Have you found yourself whiling hours and hours away, wondering when you will have the money to travel across the country and explore its magnificence? While money is definitely important for a traveler on a budget, here are nine pointers on how you can travel the country with minimal money at your disposal.
1. Decide A Budget, And Promise An Experience To Yourself, No Matter How Low
One thing we often do is decide to stop dreaming big because our financial constraints don’t let us – travel, or otherwise. Yet, being unrealistically tight about travel budgets is the difference between seeing yourself as a tourist and a traveler, as explained below. Before we get to the budget side of things though, ask yourself what you want to experience: is it reliving history, or enjoying nature, or seeing architectural wonders, relishing the food experience, finding yourself, or just whatever.
When you know your parameters to the upcoming trip, you are making sure you make the most of the trip, monetarily, and for yourself.
2. Be A Traveler, Not A Tourist
Understanding the difference between traveling and touring is probably the first thing you need to do when you want to see and experience things of beauty around you, especially in India.
When a person decides to go touring, all of the arrangements and such for the travel, accommodation, food, even the ‘sights’ etc. are handled by a host of agents or agencies, who charge a commission at every step possible. As a traveler though, these responsibilities come squarely back to you, but at least now you are interacting directly with people who will give you non-inflated, commission-free rates. As much as spending money goes, remove all the extra people in the process, and interact directly. It’s not difficult at all. And this, in turn, will mean you experience your own journey, which can possibly be a lot more localized.
3. Traveling Near = Still Traveling
It’s easy to fall in love with the many thousands of images and videos that friends and strangers alike post on the internet, or spend time showing you in person. But wanderlust is not so much about packing your bags and making a dash for popular destinations, as much as it’s about finding beauty in things that are geographically nearer but have been hidden in plain sight. Know your surroundings: understand places of historic and natural interest, visit nearby towns, villages and places of interest that you can wrap up in a day. The Earth is one giant ball of awesomeness on a whole, and you will never know what’s in your own backyard if you never look.
4. Travel Off-Season
If you decide to go to a place even mildly touristy in tourist season, you can be assured that you’re going to return with a gaping, burning hole in your pocket. While some of the most enthralling and scenic locations in the country see millions of people transiting during season time, the off-season is where you get to experience a cheaper, more local, less crowded version of the place that you actually came to experience. For example, while Goa is possibly the country’s favorite New Year’s destination, travel to Goa during the rains, or in early March or so, and you will enjoy Goa for the magnificent beaches and relaxed lifestyle that it is home to.
5. Public Transport = Boss
There are multiple reasons to use public transport while traveling. For one, it’s economic af. The train network across the length and the breadth of the country are the fourth largest on the planet, and quite unsurprisingly is used by the most number of people in any country. Public buses are greatly connective too across most of the country and will take you to your destination for a fraction of whatever any other mode of transport would cost you. In most places across, sharing is caring, and nothing exemplifies this more than the mildly uncomfortable, but definitely cheap and culturally enriching shared travel experience on a rickshaw, a lorry, a truck, however. While it may seem scary and novel to you, this is everyday life in India, and with a little wariness, you can be assured that you’re experiencing India at the cheapness it really is.
6. Eat Local, And Do Not Equate Cheap With Not Good
One thing a lot of travelers make a part of their routine is experiencing local delicacies of places they’re in. Getting a slice of the local diet and eating habits of the people gives you direct insight into what it is to live the lives of the people you are among. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a smaller restaurant or eating on the street; being open to local food in India will almost always end positively unless you expressly feel otherwise. You finding a place that serves the simplest, cheapest food that’s mind-blowing, finding a dessert you paid so little for, these are nostalgic moments you’ll love taking back home. Also, wherever possible carry a bottle around and fill water locally. As a traveler, every rupee counts, and unless absolutely necessary, don’t buy water.
7. If You’re Adventurous, Don’t Pre-book Yourself A Room
One of my greater personal joys of traveling, and traveling solo especially, is the opportunity it gives to experience things for the first time in life. When you are planning a trip to an unfamiliar place, you may feel the need to pre-book your accommodation, so as to not face any untoward situation, and it’s quite a safe option to use. However, leaving this one detail for the last moment can open you up to exploring said destination more, have you interacting with the local culture, will find little spots that are decent, cozy, and above all else, cheap. This is in fact what most foreigners do – find accommodation only after checking a place out personally. Want to cut that expense even more? Live in a homestay, a dorm or a hostel, where you can enjoy living in a more globalized community, for relatively cheaper. Most such accommodations have basic amenities and such, but it’s a good living.
8. Book A Train From A Station Close To The Main Station
Traveling cheaply around India is basically a series of hacks that will blow your mind the more you explore them. One of my absolute favorite things about figuring long train journeys is understanding the many options the Indian Railways actually provides. If you live in a smaller city or a village in India, you probably already know that obtaining tickets from smaller, relatively unknown stations is much less of a hassle than booking from a larger station like, say, Mumbai. It’s important to understand that all stations on a particular route have quotas on seat reservations, and in the event of the ticket not being available at the nearest big station, finding a ticket is still possible if you look at stops along the way to your destination.
9. Be Kind: You Never Know How You May Impress Someone
Kindness definitely takes you better places than any other behavior that makes you seem like a douche. I find this point especially important because it’s the difference between being someone who is seen as a respected guest, and someone who be nothing more than a source of money, who is to be forgotten soon enough. In India especially, where Atithi Devo Bhava holds true so much, it is just absurd to see so many Indians flaunting their money and bad manners. Having traveled with a bunch of Indians and foreigners across years now, I have seen more people get by, by being kind than having a single rupee in their pockets. And it’s as simple as moving around with a smile 😊.