The Jaipur Guide: In the Pink City of Rajasthan
Jaipur, otherwise known as The Pink City, is the capital of one of our favourite Indian states – Rajasthan. Famous for it’s pink (or now terracotta orange) walls in its old city, Jaipur is a hot tourist destination as it’s part of India’s ‘Golden Triangle’ (made up Jaipur, Agra and Delhi). The city is teeming with a rich, deep history from palaces to forts to museums, and so much more!
Some travellers love Jaipur and others hate it; we sat somewhere in the middle.
We really found it unnecessarily frustrating at times. Being such a popular destination in Northern India comes with it a lot of repetitive hassling, and it can feel as though everyone is after your money or trying to rip you off. Not to mention some of the rickshaw drivers that we had, had NO idea where we wanted to go or who then demanded a higher price even after we agreed on one before we got in. Our friends came to Jaipur a few weeks before us and loved it whereas another group of friends went around the same time and hated it. We ended up seeing what we wanted to see and leaving a day early to take a deep breath! Saying all of this, I’m still so glad we went, but I might give it a miss next time I’m in India.
What to do in Jaipur
The history of the Pink City is fascinating and so are its old palaces and forts. You could quite easily spend a week in Jaipur marvelling at all the opulent architecture. If you do intend on absorbing the history of the city you can purchase a concession ticket at a cheaper price of 1000 rupees for all monuments, but you can only visit five points of interest on one ticket. (For more information, click here.) We didn’t realise at first how spread out the points of interest are but there are several in the centre of the Pink City that are within a walkable distance.
My favourite palace in India is the stunning Palace of the Winds. Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh for the ladies of the court. The ornately carved windows hide the royal women from the world but allowed them to gaze out to see the city life below. It’s a truly stunning building and we paid for a guide to take us around and it was definitely worth it. Guides offer their services (kindly) outside the Hawa Mahal and cost roughly 300 rupees for a tour, I wish we’d taken him up on giving us a guided tour of Amer fort too!
Entrance fee: 200 rupees for foreigners (25 rupees for students)
A short walk away from the Hawa Mahal is the equally amazing Jantar Mantar. This UNESCO World Heritage site houses nineteen astronomical instruments, that include the largest sundial in the world. The architectural feats were completed in 1734 at the request of King Sawai Jai Singh II. We didn’t get an audio guide or a tour guide for navigating this site and although there are several signs stating what each part is it may have been more informative to have had some clearer information. It’s a really interesting place anyway and we had fun finding our own star signs.
Entrance fee: 200 rupees for foreigners (25 rupees for students)
Travel Tip: Jantar Mantar is a few steps away from the City Palace and roughly a ten-minute walk from Hawa Mahal so if you are eager to see all three it is easy enough to do it all in a day. Again, concession tickets can be purchased from any of the sites.
Sitting atop a large hill next to the Nahargarh Fort is the Amber Palace or the Amer Fort. This place gives visitors epic views of the valley and town below as well as showcasing some stunning handpainted murals and architecture within its walls. Built in 1592 it became home to the Rajput Maharajas who ruled over Jaipur. Many of the rooms and gardens have been reconstructed to show its previous splendour.
However, if you do decide to get an audio guide or a tour guide we’d definitely recommend the latter. The audio guides in Amber Palace aren’t free (200 rupees per person) and Martyn’s headset repeatedly fell apart but it was the only one left. We also felt the narrator went a little bit too heavy whilst trying to explain the ‘epicness’ of the Palace. We also got lost trying to find the poorly signposted audio guide numbers- but that says more about us than the audio guides.
To get up to the palace you will need to clamber up a few hundred steps so bring some water as the heat was pretty intense. Overall its a very enchanting place with many corridors and rooms to explore, although if your time is tight and you only want to see one fort we preferred the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur…
Entrance fee: 500 rupees (audio guide not included). 25 rupees for students but expired student cards are accepted as long as there is no date on them…
If you are looking for intricately decorated gifts or if you just want to replace a cheap, ripped pair of hippy pants then you are in luck in Jaipur. Shopping until you drop is definitely possible in the Pink City but be aware that as you are in India you may get mobbed; as I was nearly knocked out by a local man waving a pashmina in my face.
There are many separate bazaars and most items are grouped in different streets by type which makes complete sense. If you are after some beautiful handcrafted sandals or bags they are easy enough to find, but for vegans be careful that the item you are being offered isn’t made from leather as the salesman may not be so honest when it comes to bagging a sale. Veganism is not often understood or practised in India, but I’ll write up another post about that soon.
A short rickshaw ride away from the shops outside of the Hawa Mahal is the Bagu Bazaar. These streets are teeming with vibrant wares for sale but mainly things like dresses, skirts, saris, and menswear. Haggling here is an absolute must and if the price really is ridiculous it may be best to cut your losses and try somewhere else.
Travel Tip: The OLA app is a bit difficult to use in Jaipur. In February there were protests by Uber and OLA drivers over pay and when we were there it was still causing problems. We found most rickshaws wouldn’t ever arrive so we relied on micros and minis through the app. OLA and Uber do both take away much needed custom from local rickshaw drivers who really cannot compete with the low, low prices on the app so this does cause some friction but we found we had more trouble with local drivers, but that was just our experience.
Where to eat
Eating vegan food in India sometimes is incredibly easy and sometimes it seems ridiculously hard. Jaipur, unfortunately, was one of those harder places for us. We were also taken to one of the worst restaurants we’ve ever been into in India by a smiley rickshaw driver, so I’d recommend reading up on the reviews of a place before you decide to give it go; because after we read up on the place we went to the reviews definitely weren’t wrong..
Heritage Buffet Restaurant
These guys are located in the Pink City and offer non-veg and veg meals. The waiters understand ‘no dairy’ requests too. I had a really tasty Dal Palak and Martyn had an Aloo Gobi that we also really enjoyed. Prices aren’t that cheap as they’ve had a considerable hike up for tourists but we found that to be the case in most of Jaipur. The entrance is a bit strange as the front door opens into a waiting area and you reach the restaurant on the 2nd floor via a lift.
Find them here.
This place is Jaipur’s ONLY organic health food cafe and also clearly labels its meals as vegetarian or vegan. It’s outside of the Pink City and for us, it was a bit of a trek but I’m so, so glad we did it. Our trek was rewarded by falafel, pitas, and a vegan chocolate chunk brownie. I inhaled their manoushe flatbread with olives, salads, seeds and herbs. Their prices are ok and pretty much in line with tourist prices from other restaurants in the city. They also offer up juices, salads, Thai curries, and other cake options. If you are craving a healthy non-oily lunch go there!
Find them here.
Listed on Happy Cow this restaurant is a fully pure veg restaurant. It’s a classy, clean establishment with air conditioning as cold as the artic. Known for its sizeable dosa and breakfast options they are also open until late. We enjoyed our masala dosas but Martyn found his ‘spicy’ Mysore version mild to say the least. Prices here reflect the cost of permanently keeping the air conditioning on – I’m kidding but it is pricey for a dosa. Upstairs they have extra seating and very pristine bathrooms. Again, the location is a little bit outside of the Pink City but their restaurant does show up as a destination on OLA.
Find them here.
Jaipur is huge so there is definitely not a limited number of hotels and guesthouses to spend a few nights at, and the options range from prices being suitable for backpacker budgets to fancy hotel splurges.
I’ll be completely honest as I like to be on this blog, we didn’t get it right with our accommodation.
I can’t stress enough how important location is unless you are happy relying on rickshaws an OLA cabs to get you from A to B. Even in India I love the chance to walk to nearby restaurants and attractions and this is something that was almost impossible for us. So before you book your hotel/guesthouse/hostel take into consideration how far away you’ll be from the Pink City.
Hostel Bagpack Village- Our Rating: 5/10
Reviews online on Booking.com describe hostel Bagpack as an ‘oasis in the craziness of Jaipur’ and in some respects, they aren’t wrong. The walled hostel boasts several gardens, a free water dispenser, plenty of comfortable lounge areas, a well-equipped kitchen, as well as yoga and meditation areas. It’s got a firm backpacker feel. Double rooms are available as well as dorms. The double room we had was lovely, cosy and homely, we nearly slept on the floor because they had carpets. We found the room to spotlessly clean and we also nearly did another excited dance at the shower that actually had hot water. The staff at Bagpack were friendly but we struggled to understand each other and they cancelled our booking once we arrived and tried to make us move rooms to another room with holes in the roof, so I refused.
What’s not so great is the location, and as I said before the location in Jaipur is important. The hostel is located in the Amer Fort Road district and is hidden away down few residential streets. We couldn’t find any Veg restaurants nearby which made it difficult and something we haven’t experienced in India on our whole trip. It took roughly 15/20 minutes to get into the Pink City when we wanted to explore too.
If you are interested in Bagpack I’d suggest a short stay as the longer we stayed the faster it went down in our estimations.
Look at it on Booking.com here.
Getting There and Away
Jaipur has a large station called Jaipur Junction and its a busy station giving travellers the option head further south or north. We arrived in Jaipur from Jodhpur which took us around 7 hours during the day. At the station, it is quite likely that you will be hunted down by persistent rickshaw drivers as we were, even my well practised resting b*tch face and an OLA booking wasn’t that much of a deterrent.
We left Jaipur by train again and headed onto Agra which only took 3 1/2 hours. We took the Shatabdi Express which was an expensive yet very nice train ride. We were even served tea, biscuits and breakfast. It’s costly considering the distance but it was a bit of a novelty. We booked our train from our hostel with an added booking fee.
Jaipur has so much beauty and history but this place felt like our first ‘real’ experience of Northern India, the kind of experience backpackers tell stories about when they were followed for miles or had to argue with their rickshaw driver. It was also the time we first witnessed beggars and no matter how much you’ve travelled or how prepared you are it can be tough to see it and experience it first-hand. If Jaipur does get too much take a deep breath, reevaluate, cool down in a cafe, and take it slow.
That was our experience in the famous Pink City, if you have any comments, tips, or recommendation for other travellers please let us know!
Peace + plane tickets ✈