“The Golden City” of Jaisalmer is found on the western edge of Rajasthan, the Thar Desert province of India that adjoins Pakistan. It is a living medieval that is steeped with the romantic, independent spirit of the old Rajput warlords while being surrounded by magnificent desert views. Combine that with Jaisalmer being one of the few places in India where bargain accommodation can be had without sacrificing quality, and in a place where hassling touts are few and far between, and it becomes one of the most underrated and overlooked destinations in all India.
Jaisalmer and its budget accommodations are best reached by the train that runs from Dehli and through Jaipur. Second Class AC Overnight berths are available, and make the trip a comfortable one at a reasonable price. Not recommended are the buses from Jodhpur or Jaipur, for while the buses in Rajasthan have a more reliable than in the rest of country, it still is India, and an overnight bus ride can easily turn into a 36 to 48 hour long ordeal. The truly adventurous with plenty of time on their hands can go to Jaisalmer by camel, on a two week route from Bikaner, home of the infamous Rat Temple.
The best place to stay in Jaisalmer is in the fortress itself, although that does make things more expensive. Expect to spend $8 per night to have a bunk in a shared room, and $12 per night to have a room with a private bathroom, mosquito net, and electric fan. However, the latter in particular are worth it.
Most of the fortress bargain accommodations are built into medieval, Persian-style havelis, offering a level of class virtually unknown to budget guesthouses. Imagine staying in a tower room with sweeping sunset views of the desert for $11 per night, or a room with a bay window overlooking an ornate Jain temple. That staying in the fortress and spending just a little more means. Bargains, after all, are about more than just the sticker price.
Cheaper bargain accommodations can be had outside the fortress, in the neighboring streets of the greater town of Jaisalmer. This is still close enough to venture into the fortress at will, but the change of location will mean a world of difference to the truly cost-conscious. The same room that would cost $12 per night in the fortress – minus the views of course – will typically go for a mere $7 or $8 per night down in the town.
For the budget traveler, India is often an exercise in hard travel. It isn’t Thailand, with an extensive infrastructure for backpackers and bargain accommodation, complete with cheap rooms boasting a nice tile floor, private bath, and an electric fan. However, there are a few islands that provide not just that, but wtih a touch of class as well, and Jaisalmer is one of the best examples.