The best time to visit Rajasthan is from late September to mid-April, when there is a dry heat with very little humidity. During December to February, it can be cold in the mornings and evenings, though the daytime is warm and sunny. March and April get fairly hot, and May and June are humid, with temperatures rising to an intense and uncomfortable heat. The monsoon breaks in July and lasts until September. October and November are warm but not wet.
Rajasthan has all the usual Hindu and Muslim festivals as well as a number of colourful and exotic festivals of its own, when towns and villages come alive with bursts of singing, dancing and processions. Once a year, all over Rajasthan, villages stir to life and people from near and far come to trade thousands of bullocks, camels and horses. For days before and after these fairs, Rajasthanis take part in processions wearing vibrant clothes, carefully leading their prize beasts to the fair, and seeing such an event can be very much a highlight of travelling in Rajasthan. Perhaps the most well-known such fair is the flamboyant Pushkar Camel Fair, held annually in October/November.
Exclusive to Rajasthan is the Gangaur Fair, which celebrates the love between Shiva and Gauri (Parvati). Unmarried women pray to Gauri for a good husband, and married women pray for their husbands' health and longevity. Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nathdwara and Jaisalmer all celebrate the fair with colourful events.
The dates of the fairs and festivals are determined by the lunar calendar and therefore change from year to year, but approximate timings are given below:
Camel Festival in Bikaner
Nagaur Cattle Fair in Nagaur
Baneshwar Fair in Dungarpur
Desert Festival in Jaisalmer
Elephant Festival in Jaipur
Gangaur Festival statewide
Mewar Festival in Udaipur
Summer Festival in Mt Abu
Teej Fair in Jaipur
Dussehra Mela in Kota
Marwar Festival in Jodhpur
Camel Fair in Pushkar
Chandrabhaga Fair in Jhalrapatan
NB, please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning.
RAJASTHAN: BY AIR
From the UK: carriers include British Airways, Air India, Virgin Atlantic,Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways.
Within Europe: try Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Finnair, Alitalia and Swiss International Airlines.
From the USA: Air India.
By train: Visit Seat 61 for a beginner's guide to rail travel in India, and see Indian Rail for fare information and timetables.
BY AIR: All the major cities in Rajasthan, including Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur, are linked by internal flights - Air India has regular services from city to city.
BY TRAIN: All the major cities can be reached by train, as can a great many of the smaller towns. Make sure you book tickets early, particularly in peak season - see Indian Rail for fares and timetables.
BY CAR & DRIVER: A car is required in order to get to the smaller villages and the more remote areas, where many of our loveliest hotels are located. We recommend hiring a car and an experienced driver who knows the area (self-driving in India can be a hair-raising experience, to say the least!) - contact our Tailormade Tours Operator for more information.
No special permit is required for travel to Rajasthan but almost every non-Indian needs a tourist visa to enter India. These are 3- and 6-month single- or multiple-entry visas. You will need a valid passport to get one, and they must be obtained in your country of origin in advance of the date of travel. For access to certain protected areas (e.g. national parks), you may need a special permit and, often, a guide; these are available locally.
As you may be travelling from village to village, carry supplies of any medication with you in your hand luggage at all times. Take Imodium (strong) or Diocalm / Lomotil (milder) if you need it to ensure your journey isn't disrupted by an upset stomach. However, if you should suffer from diarrhoea at any time, don't hesitate to see the local doctor as they are very good - hotels can provide recommendations. Sachets of Dioralyte or Electrolyte are good in case of dehydration as they quickly restore lost minerals to your system - they can be obtained in India if needed.
To avoid health problems, it's worth starting with milder food until your stomach adapts. Don't eat food from street vendors unless it's piping hot and cooked in front of you, and avoid salads that have been washed in tap water. Always peel fruit, and only ever drink bottled water (ensure that the seal is intact before opening it). Avoid ice in your drinks (unless the hotel has its own water purification system), and close your mouth when showering to avoid taking in dirty water.
Immunisation against typhoid, polio, meningitis, hepatitis A and B and tetanus is recommended - it may also be worth getting vaccinations against Japanese B encephalitis and rabies if you're staying for more than a couple of weeks. Malaria is present in Rajasthan - ask your doctor about medication, use an insect repellent containing DEET (citronella candles or oil are effective deterrents inside your hotel room) and wear long-sleeve clothing.
Tipping is a way of life in India and you tip almost everyone: your driver; the guide; porters at stations, airports and hotels; doormen at hotels; room service boys; laundry boys; and after meals in restaurants. Many of the small heritage hotels will ask you not to tip individual staff but will have a gratuity box at reception for when you check-out of the hotel.