India is one of the perfect roadsteads for backpackers and couch-surfers. This diverse nation offers majestic mountains and pristine beaches, gigantic monuments and historic spires. From eerie snowfalls to the tropical winds, India is an omnipotent land replete with culture and heritage.
For most of my student life, I traveled across India, as going abroad was an expensive affair. And in your flat broke state, when you wish to travel the whole world, you often come across some really cheap workarounds that save your day.
So I’d like to share my experiences with those who wish to tour India in a meager budget. These top tricks to travel cheap in India include the best and most easily accessible transportations for backpackers.
Ways to Commute Cheap in India
The Indian Railway System is the largest rail network in the world. And why not! The fact that India is HUGE (and has people from all economic backgrounds) requires a fairly elaborate and economical transportation to serve both rich and poor.
Indian Railways have evolved a great deal with time. Their official website has now expanded from railways to buses, flights and hotels as well. To book train tickets, you have options of Normal and Tatkal (ticket needed on an urgent basis for the next day). Ladies and senior citizens have better privileges to book a seat (upper, middle or lower berth) of their choice.
Rail tickets can vary from $1 to $200, depending upon what category you choose. You have options to go standing in the general class (if you are not sturdy enough to yank a seat) or rent yourself a separate 4-seat cabin in the First-class category.
Most trains (especially the long-distance ones) have in-built pantry cars in them. If not that, mark the main stop-overs in your map. These main junctions have many restaurants with networks all across the route. So if you order food at A, you will get it delivered at B without any hassle. The food quality can be varying. So you can either be choosy, or starve yourself.
Train brands such as Rajdhani, Duranto, Shatabdi Express, etc., are some of the top quality trains. The prices are undoubtedly higher, but still way cheaper as compared to other nations. You can get a 3-tier ticket for $30-40. Food quality and cleanliness are unparalleled.
Safety wise, trains are fine. But I’d advice you to not leave any valuables exposed. Carry cash in your handbag instead of the heavy luggages that you set below your seat. In case of emergency, you can pull the chain (as guided in the train).
Many metropolitan cities have intra-city rail system, ranging from local passenger trains to hi-tech metro train system.
Local trains (in places like Mumbai) is an experience you shouldn’t miss, if you want to have the real taste of India. Street food vendors, knickknack sellers, amateur musicians, it’s a gob of people from all walks of life. I’d suggest you to not go in peak hours; the rush will freak you out. Also, opt for slower trains; they are less crowded.
Metro trains may remind you of Europe. Contemporary and clean, Indian metro system is quite straight forward and accessible.
How To Use Road Transportation In India
The Bus network in India is very cheap and accessible. From Govt. roadways to luxury Mercedes buses, you can book anything as per your comfort.
Whether you are traveling within a city or crossing state borders, bus stands have ample options to offer. A local bus ticket can be as cheap as 10 cents. A safety advice would be to carry a pepper spray while traveling. Although, Indian roadways are pretty safe, but prevention is better than cure.
Almost every major Indian state has its own roadways website. You can book a ticket online, or simply buy a ticket from the Bus Stand.
Taxi Services are a workaday affair here in India. You can easily locate one right outside the railway station, bus depot or the airport. The prices vary from place to place. The rates for private taxis are negotiable while the govt. taxis have a fixed price chart.
Nowadays, Radio cabs are pretty ‘in’. Just download any app like olacabs, merucabs, mycab, taxiforsure, etc., and book your cab instantly. A safety advice would be to keep your GPS on, whenever you are in a taxi. This way you know where the driver is heading (Crime is abundant in India).
Besides this option, many Carpool Services have opened avenues for cheap commutation withing India. Websites such as blablacar, carpooling, poolcircle, etc., serve as a platform for people ready to share their cars or the ones looking for lift.
However, the safety factor can sometimes be at stake in carpooling. Make sure you do a good amount of research about the driver and other companions.
Last but not least, the epic Rickshaws and Autorickshaws are a must try. You Will find them in almost all the major cities and small towns of India.
How To Fly In India
For people with time constraints, cheap flights are always the best option. If you are lucky, you can fetch yourself a flight ticket for as less as $20!
Air Services as Air Asia, Ingido, Go Air, Jet Airways, etc., are a range of economical flights. They offer both domestic and international services. You can book a ticket directly from their website or via any travel agency as Yatra, makemytrip, Goibibo, kayak, etc..
Don’t forget to check the free baggage services. Normally, 7 kg hand luggage and 15 kg check-in is allowed for free to flight domestic. But if you have got a really cheap flight, there might be no free check-in baggage allowed. So do keep you eyes open.
Traveling in India, or any other country, requires a fair amount of research and planning. Or you may just end up in a big chaos.