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A Practical Guide on How To Travel In India With Low Budget

Travel Enthusiast, but under constant budget constraints? It’s ok! These days who isn’t?

But that doesn’t mean you can’t budget travel in India.

Whether you are a broke student or you are someone looking for a pocket friendly weekend getaway or a frugal traveler wanting to cover maximum locations with minimum expenses, everyone wants to travel. But most don’t know how to travel in India with low budget.

Some travel over the weekend, some over their holidays. Some take a day or two off from their work, while others like me quit their jobs to pursue their passion of travel. Furthermore, there are always some who crave some time off but never step out thinking travelling is only for the rich.

I was one of them for a longtime. Whenever I saw someone travelling, I thought “Where do they get all that money from?” Funny but pocket friendly never seemed pocket friendly enough.

This post is for anyone who thinks it’s impossible to travel on a low budget and for those who do have the requisite money but still want to travel on a shoestring budget just to get the thrill of it (and to save some bucks for the next trip coz who doesn’t need that extra cash, right?! )

I quit my corporate job in 2020 with little savings and no source of future income. Even prior to quitting, I used to work for peanuts, so money was always an issue. Until I discovered some hacks.

Let me share with you some tricks and hacks I picked up along the way that help me stay on budget and cheap travel in India. Whether you want to go on a long trip or plan on short bursts of travel juggling with your work, these low budget travel tips will surely benefit you.

How To Budget Travel In India – Top Tips and Hacks

Research, research, research – Know your Destination well

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It’s always a wise idea to invest some time into researching well the destination you plan on visiting. Refer travel forums and make a list of places suggested in the visitor guides that you would like to visit. This will give you the opportunity to explore the best of local sights, sounds and smells and will save you the disappointment in case you get to know about them after you move out of somewhere.

Make sure you know in advance where you get everything affordable – starting from budget stays to pocket friendly food to cheap local transport.  Also, take note of regional holidays so that you don’t end travelling to a place when all the monuments, museums and shops are closed for tourists. Idea is to have a rough itinerary in place so that you can cover maximum places in minimum time, thus saving on additional stay in hotels. Researching and planning well in advance is the key to budget travelling in India.

Avoid Peak Season – Travel Off-Season

This one is sort of a no brainer. People travel more during festivals and holidays. Thus this is a bad time for low budget travel in India since prices tend to be on the higher side during this time due increased demand. So stay, food and travel – everything will be costlier.

So it’s best to avoid festivals and the peak season. One hack I apply here is I always travel close to the peak season i.e. a week or so before the peak season starts or a week or so before the off season ends. This helps me experience the best of both worlds and I get to travel a lot cheaper. Nature doesn’t change in a day but peak season dates are fixed and most hotels clearly specify the dates on their website.

Another advantage of travelling in off season is that there minimum to no crowd. So if you are vary of crowds, this is the time to travel. When there is no crowd, you can travel in peace and get the best of hospitality at no extra cost.

Travel to offbeat locations

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It pays to go off the beaten track. If you are craving to take some time off from your schedule and travel, prefer traveling to some offbeat location than an upbeat megacity. Megacities cost way more since you are expected to pay a premium for food, stay and travel. Whereas offbeat places in secluded picturesque locations, untouched by commercialization, offer cheap accommodation and food. These tranquil, unspoiled locations are ideal for budget travelers who often speculate how to travel low cost in India.

Use the Indian Railways for long distance travel

Want to know how to travel low budget in India? It’s by travelling in the Indian Railways!

Indian Railways is one of world’s most complicated and the fourth largest national railway system in the world by size. But having said that, travelling in a train is without any doubt the best mode of transportation for budget travelling in India since it costs dirt cheap.

Of course, it will require a lot more time to get to your destination than a flight.  But, if you have time in your hand, a train ride will save you a lot of money. Plus think about all those travel stories you will get out of this experience – priceless!

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You can travel in different classes in an Indian Railways train – General class costs the least while AC First Class is the most premium. General class saves you the maximum amount, but please know that it is also the most crowded and people often end up to travelling next to the stinking toilets just to get some space. So, how to travel low cost in India without punishing yourself?

Simple! Travel in sleeper class

In Sleeper Class, you get your own sleeping berth, yet it costs less. I usually travel in the sleeper coach unless it’s unbearably hot outside in which case it makes more sense to travel in 3AC class where you can travel comfortably in AC without burning a hole in your pocket.

Take the night train – overnight city transits

Wherever possible taking a night train makes sense, since you save a day’s stay expense while you travel. So you get the dual benefit of reaching your destination without spending any extra time on travelling as well as you save the hotel tariff when you check out earlier when you travel overnight.

However don’t overdo it since it’s important to have peaceful sleep for a night or two between overnight transits to feel rejuvenated for travel to your desired budget travel destinations in India.

Use public transport for short distances

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Public transport is a boon for budget travelers in India.  While a reserved taxi can burn a hole in your pocket, a ride in the local bus costs only a few bucks. India has a good road connectivity right up to all popular destinations via which you can cover most attractions. In addition to buses, auto rickshaws and ferries help achieve cheap travel in India.

Even in big cities, as far as possible, take a bus or auto to travel short distances as they are cost effective and cost way lesser than private vehicles.

Choose Homestays and hostels over hotels

Until a few years ago, finding dirt cheap stay options was not possible everywhere in India. But the scene changed with the emergence of backpacker hostels and homestays in India.

Homestays and hostels are the new found love of budget travelers and they are here to stay. Homestays and hostels have their own individual USPs.

By choosing to stay in a homestay, you get to stay with the locals, experience their hospitality, taste local flavors and you get to visit nearby beautiful places which are completely off the conventional travel radar.

 On the other hand, hostels provide the best budget accommodation anywhere in India for tariffs as low as under Rs 500 per night. The best part about hostels is that even though they very cheap, they are quite clean. And you get to interact and stay with international travelers, which in itself is a unique experience.

Staying in hostels and homestays is a constant mainstay in the cheap travel in India tips influencers dole out on a regular basis.

Eat local

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Now that budget stay and travel options are sorted, next in the line is affordable food.

India is a land of pocket friendly food. When travelling, if you eat what the locals eat and are willing to go off the tourist trail, you can find a sumptuous meal for as low as Rs 50. This holds true for a remote town as well as a metro city; you just should be willing to dig a bit.

When I am on a budget tour, I rely on street food or explore a bit further and find local eatery. While travelling, go for the local delicacies which are either available at the homestay or a local dhaba at nominal rates.

Still wondering how to travel in low budget in India?

Follow these Universal Budget Travel Tips

  • Do your own laundry – Hotel laundry services in India cost a bomb, and if you are looking to save some extra money, wash your own clothes!
  • Bargain your way to a better deal – Haggling is a norm and is expected pretty much everywhere you go.
  • Travel light – if not anything it will help you move around more easily. Traveling light ensures that you won’t need to enlist the help of a porter to carry your bags in the railway station.
  • Carry your toiletries from home – Take only a small quantity of what will be required in small bottles and save yourself from going to market for them when travelling.
  • Travel in a group – It will help you share the transportation and accommodation expenses, thereby saving some extra bucks!
  • Go street and local shopping for travel souvenirs – street markets are available throughout India and they provide the best deals. Just remember to bargain well.
  • Use public transport and avoid renting a car – it is cheaper
  • Hitchhike to travel free – Hitchhiking is the preferred mode of transportation for budget travelers worldwide as it completely eliminates travel costs. So if you are comfortable doing it, you should go for it!

Budget travelling is for everyone

If you feel ashamed of budget travelling, don’t be! The world we live in runs on money and when we run short on this fuel, life can often feel overwhelming. Travelling adds spice to life and budget travelling helps you carry on till you find yourself in a better position in life.

So yes, Budget travel in India can be wonderful and easy if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and experience what is the true essence of life!

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