Traveling to India. Am I nuts?

 

My next adventure will take me to the mystical Indian subcontinent. As I announced it to my family and friends I was greeted with bewilderment and questions of: Why? Are you crazy?

I myself began to question whether or not it was a good idea as I was told:

  • It’s extremely dangerous, especially traveling by road
  • It’s filthy and extremely hot and the stench can be unbearable
  • You will get sick (most likely food poising aka “Delhi Belly”)
  • You will get scammed and/or pick pocketed
  • Poverty abounds and beggars will be relentless
  • The mass of people leaves you with no “personal space”

All these above points are indeed valid yet the fact remained that I was planning on travelling during the freezing Canadian winter months of January and February and there are only so many travel destinations to visit during those months other than the usual Caribbean island hotspots that all fellow Canadians seem to visit during the long winter chill.

I myself have joined the throngs of freezing Canadians on previous occasions and have in fact visited:

  • Jamaica
  • Mexico (twice)
  • Florida (twice)
  • Cuba

While there are other spots that I am sure I will visit in the future I wanted more of an adventure this time as I simply can’t spend endless days relaxing on a beach.

I began to research the best January destinations where the weather would be warm enough to un-thaw me from the deep winter chill while also satisfying my craving to see something new and capture some stunning photos to add to my portfolio.

My list was shortened immediately as anything in the Northern hemisphere was eliminated and I narrowed it down to the following destinations:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • South Africa
  • Thailand
  • India

Each destination enticed me but I eventually settled on India (to my amazement) for the following reasons:

Australia 

It was simply too expensive for me at this time as to do it justice I would have to spend a full month and after making a quick mock up of my proposed itinerary I was looking at spending approximately $20,000 for the trip. Ouch, not happening right now.

Brazil

I have always wanted to visit this magnificent country and have never been to South America but as I planned my itinerary I quickly found that I would need only 2 weeks to visit the areas I was interested in and I definitely wanted a longer trip as last year I only managed to get away for a week as I visited Cuba for the first time. I almost went to Brazil instead of Cuba last year but was scared off by the safety issues as I do usually walk around with about $10,000 in photography equipment in my backpack.

South Africa

Another destination that I have dreamt about for years and January seems the perfect time to visit but once again I would not be traveling for the beaches. While sitting on a Capetown beach for a day or two would definitely be part of my vacation I have two major “bucket list” South Africa adventures that are “musts” for any trip to the southern tip of Africa:

  • Cage dive with great white sharks
  • Safari at Kruger National Park

Unfortunately January is the low season for both activities as August/September is the best time of year to partake in these adventures and there is no way I would travel all that distance and be denied a chance to encounter some of these magnificent creatures.

Thailand

An interesting destination and one I’m sure I’ll visit in the future but it just doesn’t have the allure of the subcontinent and while there is quite a lot to see and do it does seem like a place where a beach holiday is the main attraction.

India

While not initially my first choice (probably not even in my top 25) it was actually an old friend that I happened to run into one day who asked me about my traveling adventures and finished off with: “Have you been to India?” that first conjured up the thought of my visiting this exotic destination.

The more research I did the more I became intrigued about the possibility of traveling to a destination that I had never even considered before. It seemed not to be too costly and it is such a huge and diverse country they are limitless things to see and do.

For a photographer the sights are amazing and I would be able to cross off the Taj Mahal from my bucket list of “must see” places.

After taking everything in consideration I began preparing for the trip (without informing my wife and co-traveler) and constantly monitored the main airfare sites I utilize to see exactly when was the best time to travel both in terms of cost and weather.

India Weather

India is HOT and temperatures in the touristic northern regions regularly push 40”C for great stretches of the year. January/February is definitely the best time of year to visit as it is their “winter” and temperatures normally hover in the 25 – 30”C range during the day and drop down to about 5-10C at night. Definitely warm by Canadian winter standards and meaning for the most part I will be able to walk around in a T-shirt and shorts.

It is also the dry season in a country famed for its monsoon’s and tropical rainstorms and the dry season means it is also the low season for insects such as the ever present mosquito’s (carriers of Malaria and Typhoid amongst other diseases).

It seems to be the perfect time to visit if I was ever to go!

Airfare

Traveling to India is a LONG flight from Toronto, Canada and most economically feasible flights have 1 or two stops along the way and are 20 – 30 hours in duration.

I kept scouring FlightHub.com and CheapFlights.ca daily for a couple of months and kept getting return flights in the $1100 CDN range but they usually included at least one stop and the stops were always in northern climate cities such as:

  • Helsinki
  • Moscow

Being Canadian I really didn’t want to take a chance at a stopover in one of the northern destinations, as I know the chance of delays due to bad weather can be quite high.

Direct flights were always available via Air Canada (14 hours) but were always in the $1400 CDN price range.

One day I noticed that the direct non-stop flights from Toronto to Delhi had dropped down to $1198 CDN and it was this day that I informed my wife of my plans of maybe traveling to India for our next vacation. The response I got was:

Are you crazy? There’s no way I’m going to that pigsty of a country!

I tried explaining that there were unlimited things to see and do but she just wasn’t having anything to do with it. India was dirty, disgusting and just plain not EVER in her plans.

Not dismayed I kept monitoring the sites and saw that the price drop was a one-time thing. Non-stop flights went back up to the $1400 – $1500 range with the occasional drop down to 1350 CDN.

In the meantime, I bought a DK Eyewitness book about India (a MUST for any country I travel through) and let her scour through it to see some of the interesting sights other than the Taj Mahal (the only one most people know of). Her interest began picking up and one night I happened to be searching Cheapflights.ca and I noticed I could get non-stop return flights through Air Canada for $1050 each.

I immediately showed her and asked if we should book it. She said OK and I immediately booked the flights before she had a change of heart. Upon receiving confirmation my India adventure was booked and it now became time to prepare an itinerary for this “once in a lifetime” adventure.

In my next post I will share my thought process on compiling my itinerary and hopefully will be able to share with you my final plans for this unbelievable trip.

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