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India made easy for New Zealand travellers

1 December 2005

India made easy for New Zealand travellers

For many Kiwis, India has been a tantalising and mysterious travel destination made too hard by poverty, overcrowding and the inevitable illness that can challenge even the young and intrepid.

Now, thanks to the efforts of two smart Kiwi couples that have set up a network of home-stays in India, the country beckons as an exotic destination that can be both manageable and personal.

Earlier this year New Zealanders, Cheryl Cameron and Gary Tennant travelled to India with their New Zealand Indian-born friends, Mani and Partha Sarathy Bhagavathula and it was out of this very special visit that India Hosts U was born.

They based most of their visit around Hyderabad, Indian’s fifth largest city with 7-million people and it is mainly in this region that they have established most of their host families. Over 400 years old Hyderabad is frequently described as a city of ‘enchantment’ and is particularly famous for its mosques, minarets, bazaars, precious jewels, pearls and unique crafts.

Just an overnight bus trip away are other magnificent sights; Warangal, an ancient city known for its weaving and carved toys, the Sri Venkatesvara Temple visited by 10,000 pilgrims daily and the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve – the largest Tiger Reserve in India.

“The key is making travel to India easy,” Cheryl says. “We arrange host families who collect travellers from the airport, provide accommodation and food and offer a range of sightseeing experiences.

“The real difference is being able to experience authentic Indian culture first-hand with a local family and discover the country in a way not normally available to tourists.

Cheryl says all Indian host families are carefully selected and trialled before Kiwi travellers are sent to them. It’s up to each visitor how much involvement they have with their hosts.

“There’s a Hindu notion that guests are like a God and that’s the way you’re treated. It’s quite profound and very humbling,” she says.

India Hosts U, launched in August, now has a network of English-speaking host families ready to take in Kiwi tourists. All expenses paid packages start at $175 per person, per day (share twin) with a minimum stay of seven nights with host families located in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore.

ENDS

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