Udaipur: Venice of the East

udaipur venice of the east

Udaipur, India, is called the ‘Venice of the East’ and it’s a budget traveler’s dream because of its low prices compared to Italy.

Udaipur is a city in the state of Rajasthan with man-made lakes. It does not have canals of water like Venice, but a good part of the ‘old town’ is against the various lakes so it creates a sort of Venice-like feel, especially at night.

The Mewar Kingdom reigned here for centuries. In 1947, the king decided to join the newly created, British-free India, as did so many other kings. In fact, the Mewar king was the first to declare his intent to join the new country. So while Udaipur is part of India, it also has its own rich history.

Udaipur: Venice of the East

City Palace

This is a famous complex built over several hundred years by the royal family. In fact, the royal family still lives in a private section closed off to tourists. Other parts of the complex have been turned into luxury hotels, which adds to the ‘Venice of the East’ feel. The main historic areas are now part of a museum for the public to enjoy. Admission is 600 rupees ($7.25).

Guides here are no pressure. It was a nice change from the chaotic, demanding guide sellers we usually encounter at tourism hot spots. The prices are set, and official guides wear ID cards with the pricing on the back.

We took a guide around and we are so glad we did. We learned more than we could’ve without one, and the price was reasonable: 350 rupees ($4.25) for a group under five, plus 150 rupees ($1.80) for English. Considering our guide spent 2.5 hours with us, and answered every question I had, we tipped him well.

Some palaces within the complex were quite ornate – and works of art. The views of the kingdom from the top were breathtaking. The narrow halls and stairwells inside were fun!

Sunset boat ride

One evening during our week-long stay we took a sunset boat ride for only 500 rupees per person ($6, but before 4 p.m., the price is 300 rupees or $3.60).

The low sun hit the City Palace just right before sunset and at dusk with lights it was just as pretty. The boat ride gives a good view of the most expensive hotel in India — the Taj Lake Palace.

You might recognize the marble structure in the middle of Lake Pichola. It was where James Bond went tooling around in the water in Octopussy.

Cable car ride

Just beyond the City Palace, there is a cable car that runs up a huge hill that offers magnificent views of Udaipur and her lakes and mountains at the edge of the desert. You can walk down the road to “Ropeways” cable car service or take a rickshaw for about $1.

You can walk up the stairs to the top, and save the whopping 117 rupee fee ($1.41) for the cable car. We took the car up, but at that low ‘base’ price (no private car) we had to wait about 30 minutes. Instead of waiting 30 minutes for the car on the way down, we just walked.

There is a Hindu temple at the top of the hill, which has a few features I hadn’t seen yet, like a spinning wheel behind an idol and Theo saw a large family of white rats.

Walking around old town

Get off the lakefront, Udaipur no longer really feels like the ‘Venice of the East.’ It feels more like Fez, Morocco, with its old town set on hills with seemingly countless alleys.

However, unlike Fez, motorcycles are all over the alleys here. I felt like I was putting my fate in someone else’s driving skills – on hills. I didn’t like it. I realize ‘that’s how it’s done’ and ‘that’s how people live’. I still don’t like it — and I don’t have to. I’m sure two crashes resulting in broken ribs and a broken arm added to my consternation (neither crash was my fault).

Evenings seemed to have more traffic, and sometimes motorcycles don’t use lights. I personally preferred walking around when the sun was up, even though it was hotter.

Watch where you step — cow dung, dog shit, mule piss, and loads of garbage are facts of life here.

Waterfront dining

Waterfront dining brings back the ‘Venice of the East’ feel in Udaipur. And this was Theo’s favorite part of our stay.

Every night during we ate along the waterfront, often in rooftop restaurants. There are many to chose from, and you shouldn’t have any issue finding a good one on search.

Our meals were usually under $20 for two people, with a romantic ambience and medieval European feel that would cost hundreds of dollars in the real Venice.

The price of our meals would have been about $13 for two people, but like everywhere, alcoholic beverages bump up the bill and Theo likes beer.

Udaipur: Venice of the East

Overall, I liked Udaipur. We didn’t venture out too much beyond Lake Pichola and the old town area. Honestly, I was still not feeling great with whatever bug I got way back in Mumbai. (Three negative COVID nasal swab tests.)

From what I did see, I would return. It really helped that our Airbnb rental was lakefront and peaceful, even through all the celebrations for the goddess Durga, which took place during our stay.

And it only cost $23 a night for a spacious split-level, lakeside apartment in old town.

Yep. Dream prices for budget travelers compared to Venice.

Thanks for reading, “Udaipur: Venice of the East.”

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