Great Rail Journeys
1 reviews from the community
Review of "Great Rail Journeys"
Family and days of childminding now keeping me busy but I keep on rating more than writing. Thank you anyone who is kind enough to read then rate my reviews, especially those Es.
Great Rail JourneysWe booked our trip to India and Nepal in March through Great Rail Journeys. We chose that company as the itinerary they offered was what we wanted and the price they were charging seemed fair to us.
While the booking process was simple and all done on line. Any questions we asked were quickly answered by email and we got a reminder when the final payment was due. Initially we had just paid a deposit. They charged extra for using a credit card so we paid by cheque to avoid that extra cost.THE INDIAN VISA ISSUE
We were aware that we needed a visa for both countries and they did state that on the site but what they didn’t say was how much this was going to cost. The Indian visa is a nightmare to buy however you do it and even using the company that Great Rail Journeys recommend it still requires a degree in Visa application to fill in all the forms etc. You then send all the bits to the company and pay extra - quite a lot I think it came to around £100 extra for this company to collect said visa in your passport. We decided to go with that company in spite of the extra cost as we felt if they lost our passport then they would have to sort it out for us.We did have several quite animated phone calls about this saying what a ripoff it was but nothing changed.
THE NEPAL VISA ISSUE
The Nepal visa can be bought at the airport in Kathmandu for a lot less than GRJ’s offered so we phoned them to say we would get that visas in Kathmandu. We were told that it was a big risk because if there was a line for the visas the group would go without us as they would not wait just for us. My husband was not impressed and said “ Well, I hope I don’t have a sprained ankle or anything if they are not going to wait at any time!”
THE PAPERWORK ARRIVESWe got excellent information, a small booklet with all the places, times and hotels as well as what we would be seeing in each place which was a nice size with enough detail to be useful but not so much that it was bulky and overwhelming.
The tickets and all this arrived in plenty of time and we were informed of everything we needed to know in plenty of time. Advice as to comfortable clothes, luggage you had to be prepared to carry and get onto trains and so on.MET AT HEATHROW
When we got to Heathrow we were met by the English group leader who introduce herself and explained a bit about how the trip would work and suggested we check in and if we needed any help she would be around otherwise she would meet us again at Delhi to explain what we had to do re getting through all the airport security etc. and getting to our flight to Amritsar which was quite a challenge as Delhi airport is pretty big and not that well signed.OUR GROUP LEADER
Our English group leader was excellent, she was on and to give advice and explain anything anyone wanted to know and was the link between us and the local guide. She stayed in the hotel with us while the local guide went elsewhere which we found a bit odd but we went along with it.It was handy to have someone who had travelled in India a lot to explain some things, tell us a bit about the different hotels as we arrived and what to expect but personally I am not totally convinced I was necessary. Obviously GRJ have done these trips for many years and find that it works to have an English guide as well as a local one. It may help if there are any serious issues needing consular help but anyway she was there and very pleasant, good fun too.
THE LOCAL GUIDEWe had the same local guide throughout our trip in India and he was not only very efficient but quite charming as well. He was great with the haggling when getting people to carry our bags onto the train or sorting out trishaws etc. We had many an entertaining time listening to the haggling when these things were being sorted out.
He was a great guide, very knowledgeable about the different places as well as being a very efficient organiser for transport for the group. I think he really earned his money and at times did look quite tired. The only time we had an extra local guide was in Lucknow and our guide still came everywhere with us he just didn’t have to explain things as well.THE TRAINS
Indian trains are not luxurious. We did have one quite nice train from Amritsar to Delhi and the seats were not torn and we could see out of the window. Food was brought from time to time but in the interest of enjoying the rest of our three week trip we didn’t eat anything we didn’t see cooked in front of us or served at the hotels hot so food from anyone on the train was a definite no no. It was interesting to watch everyone eating what was offered including chai from thermos flasks served in tin cups.The other trains were all much more basic – luggage was heaved onto the racks above and I was rather concerned at times when tiny little Indian ladies were heaving huge cases onto the rack above where I was sitting. My husband had to re arrange a few precariously balanced items above us. The speed that the trains operated was a amazing. They stopped for minutes at each station and families managed to get on with enough luggage for a year away in that short time!
We were lucky as we had amazingly strong porters sorted out to get our bags on and off. Some of these men were so thin and small and yet they carried two and sometimes three large cases on their heads!Some trains we could see nothing through the windows as they were all crazed and broken or clouded over.
I manged to go entire day journeys without using the toilets as there was no way I was going to use them. My husband went once! I have a very well trained bladder!THE HOTELS
I have reviewed a few of the hotels we stayed in and they were all of a very high standard. The one we liked least was the one in Delhi and even that was not bad. The others were really very nice indeed and the food offered in all of them was excellent we found. Again the one in Delhi was the most disappointing food wise.If you are interested in the hotels then I have reviewed these ones, The Radisson in Amritsar, the Vivanta by Taj in Lucknow so far as well as some of the places we visited like the Martinaire school in Lucknow.
THE ITINERARYThis was pretty full on. We flew into Amristsar via Delhi and on that same day we went to the Waggah Border ceremony and also the Golden temple to see the ceremony of putting the Guru Granth Singh ( Sikh bible) to bed. That was a long day! The next day we went back to the Golden temple and into Amritsar before getting the train to Delhi.
We spent time in Amritsar, Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi before flying to Nepal.AND ON TO NEPAL
In Nepal it was the same action packed itinerary and we even manged to add in a flight up to Everest. We spent time in Kathmandu then drove to Chitwan and then on to Pokara before driving back to Kathmandu.
The roads were scary to say the least, overtaking on bends on roads that were narrow and clung to the edge of mountains. The drives were long and tiring but GRJ do not use the flights as the airlines are not European safety approved.We had the same guide and driver for the entire time we were in Nepal too and both of them were lovely.
GRJ made a real effort and included a visit to Rumdoodle” restaurant where climbers meet and while there we got to chat to a lovely Sherpa who had climbed Everest six times. We did hear that he was safe after the earthquake through GRJ as our English tour leader emailed us to tell us that all the people we had met were safe.
In Pokara we went to the Ghurka museum and were able to meet and talk to one of the older Ghurkas which was interesting too.TIPPING
We were given suggested amounts for tips for the drivers and guides. We didn’t feel it necessary to tip the English tour leader though as we felt she had her trip paid for by us anyway and was being paid good money for doing the job!We were told that all tips were included in the price but that seemed to only cover the rickshaw drivers and porters etc but I think it should be clearer myself and if tips were include why was it suggested that we might like to give something extra?
RECOMMENDED?Yes indeed. This was not a cheap trip and if you go to the Great rail Journeys website you can see the prices vary as to which trip you choose and the time of year you choose to do it. They do trips in Europe too but I would imagine that travelling by train in Europe would mean you carrying your own luggage on and off so although the trains might be a better standard you might have to be a bit stringer physically .
They are not the cheapest company around but they offer interesting trips with pretty full on itineraries so if you want to see a lot in a short time then it is ideal. It is a bit of a lazy way to travel as someone else sorts the flights and check in etc out for you. It was ideal for use as we were in the middle of selling our house and moved two days after we got back. We did most of the packing before the holiday so we needed a break, It was, however, no a walk in the park. You needed to be alert and quite fit as we were on the go constantly and getting on and off different transport from the trains and coaches through horse carts, rickshaws and so on as well as quite a lot of walking.The English tour guide was great and was good company. The local guides and specialist ‘speaker’s like the Sherpa were also lovely, so humble and intelligent with so much to share. The time went so fast and I would thoroughly recommend the trip we did.
Sadly Nepal will take some time to recover from the two awful earthquakes so I am not sure if GRJ will be including Nepal on any itineraries in the immediate future.The one star is removed for the lack of information re visas and the tipping issue.
Photos will have to be added when I get back as they are not on the laptop I have with me - sorryThanks for reading.
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Listed on Ciao since: 22/04/2015