The Radisson Hotel in Varanasi, India — By Jennifer Shipp
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The Radisson Hotel in Varanasi, India — By Jennifer Shipp

The Hindu Fire Ritual was a highlight of our trip to India.

It’s not always easy to find a good hotel in India. Even some of the name brand hotels that are familiar to westerners fail to meet the minimum standard in this country. We stayed at the Radisson in Varanasi, India for five days before traveling onward to Delhi in 2014. Given the chaos that exists outside the hotel, it’s a good choice if you’re traveling through Varanasi (or at least it was as of 2014).

The Radisson was a good hotel, situated near the Ganges River. From the view from our room up on the fourth floor, we could see tiny shops and vegetable carts lining the crowded streets. The hotel rooms were clean and the staff was friendly and extremely attentive (almost to a fault if you aren’t used to Indian hospitality). Some salesmen down in the lobby chatted with me candidly a few times about cultural things, like how Indian families make decisions about how many children to have. I bought a scarf from the men to remember the experience.

A guide picked us up at the hotel in Varanasi each time we went out. And we needed the guide. Having not been trained on traffic patterns in India, crossing the streets was hazardous to say the least. There were touts everywhere and we were good prey. It was important that we have someone show us how to get from one place to another for our own safety, not because people would try to hurt us but because it was nearly impossible to take it all in without becoming overwhelmed and inattentive to the most important details in our surroundings.

Our room was on the west side of the building. I appreciated this fact each night at sunset when I watched farmers go out to their fields and the men working on the buildings next door (from bamboo scaffolding and with no safety harnesses). There was never a dull moment in Varanasi even though we were staying at the Radisson, where the hotel provided a bit of a buffer.

Having the right hotel in a place like Varanasi can make or break your experience. In India, you just never know what you’re going to get until you see it with your own eyes. The hotel we chose in Delhi was the Holiday Inn Express near the Airport which was also a good choice in that city (as of 2016).

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