Namaste India Tours
The Truth about Indian Hotels
Oh, how to explain what Indian hotels are like.......
Namaste India Tours seeks to provide our clients with comfortable accommodation at an average cost of rs 3,000, including breakfast (currently roughly USD $45) per night for our standard Rajasthan Adventure Tour and our Golden Circuit. This means it will be clean, provide both a bottom and top sheet (important!), have cable or satelite television, air-conditioning (provided the electricity hasn't gone) an attached bathroom with western toilet and running cold AND hot water (provided the electricity hasn't gone), room service, honest and helpful hotel staff, and marble floors (not carpet) where ever possible. There will be Wifi (provided the electricity hasn't gone). We call these our "regular" hotels, because the star system is meaningless in India.
Will the hotel be up to "western" standards? Most certainly not. Brown outs are common throughout India, and though most of our hotels have emergency generators that kick in when the electricity goes, not all systems in all hotels will be run by the emergency generator. Your sheets will be clean, but as they are usually washed by hand and dried by the side of the road and not in a machine, they may not be as sparkling white as your sheets at home. All our hotels are conscientious about pest control and you are unlikely to see rodents or any bugs besides mosquitoes. Don't hesitate to ask for a mosquito coil if you see any in your room. Mosquito nets are not necessary in our hotels. Two twin beds are much more common than one double bed.
Unfortunately, the price of lodging in India is climbing at a very rapid rate; much faster than the quality of the lodging. Many properties have raised their rates by 50% over the last few years. Hotels are not the bargain they were ten, or even two, years ago, and prices now approach those of "the west"; standards do not.
Our favorite options are called our "Legacy" hotels. These hotels are primarily heritage properties at an average nightly rate of rs 5,500, including breakfast. If you are in a city that does not have a good heritage property at that price, we will substitute something appropriate. These hotels will have character, they will not be new. That's why they call them Heritage properties. Many are converted havelis, the large family homes of former, or current, members of India's royal families. They are charming and frequently beautifully decorated. (Yes your bathroom is attached, not down the hall.) But if you hate old houses, or have an aversion to antiques, then you might want to consider booking western chain hotels yourself online. You don't need us to do that.
If you feel the need to stay in hotels that meet "western" standards, then you will pay nearly western prices. Now you are talking about roughly USD $150 per night. These hotels can be self-booked online. What do you get for your extra money? Your sheets will be whiter, the plumbing and electric will be more modern, your chai and mineral water will be more expensive, they may have their own water filtration system and you still won't be able to drink it, you might well get the morning paper under your door, and the air will probably smell of air-freshner and/or pesticides--because they think tourists appreciate smelling their efforts to keep the hotel up to snuff as it were.
Of course, after you leave a city, you will hear from a fellow traveler about the hotel there with spotless rooms and beds like marshmallows and lightning fast internet access and a balcony with views that make you wish you'd brought your easel--and they only paid 800 rupees. It is best to be philosophical about all this--we are.
India has some of the best hotels in the world. If you want five-star properties, you will pay USD$350 and up--and we do mean and up. You can book and pay for five star properties on your own via their websites or a booking engine like Travelocity. It's safe, it's easy and you'll get a better rate than they will offer us. We can book luxury properties for you on a case by case basis, and no, we do not make a 50% commission. The more expensive the hotel, the stingier and less cooperative they are about paying commission, especially to small company like Namaste India Tours. They don't care that we are famous. They care about volume.
Some five-star Heritage Properties have a few rooms that may be as cheap as USD $75 or $90, but only a few and they are nearly always booked. This is not a trick: the cheap rooms are nearly impossible to book. You can try it yourself if you don't believe us. If you plan to travel over the period of December 15 through January 15 or so, be aware that the five-stars are fully booked by the beginning of November. And even though it's a Christian holiday, most hotels have mandatory packages over Christmas and New Years that include food and an inflated room rate.
Good hotels in any price category stay full much of the year. Hotels with a high ranking on Trip Advisor are especially difficult. (BTW you can thank Trip Advisor for the loss of those cheap undiscovered gems. They've been discovered, and they've raised their prices.) We NEVER GUARANTEE a specific hotel. We could lie to you and tell you otherwise, but it is not our nature. We work with a roster of hotels in each city that we have developed relationships with over the years. That helps to ensure client satisfaction. Even so, we can pay your hotel in advance and sometimes they will still bump you/us. Tour groups always take precedence over independent travelers. If a group wants to extend their stay by a few days, or needs an extra room at the last minute, a hotel will not hesitate to cancell our reservation. Don't be scared. We always do our best to put you someplace where you will be happy. If we end up having to put you someplace more expensive because you got bumped, we absorb the extra cost, not you.
We do not make hotel recommendations. Sometimes people book a car and driver from us, and want to make their own hotel arrangements. Well, not exactly. They want us to email them the names of good hotels at each station so they can make their own reservations. This may shock you--hold on--but we make money by booking hotels on your behalf. If you book it yourself, we don't make any money. If you want to be in control of making your own hotel arrangements as you go, you are welcome to just use our car and driver services. This is TOTALLY fine with us, and MUCH less work for us. But please don't ask us to tell you where you should stay.
Prices for hotels listed in the Lonely Planet are generally much less than the actual prices. One year we collected tariff cards from as many LP listed hotels as we could, and we can tell you that the tariffs were always at least 15% more than the price listed in the Lonely Planet. Love the guide. Don't get your feelings hurt when you can't get an 1,000 rupee room at Udai Kothi in Udaipur anymore. Also be aware that most properties charge a "luxury tax" of 10% or 12.5% of the published tariff. The tax is horribly misnamed, but applied none the less.
You may be wondering if you can get your hotels cheaper if you arrange them yourselves. Doubt it. It doesn't usually work that way. When and where ever possible, we have established relationships and negotiated rates that are much less than you would pay, and we pass some, but not all, of that saving on to you. It does not hurt our feelings if you don't want us to make your hotel arrangements--the profit margin isn't high and it requires many telephone calls, follow up emails, and even sometimes trips to the bank or the hotel's Delhi marketing office to make your arrangements. It's very inefficient, but we are at the mercy of the hotel owner or marketing representative. Even so, we prefer to sell packages that include "our" hotels for a number of reasons. It does increase the money we make from your trip, but it also gives us more control over the experience you are having, It is our job to try to ensure that you have a pleasant trip. Unknown hotels make us nervous.
We know you'd like to see some pictures of our standard hotels. OK, we'll post some. But at the low resolutions necessary for the web, any hotel room can be made to look great! This is one reason you need to use a travel agent you can trust--like us!
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