The true cost of travel in India 2021
The cost of a long journey in India will be a major concern for many of us. Well, here you can find out everything you need to know about the real cost of travel in India. It is very justified to be concerned about only spending your hard-earned money every day. We would be wise to do some research, but then again, that is why you are reading my blog, right?
Well, here is the dirty truth about travel in India, and it is mixed news. I can confirm it is true that not many other countries on earth offer such amazing value for money. However, it would be best if you were realistic with your expectations. As the country marches relentlessly into the twenty-first century, the cost of just about everything has inevitably increased.
I have read some blogs that state it is possible to travel for $10 a day? That is an irresponsible thing to tell people and is not even vaguely possible in today’s India. These blogs tend to be hugely popular because they tell travellers what they want to hear. That does not stop it from being woefully unrealistic. Let me put that ridiculous idea into perspective for you. I am sure many of us will be planning a trip to the iconic Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh, and I think that’s a fair assumption. Well, the current entrance fee is a little over $17 per person, so how would that work if your daily budget is $10?
I have made the mistake of not budgeting enough money before, and it crippled my travels. I was always trying to keep to my budget but wound up going over every day. The end result was changing my flights because I didn’t have enough money for my whole trip. Please dont make the same mistake I did as no one wants to come home early, do they?
Travel is like pretty much everything else in life. The more money you chuck at it, generally speaking, the richer your experience will be. You dont have to go nuts with your budget to have fun, but keeping things too tight will greatly affect your experience.
By far, the best way to work out how much money you will be spending on your trip is to take it one day at a time, and that is what we are going to do now. We will have a realistic look at what your money will get you based on the comfort levels you are happy with. Then you can decide what is right for you, so let us get started, shall we?
Let us take a look at the smallest possible budget that is realistically possible without things getting painful. I would say you can just get by on 1500 rupees a day for a single traveller. However, you will be limited on where you can go, and a lot of the attractions are priced well out of this price bracket. I gave the price in rupees so you can work it out in whatever your currency is. I would say that honestly speaking, it is the smallest possible budget you can hope to get away with, so let’s see what kind of journey it would be for you.
Realistically speaking, you would be hard-pressed to find a hotel to suits your needs outside of the well-worn backpacker track. It is wise to go through your guidebook and see where it is budget-friendly and where it is not. You will have to avoid whole states on this daily spend, such as Gujarat, where almost no budget travellers are passing through. Domestic backpackers are pretty much unheard of in India, so you will be paying premium prices. However, in states such as Rajasthan, there is an excellent infrastructure for budget backpackers.
With the rise of domestic tourism, you can be muscled out of buying a bed for the night easily on this budget in popular towns like Shimla. in July, it is a big destination for domestic holidaymakers, and prices inevitably soar.
The good news is when it comes to food, I have found a lot of the best is to be had in very inexpensive local places. These restaurants are called Dhabbas and serve meals that are of outstanding value. The downside is that these restaurants often lack any sense of cleanliness, and the food is often far too rich for your belly to endure every day until your digestive system becomes acclimatised.
We have all heard of the infamous Delhi belly. Well, it is a reality, and it is definitely not restricted to just that city. For a look at how to minimalise keeping your belly in a tip-top condition, I would suggest checking out my post on staying healthy on the road. While I am not a doctor by any stretch of the imagination, I have been sick enough times to be able to hand out some pretty sound advise on how to stay out of the hospital. It is well worth your time to read it, trust me. I will touch on this again later for you.
When I say these things, I am not trying to put anyone off. I am just realistic. I think it is very irresponsible for other bloggers to suggest ten dollars will be enough to get by because this will create problems for their readers when they arrive with unrealistic expectations.
When it comes to transportation at this budget, I would suggest travelling on local busses and take shared rickshaws. If you go by train, aim for 2nd class sleeper or unreserved. The later is very cost-effective, if not very cramped at times, but if your goal is to save money, it may be necessary.
While this budget is possible, I would not recommend it as it may badly hamper your experience. You are only there once, so better you save a little more to get more out of your time. I think that is just good sense, surely? As I have stated before, I aim to give my readers a no-nonsense and honest opinion on my website, so I don’t simply want to tell people what you want to hear.
That would mean your average spend would be between 2500 to 3500 rupees a day to be in this bracket. My budget is thirty pounds a day, and that give me about 2700 rupees to play with. For me, I don’t usually use all of this money, and it is quite comfortable for my needs. It will get you a room in a reasonably comfortable hotel, and in most states, that is between 800 and 1500 rupees a night. Some times beds for this price are still practically impossible to find, so I sporadically have to splurge.
On this budget, you will get into historical sights, museums, and some National parks. However, the big premier parks will still need a bit of planning as they are relatively costly. Some organised treks are possible, but the longer treks cannot be attained on this daily spend.
You will be able to travel in the AC class of trains, and sometimes this can be a godsend if you are in the height of summer or feeling under the weather. You will be able to afford private busses for long haul journeys, and this allows you to recline or even lay down for extra comfort.
If you are willing to spend above 4000 rupees a day, doors will really start opening. There are beautiful heritage hotels in India that can feel like your stepping back into another time. There are also some fantastic boutique hotels for that ultimate sense of comfort. Bear in mind that some of these places are many more than 4000 rupees a night, though. Domestic tourism is a massive industry in today’s Indian society with an ever more expendable income for the wealthy. It has created an unprecedented level of luxury for you to enjoy if you can afford it.
The premier National parks can cost a lot if you have to hire the whole jeep, and the odds are if you are travelling with this budget, you won’t be staying long, so throwing money at these things can get it all moving. You will be able to afford first and second class trains for more privacy and, if you want to go wild, the Indian railways have some very luxurious trains that run at exorbitant prices. For example, Palaces on wheels offer 10-day tours of Rajasthan for an eye-watering $6500! At a fraction of this daily budget, you will be able to hire a private car and driver if you wish.
Tips to save money in India.
After four and a half years travelling around the country, I have accumulated many tricks and tips to help you make the most of your time. I have devised a tried and tested system that works that I want to share with my readers so you can avoid many of the pitfalls I fell into on the road. After all, it is best to learn from someone else’s mistakes, right? for a full break down of what I have learned, check out my post on my most Important tips on saving money in India.
Before I start, I will say a significant way you can stop yourself from spending more money than you absolutely have to is avoid being scammed. The harsh reality is that scamming is a way of life in India, and it will happen to you daily if you dont know. The best thing to do is arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible on what will be coming your way. You could start by carefully reading my post on the most common scams that you are likely to face and thank me later. I have been a victim of countless scams, so this post really is of value to you.
India is a vast country, and taking a week or so to try and see all the splendours that it harbours is quite frankly futile. That is why many of us choose to spend a bit of time in India. Unfortunately, that quickly becomes expensive if you don’t manage your money correctly. Now I will be talking about small things you can do to make your money stretch without becoming uncomfortable.
Tips on how to travel in India cheaply for single backpackers.
In this section, I will cover what you can do as a solo backpacker to save money. Visiting the country alone brings challenges; for example, there is not much difference in the cost of a double room cost and a single. So if you find someone you trust enough to share a room, then please do as those cheap guesthouses backpackers used to rely on are almost a thing of the past as the country progresses into the future. Some hotels offer dorms, which is a very economical option in the big cities where it can be hard to get a reasonably priced room.
Permits for restricted areas can be impossible to get your hands on for many places such as Arunachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley and the Millam glacier, to name a few if you are alone as you won’t fit the minimum criteria of two. Also, visiting some national parks can cost a fortune. So my only advice is to take it slow and don’t rush. Wait to find others who are heading in your direction or split the costs with them. On the road, you will meet many backpackers, and as a single backpacker, you will need to interact with others a lot more than if you were a couple if these things feature on your itinerary.
As a solo female backpacker, you may have to spend a little more sometimes to preserve your safety, for example, a late-night taxi rather than a walk. This post is not geared towards that subject, and I have another post, especially for tips for lone female backpackers and staying safe.
Taxis and rickshaws can be expensive. So use public busses as much as possible in the big cities. There are often shared rickshaws that are often overcrowded but much cheaper. Airports and train stations tend to be linked by bus, and this can save a lot. But it is essential to leave in plenty of time as buses can take forever. If you are arriving in Delhi, then take the Metro from the airport. It is cheap and Fast. Other cities like Kolcutta and Mumbai have good Metro systems that you can utilise but are not directly linked to airports.
Tips on how to travel in India cheaply for couples
It is a significant advantage to travel as a couple. A good tip I will put forward is when you arrive at a new destination, order your rickshaw to a public place to avoid touts. It will usually incur a slightly higher price for the fare, and they will try and talk you out of it. But it removes you from a hard sale that will cost you in the long run when you are being sold the room of their choice.
My advice is to find a cafe or a place to sit in the shade while one of you waits with the bags and the other can shop around for the best deals. Booking online costs more in India, and you have no idea what you are paying for as often the pictures on websites like booking.com do not match what you will be getting. Going in without bags shows you already have a room and, this gives you more bargaining room when talking about the cost.
Something to mention when talking about how to travel in India cheaply is to control your daily spend. Keep a book with your day to day costs in it. Try to always stay within your designated daily budget. I know it is not always possible, but that money has to be accounted for.
When visiting national parks, you pay by the seat and sometimes, as is the case for Sasan Gir for the whole jeep! It can be costly indeed, and travelling in a couple already gives you a little bit of wiggle room. Try and find others to split the costs with, and for that to happen, you might have to wait around for a couple of days. Sometimes you might not find people at all, so weigh the odds up between waiting and just paying out as you still have to consider rent, food and most importantly, your time.
It does not only apply to national parks; it applies to many things. For example, jeeps in the Himalayas can often be shared, but if there are no customers, you will have to pay for every seat if you are two; that is a start, at least.
Essential tips on saving money on the road for everyone
An obvious tip and one I would strongly recommend is getting a damn guide book. Despite it being fundamental, I meet so many travellers on the road who need to borrow mine because they get all their information online. That can be troublesome as the internet can be intermittent in India, and you will need important things like maps. Books like the Lonely Planet have detailed information on where the train station is concerning where you are going and any public landmarks you want to get transport to.
A lot of the information I give you won’t get from a guidebook as it comes from years of personal experience. But they are beneficial in navigating your way and suggesting places to stay. So do yourself a favour and purchase one before you leave home. They are a valuable source of information and can inspire you where to go next.
Just to retouch on what I said earlier, eating street food is both delicious and cost-effective. But do take into consideration it takes time to get used to the new cuisine and will probably irritate your belly until you are, so take it slow. Also, use your initiative when selecting what to eat. Don’t eat prawns of a market stall that’s been sitting out all day in the sunshine, and yes, I have really seen this. Sometimes I honestly have no idea how locals survive with things like that.
Vegetarian food is considerably safer, and as a general rule, I only eat meat or fish from somewhere I can see it has a reasonable sense of health and hygiene rules. By no means deprive yourself of this tasty food as it is a highlight of visiting the country. I am only saying be selective. For information on where to get delicious food in India and what to order, check out the helpful guide I wrote for you on Indian cuisine.
The last tip I will give in this post on how to travel in India cheaply is when you use the railways go for 2nd class sleeper as much as possible. While this class is not available or suitable on all trains, it is plenty good enough for most journeys. You get a bed, unlike in the unreserved class, and it gives you a chance to mingle with the regular Indian people. It is more cost-effective than AC classes, and on many trains, this is the class with the most beds. Use the government offices as much as possible to book your tickets and utilise the tourist quota.
For more information on this, check out my post about getting around India. It is packed with tips on the most effective ways to use Indian public transport and is a great way to save a little money.
In summary of my post on the cost of travel in India.
It is possible to save money and maximise your experience without compromising your journey’s quality. Follow the tricks and tips you have just learned. That should give you an excellent start to saving a little money while on your journey in Incredible India. I hope you found this post of value, and I am sure you will be able to refer to these points throughout your trip.
Like anywhere, India can be just as expensive as you want it to be. Don’t try and keep your daily spend to low as this will compromise your experience and will become uncomfortable. So when asked how much to travel in India? That’s down to the reader and what level of comfort they want. It is a commonly asked question and one that every backpacker will wonder about. So I have set out a framework of how far your money will go.
If you have any more questions you think I may be able to help you with, just leave them in the box provided, and I will get back to you. That’s all for now, folks: so happy travels, my fellow intrepid travellers.
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