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Melbourne to Vienna (via South Africa, Namibia & India)

daft009

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Really enjoyed reading all of this. I've been to South Africa multiple times but I am planning my first very short (5 day) trip to Delhi for this coming May. You've outlined some of the things I was concerned about which were also outlined in multiple youtube videos that I have watched. I'll also stand out in the crowd unfortunately and I fully expect the multiple sales pitches and attempts to rip me off. I'm planning to spend a night at the Roseate which looks decent and then stay somewhere closer to the action. Instead of catching a train to Agra I'm considering driving very early in the morning to potentially catch sunrise at the Taj Mahal. Probably best to organise a tour for this in advance but I'm a very last minute person. Thanks again for the trip report. Its making me even more excited!
In May I'd try and wrap up the Taj before sunrise... Going to be stinking hot!
Try and stay in Agra the night before imo, not the safest place to drive in the middle of the night

Edit: Trident in Agra and aero City in Delhi is where I stay too
 

rginoz

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In May I'd try and wrap up the Taj before sunrise... Going to be stinking hot!
Try and stay in Agra the night before imo, not the safest place to drive in the middle of the night

Edit: Trident in Agra and aero City in Delhi is where I stay too
I agree with daft009, you should stay overnight in Agra if you want to see the Taj Mahal at dawn. From my very limited experience of road traffic in Delhi and Agra, as a passenger only, it is the last place in the world I would want to drive in. Good clean comfortable train travel is very cheap, and taxis and chauffered cars/SUVs are also inexpensive. I would recommend paying people to meet you and guide you; they know what they are doing, and they need to earn money to support themselves and their families.
 

Mattg

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From my experience, I'd say you've been unlucky with the intensity of the hassling, the rideshare debacle and the AI experience, @Mattg.
I suspect you're right. I'm looking forward to returning to India sometime and will see if my next experience is any different. There was certainly a lot to like about the country! For something different, perhaps I'll visit Mumbai or the south of India next time.

Really enjoyed reading all of this. I've been to South Africa multiple times but I am planning my first very short (5 day) trip to Delhi for this coming May. You've outlined some of the things I was concerned about which were also outlined in multiple youtube videos that I have watched. I'll also stand out in the crowd unfortunately and I fully expect the multiple sales pitches and attempts to rip me off. I'm planning to spend a night at the Roseate which looks decent and then stay somewhere closer to the action. Instead of catching a train to Agra I'm considering driving very early in the morning to potentially catch sunrise at the Taj Mahal. Probably best to organise a tour for this in advance but I'm a very last minute person. Thanks again for the trip report. Its making me even more excited!
I hope you enjoy your time! It's definitely worth going, just be prepared and know what to expect.

I agree with the other suggestions to stay overnight in Agra the night before you visit the Taj Mahal.
 

Antoallison

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I enjoyed reading your TR Matt but at the same time I was thinking another visit to India might not be a good idea these days.

What do you think of the country for a woman travelling alone ?

I visited India in 1970 ... not really alone as I had my 10 year old brother tagging along with me !

I really loved the country and apart from being stared at... ( I admit we were an unusual sight in busy Delhi and Agra), I had no hassles.

These days though I read about a very different India, with women subjected to sexual assaults and predatory behaviour.
 

Mattg

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I enjoyed reading your TR Matt but at the same time I was thinking another visit to India might not be a good idea these days.

What do you think of the country for a woman travelling alone ?

I visited India in 1970 ... not really alone as I had my 10 year old brother tagging along with me !

I really loved the country and apart from being stared at... ( I admit we were an unusual sight in busy Delhi and Agra), I had no hassles.

These days though I read about a very different India, with women subjected to sexual assaults and predatory behaviour.
To be honest, I'm not sure I can enthusiastically recommend travelling alone. Travelling in a small group or with a guide might be a better option. But this is a very difficult question for me to answer, as my experience as a male is likely to be different to yours. If anyone else has an opinion on this, please feel free to chime in.
 

Mattg

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AY122 Delhi 10:05 - Helsinki 14:15
Airbus A330-300
Business Class


The next morning I returned to DEL with a mild case of food poisoning, unfortunately, but determined to take the flight anyway.

As is standard procedure, I had to queue up to show my ticket and passport just to enter the airport. Once inside, check-in was a breeze. I was also able to use the fast-track immigration and security queues thanks to my business class ticket, which was very welcome as the regular queues were huge.

Finnair uses the Plaza Premium Lounge in Delhi. It wasn't the worst lounge I've ever been to, but the power kept cutting out intermittently. Since I was already sick, I decided not to trust any of the food and stuck to water until I boarded the flight.

I really liked the Finnair business class cabin. It felt airy and spacious, and I loved the colour scheme. I also really liked the Finnair boarding music! It set the scene well for what was a very nice flight.

On the A330, business class is in a staggered configuration which is similar to that of Malaysia Airlines. That is, odd-numbered rows have a 2-2-1 layout and even-numbered rows are 1-2-1. I was in 2A, which was effectively a "throne seat". You have lots of space as there are tables on both sides, and you also have exclusive window and aisle access. I was thrilled with this seat.

555857EA-D979-49F9-AFB7-F2A9CF58A250.jpeg

Almost immediately after I sat down, I was offered a welcome drink of champagne, water or Finnair's signature blueberry juice - I chose the latter, which was really nice.

Pillows, blankets, noise-cancelling headphones, slippers and an amenity kit were provided. The amenity kit was lightly stocked with only the bare essentials, but more items were available on request.

The entire cabin crew on this flight was based in India, and cabin service was conducted in English and Hindi. The service was fine. The pilots were Finnish, and made their announcements in English, Finnish and Swedish.

Shortly after our on on-time departure, I was offered another drink with some salted almonds.

99486C88-5547-4BA3-A3A6-26BC6D9507F1.jpeg

Here is the menu for my Delhi-Helsinki flight:

A77D5419-EBDE-424A-AD7B-AEE0BC4F27A9.jpeg

There was also a comprehensive drinks menu with cocktails, wine, spirits, tea etc. The champagne was Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut.

BE8A0F83-70B4-439B-8C39-339D25C9754D.jpeg

For lunch, my preferred option of biryani wasn't available so I chose the Indian vegetarian option of paneer chilgoza. The main course was served on a single tray along with the starter and cheese plate.

1FF48ACA-4ED5-47B8-BB83-B34695A1D97E.jpeg

This was followed afterwards by a choice of cheesecake or chocolate cake, which was nice.

The meal service was wrapped up just as quickly as it began, and I tried to get a few hours of sleep. The bed is fully lie-flat and comfortable, and was just long enough for me, but I did find it a little narrow. Keep in mind that this is Finnair's older business class product - I believe the A350 business class is better.

I woke up as we were somewhere over Central Asia:

BF65E547-8B96-4AD1-B6B7-D71C429988FB.jpeg

The in-flight entertainment was average. The system was showing its age a little, but it had an OK amount of content.

Another meal was served 2 hours prior to landing. Once again, I went for the Indian option which tasted good.

560FF2AD-C8DB-4446-9AA8-8729F5D44320.jpeg

We landed slightly early in Helsinki, which was freezing cold! HEL is a super efficient airport and the arrival formalities were completed in no time.

Having just left India, it almost felt strange to leave the airport terminal and not be greeted by aggressive touts. It was so pleasant just to be able to stroll down to the airport train station, where the only noise was some pleasant music that was playing. Oh, and an announcement apologising for some non-existent construction noise. The flight from DEL to HEL is only 7 hours, but I felt like I'd arrived on another planet... almost like reverse culture shock.
 
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Mattg

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I had an enjoyable couple of days in Helsinki. I'd never been before so it was good to have a look around, and I caught up with a friend there.

Here are a few photos from Helsinki...

FA6A9915-9B60-4443-ADC4-A4D5EAAC0E60.jpeg
8FC503CA-0DCA-4416-B3AA-1A1BB0B9748F.jpeg
BFD907A1-2F80-4E60-B531-8AAFB7EA08F4.jpeg

The Christmas Markets were up and running. I do enjoy sipping on a mug of mulled wine in the European winter!

E2662B08-AEB8-4658-9264-ED776BB34D19.jpeg
1EF548A3-F364-4A69-9FB4-B20FC2DEA0C4.jpeg

I also caught the ferry to Suomenlinna, which was a nice place to have a look around.

B65054E0-1FE6-4FFB-BE9E-E7B32A99BF77.jpeg
0602B0A8-9FCA-4F01-BF64-18FE63DD79ED.jpeg
AA285905-D3EE-4982-9F8D-93529603F69A.jpeg
 

Mattg

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AY1471 Helsinki 08:30 - Vienna 10:00
Airbus A321
Business Class


The last flight of this trip was in Finnair's "European business class", which basically means an Economy seat with the middle blocked and full meal service on board.

Once again, Helsinki Airport was a breeze and I was in the lounge within about 5 minutes of getting off the train. It wasn't too crowded, being a Sunday morning, and I wandered down to the far end where the massage chairs can be found. There was a good selection of buffet food and drinks available. The lounge felt quite open and I imagine it would have felt quite bright and airy if I was flying at a time of year when the sun rises before 9am!

On board, the first 8 rows were designated as business class despite there being only 3 passengers - myself and an Austrian couple. The cabin chief, Helena, suggested I could try out all of the seats and tell her which was my favourite at the end of the flight. On a side note, Helena was really nice and provided excellent service throughout the flight!

The pre-departure beverage was water, served in a paper cup. I wasn't particularly that impressed by that, but the hot breakfast service was excellent. The food was plentiful and delicious.

F08606AF-3124-48E9-A8F5-575DC56EBDE9.jpeg

The view after takeoff:

6E29DD61-D9F7-434C-9E0F-4F77B6444036.jpeg


Hot towels, pillows and blankets were available. As far as the seats are concerned... well, they were perfectly fine, but being economy seats they were nothing special! At least we were able to spread out given the light load.

I did test out a few different seats, as per Helena's suggestion, and thought the legroom in row 2 was a little better because you could stretch out your legs under the seat in front.

This is the row 1 legroom:

746E96AC-88C7-4625-879A-534954FC6B75.jpeg

And in row 2:

6BE00D26-6081-46D2-A226-5DE8D7249FC9.jpeg

All in all, it was a pleasant flight and the great food & service made up for the mediocre hard product.

Landing in Vienna:

E26AC026-8CD8-4AAC-AA20-F27A40D6BA80.jpeg
 
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daft009

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Great TR Matt. Missing my schnitzel.

I remember flying Austrian to Munich via Vienna with a fuel stop in KL, back in early 2004. My first trip to Europe.
Never made it back to Vienna apart from the transit but have seen other bits of Austria
 

RB

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I enjoyed reading your TR Matt but at the same time I was thinking another visit to India might not be a good idea these days.

What do you think of the country for a woman travelling alone ?

I visited India in 1970 ... not really alone as I had my 10 year old brother tagging along with me !

I really loved the country and apart from being stared at... ( I admit we were an unusual sight in busy Delhi and Agra), I had no hassles.

These days though I read about a very different India, with women subjected to sexual assaults and predatory behaviour.
As with any travel you may encounter challenges. I am very comfortable to recommend Magan who organised RooFlyer's recent trip. We first used him in 2007 and several other forum members have also used him-he also has many reviews from solo female travellers that should give you the confidence to return & build on your prior Indian adventures.

Thanks for the report Matt, I am sure Vienna will be a great launch spot for you
 

daft009

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I enjoyed reading your TR Matt but at the same time I was thinking another visit to India might not be a good idea these days.

What do you think of the country for a woman travelling alone ?

I visited India in 1970 ... not really alone as I had my 10 year old brother tagging along with me !

I really loved the country and apart from being stared at... ( I admit we were an unusual sight in busy Delhi and Agra), I had no hassles.

These days though I read about a very different India, with women subjected to sexual assaults and predatory behaviour.
Yeah definitely take a tour with the recommended guys on here if going solo. Don't just wing it solo, specially as you're female.. Sad but true
 

OZDUCK

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Thanks for the TR. A year in Vienna sounds great - so many interesting places close by as well.

My wife and I also both agreed that row 2 or 3 legroom is better than row 1 on the AY A321's.
 

jase05

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Great TR and I’m very envious of you basing yourself in Vienna as it is such a wonderful city
 

Antoallison

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thanks Matt I enjoyed the TR.
Have a wonderful year/life in Vienna.. I am sure you will be off on short trips every chance you get so I look forward to more mini TR’s.
 

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