POPULARLY KNOWN AS the Golden Triangle, the Delhi, Agra and Jaipur region receives the largest number of tourists in India, so this area is well-equiped with places to stay. The choice of accommodation ranges from up-market luxury hotels run by international or leading Indian chains, to small guesthouses and youth hostels. In addition, there are state-run tourist hotels in several towns, with comfortable board and lodging al reasonable rates.
On the more exotic side are the grand old palaces and havelis of the Jaipur region which re-create the lavish lifestyles of former rulers and aristocracy. For the budget traveller, on the other hand, there is a choice of ashrams and small guesthouses, sometimes with extremely basic facilities. Tented accommodation is as yet rare, as is self-catering. Rooms are usually cheaper during the off-season (Apr–Sep). For more information on places to stay in this region.
AT THE TOP END of the range are the five-star deluxe hotels which provide luxurious accommodation for the international visitor. Many of these are part of national chains, such as the Ashok Group, or of international groups such as the Sheraton and Radisson. Below them are the four- and three-star hotels, guesthouses and tourist lodges, some of which may offer additional facilities, such as a pool or tennis court. International television channels are now shown on most room sets.
In Agra Jaipur, palaces, bungalows and havelis have been converted into heritage hotels, which carry the flavour of erstwhile grandeur and graciousness. Except in some of the lower priced hotels, the bathrooms, even in older properties, are in Western style. Room service, safe deposits and daily laundry are standard in more expensive places. The reception desk can advise on tours, and large hotels have travel agencies on the premises.
INDIA’S TOP LUXURY hotels match the best in the world in their elegance professional services, and wide range of facilities. Architecturally, many of them have cleverly combined traditional Indian and moderndesign, while their interiors – are sumptuously decorated with the best of Indian crafts and textiles.
The hotels run by the large international and national chains are fully air conditioned and offer a wide range of conveniences such as a resident doctor, shopping f arcades and patisseries, banqueting halls, a 24-hour coffee shop, bars and gourmet restaurants. For the business traveller there are business and conference centres equipped with computers for personal use with facilities for access to the Internet. Desk jacks and modems are provided for personal computers and laptops.
Additional facilities include beauty parlours and fitness centres, swimming pools and tennis courts. The front desk can often make bookings for golf and other activities. Some hotels even A have a regular palmist, tarot card reader or astrologer.
RATES VARY between cities, with Delhi being the most expensive, and the smalltown hotels being absurdly cheap at times. The five-star luxury and the palace or heritage hotels are at the top end of the scale. Those run by the state tourism development corporations can vary from state to state with Delhi again being the most expensive. Prices at the socalled guesthouses swing from high to low. Most hotels offer discount during the low season from April to September.
This can bring the original rates down by almost 50 per cent at times. Every October, hotels raise their rates by a nominal percentage. Various taxes are charged, over and above the listed rates, as notified by the government from time to time. Foreigners have to pay cash amounts in foreign currency, usually in dollars or pounds sterling which is about 25 per cent higher than payment in Indian rupees.
SEVERAL PALACES and stately homes , particularly in Rajasthan, have been restored and converted into hotels. These come under the banner of Heritage Hotels Association of India. A private agency, Wekonmeritage specializes in booking accommodation to these hotels which have been classified as Grand, Classic and Ordinary, and are priced accordingly. However, most travel agents can also make bookings at these places.
THESE ARE four- and three- star establishments that may lack the stylish decor, Slickness and range of Facilities of five-star hotels. Though smaller in size they are always comfortable, clean and well-serviced. the rooms are generally air conditioner with attached baths that Cave hot and cold Bunning water. Some are’ surrounded by extensive gardens and may even have cafes and business centres.
BUDGET HOTELS AND TOURIST LODGES
BUDGET HOTELS are usually found in the older sections of cities, near the il way and bus stations. The accommodation is mostly simple and varies from very basic to homely guesthouses. Ceiling fans, mosquito nets and private, Indian- or Western-style bathrooms are generally provided.
The rates in Delhi are higher than the rest of the region. The wide network of tourist “bungalows” or lodges established by state tourism departments and the national India Tourism Development Corporation’s (ITDC) Ashok Group make travelling to lesser-known places easier. The rates are reasonable, and there is a choice of dormitories as well as double rooms with attached bathrooms.
THE TERM “GUESTHOUSE” can be a misnomer. Both midrange and budget hotels can have ‘guesthouse” appended to their name, and so the prices and the services can vary enormously. If you opt for a lower priced one, do make it a point to inspect the room before checking in, especially the bathroom, which will probably contain an Indian style toilet. The better guesthouses all have air conditioning and attached baths with Western toilets. In Jaipur, some families have converted all or part of their large havelis to guesthouses, providing meals on order.
YOU CAN FIND short-term paying guest accommodation in Delhi through the Government of India Tourist Office or your travel agent. In Agra, the tourist information counter at the railway station can supply addresses, and in Jaipur, Rajasthan Tourism (RTDC) has an official and comprehensive list of families under a good Paying Guest Scheme administered by them. Munjeeta Travel, based in the United Kingdom can organize Hornestay Tours across India .
THE TERM “heritage hotel” is given to some 1 palaces and havelis that have been discreetly modernized to meet the needs of international travellers and run as high-class hotels. Fitted with modern plumbing and air-conditioning and with facilities such as swimming pools and tennis courts, such hotels take care that their history, architecture and innate elegance are suitably highlighted. The interiors display old sepia photographs, memorabilia and exquisite furniture tended by a caring staff, often old family retainers. The high tariffs of such hotels are compensated by their special ambience.
DHARAMSHALAS AND ASHRAMS
REST HOUSES for pilgrims known as dharamshalas are run by a religious trust, but anyone can stay, as in the International Rest House ii- Brindavan, or Ramakrishna Mission and Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi , provided the rules of the place are strictly followed. They charge absurdly low rates. In cities, dharamshalas in the older sections may have dubious standards of hygiene, and the facilities can amount to a bare room with no bedding, shared with others along with the bathroom. Some temples and ashrams also rent out rooms to guests seeking a religious retreat. The amenities here are basic, though clean, and guests are expected to respect the rules of the community.
TAXES VARY FROM state to state. A ten per cent luxury tax is levied on the room rate in all five-star hotels. An additional ten per cent expenditure tax on the rack rate is charged on any special rates given by the hotel, Food and beverages carry a tax of 17 per cent on the listed price. A ten per cent service tax is normally included in the bill.
SERVICES FOR which you may be charged extra could include bottles of mineral water, breakfast, laundry, extra bedding, telephone calls, e-mails and faxes, the mini bar in your room, and special pay channels on television (you should read the screen or your room service folder before pressing the remote). Hotels usually charge extra for transport to and from the hotel. When telephoning, it is cheaper to use the pay phones in the lobby or at outside STD booths. At small town hotels with no running hot water, the hotel will give you a bucket of hot water once a clay at a nominal cost.
BOOKING, CHECKING IN AND OUT
IT IS A GOOD IDEA to make your hotel bookings well in advance, especially for the peak October to March tourist season when many conferences and cultural festivals take place. You can fax or telephone your requirements, bu do insist that you are sent written confirmation. Check out time is usually at 12 noon, though at smaller establishments they are not so particular and calculate by the day. Before checking out, do study your bills carefully and retain all the receipts.
AT HE AIRPORT or railway -station you may be besieged by touts Many of whom also operate As taxi and three-wheeler drivers, who insist on taking you to hotels where they get a commission. The best solution is to have prior booking Failing this, the counter at the airport or stat ion ll help you find a place suitable to your needs. I However, if there is no other option you should be firm about how much you are willing to spend and check outs the tout’s commission. You should also ask for c choices, and when you reach he hotel, he sure it is Acceptable to you before dismissing the driver. If touts continue to pester you, speak to the nearest policeman.
FACILITIES FOR CHILDREN
THE STAFF AT HOTELS are usually very good with children. Many hotels will willingly add an extra bed in your room for a child for a small extra charge. Very few provide baby-sitting services, and you should check at the front desk, but usually parents are expected to look after their children. Most hotels do not have any special facilities for children.
ONLY THE NEWER and fancier hotels make an effort to provide ramps, special lifts and wheelchairs for disabled travellers, However, you can always seek the help of the staff. Many of the older hotels, especially in Rajasthan, which are converted from palaces and private mansions, have several levels within them, with no ramp or lifts for easy movement. Do check out these facilities before making your bookings.
TIPPING expected even I though there may be a service charge on bills. The amounts are at the discretion of the guest, starting with Rs10 for car parking attendants, slightly more for a porter, and ten per cent of the total bill for waiters.
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