On the Delhi-Jaipur highway, there is far more traffic than usual, at this time of the year. Rising vaccination rates (among the upper middle class who can afford to travel in their own vehicles) and pent-up demand have led to people exploring touristy places around Delhi (and possibly around every metro city in India).
A lot of such families are also those who haven’t been able to travel abroad during the ongoing summer vacations in schools. We recently drove from Delhi to Jaipur and back, to gauge how the summer tourist season, at least in this part of the country, looks like.
Toll plazas are jammed: Partly because a lot of people are not using public transport—such as buses, trains or aircraft—we found a more-than-usual traffic on toll plazas on NH 48. According to the National Highways Authority of India, daily FASTag toll collection has reached levels recorded before the Covid-19 second wave (all-India toll collection in June 2021 was Rs 2,576.28 crore, which is 21% more than Rs 2,125.16 crore collected in May 2021).
Don’t discard masks: You may be fully vaccinated, but it’s not a good idea to drive without a mask. In addition to the risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus, there are strict curbs on state borders.
Brace for lockdowns: Although almost the entire country is open, there could be localised lockdowns in certain parts. That’s why it’s a good idea to research online before visiting a new place, book a stay in advance and brace for possible lockdowns. Also, as we saw in Amer Fort (near Jaipur), there were long queues on the ticket window (so plan such visits in advance).
Hotel prices: Because of the pent-up demand, we found certain hotels in the outskirts of Jaipur (and even on NH 48) a little pricier than usual, possibly because of the demand-supply scenario playing out—a lot of tourists are suddenly on the road and rooms are limited. We expect a similar scenario across the country, and also believe that, in a few weeks, hotel prices should moderate.
Hotels and urban centres are crowded, but the hinterland is empty: We also found that most tourists are either sticking to hotels and major tourism centres, but the hinterland—where one can find amazing places to drive and just be with the nature—is relatively empty
The car we drove in: We undertook this road trip on the new Audi A4—the car that made Audi in India. In this age of SUVs, this luxury sedan appears quite a practical car—doors open wide so getting in and out is easy, sitting on the driver’s seat you have easy access to all buttons and controls, the plastic and leather and metal quality is great inside the cabin, four adults can be very comfortable inside, the cabin is insulated from outside noise, and boot is spacious. It’s powered by the 1984cc petrol engine (190bhp, 320Nm) mated to 7-speed S tronic gearbox. The overall fuel-efficiency we got was 16 km/litre. It’s priced Rs 42.34 lakh (ex-showroom).
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