India travel costs – How much did we spend?

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india_travel_budgetWe’ve recently been on another trip around India and I’ve decided to write down absolutely all expenses we had while travelling in order to be able to share what our costs ended up being.

Our trip was exactly 3 weeks long and we spent our time and money in the Southern states of Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These are the places we visited: Hyderabad, Bijapur, Badami, Hampi, Bangalore, Mysore, Masinagudi (Madumalai national park), Ooty and Coimbatore. You can see the map of our travels at the end of this article.

I’m gonna tell you straight off how much we spent and then delve into the details of what exactly that got us and provide you with a complete breakdown as well. I also have an excel sheet detailing each expense, just let me know in the comments if that’s something you’d want to see included.

So the total cost for a couple traveling for 23 days stood at 1540$ / 103,890RS or 66$ / 4460RS a day. That means 33$ a person a day. If you’re a solo traveler traveling in a similar style, you can expect the cost per person to be somewhat higher, as you don’t get the benefit of sharing a cab, meal and often accommodation prices for one don’t fall by 50%, but less.

Our India Travel Costs:

Type Total cost for 23 days Daily average Comments
Accomodation 713$ / 48,000RS 32$ / 2160RS We took some overnight buses, which reduce the price. On the other hand we stayed two nights at well above our usual budget, so that increases the price.
Food 519$ / 35,000RS 22$ / 1480RS Alcohol is included here, which can ramp up the price fast. We ate some street food, but mostly stuck to restaurants. From budget to high end ones.
Sights & Activities 156$ / 10,560RS 6,8$ / 460RS This is a mixed bag in this case, as my wife is Indian. Nationals of India pay about 10% of what foreigners usually pay for sights. Doesn’t mean it’s expensive for foreigners, just means it’s really, really cheap for Indians.
Transport 138$ / 9,670RS 6$ / 420RS It’s dirt cheap. We were using rikshas and taxi hailing apps a lot (Uber, Ola). We mostly stuck to buses and had a few train rides.We didn’t take any internal flights.
Total 1540$ / 103,890RS 66$ / 4460RS This doesn’t include the costs of flying into India.

What category of travelers are we when it comes to spending?

Well that’s not that easy to compartmentalize. We most definitely aren’t of the ultra low budget kind, nor do we travel in luxury either. While the amount of money we spend on individual things can touch both of those categories, I would say in general we are somewhere between low cost and medium range, for whatever that might mean to different people :).

In general we look for the best rated places to sleep that fall withing our budget (which was set at around 25$ a night for India), eat out more or less where we want to (from street food to upscale restaurants), look for interesting things to do and sometimes decide not to if the price is too high and get around by using public transport (I’ll usually pick a lower class train in India over the higher one, as the difference in quality does not match the price difference). We usually don’t do much shopping.

Accommodation expenses in India

We always stayed in private accommodations, no dorms, which in any case can mostly only be found in big cities in India. My aim was to spend around 25$ a day for a room and in aggregate, the average came up to 32$ / 2160RS. What we were looking for when you boil it down was: a clean place, private bathroom, hot water and convenient location.

As we usually don’t spend much time in a hotel room, we try keeping our costs down for accommodation and rather spend our money on food, activities and sightseeing.

Prices of accommodation by city:

City Price per night Brekfast included?
Hyderabad 22$ / 1500RS Y
Bijapur 17$ / 1170RS N
Badami 32$ / 2180RS Y
Hampi 11$ / 740RS N
Bangalore 45$ / 3000RS Y
Mysore 20$ / 1370RS Y
Masinagudi 33$ / 2230RS N
Ooty 82$ / 5500RS N
Coimbatore 20$ / 1340RS Y

Our cheapest stay was in the backpacking haven of Hampi, famous for its low budget places. The cost was 11$/740RS (Indian Rupees) per night, no breakfast included. There weren’t many options there to get the kind of room we were looking for in our price range, so we just decided to downgrade our usual criteria.

Our most expensive stay in India on the other hand was in Ooty, Tamil Nadu. It cost 82USD/5500RS per night there, again with no included breakfast. I have to mention that we didn’t actually pay for this accommodation, as my wife’s family has some sort of a yearly package going on and thus we just made use of it. I’m nevertheless including this accommodation as that’s how we ended up traveling and it can give a good idea of the prices towards the higher end.

And here are a couple of photos of the hotels we stayed at to give you an idea of the standard of quality

The Gouthami Guest House in Hampi - 11$ per night. Yeah wouldn't exactly rush back to stay there again, with all the bugs and dirt in the room. The adjoining restaurant and grounds were nice though.
The Gouthami Guest House in Hampi – 11$ per night. Yeah wouldn’t exactly rush back to stay there again, with all the bugs and dirt in the room. The adjoining restaurant and grounds were nice though.
The excellent Heritage Resort in Badami. A room costs 17$ a night, while the cottages go for 47$. Definitely our favorite place to stay in this trip.
The excellent Heritage Resort in Badami. A room costs 17$ a night, while the cottages go for 47$. Definitely our favorite place to stay on this trip.

The reason why we went over my planned budget of 25$ a night has more to do with not having to strictly abide by it, than not being able to find accommodation in that price range. We wanted to be in a specific location in Bangalore and stay with our family who was in town at the time, in Badami we just loved the grounds and unfortunately for our second night only a much more expensive cottage was available.

Ooty as you were able to read above was a special case, while Masinagudi was the only place where we just weren’t able to find what we were looking for and ended up spending above our budget.

We also had a few night buses or trains, so we saved up on our expenses that way. Travelling like that is in general a great way to save up both time and money. The negative side of it is that you lose out on seeing the scenery along the way and can feel like you haven’t seen a huge portion of the country, but rather jumped from one place to another.

Food prices in India

That’s where India excels, as eating out is really cheap! Of course it also depends where exactly you plan on eating. If you can’t stomach the spiciness of Indian cuisine, you’re in a bit of a pickle – a spicy one that is :D.

If you plan on sustaining yourself by eating mostly street food, you can actually get by with something like 3$ / 200RS a day. Now if that’s a good idea or not is another question altogether. A lot of these stuff (samosas, pakoras, vadas,…) is deep fried, so if you plan on staying in India for a long time, do try to diversify your diet or you’ll get a heart attack. Before you shy away, trying at least some street food in India is part of the experience.

And don’t you worry about Delhi Belly, you’re just as likely to get an upset stomach from a high end restaurant as you are from street food in India. I’ve traveled to the country 10 times and guess what… I never had any problems… yeah right 😀 I get some degree of food poisoning every single time! Maybe I’m just a delicate darling, but in any case, except for one occasion when I ran a 39C fever for several days, it was usually a minor inconvenience.

Now it doesn’t mean that it’s dirt cheap everywhere, visit a high end restaurant in any of the big metropolises and the accompanying bill will be of course suitably higher. If that equates to expensive in comparison to your own country, will naturally depend on where you come from.

Examples of food prices in India (prices are for two people):

City Restaurant style Dishes Price
Hyderabad dinner in a nice upper mid range restaurant jeera rice, andra kodi, soup rasam, kubani kamitha 14$/965RS
Bijapur breakfast at lower mid range hotel masala dosa, baji puri, 2 coffees, 1l water 4$/260RS
Badami lunch at mid range hotel 2x thali, 1l water, sprite, tea, coffee 4.5$/300RS
Hampi lunch at mid range restaurant pizza, 2x fresh juice 9$/590RS
Bangalore dinner at low cost restaurant ghee rice, chicken kebab 5.5$/380RS
Banglore dinner at high end trendy restaurant 2 glasses Malbec, 2 cocktails, 2x Bao Bao dish, 1x dumplings 56$/3800RS
Mysore breakfast at trendy Italian restaurant 2 eggs sunny side up, Greek omelette, tea, pineapple juice 8$/525RS
Ooty dinner at mid-range restaurant mutton biryani, cucumber salad, 1l water, gulub jamun desert 6.5$/450RS

 

As you can see I didn’t mention any street food here, as I only occasionally eat it, like on our Mysore walking tour or here and there at some train station or the like. I prefer sitting down for my meals and rest a bit between sightseeing or whatever else we’re up to. As I mentioned earlier, a whole day’s worth of eating street food can amount to as little as 3$ / 200RS.

And here some photos of food to give you and idea of the dishes and restaurants we visited

The bao burgers at the Fatty Bao in Bangalore cost 5$/330RS
The bao burgers at the Fatty Bao in Bangalore cost 5$/330RS
Lunch for two at this beautiful Italian restaurant in Mysore came up to 16$/1100RS. We had a pasta, small pizza, two chocolates cakes, an ice tea and a pineapple juice.
Lunch for two at this beautiful Italian restaurant in Mysore came up to 16$/1100RS. We had a pasta, small pizza, two chocolates cakes, an ice tea and a pineapple juice.
We ate a lot at the Gouthami Restaurant in Hampi, as it was the only place accepting cards. One of the meals for example cost 7$/470RS and we had a manchow soup, egg noodles, chicken manchurian, 2l water bottle and an ice cream
We ate a lot at the Gouthami Restaurant in Hampi, as it was the only place accepting cards. One of the meals for example cost 7$/470RS and we had a manchow soup, egg noodles, chicken manchurian, 2l water bottle and an ice cream
The most tipical lunch in South India - Thali, is basically rice, some bread and a lot of different gravies to go along with it. Quite good ususally. We had two of thesee babies inour mid range hotel. Together with a 1l water bottle, sprite, tea and coffee it came up to 4.5$/300RS. Great value!
The most typical lunch in South India – Thali, is basically rice, some bread and a lot of different gravies to go along with it. Quite good usu sally. We had two of these babies in our mid range hotel. Together with a 1l water bottle, sprite, tea and coffee it came up to 4.5$/300RS. Great value!
This dish - the masala dosa - came part of a tour we took in Mysore. Not sure what the price was.
This dish – the masala dosa – came part of a tour we took in Mysore. Not sure what the price was, but it another town we paid 3.8$/260RS for a masala dosa, baji puri, 2 coffees and 1l water bottle. Cheap stuff!
And here is some of the street food for grabs - Samosas. Delicious? You betcha! Healthy? Well you can't have it all, now can you :D
And here is some of the street food for grabs – Samosas. Delicious? You betcha! Healthy? Well you can’t have it all, now can you 😀

We ate street food as well, but since I got robbed and my camera was stolen, I lost all of those nice shots.

Alcohol prices in India

The one thing that I usually find either not particularly cheap or expensive in India is alcohol (with the tiny exception of Goa). It’s taxed quite highly and the imported stuff even more so. Visit any swanky pub or bar in Bangalore and you’ll be paying Western European prices to down that pint. If you go for an imported beer, be ready to pay up proper. For example I had the bright idea of ordering a 330ml Hoegarden bottle (Belgian wheat beer), as that’s something I miss dearly in India. Well it cost 8$/550RS, so I quickly changed my mind :D.

The other thing about India is that places that serve alcohol can be few and far in between. Let’s take Mysore, a city of 1 million people as an example – there are only something like 5 places to go for a beer there, if you discount dingy holes in the wall. I’m not saying that’s wrong or right, I’m just describing the reality.

Having said that, you do occasionally find a place with great prices.

Breakdown by city: 

As we didn’t have a drink in very town, I’m just listing the ones in which we did.

City Type of establishment Beverage Price
Hyderabad Trendy pub with its own brevery Pint of beer 4.8$/325RS
Hampi Backpacker hang out 650ml beer bottle 3.6$/245RS
Bangalore Trendy restaurant 60ml Gin & Tonic 10$/660RS
Bangalore Trendy restaurant Glass of Malbec 14$/910RS
Mysore Every day restaurant Pint of beer 2.4$/160RS
Coimbatore Club 650ml strong beer 7.5$/500RS

Transportation costs in India

Getting around and between towns is perhaps even cheaper than the food. Some of the train rides are just ridiculously priced! Sure, you’ll probably get swindled by riksha drivers all the time, but at the end of the day even if you don’t get that local price you’re after, it’s still going to be really cheap.

Trains in India have various classes of comfort. The most commonly seen are the following: 1A, 2A, 3A, SL, 2S, UR – unreserved. In my opinion anything above sleeper class (SL) is a safe bet that your journey will be pleasant.. I’ve traveled in all of those classes, except the top most 1A.

For me personally sleeper class or a 3A gets you the most bang for your buck – the difference in the two classes is that 3A has an AC (if you’re traveling at night you don’t really need one). Both of these are sleepers and while that actually means a bench with some padding, it’s sufficient and since you get to lie down it beats any comfortable and swanky looking seat. 2A is usually already a few times more expensive and while it does get you a cleaner compartment with better amenities in general, I don’t find any reason to go for it.

Having your own bed sheet or a sleeping bag on your travels can be very handy as you’ll be sure you’re sleeping on something clean.

While travelling in second class sitting (2S) is still acceptable for a short journey like one or two hours, UR or unreserved can be either a really interesting experience or it can be nightmare material. I’ve only traveled the UR twice or better said I tried taking it twice.

Once it was between Khajuraho and Orchha, which while crammed, made for a lovely experience of chatting with a lot of people and since I had a seat next to the window, I didn’t mind us being so packed. The second time was from Jhansi to Gwalior and I somewhat naively expected it to look like the first time. Well… the train stopped and when I took a look at the compartment and the throng of people trying to squeeze in I just said “no freaking way am I going in there!”.

Do yourself a favor if you want to experiement with the unreserved coach – go without any belongings and not when you’re actually moving from one town to another. Just take it as an adventure and buy a ticket to somewhere very close by :D.

Examples of prices, distances and transport modes

All the prices listed here, except taxis are on a per person basis.

Distance Price Mode of transport
370km 11$/700RS Bus – sleeper
120km 1.2$/80RS Train – 2S
160km 2.7$/180RS Bus – local
350km 8.2$/550RS Bus – sleeper
150km 1.3$/90RS Train – 2S
90km 1.5$/100RS Bus – local
5km 1.3$/90RS Taxi – Uber
7km 1.9$/125RS Taxi – Ola
4.5km 0.7$/50RS Riksha – Jugnoo app
2km 0.7$/50RS Riksha – no app used

India also has a plethora of mobile apps that help you get around, however the big problem is that it can be complicated to use them if you’re not an Indian citizen yourself. While apps like Uber, Ola and Jugnoo (specificaly for ordering rikshas) are great, you’ll need a local SIM card of course or incur high roaming charges.

The other annoying thing about using these services is that in India, the driver always calls you and if he doesn’t speak English, you wont be able to explain where you are. In fact you probably wont be able to explain where you are in any case, since you’re a tourist and dont know the city. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of GPS location… However what I usually do is ask somebody around me to explain to the driver (and it’s India, there will always be somebody around you :D).

Further on there are apps to book bus and train tickets, however most of them require you to have an Indian phone number, Indian credit/debit card or something of the sort. I’ve personally never had to deal with these problems, as my wife is Indian, but in case you’re planning to use them, be sure to start researching online on how to set it up, before you come to India.

And here are some photos of various buses, trains and rikshas we took:

One of the many riksha rides we took.
One of the many riksha rides we took.
This was our bus ride which cost 2.7$/180RS for 160km. I'm not sure if that bus driver just assembled the seat by himself or what :D
This was our bus ride which cost 2.7$/180RS for 160km. I’m not sure if that bus driver just assembled the seat by himself or what 😀
Yeah... that's a boat... I guess they know what they're doing.
Yeah… that’s a boat… I guess they know what they’re doing.
The sleeper buses in India might not be clean, they might make for a bumpy ride, but you get to actually lie down in complete horizontal position. I'd take that over a fancy reclining seat any day!
The sleeper buses in India might not be clean, they might make for a bumpy ride, but you get to actually lie down in complete horizontal position. I’d take that over a fancy reclining seat any day!
India travel costs
Indian trains have a lot of fans and I’m definitely one of them! This is an example of a 2S compartment. Depending on the route it can be pleasant enough or you could be packed like a sardine. If you don’t want to risk it, go for sleeper class and above.

Costs of Activities & Sightseeing in India

To describe it in one broad stroke – highly affordable. Most sightseeing in India is very cheap and while foreigners pay a higher price than Indians, it’s generaly still a bargain. You can see some example in the table below.

City Sight Price
Hyderabad Charminar monument 3$ / 200RS
Hyderabad Chowmahala palace 3$ / 200RS
Hyderabad Golconda fort 3$ / 200RS
Hyderabad Qutb Shah tombs 1.5$ / 100RS
Bijapur Ibrahim Rouza tomb 3$ / 200RS
Badami Cave temples 3$ / 200RS
Badami Pattadakal temples 7.5$ / 500RS
Hampi Waterfall guide – circ 1.5h 4.5$ / 300RS
Hampi Hampi temples group 7.5$ / 500RS
Bangalore Karnataka Chittrakala gallery 1.5$ / 100RS
Bangalore Metal concert tickets 10$ / 700RS
Bangalore Lalbagh park 0.75$ / 50RS
Mysore Mysore palace 3$ / 200RS
Mysore ZOO – a good one that is 1$ / 60RS
Mysore Walking & street food tour – 3h 15$ / 1000RS
Mudumalai Tiger Reserve Bus safari 1h 2$ / 125RS
Ooty Hiking guide for 7h 7.5$ / 500RS
Ooty Fishing guide for 5h 7.5$ / 500RS

I know we haven’t traveled throughout the whole country on this trip, but since we did quite a good mix of villages, towns and big cities, this will give you a good idea of what to expect there. Anybody from an ultra budget traveler to a person more towards the luxury side of travel will be able to draw conclusions from this breakdown.

One thing to keep in mind is that we focused on a specific region, so we didn’t take any internal flights. I guess it really depends what kind of a traveler you are. If you want to see the most famous parts of India in one trip and if you’re limited with time, you’ll obviously have to fly a lot. In that case you’ll have to separately include those costs.

If you however decided not to skip huge parts of the country in your itinerary and focus more on a particular state or a few of them, than this price breakdown will work even better for you.

Doesn’t mean jumping from one place to another in India is a bad thing, same as it doesn’t mean that the only true way to travel is to spend a month in one city. I personally spend from 1 day to 5 days in one location, as that’s how I like to travel. You get the hang of your preferred speed after you’ve done some travelling. For me I use a general rule of taking the time I allocated for travel and dividing that by 2.5, that’s how I know how many places (as in towns, cities,…) I can include in my itinerary.

Map of our 3 week India trip

Have you ever traveled the country? How did your India travel costs end up looking?

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