INSIDE INDIA

A DREAMLAND OF WELCOME AND WONDER

India is a must-visit destination of inspiring and intriguing contradictions. The country is winning the hearts of travellers from all around the world with her kaleidoscopic colours, wildlife and natural beauty. But it’s her vibrant communities that set her apart.

To explore why you should add this country to your travel wish list, we’ve interviewed tourism insiders who know about all things India. Read on as they share the best places to see and things to do to enjoy this South Asian treasure trove.

WHY INDIA?

WHY INDIA?

However you like your holidays, it’s likely one virtue will stand out as India’s main appeal: diversity. Whether you’re more interested in history and culture, or wildlife and nature, the sheer unbridled diversity of this country will make you marvel.

As a nation, India has more than 120 major languages, 23 of which are official, including English. The country has seen a wide variety of ruling dynasties– as well as periods under the Mughal and British empires. Each era added a new dimension of culture to an already rich nation.

The sub-continent of India’s climate ranges from a tropical south to an alpine Himalayan north. This country has a natural backdrop for any travel fan:

‘Kerala, a state in the south, is often referred to as 'God’s own country' and is spectacularly beautiful, with miles and miles of deserted, palm-fringed, golden beaches.

In contrast to Kerala, at the opposite end of the country, is the spectacular Himalayan region. There, you’ll find the historic British colonial summer retreats of Shimla, Darjeeling and Kalimpong.

‘Surrounded by tea plantations and snow-clad peaks, you can imagine the heyday of the summering British Raj by visiting places such as the Viceregal Lodge or the Gaiety Theatre, where the likes of Noel Coward and Rudyard Kipling performed.’

– Selene Tomlinson, Titan Tour Manager

Backwaters of Kerala

Backwaters of Kerala

The rich contrasts extend beyond scenic vistas, too. Culturally, India nods to the past with great warmth, remaining loyal to many traditions and customs that make it so beautiful and authentic.

‘India is a country in the fast lane with a real desire to thrust their country forward whilst acknowledging and embracing their traditions and customs to make for an ever-rounded country.’

– Phil Ellis, Product Manager

At the heart of it all, the ingrained spiritual elements that shape the Indian lifestyle and attitude towards life. It’s a place of sacred temples from many faiths, where people express and honour their mutual beliefs. There is the general positivity of the Indian people, an undying joy in life and the belief that, whatever the circumstances, there is always a reason to smile:

‘With one-seventh of the world’s population, India has some big challenges. But the undying Indian spirit finds opportunities in even these challenges. This spirit allows even the most impoverished to smile and live every moment of their life. It's infectious and inspirational.’

– Abhimanyu Singh, Local Tour Guide

OUR INSIDERS IN INDIA

OUR INSIDERS IN INDIA

Phil Ellis - Titan Product Manager for India

Phil Ellis - Titan Product Manager for India

Phil Ellis

‘What makes India unique is the sheer depth and variety on offer which you will struggle to find anywhere else in the world. The ornate architecture of its forts and palaces, depth of culinary delights, abundant wildlife opportunities, staggering scenic vistas, romantic rail journeys and local residents who will charm and delight.’

As Long Haul Product Manager for Titan, Phil is responsible for covering our tours in the Indian subcontinent, as well as other far-flung destinations. His job is to understand what Titan customers really want to see and experience, and strives to meet the many people in each destination who bring our journeys to life, face to face.

Selene Tomlinson - Titan Tour Manager in India

Selene Tomlinson - Titan Tour Manager in India

Selene Tomlinson

‘If you want to be transported to an exotic, spiritual, colourful and welcoming country, and have a multitude of experiences and adventures, then India is the place to do it.’

Selene is one of our Tour Managers, specialising in India, South America, and China. She’s been with Titan for more than five years and considers herself fortunate that work has taken her to some of the world’s most spectacular places.

Abhimanyu Singh and Rishi Raj Jodha - Local Tour Guides

Abhimanyu Singh and Rishi Raj Jodha - Local Tour Guides

‘India is magical. It is colourful. Culturally and spiritually rich, it’s a sanctuary to diverse religious ethnic social groups who not only honour each other but enrich the fabric of India.’

Titan Travel uses local tour guides who are best placed to take you to the places you won’t necessarily find in travel books and websites. They can also be essential go-to people for questions on cultural etiquette and social attitudes.

THE BEST OF INDIA

TAJ MAHAL

India’s sights and scenery transform any trip here into a top contender for the best tour you’ll ever have in your life. In the north, the sacred river Ganges has birthed many iconic aspects of the country.

‘Between the coast and the mountains is the vast Ganges plain, home to the magnificent Taj Mahal; huge, exotic, ancient forts and palaces; and colourful villages overflowing with lively markets and smiling, welcoming people. The scenery is so varied.’

– Selene Tomlinson, Tour Manager

Here, you’ll encounter the country’s rich heritage, embodied by the architecturally sublime Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh state. This 17th century edifice, a mausoleum dedicated to a Mughal emperor’s favourite wife, is a must-see landmark for many of Earth’s travellers.

‘...for most guests, the Taj Mahal is a lifetime's dream realised: romantic, moving and captures the heart’

– Rishi Raj Jodha, Local Tour Guide

RAJASHTAN

‘… a trip to this historical country remains incomplete without witnessing the beauty of such masterpieces that today stand as symbols of pride for our nation, such as the eclectic opulence of the royal forts, palaces and have lis (mansions) in Rajasthan…’

– Shakeel Chauhan, Local Tour Guide

Majestic Rajasthan has an abundance of jaw-dropping attractions. In Jaipur, you’ll find the 18th century Hawa Mahal Palace with its pink-painted five-storey viewing wall, constructed to allow royal ladies to gaze on street processions without compromising their modesty.

Meanwhile, nearby Jantar Mantar is a collection of observatory buildings and astronomical instruments, made using principles taken from ancient Hindu Sanskrit archaeological texts. Each structure plays a specific role in the observation and assessment of the stars or sky, and may impart India’s love of astronomy to you, too.

Rajasthan doesn’t only impress with man-made landmarks.Nature has blessed this state in northern India with a generous variety of wildlife, too. Indeed, Ranthambore National Park is quite possibly the best place to see tigers in India, as well as many other native species.

‘You could spend one holiday alone travelling from one wildlife sanctuary to the next, but if you want a hope of seeing tigers in their natural habitat, then Ranthambore in Rajasthan is as good as it gets. 400 square kilometres of mountainous, dry deciduous forest with lakes and streams, it is home to two types of deer, antelope, crocodiles, leopards, tigers, wild boars, sloth bears, porcupines and much more.’

– Selene Tomlinson, Tour Manager

THE HIMALAYAS

For icing on the cake, how about taking in some of the highest mountain peaks on the planet? You can gaze on the Himalayas in northern India, home to spectacles such as Pangong Tso lake. The vivid turquoise shade sand hypnotic calm of the waters are a surreal spectacle, looking almost tropical amidst views of snow-powdered peaks.

You could be forgiven for feeling overawed by Himalayan vistas. Such sights can easily make a person’s mind turn to thoughts of the sacred and wondrous.

‘India's highest mountain is Kanchenjunga, and there is nothing quite so spiritual as seeing the sun rise over the roof of the world. Also, the Dalai Lama has made the Himalayas his home, and he now resides in exile in the small Tibetan enclave of Dharamshala, found in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Here, it's easy to forget that you are actually in India as you stroll the streets alongside maroon-robed monks.’

– Selene Tomlinson, Tour Manager

Exploring the Himalayas is a feast for the senses, and shows India at a different speed.

YOUR QUESTIONS,
ANSWERED

By now, you’re probably starting to get a little curious. A country of India’s enormous size and diversity can only inspire questions. We’ve asked our India tour specialists to answer some frequently asked questions and solve some of your queries straight away:

What currency should I bring?

The Indian unit of currency is the Indian rupee, which is divided into 100 paise. You can actually take sterling with you, and you can change money in the hotels. You won’t need dollars. It’s best to get small denominations of the currency, such as 100s, 50s, 20s and 10s.

Will the food all be Indian cuisine, and spicy?

Dinner is often included in the hotels and is most in the form of delicious buffets, which includes a selection of international dishes.

What should I eat?

It’s best to avoid ice in your drinks, peeled fruits, and raw vegetables and salads. Indulge in the vegetarian dishes rather than meat and fish.

What should I wear?

Loose, comfortable, casual clothing works best in India, and this should include some good walking shoes and sandals. The north of India can get quite chilly in January and February, so pack a few warmer clothes and layers. Southern India is hot throughout most of the year, however, so cotton and linen are advised.

For ladies, dressing conservatively is recommended. You may want to pack a scarf that covers your shoulders and a caftan for the beach.

Do I need a visa to travel to India?

Yes, you will need either an eVisa or a tourist visa and this must be obtained in advance of travel. Titan Travel have partnered with CIBT visas so can help arrange this for you.

WHAT TO DO
IN YOUR DOWN TIME

WHAT TO DO IN YOUR DOWN TIME

As enjoyable as it is to explore India on tours and feast on the country’s cultural and scenic riches, you should also take some time to relax and make the most of your tour itinerary downtime. All our insiders were united in making one recommendation: visit the local markets to get a genuine taste of India. And embrace the openness and friendliness of the national cultures.

‘I urge clients to visit a Hindu temple during their visit, as it will truly open your eyes to Hinduism and fill you with a warm feeling. You will be able to see people from all walks of life, religions and creeds all meeting in one place and being served a humble meal by local Hindu volunteers who, once again, come from all walks of life. It does not matter what religion you are, or how wealthy you are, the Hindu community are happy to prepare, serve and even clear up after your meal.’

– Phil Ellis, Product Manager

INSIDER TIPS

Insider Tips for Travelling to India

The more you prepare for your trip, and know about the country, the better your Indian odyssey will be. Bearing this in mind, here are some top tips from our insiders to help you to reap even more rewards from your travels:

· Dress modestly – For all its forward-looking attitude, India is still a conservative country, so ladies should avoid wearing revealing clothing and keep their shoulders and knees covered. This is particularly the case when entering temples. Short-sleeved T-shirts and blouses are appropriate attire.

· Wash your hands often – Carry some hand sanitiser gel with you and wash your hands regularly, particularly when you handle local money.

· Eat in busy restaurants – If a restaurant is busy, especially with locals, it’s more than likely serving quality, authentic food. There’s also a better chance that the food is being freshly prepared and less food lying around.

· Take time to speak to the locals – There’s always someone around to chat to in India, and the local people are warm and friendly, so why not start up a conversation? Indians are extremely cultured and are sure to tell you something you didn’t know before.

· Take a zip-top bag – A zip will keep your valuables a little more secure when you’re walking in crowded places.

In the words of our insiders, India is a place unlike any other. Why don’t you plan the trip of a lifetime and introduce yourself to a rich and diverse new world?

Are escorted tours the best way to see India?

Let’s be honest – this is often down to personal preference. Some people prefer to organise their own holiday. But if you’re not sure, our insiders have offered some thoughts:

‘By travelling as part of a Titan Travel group, you will have the advantage of discovering India with like minded individuals. You can share your experience with these people during, and hopefully long after, your tour.

‘Also, without wanting to skirt around the issue, it’s also nearly always more cost effective to travel as part of a group tour, making India more accessible. Because of long-standing relationships with hoteliers and ground providers within India, Titan Travel hold allocations against all our tour programmes, making them instantly bookable without having to wait for confirmation.

‘Titan Travel also use the best coaches and vehicles available within India, allowing for a comfortable journey. There are even coach assistants to cater to your every need.

‘Finally, travelling within a group eliminates any stress of having to plan your own route, translate local languages or master the art of using local transportation. We carefully plan your tour in advance, and then place these arrangements in the hands of our experienced Tour Managers and guides to execute. This subsequently leaves you time to sit back, relax and experience the true India.’

– Phil Ellis, Product Manager

‘Having backpacked around India in my twenties, I understand the many benefits an organised tour offers. You’ll have the benefit of door-to-door, hassle-free transport and will also discover places that you might never find by yourself, that are not mentioned in guidebooks: quiet walks through villages, visits to colourful markets, temples, mosques and back lanes.

‘You’ll get the best prices from the street traders because we know what you should be paying, and you will be given a wealth of contrasting experiences, from lunch at a Maharaja’s Palace to the best masala chai in a local tea shop.

‘Our hotels are well chosen and provide a tranquil oasis of calm which is needed after the hustle and bustle that isIndia on a daily basis. We really look after you and want you to have an experience of a lifetime.’

– Selene Tomlinson, Tour Manager

CUSTOMER REVIEWS

'Surprisingly it was the Ganges for me. I didn't think I would like it. Thought it was just a river! It was amazing to see the cremations taking place 24/7 amongst the bathing. Listening to our guide explaining what happens both in life and death for the Hindis.'

– Carole, Northampton

'Of all the 'sights' the trip to the Taj Mahal stood out.
Often on our travels the 'must see' places often disappoint but this was not the case. The tour guide was obviously very proud of the Taj Mahal and his infectious enthusiasm ensured we all fell in love with the place.'

– Jack, York

'Two great moments.
1. The Taj Mahal
2. Seeing an exquisite young tiger at Ranthambore.
Oh, maybe another one was the rickshaw ride around Jaipur. What an experience!'

– Christine, Purley