A look at the average per-day cost of backpacking India for two weeks on a mid-range budget.
To continue my travel budgeting series around Asia, next up is India!
I’d been wanting to go to India for years, but it was always one of the few countries that I was hesitant to do alone – at least for my first trip. You hear so many negative stories about India in the news, especially in terms of its seemingly rampant rape culture and its overall intensity as a country to travel to as an outsider.
With that said, I’d actually only ever heard good things from people (read: fellow women) who had been to the country and loved their time there.
And yet, I still had a reluctance to tackle it on my own. I’m not exactly sure why. I so very rarely travel with other people, maybe it was just one of those countries where I wanted to treat myself and travel with a partner in crime. To take on the extreme cultural differences and busyness with another well worn traveler and wanderlust soul.
I didn’t plan on backpacking India this year but the stars aligned perfectly when I went to go visit one of my best friends in Montreal in January, who was wanting to go to India last minute but wanted to go with someone else as well. Within 48 hours, we had our flights booked, our E-visa sorted, and our first night’s accommodation paid for.
Other than that, we really didn’t plan much of our trip. To be fair, we probably would’ve saved more money if we had done more research (especially on how much saris are meant to cost!). I also notice that I tend to spend more when I travel with another person, so take this India budget with a grain of salt.
I should note as well that this wasn’t a purely budget-friendly trip and we didn’t set out for it to be. We knew we only had a short time backpacking India, so we wanted to live it up to the fullest and have a proper girls trip.
We stayed around the Rajasthan region in northern India, which is one of the more touristy area of the country (i.e. think Golden Triangle), so prices were probably slightly higher than what you’d find in more off-the-beaten-path regions.
This is everything I spent during my 14 days of backpacking in northern India!
Note: All prices are in US dollars and I rounded when necessary to keep things nice and easy. Please note as well that this is the budget for one person who was splitting the cost of travel in India with one other traveler.
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee INR and the conversion rate (in 2018) comes to about $1 US = 65 INR.
Time spent = 14 nights, 15 days
ACCOMMODATION = $92 (AVERAGED AROUND $7.50/NIGHT)
Agra (2 nights) = $7/night ($14 total). Half of one private double room at Bedweiser Backpackers Hostel.
Jaipur (1 night) = $5/night. One bed in a 6-bed mixed dorm at Moustache Hostel Jaipur.
Udaipur (2 nights) = $7.75/night ($15.50 total). Half of one private double room at Moustache Hostel Udaipur.
Jaisalmer (1 night) = $3.85/night. Half of one private double room at Gajju Palace.
Jodhpur (2 nights) = $3.85/night ($7.70 total). Half of one private double room at Dylan Cafe & Guesthouse.
Overall the accommodation in India was friendly, relatively clean, and a mixed bunch.
Most of the places we stayed didn’t have breakfast included, but would offer it at an additional price of anywhere from 150-300 rupees (for a western breakfast). We usually preferred to find our own Indian style breakfast at a local restaurant in the mornings.
We stayed in almost all private rooms, only staying in one dorm in Jaipur. Private rooms in Asia are way more affordable than in most western countries, especially when you’re traveling with someone else. It generally comes out to the same individual price of a dorm bed, but you get the added benefit of (mostly) guaranteed sleep.
We stayed in a mix of private rooms in hostels and guesthouses. Many of the guesthouses, especially in the smaller cities, had curfews at 10:30pm or 11pm.
This is something to keep in mind before booking, and to call ahead about if you’re worried or dislike the thought of having a curfew. Many guesthouses didn’t put their curfew policy on sites like Booking.com, so it was always a nice surprise when we checked in to find out we had to be back in before a certain time.
We only had one guesthouse that was really strict about their curfew (ironically enough it was the only one who called themselves a ‘hotel’), but the other few we stayed at were pretty flexible to let us in even if it was slightly past curfew.
We didn’t have any horror story accommodations (Thank god). Cleanliness was hit or miss in some places, but it was never so unsanitary that I feared for my health or roaming vermin. The beds in all the accommodations, as in most of Asia, were pretty rock hard, but that was to be expected.
One night was spent sleeping under the stars on a camel safari in the Thar Desert. It sounds more romantic than it was. We were both a bit under the weather with a respiratory sickness/sore throat at the time, it was cold, there were a lot of mosquitos, and it was probably the most uncomfortable and hard sleep of our trip. Still, you can’t deny that it was a unique experience.
Another night we took an overnight bus which I surprisingly slept really well on (this never happens!), but my travel partner was unfortunately not so lucky. The other 12 nights of the trip were spent in the accommodations listed above.
TRANSPORTATION = $75 ($5/DAY) + $60 flight from Jodhpur to Delhi
The go-to transportation in India is the train. Typically, locals say if the journey is under 5 hours you can take a bus, if it’s over that amount you should take a train for a more comfortable trip.
Booking a train as a foreigner is weirdly complicated (actually not that weird because it’s India, ha!), so we took more buses than we originally thought we would.
It’s also worth it to book as far in advance as you can for transport in India. Being the second-most populated country in the world, there are a lot of people and seats fill up fast on public transit.
It’s not like Southeast Asia or Europe where you can just show up at the local bus station and book the next bus or train. In India it pays to plan ahead.
We even had the chance to take a flight in India with Jet Airways. Even though it cost us 3x as much as an overnight bus would have, we knew the peace of mind, sleep, and time we would save would be worth the cost. And it was.
I was impressed with how fancy and professional Jet Airways was, I would definitely take them again.
When you get to cities, the chosen transport is generally the tuk tuk and now Uber in some of the bigger cities (i.e. Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur).
Be prepared to barter for the tuk tuk rides. You should expect to pay about 50-60% of the price they originally quote you. If they’re not willing to budge, there are plenty of other tuk tuks waiting to take you where you need to go at a fair price.
And the first rule of bartering is to have the willingness to walk away, that’s usually when they give you their last and final fair price.
FOOD =$80 ($5.25/DAY)
Ahhh the food! I knew it would be better than anything I could imagine, and it was. The spices, the flavors, the local ingredients – everything was wonderful.
In my two weeks, I didn’t have a dish that I didn’t like. And although most restaurants give you ‘white person’ spicy, I enjoyed the few times I got to taste REAL Indian spice (i.e. at an Indian wedding). Although I had to pace myself at times.
I ate almost exclusively vegetarian during my two weeks. This was partly me being overly cautious about not wanting to get sick, but it was also because there was an abundance of damn good vegetarian food everywhere.
My favorite dish quickly became Kadai Paneer, I must’ve had it about half a dozen times throughout my trip.
CHAI = $8.75
I had to have a separate budget for chai because we became so addicted to it during our trip – I even had it tattooed on my foot in Hindi!
Indians drink chai in small little paper cups throughout the day, at all hours of the day, and we quickly followed suit and drank anywhere from 2-4 cups a day.
Luckily, chai is one of the cheapest food & drink items you can find in India, especially if you stick to the local places. We found chai prices anywhere from 10 rupees per cup to 60 (all under $1).
I’m going to be very sad once my stash of chai I brought back is depleted, you just can’t find the same stuff in the US.
ALCOHOL = $26
I didn’t drink that much in India, besides a few nights out here and there. And due to the generosity of Indians we barely had to pay for any of our own alcohol.
Our big nights out included going clubbing in Jaipur, having a bootlegged rum-fueled night with two locals in Pushkar, and partying at an Indian wedding in Udaipur.
WATER (1L) = AVERAGED TO $0.40 EACH/$7 TOTAL FOR 18 BOTTLES
It actually wasn’t as hot in India as we thought it would be, so we didn’t drink as much water as we thought we would be drinking. Still we got through at least 1L per day if not 1.5L. 1L bottles were cheap and easy to find at any little street shop or market.
The most common price I found for a big 1L water was 20 rupees (~$0.30).
MISC = $414
Breakdown of my miscellaneous purchases:
Entry Prices ~$40
- Badi Lake = $0.15
- City Palace in Udaipur = $4.5
- Taj Mahal = $15.50
- Agra Fort = $7.75
- Baby Taj = $3
Other Misc Prices ~$374
- Currency exchange fees (for x2 exchanges) = $18.5
- 2 hours of airport WiFi when I first arrived to Delhi = $21.50
- Half Day Tuk Tuk tour in Agra (split in half) = $5.50
- Overnight camel safari in the Thar desert = $36
- Henna (one hand) = $0.75
- Bindis = $0.75
- Box wrapping for sending a package = $3.85
- Baba massage in Pushkar = $3.85
- Postcards & stamps (x7) = $4
- Sunset boat ride in Udaipur = $4.60
- Trabug Indian phone rental = $40
- Laundry (x1) = $7
- Tattoo = $38.50 + $7.50 for tattoo wax ~ $46 total
- Clothes & Souvenirs = $182
I went a little overboard on clothes and souvenirs in India so that ended up being my biggest expense.
I came with a mostly empty backpack for that reason, however, because I knew since it was India I wanted to bring a lot back for myself and friends and family. And I could actually do it this time since I was only gone for 2 weeks as opposed to months at a time!
I also got a tattoo in Delhi (that was about 1.5 inches), which was still cheaper than what I would pay back home but expensive for India.
The other splurgy items included the overnight camel safari (worth it), and our Trabug Indian phone rental that we had heard such good reviews about but were highly disappointed with (not worth it).
I don’t include costs outside of what I spend in the country for these types of posts, but to give you an idea of other significant costs you could expect – my Indian E-visa cost US$75, and my roundtrip flight from San Francisco cost me US$700.
If you take out the cost of clothes & souvenirs and the tattoo, our India travel budget came out to about $36/day or $537 total for two weeks in India. If you add those two items back in…
INCLUDING EVERYTHING, I SPENT ABOUT $51 A DAY, OR $765 TOTAL FOR 15 DAYS IN INDIA.
If you were mainly doing a budget trip and staying in $5 dorms the whole time, not spending as much on souvenirs and extras, you could probably get your India budget to $25 or $30/day.
We chose to stay in private accommodations, take the nicer buses/trains, even fly at one point, and spent a lot on souvenirs, so we traveled in more of mid-range luxury backpacker style.
Even still, the cost of travel in India was more expensive than I thought it would be. Again, part of it may have been the more touristy cities we were in and the style of travel, but I for some reason had this idea that my India travel budget would end up being cheaper than most countries in Southeast Asia.
And that wasn’t the case, at least not for this trip.
$700+ is definitely the most I’ve ever spent for two weeks in an Asian country, but I can’t deny that it was a trip of a lifetime and I was fortunate enough to enjoy it with one of my best friends. India easily became one of my favorite countries after this trip.
Let me know – how expensive did you expect India to be? More? Less? Have you been to India before?
Traveling with little ones to India? Check out this guide to visiting the Taj Mahal with kids.
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