Though it might not rank as one of the most visited countries compared to the likes of France, China, or the United States, India does pull in around 18 million international tourists per year. There are plenty of great reasons to visit India, including taking in the country’s history, amazing landmarks, and top-tier hospitality.
One of the other amazing reasons to visit India is its affordability. India has been rated as one of the cheapest places to travel to, but you can still end up paying more than you expected. If you want to avoid doing that and save on your trip to India, here are five essential tips for visiting the country on a budget.
Picking The Right Airport and Time
India is a massive country, and there are more than two dozen international airports to pick from when heading there. With that said, the busiest ones are going to be the cheapest to fly into. Mumbai (BOM) and New Delhi (DEL) are the busiest airports by far, while Bengaluru and Hyderabad have slightly higher prices. Chennai and Kolkata are a bit more expensive but could be your only options.
As for the cheapest time of year to head to India, you’ll want to go when it’s considered monsoon season. In the northern part of the country, this typically starts in June, with the cheapest prices coming in September. As for the south, this will be all the way from May until November. Compared to other countries, there really is no wrong time to visit, but prices are a bit cheaper during these months.
Learn How to Haggle
There are certain countries around the world where whatever the price tag says, that’s the price you’re going to pay. If you tried to ask for a lower price at a Walmart in the United States, the cashier would give you a sideways look. In countries like India, though, you’re never expected to pay full price at a market in India, and much of India’s economy is based around marketplaces for goods.
You’ll want to learn how to talk prices down, but you’ll want to be respectful when you do it. It can be easy to offend a shopkeeper when you say that they’re charging way too much, so simply say that it’s more than you want to spend. They’ll be willing to come down on the price, and you should try not to lowball them. Let the shopkeepers do most of the talking, and eventually they’ll talk themselves into their lowest acceptable price.
Take Advantage of Railways
If you get a little claustrophobic, then India might not be the country for you as the public transportation options can get crammed in a hurry. However, if you don’t mind sharing room with a lot of people, then you’re going to be saving a ton of money via the railways. You can travel for hundreds of miles on the train in India for the equivalent of $2 to $3, and that’s not an exaggeration.
This is the best way to see more of India than just one or two cities all while spending a couple of measly dollars. The only thing is that if you buy the cheapest ticket, it’s general admission and that means that a packed train might mean that you aren’t sitting down. Over the course of 100 miles, you could end up regretting that decision. Even an upgrade won’t cost you much more, so it could be worth it.
Stay Away From Tourist Restaurants
In the larger Indian cities, there are going to be plenty of restaurants that are catered to tourists, and many of them are pretty easy to spot. While they tend to not be expensive by many other countries’ standards, they are still much more than the local cuisine. Speaking in English to the locals should be able to get you pointed to some of the cheaper local options, but being able to speak Hindi will get you further.
Many Indian restaurants will offer vegetarian-only options, which is part of what makes them so much cheaper. If you don’t mind skipping out on meat throughout your Indian vacation, your food budget is going to be incredibly low. In fact, in some places, you can get a meal for less than a dollar that’s not only tasty but will be very filling.
Settling on Lodging
Assuming that you’ll want to go to several different cities in India while also saving money, there are going to be two great options. The first option is going through the hostel scene which can get you a space with other travelers for less than $10 per night in some cases. Even private rooms are cheap at under $20.
If you want something that’s a bit more secure, there’s a budget hotel chain throughout India called OYO Rooms. These tend to be around $30 per night and there are over 300 locations after establishing in 2012.