I wrote an article recently about how my early 20’s were spent avoiding tour guides and staking my claim as a “real backpacker”.
Though I’ve made considerable progress in not pegging my self worth to whether or not I ‘look like a tourist’, the first part of this trip in India conjured some flashbacks to my early 20’s staunch rejection of ‘lazy tourism’ as a counterpoint to backpacking.
Let me explain. During our first week in India, Kelli and I decided to take a 3 day trip to Jaipur. Because temples, and sightseeing, and India! So we coordinated with the groom’s family, and an offer was made: why not take a private taxi who will accompany you for the duration of your trip? And, to boot, a private tour guide for the sightseeing day?
Kelli and I looked at each other. Neither of us are big spenders, and this suggestion seemed like something you might choose if you also had lots of 100 dollar bills to wipe your ass with. A private car, to ferry us from hotel to Jaipur to next hotel to All The Sights and back to hotel and to Agra again. It seemed a bit too convenient.
The offer was made: $115 for 3 days of private taxi’ing, plus a tour guide.
That’s $57.50 per person.
Which is like, you know, less than a cab ride in NYC sometimes. Or less than using Uber at peak hour.
So we thought about it. And then we thought of the traffic; and the language barrier; and the constant bustle and attention of being in public; and we thought of the fact that were ‘on vacation’; and we thought about all the research that remained to be done if we did this on our own.
And I thought about lazy tourists. And how maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be a little lazy with the tourism once in awhile. Maybe I don’t need to spend three hours at a bus station struggling to find an interpreter just to buy one measly bus ticket. Maybe I don’t have to throw myself into the hullabaloo of the streets just to figure out which rickshaw might be safest. Maybe I can just make a phone call and have it taken care of.
So we said YES. We’ll do it.
What resulted was a very comfortable, laidback, and secure trip to Jaipur and back, with fascinating tours, plenty of pit stops and a mysterious disappearance of funds once we hit the market to buy sarees.
In the time since this relatively economical side trip to Jaipur, the private taxi suggestion has been made MANY more times (and we’ve accepted once more, as well). I see it advertised not only in hotels but around town, in magazines, etc. I’ve realized that private taxi’ing between cities, for multiple days, is quite an available and accepted option here in India.
While it might be out of reach for the budget-iest of budget backpackers, it’s certainly an affordable option for most passive vagabonds, flashpackers, regular travelers, business tourists, vacationers and more.
I won’t be using this method of travel for all of my movement in India — my next leg to Rishikesh features a cheap bus fare, a 2 week stay in an ashram, a bus back to Delhi then a little bit of couchsurfing — but the brief brush with economical luxury was an unexpected touch that I really enjoyed.
Furthermore, I haven’t been anywhere else where multi-day private taxis were even presented as an option. Maybe that was just me assuming it would be out of price range — or maybe India is just one of those countries where, for whatever reason, mildly luxurious amenities fall within a passive vagabond’s budget.