India is colorful, stimulating, and beautiful. Well-known as an exotic travel destination, India is literally a budget traveler’s nirvana. There are hundreds of places to visit throughout the massive subcontinent, all with something slightly different to offer. From the chaotic streets of New Delhi, to the serene backwaters of Kerala, to the lush Himalayan forests of Andhra Pradesh, every corner of India leaves visitors in awe. India is a rapidly developing country, but is still littered with budget accommodations, insanely cheap meals, and unbelievably reasonable train tickets. For the most adventurous of budget travelers, the perpetual beauty of India provides the perfect mix of attraction with bargain.
Unfortunately, “cheap” flights to India are unheard of. For a few thousand dollars, tourists from North America can find direct flights from Chicago, Newark, JFK, and Toronto to New Delhi. Once inside the country, however, budget travel is cheap and easy. Go Airlines, Jet Airways, and SpiceJet airlines are a few of the low-cost domestic carriers that have sprung up over the last few years. For around $150, travelers can secure flights from just about anywhere around the nation from the hub of Delhi. Air travel is by far the easiest and safest, but the real adventures happen on the trains that criss-cross the vast rural areas. Within cities, hiring a private driver for the day is even unbelievably cheap, at around $50 per day at the very most. For the budget traveler, travel within cities is easiest through jeepnies or recently built subway systems in most major Indian cities.
As far as food is concerned, India is dirt-cheap. In fact, fragrant curries with a side of rice or naan can be found for under a dollar. During one day, budget travelers have been known to survive on $5 a day for all food. Just use some personal guidance when deciding where to eat, as the lack of food preparation regulations and the prevalence of animals in the streets have been known to make travelers sick. However, do not be afraid to try new foods, as India produces some of the most flavorful and healthy foods in the world.
Enter the nation with an open mind and plenty of cost-effective attractions will present themselves. Splurge for major sights like the Taj Mahal or the holy sites in Varanasi, but definitely highlight free attractions. Wandering the tea gardens in the Darjeeling highlands, trekking around Ladakh, or relaxing under the palms on the beaches of the Arabian Sea are just as gratifying as even the most expensive of attractions. Many travelers even find a good time conversing with locals or volunteering at places like the Mother Teresa Center in Calcutta. Indians are known for their fantastic hospitality, so do not be surprised if you make friends for life.
India is one of the last remaining places on Earth that has preserved its ancient culture, while gaining the amenities of the first world. Explore every corner of this treasure of a nation, and you will not be disappointed.