India is a popular destination for travelers around the world thanks to its beauty, ancient and modern wonders, and the pull of adventure. It is an incredibly diverse land with a vast population of 1.3 billion people and the second largest English speaking country in the world (although this only accounts for 10% of the population!).
It has an incredible amount to offer, and great news for travelers on a budget, it’s one least expensive destinations in the world. Your biggest cost by far is likely to be paying for your flight to get to India, but even here there are ways to cut down on costs.
For the best deals on flights, try to avoid traveling during peak seasons (December, January, June, and July), and also try to avoid booking over long weekends. Booking your flight at least 2 to 4 months in advance can reduce your ticket cost by up to 50%, so it’s best to plan ahead!
Once you get India, you have several options for getting from one part of the country to another.
Due to India’s vast size, flying is a good option for exploring more of the country. Choosing connecting flights instead of direct ones can help reduce the cost, as well as choosing midweek flights (Tuesday to Thursday) and selecting off-peak hours such as very early in the morning or late at night.
Some airlines track views and clicks on their websites, so you might find that prices have gone up the next time you check flight fares. To get around this, you can browse using an “incognito window”.
Airlines such as Air India and Jet Airways offer special passes to foreign nationals which allow you to travel on an unlimited amount of routes for a certain period of time. These tend to cost between $300 and $500 (20.000 INR and 32.000 INR), so they’re worth checking out if you’re planning on traveling to all four regions of India.
India has a well-developed train system and fairs vary across different cities. Journeys by train tend to be cheap, although it’s a good idea to travel with a chain and padlock to secure your luggage.
General tickets or sleeper class tickets are a good choice for shorter distances, whilst AC 3-tier tickets are more suitable for longer journeys. Many people prefer to book seats using the IRCT App, although they often sell out quickly so it’s best to reserve early on in the day.
If you’re traveling within Mumbai, the train is definitely your best option.
Buses are a good option for inter-city travel and are quite cheap. But to travel within a city – such as Jaipur, Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Kolkata – the Metro is one of the fastest ways of getting around and ticket costs are low.
For shorter distances, you can use shared autos called “Gramin Seva” or use local taxis. Apps are rising in popularity, and services such as TaxiForSure and Ola usually offer first rides for free.
There are lots of accommodation options to choose from, but if you’re on a tight budget, your best bet is to go for a backpacker hostel. They’re great places for meeting fellow travelers and swapping stories, offer extremely economical options, and most are very comfortable. Some of the most popular include Zostel, Madpackers, and Bonfire Hostel, and cost around $5 to $10 (300 INR to 650 INR) per night.
You can also consider budget hotels and guesthouses which are more likely to offer Air conditioning for about $10 to $20 (650 INR to 1.300 INR) per night.
Food in India is known for being diverse and eclectic, and 20% to 40% of Indians are vegetarian. You can enjoy a delicious meal at a local eatery for about $1 or $2 (including a bottle of water). A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant should cost around $5 (300 INR), and a beer in a bar or restaurant should only set you back $1.50 (100 INR).
Of course, there are plenty of posh cafés, bistros, and restaurants to choose from if that’s what you’re in the mood for. But you don’t need to go high-end to enjoy a variety of amazing food.
There are so many amazing things to see in India that you could travel for months and never run out of things to see. Most attractions cost between $3 and $15 (200 INR to 1.000 INR), so you should be able to enjoy the best sights, even on a lower budget. For instance, the entrance fee for the Taj Mahal costs $15, whilst the Amer Fort only costs $3.
There are plenty of adventure activities to choose from too such as rafting, waterfall rappelling, and cliff jumping, but these tend to be a little more expensive and climate-dependent.
India covers such a large geographical location you definitely need time to discover the different areas of the country. The thought of paying for a longer trip can put some travelers off due economical factors, but in truth, it’s easy to get by on very little.
If you stay in a backpacker hostel or low-budget hotel, use local transportation, and eat in local eateries, you can easily get by on a daily budget of $15 to $20 (1.000 INR to 1.300 INR).