Planning a trip to Rajasthan in India? Here you will find 10 useful tips for a first timer visit to Rajasthan. Be sure to check out these 10 tips before you travel to Rajasthan in India.
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A few weeks ago, Jan and I went to India for our first time. We made a wonderful round trip through Rajasthan. But this trip didn’t always go smoothly.
I have to admit that it was primarily our own fault. This journey was one of our least well-prepared vacations ever and we clearly experienced that. We usually map out our travel itineraries including destinations down to the smallest details. Due to a very busy period for both of us, we lost sight of the planning.
As the saying goes, “learning by doing”, we learned a lot about traveling in Rajasthan India on the road. In this blog post I would like to share some of those life lessons in the form of 10 useful tips for your first time visit to Rajasthan India.
10 tips for Rajasthan India
1. “A real culture shock!” That is even an understatement!
India is a country that appeals to the imagination, but also a country of many contradictions. On the one hand you can see beautiful things and experience magical moments, but on the other hand you can also experience a lot of dissatisfaction. That is why many travelers often have a love-hate relationship with India. It is also often said “you either love it or hate it”.
When you travel to India for the first time, you will many reactions like ” that’s a real culture shock”. Since we had traveled to Southeast Asia before, we thought we could imagine how traveling through India would be. But nothing was less true. The concept of “culture shock” was even an understatement.
The beauty of India and Rajasthan in particular, is easy to find in the cultural heritage of ancient dynasties and empires. But on the other hand, you are also confronted with present India that deals with severe poverty and is very polluted.
When you see street kids begging and fighting over a cookie or cows eating plastic waste to satisfy their hunger or dogs without fur because they scratch themselves too much, it’s sometimes a lot to take in. It’s really a matter of survival here and it is very confronting. You can hardly prepare yourself for this, but know that these are daily scenes that you will witness.
2. International passport, visa and vaccinations
You need an international passport for traveling to India. If you don’t have this yet, make sure to request this on time. If you do have a travel passport, make sure that it is still valid for 6 months when you travel to India.
You also need a visa to travel to India. In my blog post a step by step visa guide for India you can find a detailed plan how to apply for a tourist visa / e-visa for India.
To travel to India you also need some vaccinations such as hepatitis A, DTP (defteri, tetanus and polio) and measles, mumps and rubella. The latter are obligated in Belgium and you have probably already got them as a child, but definitely check this again. A yellow fever vaccination is not mandatory unless you are traveling from a country or have a lay over in a country where yellow fever occurs. For the obligated vaccinations you can just visit the doctor. You don’t have to go to the tropical institute. There is a risk of malaria in some areas of India, but the risk is low in Rajasthan. So we didn’t take any malaria pills. Read more about health risks in India right here.
3. When is the best time to travel to Rajasthan in India?
Just like in Europe, India has 4 seasons. These are only classified slightly differently. It is winter in January and February and summer from March to May. Summer is followed by a monsoon season from June to September. From October to December there is a post monsoon season. The best travel time for Rajasthan is estimated from November to February.
We traveled to Rajasthan during the Christmas period in winter. When we consulted the temperatures a week before departure, we saw mild temperatures during the day with a maximum of 25 ° C and cold nights around the freezing point. We assumed that bringing a warm sweater would be enough, since we spent the night in different accommodations and didn’t intend to dive in the nightlife. But wrong thinking!
In most guest houses there is no heating and therefore it’s freezing cold. In various cities such as Jaisalmer all daily activities are organized outside. Warming up somewhere inside is unfortunately not possible. If you travel during the winter, it’s best to take more than one warm sweater with you. A pair of warm socks, gloves and a jacket are also welcome.
Besides the cold, the Christmas period may not be the ideal time to travel to Rajasthan. The locals also have a holiday at this time, which makes it much busier than usual in tourist places. The prices of hotels and accommodations are also rising during this period.
4. Tips for booking hotels and accommodations
One of our biggest blunders was booking accommodations too late. Because we were traveling during the tourist high season, the best stays were already fully booked. Dissipointed, we then booked the leftovers at considerably higher prices.
We booked quickly through booking and might have had to do a little more research. We often noticed that the descriptions in booking are not always true. For example, we booked a stay in Agra because it was a 10-minute walk from the Taj Mahal, but when we arrived it turned out to be 45 minutes. Also the pictures of the rooms didn’t always seem to correspond to reality. A little research before booking is required.
Also keep in mind that the standard in relation to hygiene is much lower in Rajasthan. Clean sheets and warm water are a luxury here. If you want to travel cheaper, it’s best to bring a sleeping bag and pillowcase. If you want to be absolutely sure of clean bed linen and a hot shower, you better book a stay in a renowned hotel.
Certainly not all of our experiences with guest houses were bad. It’s a perfect way to travel cheaper and much more locally. We had a wonderful experience in Bikaner where the hostess cooked for us and we ate together with the family. This was also the only guest house that had heating in the room. Also in Jodhpur we stayed in a cozy, authentic accommodation.
5. The best way to travel around in Rajasthan India
I would strongly advise against renting a car and driving yourself in India. The traffic is so chaotic. After spending 2 weeks in the backseat of the car, while I was watching our driver, I could not derive 1 traffic rule, except honk when you pass someone else. I believe the law of the strongest / fastest applies here.
Besides, you don’t only have to take the oncoming traffic into account, but also mopeds that crisscross the track sections, people who cross over whenever they want, and animals such as cows, dogs, sheep,… that unexpectedly turn up. Not to mention the poor condition of the roads in some places.
Make it easy for yourself and rent a car with driver. This is a widely offered service in India. You will also find many organizations in Rajasthan that provide this service. We chose Kalka travels. In the first place because Kalka travels offered the cheapest price for the itinerary that we wanted to do, but also because we read good reviews. This was not a sponsored collaboration, but we are so satisfied with their service and our driver Modnider, who brought us safely from destination to destination, that we really recommend Kalka travels.
6. Withdrawing money in Rajasthan India
In India, rupees are the paying currency. At the start of the journey we exchanged some cash euros for rupees at the airport. During our trip we simply withdrew money with a debit or credit card in an ATM. Since there is always an extra charge when withdrawing money, we tried to collect as much as possible in one go.
What we didn’t know is that you can only collect a maximum of 10000 rupees per transaction. Because we always wanted to collect a higher amount, our transaction was refused. No reason was given as a result of which we were conserned that our cards were not accepted in India. By trying a few times with a different amount, we finally realized that the problem was with the quantity that we tried to collect. So keep in mind that there is a limit of 10000 rupees per transaction.
7. Be careful with food and drinks. Avoid Delhi Belly!
You’ve probably heard it already, but don’t drink water in India that doesn’t come from a sealed bottle. Also try to not eat fruit or raw vegetables that aren’t cleaned with pure drinking water. In short, watch where you eat and drink something. You will think that this goes without saying. Well, I did everything according to the book and still got sick. Yes, there you are in India while you can’t keep anything inside your body. This phenomenon is called Delhi Belly.
Not being able to eat for three days, vomiting and having to go to the toilet every 10 minutes is not recommended at all when you are doing a round trip. Therefore, be prepared and take ORS with you. This is oral rehydratation salt, a type of powder soluble in water that ensures that you do not get dehydrated if you suffer from diarrhea or vomiting. You can also get it at the pharmacy in India. Make sure you always have toilet paper and disinfectant hand gel with you.
When you feel better and think you can eat again, first try safely with a dry cookie or toast. If you feel that your stomach can handle a little more, you can try something else, but avoid spicy dishes.
8. Dress codes in Rajasthan India
The standards for clothing in India and Rajasthan are different from Western Europe.
Try to keep this in mind. For the women it is desirable covering the legs and shoulders. I usually chose a long dress with sleeves or a scarf to cover the shoulders. Men are also expected not to walk with their knees visibly.
These are the most common dress codes for temples, so it’s easy if you are already prepared for this.
Another important thing is footwear. Although flip-flops are the shoes of choice for tourists traveling through South-East Asia, I would still recommend that you opt for something more robust, such as a good pair of sneakers. As I said at the start of this blog post, the roads are bad and very dirty. If you are walking with google maps on your smart phone, trying to make your way through the maze of streets and also try to take the hellish traffic into account, you can easily stumble or step into something where you are not willing to end up in with your bare feet.
9. Dealing with the locals and safety
If you travel to India as a Western tourist, you will often be approached by the locals. They usually start with an innocent talk like where are you from? They often just want to sell something. Sometimes they can come across as somewhat intrusive. In the beginning we found this extremely difficult, but we noticed when we responded in a friendly but clear way that they usually remained friendly. There are always some exceptions of course.
Keep in mind that nothing is free India. If people spontaneously come to your rescue, they usually expect something in return.
As a woman I had a hard time with staring men. Even though I was dressed according to the standards and traveled with my fiancé. I think that especially my blond hair and the occasional organization of a photo shoot, attracted a lot of attention. This resulted in a huge number of selfie requests. Certainly in places where mainly local tourists were.
In the beginning I didn’t find it disturbing, but if you come to a place where suddenly a whole group of people enclose you, it sometimes comes across as threatening. Especially when it is a group of men. That’s why I was happy that Jan was always by my side. I don’t know if I would feel safe traveling as a woman alone. We met some women on the way who were traveling alone or in groups and they had not experienced any problems with this. But I have also heard other stories. If you don’t feel good or safe in a certain situation, then don’t give in to it. Do nothing against your will.
10. Shopping, negotiating and tipping
In Rajasthan you can shop the most beautiful local souvenirs. You will find different specialties in every city. But within one city you will find the same things in almost every store. If you are planning to buy something, it’s best to visit a few shops to compare prices.
Go to the shop with the best price and try to negotiate a price there. This is custom here and you don’t have to feel guilty about this. If it is not possible to negotiate the price, this is usually indicated by a fixed price tag.
A tip is also expected in Rajasthan. Are you happy with the service in a restaurant, do you have a good guide or are you satisfied with your driver? Then reward them with a tip. The usual rate is around 10% of the total price. If you are not satisfied, you can choose to give less or not to tip at all.
Keep these 10 tips in mind to organize your perfect vacation to Rajasthan in India. Don’t forget to enjoy this beautiful, colorful and extremely photogenic country.
If you have any questions about these destinations or want to share experiences, please leave a message below.
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