For several years, India has been on my bucket list. Last year I bought a ticket; but for work reasons I had to cancel at the last minute. Lo and behold this fall, I found an unbeatable flight for $450 from JFK to New Delhi. Game on, India here I come.
I admit the Taj Mahal was my primary reason for wanting to visit India. However, films like Slumdog Millionaire and Lion also piqued my interest. However, I was a bit apprehensive about visiting. I had seen countless news stories related to the treatment of women which made me especially cautious. I specifically did not want to visit India alone because of safety concerns. So I invited one of my best friends, fellow world traveler CJ, to come along too! Prior to visiting India, I researched extensively how to dress. I wanted to respect the culture and avoid any unnecessary attention. Each day I wore a long tunic and long pants. Despite my concerns about visiting India, my experience was 100% positive.
In order to make the most of our short time in India, we arranged for the Golden Circle tour which made stops in New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. We spent two nights in New Delhi, and one night in Agra and Jaipur. The tour included 4*hotel accommodations, transportation, tour guide, and lunch. Entrance fees and tips were not included. We paid about $400 pp. We spent a significant amount of time in the car traveling between cities but flights were also an option.
Golden Circle Tour Itinerary
Agra (3.5 hour drive from New Delhi):
Jaipur (4 hour drive from Agra)
City Palace of Jaipur
Food: I did not have one bad meal in India. Every food I tried was delicious and flavorful.
People: Everyone I came across was very friendly and warm.
Affordability: the dollar goes a long way in India. You can easily have a nice meal for $5. Drinks cost anywhere from $3 to 10$, depending on the establishment.
Shopping: I bought a few Kurtas (tunics) for less than $10. They are perfect for traveling because they withstand the heat quite well due to their lightweight fabric.
Weather: Every day the temperature was in the 70’s. Fall is the perfect time to visit India because of the mild temperatures.
Tourist Price Gouging: The cost to enter the Taj Mahal for Indian Nationals/citizens of neighboring countries was less than $1USD. Cost for U.S citizens and other nationalities was $15USD.
Flight time: Flight from JFK to Shanghai was 14 hours, then 7 hours to New Delhi. Nonstop flights are available but are more expensive.
Crowds: I had no idea the Taj Mahal would be so crowded. However, one of the benefits of paying the tourist price is you get to skip the looooooooooooooooooooooooooooong lines to enter. Arrive first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Air Quality: When we exited the airport in Delhi, I immediately noticed the smell of the air. It’s hard to explain but the air had a smoky smell to it.
Traffic: Driving in India is quite intense. There doesn’t seem to be any order but surprisingly I saw zero accidents the entire time I was there. It’s quite common to see three or four people on the back of a moped, cars going in the opposite direction of traffic, unexpected merging, and undefined lane lines.
So was it worth it???
Absolutely yes! Overall I really enjoyed my time in India and I would definitely return. India showed me how to live more with less. I definitely witnessed extreme poverty which has reminded me to not take anything for granted. Although the Taj Mahal was my primary reason for visiting India, the other sites did not disappoint. The Taj Mahal is undeniably breathtaking. It is undoubtedly an artistic masterpiece. You can’t help but be in awe of God’s handiwork. Even though there were throngs of people almost everywhere you looked, it did not take away from the overall experience. I am extremely fortunate to have seen the Taj Mahal in person. The entire time I was there, I marveled at how blessed I was to be in India. It is definitely an experience I will never forget.
Have you been to India? What did you think?
If it’s not already, perhaps you should consider putting India on your bucket list!