Neil and I have been thinking of making it a ritual to travel to a new destination every year on our wedding anniversary. This year was our first, so it had to be special. But given that we were scrambling for leaves, we had to keep the trip short and memorable.
Our mutual destination of choice was the royal city of Udaipur in Rajasthan. In this article, I’ll tell you how we went about planning a trip to Udaipur, a city that has much to offer beyond its enchanting lakes and palaces.
I am a sucker for holiday planning, as you may have figured by now. The time leading up to the actual trip is one filled with a lot of excitement and energy. So once we started planning, we figured there are multiple ways to reach Udaipur from our base location, Pune.
- Train: There are no direct trains from Pune to Udaipur, so this option was scratched off the list right at the beginning. With only about 4 days in hand, we didn’t want to spend 2 days in just intercity travel.
- Bus: This mode of transport, despite being economical, didn’t fit our plan because of the travel time – almost 19 hours, one way.
- Car: This was one option we were actually considering seriously. The drive from Pune to Udaipur is a delight, and it takes about 14 hours of driving time. But before it got the better of us, we reminded each other of our time crunch.
- Flights: This left us with only one option – to fly to Udaipur. But unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Pune to Udaipur either.
So we decided to break our journey into 2 parts – take a bus from Pune to Mumbai, and a flight from Mumbai straight to Udaipur, and vice versa for the return journey. This benefited us in two ways. For one, this involved the least amount of travel time to get to Udaipur – about 8 hours in total. Travelling by train or entirely by road would have taken us much longer. Secondly, this mode of travel cost us almost the same as what we would have to pay if we drove down or took a train. We paid approximately INR 10900 in total for a return journey for both of us (INR 8500 for flights and INR 2400 for bus). So there was really no reason not to go for it!
When planning a trip to Udaipur, take some time out to sort out your accommodation first.
Udaipur has accommodation that fits every budget type.
From hostels and small Havelis that cost a few thousand Rupees a night, to grand old palaces that cost as much as INR 100k, Udaiur has something for everyone!
Being the explorers that we are, we wanted to have a taste of both worlds to experience as much of Udaipur’s grandeur as possible. But the challenge was to accommodate that within our humble budget. So we decided to spend 3 out of the 4 days at a relatively inexpensive hotel, and one last day preferably at one of the numerous palaces converted into a hotel.
After scanning through a long list of budget accommodation, we zeroed in on a charming little place by the name of Jaiwana Haveli, located in the older part of the city. It cost us about INR 3500 per night including breakfast, which seemed fairly reasonable for staying at an old home-style haveli, by the bank of the famous Lake Pichola. Having said that, there are myriads of other similar options you can choose to fit your budget. Another reason for choosing Jaiwana Haveli was it’s proximity to most of the famous tourist attractions, that ultimately saved us expense on local transportation.
Now that accommodation for the first 3 nights was sorted, we started searching for options for the slightly more so-called luxurious stay that I mentioned earlier. Udaipur has some REALLY fancy hotels, ok? Think of palaces right out of a history book, where yesteryear’s Maharajas resided, and you could very well be staying in one of them. But of course, that comes at a pretty steep price. If you have the budget, there are many such magnificent palaces to choose from.
Neil and I, being on a tighter budget, came across The Lalit Laxmi Vilas Palace, that happened to be running a promotion for early bookings for their lake-view rooms. (Yes, we are deal-hunters like that 😛 ) Udaipur is a city of lakes, so it is not surprising that lake-view rooms are very high in demand. The Laxmi Vilas Palace is located on the banks of the Fateh Sagar Lake, one of the most picturesque lakes in Udaipur. So we decided to take a plunge and book a night at a price of approximately INR 10,500 (inclusive of breakfast). Given how expensive most luxury properties in Udaipur are, this seemed like a pretty good deal.
3. Local Transportation
There are 4 possible means of commuting which you should keep in mind while planning a trip to Udaipur.
- Hire a cab from a travel agent for a fixed or hourly price
- Take public transport (Auto-rickshaws & buses)
- Pick up a self-driven car from Myles
- Book a cab from Ola as and when you need
We were initially tempted to get a self-driven car to allow us the flexibility of exploring at our own pace. But we figured that most of the places we were planning to visit, were located in the older part of the city. And, old city = narrow lanes and by-lanes. That makes it slightly difficult to manoeuvre a car around the city and probably face issues while finding parking space. I mean, who wants to fight for parking spots on a holiday?
So we decided to stick to public transports, mainly auto-rickshaws. They are widely available everywhere, and more importantly are able to cut through traffic-laden narrow lanes of the city. Not only did we avoid the trouble of taking care of a hired car, we also saved tons of money! We did occasionally hire cabs through Ola depending on our location, but this really helped to minimise our overall cost. We also covered many places just by walking, thanks to our strategically located accommodation on the first 3 days. By the end of the trip, we had spent only about INR 1900 for local commute (including airport transfers). That’s not bad at all if you consider how much you’d end up spending if you hired cabs or a private car.
Now, this is something that totally depends on you and how you like your holidays to be. Some may want to visit all major tourist attractions, while others may want to cover only a few, or none at all. Here is a concise list of historic attractions you may want to see, and the costs associated with them.
- City Palace – INR 250 per person plus INR 250 per camera (for Indians)
- Bagore ki Haveli – INR 90 per person + INR 150 per camera (only for the puppet show in the evening)
- Jagdish Temple – Free 😀
- Jag Mandir Palace – INR 700 per person (for the boat ride to and from the palace)
Any discussion about a trip to Udaipur can never be complete without a mention of its lip-smacking array of food. While we believe that this demands a separate blog post of its own, it is important to be aware that food potentially has a huge impact on the budget. This is a variable component that depends on your personal tastes and preferences. Neil and I mostly prefer to savour local food and eat at restaurants popular among locals. Our total food cost for the entire trip came to around INR 5000, excluding breakfasts.
Key Takeaways for Planning a Trip to Udaipur
Keeping these five major cost centres in mind, go ahead and start planning a trip to Udaipur. Believe me, you’ll cherish this one forever! No matter where you come from, Udaipur is sure to fit you into its own scheme of things. And that’s the real beauty of a city brimming with royalty, grandeur and humility at the same time.
Before I end, here are a few Travel Hacks to help you in planning a trip to Udaipur.
# Choose your accommodation based on the location of your sight-seeing or other activities. It’ll help you save a lot on commute. For example, if you want to see the City Palace and Bagore ki Haveli, it would be wise to put up near Lake Pichola.
# Eat like a local. Always! This not only helps you discover food you may have never eaten before but also turns out cheaper.
# When hiring local auto-rickshaws, get all your bargaining skills out of the bag. Do keep in mind that Udaipur gets a lot of tourists, both local and international. Hence expect most auto-rickshaw drivers to add a huge markup when quoting a price.
# Don’t expect the smaller, budget hotels to provide unbarred view of the lakes, even if they claim to have lake-view rooms. In this context, lake-view would probably mean a partial view of the lake from one part of your room. Honestly, that is really not bad given the price you’re paying. Also, the first couple of days are mostly spent exploring the city, so you’ll barely have time to sit and enjoy your lake-view room. Set your expectations right, and you are sure to have a great time! 🙂
Until then, happy tripping, and keep watching this space for more posts about our experience in Udaipur! 🙂