Custom India

My friend and I, who both qualify as seniors, first traveled to India in January ’03 for a month. We paid for the car and driver and then just arranged things as we went along, charging hotels and meals. Sometimes we looked at as many as three hotels before we chose one. At other times of the year, it would be best to book in advance.

Arranging for a car and a driver is reasonable. At each temple, historical place or other place of interest, there are always guides who can be hired for a nominal fee. You can control the amount of information you want to absorb at each spot and also hear your guide clearly.

In Jaipur we contacted a travel agent for a driver, but the first person who showed up did not speak English well, so we asked for another driver. They recommended Ummed Singh. Ummed not only was a good driver and spoke English well, he suggested a few improvements for our itinerary, taking us to places we were unfamiliar with. He also took us to his home to meet his wife, Jean, a native of New York.

When we wanted to return to India in January ’05, we contacted Ummed and found that he and his wife had started their own company, Rajasthan Custom Tours (D.D. Tower, B-72, Rajendra Marg, Bapu Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India 302015; phone 91-141-270 5927 or cell +91-931 452 6592 or e-mail or visit We made arrangements with them to do a 10-day trip through Rajasthan. They suggested an itinerary and hotels. The cost for a car and driver for nine days was $400 for the two of us.

The young driver who they sent to meet us at the airport in Delhi was delightful. We traveled by auto from Delhi to Nalwalgarh, Mandawa, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Kishangarh and Jaipur using suggestions from Rajasthan Custom Tours and three tour books.

Our driver had an excellent knowledge of the area and found good restaurants, interesting side excursions (such as the Karni Mata Temple) and nice hotels. In each town, we viewed the hotel before we registered, and if we wanted to have a more or less elaborate dwelling, he would take us to view other hotels.

We usually were thrifty but did splurge in Pushkar at the Pushkar Palace Hotel, where my half of the room bill was R2,165 ($51 appeared on my Visa bill). Another example — my half at Hotel Heritage Mandawa was R1,317 ($31) including dinner.

Our driver was such good company that we wished he could have traveled through the rest of India with us. After the 10 days, we flew from Jaipur through Delhi to Khajuraho and did Varanasi, Cochin and Goa on our own. Our trip lasted a total of 27 days.

We were very pleased with both of our trips to India.

Pocatello, ID