India has not only been the country that left the biggest impression on me, but it has also been the cheapest country I’ve traveled to so far. I knew it would be cheap, but after spending a month there and seeing what we had spent in total was still shocking: just over $500 per person! For an entire month of travel, including plane tickets, trains, admissions to the palaces in Hampi, splurging on a 3-day cruise on a houseboat in Kerala, eating out three times a day and splurging on coffee whenever there was a good coffee shop.
I have to admit that we traveled extremely cheap though because we traveled with a friend who was trying to get by on as little as possible. I often had to fight for the $5 hotel room when a few doors down there was another room for $2.50 – but you can imagine the quality of those rooms! He would also rather take a 24-hour train for $10 instead of a 2-hour flight for $100.
Here’s the thing though: you can actually get much more out of your India experience, if you pay a little bit more and have a little bit of luxury. Sure, you can easily get by on $20 a day (we even spent less than that), but if you’re willing to budget $30 or $40 per day for your trip to India, you can actually travel in comfort, while $20 per day will buy you a cheap, but not necessarily relaxing and worry-free time there.
Take train travel, for example. It’s by far the cheapest way to get around, but seats are rare to get and often booked months in advance – so either you risk standing for twelve hours and being pushed around, or you plan smart ahead and book a cheap flight. There are several budget airlines that operate within India (e.g. IndiGo or SpiceAir).
If you know your travel dates in advance, you can also use the common international hotel booking websites to find good deals in the places you’re planning to visit. Booking well in advance will get you five-star hotels for as little as $100! Trust me, after a day of sightseeing in a busy city like Delhi, you’ll appreciate a comfortable hotel room to go back to more than ever. I felt the most stressed whenever we arrived in a new city without having any accommodation booked, and will make sure on my next trip to India to always book my hotel in advance. India is not an easy country to travel in, but you can make it a much more rewarding experience if you keep your stress levels low on transportation days and come home to a cozy hotel room.
Food is by far the cheapest expense in India – we often ate in local restaurants for as little as $1, and we never had any problems, such as the much-feared ‘Delhi Belly’. If you are looking for a more upscale restaurant experience, I recommend checking out which restaurants are the highest rated ones on TripAdvisor. The number of restaurants in a big city like Mumbai or Bangalore can be overwhelming, and I always find it extremely helpful to see which places other travelers liked, and which are worth skipping.
Planning ahead can be time-consuming, but trust me when I say that it is well worth it for a trip to India – your experience will be smoother, less stressful and much more enjoyable.