As one of the cheapest places to travel, India tops the list of most budget backpackers. Not only is India super cheap, but it has some truly tasty food and a very unique culture. My trip to India turned into 5 weeks of naan, honking horns, and long train rides that took me across six Indian states.
In this blog post, I’m going to give you an in depth look into my expenses in India as well as some of my best budget travel tips.
How Much Did I Spend in India?
By tracking every single transaction during my 5 week India trip, I was able to easily calculate my daily expenses.
I spent $1,072.94 in India. This averages out to just $29.80/day.
Based on my experience, here is how much you can expect to spend traveling India on a daily basis.
1) Transportation: $7/day
From a $0.31 tuk tuk ride in Jaipur to an $0.81 Uber in Delhi, transportation is seriously cheap in India.
As you can see here, a huge chunk of my transportation costs were trains and busses, which on average cost me less than $12 per trip. Shorter distance transportation like taxis, Ubers, and rickshaws make up the other half of my transportation expenses.
Now, a great way to save money when traveling (anywhere really) is to take overnight busses and trains when available. Not only will you wake up at your destination, but you don’t have to pay for lodging that night. I did this a total of 7 times in India, and in my opinion, if you have the option, overnight trains are a much more enjoyable experience.
That being said, here are some basic train tips for India. Although sleeper class is cheaper, I will say that 3AC class or above is a must when traveling by overnight train. I tried sleeper class round trip from Delhi to Varanasi and it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable because there’s no air conditioning and blankets and pillows are not provided.
2) Lodging: $6/day
Unless you’re on a shoestring budget, you might not even need to save on lodging costs since hostels are cheap to begin with.
Pretty much all of my hostels were less than $10/night. In fact, my cheapest lodging was at the Moustache Hostel in Jaisalmer where I paid just a $1.95/night and got a 6 bed dorm to myself.
On average, I spent just $7.37/night on hostels.
Now other than overnight transportation, one night in an Airbnb which I got for free with a credit, and hostels, the only other lodging I paid for was part of an overnight camel safari. For the low low cost of $34, I rode a camel into the desert of Jaisalmer, enjoyed 4 freshly cooked meals, and slept under the stars.
3) Food: $10/day
If you’re keeping track, so far I spent about $275 on transportation and $200 on lodging. Well, what about food? During my 5 weeks in India, I spent $343.56 on food. This number includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, water, and drinks.
Most meals will cost well under $5. Actually, more like $2-$4. You can get a really nice dinner for $10, and I’m talking at like a fancy restaurant. On average, breakfast was $1 or $2. Lunch and dinner typically costs $3 or $4.
The one thing you need to know about alcohol in India is that it’s banned in some areas. Hinduism forbids the consumption of alcohol, and because nearly 80% of the population is Hindu, beer is one thing in India that’s not cheap
Finally, don’t drink the tap water in India. Filtered water is available at a lot of hostels which is okay to drink. Otherwise, you can buy a bottle of water for 20 Indian Rupee or about $0.25 USD.
4) Activities: $5/day
The next category is tourism-related activities. This includes the camel trip that I just mentioned amongst other things like a tiger safari in Ranthambore, entry into various temples, mosques, and forts, a boat trip in the Ganges river, and of course entry into the truly stunning Taj Mahal.
In total, I spent just over $203.11 on activities like this.
Be aware that foreigners are charged significantly more for entry into most temples, mosques, and forts. For example, a ticket to get into Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi is $0.40 for Indians and $6.75 for foreigners. Even worse, the Taj Mahal charges foreigners $13.50 while locals pay just $0.55. Unless you can prove Indian citizenship, you unfortunately have to pay the foreigner price.
5) Miscellaneous: $2/day
Finally is the miscellaneous category. This includes non-food stuff like hand sanitizer, a SIM card, toilet paper, and laundry. For this category, I spent $56 over the course of my 5 weeks in India.
Although I felt relatively safe in India, I impulsively spent $6 on a lock for my bag after I had to sleep in the Bangalore Airport overnight.
As for SIM cards, they are very cheap in India. I spent $7 for 1 month of service. I can’t remember the exact plan, but it was probably a few gigabytes of 4G (yes, India is very advanced when it comes to technology) and a local phone number. If you never used a prepaid SIM card overseas, check out my video about how to save money with a prepaid SIM card overseas.
India Travel Expenses Breakdown
In total, here’s an overview of my India expenses. While I spent the most on food, it really didn’t cost me that much at all. In fact, my rent alone back home in the US cost me more than my entire India trip!
Now I definitely made my fair share of mistakes and spent more than I should have at times, especially on a $30 all you can eat breakfast at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi. But that’s all part of traveling. I want you to use the information in blog post as a reference so you can know what to expect when you go to India. Of course, your mileage will vary.
For a comprehensive India travel guide, check out my Backpacking India Advice for Solo Travelers blog post here.
Additionally, if you have any questions about India travel or how much stuff costs there, let me know in the comments below.