Indiasomeday.com - locals from Mumbai that have travelled extensively in India who helped me to plan my trip around India. I wanted to avoid just using the Rough Guide etc. but had limited time, a long list of things I wanted to do/see and felt a little overwhelmed. They advised on the best routes to take, best/cheapest travel, restaurants, accommodation, sites and experiences. They are there on the ground, spent time with me, offered local knowledge and are really passionate about India and travel. A personalised and personal service, hassle-free, great value for money and for me an incredible experience, in large part down to their help. I have just returned from my trip and without reservation recommend them. The reviews speak for themselves.
Whilst Goa is beautiful, jump on a train and head south to Fort Cochin in Kerala, with its “truly Indian” feel, unspoilt by ravers, the best food in the country and MUCH cheaper too.
It has an amazing fish market daily and at night the market becomes a series of outdoor restaurants. Watch the fishermen at dawn every day and sink a couple of ice cold beers as the sun sets over this little mini ‘island'.
Take an overnight train from Goa to Kerala.
Reckoned to be the place to eat Mughal and north-west frontier cuisine in Delhi. Plates of dhal and kebabs served on low tables where famously Bill Clinton once gorged himself silly. With drinks, there is not much change from Rs 2,500.
Maurya Sheraton Hotel, Diplomatic Enclave; Tel: 011 2611 2233
This being India, entanglements are advised to be discreet and certainly never short of proper. Turn up at dusk with your love at Humayun's Tomb, the grand 16th-century mausoleum of an early Mogul emperor and get lost among its recently restored gardens.
Near the Muslim centre of Nizamuddin, on the crossroads of the Lodi and Mathura roads; Train station: Nizamuddin
When you are in a remote village or such travelling as a group, it is a lot better for you all to order the same meal or dish. By doing this, the rural community you are staying with only has to light one fire in order to produce the meal...saving local firewood, reducing CO2, protecting biodiversity, helping control soil erosion, reducing flash flooding, maintaining soil fertility...and you still get your lovely grub!
Anywhere you are staying with a rural community who produce food using firewood...
Hot, noisy, heaving with people - go about it the wrong way, and Delhi can be hell. Go about it the right way, and you'll find yourself staying in one of the most restful, charming guest houses in India. Gorgeously decorated and improbably cheap, it boasts comfortable beds, spotlessly clean bathrooms, home-cooked meals should you want them, and a blissfully cool roof terrace overhung with climbing plants. The owners, Avnish and Urvashi, go out of their way to make your stay as pleasant as possible - they'll book you taxis to and from the airport, and Avnish runs fascinating off-the-beaten-track tours of 'Hidden Delhi' every Saturday. All this, and it's just a 10-minute walk from Connaught Place. Can't recommend it highly enough.
R-500, New Rajinder Nagar 110060; www.master-guesthouse.com/
Delhi is a remarkably green city, but the jewel in the capital’s crown is Lodhi Gardens. Its lawns are filled with an embarrassment of fifteenth century tombs of the Afghan Lodhi dynasty that once ruled Delhi. Among the distinctive domes and Islamic-Indian curves, you can speed-walk with the locals, split your sides in a "laughter club" or join impromptu yoga classes.
Delhi’s hawker stalls are filled with cheap fried food that explodes in your mouth. Mouthfuls of aloo chaat, fried potatoes served a tangy sauce, or golgappas, fried balls filled with chilli water, followed by a glass of a salty lime, cumin and mint drink called jal jeera will cost you less than Rs 30.
GO, it's wonderful!! Fly to Kochi or Trivandrum - both are great to visit anyway, especially the fascinating town of Kochi. But best of all, take a journey by boat through the backwaters and drop in on village life. It's magical. And you'll never get better food!
Far enough from the craziness and tourist haven of northern Goa but enough activities to keep you occupied. Beautiful sand and lots of secret spaces. Hike through the hills to the next beach and discover the amazing food at Home restaurant.
Take a bus from Dabolim or jump in a taxi.
Before returning home from Delhi, shop for souvenirs at the central Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath (Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan). This is shopping as it should be: relaxed and stress-free. No haggling involved and no hard sell. You present your purchases as you go along, you're given a receipt and then you collect everything together at the end, on production of all your receipts when you pay for everything at once and in return your purchases are carefully wrapped, ready for you to pack in your suitcase. Brilliant!
New Delhi Janpath
Baha'i temple set in acres of green gardens - the beautiful modern building whose architecture evokes images of the lotus flower. This is a peaceful haven amongst the traffic and chaos of India's capital, a truly stunning piece of modern design, and rightly thought of as a must-see place in Delhi.
South Delhi, near Ashram district and Isckon temple
Tamil Nadu, home of India's most ornate temples, is also a mecca for vegetarians, as its population is largely Hindu. King of all veggie dishes is the humbly named 'meals'. Order a 'meals' in any non-tourist restaurant in Tamil Nadu and you will be served a feast on a banana leaf! Waiters ladle steaming curries and rice from large buckets, accompanying the main dish with smaller measures of delicious dhal, pickles, coconut chutney and spicy sambar. Refills are always offered. Knives and forks are not, so enjoy eating as a tactile experience. Your leaf will be folded and thrown away at the end of your meal, which should set you back around fifty pence!
Available in any walk-in-off-the-street restaurant in Tamil Nadu
A rather wonderful family-run guest house, two minutes from the Assi ghats.
Clean and comfortable rooms (some with a balcony), hot water on demand and fresh home-cooked food.
Very, very friendly staff who will make you most welcome. Dr V.N Tripathi offers (advanced and beginners) yoga, meditation and Ayurveda lessons to guests.
I read the recommendations on the website and can vouch for them!
Indian flights are very cheap and it's tempting. But if you have the time and the patience, Indian trains reward like no other journey.
The Indian train is a travelling village in itself. You will be sold to constantly. Some things you will want - chai in the moring, samosa in the evening - and some things you will not.
Despite the bad image of India as a hard-sell place, there's no obligation to buy and the seller will move on if you are not interested. The good bit is, you can do all your shopping in one journey, from bajee to clothing.
The trains are more than a kilometre long (which is truely awesome in itself), and are a lifeline to many Indians. And far more eco-friendly than flying.
Unless you’re foolish enough to choose the two months a year when it actually rains all the time, you’re guaranteed not to see a cloud in the sky for days, and while warm enough to be comfortable in a t-shirt day and night, the temperatures will rarely reach the scorching levels of heat which can be so exasperating in other areas of the country.
Indeed, Goa has very little in common with the rest of India, and in particular, that annoying let-me-rip-you-off attitude which is common among the locals in a lot of Indian cities is kept to a minimum there, and it is actually very easy to establish good, chilled-out relationships with the locals. The thing is, while far from wealthy, the local population is doing far better than most Indians, and this definitely contributes to the cheerful mood which permeates the place.
I’m 28, and two years ago I arrived in Goa after about six weeks in the rest of India. My plan was to stop for a week, but I ended up staying there for six!
A really great overnight trip is to the ruined city of Hampi in Karnataca. The highlights include sunrise and sunset over the city's pagoda like temples and drumming on the hollow pillars - they are like stone organ pipes inside the temples and when banged lightly, you can play a rhythm on them. The attached palace is interesting with its geometric buildings and elephant stables.
Hampi is popular as a school visit destination and the children thought my wife was Princess Di (trust me - my wife is lovely but there is no resemblance!) and would creep up to touch shyly as they had never seen a white European! They drove in from India's little tourist visited interior.
We took a taxi to Hampi from Dona Paulo and paid about £70 for the two-day trip. On the way we drove through a chilli farming region and the chillies were laid out on the road for passing cars to thresh.
A fascinating trip all in all - and we had our cheapest meal ever there - £1.80 for a three-course meal for both of us! Just what do you tip when the meal is so cheap?
We're here at the moment and although the Indian government pulled down the majority of beach huts in the palm groves, it is still the most idyllic beach on the Goan coastline. It is far more relaxed than the northern beaches.
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