Varanasi, once known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi, is a historical city in northern India. The city is sacred to Hindus and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. In many ways Varanasi epitomizes the very best and worst aspects of India, and it can be a little overwhelming. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world. Some people believe that Varanasi is a must see destination on any trip to northern India.
The city can be scorchingly hot in the summer months so, if possible, time your visit to fall between October and March, and bring something warm to wear for chilly days and nights, instead.
Varanasi is well connected by train and bus, with multiple of each heading in every direction daily. The trains and buses are dirty and overcrowded by Western standards. The people, however, are warm and accomodate westerners who are unfamiliar with their customs and don't take offense when you don't follow their ways.
Varanasi is served by two major railway stations. Many trains arrive at Varanasi Junction (IR station code : BSB) in the heart of the city, and many others arrive at Mughal Sarai Junction (IR station code : MGS), about 15 km east of the city. It is a 40 min drive from Mughasarai to Godowlia in Varanasi. Godowlia is the main market place and most happening place. An auto rickshaw takes Rs 200 from Mughasarai station to godowlia in varanasi. A small car like Alto, Indica if available will take around Rs 400-450 for a drop. The rates are provided as on April, 2014. If travelling to/from Agra/Tundla, Mughal Sarai is a more convenient station.
Here is a list of useful trains to reach Varanasi:
From Nepal: To get to Varansi from Chitwan, Lumbini, Kathmandu and Pokhara is relatively simple and cheap. Get a bus to the bus park at Sunauli, from there take a rickshaw (200 NPR) to the border crossing, get your passport stamped on the Nepali side then walk through the border. The Indian immigration office is hidden away on the left hand side of the road after 100m. From here the bus stop is on the right hand side after 300m. Be sure to get the government bus to Gorakhpur, not the private lines which are far less comfy and stop everywhere. The bus to Gorakhpur is 4 hours, when you arrive there walk straight ahead to the train station, from where you can pick up an 11pm overnight to Varanasi which should in theory arrive at 6am. Make sure you get off at Varanasi Junction, not Varanasi City. There are other services that run earlier if 11pm is inconvenient. A first class non-AC from Gorakhpur to Varanasi Junction is around 400 IRP.
To Nepal / Northern India: There are daily buses to the Nepal border and other points around northern India. Local buses leave from the main bus station near the train station, almost every hour in the morning and one in the evening, to Gorakhpur (5-6 hrs, Rs 120), from where buses leave to the Nepali border at Sonauli (~3 hrs, Rs 56).
There are buses run by state government from Lucknow (8hrs), Gorakhpur (4hrs), Kanpur (9hrs - Rs. 195) and Allahabad(3hrs - Rs. 88).
There are buses run by state government from Lucknow (8hrs), Gorakphur (8hrs) Kanpur (9hrs - Rs. 195) and Allahabad(3hrs - Rs. 88)
Allow plenty of time to get to the airport, it can take an hour or more depending on traffic. A taxi (from the pre-paid stand just outside the terminal) should run around Rs 600-700 (plus Rs40 parking toll) or about Rs 125 in an auto-rickshaw, but most drivers will want to charge double since they will likely be coming back empty.
Many of the sights are in the tiny narrow winding alleys of the waterfront. Rickshaws are only useful for longer trips across town or to the train stations. A cycle-rickshaw from the Junction train station to Dasaswamedh Ghat (or Godaulia if the road is closed) should cost Rs 20, an auto rickshaw about Rs 70. From Godaulia to Assi Ghat is Rs 10. Again, these prices are bound to change with changes in the value of the rupeeTaxis exist but traffic makes them impractical. There is a pre-paid auto-rickshaw stand at the Varanasi Junction (Cantt) train station, however if you go with this option make sure to keep your prepaid receipt until the end of your journey, or your driver may not take you the whole way. Rs55 is enough to get to the old town.
By foot is the only way to see the waterfront and the ghats but be ready to be hot, sweaty, and lost - locals are usually happy to point you in the right direction. The names of ghats and signs pointing to restaurants and hotels are often painted on the walls in Roman letters. For better orientation, walk into any book store and pick up a small guide/map book that will have the list of all the ghats and their historical background.
Heritage Walk Tour (Varanasi Walking Tours or Green tourism), Near Goverment Tourist Office (Opp. Railway station), ☎ +91 964 800 0010 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +91 524 2200201), . Call us 24 hrs X 7. edit
By car There are many car rental companies available.
A car can be hired to visit Maa Durga temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Ramnagar Fort and Sarnath. A small car like Indigo, Indica, Alto etc. will take Rs 1,600 for AC and Rs 1,300 for Non-AC round trip. A luxury vehicle like Innova, Xylo, Scorpio takes Rs 2,200-2,500. If one starts at 7 am can return before 2 pm after covering all the above mentioned places. A car can be asked from the hotel travel desk or any car rental companies.
Sankrit Taxi services (Varanasi Car Rental or Taxi), Near Goverment Tourist Office (Opp. Railway station), ☎ +91 964 800 0010 (email@example.com, fax: +91 524 2200201), . Call us 24 hrs X 7. Sarnath Tour(4 hrs) - INR 800 / 4 Temples Tour(4 hrs) - INR 700, Bodhgaya(Same day Tour) - INR 5000/ Allahabad(Same day Tour) - INR 2800 Fares starting from 700 for within city and Rs.7/km for outstation. edit
taxiGUIDE.in (Varanasi Car Rental), ☎ +91 888 023 4455 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Inquiry: 7am to 11pm. Fares starting Rs.1222 for within city and Rs.9.5/km for outstation. edit
"Bikes on Rent" is one of its type services being offered first time in Varanasi by "Oza Travels n Bike Rentals". It is exclusively available for tourists only. Their range of bikes include Pulsar, Apache, Discover, Platina, and Royal Enfield also.
For availing this service, you can contact through phone on 91-95803 60440 or email at email@example.com.
Varanasi is not a city with distinct tourist destinations; the joy of the experience comes from watching the spectacle of life and death- on the river and in the eyes of the people who come to the Ganga- as well as in meandering through the alleys of the old city, trying to fathom the ways of a very mature culture.
Vishwanath Temple - also known as the Golden Temple, security is tight making entrance difficult and sometimes completely off limits to foreigners. No bags, cellphones or pens are allowed. They can be deposited in the shops by the temple entrance. The temple was destroyed multiple times by Mughal invaders and was re-constructed by Hindu kings who followed them.
Kaal Bhairav Temple - is the temple for Kaal Bhairav - a dreaded form of the Lord in Shiva avatar symbolizing death. Its a tradition to buy a black thread (cost about Rs. 15 per 50 threads as of Sep 2009), sanctify it in the shrine, then wear it on the arm, wrist or around the neck as protection against evil.
Nepali Hindu Temple - A small golden temple, built in Nepali architecture, near Lalita Ghat
Alamagir Mosque - overlooking Panchganga Ghat, it's a great place for a bird's eye view of the area.
Man Mandir Observatory
Tulsi Manas Temple
Banaras Hindu University - a very green and peaceful campus. Few actually know that this University was built during the Indian freedom struggle and is known as Oxford of the East. This is the largest residential university of Asia, with 124 departments. You can also visit Bharat Kala Bhavan, a museum of Art and Archeology inside the university. There is also a huge white marbled temple called Vishwanath Temple which was bulit by Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of the university.
Sarnath - It is believed that in Sarnath Buddha gave his first sermon to his disciples after getting enlightenment. There is also a Museum in Sarnath. The location is also known as Deer Park. Sarnath is 13 Km from Varanasi and is very peaceful. Several Asian countries have built Buddhist temples there following their own ancient architectural traditions.
Ram Nagar Fort - the fort of the King of Kashi which is situated at the other side of the river.
Gauri Matha Temple - The devi at this temple is supposed to be the sister of the lord Kashi Vishwanath. Its a tradition to visit here just before you leave Kashi. You buy sea shells at this place and offer them to God saying that the virtues of donating the shells goes to her while you keep the virtues of having visited the holy shrines in Kashi and bathing in the ganga. The trip to Kashi is expected to yield results only after completing this custom.
Sankat Mochan Temple - The famous Hanuman temple, home to thousands of monkeys. Securiy is tight, mobile phones, keys etc. are not allowed inside the temple as a result of moslem terrorist bomb blasts; and as you enter you will be greeted by the sight of hundreds of monkeys on the premises. Beware- they may snatch from you if they see you carrying boxes or packets of food. Inside the temple you will find stacks of hanuman chalisa text for the use of devotees.
While the use of ghats for cremation is well known, they are also used to give last rites to those who do not need cleansing by fire to purify their soul, including young children and pregnant women. Instead, their bodies are wrapped in cloth, weighted with stones and eased into the Ganga. However, it is fairly common for the ropes to give way, resulting in putrefying corpses washing up on the east shore across from the city. Steer clear if squeamish.
Dasaswamedh Ghat (main ghat)
A ghat is a series of steps leading down to the river, used by bathers and pilgrims, and riverside Varanasi consists of a long sequence of these. It's generally possible to walk directly between them, though near Manikarnika Ghat you'll have to navigate your way up and around through the alleyways. The best option for viewing the ghats is to charter a boat and see them from the river.
Hindus consider it auspicious to die in Varanasi, so some ghats are known as burning ghats, where bodies are cremated (in full view) before their ashes are eased into the Ganga.
Some of the main ghats, from north to south:
Panchganga Ghat - the meeting of the five rivers
Manikarnika Ghat - the main cremation ghat; a must-see, but remain quiet and never take photographs (note: scams are plentiful here; see the "Staying Safe" section)
Dasaswamedh Ghat - the main ghat and site of the large evening aarti; only reachable by foot at some times of day, about a 5 minute walk south from Godulia
Kedar Ghat - brightly painted in stripes and busy with bathers, very photogenic
Narad Ghat - the ghat on which bathing with spouse is not advised because the legend of contention
Harishchandra Ghat - the cremation place were Raja Harishchandra did the last rituals of his son.
Tulsi Ghat - site of the large water purification plant
Assi Ghat - a popular place to stay with many hotels, restaurants and internet cafes
Deepavali, or Diwali, is a great time to be in Varanasi, with special ceremonies in many temples. The once-a-year decorations and aarti at the ghats are spectacular.
Shivaratri is another great time to be in Varanasi. The day of Shivaratri is also the last day of the Dhrupad Mela, a festival of "Hindustani" (a form of Indian classical music) that goes on night and day for about 72 hours. Since the date of the festival is decided by Hindu lunar calendar, it changes (per the western, or Gregorian, calendar) every year.
Bathe Over 60,000 people come down to the waters edge every day to take a dip in the sacred waters of the Ganga, reputed to have healing benefits. This is a fantastic site to see. However, due to sewage pipes discharging into the river along with sunken corpses, it is not recommended to join in. There is a risk of infection from numerous diseases and bacteria.
Boat rides are very popular, especially at sunrise and sunset. The most popular sunset ride is to start at Dasaswamedh Ghat and head up to Manikarnika Ghat to see the cremations in progress, and then return to Dasaswamedh and watch the evening aarti from the boat. Sunrise is another magical time for a ride, when the ghats are filled with Hindus bathing and starting their day - one of the most famous sights in India. You can bargain the price down to around Rs 50/person per hour, but expect to be quoted much higher — the current bargained down 'foreign tourist' rate for a boat ride is Rs 300! In fact there is a price limit set by the city in 1998 but still in force today that sets a price range from Rs 50 for boats up to four seats to a maximum of 125 for very large boats. (That's per hour and boat not per person.) At Dasaswamedh there is even a huge sign (in Hindi only) alerting tourists to that fact. If you go Nishadraj ghat, a few minutes walk from Assi, you can find a boat driver named Bhomi, a local singer renowned for his incredible voice and charming, beautiful songs; during the boat ride he sings anything from local folk songs to modern film songs and old devotional ones, and often improvises lyrics over his own songs to communicate with you and the various people gathered on the ghats.
Otherwise, many hotels in Varanasi organise 'free' boat rides for you, the catch being that the 'free' portion of the ride is usually only half an hour, and after seeing 30mins of the river enough people agree to pay for more to make it worth their while.
Typical alley in Varanasi
Sankrit Tour Zone has its extension counter on Dashaswamedh ghat which books Sunrise boating directly online and offline. Fixed rate shop with no bargaining. email: firstname.lastname@example.org or +91-9648000010.
During the trip "market boats" will float up to you selling overpriced trinkets which can be bought much cheaper on land. Any offers of flowers for puja will definitely not be free; Rs 2 per flower bowl and Rs 5 per candle bowl are the going rates as of even date, though as a tourist you might be asked for as much as Rs 100 each.
Walk Get lost in the alleyways - the sounds, sight and smells are just unbelievable! Walk along the ghats and up to the sights. The best way to explore Varanasi is by foot.
Kriti Gallery, Raman Niwas, Mahmoor Ganj, Varanasi (opposite All India Radio Station), ☎ 9839058007, . 11-6 pm. A place to interact with contemporary art in the city of Varanasiedit
Chhath festival. The Chhath festival is a very colorful festival at the bank of the Ganges in Varanasi. The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad (prayer offerings) and aragh to the setting and rising sun.This is an ancient Hindu festival and only Vedic Festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, also known as Surya Shasht. Most of the time they celebrate it in NovemberThis year its on the 8 novemberedit
DURGA MANJHI Varanasi International Boat Service ( Sharad), DASHASHWMEDH GHAT (Main Ghat), ☎ +919956340925. 1. We are very old authorised boatman in varanasi . We provide all kind of boat like small, big, moterboat, decorated boat on demanade of tourist and our boatdriver they are able to speak english and they can explain evrything about the ghats and the city. We have some authorised guide who speak german and french language. 300. edit
Hindi Teacher Varanasi, B1/153, Ganga Math, Assi Ghat, Varanasi – 221005 Uttar Pradesh, India (near Banaras Hindu University), ☎ 91 9452247010 (email@example.com), . Interested in learning Hindi? On site tutoring at Varanasi and Madurai. And Online tutoring elsewhere. Learn Hindi with Hindi Teacher Varanasi, flexible, economic and effective language institute founded by Binit Kumar Mishra. They have spent many years teaching Hindi for different university programs as well as individual and group classes through effective instructors. A little Hindi opens many doors.edit
Sanjeevani Booti (संजीवनीबूटी), Assi Ghat, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A sexual health, drug, and HIV education NGO. There is always demand for foreigners to visit because there is always work related to public health education to be done. A great volunteer opportunity.edit
'''Punarnava Health''' (address= dumraon bag colony,Assi), (behind dumraon bag colony park), ☎ +91 9453109313; Contact- Dr.Pramod Kumar. (email@example.com). Ayurvedic treatment, Ayurvedic massage, Shirodhara, steam bath, leech therapy, health package, Panchkarma, etc. Learn Ayurvedic food habits, daily routine. Basics of Ayurveda course, massage therapy course.we conduct teacher training workshops on Ayurveda and yoga in collaboration with yoga shala berlinedit
Yoga is also popular, and the same rules apply.
Benares Hindu University offers a wide range of classes on topics related to classical Indian studies in English.
'Super Lingua Solution' a translation company based in Varansi, (Shop No. 17, ABC Tower, Sigra, Varanasi) may help you to bridge the gap of language. You can contact Rajesh Kumar Ojha-95803 60440, firstname.lastname@example.org for any kind of help.
Varanasi is famous for its fine silk - it's on offer everywhere, but shop around and bargain hard!
If you are buying a silk scarf, make sure you ask if it is a pure silk scarf or artificial silk. Atrificial is cheaper, and you should be able to purchase it for about 50 to 75 rupees (this will keep changing with time). But be prepared to hear 200 rupees for a fake one!! The real silk scarves can be bargain down to about 150 rupees or sometimes 100 rupees. Be prepared to hear 650 rupees as asking price!!
Mehrotra Silk Factory, K 4-8A, Lal Ghat, Raj Mandir (near Brahma Ghat, follow the multiple yellow signs), ☎ (0091)542 2435892. Government Approved. Has set, reasonable prices and a good selection of handwoven pure silk Sarees, dress materials, bedcovers and hot chocolate and other silk materials.edit
Wow India, Assi Ghat (the big corner shop, follow the tourists). A large collection of handicrafts from all over the country, good herbal teas, incense and plenty more. Prices are moderate and fixed.edit
Loan arts &crafts (email@example.com), s.20/52a,nepalikothi (before hotel surya 10 yards left), ☎ 0091--9336062161. 12. Silk carpets, hand-made, hand-knotted oriental Persian carpets, silk products, silk pashmina, hand embroidered and hand stitched cashmere wool, papier mache and lots of handicrafts.edit
Pratha, Shop No.38, Kashi Anathalaya Building, Maldahiya (Lahurabir - Maldahiya Main Road, Lane by the Main Anathalaya Building), ☎ (0091)9451089499. 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM. A small shop by the corner, showcasing Hand Block printed cotton kurties, suits and accessories. This store does not offer commissions to guides.edit
Sri Guru Perfumers, D, 32/15, Munshi Ghat (Bengali Tola Lane, before Spicie Bites). Very nice selection of perfumes and natural oils, some of them are made by the family of the owner Shankar Roy. Homemade incenses are great. You enter Bengali Tola Lane on the way to Dasaswamedh Ghat. Turn at the Bank of Baroda ATM. There is another perfume shop on the corner before Sri Guru Perfumers, so be aware. edit
The Bed (firstname.lastname@example.org), b1/153 ganga math assi varanasi (near palach on ganges hotel), ☎ 00 91 9918280738, . 9 am. A shop for all kind of gifts(like all kinds of silk materials and scarfs). Much more to see.300. (9 pm,7 year)edit
There are numerous food outlets and a very dynamic range in quality. The restaurants closer to the ghats cater more to foreign tourists, with variable success. To get really authentic Banarasi Khana you're going to have to get to the main market area or, better, to have a Varanasi friend inviting you at home. Benares Dum Aloo is a local specialty, and the city is also known for its desserts. You can't go away from Varanasi without eating local specialities as aloo chat and pani puri and, in general, the street food.
Paan, a betel nut mixture usually containing tobacco, is not really food, but is something Varanasi is famous for all over India.
Nice cafe, Bengali Tola (near Mona Lisa, on turn off for Vishnu GH). 7am - late. Great food cooked only by mum and family. Home kitchen. Clean. Friendly and helpful owner. Very reasonable prices, except on festival days when hot chocolate is poured over everyone for a fixed price of 1000 rupees per person. Check out the garlic / cheese nan and the pancakes! 25-55 for meal. edit
Shiv Lassi Bhandar: (near the main gate of RamNagar Fort) Lassi with layers of Malai and Rabri. Superb Stuff.
Kashi Chat Center: (near Godowlia Crossing) Good assortment of exotic chats. Try out the Aloo Tikia Chat.
Rabri/Malai shops: (a couple of shops, near Godowlia Crossing opposite to the Church) Try out fresh rabri and malai in the evening (7PM-9PM). Really good stuff !!! One of the best rabri shops is on the alleyway that leads to the vishwanath temple (the main shiva temple) from the Dashashwamedh Ghat side. This is a tiny hole-in-the-wall rabri shop next to a big sari shop (Kanjilal and company) and loads of shops selling bangles.
Another excellent place for rabri & malai is Atul's shop (6-12 pm), another hole-in-the wall shop on the alley that starts beside the Bank of Baroda ATM on Dasaswamedh ghat ; just ask anybody for Atul Bhaiyyas shop once you enter the alley.
Madhur Jalpan:The best place for laddoos and other famous sweet delicacies is 'Madhur Jalpan', a shop that has been frequented by more than two prime ministers of India! Madhur Jalpan is on Baradev - next to the Kainiya Chitra Mandir(now Spice KCM). Again, on a small alleyway, but the sweets are to die for.
New Bread of Life Bakery (Bread, Cakes and Brownies in Varanasi), Main Road, Parallel to Shivala Ghat (Just past the junction at Shivala Ghat, on your left/hand side heading towards Assi Ghat), ☎ 09415818188. 7am-10pm. The most amazing Chocolate brownies and Apple pies! Plus good homemade brown bread. Wonderful chocolate chip cookies; pack of three for 60 Rupees, or one for 25.edit
Lotus Lounge, D 14/27, Mansrowar Ghat,, ☎ +91 98 38 567717. A very nice place to relax and get safe and tasty food.With a nice view over the river and the ghatsmid range. edit
Bufffalo's Restaurant(near Kedar Ghat Post Office)Newly opened restaurant. Every Sunday they have a chess tournament and jamming sessions on Thursday. Great Thali.
Shiva Cafe and German Bakery, D 26/4 Narad Ghat, (near Himalaya Lodge). In the main little alleyway that runs parallel to the river between Dasaswamedh Ghat and Assi Ghat, this place is deservedly popular. The food takes time, but that's because it's prepared fresh, and you'll be happy you waited when the food arrives. Staffed by enterprising Nepalis this has authentic pastas, sandwiches etc.Healthy food. Favourite amongst long stay residents.
Mona Lisa Cafe, (just south and opposite Shiva Cafe). Another good and popular cheapie, with a good range of things on offer, notably a thali for Rs 20, and some Japanese and Korean dishes thrown in for good measure.
A C Shahi Restaurant & Kesari Restaurant near Dasashwmedh ghat in Godaulia and Shahi Restaurant near Rathyatra crossing serve very good vegetarian north / south indian dishes.
Diamond Hotel and Jaika Restaurant near Vijaya Talkies Crossing in Bhelupur serve very good north Indian dishes.
Ganga View on the roof of sita guest house d 22/16 chaustti ghat, varanasi,up india,Indian Continental and Western Food Fresh Food and Purified Water (Non-veg not available)
99 Not Out - Veg Cafe, 6 Kashiraj Apartment, Kamachha (Rly Stn - BHU main road near Rathyatra), ☎ 0091-9415226752, . 12.00 Noon to 10.30 PM. Extremely neat & clean place serving pure veg burgers, pizza, pasta, chowmein, hot dog etc. A wide range of thick shakes and exclusive cold drinks alongwith full range of Ice Creams.edit
Classic cafe, perfect space for chinese and indian fusion snacks,Good place for group gathering.
Samara Restaurant (Samara), B-38/1-S, Mahmoorganj (1 KM from Rathyatra to Akashwani), ☎ 0542-2364484, . 11AMto 11PM. Pure Vegetatian Indian, North Indian, Chinese, South Indianedit
Filocafe' ( +91-9839066788), A space to study, read, network, converse, experiment, think… Filocafé provides a perfect heaven for this and much more. Come here to showcase or appreciate up-and-coming talents – musical, intellectual, artistic – or use this free space any other activity that relates to the city or makes us grow as people Equipped free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets available to all, Filocafé offers a variety of over 45 types of teas, real espresso coffee (yes those which come out from those Italian machines :D) and its creative varieties, fresh juices and a few munchies.. Open from 12pm to 8:30pm.
Weekly Event:A movie is shown every Sunday at 6pm followed by a special dinner.
Aum Cafe / Ayurvedic Cafe : near Assi Ghat, owned and run by Shivani Ayurvedic food/ Organic Teas and Coffees, Healthy Vegan/ Vegetarian friendly atmosphere with free Wi Fi. Hearty nutritious dishes. Some Indian and western choices. Located behind the temple on Assi Ghat.
Madhur Milan Cafe, Dashashwamedh Road, is a nice place for Indian snacks and meals at cheap prices. The price range for a persons full meal varies between Rs. 40 - 150. Cafe is primarily famous for its fried hot samosas, dosa and kachori sabji. Website : .
Megu Cafe, Kalika Gali (near Meer Ghat), has excellent vegetarian Japanese food made by a Japanese woman who settled in Varanasi a number of years ago. All dishes are Rs. 85 or less. Closed on Sundays. [December 2011] Menu prices of all items have increased and expect to pay around Rs. 100-130 for a vegetarian and around Rs. 180-200 for non vegetarian main meal.
Open Hand Shop & Cafe, Assi Ghat, (around the corner from Hotel Haifa), +91 542 2369 751, . The bakery has daily fresh bread, cakes, pies & various pastries. The food selection includes set breakfast, salads, breadrolls and fruit salad. The espresso-based coffees and fresh fruit smoothies are the main attractions. The shop is selling fixed-price merchandise on fair-trade principles. Free Internet
Flavours Cafe, Lanka, ('above axis bank). Great coffee and desserts. Strong filter coffee and lighly accented lattes with a quiet ambiance make for a needed break from the city. Free wireless is also a plus.
Brown Bread Bakery, near Meer ghat, 09838888823. Is a good bakery run by a German baker in Varanasi, be wary of the Indian run bakery on the opposite side of the road who claims charity but is just fake. Breads and pastries made from organically grown ingredients. Also a nice range of cheeses. The restaurant has a large menu including Continental, Italian, German and Indian classics, has a great rooftop and offers a breakfast buffet from 7 to 12. Quality is mostly pretty good and a part of the proceeds supports the Learn For Life society which operates a free school for disadvantaged children in Aurangabad, Varanasi. www.brownbreadbakery.com; www.learn-for-life.net
Bread of Life Bakery, Shivala Road, (a few hundred metres north of Assi Ghat), +91 542 227 5012. Good baked goods, but also a full restaurant with okay breakfasts including "American" pancakes and canned-OJ (freshly-squeezed no longer). Used to be very popular but the quality is now questionable.
Zaika restaurant - in Shivala, opposite Hotel Broadway. Good Indian / Chinese dishes; try the sweet-corn-pakoras.
Moti Mahal Delux restaurant - in Sigra, 3rd Floor, IP Mall, in the heart of the city. +91-542-2220555. One of the best Indian and mughlai restaurant in the city with a unique fine dining experience. Also provides free delivery of your meal at any location in the city. Also serves authentic chinese and continental.
Radiant Restaurant - at 28A, Sampoornanand Nagar, Sigra, Varanasi 221010, Phones:0542-2223831,2224951,6457808 may be the only 24 hours vegetarian restaurant which serves Indian Homely food apart from Continental Vegetarian dishes and Chinese vegetarian dishes. A place to get healthy and law calorie food.Also provides free delivery of your meal at any location in the city.
Possibly due to a high influx of tourists from Israel, a number of Middle Eastern restaurants have opened in Varanasi, all of which serve very similar food, cater to a predominantly tourist clientèle, and charge a little over Rs 100 for a thali.
Hayat mediterreian': near Assi (new location= behind dumraon bag colony park), managed by authentic middle-easterners (from Jordan). Try the labanha (dry yoghurt), or the baba ghanSoush (eggplant) with pita. The Nanas (mint-lemon drink) are the best in town. The feta is a tad high in salt, but at least they have it. The restaurant has a tent-like lounge atmosphere that gives it a cult presence. Ask for "hello to the queen" and see smiles.
very good quality, pleasant open air magnetosphere
Phulwari / Sami Cafe: near the Vishwanath Temple crossing, you sit beside a religiously near-defunct but architecturally gorgeous Mahadev temple, and sip on iced teas and nanas. Some locals still consider this a holy site and aren't too happy about the cafe being so close.
This temple has been usurped by thugs who sponsor this restaurant. Avoid on ethical grounds. No other heritage Indian temple has a restaurant in its courtyard !
Alcohol is available at a few restaurants and hotels, such as the Radisson and Taj. There are several wine shops in the old city but they don't offer any sitting arrangement. You can buy whatever you want and bring it to your hotel room.
Bhang is a potent, powdered form of marijuana often mixed into "special" lassis, simply called bhang lassi. The drink is especially popular on holidays as Varanasi is a major center of Shiva worship as it is offered to the lord in form of Prashad. It can be quite intoxicating.
Thandai is cool milk based drink made with pistachios, almonds and kesar and topped off with a large dollop of malai (cream). Bhang is often added to thicken the concoction, though it can be made without. Many Tandai stores are located near the main Godowlia, and most also serve lassi.
The most interesting area to stay is around the ghats. This is where most foreigners hang out - and with good reason. In addition to the ghats and river, Varanasi's most famous temples and main market are all located in this area. Another choice is Sarnath, about 8km from Varanasi. It is a little removed from 'the action' but much safer and calmer than Varanasi.
Some budget accommodations advertise free morning and evening boat rides along the river. Technically, it is not free. The boat will take you half-way along the river and then let the boat-load of passengers know that for the second-half there is a fee of 60 rupees per person. Those who do not want to continue can get out of the boat and walk back to their lodging.
Beware that Varanasi, particularly during summer, is prone to many hours of power outages a day. It is best to double check that you fan of A/C is run from a backup generator, or you may not have it for much of the day.
Marigold P. Guest House, D20/10-D Munshi Ghat , Dashashwmedh Ghat (Varanasi), ☎ +919559811240, . checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Located near the bank of river Ganga and just two minute walk to the ghats. The rooms are clean and have wi-fi. The main attraction of the guest house is rooftop because view of ganges.500-700. edit
Stops Art Hostel, (email@example.com), . checkout: Noon. Bright, airy, super modern hostel located 5 mins away from the Ganges down a quiet alleyway away from all the noise and dirt. The closest Ghat is Harishchandra which is a secondary cremation Ghat and just under halfway along the line of Ghats running north to south. The hostel itself is western, extremely clean, within a walled area and spread over 3 floors with several dorm rooms and well looked after western bathrooms, no dingy latrines at this place! Common areas both inside and out are in abundance and wifi is consistent and fast on all floors. The hostel is run by a very professional young Indian couple with superb English and a very keen understanding of what a hostel should be with full recommendations for eating, drinking, tourism etc. It has A/C, 24 hour security and a very happy relaxed vibe, especially out on the shaded balconies on the upper floor, complete with benches and sofas, great for meeting other travellers. Highly recommended.Dorms/Private rooms Rs. 400+ per night.. edit
Hotel Ganges, Between Gadaulia and Dashashwamedh Ghat, on the left. checkout: Noon. The Hotel Ganges is situated very close to the Vishwanath Temple lane. The washrooms are clean, and A/C rooms are available. Stay here if you want to stay in the midst of things in Benaras. Rooms between Rs. 500 to Rs.2000 per night.. edit
International Traveller's Hostel, C-32/4, Vidyapeeth Road, Varanasi, 221002 (5 min walk from Varanasi Junction station, opposite Gate #2 of Vidyapeeth University.), ☎ +91 7379000070 (firstname.lastname@example.org). A hostel run by backpackers very close to Varanasi Junction station and a short auto-rickshaw ride to Godaulia. The staff give good advice and know the country well. Dorms of 4-6 beds with shared bathrooms. There is a common area, washing, TV, PC, wi-fi, a/c, kitchen and purified water. Beds from Rs 400. edit
Vishnu Rest House, Pandey Ghat, ☎ +919936438706. A hotel spanned over 200 year old Vishnu temple. A very clean and friendly guest house over looking the river, some rooms with views. You will often find classical music programs and puja held during morning and evening time. The rooms are with power backup and hot water. edit
Lord Vishnu Rest House, Pandey Ghat, ☎ +919450870727. Just behind Vishnu Rest House. A very clean and friendly guest house over looking the river, some rooms with views. Close to Vishnu rest house amenities and bigger rooms with peaceful place to stay. The rooms are with power backup and hot water. edit
Mishra Guest House, Ck 8/178 Garwasi tolla Gaumath Varanasi (Near Manikarnika Ghat also called Burning Ghat), ☎ +91 542 240 1143, . The rooftop restaurant offers evening concerts every night Free.Rs 150 - 950. edit
Buest Guest House, K 54/84 DARANAGAR, Varanasi 221 001 (near Mritunjai Mahadev Temple), ☎ +91 964 800 0010 (email@example.com). Property is situated right in the centre of the old town. Yoga courses are available by Yog Guru.Rs 150 - 1500. edit
Ganga Fuji Home, (between Man Mandeer Ghat and Dasaswamedh Ghat). Some rooms have shared bathroom; more expensive rooms have A/C and TV. All rooms are clean, with clean sheets and towel. The rooftop restaurant offers evening concerts every night.Rs 350 - 990. edit
Groovy Ganges Guesthouse (ग्रूवीगंगागेस्टहाउस), B2/225, B-6-A, Bhadaini (in Bhadaini neighborhood near Assi Ghat), ☎ 993.618.0896 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: (001)206.984.1165), . checkin: whenever; checkout: no hurry. Live in an Indian home with an Indian family. Unlimited broadband internet access comes with every room, making this an ideal place for long-term students, researchers, and activists wanting to integrate into local culture. Boiled water used for all cooking.Rs 3000/week. edit
Hotel River View, a couple ghats north of Panchganga Ghat (Walk north from Dasaswamedh Ghat for about 15 minutes, and follow the numerous blue and white painted signs that begin to appear). Rs 100 - 250. edit
Maa Vaishno Guest House (माँवैशोगेस्टहाउस), B 5/188 (Shivala Ghat), ☎ +91-9389178569 (email@example.com). checkin: 24hr; checkout: 12-noon. Family run guesthouse situated two minutes from the Shivala Ghat. 20 minute by walk to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple,Sankat Mochan Temple,Durga Temple,Benaras Hindu Univercity. 10 clean rooms, all with attached bathroom with running hot and cold shower and view of the Ganga. Roof top restaurant, sunrise & sun set from roof & room, Free Wi-Fi 24*7, pick up services. laundry service, train, bus and air ticket arrangement and other travel services available.Rs 200 - 500. edit
Maruti Guest House (मारुतीगेस्टहाउस), Sahodarbir (near Assi Ghat), ☎ 231.2261, . Friendly family run guest house with clean well lit rooms. There is a roof top garden and restaurant where fresh home made food is served. Power backup for the rooms and hot showers are available as well as broadband Internet access. The owner of the guest house, Dr. V.N. Tripathi, gives Yoga and meditation lessons upon request.Rs 50 - 400. edit
Shiva Kashi Guest House, D22/4 Chausatti Ghat (very near Sita G H), ☎ +91 923 551 2294, . edit
Bhadrakali Guest House, Ahilyabai ghat brampuri gali d18/11 varanasi, ☎ +91 542 245 4104, . Bhadra Kali guest house has great location on Ahilyabai Ghat, by Main Ghat very close to all the main attractions. The guesthouse is a colourful, family-owned, music-oriented house with panoramic views of the city and of the River Ganga. A couple of the rooms in this cozy 7 room Guesthouse also have balconies and River views.edit
Prashnu Guest House, Assi varanasi. This unpretentious and clean hotel features 4 airy and sunny rooms with minimal street noise and 24-hour fan, bathrooms are impeccably clean. The owner is a good gentleman who spends most of the day chanting and reading some sort of hindu religious texts, a hidden gem.Single 250, double 500. edit
Violent crime is rare, but still do be careful in the lanes after dark. Carry a lamp; power outages are extremely common, and the alleys are hard enough to navigate in daylight, let alone in pitch dark, because of their broken paving stones and cows common.
Women especially need to dress conservatively and to be careful. Even taking precautions, expect to have the odd local young man try to quickly grope you and run away. Respond aggressively and loudly to try to discourage this behavior as much as possible.
Rickshaw/taxi scams are a norm in Varanasi, and the driver will inevitably tell you that the hotel that you wish to go to has burned down, is flooded, or closed. Don't believe him. Drivers receive commission from hotels for bringing in new guests, and this is one way to trick newcomers to going to these places. Don't get annoyed, but see the exchange as playful banter and part of the Varanasi experience. However, if the driver continuously refuses to follow your instructions, threaten to get out of the rickshaw. If after all this you still end up to a different place, just refuse to pay until you arrive at your hotel. The same procedure will need to be followed when sight seeing, as drivers will inevitably try to take you to handicraft stores, from which they receive commission. If calling for a pickup from a more resepctable hostel, be wary that other taxi drivers may listen in to your phone conversation then tell another taxi driver who will pick you up pretending to be your hostel, then take you to a commision charging hostel.
As you approach Manikarnika Ghat you will probably be ushered toward a plain concrete building to view the funeral pyres. The person that leads you there will say that he is a volunteer at the hospice center and will tell you how he takes care of poor people that don't have enough money to buy wood for their funerary burning. He'll tell you that wood costs 300 rupees per kilogram (it's actually closer to 5 rupees per kilogram) and that most foreigners donate between 5 and 10 kilograms of wood to his center, at which point he'll ask for a donation from you. If it isn't obvious already, this is a scam. Either tell him you have no money or that you don't feel comfortable donating at the time.
Scam lodges such as Tiwari lodge have been known to offer you a cheap price on arrival but refuses to accept any payment until you leave, when you do your bill has magically quadrupled in price and the owner just plain rejects the initial price, it's best to pay day-by-day to prevent such scams.
There is, rather understandably, some resentment at tourists tresspasing up to the cremation ghats for raucous sightseeing at the funeral ceremonies of loved ones. Behave respectfully and do not take photographs of cremations, even from the river.
You can take photographs if it is from a distance ; most do not mind. There are touts who for a fee will "stop minding". Note that if it is the family that objects then you have to respect it but not if local riff raff object in the interest of extracting money. Offer the money and if they seem ready to accept ,withdraw it and photograph ! Call the police if necessary.
also as this city is full of temples you will have to take off your shoes/sandals at every point. so wear a flip flop which is easy to take off.
BSNL, Reliance,Idea, and Airtel are the most popular cell phone services in the region. If you bring your GSM cellphone from home, you can get a cheap connection and cash card from Idea or Airtel from anywhere in India and call within India and abroad.
Internet is widely available, especially in the lanes between Dasaswamedh Ghat and Assi Ghat. Price is usually Rs 20-30/hour. Several branches of Iway BROADBAND (rs.15-20)are sprinkled around town as well.
Calling abroad is cheap from Iway branches.
Now a days, it is not so easy to get a new sim card because of security reasons. Normally the shopkeeper will ask for identity as well as address proof for the sim card. He will ask for photograph also which is the standard procedure.
Before giving access to internet, shopkeeper will ask for Identity proof and he will note down your details. In some cases, he will take a photostate copy of your identity proof and will keep photostate copy with him. This is as per the instructions of authorities.
Gaya - One of the most sacred places to do Pind Dan (funeral offerings for the benefit of the soul of the deceased)
Sarnath - One of the most sacred places for Buddhists, known as the place where Lord Buddha gave his first speech after his enlightenment.
Ramnagar Fort - historical royal residence and museum across the Ganges
Chunar Fort - ruins of battlements and ancient settlement 15 miles from Varanasi.
Agra - the next point on the tourist "Golden Triangle". Buses and trains, including overnight trains, leave several times a day.
Nepal - buses travel to the Nepali border where you can transfer to Kathmandu and Chitwan buses. Most buses go via Gorakhpur and can take 8-12 hours, or there are daily flights. There are a number of travel agents in Varanasi which will sell you tourist/AC buses to Kathmandu or Pokhara. Avoid these services (especially the operator Paul Travels) because they are not actually tourist buses. Instead, they are actually the local, public buses and once you get across the Nepal border, they will try to get more money from you.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!