When you’re visiting a new place and you wanna make the most of it, there’s one person you really need by your side.
That person? An Intrepid local leader.
They’re a friend and a translator, a problem solver and that all-important link between traveller and local. And they make your trip that extra bit special.
But what is it like being one? Here to tell you is Ankita Jaiswal, one of Intrepid’s wonderful female leaders in India. We quizzed the Varanasi-born, Delhi-based guide on everything from her favourite trips to India’s hidden gems to essential tips for first-time visitors. Here’s what she said.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and life before Intrepid.
I am 24 years old and a graduate from Delhi University, where I studied media.
It’s my second season with Intrepid. I’m glad that I am associated with such a good name and people. Being the bread winner for my family of 5, I had to take a job in the call centre for my brother’s school fees. I worked my way up to a job at a publication firm and then to a fashion company as a content creator and marketing manager.
…And then the travel bug bit!
I love this job, I have never been this happy before.
What is the best thing about your job?
I could easily say going to new places or visiting different cities every other day, but the best memories I have are of the beautiful souls that I meet in this journey. I look forward to the different people and different conversations.
I don’t like working for Intrepid; I love it. I am saying this because I get to show my country to the world with the principles that Intrepid believes in. We operate responsibly not just in terms of environment but in terms of culture too. I don’t believe in stereotyping India for being poor, I love to showcase the rich history and royalty our country has.
Do you face any obstacles or challenges as a female tour guide?
Being a female tour leader in a male-dominated tourism industry is definitely a challenge, especially in India where gender discrimination has been making news for ages.
India can be confronting sometimes for Indians too! But I question every single thing that puts women in the kitchen and men in the field. Why! I question and question until people have no answer.
There is nothing that men can do and women can’t.
I feel super happy and proud to have been a part of Intrepid involving women in the tourism industry and supporting them every step of the way.
What are your 3 favourite Intrepid trips to lead, and why?
Classic Rajasthan – From enjoying a stay in a castle to a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park to enjoying sunset by the lake in the most romantic city of India, Udaipur, this trip has it all.
Delhi to Kathmandu – I love this trip for its offbeat places like Orchha and also for the experience of sailing down the Ganges. I also love the spiritual vibe of Varanasi and the calmness of Nepal.
Indian Getaway – This trip covers the important cities of India, from the busy life of Delhi to the royal architecture of Jaipur to Agra, where you can admire the beauty of the Taj.
An Indian vegetarian thali is a must. It’s a platter with many portions of veggies and lentils and more. Sometimes finishing it is a task.
What places in India don’t many travellers visit, but should?
Orchha – There aren’t many foreigners exploring Orchha, mostly just Intrepid groups. I love it for its slow pace, rustic vibe and nice people.
Shimla – It was known as the ‘Summer Capital’ of British India; it has wonderful mountains and architecture.
Bundi – Known as the ‘mini blue city of India’, it’s not touristy, and the abandoned fort, markets and chai are a highlight for many travellers.
What is your favourite city in India – and why?
Udaipur. I know I am being touristy but I can’t help loving the beauty of this city!
I say, if you have seen a sunset in Udaipur, you have seen a sunset in India. The city is so beautiful with man-made lakes surrounded by hills with pretty cafes and royal history.
What is your favourite destination for nature in India – and why?
Kerala. God’s own country has to be my favorite for being so lush green, surrounded by cliffs, beaches and waterfalls. I could settle down there, it is that pretty.
What are your tips for first-time travelers to India?
For first-time travellers, my first suggestion is to have no expectations, then India will amaze you in a good way. There is a beauty in chaos here, everything runs on Indian Standard Time – so traffic, train delays, and big crowds are all common scenarios.
Locals are very friendly here but if it’s your first time in India, take a guided tour – India can be tricky sometimes.
Enjoy the flavours of the food in India, but know that sometimes the street food doesn’t suit the immune system of foreigners. So be careful and avoid food that isn’t recommended by your local leader.
Where in the world is on your bucket list?
Ready to explore India with an amazing local like Ankita? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group tours there.