Should you visit India or Nepal?Neighboring countries India and Nepal have similar cultures and low prices for travelers. But India, being much larger, offers a diversity of attractions. On the other hand, Nepal has created a unique culture of trekking in the Himalayas that is not found anywhere else in the world.
The Indian tourism slogan is "Incredible India" and it is quite accurate! This massive nation is rich with beautiful culture, ancient history, amazing food, and a diverse set of activities to pique the interest of any traveler. From hiking in the Himalayas to tropical beaches in the south, to staying on houseboats in Kerala, to religious experiences in Varanasi, India has something for everyone.
And India is very affordable, too. At nearly every price range, travelers find India to be a good value. If you want to travel on a shoestring budget, India will reward your wallet with amazing gems at extremely low prices. But if you want luxury, India also offers terrific service, food, and accommodation options at amazing values.
The downside of India? Sometimes the culture of India can be a shock to visitors. Even when staying in more luxurious areas, it is almost impossible to shield yourself from India's high rates of poverty, population density, and diverse culture. First-time visitors can find it to be agitating, but once you embrace the culture and the excitement, you'll have no trouble experiencing India for the amazing destination that it can be.
Nepal is a mountainous country that covers much of the Himalayas. In fact, this is the main reason why visitors come to this beautiful country. With expectations of hiking and climbing the worlds tallest mountains, visitors to Nepal usually find much more: a friendly culture full of history, religion, music, and great food. These cultural attractions often keep travelers in the country for longer periods of time than their initial plans, as after trekking the mountains, everyone agrees that Nepal has so much more to see than just Everest or the Annapurna Circuit.
When is the best time to visit India and Nepal?
Other than the weather in India, consider the various Indian festivals and holidays. While these festivals can bring an influx of tourists and raise overall prices in certain areas, they are also very much worth the extra cost. But plan accordingly if you need to make reservations in advance, or if you wish to avoid these areas during festivals.
Trekking and hiking is best in Nepal (and the Himalayas in general) in the spring and fall. At these times, the winter snows are gone but the summer rains won't ruin your trip. At these times, the air is clear and crisp, and quite warm at lower altitudes and mild up in the mountains.
Expect other trekkers to be in the mountains at these times, however. Since it is considered dangerous to trek at other times of the year, the vast majority of visitors come at this time, raising prices and filling hotels and guesthouses.
What is the price of travel in India and Nepal?India has one of the lowest costs of living in the world, yet rising wages and a growing middle class are causing prices to slowly rise. Combined with a massive population (the 2nd largest in the world), the low wages for most of the country mean that everything is still generally cheap, but as Indians travel within their own country, the travel industry is growing. The government encourages business growth, so local families often open small hotels or restaurants, adding to the overall competition for tourists.
Nepal has a very low overall cost of living compared to most countries in the world, or even most countries in Asia. Tourism and agriculture are two very important industries, leaving low wages and high competition for income, especially from tourists. Plenty of small, family-run hotels and restaurants, as well as other tour services, are available leading to a large amount of competition. It's even possible to find trekking guides by just walking down the street in Kathmandu or Pokhara, as the local people are often looking for extra work.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in India and Nepal?
Goa is another area known for drawing large crowds, as the beautiful beaches and nightlife attract visitors from all over the world. Expect higher prices for most services.
Prices in the larger cities can also get higher for those looking for more luxurious travel and higher-end services. Delhi and Mumbai, for example, have a large number of western style hotels with plenty of conveniences, but also prices to match. As is the case in most large cities, plenty of low-price, budget options are available, too.
The rural countryside can be extremely low in cost. Travelers have reported staying in family-run hotels for just a couple of dollars, or even for free if they buy food from the family. This is common in places where tourists rarely visit.
Trekking in Nepal, while not overly expensive, can cost significantly more than staying in the larger cities. This is because much of the food and other goods needed in the mountains must be transported up by locals. At higher elevations, for example, food is not as readily available, and therefore costs more. And villages at higher elevations are less frequent and less populated, leading to less guesthouses (or "tea houses") to sleep in, driving up costs even more.
More luxurious accommodation is available in larger cities at higher prices, for those that desire it. However plenty of budget options are around for anyone looking for a cheap place to stay or a cheap place to eat. Those on a shoestring budget can stay in Kathmandu or Pokhara for long periods of time spending just a little money per day.
Royal Chitwan National Park can also see higher prices due to the remote nature of many accommodation options and the overall demand for visitors.
How you can save money when visiting India and Nepal?While many travelers wish to raise their standard of luxury once they arrive in India, this is the main reason why people end up spending more than they planned. By lowering your standards and accepting that you will not be staying in western-style hotels, you can save significant cash. Sometimes the difference between a cheaper, family-run hotel versus a chain hotel can be as much as ten-fold in price. Avoid national and international chain hotels and restaurants, and you'll be amazed at the price difference.
In India, many people hire a car with a driver for an extended period of time, such as for a week or two. This may or may not be less expensive than using public transportation, so shop around.
Flights in India are often quite cheap. As the government subsidies some flights and some airlines, the overall prices can be lower than expected. Again, shop around and compare flights with train tickets or bus tickets before making your decision.
Saving money in Nepal is quite easy. Shop around for everything and settle on a place (hotel, restaurant, or shop) that you find to be of acceptable quality for your budget. This is very easy to do in cities and towns.
While in Kathmandu, shop carefully for trekking gear. Some shops sell the real thing, while others sell knock-offs. Sometimes the knockoffs are actually the real thing, but they are just damaged and couldn't be sold abroad, making them a great buy. Other knock-offs are of poor quality and made by locals looking to make a quick buck. Either way, good deals can be found everywhere.
If the idea of a separate guide and a porter or two for your trek seems too expensive, it is often possible to hire a "porter-guide" instead. These are usually younger men who will carry your bag as well as act as a guide. They are more expensive than a porter, but cheaper than a guide, and they will speak English to help you along your route. Expect them to be not as experienced as the higher-end guides, however.