The main reason people go to Jaisalmer, an ancient Fort city, is to ride a camel through the rolling sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Some will tell you this is “too touristy”, but not me! I loved every bit of it. Although, I do hate to think that someone would come all the way to Jaisalmer and only do the safari. Jaisalmer has much more to offer, so give yourself adequate time. I will share my experience with a camel safari in Jaisalmer and what I would do different next time.
PS: check out my two-week Rajasthan itinerary to make sure you don’t miss anywhere cool.
Camel Safari in Jaisalmer: Booking
There are loads of companies offering safaris and every hotel can hook you up with a guide but hotels are often taking a commission. I suggest comparing prices online to what people are telling you in shops and hotels. You can get very very cheap ones, but I randomly booked through Royal Hotel for 1500 rupees through the Khurri dunes. This was over my budget at the time, but I had met a friend who had pre-booked with them and couldn’t change it.
If you want to book ahead here are the top camel safari tours from Getyourguide and Viator, the two biggest booking sites for tours in India. Read the reviews before booking to see if there were any problems on the tour. I’m only linking to the top reviewed best ones!
This is an overnight camel safari on Viator for $43 USD. They will pick you up and drop you off from your hotel. Snacks, dinner, and the next day breakfast are included. There is a “departure tax” not included which is payable to the Government for going into the desert.
If you want the camel ride but don’t want to sleep out there, you can look at this much more expensive tour which is $266 and is a day tour of the city’s top attractions and a camel ride into the desert. This is really expensive for a day tour in India, so only book this if you are rich lol, because you can get better deals in town!
Most tour itineraries look like this: ride to the middle of the desert, watch the sunset, go to a setup shack for dinner, ride back to a nice high dune for bedtime on a cot, wake up for sunset, and ride back.
Riding a camel is mainly easy, but accidents can happen, just read this story from Liz over at Young Adventuress, who seriously injured herself. I have compiled an ultimate checklist for you to make sure you are readily prepared for your safari.
Camel Safari in Jaisalmer: The Ultimate Checklist
- Research the companies and dunes. Know which dunes interest you, and which are overrun with people. Khurri are meant to be less full, and we did only see one other group while out. I would highly recommend it. I’m told the Sam Sand dunes were more crowded, but don’t know from experience.
- If you arrange a tour while there, before agreeing, make sure you know what is included. How many hours will you walk into the desert before stopping? Is dinner included? We went 2.5 hours. You don’t need to go further. Your bum will hurt. The scenery won’t change. Will you each get your own camel? Sharing would be boring, so make sure you have your own adorable clumsy animal to ride.
- Don’t drink a bhang lassi before you ride a camel or you may come down with “Pakistani Paranoia” a medical term that doesn’t exist, but should when your guide has “that’s Pakistan” and the U.S. State Department has just sent an e-mail saying citizens should stay clear for recent threats… Lots of tourists drink bhang before so they can have “a magic carpet ride”, just make sure they don’t make it too strong and ruin your safari.
- Wear sunscreen and take sunglasses.
- You can buy beer from the sand-tout! He will come out of nowhere with cold beverages at indecent prices. Bring some extra cash for that, but beware things “go missing” at night in the desert.
- While on your camel, you’ll want a silky scarf to cover your head. The sun beats down on you like a hammer. Because you’re in India, your body will be mostly covered, so make sure you wear something breezy. When I was there it was well over 100 degrees during the day.
- Wear sandals but take socks for night. Your guides will lay out cots, blankets, and pillows for you (make sure this is agreed upon prior) and it gets very cold at night. If you have to walk to pee or watch the sunrise you won’t want to barefoot. Desert sands catch the cool breeze from the Himalayas at night, and can’t hold onto the sun’s daily heat. There are also big beetles and scorpions in the sand.
- Along that line, take warm clothes. It will shock you how chilly it gets.
- Dinner was provided for our group at a nearby village, as is it for most. Make sure your guides agree to feed you, and even then take a snack if you wish. We even got a fire and dance show.
- I took wet wipes. You won’t be able to shower after your safari. You’ll be sweaty with a fine layer of sand stuck to you. Before bed, I washed up a little bit and I even brought my toothbrush and brushed with bottled water.
- Your guide might tell you it’s so fun to gallop on the camel. My guide called “Halia”, my camels name in these high-pitched noises, and Halia was off on a nice jog. Have you ever seen a camel run? It’s like their legs just have no joints and flop around. It is bumpy. Camels are taller than you might imagine (10 feet!) and falling off while one’s running wouldn’t be ideal. On top of that, it could give you a “saddle sore”. Why does no one warn you of this before a camel ride? I had a sore coccyx for a week!
- Get lots of photos! Camels are super cute. I didn’t see one “spit” like they warn. Mine was extra lovable even though she got a little out of hand a couple times. They are such cool animals!
- Relax and take in the AMAZING sunset and sunrise. I’ve traveled a fair amount and I have NEVER seen the day change like this. It’s really something, and if you’re considering doing the safari, it’s worth it just to see the red sunrise and sunset over the barren sand dunes. Don’t fall asleep too quickly, because the sky is almost always clear and stargazing is a must.
If I could do it again:
I would not choose somewhere that has you ride to a village to eat. I would go with a guide that cooks over an open fire. It sounds so much more badass and probably would taste better than what I had!
Essential Travel Tips for your Rajasthan Trip
- Don’t forget you need a visa to travel to Rajasthan (and all of India). I am a fan of iVisa to get a quick 60-day visa. If you need a guide to getting a visa longer than 60 days, here are my posts for US Citizens and for UK Citizens who want to stay in India up to 6 months.
- I recommend you travel India with health insurance. World Nomads is recommended by Lonely Planet, Nat Geo, and me! I’ve used it for years. You can get a quick quote here. Check out what exactly it covers and doesn’t.
- If you’re headed to India, you can also check out my Guide to India which is a 100,000-word ebook with 6 years of travel knowledge – it will make sure you have the most epic trip. Read more about it here.
- Budget travels, check out this hostel guide to India here which has top chain hostel brands you’ll find in Rajasthan. Otherwise, I love using Agoda to compare different hotels which give great rates in India.
- Those of you who want a tour of the state, check out G Adventures.
Blog posts you might find helpful
- Step by step planning your trip to India from scratch
- 100 tips for India travel
- How to spend less than $20/day in India
- The best India itinerary for 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months
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