India is an excellent destination for frugal travelers – once you’re covered the cost of airfare, you’ll find that you can easily enjoy yourself while saving money.
Enjoy Traveling by Rail
Overland travel is a big part of almost any trip to India. There are a variety of options available, but the most frugal is usually railway. Even first-class tickets are inexpensive, and some come with access to a sleeper, meaning you save on accommodations while getting to your next destination. If you do get a sleeper, check to see what’s included. Most have no bedding, so you’ll need to bring your own – a light blanket will typically suffice, and will take up very little space in your luggage.
Make Phone Calls and Stick to Your Budget
Believe it or not, calling India doesn’t have to cost a fortune – and you can also make phone calls from India to anywhere else in the world without blowing your budget. Viber Out is a free app that can be downloaded to your smartphone, tablet, or other device. Thanks to the power of VoIP, it lets you bypass your cellular service provider and use any available internet signal to call people from your contacts list as well as any other landline or cell number. A prepaid credit plan starts at just under $5 USD for nearly four hours of talk time. If you’re going to spend longer than a month making calls to India, then you’ll save even more by selecting a monthly subscription plan that you can cancel when you’re finished with your trip.
Make Friends with Locals
Not only is it fun to meet new people, locals can help you save money by directing you to cheap lodgings, telling you about fun, inexpensive ways to travel, and pointing out free attractions as well as local points of interest that might be off the beaten path.
Rent a Bicycle
Bicycle rentals are cheaper than car rentals, and by pedaling your way from one place to the next, you’ll enjoy a closer look at the scenery. Whether you want to spend a few days exploring a city or if your tour lasts just a few hours, you might like the freedom that a bicycle affords.
Save Fancy Restaurants for Special Occasions
It’s true that even the nicest restaurants in India cost far less than at most other destinations, but why pay top price for your food if you don’t have to? Little cafes and even street carts can do the trick – and you can always shop for basics such as fresh fruit at the same markets the locals frequent. One note – do be sure to peel fruit, and don’t try to cut corners by drinking tap water. Spend a little extra for bottled beverages, and you’ll avoid traveler’s diarrhea. Be sure to check the seal on the water, since some unscrupulous shopkeepers and restaurants have been known to refill used bottles with tap water.
Save Big with Off-Season Travel
You probably know that you can enjoy cheap airfare and accommodations by traveling off-season, but this tactic can save you money at many of India’s attractions, too. India’s peak travel season takes place between October and March. While you might not want to visit during the hot summer months, you can save some money and enjoy nice weather by visiting in September or April. Visiting in the true off-season between May and August may mean even bigger savings.
Try Alternatives to Hotels
One of the best tips for frugal living while traveling in India is this: Try some of the many alternatives to hotels. While nice hotels don’t typically cost much compared to prices at other destinations, there are plenty of cheap places to sleep and perhaps even have some fun! You can try Camping in India or you can give Couchsurfing a go. Hostels and small local inns are also affordable options.
Plan for India air travel ahead of time, and research things like rail travel and overnight accommodations, too. A small investment of time can pay off.
Avoid Common Scams
You might already know that you should avoid giving money to beggars while traveling through India, since this only perpetuates the problem. There are also a number of scams to be aware of. Here are a few:
- Watch out for fake gurus and “holy men” selling “blessings”
- Don’t fall for the gem scam: Anyone approaching you with a request to send gemstones to another country in return for a handsome payment is trying to rip you off
- Look out for unscrupulous taxi drivers who increase meter speed or try to tell you that they can’t find your hotel
Take Advantage of Mid-Week Pricing
As in most places, India’s weekends are more active, with more things to do. Some travel options and attractions offer lower prices during the middle of the week, so consider taking advantage of these. Not only will you save a bit of money, you’ll also skip some of the crowds.