Known as the Venice of India, there are so many beautiful things to do in Udaipur, Rajasthan. As a result, having only a short amount of time there can be overwhelming. The romantic Northern ‘City of Lakes’ offers up some of the most luxurious hotels in India, with famously hosting Beyoncé in a private performance for an extravagant Indian business mogul’s wedding. But what if your Udaipur trip is more budget than Beyoncé? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of attractions in Udaipur to be done on a budget.
My main struggle on arriving in the city was filtering through the abundance of restaurants, day-trips, shops and accommodation in Udaipur. In this post, I hope to help alleviate this process for you by introducing the best of Udaipur …
The best things to do in Udaipur
If you’re after something a little bit different to the usual Udaipur sightseeing tick box, Udaipur’s cenotaphs are quite spectacular. This compact site contains 372 cenotaphs (monuments dedicated to someone buried elsewhere), commemorating Maharanas and Queens. Visit them to explore the detailed carvings of the structure’s pillars and investigate the curious nooks and crannies. There is also a small park situated next to the site; a great little hive of local activity at around the time of sunset.
It’s very rare that you’re able to visit an animal rescue centre that allows you to walk right off the street and help. Animal Aid Udaipur is one such place. Founded in 2002, the organisation rescues and treats street animals; dogs, donkeys, sheep and cows (the list goes on). Many of these sick animals are too ill to be returned to the place they were found and have now earned permanent residence here.
Volunteering is heavily encouraged and the team are always on hand to give newbies a tour of the site or discuss opportunities. Whether you’re looking to help for an hour, a week, or months, they welcome all assistance. I visited them on a Monday to get a little tour and then went back for a full day on the Tuesday. My day was broken up by the volunteer leaders who started me off in the space for dogs with spinal injuries. My job was simply to cuddle, play and move their limbs a little. I ticked off any animal I’d spent time with, so the next volunteers new which ones still needed some time. Keen to have some interaction with the cows, I was also set up to brush the bulls and feed the babies.
Viewpoint at Bahubali Hill Udaipur
We’d found this viewpoint whilst trolling through the endless amounts of Udaipur photo spots on Instagram. Initially we’d discussed getting a tuk-tuk there alone, however, for those on a budget, this may end up quite costly (especially if you want to hang around for an hour at sunset). Bunkyard Hostel (mentioned below) included this spot as part of their afternoon tour, alongside a quick stop at Animal Aid.
The walk to the main viewpoint here is relatively easy. It’ll take you around 15 minutes to reach the top from the tuk-tuk drop off point. Some of the girls on our trip even did the climb in thonged sandals. Make sure to go for sunset to take advantage of the 360-degree views.
The best vegan restaurants in Udaipur
Unlike the rest of Rajasthan, Udaipur is a pretty easy place to get your hands on some good Indian vegan food. However, if you’re short on time, navigating the tall and winding streets of the tourist areas to find the high-rise hidden gems can be exhausting. Take the work out of it and head to these great vegan places in Udaipur …
Neelam Restaurant Udaipur
Blink and you’ll miss this fantastic little family owned restaurant just up from the river. Look out for a steep stairwell next to the ATM point for the entrance. Climbing the steps to this 3rd floor restaurant may have you questioning the simple little lunch and dinner stop, but don’t let first appearances put you off! The A4 plastic menu offers up a good range of vegetarian meals, most of which the family will cook up fresh to meet any vegan needs. No butter, no eggs, no milk. Looking for value for your money? Don’t miss the 150-rupee vegan thali (you need to ask for it vegan). You’ll get 4 tasty curries, alongside enough rotis and rice to keep you going for the rest of the day!
Café La Comida
If you’ve spent any time travelling around Rajahstan, you’ll already know that finding a milky vegan coffee there can be taxing. Udaipur is the exception. However, I still found service-with-a-smile difficult to come by (unless you’d been frequenting an establishment for more than a few days). Café La Comida, run by a father/son due, was warm and welcoming from the moment I first stepped through the doors. Happy little post-it notes of appreciation line their counters and their menu specifically list vegan options. Much to my delight, the pair even offered to whisk up vegan pancakes on sensing my desperation for a change in breakfast. It became my every-day hang out.
The best massage in Udaipur
Ayurvedic Body Care
I paced up and down Udaipur old town for the best part of a morning trying to figure out which massage shop to stop into. Each of them promised similar massages varying from 30-90 minutes in time. The choice was, quite frankly, overwhelming (to the point of which I almost threw a huge internal huff and completely scraped the idea).
Despite warnings from my hostel, I eventually settled on Ayurvedic Body Care (they were worried that it was priced slightly above the area average). The little place is easy to find; they have a large ‘as recommended by Lonely Planet’ sign at their door. They were the only place to budge very little on price. Rather than haggling with me from a whopping 3500 to 900 rupees, they shaved a simple 100 off and told me that was their max. Unlike the rest of the massage shops, they were also quite frank about the positives of having a male masseuse – if I wanted a deep massage, it was going to be better coming from their experienced male team. In comparison, other shops told me what (I expect) most wanted to hear; they’d call in a female from elsewhere. I admired their honesty and no-nonsense approach. I took a 50 min massage with JP, who I later discovered had been doing his job for 11 years and had been offered jobs as far afield as London.
At a tenner a massage, you might something a tiny bit cheaper, but I’d rather a professional massage from someone I trust for that little bit extra.
WORTH NOTING: There’s a few of these places with the same name. Be sure to look for the Lonely Planet sign and ask for JP if you’re unsure.
The best place to stay in Udaipur on a budget
Bunkyard Hostel Udaipur
Cheap hotels in Udaipur are a dime a dozen. However, we heard people talking about Bunkyard Udaipur all over Rajasthan. On arrival, it was clear to see why. This 4-storey building is draped with cascading foliage, the 20+ year old plants running from the top of the inner stairwell to the very bottom, giving the hostel an instant boho-hipster feel. Located just 300 meters from the City Palace Udaipur, its location is perfect for weary travellers looking for a relaxing stop point. Bunkyard Hostel boasts a rooftop terrace to die for; one of the best places in the city to watch the sunset over the river. The team will even serve you free chai as you listen to the sounds of the town, watching the sun make its final dip below the horizon (sorry vegans – they don’t accommodate us with this little perk). At only £3.86 for a dorm bed, this is the perfect Udaipur accommodation for those on a tight budget.
The best Tailor in Udaipur
Shree Baldev Tailor and Boutique Shop Udaipur
After buying saris in Delhi, I was keen to find a tailor to whip up matching tops from the fabric that tends to come as part of your purchase to do so. Tailors are everywhere across India and Udaipur is lined with lots of tiny little walk in shops willing to do the job for you. I visited a few, watching other tourists pick up bits and pieces they’d had made to order. As with most of my finds in Udaipur, I found the most positive feedback came from another tiny little shop, run once again by a father/son duo. The pair expertly designed 9 custom-made shirts for a male friend, which all came out beautifully.
Watching them bickering with one other is part of the charm of the little shop, making sure they’ve covered exactly how to create what you want. They are careful about explaining how they’ll stitch/repair garments and guarantee a quick turn around for those in a hurry. They stitched up 2 sari tops for me at a good price of 300 rupees per piece (about £3.30), tailoring them to my exact measurements. I also ended up taking a couple of pair of trousers I’d damaged on my travels as a side project for them.
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