As I write this, I am sitting in my seat on my Emirates flight (Airbus 380) having travelled to India. It’s been a while since I flew Emirates and the service never ceases to amaze me, but I have to say it was touch and go if I would actually make it to India and I certainly had to jump through ‘hindi’ hoops to get there. The idea and purpose, to see as much as I could of India within 10 days with the hope of seeing the Tigers in one or both of the national parks to help with my wildlife knowledge.
Here is the Itinerary in brief:
London – Delhi – Bhandavgrah – Agra – Bharatpur – Ranthambore National Park – Jaipur- Delhi – London.
Like for many of us, this trip was cancelled last year due to the pandemic but was resurrected as India was removed from the government’s restricted countries list in late Summer. There was also news that e-visas would be introduced for leisure travellers. This looked to be a nice easy solution (and free of charge – even better) to enter the country and travel after all. However, when I started the process, it appeared that this visa service was not available to UK citizens….grrr!!!
Thanks to Yasin Zargar at Indus Experiences (a long-standing friend in the industry who helped organise the entire trip with me) he put me on to Darren Bridges from Travcour who specialises in visa services. The issues were that the e-visas service was still in question and the Indian High Commission were only offering an appointment service – the next available slot was the 23rd November and I was leaving on the 19th!!
Travcour monitored the appointments daily and just as I was about to pull the plug on the whole trip, a slot became available on 11th November. To cut a long story short, Travcour submitted the passport and were called to collect the visa at 4pm on Wednesday (17th November). They caught the 5pm post that day and my passport (with visa) arrived at 12.30 special delivery on Thursday 18th November….I was flying on the 19th!!
A PCR test was taken within 72 hours of departure just in case and all the relevant online paperwork completed for entry into India (PCR test/certificate, vaccine certification and a copy of the passport) in good time. I downloaded the Aarogya Setu (a mandatory Indian App) which monitors your covid status during your time in the country. This only worked fully on arrival in Delhi, so don’t panic if it doesn’t work before you leave the UK. With Dubai’s testing requirements and the change in our UK government policies I took a PCR test withing 48 hours of my departure from India and then another the day after I arrived (2-day test to release).
I have written more about my experiences in the blogs to follow, but I have to say I had no expectations about travelling to India. I felt it was something I should do for my business, especially promoting the Tigers. In fact (despite my many years’ experience in the travel industry) I was a little nervous and perhaps more hesitant than anything with the stories you read and imagines you see of India. There also wasn’t the usual excitement you get when travelling, especially as it was touch and go whether I would actually get there or not. But I have to say I was totally unprepared and blown away by everything I saw and have certainly fallen in love with the country (and the tigers). You have to go with the flow, take things in your stride and embrace the lifestyle, people and their cultures. Without doubt I will be recommending India as a ‘must see’ destination as it has certainly changed my views of the country and something I feel everyone should experience at some stage in their lifetime.
Finally, travel is certainly possible and for the sake of a few tests and some mask wearing, I would do it all again tomorrow. I would also like to pass on my thanks again to all of those that made my trip so memorable and in particular to Yasin and Seema from Indus Experiences, all the hotels that hosted me, the Indus staff and guides that helped me in each place I stopped and of course Darren from Travcour – without any of their expertise and service the trip would not have been possible.