I’ve always dreamt of visiting India which to me is a rather magical place. My fascination with Sanskrit literature, the Indus Valley civilization, India’s cultural and linguistic influence throughout Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Indian cuisine, clothing, 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. It was an incredible experience to visit this city although I wouldn’t recommend traveling here with an infant with reasons 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 a straightforward process but you need to apply at least five days before your travel date. When I did mine two years ago, it cost 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.
Good to know: For more than two centuries, Jaipur served as the focal point for doing business for traveling merchants. Imagine merchants coming from different parts of India gathering here to rest, eat, meet, buy, and sell. It would have been a busy square as it is today.
As it is today, the entire city center is lined up with different bazaars, with each 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 portions were huge, we almost always took out our leftovers for dinner.
Although we ate a lot, we also lost a lot of weight on our three-week stay here. I lost 10 pounds! I’m guessing it’s because of the hot weather, the need to walk so much, plus the vegetarian Rajasthani cuisine. In fact, Jaipur has the most number of vegetarian restaurants in India, and its 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 ambiance. We went here for our anniversary.) 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 actually used these dresses for our civil wedding. 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, to me, is the best way to see the city IF you are fit and not traveling with kids. A runner-up would be to hire a manual or motor-run rickshaw.
You will encounter a lot of sights along the way: ornate buildings, magnificent fortresses, beautiful fabrics sold on the street, 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 first-time visitor. In fact, this is the very first time that I can 100% say I went through culture shock. As the weeks went by, I got used to all the sights and sounds though, and I even got to sleep through the night despite all the street noise.
So back to traveling with kids. If I were to travel with my child here, I will definitely hire a taxi.
- Why I want to go back: We only got to visit Rajasthan on our three-week stay. 29 more states to see and each uniquely its own. I would love to go back if given the chance!
- 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! 🙂