Being a budget traveller may sound fashionable nowadays but it does come with its share of struggles and obstacles, especially if you are really on a budget. No matter what you do, you do need some amount of money to travel. Also, I have also learnt that hitchhiking and couchsurfing is not everyone’s cup of tea and things can always go wrong, especially if you have the kind of luck I do. Anyway, that should not stop you from travelling. Not everything can be controlled but here are a few ideas that should help you save money during travels in India.
1. Go for Second Seating (2S) on short train rides
Indian railways may look intimidating if you are taking it for the first time but this is the best possible way to save money if you are willing to travel in the sleeper non-AC (SL) coaches. But to save more, educate yourself about other options. For instance, for smaller distances between big cities, you can find Class Second Seating (2S) coaches at much lower costs. For a journey lasting less than 4-5 hours, surely you can do without lying down. For example, Delhi to Gwalior will cost you more than INR 200 on Sleeper but no more than INR 130 on Second Seating. You can book them online just like other seats, and they are generally easily available because most people are booking sleepers only. Also, DO NOT confuse them with the dreaded General Class (GS) coach, which is even cheaper but you may die of a stampede.
2. Go for Hostels
Tourist hostels have been saving money for backpackers in many countries for ages. India was a bit slow in this regard and only in the last few years we have seen many chains come up can cash n on the increasing number of budget backpackers and solo travellers. Zostel is probably the best known chain as of now but there are many others too. Of course you may not find them at every place but major tourist destinations are being covered rapidly. Also, sharing hostel bunks is probably the best way to find and connect with likeminded people.
3. Look for Discount Coupons
The ecommerce scene in India is growing fast and it is also highly competitive. So, discounts and freebies are ruling the market now. If you search, you will some offer for almost everything including flights, buses and hotels. For example, here are some Expedia Coupons and Travelguru coupons that you might find useful. Just know that there are many ways to find a better deal, you just have to look for them.
4. Stay with local families in the Villages
This may not be possible everywhere but especially in the high Himalayan areas of Spiti and Ladakh, one can avoid the conventional hotels and stay with local family-run homestays. As I’d experienced this summer in Dhankar, locals can offer you accommodation and food together at very nominal rates. Also, do note that this will go a long way in helping a local family living in difficult conditions (that look exotic to us).
5. Eat at the Langars
I have done it before and I did it recently during my Hemkund trek. Wherever there is a Sikh pilgrim site nearby, you will find Gurudwaras and inside them you will always find Langars (community kitchens) that feed everyone for free. Of course you can offer some donations so that they can keep doing it but still it will cost much less than eating at a restaurant. Of course I am not suggesting that you keep hunting for such place just to eat for free. Respect their traditions and try to understand their values while at it.