Rajasthan, with its temples, palaces, deserts, and forts, is the quintessential Indian experience. A Rajasthan trip is also a perfect introduction to the beautiful country of India.
When it comes to India, it’s best to divide and conquer. From the Indian Ocean coastline to the snow-capped Himalayas, the country is so vast you could easily spend six months there and still not explore everything. If you’ve only got two to three weeks, I recommend picking one state and working your way through it at a slower pace to savor the experience. In this article we explore Rajasthan.
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Top Tips for Your Rajasthan Trip
The intensity of colors, flavors, and smells is at its most dazzling – and sometimes overwhelming – in Rajasthan. I truly believe that after traveling to Rajasthan, no other destination in Southeast Asia will seem like a challenge. Time permitting, a Rajasthan road trip is the absolute best way to see the Thar Desert (also known as the “Great Indian Desert”) and the other beautiful and historical hill forts & palaces.
Here are my top tips on how to prepare a Rajasthan trip plan and enjoy the beautiful sensory overload awaiting you.
1. Trains are the way to go
Indian trains may well be my favorite form of transportation I’ve ever taken. They reflect every strata of society. From the cheapest sleeper train with no AC, to the ultra-luxurious 1st Class carriage, there is something there for every taste and every budget. Rajasthan is no different with an excellent train system crisscrossing the state.
Do take the open carriage sleeper train (sl) at least once on your trip – I met the kindest, friendliest Indians I ever encountered on the sleeper train and I’ve gotten some great night’s sleep there as well. Despite the lack of AC, open windows and fans do their jobs so fear not.
Keep in mind that train tickets sell much in advance. If you’re on a tight schedule, book your tickets online before your touchdown in India. You can book through the official Indian Railways site or use one of the many booking portals or tourist agents. Given the long distances in Rajasthan, overnight trains may be your best bet if you don’t want to waste time on travel. They also save you money on accommodation.
2. Don’t overlook health hazards
There is no denying that traveling around India comes with a few more challenges than your average holiday, including a few health hazards. Always plan ahead to get all your vaccinations in time for the trip. Don’t forget also to come equipped with a small travel medicine kit.
A stomach bug is almost certain when traveling in India for an extended period so always have diarrhea medicine and electrolytes at hand. You can buy medicine on the ground, but you never know when the illness is going to hit you (a ten-hour train journey, perhaps?) so don’t count on running to the pharmacy. Luckily, most of these infections go away quickly.
Avoid mosquitoes like fire. Sure, it might sound obvious (no one likes mosquito bites) but I’m not talking about a little bit of itchiness here. Mosquitoes in India can carry the dengue fever virus for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever outbreaks have been reported in some cities in Rajasthan, including Jaipur, so come armed with the strongest mosquito spray you can find and long-sleeved clothes. Good mosquito nets should be a priority when booking accommodation.
3. Safety first
As a tourist in India, you immediately stick out from the crowd and become a prime pickpocketing target. Get a money belt and keep your valuables there at all times. Don’t carry large amounts of cash around (there will never be a need for that) and keep a photocopy of your passport, ticket reservations and visa at the hotel.
Beware of shopping scams, especially in touristy areas of Jaipur. Jaipur is famous for its shopping and particularly famous for gems. Unfortunately, if you don’t know your gems, you can easily be fooled into buying worthless glass beads for the price of a precious stone. If you’re not an expert, better skip the gem shopping.
A fairly new threat to travelers to India is cybersecurity or lack thereof. Don’t let public Wi-Fi tempt you. Petty criminals can set up rogue hotspots to steal your login credentials and credit card information if you shop online while connected. If you really want to use public Wi-Fi, download India VPN app before the trip. Better yet, get a sim card at the airport and rely on your own mobile data.
I have never seen a bar of soap in a bathroom on an Indian train. The same goes for many local restaurants, rest stops, and tourist attractions. Something I’ve learned while traveling in India is to never leave my hotel without a small bar of soap in my bag. Avoid the foamy mess by buying a small metal tin (like the ones from Amazon).
Toilet paper seems more common in Rajasthani toilets than soap, but I would still advise you to carry tissues or wet wipes at all times. A hand sanitizer is a life-saver when you don’t have access to running water. Given the risk of a stomach bug (see above), you need to be extra cautious about keeping your hands clean before you eat anything.
5. Pace yourself
Rajasthan is a rewarding but also challenging destination. Particularly bigger cities like Jaipur can be exhausting to navigate. With the heat, the crowds, the car fumes, the never-ending honking, and the unrelenting street vendors, sometimes a short outing can knock all energy out of you.
Add a couple of extra days to your itinerary to spread the activities over more days and leave yourself some time to simply rest. Trust me, I can’t sit still for a minute when traveling but Rajasthan left me exhausted at times. You might also lose a day or two to a stomach bug so plan extra time to be on the safe side of things.
General Rules for Eating and Drinking in India:
- Don’t drink tap water.
- Drink only bottled or filtered water.
- Always check to make sure top is still sealed on bottles of water
- Feel free to eat anything from Haldiram’s, Bikaner, Evergreen
- It’s safe to eat from clean street food stalls (look to see which stalls are popular with the locals and high turnover usually means fresher food).
- You can eat anything from Delhi Haat.
- Don’t eat fruit that you can’t peel.
- Don’t eat salads or cut fruits.
- Some say to not eat anything cold (cooked foods are safer).
- Don’t drink anything with ice cubes.
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