Thinking about doing some group travel in India? This is what you need to know….
Today I’m talking about group travel in India.
So, to kick things off, I thought it would be best to ask a question: have you ever travelled with a group of strangers?
Nope? I was the same until a few months ago. I hadn’t ever travelled as part of a tour group before, and if you’d pitched the idea of travelling with a bunch of people I didn’t know I’m not sure how I would have felt about it.
However, having done a trip I would recommend it so highly. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life; I loved the laughs, I loved the conversations, and I loved having tall people around to take great group selfies! OK, so I’m joking (a little) about the last one.
I guess what I mean to say is that it’s just super cool to discover an exciting country with people who are just as passionate about travel as you. Group travel means instant friends and I loved connecting and hearing people’s stories on the trip. But let’s start at the beginning, before I get caught up in all my memories…
Group travel in India: what did I do?
OK, so I took part in an 11-day group tour around India with travel company called Intrepid. I went with my twin sister, and the rest of the 11-strong group was a mix of couples and independent travellers from Australia, Ireland and the UK.
We were also joined by our group leader, Sana. We joked she was our ‘minder’ for the trip because she basically took care of everything, from booking transfers, sorting out hotels, and making sure we were safe at all times.
If you’d like to read more about my adventures in India, check these posts out:
- Tips for visiting the Taj Mahal: your complete guide
- Varanasi: do’s and don’ts in the holy city
- Getting the sleeper train in India: your survival guide
- Jaipur: a pink-hued paradise
- Things to do in Delhi in 48 hours
And now, let’s answer some of those big questions about group travel in India…
Which are the best tour packages in India?
Deciding which tour you want to go on is a toughie. There are so many different tours to choose from – some last a week and some nearly three weeks. It’s basically a negotiation between budget and all the big hitter destinations that you really want to see.
Shortest tour package in India
The most time-friendly tour in the Golden Triangle tour in India, which goes to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, as well as including a one-night heritage stage, in eight days.
The cost of the Golden Triangle tour: from £645
The tour package in India that I went on
The tour I was on was the Indian Getaway tour, which visits Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, and has a one-night stay at a heritage hotel in Tordi Sagar. If you’ll look at the price you’ll see it’s actually cheaper to do this 11-day tour than it is to do the 8-day tour above.
The cost of the Indian Getaway tour: from £525
What are the best group travel companies?
I’m not sure I can give an honest answer to this one as I’ve only travelled with Intrepid. I chose Intrepid based on a recommendation by one of my friends, who’d also used them for a trip to India. She highly recommended them and I certainly didn’t have any complaints.
As I’ll talk about more below, our Intrepid tour guide was fantastic, so if that’s the standard they have for all the tour guides in their company they’re doing a great thing.
How much does it cost for an India tour?
As you might expect, the prices vary pretty wildly for group travel in India. As I mentioned, the tour I went was called the Indian Getaway tour and it cost £525.
The trips also vary in price depending on travel dates, so keep that in mind too.
Is there anything else I should know?
Well, this isn’t specific to India, but it’s relevant to all travel tours you may go on.
The really important thing to remember when booking a group travel tour in India is that the price is for the tour only. It doesn’t cover your flights to and from your destination. Don’t make the mistake of booking the tour and thinking that’s it – it’s not!
The other thing to be mindful of is that if you’re heading somewhere else after the tour or you want to stay where you are for another day or two then you will need to book another night in a hotel. Common sense, I know, but just make sure you’re prepared for that.
Is it better to travel with a tour group?
I would definitely argue that, yes, it’s better to travel with a tour group in India. Here are my reasons in short bullet points, and I’ll dive into them in a bit more detail below…
- You don’t have to worry about logistics
- It’s sociable – there’s always someone to hang out with
- You can pick up some awesome travel tips
Right, let’s dive into these in a bit more detail now!
What I enjoyed about group travel in India
1) You won’t be overwhelmed with logistics
India is a pretty overwhelming country for a first-time traveller, and I certainly felt that at times. It was therefore ace to have our tour leader looking after the logistical stuff.
Our group leader was called Sana and she did everything. And when I say everything, I mean it. She booked the tickets. Found our bunks in the overnight train. Sorted out tuk tuks. Advised us how much we should tip at hotels, at restaurants, everything.
All we had to do was be in the right place at the right time and all the transportation to our next trip was organised. I can’t tell you how much it took off your mind to not have to think about that kind of stuff. I hate feeling like I haven’t tipped enough – or the opposite – so having someone to advise on that was great and really took the stress out.
2) Group travel tours = people!
I loved the social aspect of group travel in India.
I wasn’t sure if I would find it a bit much or if people would get on my nerves after a while but that wasn’t the case at all. It was great fun to get to know everyone and hear their different travel stories about other places they’d been, what they liked, what they hadn’t liked, and what they wanted to do when they got back.
Everyone had a different story and a different reason for being there. Some people had been traveling for over a year, one person had never left Europe before, and others, like ourselves, just wanted to see India without all the stress of having to navigate it alone.
One of my favourite memories was all of us sitting together and chatting for hours on the overnight train to Varanasi. That was the first time that we all had time to really chat and I felt like we all really bonded. It honestly felt like having a sleepover when you were 13!
3) You can pick up travel tips from others
This was another great advantage of travelling with some really experienced travellers: there were so many amazing travel tips to soak up over the course of the trip.
Even while we were on the trip, I found find myself picking up recommendations. A good café to try for breakfast in Varanasi or which street food stand is worth trying in Delhi. There was one outside our hotel in Delhi that sold breakfast wraps which was recommended!
Someone in the group even had their own silk blanket with them that they used throughout the trip. That seemed like a particularly nice thing to have on the sleeper train in India. A touch of luxury in amongst the chaos! It was all the tips like that that I just soaked up like a sponge.
My review of group travel in India
Meeting for the first time
On your first day of your group tour in India you meet as a group for the first time in the hotel lobby. It’s funny because I remember sitting around this table of strangers, not knowing how much we would bond over the next few days. But we really did!
Everyone was different, because we also all had that travel connection it felt quite easy to connect. I found it really fun to compare notes on some of our previous travel experiences. We talked about the different ways we’d been scammed in Thailand (the Lucky Buddha tour, anyone?) as well as discussing our lives, our jobs, and our hopes for the future.
I’ve never been travelling per se, and I think the biggest reasons for that have been financial concerns and worries about stepping out of the rat race. I guess it was just nice to compare notes with others and realise that I’m not the only person to have these worries.
Building connections on the train
We all started to bond properly on day two of the trip when we all took the overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi. It was the first of two overnight trains during the trip. We were packed in together like sardines, and I loved the conversation and the laughs.
There were loads of opportunities to do your own thing throughout the 11 days. That said, I loved going out to dinner or wandering the streets of Delhi together to see what we could find.
By the time it ended, we had in-jokes and funny memories to look back on. Some of my favourites are one guy losing his flipflop getting on the metro, Sana photobombing, and me jumping out my skin thinking a bit of rubber on the ground was a snake.
Leaving with great memories (and a WhatsApp group)
Although we didn’t get to know everyone as well as others, I feel like everyone made the effort and came with a generous spirit. That showed with the lovely WhatsApp messages and the open invitations afterwards.
One guy even lent me their Vicks vapour rub for the cold I’d managed to pick up along the way – along with a hilarious story with how he used to eat it as a child.
It’s funny, because myself and my sister were originally due to leave a week earlier for our trip. We had to push it back a week due to a family party. I found myself wondering how different it would have been with different people.
Group travel in India: my top takeaways
1) Having a tour leader is wonderful
I’ve touched on how our group leader Sana was able to advise us throughout the trip on all the key logistical stuff, like tipping at restaurants or how much a tuk tuk fare should be.
But that’s not all. She was also just brilliant to hang out with. She was so much fun and loved to photobomb us as we were all taking our photos at various locations.
2) You can get a deeper insight into India
Sana was great fun but she also enabled as to take a deeper dive into India.
She had fascinating insights into Indian culture, the caste system, and what it’s like to be a woman in India. I look back so fondly on those conversations, particularly those we had on the sleeper train. You won’t get that kind of insight when you travel alone.
3) Not everyone will want to do the same thing
Our group was pretty harmonious for the most part. Some people would always want to go out for dinner as a group, whereas some would do their own thing, and that was cool.
I guess it’s important to remember that some people will be marching to the beat of their own drum. On our trip, the people who wanted to connect and hang out beyond the trip and excursions did so, and the ones that didn’t, didn’t. And that’s totally fine.
4) Different budgets can cause drama
The one sticky issue we ran into was to do with budget. Sana had advised that the best thing to do after our hotel stays was to contribute a certain amount of tip money collectively – for the employees that had carried our bags and so on. For most of us, this made sense.
However, one couple were on a tight budget and didn’t want to contribute. That made it a bit awkward. The takeaway is this: everyone is coming from their own perspective and that won’t necessarily be the same as yours.
5) Create a WhatsApp group
One other hiccup we had was one day in Agra when half of the group disappeared in the Gardens of the Taj Mahal. We ended up sitting in waiting in the bus for over an hour. Then it transpired that they thought we were supposed to be watching the sun set.
The rest of us had no idea about that though! That was a lesson in why you should create a WhatsApp group early on in the trip so you have everyone’s contact details. It also means you can share photographs at the end of your trip, which was lovely.