In Hyderabad, you stay either in isolated splendour up in the Banjara Hills 6 km (3 3/4 miles) from the rail station, or in the seedier, but atmospheric Abids area of the town centre. Here, as in many large Indian cities, top hoteliers appear to think that foreign visitors need protection from the din and dust of town centres. Hence most of India’s best hotels are often away from the city centre, whilst the budget lodges have the premium locations right in the heart of the city.
Luxury/Expensive (over US$35/Rsl000 per room night)
The Krishna Oberoi, Road No. 1, Banjara Hills (tel 222121, tlx 0425-6931 OBH IN, fax 0842-223079) is set in 9 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, with many rooms (US$100 single, US$110 double) overlooking the Hussain Sagar lake. Its palatial-style architecture is perhaps over-emphasised by the presidential suites that have their own swimming-pools.
The Taj’s Gateway Hotel on Banjara Hill (tel 222222, tlx 0425-6947 GATE IN, 2115 TAJH IN, fax 0842-222218), just down the road from the Oberoi, has been completely renovated, has good food, and choice of lake-view or Golconda-fort rooms. Tariffs are US$49 single, US$85 double, and most rooms have balconies. Basker Palace, Road no 1, Banjara Hill (tel 226141, tix 425-6182) has all facilities and rooms from Rs1200 single, Rsl500 double.
Mid-range (US$10-35/Rs250-1000 per room night)
Like Madras, Hyderabad has many hotels in the mid-range. The Quality Inn Green Park, 7-1-26 Ameerpet (tel 228610, tlx 425-2154 has well-maintained rooms for Rs450 single, Rs800 double.
The fine old Ritz Hotel (tel 233571, tix 0425-6215), well-situated on Hill Fort Rd, Basheer Bagh, is an ex-palace with Raj-style charm, lovely views, attentive service, tennis courts and massive pool. Rooms are Rs450 single, Rs600 double, and you’ll want one with individually controlled air-conditioning.
At the bottom, more basic end of the range there are a number of hotels to choose from. Rock Castle, Road 6, Banjara Hills (tel 222541) is a small family hotel with pleasant rooms from Rs500 and a large garden. Hotel Dwaraka, Raj Bhavan Rd (tel 237921), Hotel Jaya International, Nehru Rd, Abids (tel 232929) and Hotel Taj Mahal, King Kothi Rd (tel 237993) all have rooms around Rs250 single, Rs350 double.
Budget (under US$10/Rs250 per room night)
Hyderabad has many budget lodges, some of which should be avoided. The Yatri Niwas, S.P. Road, Secunderabad (tel 847603) has rooms from Rs125 single, Rsl50 double. Also in Secunderabad is the Youth Hostel, near the Boat Club (tel 220121) with rooms from Rs75. In Station Rd, 5 minutes’ walk (right) out of the rail station, choose between Sri Brindavan Hotel with large, breezy singles and doubles at Rs80 and Rs1200 respectively and Hotel Imperial with stuffy but clean rooms from Rs60.
Hyderabad does fine southern Indian cuisine: tray-meal thalis, pancake-like dosas, rice and dal idlis, and flour-wafer pappadams. But the speciality dishes are baghara baigan (small eggplants stuffed with spices, cooked in tamarind juice and sesame oil) and nzirchi ka salan (stuffed green chillies). Both are a bit hot for Western palates, so you may care to try the city’s famous birianis or tikka kababs instead. Particularly recommended is haleenz, a mildly spiced mutton and wheat preparation, followed by khobani (dried apricots cooked to a purée). Finish off with a pot of good, rich south Indian coffee.
The city has a rich culinary heritage, and the Dakhni in the Gateway hotel has an excellent menu with meals costing from Rs200 per head. The menu at the Oberoi’s Firdaus restaurant includes dishes culled from the personal collection of the city’s most renowned gourmet, Salar Jung. Eat well a la carte at around Rs250 per head, or sample the good-value Rs135 lunchtime buffet (12.30-3 pm).
The Gateway’s Kabab-E-Bahar is a lake-side open-air barbecue open each evening. The Abhiruchi in Sarojini Devi road (tel 822547) serves non-vegetarian Andhra food and a meal would cost from Rs75 per person. In town, two good restaurants are Palace Height, 8th floor, Triveni Building, Abid Rd, a stylish place, with great continental, Mughlai and Chinese cuisine at around Rs200 per head; and Peacock Restaurant, Basheer Bagh (similar quality, less expensive). In the Abids area, you’ll find cheap and tasty vegetarian fare at Emerald Hotel’s Sapphire Restaurant, Royal Hotel’s Laxmi Restaurant, and Annapurna Hotel’s air-con restaurant. The Annapurna is particularly well known for its ice-cream.
Andhra Pradesh Tourist Office, 1st floor, Gagan Vihar, M.J. Rd (tel 556493, 556523) is extremely helpful and well organised. Its city sightseeing tours run from 8 am to 6 pm daily, and cost Rs45.
A.A. Hussain Bookshop, Abid Rd, stocks Avion Escort’s good city map/guide (Rs4). The tourist office sells M.A. Mahrnood’s excellent Glimpses of Hyderabad. City of Legends by Ian Austen (Viking, Penguin India 1992) is a popular history of the city. Another excellent book is The Days of the Beloved an oral history of life in Hyderabad under the last Nizam collected by Harriet Lynton and Mohini Rajan; originally published by California University Press (1974), a local reprint by Orient Longman is available. The small pocket guide and map published by Sangam Books (Rs50) is locally available.
Reliable travel agents are Sita World Travels, Hyderguda and Chapel Rd (tel 233638, 235549) and Sheriff Travels, Basheer Bagh (tel 237904). State Bank of India is in Bank St, and the post office is near the railway station, Abids. Indian Airlines (tel 236902, apt 842051) and Air India (tel 232858) are both in Saifabad near the Secretariat building; Vayudoot, 2nd floor Samrat Complex, Saifabad (tel 234717, apt 842855).