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Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India

By Kach Umandap May 12th, 2022 Posted in Destination, Travel Blog, Travel Guides 53 Comments

Backpacking in India in 2014 is different from what it was a few years ago. However, it can be as cheap as $8/day, or you can splurge up to $30 depending on the convenience. Jon and I initially set a $25/day or 1500 INR budget as a couple (meaning $12.5/person), then we withdraw our money weekly so we have a $175/ week budget, with which we might decide to splurge at the beginning then become complete cheapskates by the end of the week… Or when we flash-pack and book a 3-star hotel then we will decide to have our breakfast buffet to last for lunch, so we only have to pay for our evening meal. Also, we’re not a museum and temple kind of traveler; we can check it out if it’s free or maybe pay for it if it’s something like the Taj Mahal in Agra or the Forts in Jaipur.  It’s all up to you. The exchange rate in India is $1: 60 Rupees and £1: 100 Rupees.

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in the Taj Mahal, Agra, and Jaipur.

Budget Backpacking in India

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Tarun Kumar CC BY 2.0

Different Accommodations in India

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by The Park Hotels CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In India, there are different levels of accommodation depending on your budget; dorm-style hostels are not as common as in South East Asia, but you can still find some in Goa, Mumbai, Jaipur, and even Varanasi which will cost you $5 to $8 per person. But if you’re traveling as a couple or a group of two or three friends it’s worth booking a private room in a hostel or guesthouse for $10 to $20 per room – AC or Non AC depending on the city. If you want to flash-pack with a little more convenience with a buffet breakfast, WIFI, and if you’re lucky a swimming pool, then expect to pay a minimum of $25.

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Goa and Mumbai.

Related Article: Best Backpackers Hostels in India

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by wales_gibbons CC BY 2.0

If you’re traveling on your own, we’d suggest you choose the hostels where other solo backpackers stay.  As a couple, we prefer to book a nicer guesthouse or a hotel with nice amenities and a strategic location. If you’re with a group of friends then just stay anywhere you want but better if you book it in advance – hostels tend to be more spread out than in SE Asia!

You can also couch surf, volunteer, and work in hostels in exchange for a free bed. Also, only in India, you can afford to book a 5-star hotel for as little as $90/ night for a deluxe room with a buffet breakfast. It’s good to sometimes splurge for a 5-star just to relax and recharge yourselves especially if you can’t-do it in your country as it’s too expensive.

You can see the pictures and price of where we stayed in India; please check our FB page: Two Monkeys Travel


Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by John Spade CC BY 2.0

We are traveling India almost entirely via trains, not just because it’s super cheap, but because it’s a much more authentic experience than flying.  Also, we’re impressed with the Indian railway system, despite some long delays which happen in every country.  Since we usually travel via overnight sleeper train, we save a night per trip on accommodation costs.

There are four kinds of sleeper coaches on the trains which are ideal for foreign tourists: the 1st class, 2ndclass, 3rd class and the non-ac sleeper which we prefer. To save a lot of money, I highly suggest you register yourselves with IRCTC so you can book your tickets in advance and save money from the travel agent’s fee. When you book online, you’ll pay as little as $4 for an 8-hour journey for the non-ac to $10 with 3rd class AC. If you want to experience the real India and enjoy the scenery, we suggest you just book the non-AC sleeper train or the 3-tier AC.

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Navaneeth Kishor CC BY 2.0

Also, from the train stations, you better off look for the Prepaid Taxi or Rickshaw booth stand wherein they have a fixed rate to book your transport from the train station to your pre-booked accommodation or the tourist street where you can find a place to stay. So to stop the hawkers or scammers, tell them that you’re looking for the Prepaid booth stand and they will all leave you alone.

Indian and Western Food

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Eleanor Foong CC BY-ND 2.0

Before arriving in India, a lot of people warned us about “Delhi Belly.”  So far we never experienced that despite eating street food and the food on trains but you must always be careful. In the north, you can have a budget meal for less than $1.  Jon and I used to buy three dishes and share them with us; we have a budget of $5 per meal together or maybe more if we saved on the transportation and accommodation budget. Also, you can easily buy bottled water everywhere, and it should only cost 15 to 25 INR (about 50 cents)!

Budget Backpacking in India

Sometimes when Jon and I are making a long-distance train trip, we buy bread, jam or butter, some chips or chocolates and just put them in our “goodie bag.” Yes, we have a goodie bag, which is useful if you’re having a break from India.  Plus when we go to a restaurant or coffee shop we can sneak in our bottled water and some snacks if outside food is not allowed, but we badly needed to use their Wi-Fi for a day! (LOL) But don’t worry during train rides as there are a lot of food vendors passing by and some of the AC express trains have food included!

Tourist Entrance Fees

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Daniel Mennerich CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This all depends on your preference, for example in Agra as a foreign tourist you have to pay 750 INR or $ 12.5 for a one-day valid ticket to the Taj Mahal, entrance to the Agra Fort, and some other tourist areas.  Also in Jaipur, when you go to the Amer Fort you can purchase a combo ticket of $6 or 350 INR which includes several other famous forts/museums.  If you have a student ID card, then you only paying 250 INR (almost $2 savings!)

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Dainis Matisons CC BY 2.0





Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by sandeepachetan.com travel photography CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


However, if you plan to see these tourist things, also consider the price of the taxi or rickshaw for your sightseeing which is usually quite pricey, we had to pay $25 for 8-hour sightseeing just for the 4-seater taxi, but luckily we were sharing with two other people.


Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

Jon and I haven’t partied like crazy in India, (it seems like we had enough of that in South East Asia) but if you want to the cost of a large Kingfisher beer in a shop is only $1.  If you buy it from bars, then it’s more like $2 to $ 3 per bottle.  Goa’s probably the cheapest place to drink, but in the larger cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, it gets a bit pricey. 

Monkey Dividers


Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Jutta M. Jenning CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I can’t give you an estimated price as we’re long-term travelers and shopping is not ideal for us, but if you prefer to go shopping, then there’s the famous flea market in Anjuna, Goa. In Mumbai, there’s the Kolawa Causeway which is famous for tourists but if you want to buy cheaper prices where the local Indians shop then head for Crawford Market. If you plan to buy silk, then Varanasi is the best place to be.  There are plenty of marble shops in Agra, but like any tourist hot spot, you’re likely to get cheap tourist stuff and high tourist prices!

Visa Fees

Two Monkeys Travel - Passport Stamps - Sikkim - IndiaTourist visa cost depends on where you’re from, the length of stay, and the number of entries you want. We planned to travel for a few months, so Jon and I had multiple entry visas for 6 months which we were able to get from the Indian Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam. As a Philippines passport holder, I only paid $80 while Jon, who has a British Passport, paid around $135. There are countries, like the Philippines, that can avail of a 30-day Visa-on-arrival from the airport and just pay $60, this is ideal if you plan to stay in India for less than a month but take note that you can only avail of VOA twice every year.
Note: If you are looking to work in India, then you will need to apply for a PAN card, you can do so by visiting pan-card.org.in.


For cheap airfare, we always use different websites such as Skyscanner, and Kayak and you can even go to the Airline’s website to check if they have promotions. If you’re coming from the Middle East or Europe, you better fly into Mumbai or Delhi while if you’re coming from South East Asia then it’s way cheaper if you’ll be flying in at Chennai or Kolkata International Airport. We’re impressed with how modern the International Airports in India are and I bet you will like them too.

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Chennai and Kolkata.

Another tip before you book that flight, India is a massive country so if you’ll do a week or 2-weeks backpacking then you’re better off flying in and flying out at different airports unless you’re willing to fly domestically. For example, you’ll start a 2-week trip in the North and have a round trip ticket flying in and out of Kolkata (Calcutta) but if you are planning to also visit Agra and New Delhi, then you might waste 2 days by just traveling by train.

Tips for Budgeting

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer CC BY 2.0

If you’re traveling alone then it’s really easy to budget your money as you decide fully on where to stay, what to eat, and which places to go.  But if you’re traveling with a group where all of you will decide the things together it is suggested that you guys talk to each other before the trip on how much is your budget for everything, as it can easily get complicated once you’re on the road. As a couple, it’s very usual that one of you is in charge of budgeting and tracking your spending to keep things on track, but of course, both of you will decide on how to spend your money. One major tip: We were much more spontaneous traveling in South East Asia where we didn’t pre-book places to stay, instead just finding somewhere when we arrived. We were able to do that in Goa, but if it’s high season it can help to pre-book your accommodations in advance or at least have an idea of where to stay especially in Jaipur, Varanasi, Agra, and Kolkata. It’s not like arriving in Khao San Road in Bangkok where everything is all in the same place.

 Last notes:

Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Güldem Üstün CC BY 2.0

India is a nice country that should be on your travel bucket list. As a woman, yes it has safe but you must also take precautions. I highly suggest you travel with at least a friend to save money on your budget, for safety, and have more fun!

Next article, 3 different routes for backpacking around 3 to 4 cities in India for 1 week.  Great if you only have limited time and don’t mind a jam-packed schedule! But ideally, backpacking in India requires at least 1 month to see and feel Incredible India!
Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India
Photo by Rajarshi MITRA CC BY 2.0

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53 thoughts on “Travel Guide to Budget Backpacking in India

  1. Hello kach…reading your articles makes me more interested to come in india..please share me more idea..how much do i need to prepare as my budget..so i can get there…thank you..

    1. Hi, Neth, when we were in India, we have a budget of $25 per day it includes our food and transportation and that is really enough since transportation in India was really cheap too. For your accommodation, you can stay I hostel and it will cost you $25-$30 per night (with breakfast included, air conditioned rooms and with swimming pool too) or you can stay in a 5-star hotel for $90/night. if your coming from the Philippines, you can book a promo fare from different airlines just to save more. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll enjoy India as much as we did 😉

  2. My friend is thinking about travelling around India before she starts working so I’ll have to show this to her 🙂

    1. Yes Leanne, most of the services/food here are very affordable, I hope you can visit India oneday too.

    1. You should really visit India Hannah, I’m sure you’ll love it there 🙂

  3. I always wanted to go travelling before I had children and India was high on my list. It looks amazing! x

    1. Yes Charlotte 🙂 a really must visit country 🙂 Hope you can visit India soon

  4. I’d absolutely love to go to India but I think I’d have to book into a tour to ensure I was with people. I tend to opt for private rooms in hostels as I just feel more comfortable x

  5. I am quite surprised at how budget friendly it is, given it is said to be quite touristy in some areas, I was expecting to find it more expensive!

    1. Yes Stephen! we were a bit surprised too! Imagine you can do/have so much with a $25 budget/day 🙂

  6. This is suchba brilliant post. I loved reading all about it. I am in love with India and would love to travel in this way.

    1. Really glad you like our article Nayna 🙂 Looking forward to your travel to India 🙂

  7. I’ve never been backpacking, and I haven’t been to India either, but having read this I think both would be really fun!

  8. I can imagine there are so many plus sides to backpacking around places such as India – it is definitely somewhere I would love to explore in someway one day. x

  9. I’ve definitely thought about travelling around India before, I’ve book marked this post and also to show my brother who is heading there soon x

  10. I’ve always wanted to go to India but I had no idea if could be done for so little money! I’ll definitely look more into it now!

    1. It’s really a budget friendly country 🙂 You’ll be surprised of how cheap some of the products/transpo there 🙂

  11. This is a really great post! It shows you really don’t need a ton of money to travel if you’re willing not to do everything in luxury!

    1. Hehe! Thanks Charlotte 🙂 and we’re really a big fan of backpacking that’s why most of our DIYs are budget friendly

  12. This is a wonderful post. One of the most useful and practical travel posts I’ve ever read and I will return to it if we make plans to go to India at some point.

  13. HI Kach , Thanks for the information and for the tips. I’ve always wanted to go to India and see Taj Majal, but I’m a solor and totally clueless about how to prepare for the trip etc…your post helped me so much. I hope you don’t mind if I email you and ask you more questions. ☺

  14. Very good representation and yes travel in India is not much costly.
    Thanks to share with peoples.

  15. I lived in Mumbai for almost 5 years of my life from 2009-2014 but never did any tours as suggested by you in the link! I feel guilty now!

  16. Kach, it’s good post about India.

    Visit: Cochin, Munnar, Thekkady, Alleppey, Kovalam. It will be a good experience. Do a backwater trip in Houseboat or Kayak, Shikkara. The backwater in Alleppey will be a unique experience. Houseboat will be a bit expensive.

  17. I enjoyed your India post and have looked at your photos on Facebook. Do you have a list of places you visited or a map showing your route. How long did you stay and do you feel you had enough time in India?

      1. So many places for my next visit: back to Rajasthan, Goa, and Kerala. Also want to get to the Northeast and Kashmir.

  18. I am following you guys. keep up with the nice feedbacks of your travels and experiences. ;))

  19. Nice one Katrina! Loads of useful info. Will definitely check out the flea market in Anjuna next week! I’m still considering a trip to London in June so maybe our paths will cross before too long. Be nice to see you. Take care!

    1. Oh thank you Mr Nigel!! There’s a nice night flee market in Anjuna too but it’s pricier than the day time! But you must also go cuz there are night shows! And visit the Cola beach in the south aside from Galgibaga and Patnem! And a spice farm!! Oh that awesome spice farm!!:)

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Written by Kach Umandap

Founder of Two Monkeys Travel Group. Since 2013, Kach has visited all the 7 continents (including Antarctica) and 151 countries using her Philippines Passport. In 2016, she bought a sailboat and went on sailing adventures with her two cats - Captain Ahab & Little Zissou in the Caribbean for 2 years. She now lives in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where she's enjoying her expat life and living on a gorgeous Stonehouse. She writes about her experiences traveling as a Filipina traveler with a PHL Passport. Also tips on backpacking trips, luxury hotel experiences, product reviews, sailing & adventure travel.