How to travel in India cheaply
India is a vast country and taking a week or so to try and see the splendours that it harbours is quite frankly futile. That is why many of us choose to spend a bit of time there, and this quickly becomes expensive if you don’t manage your money correctly. So in This post How to travel in India cheaply I will be talking about how to make your money stretch without it becoming uncomfortable. We all want to save money, and while that is undoubtedly true, you are only there once. So we will be talking a lot about how to avoid any unnecessary costs.
After four and a half years travelling around the country, I have accumulated a lot of 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 try and learn from someone else’s mistakes, right? So let’s jump straight in shall we?
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 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, and this 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 in many places such as Arunachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley and the Millam glacier, to name a few as you won’t fit the minimum criteria. Also visiting some national parks can cost a fortune alone. So my advice is to take it slow and don’t rush. Wait to find others who are heading in your direction. On the road, you will meet many fellow backpackers, and as a single backpacker you will need to interact with others a lot more than if you were a couple, but I would imagine many of us would prefer that anyway.
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 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 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 Dehli, 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 linked to the airports directly.
Tips on how to travel in India cheaply for couples
It is a significant advantage to travel as a couple, rooms work out cheaper, and you can split the costs of the food bill. 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 fair 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.
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 in 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 very expensive 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 need maps. Books like the Lonely Planet have detailed information on say, where the train station is in relation to where you are going and any public landmarks you want to get transport to.
A lot of the information I give you cant 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.
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 its one of the highlights 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 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 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.
Despite the fact for you to travel to Indian and see anything you will have to go for some time. It is possible to take measures to save money and maximise your experience without compromising the quality of your journey. In my next post, I will talk about how to manage your money and your daily expenses. That coupled with the tricks and tips you have just learned should give you an excellent start to saving a little money while you are on your journey in Incredible India.
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. Happy travels my fellow intrepid travellers.
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