This blog is for me, primarily to help me remember the holiday. But if it helps others plan a trip to Gujarat that’s good, because it’s well worth visiting.
This is my third trip to India having had a road trip around Rajasthan in February 2004 and a holiday in Mumbai and Kerala in December 2008.
I was looking for a 3-4 week trip. Much of the north and north-west would be too cold. I considered flying to Kolkata and making our way up the Ganges, the Buddhist historic sites, Varanasi, Lucknow and Agra and back out of Delhi. Or flying into Delhi and then to Agra, Gwalior, Orcha and southwards.
But Gujarat felt right: good food, a wide range of religious and historic sites, some nice-looking hotels and some of the best range of handicrafts in all of India.
I didn’t find a dedicated guidebook to Gujarat in London. But both Lonely Planet and Footprint sell PDF chapters of the State. I found limited articles about the area: one or two from the Telegraph and the New York Times, but largely ignored in the press. Most attention is paid to the birdwatching and the Asiatic Lions in Gir.
Once in India the locally published Gujarat India Guide was the best buy. Saw it on sale in a couple of places in Ahmedabad. It’s probably the most professional guidebook I’ve seen produced in India.
India Mike’s Gujarat forum was the most helpful. They were a few posts on Lonely Planet’s Thorntree – mainly on how to survive booze-free – while TripAdvisor’s forums were pretty random in subject.
Struggled to find many helpful blogs. Most immediately helpful and descriptive was Travels with Sheila, who by coincidence had been relating a trip around Gujarat while I was planning. She had travelled almost exactly a year before my trip, covering much of the same ground.
Several textile students and specialists had made trips into Kutch and reported back on makers, artists and finds: Travels in textiles, Passage to India, Woven souls.
Finally a Frenchman produced an epic 1hr 45mins YouTube video about his mid-summer and mid-monsoon trip with Nouvelles Frontières tour “Les Couleurs du Gujarat” in August 2010.
I made contact with North West Safaris in Ahmedabad. Recommended in the guidebooks and in the Telegraph. I put together a daily programme; identifying hotels and activities for each day. Mr Anil Bhagia responded the next day to my itinerary and came back within 2 days with quotes that were broadly in line with the prices I managed to glean online. (Some hotels were better than others in publishing their prices.) Arrangements were to pay 50% in advance and the rest on arrival in person in Ahmedabad. A little nerve-wracking electronically transferring £1,000 to an Indian bank account without the protection of ATOL or the Consumer Credit Act. I’m not sure if the consumer protection barrier is seen as such there. Our Rajasthan trip was booked via a Southall travel agent with an Indian operator; perhaps a safer approach. But North West Safaris were helpful, responsive and quite recommendable.
We were given 2 quotes for a car and driver. For 20 days an Innova car was 89,000 rupees and an Indigo was 52,500. That’s about £52 and £31 a day respectively. We were told that Ambassadors were not available for hire in Gujarat, and indeed saw very few of them. With the exception of some awful roads near Diu and Chhota, the Indigo was fine.
The hotel list is here. Location and intriguing buildings were more important than price.
Flights were bought from Jet Airways for £850 return. A bit pricey but I left it late and this is the peak period. It’s probably the quickest way to Ahmedabad, via either Delhi or Mumbai.
My pre-trip estimate was about £2,000 each for two of us for a 27-day trip. We probably spent about £4,500 overall. My bank account is now bereft.