No 1 guide to Travelling India on a budget
The very first point I will make is no other country offers more bang for your buck than India. It is both incredibly varied and cost-effective. Of course, how much money you throw at your trip will significantly affect the quality of your time, so it is important to loosen your purse strings a little although money is understandably a major factor for most of us. Not all destinations are equal, and some cost way more than others. In this post on Travelling India on a budget, we will be looking at the activities you choose to engage in can have a significant impact on your spend.
I have already written three posts on the costs of travel as I know this is a pressing issue and let us face it no one wants to come home early now, do they? In my first post, how much to travel in India, I have written about what your money will really get you on the road. There are many blogs I have read on this issue, and some are very insightful, but, some are just unrealistic. I would not even bother trying to travel on ten dollars a day in today’s progressive India and expect any quality of time. That’s not what many people want to hear, but that is how it is, unfortunately.
In my second post called cost to travel to India for a month, I talk about how to structure your money once you are there. It is essential to have some kind of plan in place of what you want to get out of your trip and where you want to go. Read this one after you have read the first and decided how much you want to spend a day. In my third post called how to travel in India cheaply, I talk about the little things you can do to cut costs for both solo travellers and couples.
In this article, I will be talking about things you can do to save money based on your interests. I will cover everything from getting your blood pumping on one of India’s many treks to seeing some of the countries spectacular wildlife.
Before I get into any of that, I will give one universal tip. Whatever it is you do take your time as you are only there once and it helps to spread the costs. Don’t make your itinerary to tight as things change and if you push too hard, you spend all your time on a bus.
You will have to make considerations for variables in a country where sometimes things don’t always work efficiently. Savour what you are doing and spread the costs. Your money will be much easier to manage if you apply this one thing to your trip in incredible India.
I will now take a look at all the main reasons why many of us have decided to visit India in the first place and well done at your choice. No other country is as vibrant and varied as this one. What’s more, it is all at a very affordable cost and if you are like me that matters.
Somethings are worth spending money on, and no, I am talking about beer. India has so much to offer any visitor; it is a case of researching what is best for you. My post is simply designed to plant the seed of inspiration and give a little insight into what this bewitching country has to offer. From there, you can think about what appeals to you and then estimate any costs you have to account for outside of your daily budget. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s jump straight in.
Visiting India’s national parks on a budget.
I want to start with national parks and access to some of the countries awsome biodiversity. Many of us will want to do this as we have all seen the jungle book and want to meet Sheer khan. So let me shed a little light on how to do that without breaking the bank. Firstly if you are a nature lover, you don’t necessarily need to just focus on the large megafauna.
If you visit parks that have them in abundance, you will have to pay the extra. Parks with less of the big hitters such as tigers and elephants will inevitably cost less. Visiting these natural spaces will still leave you wide-eyed as India has been blessed with an impressive array of wildlife.
The less well-known parks tend to cost a matter of a few hundred rupees such as Keoladeo Ghana or Nerora Valley. But of course, you will want to get up close and personal with the mighty tiger at some point and who doesn’t? However, Indian national parks are not like Nepals, where you are free to roam around with your guide among all the deadly megafauna. The Indian government are very up on your safety and a bit too much, in my opinion.
What that means for you is you will need to arrange a jeep and guide. It can cost a small fortune if you arrive and hire a whole vehicle for a private safari. Unless you have the cash to burn, you may want to consider sharing a jeep with others, and this may take time to organise.
My advice is to take it slowly and split the costs. Go on an evening or morning safari when the animals are most active to maximise your money invested. In the heat of the midday sun, you will probably see just trees as the animals seek shelter and are tend to be very hard to spot. You will have to take a guide, and I have found it pays to ask questions to them to see if they actually know anything as many don’t quite frankly. That makes it very poor value for your money if they cant tell you anything let alone spot it and you won’t know that until your actually on your safari.
Birders rejoice in the fact that many of the parks dedicated to birds you don’t need a guide at all and it is optional since no one has ever been pecked to death by a bunch of rowdy starlings. Of course, it can help as they may know a particular species nesting site at that time. As a whole, it is just lovely to take a stroll into the wild at your own pace and in peace.
The downside to that is there are 1347 recorded species in the country, and unless you are an accomplished ornithologist, the odds are you won’t recognise some of them. You can get around that by purchasing a good field guide, and I have found Birds of the Indian subcontinent to be particularly useful. When I visit these parks, I usually do one walk with a guide to capitalise on their local knowledge and several by myself.
Hiking in India on a budget.
Trekking is on many peoples to-do list when they visit the county and for an excellent reason. India is blessed with a vast array of landscapes. From the steaming jungles in the south to the roof of the world in the north. Tourists have been coming in droves to get into the wilds of this diverse country for years. Although it is fair to say most trekking goes on in the far north of the country.
Fortunately for you, unlike in neighbouring Nepal, the Indian government does not make it compulsory to take a guide just about anywhere you decide to go. That is good news for you as a lot of the time there is no need anyway. If you choose to take on a two-week walk with no villages on the route, you will need a guide for sure unless you are a very accomplished trekker indeed.
There are however many routes such as the Markha Valley in Ladakh or the Homestay Trek in Spiti where you can walk village to village. You will be able to get a nights sleep and supplies for every day. What’s more, these routes are no less spectacular than the more remote walks. The really epic treks are more about pitting yourself against the elements and the challenge that goes with it.
India is packed full of trekking opportunities that do not really require a guide. It is of cause important to never trek alone and always have someone with you in case you have to raise the alarm. Taking on these wild spaces alone is foolhardy to the extreme as things can and do go wrong sometimes.
If your chosen route does indeed require a guide and maybe packhorses to carry the weight, you should definitely organise that even if you can do it anyway. The truth is some of the routes are very seldomly trodden, and it is unlikely anyone is coming to get you should anything turn bad.
There is a way around this issue to save yourself a little money. Do not book anything from your own country as this is invariably more expensive and unnecessary. Instead, go to the nearest big town where the treks start from and shop around. For example, if you want to go to the Khangchendzonga basecamp, you will need a guide. So go to Yuksum because that is where all treks start from. There will be competition for your money so shop around and check reviews so you can get the best possible deal for yourself.
Spiritual activities in India.
Many of us will want to engage in some kind of spiritual journey while you are here. How you decide to do that is a very personal choice. I can say; however, there is certainly a lot that can be learned from another culture, and India is a melting pot of that.
It is the home of Ayurvedic medicine, and since we all know western medicine while effective is packed full of chemicals that could potentially harm us in the long run. So many of us search for more kind alternatives and what better place to come? Ayurvedic medicine is all-natural and has been practised for lord knows how long. I would say it is fair to assume its practitioners must have learned something that is of use to you throughout this vast expanse of time.
In my personal experience, I caught Dengue fever, and there is no cure. Just paracetamol, rehydration salts and multivitamins. This is of little comfort when you feel like you might die at any moment, so I got my hands on some Ayurvedic remedies. It was a lot of stuff and did not look like medicine at all, but, I will admit it did make me feel quite a bit better for taking it.
While this has to be a surprise for no one, India is also the birthplace of yoga, and this has become part of many of our daily routines. If you want to learn to teach it or want to improve your downward-facing dog pose the opportunity to do that is widespread. Many of us will also want to submerge ourselves in the many religions that are here, such as Hinduism and Buddism. The Indian people are collectively very kind and welcoming, so this is unlikely to be difficult.
There are also many spiritual pursuits to explore such as Reiki, crystal healing and various styles of massage. So with all this in mind where to go first, and how much will it all cost? Well to start with this is something you really should research from home as there are so many options and you want the best for your time and money. Check both the costs and the reviews of each place you are considering before you turn up.
It also depends where you decide to do this as some parts of the country are markedly more expensive than others. Take, for example, Puducherry that has a thriving yoga scene. Barring Sri Aurobindo Ashram that is free, a yoga session here will probably cost you more than it will in your home country. Puducherry is a hugely affluent city, and the cost of living in the centre of town and where you are very likely to be is comparable with some parts of Europe.
The best all-rounder for this pursuit is unsurprisingly Rishikesh, in my opinion. There is plenty of competition for your money, and this gives you room to bargain. The cost of staying in an Ashwan is very reasonable, and you can properly immerse yourself in all of the spiritual pursuits that are at every turn along the banks of the mighty Ganges. If it is a meditation you want many of the Gompas in the north of the country, welcome foreigners and the monks are happy to explain what it is they are doing. It tends to be free, but donations are always appreciated.
Visiting India’s historical sights on a budget.
India has a mind-boggling choice of historical wonders to soak in, and few of us won’t put any of these on our bucket list. With countless empires rising and falling across a vast expanse of time, they come in many flavours. The Archaeological Survey Of India manages nearly all of them, and they don’t consider them equal. That means some have been beautifully restored and some are left to ruins.
How much money is invested in the upkeep and restoration is reflected in the price of your ticket. The cost of entrance to the iconic Taj Mahal is currently Fifty rupees for Indians and a whopping one thousand one hundred rupees for foreigners. I swear the price goes up every time I check online for that.
Whereas the beautiful ruins of the Mogul empire in Orrcha cost only a couple of hundred to get in. Visiting the Taj Mahal is going to take a sizable chunk out of your daily budget so the aim of the game is research so you can see the bullet coming and account for it. For more information on how to structure your money, read the posts in the links, I provided at the top of this page.
The price difference is always massive when visiting historical places despite the fact domestic tourists tend to have more disposable income as they only visit for a few days. Not really any foreigners will come for less than a few weeks as it is pointless to hope to soak in anything this vast country has to offer in a weekend.
Indian guide books.
As simple and obvious as it sounds, I have met countless backpackers on the road who travel with nothing but their phones. Many travellers today just ask for recommendations from fellow backpackers and check trip advisor to see where they are going. Maybe just read a few blogs like my own, and they are great for inspiration.
However, this alone is not a good plan at all. I know the romance of just seeing where the wind takes you can seem appealing, but, you will have no idea of any hidden costs and be able to account for them without some research. While I try to give a concise breakdown of the areas, I cover, and I think I provide information that is hard to get elsewhere, a good guide book provides a solid foundation.
The lonely planet is far and away the best guide, in my opinion, and I have been using them for years. It is easy to navigate, and it contains all the information you will need to plan a coherent route. There are maps, transport links, times, hotel suggestions, costs, and they have a small army of travellers to research all of this.
Realistically no one blog will contain all of this, and it takes no batteries so you can use it anywhere. Sure it is true, and you can get it on your kindle, but you will need it so often that it becomes frustrating to keep finding the part you want on a tablet. Get the paperback version as it will save you pain. Depending on where you are heading electricity can be intermittent, to say the least. Hence, the advantages of having a book if your getting off the beaten trail are blindingly obvious.
Sure blogs like mine are a valuable source of information, and It is also very valuable to get more than one perspective. This will help you build a clear picture of what you want out of your time and money. With the internet coupled with travel nuts like me, you can get your fill of alternative information, but a good guidebook will connect the dots for you.
It will save you money as you can see how much everything is going to be along the way and account for this when you work out your daily spend. Building a coherent plan is vital if you don’t want to haemorrhage money! Besides, it is a lot of fun to plan the dream trip. It gives you a reason to face those long Monday mornings when you are in the grind of your day to day life.
It is helpful on every issue I have raised in this post. The information I provide is very different, and you have gained a good insight you won’t find inside any book. It comes from many years experience on the road, But if you want to find out in one big sweep where is best to start your spiritual journey or suggestions of trekking routes, you can compare to suit your needs get a damn guide book. As I said in previous posts, I am always honest in my work. Just doing this will save you a lot of money and is possibly the best tip I can give.
In summary of my No 1 guide to travelling India on a budget.
After four posts on how to save money while on the road I think I have covered most things that will help you plan how much it is going to cost you and how to manage your money while on the road. I had to write so much as no one wants to have to change their flights and come home early now do they. If you do have any more questions or you can think of any new topics you want me to write about leave your thoughts in the comment box provided.
That about wraps up my final post on the subject, and I hope you have found the information I provide to be useful. Well done for getting to the end of this enormous post and until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy planning.
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