In the morning, after breakfast, I took an auto rickshaw from Hotel Shree Maya to the bus stand. It was 20 rupees (June 2010). At the bus stand I bought a bottle of water and then went to the bus. It was leaving 9.40 and I didn’t have to wait very long. In the bus I got a seat in the back of the bus, where it was very bumpy and dusty. The fare was Rs 76 and it took 2h 5minutes to T-junction, the stop for Ajanta.
From the bus stop there is still 4 km to the Ajanta Caves, but when you have passed a parking lot and lots of souvenir shops there is another bus waiting. There was a bus with A/C, but most people seemed to take the cheaper, non A/C bus, which was Rs 7.
Going back to Aurangabad I walked up to the main road to wait for a bus. An auto rickshaw driver told me the bus wouldn’t stop there, but he could take me to the bus stop 2 km away. I didn’t believe him of course and waited were I was by the road, and soon some other people arrived as well. It took about 20 minutes before a bus came. The bus ride back to Aurangabad took as long as 2h 45 minutes and it was Rs 80. When we arrived in Aurangabad it was dark, but I had thought it was going to be easy to find an auto rickshaw by the bus stand. The bus stopped on the opposite side of the main road, with a long railing in the middle of the road. I couldn’t cross to the bus stand, but it looked dark anyway. Well, I tried to find an empty rickshaw, but the first ones I asked didn’t want to take me to the hotel. After walking for quite a while I finally fond one who took me to the hotel for Rs 30.
It is both easy and cheap to take a local bus from Ellora to Ajanta. The journey takes 3 hours and was described as "hot but ok".
I paid for a car and driver. Had I arranged when I got to Ellora I could have got the car and driver cheaper. I stupidly arranged it through my hotel and certainly paid them kick-back! It was very expensive for the non air con car. Elsewhere in India we had been paying approx 1000INR per day for a driver with air con (exclusing additional expensies such as state tax etc...) This trip cost an ashamed amount of 1800INR. I still console myself by saying that the driver was very knowledgable and easy going. He happily stopped for me to take photographs, to sample local drinks along the roadside etc... so it did have an advantage. We were travelling as a family of 4 and it was certainly the easiest/most comfortable way to do it... and sometimes a little comfort is nice!
My advice would be to arrange your own car & driver as we had everywhere else. I don't know what possessed me in this nistance - maybe tiredness and heat!!!
There are two gateways to Ajanta: the nearby town of Jalgaon located 60 kms north and the city of Aurangabad located 105 kms south-east of Ajanta. I chose the latter because it was also convenient for the Ellora Caves. Aurangabad is a provincial town with an airport, rail link to Bombay and a couple of modern hotels. The ride from Aurangabad takes about 1hr 45m and is easily made by bus, tour groups or private car. If you are a group of 2 to 4 travelling, the best way is to hire a car and a private driver, which is relatively inexpensive. If cost is an issue, then bus is the way to go (you will need to inquire further).
Once you arrive at the Ajanta site, then you must take one of the regular shuttle buses from the outer entry point to the actual site, as cars and outside buses are not allowed near the site. This short 4 km bus ride makes for an interesting experience mixing with the locals as these shuttles get really crowded, often with schoolchildren on a field trip. Make sure you hop onto the first available bus before it gets flooded by larger groups (they depart every half an hour or so). Take a look at the video "Bus to Ajanta" on this page to see my humorous experience on one of the shuttle buses.
Lastly, in case you're wondering, it would be impossible to visit both Ellora and Ajanta in a single day due to distance and time required to see each site.
I took two car tours over two days in order to visit the caves at Ellora and Ajanta. I shared the cost with an American guy who was staying at my hotel, the MTDC Holiday Resort on Station Road East (see hotel tips). We booked the tours at our hotel and they cost Rs700 for both days for the two of us, so Rs350/day each, which I didn't think was bad considering how far we were travelling (the Ajanta Caves, alone, are a good 100km away).
The first day, we visited the Ellora Caves, Grishneshvara Temple (near to the caves), Khuldabad (a small town located about 3km south of the Ellora Caves, which is famous for the tomb of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb) and Daulatabad, a fortified city located 16km (10 miles) northwest of Aurangabad. We then headed back to Aurangabad and visited a small textile factory and shop. On the second day, we visited the Ajanta Caves.
THese buses are run by Maharashtra Government
specially for the Ghats .and specially for the tourists who wants to see the Ajanta Caves in which 900 years old Paintings are there and several Budha and other stone carvings are awaiting to see them by tourists
Its likely you are staying at Aurangabad - 90km away. There is the bus option - for the backpacker. To travel in comfort take a car. Remember you have to park 5km away from the actual site and then take a bus. Once at the site - be prepared to walk and climb. At most of the caves you have to remove your footwear - so wear something comfortable and practical as well. I suggest a pair of Bata chappals - your flip-flops!