I sat down and tried to calculate how much money I spent since the beginning of my Journey to the West: 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 one hell of a lot of side trips.
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, this does not mean I am rich, or stupid. If an Indian pays 10, why do I have to pay 100? This is ridiculous enough when visiting 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 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 clueless back to 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, white cracker slave owner, a whooping 750 rupees, costs an Indian 20. Yes, 20 only. It is just a little over 300% more. Because we are rich and we have to pay. So ok, let’s pay. But do not pay for everything, be wise. The Sun Temple in Konark, for example: just walk around it. It will not be the perfect vision, but it would save the 200 rupees entry fee. And you will see it pretty much 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 – vegetables, dal sauce, and rotis. Most times, with less than 1$ you can have one and be full. 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 Mc Donalds you won’t find any beef!!
Now, this is my experience and it may not be everybody’s. I use a lot of Couchsurfing, whenever I can, and it proved to be a fantastic way to get to know the people of India better, and their customes. I love to attend the weddings!!
Try to follow my suggestions, bring a sleeping back/sack to fight off the dirty and dingy cheap hotel rooms, and you will be able to stretch those 110$ for 3000 kilometers… or thereabouts…