India is a perfect location for backpackers, but it can be difficult knowing what arrangements to make and how to travel on a tight budget. US and UK based companies will usually charge you an arm and a leg to get you around the attractions, so you need to know where to start looking for a low cost India holiday. It’s not just about the costs, either; planning is essential, as well as gaining knowledge about the areas you intend to visit, how to travel safely and what regulations you need to follow. Our India travel tips guide is the best place to start your journey!
Do Your Research
India is a huge country, and it would likely take months to fully explore even one province. Therefore, if you would like to ensure that you see everything you want to, get the online map up and start planning your trip. Make a note of how much time you have at hand and plan how long you would like to spend in each city. After reviewing the map and the distances involved, you’ll see that you can only cover a small part of the country in a two-week trip unless you want to spend the majority of your time looking out the window of a train.
Stay within one or two states
When you arrive at Delhi, you have to either see the capital first or last. It is better to leave it to the last few days, so you can explore the rest of the country freely. Pick two neighbouring states in India you find the most attractive based on online guides, travel reports and books. Pick the attractions you would like to see and check the distances between them. If you happen to choose a Southern province, you might want to book a connecting flight from Delhi, unless you are prepared to travel for days by train. Remember that India is 20 times bigger than Britain, meaning that one state is almost as large as England.
Contact Local Travel Agents
The secret to getting the best prices on India travel is to contact local agents with good reputations. Once you know where you want to go and what you would like to see, you can send an enquiry to various travel agents. You should ignore every ad that pops up and search for local offices run by Indians. That way you will get first-hand information, support and the best prices. Scrutinise the agent’s website to see what tips and advice they’re offering as this is a good indication of their level of expertise. If they don’t reply to your enquiry within two days, simply ignore their answer; they are not serious. We travelled with MerryGo Travels in Delhi and they replied to us in 30 minutes.
Book your Tickets and Visa in advance
You can save a lot of money if you book your plane and train tickets far in advance of your trip. You have to run a search on a comparison site and act as quickly as possible. Tickets for long-haul travel tend to go up very quickly. Once you have your travel agency selected, pay the deposit and get the train tickets ordered. These might take a long time to get confirmed and the later you book them the more the agent will charge you to pay off the ticket sales person to get your booking through. Tourist visas for India cost around £60 if you book them in advance, but if you leave it until a few days before you’re due to travel, you might end up paying hundreds.
Arrange Airport pick-ups Before Arriving
You should never go anywhere with a person unless they can prove that they are from your travel agent. Most agencies are able to get your transfers arranged and send a printed paging board with the driver. This is important because touts sometimes stand in front of the airport with a board copied from another driver’s sign just to literally “take you for a ride”.
Travel By Train whenever Possible
It is cheaper and safer to travel by train overnight when you have to cover long distances. The night train is by far the best option; first of all it takes less time than a car, secondly you will save on hotel costs at the same time. Sleeping class trains are not that bad at all – honestly – and you don’t want to miss the unique experience, either.
Get a Local Mobile to Keep in Touch with Your Agent
If you need to keep in touch with your travel agent during the tour, it is best to take a cheap phone with you that takes Indian SIM cards. You can ask for help from your agent to buy a prepaid card for about 500 RS (£6) and although due to recent regulations there is quite a lot of paperwork to fill in, it is simply the cheapest way of calling home or making arrangements. Not to mention that your working mobile can save you hassle when emergencies occur.
And the rewards…
Seeing the Big Taj, the Palace of Winds in Jaipur, an elephant ride and myriad other unforgettable moments.