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What It’s Like In: Jaipur, India
Jaipur is a major tourist destination in India, one of the three ‘Golden Triangle’ cities which (combined with Delhi and Agra) make up the most commonly traveled route in the country. Though a hectic town with crowded sites, this is also the most accessible city of Rajasthan state and one stuffed full of palaces and history and gems and lassis. If you’re looking to go on a camel safari in the deserts of Rajasthan or visit the highly praised town of Jodhpur you’ll most likely pass through Jaipur on route. Here’s what to expect if you do decide to spend a few days in the city.
On the Streets
Jaipur is a big busy city, full of traffic and pollution and livestock and touts. Wandering around the new town especially can be stressful and low-payoff, so it’s often better to just grab one of the countless auto-rickshaws that plague the roads. Things in the Old Town are a bit better, in that while still crowded the architecture is more historic and the bustle that of markets more than traffic.
As with much of India, curry dominates menus and fried snacks dominate the street food scene. Order a ‘Thali’ platter for a sample of several different tastes, or a curry and a couple of pieces of roti or naan bread instead. Yogurt-based lassi drinks are claimed to be particularly good in Jaipur, and while the research for this article didn’t include the widely-hailed ‘Lassiwala’ shop recommended by guidebooks we did sample lassis from several different spots; all of them were quite good.
India is cheap to travel, and Jaipur is no exception. Hostels are uncommon compared to most of the backpacking world and travel is often going to be by private rickshaw, so from a financial perspective it usually makes more sense to travel with friends rather than solo. If splitting costs, you can expect to spend around $20 per day on a comfortable budget (though cheaper is definitely possible). Double rooms run from around $15, rickshaw trips within the city around $1, and food $1 or $2 per meal. Add in $6.40 if you want to visit a number of the tourist sites in town, and you’re set for a few days. [All prices converted at the current exchange rate of ~62 Rupees per USD.]
Rajasthan state is known for its’ gemstones, and Jaipur has a reputation as a center for scammers looking to dupe unwary travelers by selling them worthless rocks at precious prices. Avoid that, but do keep an eye out for painted elephants wandering the streets. Though they spend their days working at the Amber Fort outside of Jaipur, their daily walks to and from the city mean you can also spot them surrounded by motorbikes and rickshaws with the Pink City of Jaipur in the background.
Jaipur is heavy on tourist sites, with plenty of palaces and fortresses and temples to choose from. A couple of these are just near each other in the old city (Jantar Mantar Observatory, the City Palace, and the Wind Palace) but the rest are fairly spread out. Either choose the ones most important to you (Amber Fort was particularly enjoyable, and the Water Palace is a nice atmosphere at sunset) and visit by public transport or hire a rickshaw for the day if you want to try to see them all.
Have you visited Jaipur? What was your favorite part of the city? Would you recommend other travelers linger here or push further into Rajasthan state?