There are many beautiful and ancient things to see in India, which is not surprising considering it is a diverse country that boasts about a sixth of the world's population. It's also the spiritual home of Buddhism. We recently learned of some deals that favor those who book early for trips both now and this coming fall and winter.
Although it's not an early booking special, Air India (tel. 800/223-7776; www.airindia.com) just re-launched a companion flies free promotion, good on routes between India and the US, Canada, U.K. and Europe. It also covers published fares in all classes, for either one-way or round-trip travel, except for the airline's codeshare flights. The promotion is valid for travel through March 31, 2008
Friendly Planet (tel. 800/555-5765; www.friendlyplanet.com) has an offer for "Best of India and Nepal", 15 days priced from $2,499. You can save up to $600 per couple if you book by May 18. The trip takes you to a number of places, starting in New Delhi, the country's capital and Jaipur, known as the "Pink City," along with stops in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and Orccha, Khajuraho, Varanasi and the Ganges River. The last couple of days find you in Kathamandu. The trip's price includes round-trip airfare from new York to Delhi, fuel surcharges, transfers, intra-India ground transportation, accommodations in superior and deluxe hotels with private bath, full buffet breakfast daily, welcome dinner, entrance fees as required by itinerary, and the services of an English-speaking director throughout the trip. Friendly Planet's trip also includes the opportunity to meet and spend time with an Indian family, sharing High Tea. You can reserve the May 23 departure, priced at $2,499 if you book early, and the October 3 departure, priced from $2,799 for early bookings; the October 31 trip already has a waiting list.
For a shorter trip, Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) offers a nine-day affordable India package from $1,739, a price that includes round-trip airfare from New York to Delhi, seven nights in tourist class hotels in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, all transfers, sightseeing per itinerary in an air-conditioned coach, daily breakfasts, and an English-speaking local guide. Airport taxes and fees are not included. The trip's special price reflects travel November 12; February 11 or March 3, 2008 departures are priced from $1,749. Regardless, you must book by June 22 to receive the discount of about $200 off. This trip is a combination of independent time to explore and guided tours of sites, cities, shrines and temples. A similar trip is offered for the price of $1,599 for a May 21 departure if the fall is not an option for you.
SmartTours (tel. 800/337-7773; www.smartours.com), too, currently has a sale on a 15-day trip to India and Nepal for early bookings. If you reserve by August 15 you can save up to 800 per couple, with a package price from $2,599, including airfare from New York City and intra-India and Nepal flights. The package includes accommodations in rooms with private baths, full buffet breakfast daily, a welcome dinner in Delhi, airline fuel surcharges and ground transportation in India. Additionally, you get the services knowledgeable English speaking guide and tour director, and the entrance fees for comprehensive sightseeing tours. The trip includes many of the same stops as the Friendly Planet tour. You start off in New Delhi, with visits to the Birla Temple, and a tour of old Delhi, where you can see the Mahatma Gandhi memorial and Jamma Masjid, the country's largest mosque. There is free time for shopping in the city's bazaars. The trip includes time in Jaipur, Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, and the medieval town of Orchha and all its temples. From days eleven through 14, you will be in Nepal, stationed in the capital city of Kathmandu and with activities ranging from visits to Buddhist shrines and Hindu temples, and an optional flight over Mount Everest. The price of $2,599 reflects departures October 22, 2007 and March 31, 2008.
The Women's Travel Club (tel. 800/480-4448; www.womenstravelclub.com) has an early bird special for its fall trip to India: members who book by June 1 can save $200 off the price. If you aren't a member, it's $35 to join for a year or $65 for two years. You can opt for the entire trip, which goes through the north and the south of the country and runs November 2-19; otherwise, the northern part of the trip finishes up on November 16. The land-only price for the northern part of the trip is $4,199 based on double occupancy; if you want to do both, add $1,450. Airfare is expected to run probably around $1,000, according to company representative Michelle Jarrett. The trip starts you off in New Delhi, and you can tour Old Dehli, an ancient walled city, by rickshaw. Then, the trip takes you to some of the same places the other trips go, like Varanasi, Sarnath, Agra and Jaipur. But after Jaiupur the tour stops in the hill city Jodphur, which is less visited by tourists; the visit includes a stop at the local market and Mandore Garden. Other noteworthy stops include Ranakpur Jain temple and Udaipur. The southern portion of the tour includes Mumbai, Chennai (formerly known as Madras), and Covelong, where you can take part in an optional Ayurvedic treatments. All of the accommodations are at four and five-star properties.
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