Travelling India on a shoestring budget can be made into a reality easily. In fact i think it’s one of the cheapest countries to travel in. Exploring the country can range from being extremely cheap but if you want to splurge, it also has some very fancy hotels and restaurants. For budget backpackers, India is a dream because it has everything. Culture, food, adventure, nature and by the end of your trip I promise you will have a few great stories to take away from it.
India on a Shoestring Budget
Here’s a guide price point in Indian Rupees. This would assume eating street food, sharing guesthouses (two people), sleeper class trains etc.
- Meal – 40rp-70rp
- Accommodation – 200rp
- Rail Travel – 150rp – 400rp
- Rickshaw journey – 50rp
- Attractions – 200rp – 400rp
As you can see, if you want to go budget, it’s really doable. If you want to go as cheap as possible, I’m sure you can undercut the above price points too. I guess using the term “India on a Shoestring” is all relative. Some days I used more and some less.
If we were being generous, and not going as cheap as possible you could still comfortably do 1000rp a day. It’s not daily that you will need to catch the train to the next city and some days you may not pay for any attractions.
Indian Rail Travel
Rail travel is so confusing in India but it’s also a truly unforgettable experience. There are different classes just like home, and these are split into Sleeper, which is really basic (3 tier sleeper prison train), 3AC (more luxury 3 tier sleeper), 2AC (even more luxury 2 tier sleeper) and 1AC (best 1 tier sleeper). If you really want to experience India on a shoestring budget, you absolutely must experience the basic Sleeper Class. I actually recommend it. The price is incredibly cheap and there is the most interesting activity on these carriages.
e.g. Delhi to Agra prices are around
- Sleeper – 150rp
- 3AC – 500rp
- 2AC – 700rp
I advise to asking your guesthouse to help book tickets for you. Booking train tickets yourself can be really confusing and time consuming. All of our guesthouses offered to help us out with this.
Eat Indian Street Food
I ate mainly street food and it is really cheap and delicious. In fact, what I found whilst discovering food in India, was that I preferred eating from the street. It meant that I could see them cooking it, so I knew it hadn’t been sitting there growing bacteria. I mostly stuck to these simple rules:
- Eating fresh
- Make sure it’s piping hot
- Go somewhere with customers
This golden trio of rules prevented me from getting Delhi Belly throughout my entire month among this food minefield. Refer to my post about eating and staying safe.
I mainly stayed in guesthouses and hostels around India. Guesthouses would offer you a private bedroom. If you are two people sharing, you can easily find a room for two for 500-600 rupees total. It would be a basic room with few amenities but much better than I was expecting for this price.
Consider these though…
As well as these costs, you will encounter others that are going to bust this super cheap model. Every so often you may want to buy a bar of chocolate, go on a tour and or eat in a restaurant. Heck, when you go to Mumbai, you may even stay in a hotel. We struggled to find budget accommodation here so had to splurge a little.
Perhaps you wish to do a desert camel safari in Jaisalmer, this is going to cost a little more than visiting the Amer Fort for the day. Just remember to squeeze thigs like this, into your budget. At the end of the day, you are in India, and it would be a shame not to do something just because you desperately want to stick to that shoestring budget.
Occasionally you are going to need to pay a rickshaw to take you to an attraction which is a bit further out than walking radius. An example of this would be when we went to Fahtepur Sikri, on the outskirts of Agra. This is quite a journey by Rickshaw and you are going to want to pay your driver to wait for you, whilst you explore for a few hours. This won’t be your standard 50 rupee fare. A 500 Rupee fare would be more realistic.
Taj Mahal Palace
Definitely going to bust your India on a shoestring budget but I have to mention this one. For around 1700 Rupee you can have high tea buffet at the most famous hotel in India, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. You get to indulge in a quality high tea buffet including some delicious desserts and street food, gourmet style. It also gives you an excuse to peek around the hotel. The service is top notch and for this price it is definitely worth the experience.
Catch a Flight
Some places are far, so instead of wasting time on a train journey, you may consider flying. It can be cheap if you don’t book too late. Of course, it will be far more expensive than booking a cheap sleeper class train, but I had to do it to save time. This will instantly put you over your planned budget but can you really put a price on time.
So, can you do India on a shoestring budget? Of course you can, and actually it’s one of the easiest countries to do this. Simply put, everything is 20 times cheaper than back home.
I didn’t try to do India as cheap as possible though, I gave myself a little more wiggle room and indulged in a handful of luxuries. The backpacker in me wanted to go cheap but the human in me was screaming for indulgence, so I splurged on a few items such as hiring a boat house for 2 nights in Kerala, a hotel in Mumbai and a few meals in restaurants.
I am curious how cheap people have managed to travel this country though. Please leave me a comment and let me know.
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