Thank you!

I'll have two weeks in India in Sept/Oct (traveling with boyfriend). Here is our general plan:
- Varanasi/Sarnath (about 3-4 nights?)
- Train to Agra (1 night in Agra?)
- Travel around Rajasthan (by train?), locations undecided (about 7-8 nights)
- Train to Delhi (arrive night before flight)

There is so much to see in Rajasthan but I know very little about the differences between the cities. I am open to any of the following places (or others!):
Kishangarh, Bhadrajun, Jaipur (though I have heard it's a little over-rated?), Bharatpur, Mathura, Udaipur, Rakanpur.
Are there any cities that are "must see" or any we could skip?
Are there any special activities you would recommend?
Is there a certain order that makes the most sense to travel?

Do you have any tips on how to see and experience as much as possible in Rajasthan without being part of a private tour? I was thinking of hiring local guides for day tours at every place we go (but I want to make sure we get quality tours). Or, can we hire someone to accompany us and take us around Rajasthan for 7-8 days? Is there a way to arrange these tours in advance?

Also what is the best way to travel? Trains are easy and cheap but then we have to stick to a certain itinerary. Taxis are likely very expensive between cities but then we can be flexible once we get there.

Thank you so much for your help! Again, my two main questions are:
1) Where in Rajasthan do you recommend going?
2) How can we get as much 'help' as we can with itineraries and activities while we're there, without being part of a private tour?

Michelle
#2 Aug 23rd, 2014, 22:34
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Michelle, the best advice I get on my travel is from people who have recently been there, i.e., those I meet while traveling.

For two weeks your time in Varanasi seems about right.

"Must see's" are going to change from person to person. In Rajasthan I had a good time in Udaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Jaiselmer and Khuri.

With 7-8 days I'd think of going to no more than 3 places, just to give them the time they deserve. You might look into a car/driver for Rajasthan, depending on your budget. I did a ten day road trip some years ago and found it a great way to travel. No worries about prebooking trains, you get out and get back in the car as you chose.
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#3 Aug 23rd, 2014, 22:44
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#3
I did Varanasi -Agra - Jaipur - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jaisalmer - Bikaner - Delhi. It took around 3.5 weeks though. You could cut out Bikaner (unless you really want to see rats and camels).

I used trains and the bus. I never did day tours with a guide, but most main tourist attractions have audio guides, tour guides or guide books for sale.
#4 Aug 23rd, 2014, 22:58
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Trains are already open for booking for your travel period. The trickiest one is Varanasi - Agra. There is a generous Foreign Tourist Quota on the overnight Marudhar Express. You can book this at the main Varanasi station but do it as soon as you get to Varanasi just in case it has sold out and you need to amend your plan. You need to be certain that you can get back from where ever you finish up to Delhi.

I agree with DB that it would be best to concentrate on 2 or 3 places in Rajasthan. Our favourites are Jodhpur and Udaipur but Jaipur is worth a couple of days. Jaisalmer is also very interesting but a long way out if you only have 7-8 days.

Don't worry about missing things out. If you enjoy India it will drag you back. If you don't enjoy it racing around like a maniac is unlikely to make it any better.
Last edited by Dave W; Aug 24th, 2014 at 02:00.. Reason: typo
#5 Aug 24th, 2014, 01:57
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For 7-8 days, including travel time I would look at Agra -> Jaipur (great fort and bazaars) -> Pushkar (easy to reach from Jaipur, good if you feel like relaxing a bit at this point) -> Jodhpur or Udaipur -> Delhi.

Personally I'd pick Udaipur, I love Jodhpur - the fort is wonderful and wandering the old town is fascinating - but if you saw the Amber Fort in Jaipur Udaipur will offer you something different. Udaipur's not really a desert city like the others, you'll see more green hills and the City Palace overlooking the beautiful lake is a nice contrast to the forts of Rajasthan. A trip to Monsoon Palace perched on top of a hill offers amazing views over the area. Udaipur is great for exploring and if things get too hectic you can retreat from the old town across a bridge to a relatively peaceful neighbourhood with some excellent places to get a coffee, sit on a rooftop or terrace, and enjoy the views across the water to the palace rising up above the narrow lanes and ghats of the old city.

Whether you end up at Jodhpur or Udaipur I would recommend flying back to Delhi to make the most of the time you have.
#6 Aug 24th, 2014, 02:01
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#6
I would suggest skip Rajasthan this time. From Varanasi move on to Khajuraho - Orchha - Agra - Delhi.
#7 Aug 24th, 2014, 02:01
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Also, booking trains ahead can be done, either by paying an agent a big premium over the ticket price or by following the instructions on setting up an account with which you can book train tickets online before you leave at www.seat61.com. It's a rather involved procedure to sign up from abroad as the system is set up for people inside India but it can be done. Have a scan of your passport ready.

If you can't get train tickets buses run all the routes and can be booked with less notice. Train travel is the way to go in India but the buses in Rajasthan are pretty good.
#8 Aug 24th, 2014, 02:20
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My favorites in Rajasthan have been Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur. You can include Jaipur instead of Jaisalmer, this will also save about a day.

Regarding itinerary, I would suggest that you plan and get information on trains & hotels as much upfront as possible. You can book most trains in Delhi via the Foreign Quota.
Here is a suggested itinerary...
Day-1: Train to Varanasi (or maybe you are taking a flight)
Days 2,3,4: Varanasi... (you can cut a day here depending on when you are able to take a train from Delhi to Varanasi)
Day 4 O/N train to Agra
Day 5,6: Agra
Day 6 O/N train to Jodhpur. Train/Bus to Jaisalmer
Day 7,8: Jaisalmer
Day 9: Train/Bus to Jodhpur
Day 9,10: Jodhpur
Day 11: Taxi from Jodhpur to Udaipur. Check out Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur on the way.
Day 12,13: Udaipur
Day 13 O/N train from Udaipur to Delhi
Day 14 morning: Arrive in Delhi

You can check trains at erail.in
Above is just the flavor of one, Play around with the destinations and itineraries until it makes sense for you.

GL
#9 Aug 24th, 2014, 04:51
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#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by michelleip View Post
Are there any special activities you would recommend?
Is there a certain order that makes the most sense to travel?

How can we get as much 'help' as we can with itineraries and activities while we're there, without being part of a private tour?
Hi Michelle.
Depending on the cities that you do decide to visit.. But I'll use Delhi as my example.

Go through Trip advisors Delhi 'Activities' & 'Things to do' and make a list of things that interest you. Narrow it down to something doable and make a daily diary. Don't forget to give each activity plenty time and include timings for transport & lunch & the odd hiccup (getting lost) etc..

You might even be tempted to take a 'Private tour' and you'll probably miss out on a lot of stuff if you don't. Two examples being a Delhi food walk and a visit to Salaam Baalak trust.

Jump on the Hop On Hop Off bus (expensive) and get off at any sites you'd like to see (18-20 different places)

Use your hotel to help with suggestions.

A guide book such as Lonely Planet might come in handy too if this is your first trip to India.

Enjoy your trip!
#10 Aug 24th, 2014, 08:05
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Wow, thank you everyone for your helpful replies! I'll do some research about the places and modes of transport you've suggested for Rajasthan, and I'm sure I'll be back with more questions!

It seems like Jodhpur and Udaipur keep coming up again as recommendations, and I'm especially interested in Udaipur. Thanks also for the suggestion to fly from Udaipur to Delhi. I hadn't considered that!

It's really helpful to know that we shouldn't attempt more than 2-3 places with the time we have. And the recommendation to fly from Udaipur to Delhi is a good one.
#11 Aug 24th, 2014, 08:14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave W View Post Trains are already open for booking for your travel period. The trickiest one is Varanasi - Agra. There is a generous Foreign Tourist Quota on the overnight Marudhar Express. You can book this at the main Varanasi station but do it as soon as you get to Varanasi just in case it has sold out and you need to amend your plan.
Thanks Dave for the help. I would rather book trains in advance since our time is so limited, but it's great to be aware that that's an option if we need it. I'll actually have a conference visa instead of a tourist one and I don't know if that affects anything.

You say the train from Varanasi--Agra is tricky. I looked into the overnight Marudhar Express that you recommended. It looks great, except that it doesn't arrive until 6:10am (and erail says it's usually delayed by almost 1h30m). We really want to get to the Taj at 6am, right when the gates open. Is there another option you would recommend for getting to the Taj on time from Varanasi, or is the Marudhar Express still our best bet for an overnight train, even though we'd be late?
#12 Aug 24th, 2014, 08:23
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#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by spud View Post Go through Trip advisors Delhi 'Activities' & 'Things to do' and make a list of things that interest you. Narrow it down to something doable and make a daily diary. Don't forget to give each activity plenty time and include timings for transport & lunch & the odd hiccup (getting lost) etc..

You might even be tempted to take a 'Private tour' and you'll probably miss out on a lot of stuff if you don't. Two examples being a Delhi food walk and a visit to Salaam Baalak trust.

Jump on the Hop On Hop Off bus (expensive) and get off at any sites you'd like to see (18-20 different places)
Thanks spud for the advice! Are the hop on hop off bus tours only available in Delhi, or other cities as well? That sounds like an efficient way to see a lot of major sites.
#13 Aug 24th, 2014, 12:40
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I'm afraid that I have never heard of a conference visa. I've no idea whether you could use it to get FTQ tickets.

As regards an alternative train you will probably have to go with whatever you csn get tickets for. It id not unusual for long distance trains to be a bit late
#14 Aug 24th, 2014, 14:47
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by michelleip View Post Wow, thank you everyone for your helpful replies! I'll do some research about the places and modes of transport you've suggested for Rajasthan, and I'm sure I'll be back with more questions!

It seems like Jodhpur and Udaipur keep coming up again as recommendations, and I'm especially interested in Udaipur. Thanks also for the suggestion to fly from Udaipur to Delhi. I hadn't considered that!

It's really helpful to know that we shouldn't attempt more than 2-3 places with the time we have. And the recommendation to fly from Udaipur to Delhi is a good one.
Personally I should do this trip in the reverse way.
Start with an overnight train to Jodhpur and from there with a bus/or car to Udaipur.
Another overnight train brings you to Agra.
If time permits stop in Bharatpur and visit Keoladeo. If you budget allows this hire a car from here to Agra and visit Fatehpur Sikri en route.
As final leg Varanasi and then train/fly back to Delhi.

The main reason for this change is that Varanasi can be rather overwhelming.
By visiting it at the end you give yourself the change to get acquainted with India on an easier way.
#15 Aug 24th, 2014, 16:40
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#15
Thanks for the advice vonkla. Honestly I am a bit worried about Varanasi being overwhelming (though it's also the one place I'm looking forward to seeing the very most!). We've already booked our local flight so we'll just have to do the best we can to adjust quickly. I'll be in Hyderabad for a week for a conference though, so hopefully that will help a bit.

Do you (or anyone else) have any advice on how to mentally prepare to minimize the culture shock?
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