- Route plan

   We should pay a trip to India since in our travel to Thailand in 2010 we were forced to remove the tour through Golden Triangle (Delhi, Jaipur and Agra) because of a cut on our available time.

   Somehow, this travel to India didn’t come directly, but from looking for the best way of enjoying Maldives Islands. We soon learnt flights to Male, the capital city of the lowest country in the world, are expensive, but we could save some money if we fly to different country with more aerial traffic and come back from the islands, and is then when the India came up.

   With the money saved in the flights we could pay the tour through the Golden Triangle, so we could say it was for free. And this would be the base for what finally has been this travel.

   Our wish was going to Kuredu Island, the one chosen for Maldives when we checked those pictures of the paradise could be ours for an expensive All-inclusive rate, but affordable. Somehow, the itinerary through India every time needed of more days, which were taken from Kuredu’s. The good news was every day taken from Maldives to spend in India means a good fall in the budget.

   Then we went for the when: it should be in 2014. That year it was a coincidence which made this travel unique: we already decided be in Kuredu the last days before the Peak season, which stars on November 1st and rates rise; but in 2014, the previous week to the one scheduled to be in Maldives, the one to be in India, hits the Diwali, the major festival of the country.

   With this, we had an itinerary through India seemed definitive when we purchased the flights, booked the hotels and got the domestic flight from Varanasi to Delhi with Spice Jet: first day visiting Old Delhi, next day train to Jaipur where we spend three nights, two days for Agra, although only one night as the second one we spend it in a train to Varanasi; two entire days in Varanasi and an early flight to Delhi the next one to spend two more days exploring New Delhi, but only one night, as the flight to Maldives leaves at evening.

First itinerary through India

   This was a plan with no rushes, with spare time in every of the four cities so we could arrange it for adding a visit to Gwailor and Orccha. That needed day was removed from the three days in Jaipur and the rest of the route kept the same as we could take a night train to Varanasi from Jhansi.

   We were missing some of nature in our itinerary and I was still looking for options, like a one day visit to Ranthambore National Park from Jaipur. And then is when I made the discovery would prove the flexibility of the bookings we had for India. I found out Sundarbans are easily reachable from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). It is the largest mangrove in the world and it is one of our 49 wonders. I hadn’t thought about it in a first moment because it was labeled in our list as belonging to Bangladesh, but it really is in both countries.

   The only thing I needed to fit a two days-one night tour to Sundarbans was reaching Varanasi one day earlier and taking one day off from those two entire days in New Delhi before going to Maldives. The day for getting Varanasi earlier was clear, as we just added it: we’ll go to Varanasi directly from Agra, removing Gwailor and Orccha from the plan. Then, after spending one night in Varanasi, the next day we would fly to Kolkata at evening and, after changing our Spice Jet flight from Varanasi – Delhi to Kolkata – Delhi, made the miracle of getting two entire days in Kolkata from a closed itinerary.

Itinerary through India

   Still a last change came when checking options for train from Agra to Varanasi as none of them was good for us: we didn’t want to share our space with two strangers and the only options in Indian trains to avoid that is being lucky in First Class, as there are two 2-Berth cabins in every train. But that class is used just on a few of trains and was not available for any of our valid routes. So our final choice changed the itinerary a little bit but is coming with some advantages: as there are no direct flights between Agra and Varanasi we’ve got a Delhi – Varanasi flight because there are a bunch of trains covering the distance between Agra and Delhi in 2 or 3 hours. This allow us to spend the night in Delhi and repeat hotel, where we can leave some baggage to be taken the last day before going to Maldives. Then, the flight to Varanasi would be early on Diwali day arriving soon and restful.

Final itinerary through India

   So finally we’ll spend 10 days and 9 nights in India and 5 days and nights in Maldives. The definitive route plan (number of day and where we sleep) is the following, starting by October 17th of 2014:

1: Flight
2: Delhi
3 y 4: Jaipur
5: Agra
6: Delhi
7: Varanasi
8: Kolkata
9: Sundarbans
10: Delhi
12, 13, 14 y 15: Kuredu

   The budget for this travel is around 4000€ for the two of us, which means how cheap a travel through India is when knowing 1500€ are only for Kuredu Hotel and 2000€ are spent in the total of all our flights. This is the reason we want to help to the ones who are thinking in a typical tour through India:

   10 days tour to Northern India: Delhi, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Gwailor, Orccha and Varanasi by 800€ per person.

   - When we purchased the flights, a return flight to Delhi was available by 490€
   - The hotels would be the same, only one more night in Agra and one less in Varanasi (the one spent in the night train). This gives a total amount of 350€ for allocation.
    - One single domestic flight from Varanasi to Delhi for which we already paid 110€ for two persons.
    - A night traqin trip from Jhansi to Varanasi, which is available by 15€ p.p. in AC2 Tier class.
    - Two trips by car: one from Jaipur to Agra (with stops in Abhaneri and Fatehpur Sikri) and another from Agra to Jhansi (with stops in Gwailor and Orccha). We can set a value around 4000 INR each: 100€ in total.

   The total budget for this travel is 1600€ per couple. From this point, you can customize this itinerary at will, for example, by adding a night in Kahurajo after visiting Orccha or adding one more day in Jaipur to visit Ranthambore National Park.

- Flights

   The flights have had so influence on the travel plan that it is because of them it is called “India” instead of “Maldives”.

   In our first searches we could see flights to Maldives were so expensive – around 900€ - as to make us look for flights to other countries nearby with cheaper flights. The most relevant of these countries is India, where we could fly to by around 500€. It is then when we planned this travel to spend one week in a tour through Northern India and the next week relaxing in Maldives Islands.

   The difference in the flight tickets would pay the week in India. The difference on the flight rates changed from 1000-900€ for a round trip to Maldives and around 700€ going to Delhi and returning from Maldives from our first searches, to 800€ for the first option and around 600€ for the second from deeper searches.

   Somehow, the best option appeared from our beloved Turkish Airlines, which early enough allow us to purchase a flight to Delhi and a return flight from Male by 585€. We have already got the miles card of this company for the both of us.

   With this, the next flight to get was the one between the two countries, from Delhi to Maldives, with no flexibility. There are just a few options and none a direct one.

   The cheaper option is coming from combining two Jet Airways flights to reach Colombo and, from there, taking a SriLankan Airlines flight to Male. This can be even lower than 200€. The most practical, though, is a flight with a single link: SriLankan has flights with stop in Colombo and Air India with stop in Bangalore. Somehow, the cheapest flights for this last option force to spend the night in Bangalore and, even with that, are still more expensive than the SriLankan ones, which have a single rate of 225€ for all their flights of this route.

   The only thing to decide then was the length of the link in Colombo: the shortest is two hours, but arrives to Maldives at 1:10 AM. As we don’t need any visa to visit Sri Lanka we thought about spending one day its capital city, but we were told by people who was there that city has not a lot to offer and, when the Indian itinerary grew so much, it was not an option anymore, so we’ve taken the shortest link on despite of the arrival time.

Flights for India and Maldives

   Our itinerary through India needed two domestic flights. First we purchased two tickets for a Varanasi to Delhi flight with Spice Jet by 6830 INR, to which we added 4200 INR by the allowance of 10 Kg more for each of our two bags as the maximum was set to 15 Kg. This made a total of 11030 INR.

   When the Kolkata option appeared we needed to change this flight. This is usually not an option for low cost companies but we found out we could easily do it with Spice Jet by 3000 INR (1500 rupees by ticket, around 18€). The new flight must leave Kolkata as late as possible to have time enough for exploring Sundarbans that day and we managed it by 12774 INR (this is the rate of the two tickets of the flight without including the 3000INR for changing it).

   We found only one airline with direct flights between Varanasi and Kolkata, one we didn’t hear about until that moment: JetKonnect. The time for this flight was right for our plans so we purchased two tickets by 80€ each. Later we would discover these flights are operated by Jet Airways and, on May, they were a bit cheaper: around 70€.

   Later on, when we refused going to Varanasi by train from Agra, we searched for the existing options by plane and found out there is no direct flight between these two cities. When checking the cost in time and money is high for the one link flights we chose a Delhi – Varanasi flight instead, thinking about going from Agra to Delhi by a quick train. We used Spice Jet again for this and got our flight by 3271 INR per person.
   We still will have two more flights on this travel, the ones we’ve been forced to pay when booking the Resort in Maldives as they are the only way of reaching it: by seaplane. We don’t know times, but we’ve been charged 330$ per person for them, which are already included on the hotel rate.

   Finally, then, the flights are like this:

   One way to Delhi and return from Maldives with Turkish Airlines by 1170€ (585€ p.p.):

10/17/2014   BCN 12:25    IST   16:45
10/17/2014   IST  19:55    DEL  04:20
11/01/2014   MLE 23:50    IST   05:30
11/02/2014   IST  08:00    BCN  10:45

   One way flight from Delhi to Maldivas with Sri Lankan Airlines by 459€ (224,5€ p.p):

10/27/2014   DEL  18:40   CMB  22:15
10/28/2014   CMB 00:15    MLE  01:10

   And then we have three domestic flights in India: one from Varanasi to Kolkata with JetKonnect by 160€ (80€ p.p.):

10/24/2014   VNS 17:50    CCU  19:40

   Another from Kolkata to Delhi with Spice Jet by 150€ (75€ p.p.):

10/26/2014   CCU 20:25    DEL  23:00

   And another one from Delhi to Varanasi, with Spice Jet too, by 83 € (41.5€ p.p.):

10/23/2014   DEL  09:05   VNS  10:25

- Hotels

   The source of this whole travel is a hotel: Kuredu Resort Maldives. There we can enjoy the paradise in an All-Inclusive basis from 285$ per day. We’ve chosen the Beach Bungalow, which is 310$ per day.Kuredu

   At the beginning our thought was spend a week there, but India has been taking days until leaving finally in four nights, which are enough for restless people like us. We must add 330$ per person to the hotel rate for the needed seaplane return trip from Male.

   We want also to add the 155$ of the Robinson Crusoe Experience from the activities list. It is spending half day in a small desert island just for the two of us.

   All sum a total of 2055$, which are translated to around 1500€.

    For the rest of hotels I’ve searched in booking.es to make my choices from the vast offer of the Indian cities we’re going to visit.

   In Jaipur we’ve chosen a hotel looking spectacular with unbelievable rates. The reviews are fantastic for Hotel Umaid Mahal. It’s 3500 INR per night.

   In Agra we’ve focused in location: as close as possible to Taj Mahal in order of being able of do our early visit. The one we’ve chosen based on that is Hotel Taj Resorts, for which we’ll pay 5000 INR by the unique night we’re going to spend there.

   For Varanasi we should search out of the typical sites and look at the hotels at Ganges shore in their own websites. We've contacted by email directly to Hotel Alka to book one night in the best of their rooms by 3500 INR.

   As the time we're going to be in Kolkata is quite short as we'll be mainly in Sundarbans, our best option if we want to see the city center is being allocated right there. We've booked one night at Hotel New Kenilworth by 6500 INR.

   We've been looking for two different hotels in Delhi as our needs the two separated days we're going to be in this city are different too. For our first day in India we've searched amongst the hotels in Old Delhi area as this is the one we're going to visit mainly this day. It's good if it is close to the train station as we'll need to be there early the next morning. The chosen has been Hotel Arina Inn, which will cost 3899 INR.

   For our last night in India we've looked for a hotel in New Delhi, with good communication with Indira Gandhi International Airport and the rest of spots to be visited in the capital city. Hotel Silver Ferns, offers this, with a metro station in the line where the most of the visits are. We'll pay 4749 INR for it.

   When appeared the chance of spending one night in Delhi in our way from Agra to Varanasi we had no second thoughts: we took 
Hotel Silver Ferns again because we needed this good communication with the airport but, overall, because we can leave some baggage behind to be taken back just before leaving to Maldives.

   With all the hotels in India taken, there is only one more to book: the one where we rest the night we arrive to Maldives capital city, Male. We need good communication with the airport and to be close to the few spots to visit in that city, which is easy as we're talking about a really small city. We'll pay 93$ for being a few hours in Hotel Nasandhura Palace.

  The cost for hotels then is like this:

- For India: 7000 + 5000 + 4750 + 3500 + 6500 + 3900 + 4750 = 35400 INR (Rupees)
- For Maldives: 2055 + 93 = 2148$

   This makes an approximate total cost in euros of 425 + 1545 = 1970€, which looks a disproportionate amount but it is taken mainly by the 1500€ of Kuredu. Without it, the average cost in hotels is around 50€ per night.

-Car rental

   I’m not going to drive on this travel. Somehow, we are going to use a hired car with driver to cover the trip between Jaipur and Agra with two stops in our way: Abhaneri and Fatehpur Sikri.

   We’ll get this service once there and based on what I’ve read online the rate will be between 4000 and 5000 INR.

   For moving around in the cities we’ll use other very cheap transports taken when needed. These are local vehicles as auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and other local transports.

-Other expenses

   The main expense here is the train. Using Cleartrip website we can see the timetable and rates for the trains for every route. As the bookings are only available since 60 days in advance we cannot get ticket confirmation or seats availability until mid-August.

   The routes we've booked and prepaid are:

- Ajmer Shatabdi           New Delhi   06:05      Jaipur              10:35    Clase 1A    2058 INR
Chattisgarth Express   Agra Cantt  16:08      H Nizamuddin   19:55    Clase 1A    2300 INR
- Taj Express                Agra Cantt  18:55      H Nizamuddin   22:05    AC Chair      730 INR

   We've got two different reservations for the same route Agra - Delhi as the one on class 1A and more convenient timing is on waitlist, so we've got place on a later train on chair to be sure we end that day in Delhi. This last one and the one to Jaipur are confirmed.

   Another expense is coming from the Sundarbans tour from Kolkata. We’ve chosen Sundarban Chalo, which offer a much recommended tours at incredible prices: 3000 INR per person for the one-day tour and 4000 INR for the two days-one night one. The price includes everything: hotel, meals, water, transport…

   We, though, go for a private two days-one night tour because we need to be earlier than their group returning time in Kolkata airport for our flight back to Delhi. It is 6000 INR per person.

   The last expense to mention here is the one for Indian visa. We're going to be one of the last persons to get the visa in the "old way": 175€ by two visas by sending all the requested documents using their shipping company. The passports were received, with the visa filling an entire page in them, in less than a week.

   Detailed plan, then, is like this:

Day Night Morning Afternoon
17 In flight Home Flying to Delhi
18 Delhi Old Delhi Old Delhi
19 Jaipur Train to Jaipur
Jaipur's city center
20 Jaipur Amber Fort Galtaji
21 Agra Fatehpur Sikri
Agra Fort
22 Delhi
Taj Mahal Train to Delhi
23 Varanasi Flight to Varanasi Ghats
24 Kolcata Ghats Flight to Kolcata
25 Sundarbans Kolcata Sundarbans
26 Delhi Sundarbans Flight to Delhi
27 Male New Delhi Flight to Male
28 Kuredu Male Kuredu
29 Kuredu Kuredu Kuredu
30 Kuredu Kuredu Kuredu
31 Kuredu Kuredu Kuredu
1 In flight Kuredu Flight to home