Colesville Travel – Trip to India – Cynthia Amin – November 25, 2020 Podcast
M: Hello & Welcome. Today I am pleased to have a brand-new guest on the podcast, Cynthia Amin. I put out a call for new voices in November on the podcast and Cynthia I am so glad you responded. Welcome to the Travel Radio!
C: Thank you so much for the invitation
M: Cynthia, would you take a minute to introduce yourself?
C: Again, thanks for the invitation. I am excited to share my experiences in India. Yes, my name is Cynthia Amin of Colesville Travel and we are located in Silver Spring, MD -
M: If listeners want to follow along or connect with you where can they find you online?
C: I am on all the social media channels –
M: Now, Cynthia, what are we talking about today!
C: INDIA! How to approach planning a first trip!
M: Let's first get people excited by sharing a few stories on India. What is your single most vivid memory of your travels there?
C: I have so many fond memories so it is hard to say just one – I would have to say the people
The local people - kindest and most hospitable people I’ve encountered in all of my travels
But I would have to say the service in the India was amazing – everyone was so accommodating and helpful.
When you walk into the hotel, they open the door and greet, when you enter the restaurant they immediately greet and makes you feel so welcome – they put a bindi on your forehead if you like
If you call for something in a hotel – they come immediately
M: What surprised you the most about India?
C: – I always tell my clients that no one could ever prepare you for a trip to India.
I have traveled all over the world - But I must say that I have never seen such crowded cities and so much traffic.
If you travel to India, you must learn to embrace chaos
Embracing the chaos is an important part of any trip to India!
What I mean by that is -- there will be endless traffic jams, crowded streets, delays, incessant honking of horns, swerving motorbikes and rickshaws and many invasions of personal space.
Learning to relax, going with the flow and being at peace with things happening on ‘Indian time’ will facilitate a much deeper understanding of the nation and culture.
I remember going shopping, but I would have to say that shopping in India was amazing. I will never forget arriving in Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi in a rickshaw – I was surrounded by thousands of people.
M: How did you find the food? What types of dining experiences did you try? All planned restaurant meals or did you get to try street food?
C: Some people say that the food alone is reason enough to travel to India
I sampled a lot of the food. Indians take their food very seriously and the cuisine, just like the country itself, is incredibly diverse. And it also takes a long time to prepare.
In the North, you’ll taste lots of thick, creamy curries that are moderately spicy. mutton rogan josh, parathas, and tandoori chicken.
Southern Indian cuisine is commonly characterized by the use of ingredients such as coconut, seafood and rice and is spicier than food in the north.
Lots of Vegetarians dishes in India, due to the large proportion of Hindus who are vegetarian.
M: Now let's take a quick minute for a word from our sponsors
M: ... and we are back!
M: Now moving towards preparing for a trip to India, where do you even start? How about, a time frame. How long do you recommend, under normal pre-covid life circumstances, someone plan, or a travel agent start to plan a trip to India?
C: Many people try to cram too much into a visit to India and subsequently burn out. To get the best out your trip, concentrate on a few places rather than trying to tick off as many as possible.
Seeing one or two places slowly can be much more rewarding than getting visiting several places but not having time to appreciate any of them.
First time trip to India – I would do the Golden Triangle
The most popular India tour is the all-time classic Golden Triangle. If time is short this is a fantastic introduction to three of India's top destinations, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and you can squeeze it into a week if you don't mind moving every couple of days.
Start in Delhi, with sights such as Humayun's Tomb and the Red Fort, before hitting Agra and touring the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri
Then it's on to Jaipur to explore the Pink City and the fort at Amber,
Return to Delhi's wonderful bazaars for a final shopping spree before you fly home.
There are lots of other famous cities in India to visit Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Kerala, Jaipur, Amritsar, Varanasi, Khajuraho, and Kutch. All these locations are unique.
The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is the most iconic symbol of India
Delhi is famous as the heart of India and the most visited city for the tourists who came first time to India. It will be best to spend most of your time in Delhi.
The locations which you must see in Delhi includes the Red Fort, one of the Mughal’s famous architecture, India Gate, a monument in memory of the soldiers sacrificed during the world war first, Mughal Gardens, also known as the President’s House or Rashtrapati Bhawan, 73 meters tall Qutub Minar, Akshardham Temple, Iskon Temple, Lotus Temple, Jama Masjid etc. to name a few famous sites.
M: India can be quite hot. Is there a season you recommend traveling in?
C: The best time to visit India is between October and March, when the weather is more likely to be warm, sunny, and dry – this is considered their winter season. During this time, the north offers clear blue skies.
April May and June can be very hot.
December and January are much cooler, with potential fog, while the higher Himalaya can be very cold, but with clearer mountain views.
M: If you had to make a highlight real for must see and must dos what would they be?
C: Definitely do the classic Golden Triangle tour. If time is short this is a fantastic introduction to three of India's top – Delhi Agra and Jaipur.
The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is the most iconic symbol of India and is, arguably, the most famous monument in the world. Built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife.
Delhi – lots of historic sites like the India Gate and lots of temples and things to see and do and then go to Jaipur – the Pink City.
M: Can you give us a sight, sounds and visual talk through of visit a market in India?
C: Oh, my goodness – I will never forget my trip to Chandni Chowk on a rickshaw to go shopping.
Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets in India. This busy market dates to the 17th-century when it was established by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his daughter Jahanara.
The endless shops sell all kinds of things, such as jewelry, perfumes, traditional clothes, wedding paraphernalia, leather goods, electronics, spices, antiques, souvenirs, and knick-knacks, as well as delicious food.
Chor Bazaar, Mumbai – (Old Bombay) sells anything and everything - Once known as “Shor Bazaar” (or noisy market), this famous market in Mumbai was renamed Chor Bazaar (which translates to thief’s market) due to mispronunciation by British colonists.
It is full of stalls selling almost everything you could think of – handicrafts, bronze statues, vintage gramophones, clocks, lamps, furniture, trinkets, Bollywood posters, authentic (and not so authentic) antique items, and much more.
M: India is a large country. Do you recommend regional travel? I imagine a lot of time could be spent commuting.
C: Yes, I highly recommend traveling around but do not rush it – spend about 3 – 4 days in each city. If you rush through India, you will get frustrated and not enjoy yourself. You may find yourself on long overnight trains and long bus rides.
M: How long do you recommend people take to travel India. I mean, the longer the better, but what is a minimum you would recommend and why?
C: I would recommend at least 7 - 10 days – that way you can get a real feel for the people, the food, and their history.
M: Any precautions or advisories for what to wear or not wear?
C: Fortunately, it’s actually pretty easy for women to pack for India for an average sightseeing trip, since India isn’t the type of place you’ll need to be dressed up. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a conservative country, which means avoiding bare shoulders, showing cleavage and showing a lot of your legs.
So, I recommend flowy dresses and skirts: Pack dresses and skirts that are loose, and long enough to cover the leg to at least mid-calf. Dresses that cover the shoulders are best, but if you’re having trouble tracking one down then simply cover up with a light scarf.
Shoes: Unless you’re there for a fancy event such as an Indian wedding, leave the heels behind and only pack comfy, sturdy shoes. Make sure you bring a couple pairs of closed toe shoes for long days of sightseeing, and you’ll want one pair of sandals as well.
Scarves: Scarves are one of the travel essentials for India, as they’re so versatile. Pack at least a couple of pashminas (or buy a few while you’re there—they’re everywhere!) as these come in handy in many situations. Most women end up draping them over bare shoulders, over their head when entering a mosque, or pairing with a t-shirt.
M: How about persons with health concerns? Could they make this trip?
C: Technically no vaccinations are required for entry into India - except for yellow fever if you are coming from an infected area such as Africa.
If you want you can take Hepatitis (both A and B, depending on your individual circumstances), meningitis and typhoid shots as well as a booster for tetanus.
M: How much walking will a person do?
C: Walking around India can be very entertaining and a lot of fun
The Indian roads and streets can be the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen.
There’s never a dull moment with all kinds of interesting sounds, sights and smells.
At the same time, this circus-like scene can be dangerous and an overpowering onslaught on the senses. There is so much going on around you. People walking with cows and other animals and there can be holes in the street – so you have to be careful.
Crossing the road in India can be a challenge. Some streets are so busy that there seems like there is never a gap in the traffic. To cross the street can mean that you have to weave through the traffic. If you attempt this, first watch how the locals do it and learn how to pace yourself so that you can do it safely.
Always have your wits about you - No matter what, have your wits about yourself when on the streets of India. There are an endless smorgasbord of possible things that could happen and so it’s always important to be conscious of your surroundings.
It’s also good to have at least one buddy with you at all times and avoid doing anything alone, especially at night.
I do not recommend it for solo travel – there have been stories of beggars trying to take your shopping bags, slipping on cow dung, hit by an auto rickshaw, etc. Anything can happen.
M: People are always wondering about water. Were you concerned about the water at all?
C: If there's one rule: tap water is not safe for drinking in India.
Some establishments throughout India have water filters or purifiers installed, in which case the water may be safe to drink.
However, bottled water is always your best bet – but remember to always check the seal. To avoid adding to the plastic pollution issue, carry water purification tablets, boil water for at least one minute before drinking or use a water bottle with a built-in filtration system,
Avoid using tap water when brushing your teeth and remember not to drink the water while showering. Keep your mouth closed while you're washing away the dirt of the day.
Even a salad that has been rinsed and has water on it, or drinks with ice cubes, should be avoided or approached with extreme caution.
If in doubt, don't eat the salad, and don't drink the drink if it has ice cubes.
Fruits that can be peeled such as apples and bananas, as well as packaged snacks are always a safe option. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your daypack so you can keep your hands clean.
Diarrhea is common and can have many different causes. Bring a standard first-aid kit, plus extra over-the-counter medicine for diarrhea and stomach upset.
M: How would you recommend people address money? Cash? Card? Combo?
C. The currency Indian rupee (official currency of India. 1 rupee is the lowest value in use.
I suggest using a credit card instead of your debit card
When you take money out of the ATM you will be charged a fee, so I do not suggest you make daily withdrawals
Tip the way you tip in USA
M: Has anyone ever given you advice for how to handle children selling items or asking for money? What would your advice be?
C: That is an extremely big problem – and it is reported that over 300,000 children who live on the streets of Delhi alone.
There is constant debate among Indian nationals about whether children at risk should be given money. It is hard to resist helping a child in need when they’re only asking for spare change. But they say that giving money to these vulnerable children only encourages them to continue begging.
Even my tour guides told me do not give them money – you can see their parents in the background encouraging them to beg.
M: How was your experience interacting with local people? Did you make friends? Did you have a language barrier?
C: My experience with the local people was great. I am still in contact with my guides and I do hope to return. A lot of the people in India speak English so I did not have a problem.
M: What are we missing? Let's make sure to include all the elements you think travelers and travel professionals planning travel to India might need to know.
C: I just want to stay that India is a such a large country and we really did not have a chance to talk about the other amazing cities.
You do need a visa to travel to India – it can be done electronically
I would particularly like to briefly mention the following cities
Varanasi – where you will find the Ganges River - Hindu people believe the river to be sacred and holy, and many make the pilgrimage to the city of Varanasi to wash away their sins in the water.
The Ganges River is considered their most sacred river, and it is worshiped as the goddess Ganga Ma or "Mother Ganges.”
Kerala – If you want to relax Kerala has plenty of quiet retreats, attached Ayurvedic center or spa. So plan some relaxing escapes into your journey. Enjoy the backwaters and beaches of Kerala – you can stay in a quaint houseboat.
Kerala has been aptly dubbed ‘God’s Own Country’ because of the backwaters, lush greenery, wildlife, pristine beaches, rich art and culture, spice, and tea plantations, Ayurvedic therapies and tantalizing cuisine.
There is also wildlife and bird watching, You can tour the spice, coffee and tea plantations, go beach hopping,
Mumbai - An abundance of historical and cultural sites makes Mumbai one of the country’s most fascinating destinations. In addition to Gateway of India – the city’s most iconic landmark, the state capital of Maharashtra boasts interesting museums, eye-catching architecture, as well as some amazing Buddhist and Hindu caves.
The most remarkable are the Elephanta Caves – an impressive collection of temples, halls, and stone sculptures of Hindu gods, located on the Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbor.
This is a city where fine dining restaurants stand side by side with crowded street food stalls, and swanky fashion boutiques share space with colorful bazaars.
Nevertheless, Mumbai is home to wonderful history and art museums, dazzling shopping, and the nation’s best nightlife. It also houses the largest tropical forest in an urban zone, a giant human laundromat, and some of Asia’s biggest slums and Bollywood
Slum dog millionaire – filmed in Mumbai
If you travel to India, you should really try to visit these cities
In Mumbai you will find Bollywood - India’s movie industry - – it’s a play on words from Hollywood. Each year, thousands of films are released in Mumbai – if you go to India, I suggest you take a Bollywood tour.
Dance is a very important part of religion and culture in India. Gestures, body positions and head movements are emphasized in Indian dance. The use of the hands, fingers and eyes are of primary importance. Often bells are worn around the ankles.
M: Before we go let me ask you this question. Are you currently taking on clients at this time? If someone wanted to plan out a trip to India are you available?
C: Right now, may not be the best time to travel, but remember that trip planning is not cancelled. We have all be home for almost a year and I am sure everyone is very anxious to get on a plane and travel
M: Are you open to brainstorming with other travel agents
C: Yes, I would be happy to work with other agents. Colesville Travel is a full-service travel agency and we have been in business over 20 years. We also operate as a host agency so if you are new to the travel agent and are looking for a home, please contact us.
M: Great! Tell people one more time how they can contact you?
M: Thank you for joining me.
C: It was my pleasure joining you today Megan on our talk about India, I hope I helped your listeners get a better understanding of what it is like to travel to India and what to expect when you arrive. Contact me if you need info on India or any other country.
M: Thank you for listening to Travel Radio Podcast. If you think this episode was amazing, please take a minute to review the podcast wherever you are listening from. Have a great day! Goodbye!
Contact Cynthia Amin - Hall:
About Cynthia Amin - Hall:
Hi, my name is Cindy, and I am the founder of Colesville Travel, LLC, a full-service travel agency located in Silver Spring, Maryland.
As a young girl, I remember sitting in my bedroom spinning a globe and dreaming of all the countries I would visit when I grew up. When I turned 20, my first trip was to Hawaii for three weeks. This was an amazing trip, an experience that I will never forget. We hiked to the top of Diamond Head and viewed the beach from above, visited the Polynesian Cultural Center to learn about the different Hawaiian villages, swam at Lanikai Beach, smelled the pineapples at the Dole Pineapple Factory and ate fresh pig at Germaine’s Luau, and so much more. This trip changed my life forever: I had officially become a wanderlust! To date, I have traveled to all but one of the seven continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Australia, and have planned hundreds of trips for clients of all ages.
I am a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens. As a young adult I worked at an intellectual property law firm in New York City. In 1992, I moved to Maryland and worked for another intellectual property law firm in Washington, D.C. My years spent working at these law firms helped me to develop a client-centric mindset, discipline, organizational skills, and my ability to listen to clients to identify their needs. Moreover, I realized that I really enjoyed working with people. These skills along with my love of travel, compelled me to open a travel agency. And that is how Colesville Travel was born. In 2007 I left corporate life and the doors of Colesville Travel were opened full-time.
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.