I spent a week exploring the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) of India in October 2015. I also spent 2 nights in Dubai, UAE before flying to India and 1 night in Doha, Qatar after India.
On Christmas morning, Etihad had a mistake fare for $177 New York City to Abu Dhabi roundtrip. I booked a two week trip for late October with the plan to go to Africa for a safari. I quickly decided the extra costs of flying to Africa and doing a safari were too much, so I decided to visit India, an area I’ve always wanted to go. I also decided that I didn’t want to spend 2 weeks in India or the Middle East, so I used American Airlines miles to fly Qatar Airways back from India to Norway via Doha. From Oslo, I found a cheap Norwegian Air ticket to JFK.
Day 1: fly to Abu Dhabi, friend pickup to Dubai; overnight in Dubai
Day 2: explore Dubai; overnight in Dubai
Day 3: relax in Dubai, afternoon flight to Delhi; overnight in Delhi
Day 4: full day tour of Delhi forts and tombs, overnight in Delhi
Day 5: early morning train to Agra, visit Taj Mahal and other sights, overnight in Agra
Day 6: early morning private car/driver to Jaipur, visit Fatehpur Sikri and stepwells along the way; overnight in Jaipur
Day 7: full day tour of Jaipur, visiting Amber Fort and City Palace; overnight in Jaipur
Day 8: early morning train to Delhi, relax in Delhi; overnight in Delhi
Day 9: morning flight to Doha, relax at beach in Doha; overnight in Doha
Day 10: morning flight to Oslo, 5 hour layover in Oslo, evening flight to NYC
Etihad (economy): JFK-AUH
Etihad economy on the 777-300 ER is 10 seats across and is the most narrow airline seat available. I choose the first row of economy to have some extra leg room, but the seat is very narrow. I took an Ambien and slept for most of the flight.
Jet Airways (economy): DXB-DEL
I was in the window seat and the middle seat was open, so this flight was comfortable. They served a hot meal, but I didn’t take one since I wasn’t hungry.
Qatar Airways (business): DEL-DOH, DOH-OSL
I used 30,000 American Airlines miles to fly business class from Delhi to Oslo via Doha. This was over 10 hours in business class on the 787 Dreamliner, one of the best planes. Also, Qatar Airways business class is one of the highest rated in the world. I loved the seat, the bed, the food, the service, and the entertainment.
Norwegian (economy): OSL-JFK
I’m a novice when it comes to budget airlines and it showed when I didn’t check in for the flight beforehand. When I arrive at Oslo airport from Doha, I checked in and was assigned a middle seat for the 8 hour flight and I immediately started panicking. After some research, I realized the middle seat was on a row with extra leg room, so I relaxed a little. The flight was on the 787 Dreamliner as well, which is becoming my new favorite plane. The seat was a bit narrow, but it wasn’t the most uncomfortable flight for 8 hours. Warning, there is no food and barely water on the flight, if you don’t pay extra.
Dehli Metro is clean and efficient. It costs less than a dollar to go from the airport to the central station. Twice I traveled by long distance train and both times I choose seats in the executive car, which was air conditioned with bucket seats. The train from Delhi to Agra included an extensive breakfast. Both trains were less than $20 and I was able to purchase the tickets before leaving NYC on cleartrip.com.
The rest of my trip I relied on private cars and drivers, mostly organized y my tour operator. The one time I tried to use Uber, there was a 20 minute wait for the next available car. Throughout the trip, I traveled by auto-rickshaw, motorcycle, and cycle-rickshaw.
In Dubai and Doha, I used Uber often and it was cheap and efficient; except on my last morning in Doha leaving for the airport, when 2x surge pricing was in effect, so I took the hotel’s private car.
Intercontinental Dubai Marina – luxury
I used two free night certificates I earned from a promotion to cover this brand new hotel. Hotels in Dubai are expensive, so this was a good use of those certificates. I was upgraded to a room with a balcony overlooking the marina. The hotel is also walking distance to Jumeirah Beach and the famous JB Walk, a outdoor retail corridor with restaurants.
Recommend – yes
Hotel City Star, Delhi – basic+
I choose this hotel because it had a good rating and was located near the train station, convenient for my arrival by Metro from the airport and my departure by rail. I walked from the hotel to train station both times. The room was clean and breakfast was good from the rooftop restaurant. The hotel also arranged a car/driver for me to explore Delhi one day.
Recommend – yes
Doubletree Agra – moderate+
The Doubletree in Agra is very new and very nice. The room was well appointed and the hotel had nice amenities: pool, spa, etc. The breakfast was included and delicious. I used 10,000 Hilton points to cover one night at this hotel, but it would have cost less than $100/night.
Recommend – yes
ITC Rajputana, Jaipur – moderate+
The ITC is part of Starwood’s luxury collection, so I paid 1,500 Starpoints +$35/night for the hotel. The Starpoints saved me $100. The hotel is a large resort near the train station with an extensive spa and nice, comfortable rooms.
JW Marriott Aerocity, Delhi – luxury
I used a free night certificate from the Chase Marriott credit card to cover one night at the J.W. Marriott, the nicest hotel I stayed in during my entire trip. Everything was grand, including the lobby and rooms. I arrived in the early afternoon and paid for the lunch buffet, which was expensive for India, but amazing. I paid $50 to have lounge access for free breakfast, evening appetizers, drinks, and car service to the airport. I also splurged on a massage at the very extensive spa.
Recommend – yes
Hilton Doha – moderate+
The Hilton is located along the Persian Gulf and has a very nice beach and spa. I spent most of my afternoon lounging around the beach and pool. I paid 16k Hilton points + $65 for one night at the hotel.
Recommend – yes
Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur
My guide tried to talk me out of visiting this fort, but it was my favorite fort in India. It’s located high above Amber Fort and offers amazing views over Jaipur and the surrounding mountain range. The fort is less ornate since it was used as a military fortification, but offers very nice, rustic architectural elements.
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
This mausoleum is grand and beautiful like the Taj Mahal, but it’s made of red sandstone with marble elements. The site is extensive and contains several smaller tombs. When I visited there were few people here, so I could take my time and enjoy the site in peace.
Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra is another large mausoleum on the outskirts of Agra. Sikandra is twice as big as the Taj Mahal site. The surrounding fields are more pastoral and filled with animals (peacocks, deer, and antelope). The inside of the mausoleum has amazing color and geometric designs.
Monkey Temple, Jaipur
This temple is located just south of Jaipur in the middle of a forest. The site is overrun with friendly monkeys. I didn’t feed the monkeys out of fear of rabies, but it was nice to see them playing about.
Yamuna River sunset over Taj Mahal, Agra
My tour company was able to arrange for me to take a boat on the Yamuna River overlooking the back of the Taj Mahal. This was one of the most amazing experiences to see the sunset from this location. We were the only boat on the river.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
This museum has a small collection, but it’s free and located along the Doha harbor, offering great views of the Doha skyline. The museum’s exhibits are well-displayed and there were several special exhibits. The museum building is also quite beautiful and interesting.
THE THINGS I MISSED
Qutub Minar, Delhi
Jama Masqid, Delhi
Red Fort, Delhi
rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Safdarjung Tomb, Delhi