Traveling in India can be a costly affair. With the ongoing competition of tourist agencies, tour guides and so many other players in this space, finding appropriate options in one's budget becomes a bit difficult and calls for a lot of research one which we hardly ever do. You might often have questions like how to plan a low-budget trip or how can I travel smart and cheap? Well, we are hands-down budget travelers and consider a lot of things before setting out on our trips. Thus, we thought we should share some tips and best practices that go into planning a budget trip in India, the BZee way. Yes, all of these are our personal, real experience and we aren't paid-promoting any brand mentioned. So without further ado, let's get to the 8 budget travel tips for traveling in India.
1) Choosing a place and making a plan
Choosing a place and making an itinerary is obviously the first and foremost thing that you start with. Here are some things to remember to do it the right way and have that perfect budget itinerary for any place in India-
Step 1: Check the number of days you can spare for your travel and define a budget for each day (eg: I can take a leave of 2 days+2 weekend holidays so total 4 days, budget - Rs. 1000/- per day)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If you have just a weekend off (or 2 days leave max), look for nearby places that are offbeat, and whether you can self-drive there⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If you have 3-4 days to spare, check distant locations based on travel costs of modes of transport, choices of accommodation, places of interest (detailed tips on these to follow), and shortlist a few places⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Step 2: Now finalize one from the shortlist depending on factors like your travel mood, whether you want to do an adventure trip or a relaxing staycation⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Step 3: Read various blogs or see some YouTube videos on the chosen destination, mix and match to form a rough travel itinerary, for your days, to suit your liking. Keep this handy as we delve into the other travel nitty-gritty.
2) All about transportation⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Planning transport is the next step and often takes a huge chunk of the budget. So here are some tips to save some 💰💰 while enjoying the budget-friendly transport options in India!
Mode 1 - Trains: India is well-connected through railways and this mode is super budget-friendly. Download the IRCTC app and you are good to go. Trains are your best bets for short journeys of around 3-4 hrs, as well as the longer ones up to 24 hrs. Tried and tested. For shorter journeys take a sleeper class ticket (would hardly be around Rs. 200/-) and for longer ones, book a 3AC ticket.
Mode 2 - Self-Drive Vehicles: For journeys shorter than 2-4 hrs or for weekend trips, etc. get your vehicle out, fill the tank and get, set go! We love remote travel, so usually, we take our bike "Hero" and get going. Great roads, no tolls, money saved! A long drive with all the perks.
Mode 3 - Public Transport: Just like trains, India also has a crazy big network of Public transport in every part of the land. From buses, autos, jeeps, vans, and whatnot. Also, these are so cheap that you won't believe the rates. It's hands down the most economic mode.
Mode 4 - Flights: For longer distances, of course, book a flight. Use websites like Skyscanner or Wego to compare prices and book in advance. You could also use your credit card points to get a free flight! Follow @livefromalounge & @shipraatalounge from Live At A Lounge on Instagram for more tips on the ideal utilization of credit card points with respect to the Indian context.
Mode 4 - Private Transport: Private transport, especially those sleeper buses, is also a great option when looking at budget and duration for certain places. (eg: For Hampi, we boarded a bus from Mumbai to Hampi - duration 17 hrs, the train, however, would take about 20-24 hrs and the ticket cost was almost the same.)
Always weigh in the transport options and the costs to see what you can opt for within your set budgets.
3) How to get the best deals on accommodation?
Another part of travel that requires a big chunk of your budget is accommodation. You need not worry about finding an ideal place to stay on budget in India as long as you use these budget hacks to save some bucks.
Step 1: Well, to begin with, define your rough budget for each day. (eg: 2000/- night with breakfast)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Step 2: Start looking for accommodation options in your set budget on various portals. Our favs are Booking.com and Airbnb. Filter according to your budget and requirements, and shortlist a few places.
Step 3: Now, before you book, look for these places on Google (in incognito mode), to see if you get a contact number or an email id for the properties you shortlisted. Call the properties directly, check for rates, negotiate on it, ask for inclusions (most important)⠀⠀⠀
Step 4: Compare the rates, online and offline, and then book through the medium which is the cheapest with all inclusions you need! Yes, there is a bit of hard work in this, but believe us, it's so worth it and you end up saving so much.
Bonus hack: When searching on Google, often a map pops up showing nearby hotels/homestays as well. You could come across so many properties there that wouldn't show up in the usual portals, also you would know where exactly are these located too! We've managed to find so many sea-facing properties by this method.
4) How to maximize sightseeing and plan it according to your budget?
Fitting in all the major sightseeing places in your trip itinerary can be overwhelming. Also, getting around in an unknown place can be difficult. You don't know if you are being taken for a ride or being charged the actual prices. Here are some tips to enjoy budget sightseeing in India-
Step 1: You already have a rough itinerary in place, now day-wise make a list of places you want to visit, check if they have entry fees, see the distance and modes of transport available
Step 2: Now based on your liking and budget, make a 'priority' list and a 'if time permits' list for each day, so you know what you don't want to miss out on
Hack 1 - Ditch the mainstream: Usually, some places are super famous and are must-dos but due to this, they are always over-crowded. In such times, ditch the mainstream and look for off-beat alternatives. (For eg: In Coorg, Raja's seat is quite a famous sunset spot, but always crowded. We headed to a lesser-known spot nearby and had the entire place to ourselves and no entry fees either! So win-win)
Hack 2 - Transport: For internal transport, renting a bike is highly recommended as it's economical and gives you the utmost freedom of exploring at your own pace. We usually rent from @royalbrothersrentals and have had a good experience. The other option is public transport (buses, rickshaws, taxis)
There are places where understanding public transport can be tedious. Like when we were in Ahmedabad, all buses had places' names in Gujarati, even the auto persons spoke only Gujarati, mostly. What came to our rescue here was Ola Auto. Min distance fares were just Rs. 29/-, we could feed in the destination, so no need to explain, and we got around absolutely fine. Ola/Uber cars are also a good option if you are in a group of up to 4 and can split the fares.
5) How to stay on budget when it comes to food in India?
The diversity and flavours of Indian food are renowned worldwide. We have relished some of the best meals ever in the remotest parts of India, and those memories are fresh, even today. Then how do you eat well and yet save up? Read on to know budget food hacks in India-
Hack 1 - Plan your eats: Always set a budget for your meals. Anticipate the times you'll eat out and times you would want to quickly whip something indoors.
Hack 2 - Make Locals your BAEs: Ask the locals to direct you to hidden gems serving authentic food. Trust them to take you to the best non-commercial food places serving the best at nominal prices.
Hack 3 - Zomato it!: Check Zomato for the city. This will give you an idea of local favourite restaurants, top dishes, the prices and so on. See whether your homestay is within deliverable areas, in case you want to order in.
Hack 4 - Eat Streets: Indulge in the local street food if it's available when you are out. You might even want to skip a meal after that and your pockets won't even feel a pinch.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Hack 5 - Ready-to-eat meal packs: Carry the ready meal packets of dal & rice, biryani, pav bhaji, etc. All you need is some boiling water and voila the food is ready. We've tried and tested (tasted actually) this method and it was good. You could also carry instant noodles packets (if you are a fan). They are quick and easy and wholesome.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
6) Make the most of your weekends⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We are officially weekend travelers. We wait for them to get out of the city. Sometimes we explore within the city and are so surprised by the beauty near us, which we fail to recognize otherwise. Here's how you can maximize your weekends too.
Step 1: Make a list of places nearby which could be covered on weekends (or even far - we have covered Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, Mahabaleshwar, etc. on weekends)⠀⠀⠀⠀
Step 2: Look for offbeat places. Ask for recommendations on FB travel groups, or put your peer-circle to use. The offbeat places don't usually advertise much so word of mouth could only be useful in leading you to them. You need to avoid famous places like beaches, parks, resorts, etc. as they are going to be packed on weekends⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Option 1: Join a weekend tour by one of the many small organizers. Find them easily on Facebook's events tab, which usually has updates on such tours happening near you. These tours provide great value and usually include food, accommodation, and activities in the tariff. They also usually have small groups so that you can enjoy the utmost.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Option 2 (our fav): Lastly, take out your own vehicle and drive to a nearby local hidden gem. Pack your lunch, or buy it on the way. Park at a spot away from the noise and enjoy your grub in nature's lap and each other's company! Drive back rejuvenated. We often indulge in such day trips and find them to be super cost savers and maximum fun 😇
7) Trust the locals for suggestions⠀
The locals at almost all the places we've been to in India have been super warm and welcoming. They just want you to have a good time and ensure you take back happy memories from their land. We have relished some amazing meals, discovered hidden gems, and were able to steal so many precious memories from a place all thanks to the communication we establish with the locals on reaching a certain place. Here are some of the many things they can help you with.
They will guide you to the best places, and let you in on local secret places
They'll tell you if an otherwise hyped place is indeed worth visiting or not
They'll warn you against spending money on buying something, and whether it's authentic or not and, everything else under the sun.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Here are some examples - In Hampi, we were warned against the high coracle ride charges and how much should the actual prices be. In Goa, one of our hosts suggested we explore the Netravali wildlife sanctuary (it was heavenly) which wasn't on our itinerary and didn't cost extra as well, in Coorg we were advised on what we should buy and what is available otherwise, in Ooty we were directed to secret gems against visiting the hyped locations.⠀
So be flexible with your plans, and listen to the locals. Their recommendations will not only save your money but will also ensure unforgettable memories.
8) Travel off-season⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Now this would seem a bit obvious and you would say, but how do I enjoy the place to the fullest if I travel off-season? But, hear us out.
Nowadays, we've seen a trend of long weekends becoming a season with major spots flooded with tourists. We are suggesting you travel just before or after a peak season.
In this way, you are not losing the essence of the place, and well, you end up exploring it at much cheaper rates than a high season.
Goa in monsoons was magical especially if you go south. We went to Ooty in Feb, (the season there begins almost in April/May) also recently Hampi in January (just after the New Year season) and there are so many examples to give.
If you can manage leaves then traveling off-season can help save so much, and also allow you to enjoy the place without much tourist intrusion 😇 Think about all those Instagram-worthy pics without a soul around!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Since we all are being at home taking care of ourselves and the others in this #COVID19 situation, this blog was created for two reasons-
1. To share our best practices with you'll and give you travel bugs some good travel content to consume and save for later.
2. Now, when you get back to work after this pandemic situation, leaves would be super limited. Over and above, the travel industry has been suffering a lot and they would be out there to recover their losses. Hence, we definitely need to know some smart hacks so that we don't end up making a huge hole in our pockets.
So enjoy these nuggets as we gear up for better days to prevail soon. Save these up for your future travel days and also share these budget travel tips for India with your friends and family.
We hope you enjoyed our top 8 budget travel tips to travel in India. Do let us know your favourite tip amongst them all in the comments. Also, hit us up with your ideas if we've missed any.