Colorful India

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Tina Beeck, her husband Greg Thurman and their three sons: Beeck (13), Miller (11) and James (9).

The Cost
A round trip flight from Beijing to Delhi for a family of five was RMB 18,870. There was an additional RMB 10,400 for in-country flights. The family averaged about RMB 900 per day for hotels, food, local transportation (taxi, rickshaw, train, bus) and entrance fees. The grand total (excluding shopping) was RMB 48,800.

The Plan
The family purchased round-trip tickets to Delhi in Beijing with the travel agency Easy Travel. Tickets for in-country flights were purchased via KingfisherAirline’s and SpiceJet Airline’s websites. Tina’s credit card was not accepted online, but she managed to purchase her tickets via a Skype call. Using Lonely Planet India to select accommodation, they made reservations with various guesthouses by phone. Tina used Skype when calling from within China and an in-country mobile phone when in India. Train and bus tickets were purchased through websites, but it’s cheaper in person at the train station and guesthouses. The trip took the family through a wide swath of India: Delhi, Varanasi, Darjeeling, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hampi and Goa.

The Best Part
Tina and her husband have a love affair with India. They found sharing the sights and sounds of India with their children particularly meaningful.The Taj Mahal, the "hill station" of Darjeeling tea fields, Kolkata’s flower market, and Mother Teresa’s Mission and Motherhouse were all highlights. Varanasi, a city built along the banks of the Ganges, is magical. People come far and wide to cremate their dead on the banks of the Ganges and bathe in its purifying waters.

The Worst Part
To save money, the family elected to ride an overnight bus from Hospet (near Hampi) to Goa in lieu of an early morning 6-hour train ride. It was a mistake: the bus wasn’t air-conditioned and the sleeping berths were designed for short, thin people. As the bus screamed through the dark, hilly landscape of Karnataka, they clenched the edges of their berths to keep from sliding off into the aisles. The family arrived at four in the morning, with the final 25km leg of their trip to Varca Beach still to go.

Most Unexpected Event
Hampi Bazaar was a great find. A relatively quiet place to hang out, visitors can rent bikes and ride through the ancient city, visiting 500-year-old royal buildings and temples. The family stumbled across the Feast of the Three Kings. Held on January 6, the village of Chandor (in Goa) celebrates Epiphany in a Catholic church. Men were dressed in their best suits and women in their brightest saris. Dressed as kings, three local boys paraded through the town and into the church with their gifts. After mass, stalls sprung up along the streets.

Family-Friendly Features
India is great place to travel with kids. Something interesting is always happening and Indians are open, friendly and willing to share stories with you. English was widely spoken in the tourist areas and tour guides are easy to find.

Travel Tips
India is a huge country and there is a lot to see. Investigate the cost involved in flying between cities and spend time to find the most cost effective routes. Choose guesthouses with restaurants – rooms are not usually luxurious, so it’s nice to have a restaurant to escape to. Varanasi is not to be missed and is best enjoyed if you stay along the Ganges River in the old city. And definitely fit in Rajasthan. Lastly, don’t let negativecomments about travelling in India deter you! Bring an open mind and some common sense and you’ll have a great time.

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