solo travel in india: jaipur, the pink city
Rajasthan has a reputation for being the most colorful state in India, and some might argue it’s the “true India.” When in Rajasthan, I first visited Jaipur AKA the Pink City. Pink is the color of hospitality and I have to say, I felt very welcomed there. The city is organized in a grid-format, but despite this setup, it still felt like it was an absolute maze. Despite the crazy and chaotic feel of the city, I loved the few days I spent there. If you go, here are a few tips on how to get around and suggestions on what to do.
Why is Jaipur Pink?
Jaipur, India is known as The Pink City. But why? Answer: when the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria announced their visit in 1876, the King of Jaipur, Maharaja Ram Singh, mandated that the city be painted its now famous reddish-pink hue. This is because pink is believed to be the color of hospitality. It’s hard not to feel welcome in such a beautiful, bustling city! If you go to Jaipur for a taste of local culture, shopping, sightseeing, and of course, incredible photos, you will not be disappointed.
Getting to Jaipur
To get to Jaipur, I took an express train from New Delhi which only took four hours. I heard the trains in Northern India were notorious for running late, but this one departed and arrived exactly when expected. I left really early in the morning (around 6am), so I was glad I didn’t have to wait at all in the train station since the train left directly from Jaipur as opposed to being a stop along the way.
Arriving to Jaipur Junction by Train
Getting to the main station (Jaipur Jn.) can be a bit overwhelming. I chose a hostel that was only a 5-minute drive away. When you arrive, there will be guys that come up to you offering rides and even full-day tours and packages for the following day. Be wary of those kinds of offers as they're often disguised as scams in bigger Indian cities. To get from the station to your accommodation cheaply, try to bargain with the rickshaw/tuk-tuk drivers. Suggest half of their initial offer and walk away when they don’t agree.
If you have a local SIM card and can use your phone when you arrive, just get an Uber. It’s cheaper than tuk-tuks and you don’t have to bargain. It saves you the headache!
Jaipur also has its own airport, so if you’re already traveling within India, it can be cheap to get a domestic flight if booked a few weeks prior.
Exploring the Pink City
Just wandering around through all Jaipur's tiny streets and alleyways was a treat. It’s an incredible destination for photographers and creatives alike—an easy place for finding artistic inspiration. But be careful with your stuff when walking through all the markets; it is very fast-paced and noisy. Other than keeping an eye on your stuff, Jaipur is a very safe city for solo travelers.
Jewelry and Gemstones
The city of Jaipur is famous for its gemstones, so I did a little bit of shopping. Even on a backpacker budget, you can get some nice stones for pretty cheap. It is THE place to go if you want to buy presents and jewelry for friends, family, or yourself ;) Always always always bargain!
Must See Sites:
This is the number one tourist attraction in Jaipur and it’s easy to see why. Amer Fort is just outside the city center and you pay a slight entrance fee. From what I remember, it was around $7-8 USD. They also have an evening light show which costs an additional 200Rs, but I decided to pass and go to another site nearby instead (Stepwell).
Note: Every tourist attraction you go to will have an Indian price and a foreigner price. As a tourist, you will likely pay double or more than double the fee of an entry ticket to any site or attraction. Keep that in mind when shopping as well. You will sometimes hear the vendors tell you they're giving you the "Indian price" or a discount.
Stepwell - Panna Meena Ka Kund
While you’re out visiting Amer Fort, check out the Panna Meena Ka Kund Stepwell. There are a buch of stepwells scattered around India. Historically, they were religious sites or places of meditation in addition to bathing and drinking spots. The one in Amer should only be a 4-minute Uber ride from the entry of the fort. You could also take a tuk-tuk, but expect to pay at least double an Uber. I would not recommend walking there, not because it's unsafe, but more because the road to get there is very windy and confusing and there are no sidewalks.
The stepwells are rectangular-shaped wells with steps going downward. They're also great places for photos, though you might have to pay the guard if you want to go down the steps towards the well. Also, use caution when walking down the steps because it's not particularly safe and the well is supposedly very deep. Needless to say, walking down the steps at a site like this would never be allowed in Western countries. They would most likely be gated or roped off. But in India, it seems that anything is possible if money becomes part of the equation.
City Palace was my favorite place to visit in Jaipur. The architecture and intricate details of the palace were like none I had ever seen before. The entry fee is around 2,500 Rs (about $40 USD) which kind of a lot for India (an even higher entry fee than the Taj Mahal), but I think the price was definitely worth it. With the tour, you get paired up with a guide who takes you to each of the rooms and tells you the history of the royal family. (My tour guide happened to be an excellent photographer!) At the end, you also get a free drink (tea, coffee, juice, water), and some buttery cookies. It was the most expensive thing I did in Jaipur, but so worth it. Tickets and information for City Palace can be found here.
Bapu Bazaar & Johri Bazaar
These two markets kind of meld into one another. Bapu Bazaar (see video clip below) is where you can find textiles for saris, scarves, and other clothing and accessories. Johri Bazaar is great for purchasing jewelry pieces: gold, silver, precious/semi-precious stones, and costume jewelry. It's very easy to get lost in these two markets, so when you start feeling claustrophobic, look for a main road and that should help re-orient you. A good point to look for is the Hawa Mahal as it's right across the street from a lot of popular jewelry stores and the perfect pickup/drop of point for Uber and tuk-tuk rides.
The Hawa Mahal Palace (as mentioned) is right in the city center of Jaipur and close to Johari Bazaar. This facade pictured here faces a main road and is actually the backside of the Hawar Mahal Palace. It has 953 latticework windows which were originally made for women to look out into the main street without being seen. A lot of people stop here as they're walking by to take photos of this beautiful structure.
Picturesque High-End Hotels
Two stunning luxury hotels worth a visit in Jaipur are the Samode Haveli and Narain Niwas Palace Hotel. Samode Haveli is perfect for at least stopping in for lunch or a drink. It’s an incredibly beautiful space and was once a traditional Indian mansion back in the day. There are lush plants and flowers blossoming in every corner of the property, making it an ideal spot for spending a lazy afternoon and grabbing a drink.
Narain Niwas Palace Hotel is right in the center of Jaipur. It's a gorgeous heritage hotel and has an amazing bar called Bar Palladio. The bar and restaurant boasts blue turquoise colors, antique decor, and outdoor seating. Another great place to stop in for a drink and a meal if you can't afford to stay here. The architecture and artwork are incredible!
What to Buy in Jaipur:
Jewelry, stones, clothing. Bargain for everything!
Tuk-Tuk, Uber or Ola (India's Uber), or walking.
Be aware of scams and tour packages especially in a tourist-ridden city like Jaipur. Some people told me that they ordered tour packages and the guides added on some things without telling the tourists, forcing them to pay more (apparently, this is common in India).
Jaipur is also very safe for women to walk around alone. I never had any issues or felt unsafe anywhere. Admittedly, I was usually with one other female traveler at the time, but if we ever separated, I personally never had any problems wandering around by myself.
- Eat at local restaurants and/or try street food. Western restaurants will cost more.
- Try masala chai. It's made with cow's milk, chai leaves, masala spice, and sugar and you can buy it on the street and in any cafe, guaranteed! On the street, it's usually 10Rs! Sooo cheap.
- Use Uber or Ola instead of tuk-tuks. It’s so much cheaper and the fixed price saves you the headache of having to bargain for a ride.
- Stay in cheap places for accommodation. You can find some comfortable but affordable places on hostelworld or booking.com
- Be selective about the forts you choose to visit. I only went to Amer Fort because I heard it was the most famous, but there are a few others that are supposed to be nice as well including Nahargarh Fort and Jaigarh Fort. Each one has an entry fee and it can really add up if you're trying to save money.
- Bargain for all of your purchases in the bazaars: clothing, textiles, souvenirs, jewelry. Start walking away when they don't lower the price and that usually does the trick.
Did I miss any information about Jaipur? If there’s anything you want to know about, comment below, email or connect with me on social media. Check my blog again for upcoming travel guides in India and elsewhere.
Till next time!