Budget Travel – India
Welcome back budget travellers. As the name suggests this time the post is about India. Just before I get into the details I would like to say that we have got our spreadsheet which we used to budget for our 12 month trip during which we will be covering more than 30 different countries in 5 different continents (India is the 3rd country on the list!). We have put a lot of time into making sure it’s as accurate as possible and so far we are pleased that after the first couple of weeks we are just under in terms of what we expected to spend in this time.
We are aware, however, that more expensive countries can set us back very quickly and any savings we accumulate now can be gone within days.
Now, the fact that we budgeted for the trip does not mean we don’t eat out, live in damp basements or that we don’t visit paid tourist attractions. Yes, we normally bypass luxury hotels and michelin star restaurants (we never really frequented such places back at home anyway) but I don’t think we travel cheap, I think we travel smart. What we are doing is making sure we spend money on things that we need and things that add value to us. We always read up about attractions or items we want to buy as well as research local restaurants to make sure we are not wasting money on poor quality stuff.
To make sure you can travel smart as well and budget for your journey properly below is a summary of prices/fares which are the most relevant to pretty much anyone visiting India.
It is worth mentioning that during our stay we resided in four different cities – New Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi so please keep in mind prices may vary slightly between cities (but not massively from what we found).
Most well established hotels and restaurants in India should accept bank cards but keep in mind this is not guaranteed and even if they do additional charges for foreign currency transactions could be added either by your bank or unfavourable rate applied to the transaction. Taking out cash from the ATMs can set you back 200 INR or about £2 on some ATMs (but not all – Yes Bank did not charge us a withdrawal fee while ICICI did) per withdrawal plus your bank fee if there is one.
We found that exchanging cash in exchange points in cities might be a reasonable way to go as rates (at the time of writing) offered at the exchange points were only 2% worse than the official rate (94 INR / 1 GBP compared to official rate of 96 INR / 1 GBP) although due to good availability of ATMs we opted to withdraw cash from our cards. All the ATMs we tried had a cap of 10,000 INR per withdrawal for foreign cards.
Tuk-Tuk – negotiate as hard as you can on tuk-tuk fares. Aim for 20 INR or 20 pence per 1km
Bus – fares will naturally be dependent on the distance you travel but within the cities you should expect to pay 10-30 INR (10-30 pence). These are not negotiable. We found buses in Jaipur for example to be quite comfortable.
Taxi – not something we used extensively yet so I can’t comment. We are told Indira Ghandi Airport in New Delhi to Connaught square (central New Delhi) should cost around 400 INR. This gives a rate of 20 INR per km. Shorter distances will be slightly more expensive.
Train – New Delhi to Jaipur (CC class which is similar comfort to UK trains – £9)
Train – Jaipur to Agra (2nd class bunk bed in an air conditioned coach – £11)
Train – Agra to Varanasi (3rd class bunk bed in an air conditioned coach – £14)
Air – from what we’ve seen so far 5000 INR to 7000 INR internal flights.
Note: On some trains you will be served food, however on the sleeper trains we found food needs to be purchased. Tea is somewhere between 10 INR and 15 INR, pastries (samosas) for 10 INR per piece.
Due to the fact we are covering the whole country, prices will differ depending on the place you are at. So far these have been the prices we have been able to get for accommodation.
Budget hotel room with private bathroom – 1000 INR to 2000 INR (we looked in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur)
Budget room at a homestay with private bathroom – 800 INR to 1500 INR (looked in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur)
Bunk bed at a budget hostel (even for those with very good reviews) – 100 INR to 400 INR (looked in Agra, Varanasi)
Meal at a restaurant (budget to mid-range) – 200 INR to 400 INR
Beer – 100 INR to 300 INR
Bottle of water (1L) – 20 INR
Bottle of water (2L) – 30 INR
Veg pakora (or similar snack) at a street food stall – 20 INR
Soft drink (at a restaurant) – 40 INR to 70 INR
Tea or coffee – 30 INR to 80 INR
Note: Restaurants will typically add a 2 x 2.5% tax, but some add as much as 15%. It’s best is to find out from your server or check the menu.
Plentiful in India! Typically reasonably priced at 50 INR to 500 INR.
Jaipur City Palace – 500 INR
Jaipur Amber Palace – 500 INR (I would recommend morning time for best light/pictures)
Agra Taj Mahal – 1100 INR (opens at dawn and gets crowded super quickly, we tried our best to get there as soon as possible to take some good pictures but at 6am were FAR too late)
Varanasi Boat tour – 150-200 INR (to be agreed with a local boatman – 1hour)
Note: Composite tickets might be available in some places (like Jaipur) where one ticket will grant you entrance to a number of tourist destinations. The ones we’ve seen were 1000 INR for something like 7 different paid places in Jaipur.
Expect to pay somewhere between $50 – $140 for an e-visa per person charged in USD. Price is dependent on the nationality of the applicant. Processing time (max) is 3 days. Ours was 80$ (£65) each and we had them approved the next morning.
Note: Application takes a bit of time – I think it’s ridiculous to be asked which countries you visited in the last 10 years and be given a 20-characted box, be asked for professions of your parents and address of the company you work for. It’s irrelevant and nobody looks at it anyway which makes me think most people just make something up to not leave any blank boxes. Also, the payment system is a bit dated and our cards were not accepted at first. We were able to pay with Paypal in the end.
Also make sure you use the official indian government website to apply for visa and avoid agencies which charge extra. Official website is https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/
Travelling in India is affordable. If you are on a budget trip not doing anything too extraordinary, you could easily get by with 2500 INR (£25 / €30 / $35) per day for the basics (accommodation, food, sightseeing). Having said that, India is popular for it’s safaris and wildlife. Also the land transport is so slow that you are more likely than not to opt for flying instead of spending days in trains and buses which can affect your budget.
It’s always a good idea to put some thought into budgeting for your trip, but an example (indicative) budget for a 2 week trip to India from the UK for 1 person could look something like this. Example below does not include insurance.
Total = £1000 or around £70 per day all included.
* I have included the following:
Land transport between cities (Delhi + Jaipur + Agra + Varanasi = £35)
Transport within the cities (Allow a generous £2 per day = £28)
** Similarly to insurance, flight prices are highly dependent on season, airline and location you are travelling from. For the purpose of this example I used £500 as an approximate price for returns flights from the UK.