I'm so pleased I chose to book through TravelLocal and to be shown India by Indian people! Booking a holiday directly with a local company definitely pays off. As a solo, female traveller looking to fulfil a childhood dream to visit India, I spent a long time looking for the right trip and being quoted ridiculous prices and I feared that it just wasn't going to happen! However, Nutan and her team tailored my ideal itinerary and most of it (minus me not waking up to see the sunrise at the Taj :/ all my fault!) went without a hitch. My driver Sanjay was so friendly and the guides were excellent (only issue was the guide in Jaipur really rushed and didn't appear as passionate about his job or city like the other guides). Everyone I met was so keen to ensure I had a great experience and happy to have long discussions about religion and politics in India. My representative Vic was also very friendly and professional and with Vic and Sanjay looking out for me, I felt very safe. I highly recommend going with Travel Local and their local partners in India, particularly for a first trip to India.
Only change I would have made is maybe to emphasise when planning the trip that you would like time to actually stop for a moment to take it all in! Naturally, when you are trying to pack a lot into a few days in a huge city, you feel like you're being ferried from place to place just looking at stuff. In retrospect, I realised I liked the guide in Varanasi because he gave me moments of quiet to stop and take it all in, touch the fabrics, smell the food, buy something from a market- those are the moments when you really feel the magic of India.
I think it would be good to include some "experiences" as well as sightseeing to break it up a bit. My favourite moments were when I got to interact with local people, make something, eat something - these provide a more immersive experience and that really appeals to western tourists I think. Getting henna on your hands, drinking street chai, block printing fabric - these are my most memorable moments
Sanjay - My lovely driver couldn't have done enough to make me feel safe and comfortable. We had some really interesting conversations about all sorts of things and he told me all about what we were seeing on car journeys. Vic - A lovely warm welcome when I arrived and a very professional and genuine guy Varanasi and Agra guides - So passionate and informative and happy to slow down and let me take stuff in
Don't try to fit too much in and fill up your time with experiences too, rather than just sightseeing Be prepared for the noise and craziness and enjoy every minute of it because home will feel very boring afterwards!
Seeing the Taj Mahal, I nearly cried! Seeing the elephants at the sanctuary and being able to support their cause. Taking in the atmosphere at the banks of the Ganges. Blockprinting in Jaipur. Drinking lassi from a street vendor in Jaipur.