Rajasthan – a land of colors and traditions and immense beauty. A popular tourist destination in India, part of the Golden Triangle with lots of history and culture. And this is the reason for my absence over the last few days. 🙂
Rajasthan had been on my travel list for a while and finally, I managed to do a complete tour of this amazing destination this year. Traveling through Rajasthan has been quite an experience and I covered the same through a road trip along with family and friends. Based on the same, here are my 10 guidelines or travel tips that you must consider when planning a trip to Rajasthan.
1) Duration of Stay
Rajasthan is the largest state of India. There are at least 4 major cities that are recommended in Rajasthan – Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Consider staying at least for 2 nights at these places as the city requires that much time for you to explore the same. If you are planning a road trip between these cities, add a day more as there are a few sights along the way that you would want to stop by.
Jaisalmer is the city that is furthest off. It takes around 10 hours from Jaipur, 5 from Jodhpur and 9 hours from Udaipur by road to reach here. Hence, account for the distance, if you are planning a stay in Jaisalmer.
2) Places to Stay
All the major cities mentioned above have a range of hotels to suit every budget. You can choose the ultra luxury chains like Taj, especially in Udaipur and Jodhpur as these are heritage properties – palaces converted into hotels. Alternatively, you can pick smaller Havelis converted to hotels and home-stays for a comfortable and budget stay.
We had opted for the latter, and no regrets on the same. The smaller havelis are well done and offer lovely, traditional accommodation. They give you a glimpse into the Rajasthani culture as well by way of their decor and food. Also, consider that if you are an avid traveler like me, you will probably return only in the evening to have dinner and sleep. I would definitely recommend the same in places like Jaisalmer for they are really comfortable and well done.
For some more contemporary budget stays, you could even look up Zo Rooms – something we tried in Jaipur and found very comfortable.
3) Road Trip Vs. Other options
If time is short and you are keen on spending more time in a city, then I would recommend Railways for a point to point connectivity. However, my personal favorite way of exploring is a road trip. In Rajasthan, you will find several smaller towns along the way and that makes your road trip more colorful and fun.
Take for instance, the route between Jodhpur and Udaipur. You can do Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur en-route. Or from Jaipur to Jodhpur, where you can stop by at Pushkar and Ajmer en-route.
The roads in Rajasthan are fairly decent, though the ones between cities like Jodhpur and Udaipur or Jaisalmer are single-lane roads. There are plenty of vehicles, including trucks on the road and thus, driving during daylight is advisable.
One important note here is if you are planning the 4 major cities, it is recommended taking the following circuit – Jaipur- Udaipur-Jodhpur- Jaisalmer- Jaipur. The stretch between Jaisalmer to Jaipur is a long one and you can choose to break your journey at Bikaner.
Getting a cab to take you through these cities and bring you back to one is not difficult. Most hotels have a tie-up with various cab companies who offer these services. Keep in mind the fare ranges between INR 12 – 15 per km with a minimum of 250 kms per day. The fare is dependent on the vehicle that you take.
4) Local transport
There are plenty of options for local transport – from tuk-tuks to battery operated autos , regular auto rickshaws, tourist buses and cabs. There are no fixed rates for the autos. Some of them offer you a point to point drop while there are some who agree for a complete day package where they will take you from one sight-seeing point to another. For the best rates, refer to your hotels as they give you a good indication of the rates going within the city from that point.
5) Places to Eat
Whether you are on a road trip or within the city, Rajasthan has plenty of eating options to offer. The Rajasthani cuisine is unusual and definitely worth a try. Adding to the traditional food that is readily available, you will find plenty of restaurants that serve other Indian cuisines as well – Gujarati, South Indian etc.
The bigger cities have multi-cuisine restaurants, which serve not just Indian but international cuisine like Pastas, Pizzas, Sandwiches etc. Most of the hotels offer both Indian and Continental breakfast. On the whole, vegetarian food is definitely not an issue in Rajasthan. Non-Vegetarian options are limited but not rare.
6) Sight Seeing at Forts and Museums
Rajasthan is historically very rich. Every city and town here has a history and some really impressive architecture in the form of Forts and Palaces. Most of the places are well-maintained and tourist friendly, with enough signage and audio guides to take you through the rich culture and heritage of that place. The museums are well cataloged and a pleasure to visit.
Typical of every tourist place, you will find a lot of guides around the attractions. If you are traveling in a group as I was, it is recommended that you appoint one guide to take you through the attraction and explain the various facets of history behind the exhibits. However, make sure that the guide is an authorized personnel with an ID from the State Government and Tourism Board. A lot of these attractions have specified guide rates at the ticketing counter and these can serve as a benchmark when appointing one.
In Jaisalmer, particularly, I found a lot of fake guides. Every person in the city claimed to know the history and offered to be a guide. In the end, we approached the ticketing counter at Jaisalmer Fort to find an authorized one.
Another tip is ensuring that the guide covers the attraction well. Remember to ask a lot of questions and insist on going into areas which he may not be covering. A lot of guides mark a tour by the hour and tend to skip out a few nooks and corners as they would want to latch onto the next client.
Caveat with the authorized guides – some of them insist on taking you to shops saying that this is the only authentic shop selling XYZ. This is not always the case. The guides are sometimes, commissioned to get clients to the store and hence,if you are not keen on shopping or find the same fishy, a polite refusal is the way out.
If you are a solo traveler, go ahead and take an audio guide from the ticketing counter as the same will work out well for you.
7) Shopping in Rajasthan
Shopping in Rajasthan is a pleasure. From colorful traditional Rajasthani dresses to traditional Indian artifacts like decor pieces, lamps, bags, traditional shoes etc. You will find a lot of street shopping around the key sight-seeing points. If you are buying from the street vendors, remember to bargain to at least 30-40% price.
There are several Government authorized handlooms and shops, which are recommended for costlier items like Pashmina shawls, Rajasthani bed-spreads, white metal artifacts etc. The stuff that you get here is genuine and will last you longer. A lot of these are found within the main city as in case of Jodhpur and Jaipur and have a Government authorised sign-board displayed up-front. Take the help of your hotel authorities to spot the same.
8) Cultural hotspots
There are plenty of cultural shows and hotspots in Rajasthan. To cite a few – the Choki Dhani cultural village in Jaipur, the Desert Safari camps in Jaisalmer, Bagore ki Haveli in Udaipur. Puppet shows and Rajasthani folk dances and songs are the key performances at these centers. These are either a part of a package or require separate tickets. The performances are quite similar and hence, if you have seen one, you can avoid the others, thus, freeing up some time on your itinerary.
9) Best time to Visit
The best season to visit Rajasthan would be between October to February. The weather here tends to cool down considerably and makes your sightseeing more enjoyable. Visiting in the Summer months is not advisable as the heat here tends to really sap you .
10) Clothing for Rajasthan
During the peak tourist season, carry some cotton wear, especially for the day. The evening gets a little nippy in October and November and quite cold in December and January. Hence, do carry some warm clothes accordingly. Flat and comfortable shoes are recommended throughout your travel to Rajasthan as there is plenty of walking around to do. Overall, Rajasthan tour is a charming, ethnic experience of India and you are definitely headed for a colorful and memorable experience with a holiday in Rajasthan.