I love traveling. I love being out. But sometimes, planning overwhelms me. I tried unplanned traveling but somehow, it didn’t work for me. I prefer planned seamless holidays so that I can experience the place undisturbed and unbothered about what to do next and think about. logistics. To add to my difficulties, one tried and tested operator doesn’t operate in all regions. During my search for an operator who can handle pan-India tours, I stumbled upon IRCTC tours. The tours are all over India. Most of the tours have only touristy spots while some tours have offbeat destinations. But I wanted to give IRCTC a try as there are several states in India that I haven’t visited and I don’t know where to start planning when I wanted to travel to these states. My idea was to give the IRCTC trip a try and decide later.
IRCTC tour types
I tried to find out about IRCTC tours but there are very few reviews about the trips. I tried calling the number listed under the IRCTC tour and came to know some of the tours are completely sold out! Despite being sold out, there are very few reviews on the internet. But based on my conversations with some helpful IRCTC managers, these are the types of available tours:
- Land-based tours: This is NOT a group tour. In these tours, customers should reach the origin on their own. For example, if your land-based tour starts from Mumbai, it is your responsibility to reach Mumbai. IRCTC executive would pick you from railway station/airport/bus stand/hotel. This package covers accommodation and trasport (your dedicated car and driver) from the origin. You can arrive a bit sooner or leave later but you will have to pay extra for the additional stay. This can be easily done by coordinating with your IRCTC manager. The car and driver are dedicated for you or your group. Depending on your group size, the tariff per person varies. This is best for those who DONT want to join group tours. This tour also gives a lot of flexibility and freedom.
- Rail-based tours: In these tours, you will be joining a group. From the origin, entire group is taken to destinations as per itinerary in a train. Accommodation is dormitory on sharing basis, budget accommodation, or better. Usually, if you have purchased the standard train package, accommodation would be in dormitory, dharmashala or other standard accommodation. If you have purchased a 3AC or higher train package, you will get a bugdet or better accommodation. You can also discuss with your tour manager and opt to stay in a good accommodation irrespective of the package, provided you pay additional charges. However, you must discuss these with the manager before you book the tour as customization maynot be available for all packages or destinations. This is best for budget travellers who are willing to join a group. Opt for 3AC or delux train packages, if you want comfortable stay. I am not sure if travelers can choose the type of berth (lower, middle, upper, or coup in 1AC) in the train. If you have any specific requirement, I recommend that you call the numbers listed under the tour details and check with manager.
- Flight-based tours: This package includes even flight fare. For example, if you live in Hyderabad and have booked a Rajasthan package, the fare would include flight from Hyderabad to Jaipur and back to Hyderabad. Also, accommodation and transport are included (activities are not included). Accommodations options are good. This is best for those who want comfort at a reasonable price.
Unless specified, you can travel solo as well on all these tours. Most of the tours also include some meals (not all meals) in a day. All details are provided in the tour details. For any queries or customizations, call the IRCTC manager numbers listed in the Contact Us tab.
So after a lot of searching, hubby and I decided upon Cave Tour Ex Ahmedabad for 2N/3D. We opted for a land-based tour as we didn’t want to join a group and wanted some freedom. Our itinerary was simple and straightforward.
Experience with IRCTC prior trip
For every tour, under the Contact Us tab, a lot of IRCTC numbers are provided. I recommend that you try other numbers if the one you tried didn’t connect or if the conversation wasn’t satisfactory. IRCTC has some amazing and helpful staff. You just need to find them. After one or two not-so-satisfactory conversations, I called Kiran, a manager who turned out to be extremely helpful and friendly. He also suggested that we try and extend our stay by one night so that we can visit another famous Jyotirling temple. But unfortunately, we couldn’t so we went ahead with 3 days trip. I highly recommend calling Kiran (+918287931627) if you are planning a trip to West India.
As the first day of the trip seemed to start very early, Kiran suggested that we can come one day prior so that we can rest well. We went ahead with his suggestion and made payment for the additional stay. Sejal, another manager who helped us with bookings, is also very friendly and helpful. They promptly responded to my queries on WhatsApp and email. The experience was very seamless. They even accommodated our changes in plan.
Experience during the trip
Sejal was constantly following up with us on WhatsApp during the trip. She promptly shared the driver’s details and schedule of the day. She also recommended some nice places to eat in Aurangabad. In short, she has been amazing!
We were accommodated in Hotel Ravi Raj in Aurangabad. We liked our stay and have no complaints. However, there were some minor points that the hotel can work on.
- Staff: Very friendly, polite, and helpful. I forgot toothpaste and the receptionist asked his colleague to go to a shop and buy toothpaste for us.
- Food and in-room dining: Food is simple and delicious. The staff promptly informed us if our food choice was spicy. The service was very quick. Food was also customized as per requirement.
- Location: The hotel is in the city center and it is very easy to take public transportation from here.
- Running hot water: Hot water was available 24/7.
- Touchless buttons for elevator: I was impressed that the hotel had installed a touchless panel for the elevator.
- Safety: The place definitely appears to be safe. CCTVs are everywhere.
- No automatic locks and waiters don’t wait for us to open the door: The main door has no automatic lock. We had to manually lock it. As we are used to automatic locks in hotels, initially we forgot to lock. And waiters just knocked the door and came inside the very next second. We hardly had any time to react. Surprisingly, the bathroom has an automatic exhaust fan that detects movement and turns on but the main door doesn’t have an automatic lock.
- Other minor points: Fixtures, linen, and cutlery need a revamp. Some of the staff weren’t wearing masks.
On the whole, our stay was pleasant and memorable. We had good food and a comfortable stay.
On the first day, Shashi (+91 89837 88388) was our driver. He is very professional and friendly. The car was maintained well. When we didn’t some spare cash, he also gave us Rs 50. The first day we. went to Ellora caves, some viewpoints, and Grishneshwar temple. We skipped other places on the itinerary as we took a lot of time exploring the Ellora caves.
The second day, another driver was assigned to us. He did seem friendly but turned out to be very commercial. He constantly suggested shopping places. Else, he is fine. On the second day, we went to Ajanta caves.
On the whole, we absolutely enjoyed our trip with IRCTC. Kiran and Sejal are very professional and helpful. I would have gone on another trip by this time if not for Omicron. I will go on another trip with IRCTC sometime soon!