With its mountains, beaches, palaces, wildlife, and food, there are myriad reasons why India remains a top option for travelers seeking adventure. And while it excels in luxury – offering tourists the opportunity to remain in maharajas' former palaces, and lounge around the backwaters of Kerala inside a houseboat having a private chef – India also allows for budget travel without scrimping on comfort.
With a little bit of research it is possible to find decent accommodations for less than $13 an evening and delicious dinner for under $7, along with the following tips you are able to equip yourself with the data to visit smarter making the most of your time away. Here's ways to get the very best out of India on a tight budget.
Check the least expensive time of year to travel
Before visiting India it's important to consider which regions you need to visit and just what the weather will be like. April is often the cheapest time to find flights once the temperature soars towards the high-80oFs (mid-30oCs) in popular states like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa, while numerous resorts close until high season begins at the end of September.
The monsoon season also begins in May with heavy downpours likely to put a dampener in your sunbathing plans, but equally it will mean fewer crowds at tourist hot spots and discounts on accommodations. For people to the Himalaya, and surrounding areas, April to June is the best time for you to visit, and trekkers to Leh and Ladakh will discover milder temperatures but greater crowds, as families flee the heat from the cities looking for cooler climes.
Take the night train
One of the smartest methods to save money would be to travel between cities on a night train, thereby avoiding the cost of expensive hotels. On the Duronto and Rajdhani trains, the cost of dinner and breakfast is included within the price of a ticket. On other services, fresh food purchased from vendors will cost a maximum of $4.
It might sound obvious, but the further ahead of time you make reservations the less you'll pay for your ticket. Reservations for Indian Railways open 120 days before departure, and you may book your train through 12Go if you are abroad, or do it in person in the station if you're already in India.
Step outside your comfort zone if you want the best price. For example, just one ticket from Delhi to Hyderabad can cost $71 in 1AC where you will be limited to a two-person compartment with window tinting and just one other person to talk to, but a ticket in standard sleeper class with keep the windows open and lots of people for company will definitely cost just $12. Think about the kind of teach you travel on too. Tickets around the Duronto fleet are more expensive than the others as they're faster, newer, and prevent at fewer stations throughout the journey. Express and Mail trains are slower and have fewer on-board services, but you'll save your rupees.
Go from the beaten track
If you visit a megacity like Mumbai count on paying premium prices for accommodations, food, and drink. So it's worth considering other big hubs that offer just as much when it comes to restaurants, bazaars, and boutique hotels. Hyderabad, for instance, is home to a few of the country's best biryani, bangle-shopping, and Mughal architecture, along with museums showcasing Buddhist and Jain relics, sculptures, and textiles.
Instead of visiting the Maharashtran temples at Ellora and Ajanta, consider going through the Karnatakan monuments at Hampi, Badami, and Aihole, which receive fewer foreign tourists and make for a much more peaceful and rewarding outing. Rather than fending off touts and battling for any quiet spot on Goa's packed beaches, think about visiting Tamil Nadu's Puducherry with its promenades, surfing, and beach yoga.
Travel inside a group
Even if you are traveling by yourself it makes sense to buddy-up for taxi rides from airports in to the city or excursions and excursions from your hotel – particularly if you are a solo female traveler. Most budget hotels offer rooms with multiple occupancy, which could further reduce your bill. For example, a single room in a bungalow on Agonda beach in Goa can cost from $24 per night for single occupancy, or $30 for three sharing a deluxe room. And if you may well ask nicely at reception, the staff will often set up a camp bed in the room for no expense.
Learn the skill of haggling
Part from the fun of trawling markets and bazaars is negotiating with vendors to score a great price. It is a ritual and not one for foreigners alone: Indian shoppers will even use at lower prices than what is quoted. The bottom line is to know when to stop. Despite the fact that a foreign tourist can be requested double (or perhaps triple) the price of an item, be aware that many of individuals with whom you're negotiating earn low wages. Paying a bit more than you wanted can make a world of impact on a low-income laborer who are able to then feed their family together with your cash.
Hop in an auto
Often known incorrectly as “tuk-tuks” – the Thai term for auto-rickshaws – autos really are a fast and efficient way to zip around. While Uber and Ola cabs operate in India with affordable prices than regular taxis, any car will get stuck in traffic at rush hour. Autos, however, can weave interior and exterior jams, helping you achieve your destination very quickly. Make sure you agree with a collection fee before setting off, or ask that the driver switches on the meter at the start of your way.
Check right into a hostel
In general budget accommodations are easy to come by in India with lots of small hotels and guesthouses on websites like MakeMyTrip (not available in Europe currently), or shared by word of mouth. But big cities can still be pricey or reserved in advance, and staying in dirt-cheap hotels could mean compromising on comfort, hygiene, and safety.
However, you may still travel on the shoestring budget by considering a hostel where you will find everyone from solo travelers to large groups of Indian students on excursions. Founded in 2013 the Zostel group opened its first establishment in Jaipur with the hope of introducing a super-cheap option to local lodges, and a much safer choice for young travelers – women in particular.
Offering mixed dorms, female-only dorms, and even private rooms, Zostel has now expanded across the country from Pushkar to Panchgani and Aurangabad to Alleppey, having a bed costing from as little as $5 a night with a shared bathroom, free Wi-Fi and breakfast included.
Try out the street food
Indian food varies wildly in one state to another and also the the easy way obtain a sense of local specialities is as simple as eating at street-food outlets that usually charge just one $1.30 for any plate of freshly stuffed pani puri or deep-fried pakoras. Choose vendors with long lines that suggest they're well-known and well-trusted for hygiene and quality.
Deep-fried snacks like vada pav, or dosas with sambar will be the safest options as they're cooked on high heat as well as on the location. You shouldn't be afraid to ask around for advice: local residents are only too happy to point visitors towards their most favorite kathi-roll cart or bhel-puri vendor.
Take an early-morning flight
If you've no time to take a long-distance train for your next destination, India's domestic airlines offer regular flights throughout the day to all the main cities – and plenty among. SpiceJet and IndiGo would be the two preferred carriers, with prices beginning with less than $43 for a one-way fare between New Delhi and Hyderabad if you travel just before 8am. The same flight doubles in price in the evening. Compare prices on 12Go.
Buy an Indian SIM card
One of the quickest methods to develop huge costs is to apply your own mobile to send texts making and receive calls. Instead, get your handset unlocked before you leave home, or bring an old one and buy an Indian Sim from either Airtel or Vodafone.
If you're flying into Delhi or Mumbai you can purchase one at the airport. To purchase a SIM at a local shop you will need to present a few passport photographs, type on a webpage providing a local address, and also the contact information of someone who are able to attest to you. It is a much more inefficient process, however the fuss could save you a fortune in the long run.
- Hostel room: Rs.500 ($6.50);
- Basic beach hut for 2: Rs. 2000 ($26);
- Self-catering apartment: Rs.3000 ($40) for the entire apartment;
- Daily transport: Rs.250 ($3);
- Cost of a vegetarian thali: Rs. 75 ($1);
- Dinner for two: Rs. 800 ($10.50);
- Bottle of beer: Rs. 100 ($1.30).