How I travelled 3000 km in India on 110 US $


I sat down and tried to calculate how much money I spent visiting India last year, my way: the balance is ridiculously low. India is a cheap country, yes, but this would not have been possible without a few tricks.

Here is a lowdown on how I managed to spend 110$ for 6 weeks travelling from Kolkata to Delhi in North India, taking it slow, and doing a  lot side trips. Hopefully the following suggestions may be useful for someone else!

You are in India, PAY like and Indian
This is a basic rule that applies to all of my trips: I do not want to pay more. If my skin is white, it does not mean I am rich, or stupid. If an Indian pays 10, why do I have to pay 100? A tourist in India has to bear enough of this double-tier pricing when visiting all Indian main sites (more on this next), but seriously, why should I pay 20 rupees when the guy next to me pays 5 for the same auto-rickshaw ride? It is a game, and a damn funny one. Learn the local lingo: pach rupee is five, das is ten. Surprise them. Talk to them in other languages than English as they keep on talking to a clueless you in Hindi. See how much fun it is. Send five, ten, twenty drivers away before you find a honest man, because they do exist, although very rare.

Avoid the inflated tourist attractions’ entry fees
India is the most unfair country in the world when it comes to double tier pricing. A Taj Mahal ticket which costs you a whooping 750 rupees, costs an Indian 20. Yes, 20 only. It is just a little over 300% more. Because they think we are rich, and we deserve to pay. Fine, let’s pay more. But do not pay for everything, be wise. The Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa, for example: just walk around it. It will not give you the perfect visual, but it would save the 200 rupees entry fee. And you will see it even better from the outer enclosure. And whenever they ask you to pay to be able to take pictures, please hide your camera and snatch away as much as you can.

You are in India, TRAVEL like an Indian
This means sleeper class trains, autorickshaw, tempo, man pulled rickshaw. Taxi is a luxury, and so is AC class train. Share autos. Get in with 10 other people, it’s fun and cheap and will win you a few friends – sometimes even lunch invitations. Be alert: see how much others are paying. Never take an auto from inside a train station’s perimeter, walk outside, cross the road, the price will drop 4 times lower.

Know what you are buying
Prices are tagged almost anywhere, so read before you buy. A coke’s glass bottle is generally 10 to 15 rupees, as you will have to hand the bottle back for recycle – they get paid for it. Therefore, why do I have to pay 25? Prices are written on the objects you purchase, mostly. Check before you hand over your bills, and show them if they pretend they do not know.

You are in India, EAT like an Indian
Although I always have terrible stomach problems when I visit India, I love their food. It’s one of the most genuine and exquisite in Asia, and possibly in the world, and oh man, it is cheap. Especially if you look carefully, compare some prices, and eat simple and nutritious thalis – comprised of healthy vegetables, dal sauce, and roti breads. Most times, with less than 1$ you can have one and fill up your stomach. Eating burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and so on is not only expensive, but also quite sad in my opinion, with such great food options on offer. And remember than at Indian Mc Donalds you won’t find any beef in your burgers!!

I have to say that my experience and the way I prefer to travel may not be everybody’s. I also used a lot of Couchsurfing, whenever I could, and it proved to be a fantastic way to get to know the people of India better, and their family customs. I loved to attend the weddings, too!!
If you follow my suggestions and bring a sleeping bag/sack to fight off the dirty and dingy cheap hotel rooms, you will be able to stretch those 110$ for 3000 kilometers… let me know if you manage to go even further!!

This article originally appeared on Monkeyrockworld

Posted by | Comments (6)  | April 25, 2013
Category: Asia, Destinations, Money Management, On The Road, Simplicity, Vagabonding Life

6 Responses to “How I travelled 3000 km in India on 110 US $”

  1. Luke Says:

    Technically, comparing 20 rupees to 750 rupees is actually about 3,650% more, as opposed to 300% more. (300% more would be 80 rupees, with the difference, 60 rupees representing 3 times, or 300%, the original value.)

  2. rubin pham Says:

    this is probably true in all third world countries.

  3. Nomad Backpacker Says:

    I’ve been travelling in India for 6 months, and I was also pissed off for the treatment from public monuments. Unfortunetely it’s not the only country. Also in Turkey it was the same, local paying 10€ per year for a card, and foreigner 20€ per place! So after spending $$$ I eventually I started to find alternative entrances…
    Also in Cuba it was the same.
    But if you want you can travel as cheap as possible. I managed to travel in Norway (the most expensive country in the world) with 120€ per month!

  4. Singleservingfriend Says:

    So you paid $0.09 for a rickshaw ride instead of $0.36?

    What do you get from this? The pride that you have “conquered” a rickshaw driver? Why not grant him some extra cents so he can take a break from the heat and have some tea?

    Yeah, haggling is fun and travelling on a budget can be a great adventure. But when you talk about the “funny game” of haggling with up to 20 drivers to save a handful of rupees, a bit of perspective might be healthy. These guys earn around $4 a day and you come from a country with an average hourly wage of $20. But it’s “unfair” that locals are allowed discounted entry to they can afford to see their own cultural heritage?

    When you are in India you don’t magically become an Indian. You can paint your face brown, wear a sari or learn some hindi, it won’t change a thing. You still are an European, and you are still a guest and a tourist – and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    So have some dignity instead of sneaking around the sun temple hiding from the video-permit people. And if you really have so little money that you need to save $4 entry fee at least don’t brag about this like it’s a badge of honor.

  5. DEK Says:

    Once upon a time European travelers would rather be thought arrogant racists than cheap and small-minded. In the gracious cultures of the Old World it was acceptable for a pilgrim or scholar to travel as a poor person, but not some monied excursionist who comes here exploiting the poor as he must surely exploit them at home. Do not pass through the world leaving a trail of resentment in your wake.

    That sentiment applies to dealings with private persons, like our poor rickshaw driver. As for government fees, I consider them fair game. Two-tier pricing might be reasonable — it’s all over the place in advanced markets and airfare is a flagrant example — but it carries no moral obligation and you are free to game the system. That is more like never exchanging money at the official rate if you can safely avoid it.

  6. Dr, Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar Says:

    It is not your fault that the rickshaw driver is poor. Bargaining is a good way to save money, esp. if you on a tight budget.So Bargain Away. It gives you and the opposite guy a sense of value for the money that is being exchanged.
    What saddens me is that you actually walk away from a monument without entering it…
    And the sneak videography is appalling…