India can be a surprisingly affordable destination if you carefully plan your travel well in advance of your departure. The later you plan, the more expensive it becomes, especially with regard to domestic travel by flight (early booking air fares are very low) or by rail (because trains go full months in advance and force you to book a flight ticket!), and accommodations (because there is limited hotel infrastructure across India).
Even if you are a luxury traveller, there are significant savings to be had by planning ahead as luxury hotels will offer rewards for early bookings with value-added benefits. Or by planning travel in the low periods, when you can stay at the most expensive and gorgeous hotels for very little.
For business travellers with a few days to spare, whether you are in Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore, there are plenty of short-haul destinations you can get away to. This could be a short temple circuit, a beach resort, a wildlife preserve or maybe a beautiful fort or palace. Many travellers even squeeze in a visit to the Taj Mahal in two days.
A week in India allows you to explore the essential sights of one part of the country. For example, the Golden Triangle, the classic sights and experiences of Kerala or Tamil Nadu, a quick introduction to Ladakh or maybe Sikkim, or maybe even the key cities of Rajasthan. Or perhaps, you might like to do something more relaxing in one location and just do daily forays. Beach destinations such as the Andaman Islands, Goa, or Mamallapuram are perfect for such vacations.
You could also get a little further by doing city pairings – such as Delhi & Agra, or Chennai & Pondicherry, or Calcutta & Darjeeling, or even Jaipur and Ranthambhore, or Cochin and the Backwaters.
Two week holidays are excellent for either getting a North South or East West holiday, where you could spend one week in each region. For example, a quick introduction of Rajasthan followed by a week’s holiday in Kerala. Or perhaps combine two neighbouring states such as Tamilnadu and Kerala, or Rajasthan & the Golden Triangle. The North East of India has a lot to offer - combine Assam with Meghalaya or perhaps Calcutta, Darjeeling and Sikkim. Many travellers, also spend two weeks in a specific state or region. This allows them to slow down the pace of travel and immerse themselves completely. Places that you can lose yourself in - Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat...the list goes on.And if you don’t mind taking several flights, then it is possible to get a sampling of major experiences in India with a two week program.
Three weeks are for travellers looking to do one big trip to India – possibly the only one they will take for a few years. Three weeks allows you see most of the major destinations with a reasonably relaxed pace.
For trips exceeding 10-days, allow yourself at least 2-3 nights at your arrival city. Most international flights arrive before or after midnight and you will need to book your hotel from the previous night to guarantee your room on arrival.
Sleep it off on the morning of your arrival, and don’t plan on anything strenuous on your first day.
Spend at least 2-nights in each destination. Arrival and departure times of flights can eat into an otherwise perfectly productive day.
Trains can be delayed so keep enough time for connections to flights.
Road travel can be slow despite the distance. In the cities, traffic jams are notorious. Getting in and out of cities can take significant amount of time. Factor this in.
Do not plan on road trips that exceed 4-5 hours per day. This can be quite exhausting. Ideally when on road trips, plan for interesting lunch halts where there are rest rooms. Alternatively, break down long journeys with a night halt.
There are a number of components to budget for in a holiday to India. There are international and domestic flights, train tickets, accommodation, meals, entrance fees, road transportation and even tipping!
Leaving aside international flights, travel by air within India can be surprisingly affordable if you plan well in advance. Flights can range from INR 2,500-12,000 (US$ 40-200) depending upon when you book. The early bird gets the discounted proverbial worm!
Rail travel is incredibly good value & culturally enriching, but travel is slow, stations can be confusing, and delays very feasible. Short-haul trains cost from INR 600-4000 (US$ 10-70) & prices are fixed irrespective of when you book.
Accommodations in India are wide and varied in price and quality. A good guesthouse or B&B will start at INR 2000 (US$ 35) per person (twin-share) and a luxury hotel could even cost as much as INR 15,000 (US$ 250) per person. A great three star or good four-star hotel will range from INR 2500-5000 (US$ 40-80) per person inclusive of breakfast and taxes.
Renting a car and driver is the most convenient and economical way of seeing a region on a driving tour. A sedan or compact minivan can cost between INR 1500-2250 (US$ 25-40) per person in a car for 2 persons. This would include fuel, driver, aircon, permits & tolls, allowances and all taxes.
Other costs include entrance fees (ranging from US$ 1-10), guide fees (US$ 10-100) depending upon the quality and depth of expertise, camera fees (nominal).
Meal costs vary widely - so it is difficult to put a value on it. Budget US$ 10-30 per person including a drink.
For detailed budgeting advice, refer to our individual pages: