India 2020: Pre-Trip Planning, Budget + First Night in New Delhi

Hello world, I'm back! Hehe. Sorry if I haven't been blogging lately. ;( Quick life update! After styling the movie James & Pat & Dave, I got busy working on other styling projects including the new film "Four Sisters Before the Wedding". Had no time to blog or post often on social media. But now, with this newly imposed Covid-19 lockdown, I think I'll have enough time to work on my backlogs! Meaning, more travel guides and a few personal posts in between. Speaking of which, ito na! I received a lot of messages asking me to post a detailed guide about my recent 17-day India trip. To be honest, the trip wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for my bestfriend Cecille who invited me to her Indian wedding. We've been friends forever so I wouldn't miss it for the world. It was also the perfect opportunity to fulfill Nico's lifelong dream to visit India and eat authentic Indian food! I blame it on his Bollywood obsession. Haha. So anyway, we decided to hit two birds with one stone, attend the wedding and do the Golden Triangle tour after. We also did a sidetrip trip to Penang, Malaysia which has been on our bucket list since forever, too. Let me share with you the preparations we did, as well as booking tips! Read on...

First order of business, securing our plane tickets! Months before our trip, we've been consistently checking fares on Skyscanner. We are budget travelers, so we were not able to buy all of our tickets in one sitting. I had a free roundtrip ticket to Kuala Lumpur via Cebu Pacific, so I was able to save money.  But I'll share with you how much Nico paid for his. Here's a simple breakdown of our flight expenses (rounded off):

MNL -> KL -> MNL via Cebu Pacific (Nico's fare) = P5,695 
KL -> Visakhapatnam via AirAsia w/ 20 kg baggage = P3,105
Vizag ->Delhi via IndiGo w/ 15kg = P2,993
Delhi -> KL via IndiGo w/ 20 kg = P6,746
KL -> Penang via AirAsia w/ 15kg = P1,474
Penang -> KL  w/ 15kg = P1,614
TOTAL = P21,627

It was quite pricey because we had to hop from one place to another, but if we recompute and remove Vizag and Penang, the new total would just be this:

MNL -> KL -> MNL via Cebu Pacific (Nico's fare) = P5,695 
KL -> Delhi -> KL = P11,000
TOTAL = P16,695

For our Golden Triangle Tour, we chose Indian Holiday travel agency! We only paid $400 for two for their 6-day Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tour. Their initial quote was $1000+ but since Nico and I only stay at hostels, I asked them to remove the 5-star accommodations in our quotation and that reduced the price in more than half! Super mura lang the accommodations in India, so you can just book on your own. 

Book this tour: 

I just came across their website while searching for cheap yet reliable Indian tour agencies online. Best decision ever! Of course before booking, NBI mode muna ako. Booking the tour meant wiring na agad the money before our trip, so I thoroughly checked their website, social media sites and read countless reviews on TripAdvisor and other sites. Our decision to go with them was made easier when I saw that they've been in the business for almost 30 years and they're accredited by India's Ministry of Tourism. Plus, they were very responsive to all our inquiries and they gave us the best rate out of all the others we asked. Dipali, their supervisor, helped us customize our tour and fulfilled all our requests. From the planning to the actual tour, everything went well. We originally wanted to DIY but I'm glad we booked a guided tour. We were first-timers so it made everything hassle free and super convenient! We had a private car, driver, knowledgeable guides, free water during the tour and no hidden charges! We shelled out a few extra bucks for their individual tips but that's all up to you. :) 

Now, let's talk about securing an INDIAN VISA! Read a lot of blogs on how to apply for a visa online and we set aside $80 each for the fee. But to our surprise, we only ended up paying $25 each for a 30-day Tourist E-visa! Super tuwang tuwa kami sa savings. We also got our approved visas via email, 24 hours after submitting our applications! Here's what I did:

1. Had my photo taken at Picture City. Showed the Kuya the requirements below...

2. Asked the Kuya who took my photo to send the file to my email (so I can upload the photo directly on the Indian government website). 

3. Scanned my passport using the CamScanner app. Make sure to scan the bio page as clearly as possible. 

4. Once you have the said requirements, visit: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in and click on  "For eVisa by Bureau of Immigration" tab.

5. Just follow the instructions and you'd be just fine! There's a sample you could use as reference. Just click on the "Sample e-Visa Application" tab. Just fill up all the details needed.

6. You can always save your progress and just go back to filling up the form later. They will email a Temporary application ID so you can complete your partially filled form. 

7. Don't forget to follow the photo file sizes indicated in the form! Resize your photos if needed. 

8. Pay for the visa online! I used Paypal for mine. Here are the fees:

E-visa fees are as follows:

$10 - 30 days eVisa (April to June)
$25 - 30 days eVisa (July to March)
$40 - One year eVisa
$80 - Five years eVisa

Important Reminder and Tip: Apply for the 1-month eVisa 2-3 weeks before your departure because they could grant approval within 24 hours! Once you get your approved eVisa, you must enter India within 4 weeks and then the official 30-day visa will start upon arrival. 

I also canvassed for travel insurance a few weeks before our departure. Compared and studied a few before finally deciding to purchase from PACIFIC CROSS. Got their Tripguard  Deluxe Peso Plan with P1.5 million coverage for only P1,295! 

Accommodations in India were also surprisingly super cheap! Glad we had them removed in our tour quotation. We booked our own via Booking.com and Agoda. No dorms, only private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Here's a list of hostels/hotels I booked! All of them were "Pay at the Property" so we could still cancel if ever. We had a booking problem with Aromatic Hotel in Delhi (they gave away our room even if I mentioned we'll check-in late) so we transferred to a random hotel we found along Main Bazaar Road. It was almost the same price and the room looked way nicer. Will share about this on my Delhi post! Anyway, we only paid P4,050 each for the five bookings + P926 each for our booking in Visakhapatnam. Total of P4,926 each for 16 days!!! Mura db aminin niyo! Haha. 

For this trip, I decided to purchase check-in baggage for every flight. Since it's winter and we had to stay for more than 2 weeks, I cannot do backpacking hehe. Thank God I got a new World Traveller luggage bag from The Travel Club! Super perfect the size and I love the color. Best thing? P7,000 lang sha! 

Love the size, color, hard shell, 360-degree wheels and that it is expandable! Abot sha hanggang 30kg. Also used my Fjällräven Kanken backpack the whole trip.

Will include a summary and breakdown of costs at the end of my post! For now, let's move on to the first part of our India tour-- NEW DELHI!!!

Flew from Visahapatnam to Delhi via IndiGo 

Almost all my nice and vibrant photos were taken using my new Samsung Galaxy A71 

And used Travel Wifi (formerly TEP Wireless) to stay connected! Although mejo mabagal sha sa India. 

Don't forget to bring an adapter! Hostels might not have one so bring your own.
(photo from tripsavvy)

Nico and I didn't bring any rupees or dollars when we arrived in India, we planned to just withdraw money from ATM machines just like we always do when we travel. We were able to do that the whole trip but FYI there's a 10,000 rupees withdrawal limit per day and there were cases when we were not able to withdraw because the machines were broken or out of cash. There's a P150 charge per withdrawal, so I'm not sure if we were still able to save from exchange fees or if same lang. Anyway, we only withdrew 4x during the whole trip and I just used my PAYMAYA card to pay for entrance fees (there's a huge discount if you use a debit/credit card). 

Local flights land at Indira Gandhi Airport Terminal 2 

We grabbed an OLA (ridesharing company similar to Uber) from the airport to Aromatic Hostel in Paharanj, Delhi for 500 rupees or P340.

After 40 mins, we finally reached Aromatic Hostel. We were so tired and hungry and we badly wanted to rest and shower, but when we got there we found out they already gave the room we reserved to someone else even if I clearly stated in our booking that we will be arriving late. They offered us a room in another hostel and one of their staff led us there. We had to walk through dark alleys but cge parang walking along Divisoria lang naman. Told Nico to check the room first before agreeing. Ampanget guys. The room was old, moldy and for someone na hindi maarte sa room, it was a no-no for me. So we bade Kuya goodbye and searched for a room on our own. 

Glad we saw Cottage Crown Plaza Hotel along Main Bazaar Road!

Reception Area

We stayed in this 3-bed Family Room for just 2,400 rupees for 2 nights. Happy to say na no bed bugs! 

If you're not staying in 5-star hotels, then expect your bathroom to look like this. Malinis na to compared to others jusko. Haha. 

The hotel has a lot of negative reviews online but we liked it compared to the others we saw. The kuya who helped us check-in was also very accommodating and nice. My only complaint would be the availability of hot water. It was not automatic and you have to ask  the staff to turn it on. Tapos you have to wait for more or less 15 minutes for the water to reach your room. I had to bathe in freezing cold water one time coz we were already late. Hehe. Other than that, we had a pleasant stay! :)

Lassi vendors everywhere

Next door is this local food place! Since closing na sila by the time we got there, we ordered takeout nalang.

Our late night dinner/midnight snack! Paid P300 for these. So good! At shempre d namin naubos anlaki pala ng serving. Huhu.

Our private car service by Indian Holiday! 

Woke up early the next day for our New Delhi tour with Indian Holiday, but will save my Delhi stories for later which I'll post soonest since naka lockdown naman tayo and wala ako magawa sa life. Haha. Will take this opportunity to work on my backlogs. So wag kayo magsawa please? Will end my first Indian post here and I do hope you utilize these tips for your future trip! Anyway, keep safe everyone. Take care and stay healthy! Fightin! :)

BUDGET per person in PHP:

Airfare = P21,627 or P16,695
Airport tax = P1,620
Indian Visa = $25 or P1,285
Indian Holiday Tour = $400 or P20,514/2 = P10,257
Travel Insurance = P1,295
Accommodations = P4,926
TOTAL = 36, 078

Delhi 1st Day
OLA to hostel = P340
Food and drinks = P350 / 2 = P175
TOTAL = P515

*Budget depends on spending habits and food preferences

Link to all my INDIA posts:

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