Part of defining where I wanted to go in 2017 included research on India. This is the first time I am mentioning that research;it didn’t result in a planned trip for 2017.
As part of my research, I reviewed a few options for traveling to India and found issues with all except one.
The criteria for the best trip to India included:
Gratuities : must be included in overall price
Entrance fees: must be inclusive of the tour price
Itinerary: if a tour, it must be reasonably paced
Transport:private and air conditioned vehicles only
Meals: 90% must be included in overall price
Occupancy: pricing for solo and double
Budget Tours I looked at budget tour companies such as G Adventures and Intrepid and I quickly discounted each for two reasons.
- While each advertises a flexible approach for solos, the cheapest option involves a willingness to board with a stranger. Otherwise, there is an additional fee that seems to be approximately $1000 extra. I don’t want to share a room with a stranger. Also, paying more removes each operator from the budget category.
- Did not meet most of the criteria listed above
Cruises After researching several cruises, I realized that none of the ports are close to famous landmarks. For example, to see the Taj Mahal you have to buy a 2 or 3-day land discovery that costs an additional $2500 – $3300. Honestly, that is the cost of a full tour of India for a budget tour operator.
Luxury Tour Operators Of the group tours in this segment, I found Tauck Tours Portraits of India to have the best reviews from past travelers. Tauck Travel is a Connecticut-based agency that focuses on all-inclusive high-end tours and cruises.
The Portraits of India tour cost about $10,000 for double occupancy or $13,000 for solo occupancy not including international airfare. The price for this tour means it takes saving and planning. This is the major reason why India is not a planned trip for 2017 but there were other concerns.
The above image was taken from Smartertraveller.gov.au. It illustrates where there is a high need for caution. Unfortunately, it seems to be the whole of India. The risks are not just potential terrorism and civil unrest but also misogynistic assault.
Interestingly, the US does not have a travel warning or alert for India. However, buried within the US State Department Travel site, in country content, under Safety and Security, are more disturbing facts. I have extracted the piece that impacts women below:
Sexual Assault: Travelers should be aware that there have been reported cases of sexual assault, including rape, of U.S. citizens traveling throughout India. U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Women traveling in India are advised to respect local dress and customs. Customary everyday dress for Indian women throughout the country is conservative, and even more so in non-urban areas, with women wearing clothing that covers their legs and shoulders. Exceptions are vacation resorts catering to foreign clientele and some neighborhoods of the major cities of New Delhi and Mumbai. Western women, especially those of African descent, continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by individuals and groups of men. Known locally as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents of sexual harassment can be quite frightening and can quickly cross the line from verbal to physical. Sexual harassment can occur anytime or anywhere, but most frequently has happened in crowded areas such as in market places, train stations, buses, and public streets. The harassment can range from sexually suggestive or lewd comments to catcalls to outright groping.
I started paying attention to travel warnings after an Emirates flight to Dubai. On the flight, I met an American couple on their way to India to visit family. The wife, originally from India, warned me that she would be concerned for her safety if not traveling with her husband. In general, she didn’t feel that India was safe for women. For that reason, I spent a lot of time researching to see if her opinion was valid.
I also spoke with a friend, Indian female, who recently traveled in India alone and was fine. She said accurately that India is a big country and there are places to avoid just like in America.
I have put India on hold until 2019. At that time, I might be willing to part with $15,000, tour +air, to see India with Tauck or have reduced my concerns feeling more comfortable with a cheaper option.