Getting around town in Jaipur, India

So you think you want to get from point A to point B in Jaipur. Whether point A is a museum, a palace, or a hotel and regardless of what point B is, it is important to understand that to first order, it is impossible to get from point A to point B. The best advice is to stay where you are. You can probably lead a full productive life in point A and avoid the frustration of trying to accomplish the impossible.

If you are a daredevil adventurer too foolish to listen to this advice, here is what to expect. First, you should be armed with the name and address of point B preferably written on a brochure with color pictures. This won't do you any good, but it gives you something to look at while your adventure unfolds. Second, forget maps. There are no good maps of Jaipur and those that exist: 1) are not to scale, 2) include less than 10% of the streets, and 3) are inconsistent with each other. Point A and point B may well be labeled on your map but don't be fooled by this. The actual location of points A & B probably have nothing to do with the points on your map. Third, forget addresses. I'm not sure why buildings have addresses, but since there are no street signs and no numbered buildings, no one knows what to do with a street address anyway.

Now you are ready to pick your mode of transportation. Here are the options: 1) walk, 2) bicycle rickshaw, 3) auto rickshaw, 4) taxi, 5) bus 6) rental car. Walking would be a viable choice if you actually knew where points A and B were, had a good map, and had the time to walk between the points. But remember - there are no good maps. You may be 3 blocks or 30 km from point B, but a map is not a good indicator of which. Let's eliminate 5 and 6 as viable approaches next. There are buses. No one knows where they go or when they will get there. In addition, they are always full and overflowing. You can ride a bus if one happens to stop in front of you and there is space to get on, but don't expect to use one to actually travel with any purpose. As far as rental cars go there is no law I know of against a foreigner driving a rental car in India, but this is simply an oversight. Don't do it. See the section below for a description of how vehicles are driven if you want to understand why. That leaves two types of rickshaws or a taxi. Take your pick, they all work about the same - that is to say, they don't work.

Let's say you want to get from your hotel to Rambaugh Palace. Here is how your conversation with a rickshaw or taxi driver will work:

You: I want to go to Rambaugh Palace.
Driver: Yes. Yes.
You: Do you know where Rambaugh Palace is?
Driver: Yes. Yes.
You: You are sure?
Driver: Xlotsneedle. Yes. Yes.
You: No, not Xlotsneedle. I want to go to Rambaugh Palace.
Driver: Oh . (as if he suddenly understands). Ramsneedle. Yes. Yes.
You: No. I'm trying to get to Rambaugh Palace.
Driver: Oh . (as if he suddenly understands). Rambaughsneedle. Yes. Yes.

This is a good time to pull out that color brochure of Rambaugh Palace.
Hand it to your driver. He will look at it as if you have handed him
a two headed toad - but he will act very curious and grateful.

You: Rambagh Palace (pointing to the words on your brochure).
Driver: Oh . (as if he suddenly understands). Rambaughs Palah. Yes. Yes.
You: Okay, (thinking that's close enough) how much will it cost?
Driver: Yes. Yes.
You: How many rupees?
Driver: Yes. Yes.

Eventually you will settle on a price of 50 rupees (about $1 USD). You may wonder why all fares eventually turn out to cost the same amount. That's because the driver has no idea where you want to go, so all trips turn out to be more or less the same.

Once that's settled, you will climb into the vehicle and the driver will proceed to drive as fast as he can in an arbitrary direction. Your vehicle will share the road with elephant carts, camel carts, donkey carts, bicycles, scooters, cars, trucks and pedestrians -- all of whom drive as fast as they possibly can. There are no traffic signals or traffic control signs. Mostly, the intersections are mass chaos. Drivers drive in or out of the lanes, into or with oncoming traffic, in or off the roadway -- all at top speed. Also, there is apparently a law that requires every vehicle on the road to honk their horn at least once every 15 seconds. Evidently there is no limit to how many times you honk the horn as long as you achieve the minimum. You have to just kinda hang on and hope your driver is actually getting you where you want to go. He won't, but you need to believe in something.

After 10 to 20 minutes of this, the driver will pull over and ask a random person where Xlotsneedle is. The driver will request that you hand this random person your color brochure. The random person will look at the veritable two-headed toad for several seconds then reply, "Yes. Yes," and begin to give directions. Since there are no street signs, no one knows the name of any of the streets, so directions are mostly a series of grunts hand waves alternately to the left and right for 20 or 30 seconds. Your driver will then take off in an arbitrary direction as fast as he can.

This can go on for a long time. Keep your eyes open. By random chance, the driver may drive past your destination. If that happens, then scream stop repeatedly, pay your driver 50 rupees, jump out and celebrate. You have accomplished the impossible. Good luck getting back to your hotel. Of course since you are really only in it for the adventure, getting back will be just as fun.
Sikandar Tomb, Fort Agra, Taj Mahal
Red Fort, Safdarjung Tomb, Tughluqabad Fort and Ruins, Rajon Ki Baoli, Gandhi Memorial, Mehrauli Trail, Qutb Minar, President's Palace, Haus Khas, Humayan Tomb, Jantar Mantar, Lodi Gardens, Bijay Mandal, Dargah, Feroze Shah Kotla, Gandhak Baoli
Jantar Mantar, Water Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Jaivana, City Palace, University of Rajasthan, Hawa Mahal (Pink Palace), Albert Hall, Amber Fort, Jaipur Zoo