I’ve always dreamt of visiting India which is, to me, a rather magical place. The fascination that I’ve always had with Sanskrit literature, the history of the Indus Valley civilization, India’s cultural and linguistic influence throughout Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Indian cuisine, clothing, and music, and, of course, one of the country’s most famous exports to the world, Gautama Buddha, came to the fore as R and I decided to visit this country two years ago.
India evokes adjectives and feelings like no other. It’s such a huge country and with only three weeks here, we decided to only spend time in Jaipur, the largest city in the state of Rajasthan. All in all, it was an incredible experience to visit this city although, I wouldn’t recommend traveling here with an infant with reasons as you’ll see below. Please keep in mind that I’m only covering Jaipur, so know that these tips are not reflective of the entire country.
Some Tips on Visiting India (with a focus on Jaipur):
- Philippine citizens need to apply for a visa which can be done entirely online. It’s pretty straightforward and you need to apply at least five days before your travel date. When I did mine two years ago, it costed me 80 USD for a three-week stay. Here is the official website on where you can lodge your application: eVisa India.
- Accommodation here is pretty affordable and there’s a good range of hostels, hotels, and guesthouses that you can choose from. We stayed at Haveli Kalwara, situated right at the heart of Indira bazaar (Note: Jaipur City is historically an area where traveling merchants did business. So, the entire city center is lined up with different bazaars, with each bazaar area offering a different product. Most sellers have their stores passed down from three generations up.). It was a unique experience to be staying in the middle of the market. We woke up so early to the sound of beeping cars and motorcycles, and only got to sleep when the city started to sleep. The outside walls seemed so chaotic, and the guesthouse provided an oasis for us!
- A trip to India will never be complete without sampling its amazing cuisine. We ate out every day for lunch, and since the portions were huge, we almost always took out our leftovers for dinner. Although we ate quite a lot, we actually lost a lot of weight on our three-week stay here (I lost 10 pounds) because of the heat and because we walked a lot. Rajasthani cuisine is largely vegetarian. In fact, it is the state with the most number of vegetarians in India (and Jaipur’s McDonald’s is no exception)! We sampled a different restaurant every day, and we also revisited our favorites.
- We highly recommend the following: Copper Chimney, Handi Restaurant, Laxmi Misthan Bhandar, Natraj Restaurant, Niros Restaurant, and Surya Mahal (for North Indian cuisine); Dasaprakash (for South Indian cuisine and the best ice cream in town); Baradari Restaurant and Bar (a bit pricey but a nice splurge, with great food and a nice ambience. We went here for our monthsary.); and, Midtown Restaurant and Peacock Rooftop Restaurant (for your multi-cuisine cravings).
- We thoroughly enjoyed touring Jaipur City with Yo! Tours, a youth-led startup offering free walking tours around India. We spent around two hours doing the tour and it was so worth it. The company depends on tips to keep the services going, so don’t hesitate to give a big tip if you’ve enjoyed the tour!
- Apart from the city, we also visited Amber Fort, around 30-45 minutes by rickshaw from Jaipur. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known to be around for almost 500 years now. I suggest spending an entire day here because there’s just so much to see. Instead of getting a tour guide, we instead downloaded the CaptivaTour app which offers free and paid walking heritage tours in Agra, New Delhi, and Jaipur. It’s available on Apple Store and Google Play.
- We are not big fans of souvenirs, but if there are two items that you should definitely bring home from Jaipur, it would be a custom-fit Indian dress and block-printed sheets. We went to Raju Om Sai Textiles where we had our full silk dress customized at a quarter of the price compared to the Philippines! We also bought two block-printed mandala sheets. Here is Raj (the owner)’s WhatsApp contact number should you be interested: +91-99280-86129.
- It can appear daunting, but walking around the city is, to me, the best way to see the city IF you are not traveling with kids. If you do, the best way would be to hire a rickshaw, whether manual or motor-run. You will encounter a lot of sights on the way: stray monkeys, dogs, cats, cows, overflowing trash bins, the practice of over-beeping and not giving way to pedestrians, and people defecating behind trees (which may appear “weird” when done in the city, but is actually common practice in rural India). These may be a lot to take in for a traveling family with kids, so it’s better to guard each other against physical, mental, and emotional stresses. What’s a few rupees to add for your transportation if it’s going to help you get through your travel?
- Why I want to go back: We only got to visit Rajasthan on our three-week stay. 29 more states to see, with each uniquely its own!
- As with any country in the world: Do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂
P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | take good care of your valuables | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in the local language, culture, and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤