India is can be of the cheapest countries in the world to travel in. You can spend as much money or as little money as you want in India, but if you are hoping to spend the winter in the sun on a shoestring budget, here are some tips for cheap travel in India.
Avoid Big Cities
India’s big cities are relatively expensive to stay in, especially Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Bangalore is famous for expensive hotel rooms and it can be very difficult to find a decent cheap room in Mumbai. Delhi’s Pahar Ganj backpacker area has lots of cheap hotels with rooms (in the Rs300 price range,and the US$ equals around 44 Indian rupees right now) but you get what you pay for, generally a small windowless room with grey sheets on the bed. Pahar Ganj is also not the most attractive area to stay in… to put it mildly. Expect to pay more than the average in the big beach resorts in Goa and in Kerala, too.
Eating out in India
Eating out in India can be astonishingly cheap if you eat in local restaurants. You can get a South Indian masala dosa for breakfast for around Rs10 – but if you fancy a muesli in one of the health food restaurants in Goa be prepared to pay ten times more. A thali (an all-you-can-eat meal) can cost as little as around Rs30 in the cheapest South Indian restaurants. After a few months of travelling you’ll probably start to feel like you never want to see another thali again, but if you’re on a budget it is a cheap way to fill your stomach.
Travelling and Sightseeing
Train travel and bus travel in India are both very affordable, especially if you travel in the cheaper classes on the Indian railways or use local buses.
Many of the most famous tourist attractions in India, such as the Taj Mahal, charge a higher entry free from foreign tourists than they do from Indian resiedents. There’s nothing you can do about it, so be prepared to pay up.
Cheapest Times to Travel
Avoid the peak season: in Goa the high season is around Christmas and New Year and prices for accommodation can easily triple. In the mountains in Himachal Pradesh the busiest season is April and May and in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas, it is in July and August. Sometimes a festival or an event can double or triple accommodation prices: for example during the Pushkar Camel Fair hotels in Pushkar get booked up and prices rise.
It is difficult to give a daily budget for travel in India, as prices vary depending on the destination and because everyone travels differently. But you can live very cheaply if you stay in rock bottom hotels, always travel in the cheapest classes on trains, eat only thalis and do little sightseeing. Sometimes, however, it is the mid-range hotels and resorts that offer the best value for money in India, so take a few days off the shoestring travel every now and then to enjoy clean sheets, hot showers and good food.