|16th July||2 pm||Departure from Dadar Station Mumbai|
|16th July||8.30 pm||Reach Aurangabad, check into hotel|
|17th July||8 am||Take bus to Ajanta caves, full day at Ajanta Caves, return by evening and night stay at Aurangabad|
|18th July||8 am||Take bus to Elora caves, full day at Elora caves and few other places around Aurangabad, return in evening, check out of hotel|
|18th July||9 pm||Train to Mumbai|
|No. of days||2 days 2 nights – 16th to 18th July2017|
|Travel Cost||Return journey from Mumbai to Aurangabad||500|
|Return journey Aurangabad to Ajanta||500|
|Return journey Aurangabad to Elora||600|
|Local Travel within Aurangabad||300|
|Accommodation||2 nights @ 600 / night 24 hours check in check out||1200|
|Food Cost||Approximately @ 200 per meal||1200|
Solo Woman Budget Traveller’s Guide – Ajanta Elora Caves
The ancient caves of Ajanta and Ellora are both UNESCO Heritage sites situated in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. The cave paintings and various sculptors are considered one of the finest example of ancient Indian art.
Ajanta Caves is situated approximately 100 km and Ellora is approximately 37 km from Aurangabad and are in opposite direction from each other. Both the caves are very big and may take at least 2-3 days to fully explore depending upon individual interest. For a regular tourist however the spots can also be covered in a day visit and night stay is not required.
How to Reach:
There are many direct trains from Mumbai to Aurangabad. The cheapest option is to take a Dadar Jalna Jan Shatabdi, 2nd Sitting class (2S) which cost approximately INR 170, departs from Dadar station in Mumbai at 2 pm and takes 6 hours to reach Aurangabad.
For Ajanta Caves take the government bus going to Jalgaon from Aurangabad bus station. The buses are ordinary and crowded specially on weekdays and seats are not reserved. There are no options for luxury buses or reservations. Ticket costs approximately INR 120.
For Ellora Caves take any bus going towards Dhule or Malegaon. But before boarding a bus you should ask if it would go to Ellora. Sometimes buses take a detour or not stop at certain places. This is unlikely, but still to be sure, ask. Ticket cost is around INR 70 and time taken is around about an hour and half.
Start early, preferably by 7 am in both cases as it would take minimum three hours to reach Ajanta and 90 minutes to reach Ellora.
Daulatabad Fort comes on the way to Ellora, you may get down here on your way back from Ellora. Situated within 1 km of Daulatabad Fort is Aurangzeb’s Grave but buses won’t go there. Walking is the best option.
Accommodation close to the caves is limited and costly. Best option is to stay stationed at Aurangabad and take local buses in the morning to the caves and come back by evening. Caves remain open during the day time, around 7am to 4pm. Once caves are closed there’s nothing else to do in those areas.
Right outside the Aurangabad railway station there are several hotels and lodges. One can simply walk down the road and explore various options. Many three-wheelers and taxi operators would approach offering to take you to ‘good cheap’ hotel. It is best to avoid them.
Online booking of accommodation maybe done using platforms such as www.hostelworld.com or www.indianhomestays.org. INR 500 to 600 is the standard cost of a double room in a suitably safe hotel. I stayed at Hotel Indraprastha, around 5 km away from railway station. It was not very clean and the other guests were quite noisy. I got a bit worried at night when I started hearing a lot of men talking loudly, running here and there. Although, my stay was safe, it is still not the best option.
The only local transport within the city are three-wheelers which run by the rate of Rs.10 per km. They do not ply by meter so you would always have to negotiate well.
There are a few places to visit within the city, like Bibi Ka Maqbara, Panchakki, Daulatabad Fort, Aurangzeb’s grave, City Walls, and some temples. But similar to many small cities, local sight-seeing by public transport is not possible. To cover all these sites, one would have to hire an auto for 3-4 hours for approximately INR 400.
What and where to eat:
The food expenses in Aaurangabad seemed a bit on the high side because there are not many local food stalls. Room service in the hotel costs around INR 200 per meal. Lunch at a Dhaba in front of the bus station also costed around INR 200. At Ajanta there is a nice restaurant by Maharashtra Tourism the cost of food here also was same. The food style is not very unique, the menu consisted mainly of usual north Indian food both veg and non-vegetarian.
Safety Factor and solo travel experience
Aurangabad seemed like a moderately safe city. The railway station is well-lit with considerable movement of people and train even at the night. When the train reached at 8 in the evening it didn’t feel unsafe. With several painting and murals, the station is aimed to attract tourism.
One of the safety tip for solo travel is to take control of time, space, distance and all other aspects of your travel and go slow with decisions. Don’t let anybody influence any of these aspects. For example, as soon as I came out of station auto and taxi wallahs crowded around me. They are usually in a hurry because the sooner they drop you at a hotel sooner they can scout for next customer. If you waste their time they become uninterested. So, take your time, look around the place, take a few meters of walk in different directions. I lied to all the autowallahs that I already have booking. Disheartened they left me alone giving me time to explore.
There are many markets and shopping malls which make the city lively. Even at 9.30 pm there were many people on the street. But certain parts were dark and deserted. Exploring Ajanta caves alone, walking towards the hill top to shoot Kailash Temple from top, visit to local tourist attractions, eating at dhabas and street side tea stall were all comfortable experiences although I was the only solo woman in all such places. Men at the tea stall were surprised to see me sit with them on the wooden bench and order tea. As I took my camera out to take photos, it broke the ice. They all smiled and said, “Madam put the photos on Facebook.” I was really amused to see how much FB has penetrated and ended up asking, “You know Facebook?” He said, “Why not I am educated.”
Overall a good experience and highly recommended to solo woman travellers without worrying about safety issues.