I was so excited to be returning to India again. Starting in Mumbai, my 10-day tour would take me to Varanasi, Jaipur, Ranthambhore and Delhi; and featured activities from city walking tours to tiger safaris, a boat ride on the Ganges and visiting Amber Fort. (Plus many hotel inspections and a travel conference!).
One of the biggest changes I noticed immediately was how greatly the infrastructure in India has improved in terms of ease of travelling around. Major cities like Mumbai and Delhi have new and efficient airports for example, and India’s airlines of IndiGo and SpiceJet are almost replicas of Virgin Australia, with new aircrafts and good service. The roads – while still not Australian standard – are generally better, making it more comfortable to get around. I also noticed how widely English is spoken between Indians in bigger cities and how much western fashion is being worn too! Plus there’s Wifi everywhere now, which made it easy to stay in touch with home and the office.
I was also pleasantly surprised at the choice and variety of healthy food options I could find - especially at breakfast. Western food options appear on many of the menus in the larger cities; sandwiches, pasta, pizza and delicious desserts were available. I was also surprised at how often I could find good coffees like cappuccino and espresso! (Obviously there was an amazing selection of Indian dishes too and I certainly tried a lot of those while I was away also!).
Over the 10-days I had many incredible experiences. A walking tour in Jaipur revealed the small craftsmen and stores of the vibrant Jaipur market. (The pink city of Jaipur was one of my favourite places to visit and I could easily have spent more time there.) The local guides at each destination were wonderful – it was great to meet local personalities and discover their cities through their eyes, and staying on the ghats at Varanasi and waking up to the sounds of morning life along the Ganges River.
The most fabulous and memorable part of the trip though was visiting Ranthambhore National Park and seeing the countryside of rural India. I really enjoyed seeing the farmers and villagers going about their daily lives, passing camels and bullocks, motorbikes and homemade tractors, and the women of Rajasthan in their colourful saris, as we drove to Ranthambore. And then there was the anticipation of the safari and the possibility (or hope) of seeing a tiger! I was fortunate enough to see three tigers during a safari in Ranthambhore!
My favourite accommodation on this trip was Samode Haveli in Jaipur. (It could have been a villa in Tuscany!) I loved the combination of hundreds of years of history subtly combined with all modern comforts. Samode Haveli was a lovely space to enjoy in the middle of Jaipur and I would highly recommend including it in any tour of India that includes Jaipur.
As a woman travelling on my own in India I felt totally safe at all times - I was not hassled at all during my trip. I think the key is travel planning – being on a pre-organised, private tour of India made all the difference. I had a private vehicle and driver throughout, every time I arrived at a new destination I was met by a driver and guide, I had a local guide for all my sightseeing – all these things make it exceptionally comfortable and easy as a woman travelling in India. It makes it easy for anyone, but for a woman it gives you the peace of mind of knowing you are 100 percent supported during your tour. When I was out and about by myself I had the added comfort of knowing that the driver was never far away. It was also great to learn that some hotels in India now will allocate rooms close to reception and lifts for women travelling solo. Already I am looking forward to my next Indian adventure!
India Unbound’s Glenda McMillan-Andersson will lead a group tour in North India designed especially for women travellers in April 2019. Accompanied by a local guide, the trip has been created for solo women travellers that wish to join a group tour in India. Glenda will be accompanied by an expert local guide throughout and will visit Mumbai, Varanasi, Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur. For more details contact India Unbound on firstname.lastname@example.org