North India air/lodging/tours, 7 nights, from $1,995
The Golden India Tour package has an itinerary that includes stops in New Delhi (the capital, and site of the remains of Mohandas Gandhi), Sariska (where you'll take a safari by jeep), Jaipur (nicknamed the Pink City, and home to a centuries-old observatory), and Agra (whose spectacular marble ruins mark the legacy of Mughal rule centuries ago, and where you'll take a sunrise walk to the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world). It includes round-trip international airfare, local transportation, most guided bus tours, entrance fees to major sites, an elephant ride, and seven-nights' lodging in plush hotel chains, such as Le Méridien and Intercontinental. Departures are from New York City, with flights on Air India.
Book by: By availability.
When: Apr. 20, Sept. 5, 2008.
Details: Taxes and surcharges included. Gratuities of about $3 a day and most meals are not included. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $740.
Contact: Sayang Holidays, 888/472-9264, sayangholidays.com.
South India lodging/tour, 12 nights, from $2,510
The Highlights of South India package covers a dozen nights' accommodations, some meals, ground transportation within India, and sightseeing tours. Highlights include Kochi's Jewish Quarter, a rice barge tour around Vaikom, a wildlife tour at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the temples of Madurai, and the beaches of Kovalam.
Book by: By availability.
When: Sept. 28, Oct. 12, 26, Nov. 16, Dec. 21, 28, 2008. Additional departures in 2009.
Details: Taxes included. Gratuities of about $3 a day and most meals are not included. Departure airport transfer is an additional $22 per person. No single supplement necessary; solo travelers share a room with someone of the same gender.
North and South India air/lodging/tours, 16 nights, from $4,629
The North & South India with Mumbai and Kochi/Cochin package includes international airfare between New York City and India, intercountry flights and transportation, sightseeing tours, airport transfers, breakfast daily, entrance fees, a dawn boat ride on the Ganges, a houseboat tour between Kerala and Kumarakom, a visit to the Taj Mahal, and an elephant ride. Stops include New Delhi, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Mumbai, and Kumarakom.
Book by: Apr. 4, 2008, for lowest rate; by availability.
When: Apr. 22, 2008; add $10 for May 20, Oct. 21, Nov. 18, Dec. 16; $40 for Sept. 16; additional dates available in 2009.
Details: Fuel surcharges are included, but airport taxes and fees are an additional $131. Airport transfers, lodging taxes, and entrance fees are included. Gratuities are additional. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $1,450.
Contact: Gate1 Travel, 800/682-3333, gate1travel.com.
For the above packages, additional gateway cities may be available at higher cost on some departure dates. Contact each tour company for details.
U.S. citizens need a visa to visit India. Beware the 15-day transit visa: It only costs $30, but the countdown begins the moment the consulate stamps the visa. Instead, opt for the six-month multiple-entry stamp, recently $73. We recommend you consider having your tour operator deal with the visa application process; the fees charged by the companies mentioned here average about $55 and are worth every penny in spared hassle unless you live next to an embassy that takes walk-in applications.
India's climate is tropical but it varies from region to region. April through August is the wettest time of the year. Before you go, check the weather forecast for the regions you'll be visiting.
Before you book any Real Deal, read these guidelines.