GADVENTURES NORTH TO SOUTH INDIA ON A SHOESTRING – REVIEW
Looking at whether or not you should do the Gadventures North to South India on a shoestring trip? Here is our honest review!
We completed the 21 day trip in April – May 2019 and managed to explore what felt like the top to the bottom of India. There has been some ups and downs to the trip but we have enjoyed nearly every second. Below we go into a bit more detail about the highlights, and lowlights of the trip. Looking at whether or not you should do the Gadventures North to South India on a shoestring trip? Here is our honest review! If you have any questions, pop me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Before we start, here is the link to the trip. I am by no means affiliated with Gadventures, we paid fair and square for our trip. Clicking on the link just takes you to the trip page.
The Gadventure north to south India on a shoestring is a 21 day trip that includes transport in country, accommodation & certain meals.
From the hectic pace of northern Delhi to the beaches of Goa and the fishing nets of relaxed Kochi, this certainly is an epic journey. Groups will be able to watch the sunrise at Savitri temple in Pushkar and explore the canals of Alleppey on your way to a homestay with a local family. Each trip is organised by the Gadventures Chief Experience Officers (CEOs), meaning you don’t need to worry about transport or accommodation.
Note – this trip is split into 2 parts, north and south. You spend 14 days with your northern CEO before you fly solo Goa to Kochi and meet your Southern CEO. This means you get 2 different welcome meetings and the structures are completely different (maybe not intentional. it’s just the way it felt). The north is definitely a lot more full on, busy and constant – filled with public transport, a good range of hotels and lots of activities. Southern India is a complete change, it almost feels like luxury – everything is slower, you have private transport and the accommodation is great.
Travel Style 18-39
Physical Rating: 2 – light
Group Size: Max 18, average 14.
Just before you head on your trip, you can log in to the app and get all the information for your upcoming trip. You can see your day by day itinerary, extra options, even a chat so you can message your group before you travel and maybe arrange to meet up if you arrive a few days early.
Why did we choose a Gadventures trip for India?
We decided to go for a tour for India through thorough research and recommendations off of my colleagues at work (expedition company who sends student backpackers around the world). Going from what we had read and heard, we just thought it would be a better idea to go with a tour for India. It was going to be our first official destination for travelling and so we wanted the ease to adjust ourselves to the travelling life; having the accommodation and transport already organised for you was just such a relief off of our shoulders.
We went with Gadventures as I have had several friends who went away with them and recommended them. They offered the best price and I felt like the tour really was showing us a good amount of places in the duration of the 21 days.
The tour is called north to south India on a shoestring, and it covered nearly everything north to south on the west coast. Yes it would have been good to get right up north in the Himalayas but with the time we had, I think it was a great route.
The tour starts in the hectic city of Delhi, before heading to major stops such as Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, and Goa before it slows down in the south, including Kochi and Varkala. For us, it was going to take us to places we had never heard of, as well as ticking the well known places off as well.
You get a short amount of time in each city, some you only get a few hours, others you get up to three days – it’s whatever works with the itinerary and travel.
My favourite places – Kochi and Pushkar.
Just one I wanted to add for this, I really wanted to see Goa, it always has sounded really exciting. Unfortunately our flight was delayed on the day we were meant to be going meaning we didn’t arrive until 10pm (although this still gave us time to explore the bar life). We then had a day at the beach before leaving early in the morning the next day. I feel where we were placed didn’t really do Goa justice, we were really far away from the main points and just don’t really feel like we got to see Goa.
Our trip cost a total of £1400 per person not including flights, visas and food. 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners are included in your price as well as several entry fees (there is a list, it’s best to check the website – main inclusions: Taj Mahal, Kerala boat tour & internal flights).
Flights can range between £250-£400 dependant on when you purchase your tickets and the visa costs $100USD which can only be obtained 3 months in advance. If you head out a few days before, factor in accommodation (could be between £20-£50, if you stay in the same hotels as the trip, that saves you money).
Gadventures tells you to allow $450-$585 for food per person (I think this is what we spent for 2 of us), and a recommended $200 for extra activities. There are plenty of other activities provided, all at an extra cost. Here are a few for example:
– Agra Fort Visit (600INR per person)
– Raj Mandir Cinema and Movie (200-400INR per person)
– The Jaipur Observatory Visit (100INR per person, 1000INR per group)
– Jaipur Balloon Ride ($250 per person)
– Dinner in the desert (1200INR per person – they charged us 1600INR per person)
– Boat ride on Lake Pichola (500INR per person)
– Rajasthani Cultural Show (150INR per person)
– Udaipur Cooking School (2000-2000INR per person)
– City Tour (800-4000INR per group)
– Kathakali Dance (350INR per person)
We took part in several of these activities, you either pay your CEO or the guides you go with direct. Some activities you can book in advance before you head out on your travels, just get in touch with your Gadventures contact to book.
Just keep an eye out, some of the costs Gadventures charges are quite expensive. For example in Udaipur, 5 of us chose not to do the cooking class provided by Gadventures but found one for £10 cheaper, ended up cooking more things than the group and actually being a bit more hands on in the preparation of the food. Check that out here.
We ate out every single day. The group would often go out for our lunches and dinners but usually stayed in the hotels for our breakfasts. There was a good range of restaurants; at the beginning only finding authentic Indian food, towards the middle the western dishes started to flow in and in the south it was a mix of western, fish and southern dishes.
The pricing was a good mix, and depending on your budget, you could splurge out a bit more or just have one dish. I have to admit, we started out fairly expensive, the first 2/3 restaurants, we were paying similar prices to what we would at home so about £15-£20 for 2 people. There were a few travellers on the trip and it was way out of our price range, so I had a little word with the CEO and from then on, we never paid more than £7 for 2 people.
Vegetarians & vegans do not fear – you have plenty of options. Northern India is a bit more vegetarian and vegan friendly with the majority of the dishes being veggie. In the south, the options start to reduce as fish, beef and chicken are more popular; there is still plenty for you to eat but you only get one page of food options rather than the whole menu. My favourite dish – vegetable stew with appam.
Don’t forget, you have 2 dinners, 3 lunches and 2 breakfasts included – ask your CEO or check your trip details for when these are. Perhaps you could look at some restaurants in advance.
Qissa – Kochi
Sheroes Hangout – Agra
House of nations – Udaipur
Kitchen with a cause – Delhi
The hotels were definitely hit and miss throughout the trip and to be honest – if you look at the reviews on Tripadvisor for some, they sound horrible. From our personal experience, all of the hotels were perfectly fine, and for some, you got what you paid for. For others, you were treated like royalty. Don’t let the Tripadvisor reviews scare you – Gadventures would never put anyone into a hotel that is uncomfortable for everyone. I just enjoyed that there was a mix of hotels or homestays and the facilities provided with them (such a pools, yoga, massages etc).
A few highlighted accommodation:
-Hotel Jaipur Inn – Jaipur. This was just a lovely experience, a real back packer feel to this hotel and it was just a great layout and chilled vibe.
-Hotel Tordi Garh – Tordi Sagar. Essentially a royal palace in a village.
-Hotel Royal Dezire – Udaipur. The most comfortable beds.
-Alasr Heritage Home – Alleppey. A highlight of the trip, this had a real family feel to it. It was run by a lovely family who put so much care into looking after the group. This would be the 10/10 on the whole trip.
We have a few to mention, it’s easier to just bullet point them:
- Taj Mahal. It really is as majestic as they say, it really gave the group a good buzz.
- The pool at the Pushkar hotel, it came at just the right time.
- South India, there was just such a change in the pace, activities and transport. It’s stunning down south (the north is as well), the south just made more of an impact on us.
- Watching the sunrise at the Savitri Temple
- The amount of plastic and rubbish you see in India. There are signs everywhere to look after the planet and not dumb plastic but they just fall on deaf ears.
- Seeing the lack of care for animals. Skinny dogs and cows roam the streets, and elephant rides still happen at Amber Fort.
- Udaipur to Ahmedabad to Mumbai. This is just a horrible day. It’s long, it is hot and noone has a good day. It’s a 6/7 hour bus journey on a sticky bus followed by an overnight train. Make sure you get on the overnight train as quick as you can otherwise locals might not let you set up your bed, just like it happened to me. They didn’t want to go to sleep, and so I had to stand and wait until they decided they would let me set up my bed. This was almost my breaking point of the trip.
Negatives of going with a tour
We couldn’t think of too many negatives but after speaking to the group before we left, the same 3 popped up.
- Big groups are hard to work with. There’s a lot of time waiting around for everyone, one person was always late or we were separated on different carriages and so we had to wait and make sure everyone was together. It took a long time to make any decisions (especially about food when everyone is hangry anyway!). Our group was great, everyone got along really well, but the size (19 of us) was almost just too big.
- Tips. This became a bit of a sour point at the start of the trip. We were told about a group kitty and how much we should tip. It almost felt like we had to tip every single person we came into contact with and the group kitty was just not going to work with our budget. We researched into it before we went away and it was to tip when you felt the service was due, which when the group decided, I was the only one that said I didn’t want to do the group kitty, and then others agreed it was just too much money. We all chose to tip when we wanted to.
- The money/payment was another point, is that at points, we were definitely getting charged more than we should. Our CEO was saying different prices to what was on the website. We were being quoted silly money for taxis, some coming up to 100INR per person, per tuk tuk or taxi which frankly is ridiculous. We ended up getting Ubers instead as usually when the group was getting charged 300INR for a tuk tuk, we would be paying 80-90INR per tuk tuk. The directions then became a little hazy during the process, I don’t know if we annoyed them by paying for the cheaper option but it seemed like it was a bit of a hassle that we put our foot down to paying the Gadventure prices. Just keep an eye on it, stand your ground if you don’t think you should be paying those prices.
Positives going with a tour
- Everything was so easy. You came out of the airport or train station and your taxis/tuk tuks were already waiting for you. Your train tickets already purchased and seats already arranged. Everything just worked so smoothly and it really took any trouble out of the trip
- The group we had was great. With so many people, you could spend time with different people each day and we really all came together.
- Lots of activities to do. Maybe we wouldn’t have thought of them if we were on our own, but there’s lots of choices of things to do.
- It was just a great time.
Worth the money?
For the service we got, the ease of the trip and the general atmosphere – yes, I would say the Gadventures trip is worth the money. I won’t deny that this can all be done cheaper, but to have the ease of travelling and being part of a group really is a great experience. Travelling solo in India, I don’t think I would have been able to see all the places we did or do half the things we got to do. I don’t think anything can replace a great experience, no matter the cost.
Would we recommend Gadventures?
Yes. The company is simple, effective and really know how to do their job. Obviously I have some improvement points I think they could make, but for a tour, I think they are a good pick. I think this is a great tour for seasoned travellers as well as first time travellers – I think you need to be aware that this is not a party trip, but more of a cultural trip.
We definitely did enjoy our trip, with a few improvement points, I think our trip was a great success. We would definitely travel with Gadventures again.
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