Using an Indian tour agency makes more sense than using a USA-based firm. A local firm knows the hotels, distances, roads, sights, and is able to put a package together that makes sense. It’s also much less expensive. This was our fourth trip arranged by Swagatam, and the most meticulously arranged. Everything was 100% perfect; every arrangement was flawless. Our agent and staff at Swagatam called us throughout the trip to make sure that the trip was going well. They subcontracted the driver/car to JEL Tours, who was also beyond perfect. We strongly recommend Swagatam for any trip to India!
JEL Tours, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
JEL Tours was subcontracted by Swagatam to handle our land transport in Gujarat. Our driver, Mr. Devi Singh, was pleasant, skilled, and helpful. His enthusiasm and warmth made up for any language differences. The car was comfortable, and Mr. Singh’s expert advice helped us find great restaurants, off the beaten path websites. He also was able to get us invited to multiple weddings.
JK Travel, Aurangabad
We asked our hotel (Green Olive, see below) to arrange a car and driver to take us to Ajanta and Ellora, as well as supply airport transfers. They referred us to Jameel Khan of JK Travel, a small family-run company of well-maintained cars and expert, knowledgable drivers. We cojld not have done better. Mr. Kahn clearly loves working with tourists, and his enthusiasm made the trip even more enjoyable.
House of MG Hotel, Ahmedabad
An oasis from the cities noisy crowded streets. The hotel staff were warm, friendly, and helpful. From the moment we arrived, we were treated like honored guests. The breakfast was great: two days we ordered from the restaurant’s menu, one morning they served a lavish breakfast buffet. Our large room faced the back of the hotel; it was quiet and comfortable. The hotel was furnished with antiques and memorabilia. We appreciated the traditional elements in the hotel. Although modern hotels may have larger rooms or straight corridors, we wanted hotels that had character. The house of MG did not disappoint.
Hotel Prince, Bhuj
A tourist and business hotel in the center of the city. Bhuj is a noisy large city, as we were checking in the lobby staff were being constantly interrupted (it seems to be a custom in India to push one’s way to the front of the queue and interrupt). Our room was quiet, clean, and comfortable. Across the street was Hotel Neelam, a great thali restaurant.
Hotel Lion Safari Camp, Sasan Gir Village
AVOID THIS HOTEL! While we understand the appeal of tented lodging, there’s a complete lack of privacy here, as the tents are one beside another. Loud snoring a few tents away kept us awake at night. The hotel policy of charging us for water (despite the fact that every other hotel in India provides a couple of bottles free) was strange, but the cost at over a dollar a liter (8X the price printed on the bottle) is a ripoff – and there are no stores or restaurants nearby. Price gouging is simply wrong. There are many choices in this area, and we suggest choosing among the numerous other hotels, which range from luxury resorts to economical basic places.
Orchard Palace Hotel, Gondal
This was another magnificent heritage hotel that we selected instead of a sterile modern business hotel. This Palace was absolutely fantastic. We were given a giant cavernous room with private balcony. The palace has sweeping verandas, gardens with peacocks. and drawing rooms with stuffed animals (who apparently met their demise by the former maharaja). The breakfast was custom and delicious. There’s a sizeable vintage car collection on the grounds as well.
Royal Safari Camp, Bajana
Set amongst farms and fields, less than a mile from the Wild Ass Sanctuary, this hotel was perfect. Our room was a five-minute walk from reception — which also that meant it was a five-minute walk from Wi-Fi. Nevertheless we didn’t go to India to browse the web. Our stay here was full board the meals were all lavish buffets with well-prepared and tasty food. The staff could not have been nicer, and the facilities could not have been more pleasant.
Nilambaugh Palace, Bhavnagar
This palace was one of the highlights of the heritage hotels we stayed in. We were given a room on the third floor (an elevator made coming and going pleasant). We had a private balcony, and the second evening we were treated to a fireworks display from one of the nearby weddings. The staff at this hotel were incredibly nice, the first day they made us a box breakfast as we needed to leave for Palitana early the next morning. On our final morning they made us a delicious custom breakfast. This was a former maharaja’s Palace – the drawing room had stuffed animals, paintings of many of India’s colorful birds, antiques, and a rich collection of gifts from around the world.
Mumbai Airport Orchid Hotel, Mumbai
We were originally planning to fly from Ahmedabad to Nagpur in one day, however jet Airways decided that that was too easy. After selling us our tickets, they changed our itinerary, requiring us to spend an overnight in the Mumbai Airport Orchid Hotel. Although it’s a modern high-rise hotel, from the moment we arrived, until the moment we left, we were treated fantastically. The room was immaculate, comfortable, and very quiet. The breakfast buffet was crazy, over-the-top. By now both of us were eating only granola for breakfast; we just needed some simple whole grains in our diet. This hotel had the best granola, an enormous array of fresh fruit, as well as an amusing array of fried fish. To celebrate the completion of our first phase of our trip we went to the hotel bar. The prices would have been perfectly in keeping with those in New York, but we experienced sticker shock when we paid $25 for two drinks. Nevertheless the free shuttle to and from the airport was fast and flawless.
Hotel Green Olive, Aurangabad
We selected this hotel due to its great reviews on trip advisor and booking.com. We asked for a quiet room and they gave us a great room on the top floor at the very end of the hallway. This hotel was immaculate; the staff were warm and friendly, and the muesli was delicious. The hotel is located at the southwestern edge of town which works well for anyone visiting Ajanta and Ellora. Aurangabad’s town center had no Western quality hotels, and the majority of the nicer places were all clustered in the area we were staying. Just a few yards from the hotel was one of the best thali restaurants that we went to. Our room was comfortable quiet and immaculate. (Note: India doesn’t grow olives. We have no idea why they chose this name.)
Suba Palace, Colaba, Mumbai
This was our third or fourth stay at the Suba Palace. This hotel has been recently renovated and remodeled. Although the quality was great before the renovation, it’s even nicer now. The location of the Suba Palace just a few dozen yards from the Gateway of India, the Taj, and Colaba, makes it an ideal place to stay. The room, although small by comparison to theluxury hotels in Gujurat, was more than adequate. The Suba Palace staff were welcoming efficient and friendly. The breakfast was great, and while we tended to eat just the granola and fruit, the Indian breakfast was also very tasty. We can’t say enough nice things about the Suba Palace. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, we felt welcomed.
Pench Tulis Tiger Corridor, Nagpur area
While in Nagpur, Susan’s friends made arrangements for us to go on a tiger safari, choosing the Tuli Tiger Corridor at Pench. This was a gorgeous luxury resort, perfect in every way, with giant cottages, incredible facilities, and again staff that made us feel welcome – and pampered. The entire time we were there, we kept repeating “we could get used to this.” Again, wifi was only in the reception/dining area, which was fine with us. We had appetizers by the pool, with our feet in the water, drinking a delicious Indian red wine and Indian beer. When it came time for dinner, neither of us could eat more, but we somehow managed to.
Bhoj Restaurant, Aurangabad
About 100 yards from Hotel Green Olive. Incredible service, great food, and superb staff. The best part was when we were looking ot our photos and the entire staff gathered around to look at our pictures!
Sahakari Bhandar Pure Veg Restaurant, Across from Regal Cinema, Colaba, Mumbai
An amazing snack bar/restaurant, with the best pav bhaji in India. Clean, super-cheap, welcoming, with addictive food. We came here day-after-day, addicted to their pav bhaji among other dishes.
Vijay Villa Palace, Near Palitana
AVOID – On the way back from Palitana, there are a number of roadside dhabas. However our driver suggested Vijay Villas Palace for lunch. It seemed like a good idea, but we should have checked the reviews first. This was, by far, our worst meal in India. The food quality was poor, grossly overpriced, and underspiced (“Indian food for people who don’t like Indian food.”) The service was indifferent, we were ignored, and had to beg for attention by the staff. The food was served buffet style including the tasteless cardboard-like chapatis. Avoid this restaurant!