Preparations for our India journey

Buffalo, NY

Saturday, July 5, 2014

We get a call from a friend of my wife. She remembers my wife saying “if you ever go back to India, we’d love to go with you”. So roll the clock forward eight years and they are going back to India. She asks if we would like to go along.  They are planning to do a luxury train tour through Rajasthan.

Sunday, July 6, 2014
After some discussion, we decide to go along. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we can’t pass up. Especially traveling with friends who are originally from India, who can enhance the trip experience with home town knowledge.

Monday, July 7, 2014
Forty-eight hours later, we are making a deposit on train reservations.

We will be flying to New Delhi and then touring by luxury train for seven nights and eight days. The “Royal Rajasthan on Wheels” is like the Orient Express was in its day. Luxury accommodations, gourmet meals, fabulous destinations and first class service. For first-timers to India, how could we go wrong.

To travel to India from the USA, you not only need a passport, but also a Tourist Visa. Once we get our passports, we can apply for Visas. The process isn’t difficult, the wait will be the worst part.

In the meantime, we start looking at flights. From Buffalo to New Delhi the travel times vary from 17 hours to 33 hours depending on where you fly through and how long of a layover you are willing to tolerate. We have our eyes on a flight from Buffalo to Newark, NJ and then direct from Newark to New Delhi.

Saturday, July 12, 2014
Our flights are booked. Buffalo to Newark, then Newark direct to New Delhi. Reverse for the return trip. Glad we didn’t have to pick flights that would add additional stops along the way. While we’re at it, we also secured hotel reservations. We’ll stay at the JW Marriott for the two days before we board the train and for two days after. The hotel was just completed in 2013, so it should be a good choice.

Sunday, July 13, 2014
All of our confirmations have been received. We still have to wait for the passports and visas, but we are essentially ready to go. Just waiting for October to roll around. Have to start researching customs, locations and language. Things to buy, things to research and things to get before the big day arrives.

Well, the news of our trip has led to mixed reactions from our friends. Some think it is a great opportunity and a chance to stretch our comfort zone a little farther. On the other hand, many aren’t as excited for us and think we’re nuts..

We had great news yesterday – our passports arrived. Took just ten days to process and receive them by mail. We did pay to have them expedited, but we were expecting to wait at least a couple more weeks. Kudos to the passport folks! Next up is to apply for our tourist Visas. We’ll be getting the applications in the mail this week.

The area we will be visiting, Rajasthan, is in the northern plains area of India. It was known for its forts and palaces dating way back. Reading through the itinerary from the train, we will be seeing many historic sites, religious sites and the coup de grace will be the Taj Mahal. The more I am reading, the more excited I am getting.

What I’ve determined so far: monsoon season will be over, it will average about 93 degrees (hopefully a dry heat) and there will be a lot of people everywhere. I believe I read that Delhi is now the second most populous city in the world with 25 million people.

I picked up an iPad app to learn basic Hindi. I want to be able to speak a few basic phrases, even if the majority of the people speak English. We’ve always thought it was important to know a little bit when we travel – even if just to get a smile out of the people while we mangle their language.

Namaste.. (that would be a greeting similar to saying Hello)

Hard to believe that two months from today we will be heading off to India. The time is going fast. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous, but at the same time I’m really excited.

We’ve had a nerve-wracking stretch, but the good news is the Fedex truck pulled up and brought us our Visas. We are now officially able to go. The process of getting a Visa is both easy and difficult. You basically go online, fill out the application, send the application, your passport and a check and then wait for the Visa to be returned. The difficult part is the web site closes down in the middle of your entry, if you don’t finish the application – you MUST make sure you write down your temporary id and finally, you need to fill in the Fedex return address info in one try. (The pin number is our Zip Code)

All that said, we completed the paperwork, sent it on its way and had them in our hands within 10 days. From everything we’ve read – that’s amazing turnaround.

Many people have asked about the train trip we’re taking, so here is the website for some of the details:

For the time being, we will be watching YouTube videos about Rajasthan and New Delhi and reading up about customs and sites to see. Doctor appointments have been made to discuss anti-malarial meds. Next stop – India.

Time is sure moving fast, just five weeks until we leave. Monsoon season is in full swing in India though I have read that so far it has been lighter than usual.

Since the last update, we went to the doctor to talk about the need for malaria medication and ended up having to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever. We were also given prescriptions for anti-malarial medication and an antibiotic – just in case.

Maybe Italy would have been the place to go. The only shots we ever talk about there is Grappa!

If you didn’t know, there is a travel clinic located at ECMC Hospital in Buffalo where you will likely be referred. Most cities will have one and it really is a good thing to check with them before traveling.

That should be it for now. No other prep besides packing and charging camera batteries. We’ve been reading quite a bit about India and the State of Rajasthan in particular. It would appear that most of the people who visit India are Brits or Australians. Given that India was formally under British rule, that would seem to make sense. I still find it hard to believe that India only receives about 7 million tourists a year.

Waiting for some of you to stop laughing – there are so many wonderful things to see and quite a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Ok, so back to the reading. Based on what I’ve read, I’m hoping to share some truly wonderful words and pictures, and maybe a few things you’ve never thought about.

Here’s the lightning round answers. You’ll surely be able to guess what the questions were.

1. We will be staying at the newly built JW Marriot Hotel.
2. I have my own hat, no turban required.
3. Elephants are not used like taxis, they are only at a few tourist locations. They have Tuk Tuks which are bicycle or motorcycle rickshaws to transport people.
4. No pictures. David Letterman lived in Indiana.

So the next update will likely be from the airplane or in India. Blog at you soon!

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