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Spotlight: coronavirus in India | Insight Guides Blog

Spotlight: coronavirus in India

India is one of the most sensual and breathtaking countries on Earth. With the second highest population in the world, tackling coronavirus has been a tough task. We caught up with our local experts to find out more.
Mehrangharh Fort and Jaswant Thada mausoleum in Jodhpur. Photo: Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock
Mehrangharh Fort and Jaswant Thada mausoleum in Jodhpur. Photo: Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock


From heaving cities to balmy beaches, colourful textiles to riotous festivals, tantalizing curries to spiced chai, all the classic images of India are spellbinding. This captivating Asian nation is incredibly diverse and varied, partly because of the cultural richness derived from a mammoth population – the second largest in the world. This has made tackling Covid-19 an especially difficult task. We spoke with Heena, part of Ravi's team of local experts based in New Delhi, and Bharathi, based in Tamil Nadu, to find out more about the situation on the ground, and what travelers can expect moving forwards.


Chatting with Heena

Heena. Photo: private archive


Q: What does daily life in Delhi look like at the moment? Besides obvious new regulations such as mandatory masks, have you noticed any significant changes?

A: Even though this is an unpredictable situation for all of us, recent developments have definitely shown some hope and light at the end of the Covid tunnel. Since businesses are opening up, people are learning to live with the virus. We believe that this is a temporary phase and we are preparing ourselves for all future business possibilities and eventualities. We have now been allowed to resume work at full capacity while practicing all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and following the guidelines set by the government. International travel is still restricted as yet, but, hotels, intra-state transport, ASI protected monuments and sites are operating as per government guidelines. Actually, lockdown due to Covid has also played an important role in improving the environment, as Delhi's air is cleaner, skies are clearer and the water quality of Yamuna river has also improved. Although we have had to live and work carefully, it has also made us more committed to preserving and enjoying nature.

 Indian dancers, Marwar Festival in India. Photo: Insight-Photography/Shutterstock


Q: What are your favorite spots in India? And do you think visiting them will be different when we return to a "new normal"?

A: As India offers a plethora of experiences, sites, attractions, cultures, religions etc. across the length and breadth of this vast land – which is also home to more than a billion people – it is really difficult to choose one preferred destination. However, India offers a great variety of tours that get beneath the surface of the destination to explore lesser-known spots and unique aspects of local life. This brings visitors enriching experiences such as cooking classes, walks through narrow lanes of villages, opportunities to view the pottery, art and crafts of Rajasthan, exploring villages unchanged for centuries, staying in heritage hotels… the list is endless. As life has taken a break for now from its busy and chaotic schedule, fewer tourists have allowed for a much-needed breather. Although tourism has been greatly affected, at the same time, frequently visited destinations can revive and regain their charm. Of course, basic SOPs implemented by government such as social distancing, using masks, etc. while visiting any site would be applicable.

 

Q: India is known for its colorful and extensive festivals and celebrations – will those still be going on?

A: Public celebrations of all festivals have been restricted and processions aren't permitted at the current time. The guidelines that came into effect on 5 August prevent at present the holding of mass religious, political, social or entertainment events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 Morning view over the residential quarter in Agra with Great gate (Darwaza-i rauza) and Taj Mahal. Photo: Serg Zastavkin/Shutterstock


Q: If you had 10 days to explore India as a country, where would you go and what would you do? 

A: If I had 10 days to explore India, then I would travel to Rajasthan and complete the famous Golden Triangle Circuit. Rajasthan, a land of Kings, is popular for its architecture, mesmerizing forts, grand palaces, romantic lakes, stays in heritage properties, outstanding hospitality, art and crafts and folk dances. Here you can also visit the amazing Taj Mahal. I would begin the tour in the capital city of Delhi and experience the city's present and past by visiting both New and Old Delhi. Then, I would proceed to Rajasthan, first touring Udaipur, city of Lakes. Following my visit to Udaipur, I would head to Jodhpur, also known as Blue city.  Besides touring massive Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada, I would enjoy a walk through the narrow lanes of the Old Town, followed by a visit to the small town of Pushkar – famous for its Brahma Temple and sacred lake. Jaipur is the next destination, famed for its Amber Fort, City Palace, Solar Observatory and arts and crafts. I would save the best for last and visit the amazing Taj Mahal at sunrise, to experience it in the changing colors of rising sun. This tour not only takes in the top Indian Tourist destinations, it is a truly enriching and everlasting experience.


Chatting with Bharathi

Bharathi. Photo: private archive


Q: You're based in Southern India (in Tamil Nadu). Do you see any local differences between the states in India with regards to lockdowns and restrictions? What does your daily life look like at the moment?

A: In India, most of the cities have lifted the lockdown, however borders remains closed. India is better positioned for faster revival compared to other markets because of the strong domestic market in this region. Many hotels in big cities have opened for domestic tourism already. However, town hotels are looking to hopefully resume operations from 1 September.

India, so far, has bilateral air-travel arrangements or "air bubbles| with the US, the UK, Germany, France, Qatar, Maldives and the UAE, while negotiations are ongoing with thirteen more countries.

The very first thing that has changed since the pandemic started is how we interact with other people. Now 4 feet of social distancing for safety is the "new normal", as well as wearing masks. We have been spending the lockdown learning and bettering our selves.

Lake Pichola and City Palace, Udaipur. Photo: photoff/Shutterstock


Q: Visiting Kerala, known for its houseboat cruises, is the dream of many India travelers. Do you think there will be any changes to this type of travel under the "new normal"? Or will the private rental of these boats (for extended families and/or groups) become even more popular?

A: We always offer Kerala house boats as private cruises. Our exclusive houseboats provide magical private getaways, which will certainly prove a big hit in post-Covid travel. 


Q: What are your favorite hidden gems in India?

A: The North east, Srinagar, Dharamsthala, Wayanad and Neeleshwar.

Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Photo: saiko3p/Shutterstock


Q: How would you recommend first-timers to India to visit the country, and what are some not-to-be-missed spots?

A: The Golden Triangle (Delhi – Agra – Jaipur) , Kerala , Udaipur, Madurai, Mamallapuram.