See answers to the questions below for details of guides and the trip in general. This was our third trip to India and we wanted a trip that was not just a conventional sightseeing tour/tick-list. We knew what we wanted to do in Delhi and that we wanted to go to Darjeeling and take the toy train then finish up in Calcutta. Other than that, we were open to ideas and, after some discussion of our preferences, the local company gave us just the right options for the itinerary in Darjeeling. We were open to to suggestions for the next week but specified we wanted to do something in an area that is not so touristy. The negotiation with Nutan towards the Assam leg worked out perfectly such that we ended up with an itinerary that completely fitted out personal wants, wishes and needs. She got everything we wanted from this trip, and much more.
Local knowledge. Tailoring of the trip to our specific needs was spot-on. Flexibility during the trip, and ability of guides to 'fix' things and get things done was superb. Choice of accommodation very good and appropriate to each location. All timings were accurate (unlike the self-booked flights with Jet Airways who were a nightmare to deal with; Air India proved to be much more reliable and customer-focused). Lots of variety in terms of scheduled and impromptu activities.
Difficult to think of anything. Not everything worked out according to plan on each day, but the quality of the guides was such that adjustments were made seamlessly and to great effect - this covers the scheduled activities and timings, as well as dealing with 'mini-crises' such as a train that arrived three hours late. We had some alarms e.g. one of our party left his phone on the plane, but they dealt with it brilliantly. The phone was retrieved on our return to the airport.
I'd give them all 10/10, except Rajan Dowerah in Assam who gets 11 out of 10 for being the best possible guide we could ever wish for (thank you for that). Makesh in Delhi was a perfect fit for the city. The driver was also just right. Bushan in Darjeeling was wonderfully good. This is a guy who could make anything happen whatever the circumstances. As a true local he knew so so much about the area and communicated ideally. The driver, Santu, was delightful, kind and one of the safest drivers we've ever been with. He looked after us in difficult driving conditions and situations. Rajan in Assam was as good as it gets. His knowledge of the area must be unparalleled; his communication skills; his infectious enthusiasm and sense of fun and curiosity; his changing of the itinerary in response to his understanding of us as guests; and his partnership with Deka the driver, all made this section of our holiday as good as it possibly could have been. Every day was memorable, enjoyable and terrific fun. Leena in Calcutta was again a perfect fit. We were worn out and needed to get some shopping done so, like the other guides, she responded by interweaving a taste of Calcutta with our personal needs e.g. she took us to the flower market (not on the itinerary) which was a phenomenal place to take photos and understand the workings of the city, but a challenge to the senses which completely fitted in with what we wanted. All in all, from the point of view of how we were guided and driven, we were 100% happy.
Go for it.
Majuli Island - thanks for persuading us to go there Ravi and Nutan.