River Trips information
A dawn rowing boat ride along the Ganges is a quintessential Varanasi experience. The early-morning light is particularly inspiring, and all the colour and clamour of pilgrims bathing and performing puja unfolds before you. An hour-long trip south from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Harishchandra Ghat and back is popular, but be prepared to see a burning corpse at Harishchandra. Early evening is also a good time to be on the river, when you can light a lotus flower candle (₹10) and set it adrift on the water before watching the nightly ganga aarti ceremony (7pm) at Dashashwamedh Ghat directly from the boat.
The official government price of boats is ₹50 per person per hour, but it is not enforced. Count yourself lucky if you manage ₹100 per person per hour and be prepared for some hard bargaining. And be warned: it's best to arrange a boat the day before. If you show up as the sun is about to rise, you'll find yourself in a Varanasi Standoff: a battle of wills between yourself, a boatsman and the unforgiving rising sun – to the tune of ₹1000 per person.
Many guesthouses offer boat trips, although they’re more expensive than dealing with the boatmen directly. Brown Bread Bakery can arrange a hassle-free boat for less than riverside (₹100 for one to two people, ₹50 for each additonal person) with some à la carte coffee and cakes to boot.