Jaipur, also known as the pink city is one of the 3 cities (Agra and Delhi being the other 2) that make up the Golden Triangle of India. This mystical triangle is one of the most traveled routes in the world and is rightfully so!!
As much as I loved to hate Jaipur I really just loved it... The streets are noisy and crowded and complicated and you won't really understand where to go or what to do for the first few days, but once you delve into its treasures, Jaipur really does have some of the most magical attractions in all of India.
The hostel we stayed in was fine, but I wouldn’t rave about it. It was called the Hathroi Palace Guest House and was quite expensive for a dorm bed in India as it was $10 each a night (and in most places we were paying $5 each for a private room). Finding good accommodation in Jaipur was hard as its such a big city and I didn't know which region I wanted to stay in. I ended up choosing this place because of a recommendation from someone I met in Goa. Unlike other hostels I've stayed in, this place lacked what makes a hostel good (free breakfast, a common room and being cheap...). The location was okay but it would have been nice to be closer to the 'pink city' which was a 40 minute walk away and about 5 minutes away by rickshaw. The best thing about this place was it's rooftop which was FREAKING COOL. They had draped hundreds of saris across the ceiling and decked out the ground with hammocks and pillows. It was so bright it almost hurt your eyes.
If you're looking at booking Jaipur accommodation yourself, i'd recommend staying as close as you can to the 'walled city' or the 'city palace' because that's where you'll spend most of your time.
We traveled to Jaipur on a night bus from Agra for 300 rupees and it was was possibly the most uncomfortable hours of my life. We both had unsettled stomachs from some dodgy paneer masala and were crammed into a box (literally) at the back of the bus above the wheels with only a tiny crack in the window for oxygen. The berth we were in was meant for one person but the bus had been overbooked and because we didn't mind being close to each other we offered to share the booth. I cried a few times, Ebbs was silent apart from the occasional groan and then, finally (5 hours later), we arrived in Jaipur and we threw ourselves off the bus and into the trusty hands of a rickshaw driver who took us (like the knight in shining armor that he was) to our hostel a few streets away. The night ended well as the hostel was overbooked (this is a bit of a theme in India) so we got upgraded to a private room with a hot shower (and we hadn't showered in several days so this was a MASSIVE deal).
Jaipur itself is a HUGE city and so getting around is a little tricky. Braving the public bus has its advantages (especially when going to the Amer palace and Samode) however isn't that easy to navigate and no-one really want to help you. So really, it is easier to catch rickshaws to get you from A-B and small distances. On an average day (especially staying where we did) we caught 4 or 5 rickshaws which added up to about $8 each a day. In order to save money on a day you know you'll be moving around a lot I recommend hiring a rickshaw and a driver for the day from the main train station which will set you back 500 rupees or so ($5 each).
After Jaipur we got the 2pm train to Ajmer, a city 40 minutes drive from Pushkar (Pushkar doesn't have a train station). The trip cost us $2 each for a general ticket and we sat at the doors with our legs in the wind (as per usual).
I found Jaipur a little jarring at first, but don't let the first impressions fool you, the old city is full of beautiful nooks and crannies, such as the sari bazaar and the chaotic back streets of the Pink City. Also don't expect anything to open till around 11am, Indian shopkeepers like their sleep.
The first place we visited was the City Palace in the middle of the walled pink city. It cost 500 rupees per person to enter (which is pretty standard for Rajasthan attractions). The palace is a must see with its many differently themed rooms and elaborate doorways. We spent about 2 hours here (although this was mainly spent ballroom dancing under the chandeliers until a security guard told us to move along). Not far from the City Palace is the Hawa Mahal which was by far my favourite building in India (if not the world!!) To get a killer view, climb the stairs to one of the cafes on the road opposite. We got really nice pictures here without any of the bustling traffic below. To go inside the Mahal costs 200 rupees and is a beautiful experience in itself. Although I did prefer the view from the outside, if you have a spare hour to kill its fun to explore the tiny hallways and crevasses at the back of the Mahal and read about its history.
The monkey temple on the outskirts of town is also an awesome place to visit, allow yourself a few hours as the walk in takes a bit of time and try and time it so that you get back to the temple at the top of the hill (you'll know what I mean when you're there) for sunset over the city. True to its name there are monkeys EVERYWHERE and they are loud and cheeky (just as monkeys should be). You'll also come across a few pigs and goats and even better monkeys riding on the back of pigs and goats (has to be seen to be believed).
We found finding a good place to eat very difficult here after being spoilt by Varanasi and its huge array of cheap and accessible cafes. We ended up getting breakfast at Mcdonalds (who doesn't LOVE hotcakes ?!?!) or getting fresh orange juice for 50 cents and samosas for 20 cents and eating them under the Hawa Mahal (watch out they are full of chilli and are very spicy, I had a few near breakdowns when spice was to much.) We'd often skip lunch and then get thali from one of the 'hotels' on M.I. road for dinner. On our third night we treated ourselves to a romantic and luxurious Italian meal at the Bar Palladio, a beautiful turquoise themed restaurant decked out with open fire pits and free-range peacocks. As naughty as we felt, not stinging on any element of the meal (we even got entrees and I NEVER get entrees) we both only spent $25 each which is a great deal more than the $1.80 we would have spent on thali but definitely still a bargain by western standards. I highly recommend coming here for dinner and dressing up in your Indian best. Make sure you book a table a day or so in advance as they are pretty much fully booked every night.
Amer and the Amer Palace was another highlight for me in Jaipur. The massive palace sits impressively on a hilltop with winding passageways and roads leading up to its entrance. To get there is a half hour drive out of Jaipur which is either an expensive rickshaw trip or a 20 rupee public bus ride. The public buses leave every 5 or so minutes from the round-about outside (and a little to the right of) the Hawa Mahal. Look out for the bus number 29 and tell the bus assistant you want Amer Palace just to be sure. Entry to the palace is 500 rupees (or 100 with a student card). The palace needs at least 2 hours to explore and appreciate and it closes at 5pm so make sure you give yourself enough time. While you're in Amer make sure you explore the town itself and visit the Stepwell. Ebbs and I got there at around 5pm and had the entire place to ourselves. It is a truly beautiful piece of architecture. The streets of Amer remind me of a Tuscan town in Italy with its sandstone buildings and cobblestone pathways. We stumbled across a local market selling everything from rubber shoes to giant, misshaped vegetables and spent an hour or so there before the sun set.
On our last day in Jaipur we braved the hour and a half journey to Samode; a small village outside Jaipur where the Maharaja had build a massive palace in the 16th century. The town itself is ridiculously quaint and lovely to walk through but our main purpose of our visit was to spend the day at Samode Palace which has been half converted into a 300 room hotel. This place is so lavish Ebbs and I almost felt uncomfortable (almost). As we couldn't afford to be guests at the hotel (I mean who has $500 a night??) we got visitors passes which cost $20 each and could be fully redeemed at the 5 star restaurant for lunch or dinner (how awful).We spent the morning exploring the palace's many rooms, all ridiculously decorated with lavish wall hangings and furnishings. We lay by one of the many pools for a few hours in the 28 degree weather and then had lunch at the beautiful restaurant, adorned with chandeliers and purple and pink place settings, looking out over the grounds. On a less glamorous note watch out for taxes as the restaurant charged us almost $12 extra in service fees and government taxes which would suck if you were trying to stick to a budget. To get there we got the public bus to Chomu for 20 rupees each and then a rickshaw from there to the palace for 200 rupees. To get home we were directed to a public bus in Samode by kind locals that took us all the way back to Jaipur without having to change in Chomu (tickets were 35 rupees each).