Udaipur, the Venice of India, is the most romantic city in the subcontinent. I was the loner watching the tourists honeymoon with candlelit dinners all over the city. The Udaipur Lake Palace, now owned by Leela hotel, was once a tourist destination. Due to 2008 Bombay bombings, you have to look at it by boat unless you can afford a room. It’s one of the most expensive hotels in India.
Udaipur is my favorite city in India. As you come into Rajasthan and look out the train windows, like I did for 17 hours from Mumbai, you’ll notice more colors, higher turbans, impressive jewelry, lively sequined saris, fewer people than in the city, and cows with better accessories than me.
It’s more rural with naked kiddos running around, and women wearing quite revealing saris (which is not revealing in Indian’s eyes because the under boob- lots of it- and the belly are no big deals… here it’s the legs you want to cover).
Before You Get to Udaipur
- Hopefully, you already know this, but you need a Visa even as a tourist to India. Don’t try to get one at the airport, you can’t. I use iVisa for any online visas. It’s super easy to use.
- I’d also recommend getting travel insurance before you go as well. World Nomads covers a lot of different things, and I use them for everything. You can see my post on all it covers here or get a quote from them directly.
- If you don’t want to go to Udaipur on your own, I sometimes use two different tour companies. GAdventures is good for longer tours in general, and Viator is great for shorter tours.
Getting to Udaipur
I left Bombay from the Bandra Terminus.
FYI this is not the same as Bandra Station. I almost missed my train going to the wrong station! So much for the pre-ride shower, I took- I was a sweaty mess from running to catch it.
I took a train from Bombay (17 hours) for “1755 rupees only!” as the ticket says. I love how Indians add in “only” after the price. That’s about 30 bucks.
It’s the most expensive train I’ve taken in India- reason being that it was my first one. I splurged for the 2nd class A/C. After this easy ride, I knew I could go to the lowest class (aka sleeper class) and be okay. It’s important to understand how to book a train and which class to take. That has saved me a lot of money.
Make sure you ask for top tier on a long train ride. In the A.M. as people wake they want to sit on the bottom tier (bed) and eat breakfast, etc. You’ll be forced to wake up and share your bed. Top tier you can sleep until you arrive! I also found that the train was incredibly safe, although I locked up my bag.
If you’re not on a super strict budget, it’s actually a lot easier to travel by plane. I use Kiwi to look for the absolute best flight deals, and, actually, it’s not that much more than traveling by plane. Looking now, it’s only about $50 for a 90-minute flight from Mumbai to Udaipur. Check the different prices here and read my whole post about flying around India for $200.
Udaipur Lake Palace
Udaipur doesn’t just have one stunning lake, but four, as well as a mountain range backdrop: the Aravallis. Obviously, the main lake has the floating palace.
But it’s not all tranquil and empty.
Just on the edges of the gorgeous palace are locals bathing their kids, doing laundry, and swimming in the Ghats. Tourists are covered in henna walking to the hippest rooftop restaurants… past stray donkeys, cows, and persistent tuk-tuk drivers on their way.
Where to Stay in Udaipur
Being on a tighter budget than Leela quality, I opted for a mid-range stay at Hibiscus Guesthouse. It is run by Carol, an English woman, and Babu.
They have a very cute, garden-side, house-turned-hotel with views of the Palace and Lake Pichola from my window. My room had Rajasthani décor, A/C, and huge double wooden doors. (Check prices here)
I splurged the 1200 rupees because I was tired from Mumbai’s beating, but there are cheaper options that are nice like Dream Heaven, Lalghat Guesthouse, and Hotel Lake Star. They range anywhere from 150-300 rupees, but if you click on the links they’ll show you the most up to date prices. Another good mid-range hotel is Panorama Guesthouse.
My hotel picked me up for a 150 rupee charge. Later, I have come to find that you can almost always negotiate that for free. They want you to stay and are willing to cut small costs in order to get you there.
Where to Eat & Drink
Everything is hot in Rajasthan from the sun to the spicy food. That being said, while in Rajasthan stick to Indian food, just ask for it less spicy.
Some menus are a long list of all the foods in the world. You want a burger, you got it! Not not really. It’s a trick…. anything western on the menus in Rajasthan comes out Indian in my experience. They try so hard, but it’s just not right. Order Indian meals and you’ll be very happy.
I ate mostly palak paneer, chicken tikka masala, rice, and roti (or naan if I was feeling greedy). Make sure to try a Rajasthani Thali and start your morning with chai and a street-side aloo samosa with dipping sauce. Finding a good place to eat in Udaipur is all about finding one with a view.
- Lotus Café is where all the tourists meet and chill together. Food is decent but it’s worth going to make a few friends.
- Sunset View Terrace for drinks
- Ambrai– this place is stunning. Food is great and views are better. Although to be fair not many places in Udaipur have a bad view.
- Udaivilas is a great place for a little upscale fun; where dinner comes with a show
- Jaiwana Havali rooftop restaurants for great views. Prices are mid-range.
- Pharohar to see the classical music
Udaipur was my introduction to India after Mumbai. It was where I first tried sunrise Indian meditation and yoga. Udaipur is super safe for women and the pace of life is calm and slow. Take your time here and let yourself get settled into Indian life.
Check out my Soul-Searchers Guide tomorrow on what to do in Udaipur.
I let you in on what to buy, where to take art classes, massages, tours, and which yoga teacher taught me to stand on my head. The options in Udaipur will keep you there possibly longer than your plans allow, but I still wish I had stayed longer. If you want to follow my Indian Itinerary, from here I headed to blue, blue Jodhpur.