India is generally considered an affordable destination. Your dollar tends to go a little farther in India than it does in Europe or North America. This is exactly why discovering India on a budget is no longer a hassle.
There are very few popular tourist hotspots in the world where you can enjoy so many enriching and rewarding travel experiences as cheaply as you can in India.
A reasonable meal in India costs a third or a quarter than it does in Europe. Accommodations are cheaper, and so is travel. But do understand that there is always a tradeoff between comfort and price in India.
A cheap local or regional train, for example, may cost peanuts in India, but they do not have air-conditioning and their seats can be quite uncomfortable to sit on. A roadside snack may cost only a few pennies, but you run the risk of getting food poisoning.
Remember that ‘affordable’ doesn’t always mean it is free—or almost free. You still have to do your due diligence. If you aren’t careful with your finances and budget/audit your expenses attentively, you might break the bank sooner than you think.
10 Tips On How To Travel In India On A Budget
Where you draw the line between cost versus comfort depends on your budget and how much you are willing to push yourself to travel on the cheap. Here are our top 10 tips to travel in India affordably without losing a fortune.
1. Do You Research
When it comes to travel, nothing quite beats research and preparation. When you have done your research on a particular part of the world you want to travel to, there are usually very few surprises when you get there. While you can never rule out unexpected surprises when you travel, you are, in general, prepared when you have done your research well.
How can you do your research? Pick up good quality travel guides about your destination. Read travel blogs. Follow Travel YouTubers who’ve been to those destinations and documented their journey. Reach out to family and friends who have traveled before. Google is your friend as well.
2. Travel In The Off-Season
This is the most universal advice you can get if you want to travel cheaply. In the Western world, traveling around the holiday season, peak summer, or the Christmas/New Year is likely to cost you more.
The same is true while exploring India on a budget. If you are traveling during the peak holiday season (Diwali, Dussehra, Navratri), or the peak tourist season in India (November-March), travel is likely to be more expensive.
Shoulder seasons like September to October and the monsoon (late June to August) are considerably more affordable to travel in with smaller crowds and low prices for accommodations.
April and May are the cheapest months of the year in India but do know that temperatures can rise up to 100 °F during these months. In the monsoon rain and humidity may get a little challenging.
3. Avoid Travelling Around Indian Holidays
Prices tend to go up around major public holidays (religious festivals and events) as Indians from all over the world travel back to spend time with their loved ones. Diwali, Dussehra, Durga Puja, etc are usually expensive times to travel.
4. Save Money By Booking Ahead
You can get excellent discounts on flights and trains if you book well in advance. For the Indian Railways, you can book up to 120 days before your date of departure. Tickets for popular places like Agra (Taj Mahal), Rajasthan, and Delhi can skyrocket and can be quite hard to find during peak seasons.
5. Taking The Path Less Traveled
India’s greatest destinations like Agra, Delhi, Kerala, Goa, and Rajasthan are amazing places to discover but there are so many other off-the-beaten-track places that are just as amazing. Visiting these places costs very little in comparison to the hotspots. Hiring an Indian travel advisor makes sense here since India is so complex it can be a little tricky for a beginner to really choose the correct places to travel within the budget.
Here are a few underexplored places that you can visit and travel to India on a budget:
NORTHEAST INDIA: Beaches of Puri in Odisha. Hill stations of Sikkim (Gangtok and Shillong). National Parks of Assam (Kaziranga, Nameri & Manas)
CENTRAL INDIA: Gwalior, Tiger Reserves of Madhya Pradesh (Panna, Kanha, Bandhavgarh), Rock-cut Caves of Bhimbetka, ancient city of Mandu.
WEST INDIA: Rann of Kutch White Desert and city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, hill stations of Maharashtra (Igatpuri and Lonavala).
SOUTH INDIA: Temple towns of Karnataka (Gokarna, Pattadakal), Hill stations of Tamil Nadu (Ooty, Coonoor)
6. Staying At Homestays And Hostels
There are so many reasonable quality homestays and hostels that you can stay in, which will save you a lot of money. You can find them on online portals like MakeMyTrip and Agoda.
7. Embrace Public Transportations
Private transfers like taxis and bespoke vehicles are costly, you can save some coin by traveling on local business.
8. Opt For Group Tours
Group tours are a great way to travel to save money. The tour operator is able to offer you considerable discounts on accommodation, sightseeing and other activities.
There is safety and comfort in number. You travel in the company and safety of a group. If you hit it off, the travel camaraderie can be quite enjoyable.
9. Haggle. Negotiate. Ask For A Discount
In smaller local markets and shops, the stated price is never the actual price. Don’t be shy of haggling for prices and lowballing. Start by offering about half of the originally quoted price. You can expect to settle the bargain at around two-thirds of the stated price.
10. Try The Local Food
Eating at restaurants or the hotel can get pricey. You can eat like the locals do. Just make sure you pick a place that’s clean and hygienic. Renowned local eateries are quite crowded. That is your cue. Their food is usually fresh. Ask locals for advice on the best eateries.
So, are you all set to discover India on a budget? Save this comprehensive guide because you will definitely need it the next time you are packing bags for India. From the hilly areas in the North to the backwaters in the South, there’s so much to discover in this marvelous country.
Be a part of the most diversified culture in the world. Meet new people, learn new cultures, taste new food, and all within your budget. These tips will surely help you save a lot of money while enjoying it to your fullest!