There are two routes through which you can get to Bikaner from Delhi. You can either approach it by going through Sikar (the more scenic and traffic-free option) or you can take the Rohtak-Hisar route (the crowded and industrial India version).
Our journey started at Saket, so the distances mentioned in this post would be in respect to that. The Sikar route came down to about 493 kilometers from start to halt, while the Hisar one wound up at well over 520 kilometers. We chose the Sikar route to get to Bikaner, while we got back to Delhi via Hisar. I would strongly suggest that you take the Sikar route in either direction.
Get your vehicle serviced: This should be a standard practice, but it is a bit more important if you are traveling via Sikar. Once you head off NH8 and hit the road to Sikar, there are only tiny villages and small towns that you will till you get to Bikaner. It maybe possible to find help to get your vehicle fixed in those towns, but you are better off ensuring that your vehicle is in top shape before you start off.
Stock food and water: There is again not much by means of restaurants along the way. There are dhabas of mainly the trucker than the tourist variety which you will run into and you can stop at Fatehpur to break your journey for a second time if you should feel like it. But it is a great option in those wide open spaces to be able to pull over and have a quick bite before you start off again.
Cash: Next to zero ATM machines are there along the way on the Sikar route. The scenario is considerably better if you are going through Hisar, which is a large town. But keep enough cash with you and Rajasthan is a fairly safe state, probably even safer than being in Delhi.
Fuel: Tank up. We made it from Delhi to Bikaner on a full tank with a bit to spare, which should put it at around 34-35 liters of petrol. There are petrol pumps along the way, but I'd suggest you fill up next only at Bikaner. You don't need to carry any fuel with you.
The ideal exit would be to leave as early as possible and head out on NH8 skipping all the traffic. At about 90 Kms out you'll hit a nice dhaba before Behror. You can halt there for breakfast and have some good milky tea, with paranthas by the fields while the rest of the world zips by on the other side. After that you have to drive through Behror and watch out for the town that will come up next, at about 140 KMS called Kotputli.
It is a typical Haryanvi town — crowded and dusty. You will have to keep a look out for a right turn in the main town itself. It is not easily visible and if you happen to miss it, stop and ask for the turn to Sikar. You will find the road to be slightly congested road initially, then it opens up to some amazing scenery.
The entire stretch till Bikaner is peppered with speed breakers at the little villages, so watch out for them. If you like roads with gradient changes and and turns, the road till Sikar is a dream drive. There is very little traffic on the road, but as in every Indian road, keep your eyes open.
The stretch till Sikar is largely fine, comprising 120 KMS, but the last 40 kms the road is being rebuilt, which makes it a nightmare to drive on, especially if you have oncoming traffic, which will almost always be trucks, there maybe a bit of offroading involved in it.
Sikar greets you at the end of it, which is a marginally large town, it is largely a straight drive through and about 5 kms out, the road opens up, which runs largely uninterrupted all the way to Bikaner. The stretch is about 220 kms. You can cover it well under 2.5 hours and can easily touch 140 on most vehicles. At one point we were overtaken, while doing 120 KMPH, by a Mahindra MM 540. So you can guess what it must be like.
The Route (MapmyIndia route map).
Fuel: 35 liters (Petrol)
Start time: 7:15AM
End time: 3:30 PM
Hotel charges: INR 3000 per night for a double room. (Hotel Raj Vilas Palace, booked via Makemytrip)
Food stop overs: 1 before Behror.
The city itself is not much to speak about. It is rather small town, owing most of its size to the presence of the armed forces. This is one town where you can't possibly get lost. If you blindly keep driving around for 15 minutes, odds are that you will wind up right back where you started from.
There is really not much to see or do in Bikaner. There is the fort, but it is not well maintained and it lacks the size and splendour of some of the other forts in Rajasthan. If you are the types who like the big ones at Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, you are going to be really disappointed. This is not the place for such an experience.
But outside the fort, you have to stop at Gallop, the coffee shop that is across the road from the fort. It is a lovely place to sit back and have a beer in the sun and also have some nicely cooked food.
So, what is the thing about Bikaner which makes it that interesting?
Well, the story is that Bikaner is a very laid back, relaxed and safe town. Since there is really not much to do there, you won't find the typical Delhi holiday crowd (read: noisy and boisterous) mucking up the place there. If you want some quiet and peace, in a place that is known for being very safe, Bikaner is really the place to go.
We drove non-stop all the way back from Bikaner to see how much time it would take us to do it. We started from the hotel at 8AM and reached the outskirts of Delhi about 4PM.
At 170 KMS out of Bikaner, before Fatehpur, you have to turn left to Hisar. The road is largely okay till you hit Hisar, passing through towns like Churu and Siwani, but 20 KMS outside Hisar the roads are a nightmare, which you will find is consistently the case from there on. You can average 80 KMPH if you are keen on torturing your suspension, but really, it is easier to take it easy and lay off.
Traffic is awful in Hisar, it will take you about 30 minutes to get clear of the town itself. There is no bypass. Next up on the route is Rohtak, where things don't get any better. There is a bypass here, but that itself is narrow and congested enough to make you wince. At one point I was seriously considering driving across to Panipat and head to Delhi via NH1, but we decided against it.
Needless to say, the drive is anything but enjoyable. There is just way too much traffic on the roads and way too many people and the state of the roads once you approach Hisar is awful. To make matters even worse, you enter Delhi through West Delhi — a part of Delhi that is really crowded and made intolerable due to the Metro construction. In hindsight, we would have been better off sticking to the Sikar route, but thankfully we had lucked out since there was a massive traffic jam on NH8, heading back into Delhi that day.
The route (MapmyIndia route map)
The Final Numbers
Fuel: 70 liters (petrol)
Total distance covered: 1100 KMs
Number of days: 3
Drive: 5/5 (not counting the Hisar route)