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Posted by Jessica on Sep 3, 2010
How to Get to the Ellora Caves

So you've read Tim's entry about the Ellora Caves and are fascinated by the idea of seeing them in person. (Oh wait, you haven't read his entry yet? Well, go on. I'll wait here until you've done so.)

Alright, so you've read about the Ellora Caves, you've got your bags packed, and you're keen on seeing them yourself. Be sure to have a plane ticket to India too, of course. (Minor detail really.) So now the only question is how exactly do you get to the Ellora Caves? In particular (because you're a savvy do-it-yourself type of guy or gal) you'd like to know how to get to the caves via public transport.

Well, my friends, we're here to help. Read on to find out how you too can enjoy the wonder that is the Ellora Caves for mere pennies and see it at your own pace. (You know, as opposed to those rushy-rushy tours.)

Step #1 – Get thyself to India, specifically to the town of Aurangabad located in northern Maharashtra.

Step #2 – Find a place to stay for a night or two. We happened to splurge while in Aurangabad and spent three nights in the well-appointed Vits Hotel in a "one bedroom apartment" for about US$82 per night. If you'd like to splurge as well, we highly recommend Vits. But if not, have no fear: there are a handful of guest houses and other hotels in town.

Step #3 – Get a good night's sleep; you have a big day of sightseeing ahead of you tomorrow.

Step #4 – Pack a day bag, if you like, with some water, sunscreen, and a camera, before heading out the door. You'll be making your way to Aurangabad's central bus station.

'Sidewalk or tuktuk? The choice is yours.Step #5a – You have two choices at this point: walk or grab a tuktuk (see step #5b). We happened to walk (it's only 2.5 kilometers from the Vits Hotel) because we enjoy walking to places. Now, given we're not sure where you'll be starting from, the easiest thing to tell you is to find Station Road, also known as Major State Highway 8, and start walking north along that road (if your guesthouse is close to the train station) or south along that road (if you're on the other side of town). You might also want to take a peek at Google maps before embarking on your walk. I mean, we can give you directions, but we can't perform miracles without knowing where you're starting from.


Step #5b – If you'd rather save your walking for the Ellora Caves, hop in a tuktuk (after agreeing on a price ahead of time, of course), and ask them to take you to the central bus station. If that direction brings forth a blank stare, you can always mention the bus station on Station Road or Major State Highway 8 (which is the name of the road the entrance to the bus station is located on) or the Siddharth Garden and Zoo (which is located pretty much next to the bus station and whose entrance is also on Station Road/Major State Highway 8). If you're still not confident your driver knows what you speak of, go back to Step #5a and skip the tuktuk.

Step #6 – Regardless of if you've walked (Step #5a) or taken a tuktuk (Step #5b), eventually you will find yourself outside the central bus station. You might not know it's the central bus station, of course, because all the signs are written in Hindi. (Tricky Indians.) But trust us, it's there. Don't, however, be confused by the masses of private buses or taxi ranks that are lining up across the street. If you can't find the bus station at first (because it is back a bit from the road and can be hard to spot), just pause for a few moments (without pulling out a map or looking totally confused, please) and take a look around. There, do you see that bus over there? The one that's coming out of that entrance next to a low stone wall? That bus just came from the bus station. Make your way in the direction the bus just drove from.

'The low stone wall arrow is *not* pointing to the man with the white hat

'Your stone bench is calling youStep # 7 – Congratulations! You've now arrived at the central bus station. From here all your dreams can come true. Or, at the very least, you'll be able to grab a bus to the Ellora Caves. You'll notice there's not really a ticket window (because you'll be buying your ticket on the bus) and all the signs are still written in Hindi (because you're still in India). So take a minute to get your bearings, maybe grab a seat on one of the stone benches and start looking around at all the people. What you're trying to do next is figure out which lane the bus to Ellora will leave from. (I'll tell you in a moment, but let's see if you can't figure out how to discover this information on your own first.)

Step #8 – Okay, I can see you're still sitting on the bench and people watching. But during your people watching, did you happen to see anyone who looked like they might be a bus station employee of sorts? Perhaps one of the gentlemen sitting in the small chairs at the small desks who have their backs to the stone benches and are looking out at the buses? Those are your guys, your new best friends. Just pick one, any one will do, though we tend to go for the guys who look friendlier, and walk on up and ask which bus goes to the Ellora Caves. If you're feeling shy, simply say "Ellora Caves?" and point around to a few of the buses. He'll eventually figure out what you need and direct you to lane 8. (Well, that is if the bus still leaves from lane 8 like it did when we were there. But given we're not sure if that'll stay the same, that's why step #7 wasn't simply, "Go to lane 8" because the bus you boarded could have ended up taking you to Nepal for all we know.)

Step #9 – Make your way to lane 8 (or whichever lane you were directed to) and make sure the bus isn't actually already there. Most likely you'll have to wait about 15-20 minutes. Before getting comfy again on one of the benches, confirm with the official bus station guy sitting by lane 8 that you are indeed at the place where the Ellora bus will leave from. He'll most likely confirm it is and then direct you to "sit, sit" on one of the benches. Eventually a bus for Ellora will pull up (nowhere near, most likely, lane 8 or wherever you were directed to) and your new friend will motion you to the correct bus.

'Your pal, your buddy: the Official Bus Station Guy

Step #10 – Board the bus and grab a seat wherever you like. If you're lucky, you'll get a window seat which means both your ass cheeks will be firmly on the seat. Relish this because the bus you'll grab later today on the way back to Aurangabad will most likely be full and you won't have this same joy to look forward to.

'And away we go!Step #11a – Get comfy in your seat, you'll be on the bus for around an hour. If we were you, we'd opt against wearing your headphones. Instead make friends with the Indians sitting around you. Check out the scenery as you pass it by: rolling fields, a pretty gorge, and (quite randomly) a water slide park of sorts. Welcome to India, my friend.

Step #11b – On the way to the Ellora Caves, you'll pass by the hilltop fortress of Daulatabad. If you like, you can always hop off the bus at this point, check out the fort, and then come back down to the road to grab another bus continuing on to Ellora. We didn't happen to do this, but if we had, we would have done so on our way back. Trust us: you'll want your energy for the caves.

'Tim took this hand in marriage mere days before this photo was taken. It was not holding the bus ticket at the time.Step #11c – Fairly soon into the ride a friendly ticket guy will start making his way through the bus collecting fares. Tell him you're headed to the Ellora Caves. The fare should be around 20 rupees (about US $0.40) for a one-way ticket.

Step #12 – After an hour or so, you'll arrive in the village of Ellora. You'll know you've arrived because all of your new friends will helpfully point out to you that the bus has arrived in Ellora. Thank your friends and the driver, hop off the bus, and stretch your legs.

Step #13 – Welcome to Ellora! Enjoy yourself! Grab a bite to eat or another bottle of water from one of the little stalls, and then make your way to the entrance of the caves. It should be around 250 rupees (roughly US $5) per person.

Step #14 – Spend the next several hours in absolute amazement at all the caves have to offer. Be sure to allow at least an hour just to explore the Kailasa Temple, that's the main temple that you'll see as soon as you walk through the gates. I can't emphasize this enough: if you see nothing else in Ellora, see this temple. But really, you should check out the other caves too. Take lots of photos. Make some new friends with fellow tourists (nearly 98% of whom will be Indian tourists themselves). And watch out for the monkeys that hang out near caves 13-15. (Cheeky little bastards.)

Step #15 – After a thoroughly enjoyable time, make your way back to Ellora. Grab some more food and water, if need be. And then hang out along the side of the road for the next bus headed back to Augangabad. If you're unsure if a bus is going your way, just flag it down and ask the driver.

'Bustling downtown Ellora: where the party's at

Step #16 – Hop onto your bus, grab a seat (or most likely part of a seat), and make friends with the elderly grandmother and grandfather who are sharing their seat with you. Pay the fare taker your 20 rupees for the return to Aurangabad. Enjoy the breeze coming through the bus windows (though maybe keep on your shades as it tends to get dusty). And don't even think about moving into that empty seat up ahead that just opened up. You'll break your seatmates heart if you leave them now. And besides, grandma has a firm grip on your arm as she enthusiastically tells you all sorts of stories and tales in Hindi. Just nod and smile at her, and tell her all sorts of stories and tales about your time at Ellora.

Step #17 – After arriving back at the central bus station in Aurangabad (and promising to meet the elderly grandparents the next day for lunch), take a minute to wake up your leg that fell asleep from lack of circulation. If you're up for it, walk back home. Or, like we did, just grab a tuktuk instead.

Step #18 – Collapse, happily, in bed. You did it. You saw the Ellora Caves. Or maybe Nepal, depending on what bus you got on at the station.

'You may not be to scale

September 5, 2010 at 12:55pm
Cool stuff… it has all the necessary subleties of making sure you are at the real bus station and on the real bus. Anyone with will use this is well advised to print this out, including the pictures, because real life usually lacks the handy yellow labels. Instead, there will be someone shouting at you "taxi taxi" and trying to pull you in the wrong direction.
September 5, 2010 at 2:56pm
Klaus, the four of us should go into business together. We can offer to hold little yellow arrows over important places of interest, possible routes, and probable pickpockets!
missy(&derick)
September 5, 2010 at 10:44pm
this was hilarious. and informative as a bonus! (i think my favorite is pointing out "stuff you can't read";)
September 6, 2010 at 8:55am
LOL! Thanks, Missy (and Derick)! We might have been feeling just a wee bit punchy when we were writing/designing this post. :)

Did you see the mouse-over on the photo showing where the bus station is located (the one that mentions the low stone wall)? I think that one's my favorite. :)

Janet
September 6, 2010 at 1:08pm
Very funny. Hope I make it there one day.
September 7, 2010 at 11:53am
I hope you do too, Janet! I have a feeling you'd really love it there. :)
missy(&derick)
September 9, 2010 at 8:18pm
haha! i did not even notice the fun captions when you hold the mouse over the photo! good job on those too :)
September 13, 2010 at 11:13am
LOL! Thanks, guys! We do what we can to be entertaining. ;)
Tom
September 19, 2011 at 7:33am
Thanks for the hot tips! Found this and was empowered to take the local bus up to Ellora. Had to fight away the taxi drivers with a stick, but it was worth it!
September 22, 2011 at 5:18pm
Hi Tom!

I'm so happy our tips were helpful to you! And kudos for getting out to Ellora using the local bus! :)

Baskar K
September 28, 2012 at 5:32am
Cool. Very useful. I am planning for a trip to ellora and this will ease some of my work
October 8, 2012 at 9:55am
Hey Baskar! I'm so happy to hear the post was helpful. And enjoy your time at Ellora – it is still one of the most fantastic sights we've ever visited. :)

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