Probably in an effort to lure tourists back to India in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, MakeMyTrip.com is offering a “Steal a Deal” package for as low as – get this – $410 roundtrip to India, between January 12 and March 31. MakeMyTrip.com is a big Indian online travel agent, with flights starting in New York, Washington, Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Trivandrum. That is a $1300 difference from the ticket I paid. And once you’re there, you can find dirt-cheap hotels and food. For $12 a night, my friend and I got a ocean-front room in Goa. Granted we shared it with a little froggy and no extra sheets – this was a true no-frills room, but I spent my days parked at one of the hotel’s ocean-view tables watching the cows frolic on the beach and eating fried rice with Kingfisher beers. Similarly, in Cochin, we got a thatched roof room with mosquito net and air conditioning for $22, and a bed&breakfast in a former Dutch colonial home for $25.
Is $410 a good deal? I would say yes. Mumbai may have been recently attacked, but the country is huge. You could just skip Mumbai altogether – which I had to do, just because I was limited to, yes, two weeks. Or, you could go anyway and participate in the festival of Terrorism Can’t Stop Us. Of course, few people would run into a burning building, but the building has stopped burning and is in clean-up mode. India is a fascinating country with so many juxtapositions, to be covered in a future entry – and there’s probably equal chance of contracting malaria as to be trapped in some terrorist assault, or slipping on the marble floor of the Taj Mahal or taking out a shoulder doing a downward dog position. If you’re trying to burn some vacation days before the new year, and can borrow up a week on the other side in 2009, this isn’t a bad way to get your beach and culture into one memorable vacation.