Known for its spectacular monuments, much-loved cuisine, distinct culture, and diverse landscapes, there is nowhere quite like India and it’s deserving of a spot on everyone’s travel bucket list. It’s the second most populated country in the world and around six million people visit the colorful land each year, but you might be wondering, is India expensive?
From the congested streets of Mumbai to the Andaman Islands and their sultry shores, there are a million experiences waiting to be had in India, and better yet, they’re unlikely to blow your budget. India is one of the cheapest places to live in the world and everything from accommodation to transportation, services, and food is known to be inexpensive. Still, some regions are more costly than others and there are tourist traps you should know to avoid.
Looking at how to get there, where you’ll stay and everything in between, our guide uncovers the real cost of traveling to India in 2022. Let’s get into it.
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The Average Cost of a Holiday in India
According to the Cost of Living Index 2022, India is the third-cheapest country to live in, trumped only by Afghanistan and Pakistan, which could be good news for your budget, but bad news for the economy. The cost of living depends on where you’re located, but a weak currency and monetary value means accommodation, food, services, and transport can all feel very cheap in India for foreign travelers.
The nation is 60 percent cheaper than the United States to live in and 70 percent cheaper than the UK, but what does this mean for your holiday? India is not the cheapest country to vacation in, but it is one of the cheapest major destinations in the world and you’ll spend far less than would in Europe and most of Asia on a vacation.
Most travelers report spending between $25 and $55 a day in India, but you can get high-quality accommodation at this rate, plus three restaurant meals, a full day of transportation, and your entrance fees for attractions. India is all about seeing the sites. You don’t just come here to lay on the golden sands, although we do recommend checking out India’s underrated beach scene if you have more time.
That said, you could spend far less in India going at a slower pace, it all depends on your spending habits. Budget travelers and backpackers flock here because you can really make your money stretch without having to try too hard. From $1 hostel stays, and meals for half that price, India remains a destination for shoestring travel and is one of the most budget-friendly countries globally.
Before we get into details, let’s take a look at a breakdown of some basic expenses in India that you can expect from day to day:
|Price (INR)||Price (USD)|
|Inexpensive Meal (restaurant)||200.00||2.55|
|Fast Food Combo Meal||300.00||3.80|
|Takeaway Cappucino (restaurant)||95.00||1.25|
|Coke Bottle (supermarket)||35.00||00.50|
|Water Bottle (supermarket)||15.00||00.20|
|Admission to the Taj Mahal (foreigners)||1,100.00||13.50|
|Delhi City Tour (full day)||3,150.00||40.00|
Is India expensive to visit? Getting There
Travel costs might be low, but India’s economic crisis won’t make the airfare any less, no matter how cheap the rest of your holiday is. How you’re going to get there is the first thing to consider before booking any holiday, and if you’re coming from the west, getting to India won’t just be as easy as jumping on a two-hour flight or hopping the pond.
The average worldwide flight to India costs between $1,025 and $1,730 return, per person, but this all depends on where you’re coming from and at what time of year. If you’re coming from New York, you could get a good deal round-trip for around $900 in September, but this goes up to $1,475 in the high season (October to March). The average return from London is around $860, but a good deal round-trip could be as low as $630. You can expect similar prices from most Western and Central European major cities, while you’ll need around USD $1,300-1,600 to fly from Toronto.
If you’re coming from closer by, you’ll likely be able to save a lot, but that isn’t to say the trip will be easy. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan all run rail links to and from India, but the networks between neighboring countries are not well developed. The most popular are the Maitree Express and the Bandhan Express, both running from Bangladesh. The route from Dhaka to Kolkata takes around eight hours and costs between INR 1,100 and 1,900 ($14-24), but this service only runs four times a week and trains are notoriously inefficient and not up to European and American safety and hygiene standards.
Your travel isn’t the only expense when arriving in the country. All foreign nationals require a visa to enter India which can be acquired through Indian Mission, Post, or an eVisa service from the Bureau of Immigration. You might not be granted a free 30-day on arrival like in some South Asian counties, but luckily, the Visas come very cheaply in India. For US citizens, a one-month e-visa costs just $10, while one year is a mere $43 and five whole years come out at just $85.
How much does it cost to get around India?
It’s just as much about the journey as the destination, so getting to India is the start of the adventure, but getting around is equally thrilling in this country. Traveling by train around India’s vast regions is even more popular than venturing across borders, and is a highly-rated bucket list experience for visitors.
From long-distance sleeper dorms to first-class cabins, the pricing is diverse but far cheaper than Western train travel. Mumbai also has an efficient inner-city rail network with commuter trains as well as highspeed carriers, which are always airconditioned. A single journey costs between INR 70 and 100 ($0.90-1.50).
India even has “The Palace on Wheels”, a luxury train service and a joint venture of the Rajasthan Tourism Development and the Indian Railway to promote the region as a travel hotspot. The eight-day cross-country route is the Orient Express of India, and costs between $600 and $1,800 per person, per night.
Busses and boats are also popular modes of transport and notoriously cheap. A five to six-hour journey by bus will only set you back around 100 rupees ($1.50), and the scenic passenger boats from Kollam to Kerala only cost around INR 600 ($9). Rickshaws, better known as Tuk Tuks, are characteristic of India’s busy cities, and while they’re less efficient for long distances, you can always haggle with your driver to get a cheaper deal than the meter price.
Accommodation Prices in India
Accommodation is where you’ll see the biggest discrepancies in price in India. There is no shortage of backpacker hostels, budget hotels, and unique stays, but you can also find luxury resorts, and accommodation will always be inevitably more expensive in popular tourist areas.
The average price for a hotel stay across India, as of 2021, was around INR 3,072 ($39) per night, with hotels in New Delhi starting from INR 630 ($8) a night, Mumbai from INR 1,800 ($23) and Chennai from INR 1,025 ($13). The general range in the most popular areas is between INR 472-5,514 ($6-70), quite a jump.
Let’s take a look at some different accommodation options, depending on the area, to get an idea of what you can get in each price range:
Hostel Mantra ($$) – Located in Mumbai’s western suburbs, just 5 minutes from the beach, Hostel Mantra is clean and cozy budget accommodation from $30 a night.
St. Regis Mumbai ($$) – Five-star accommodation in bustling Mumbai without the price tag. The iconic St. Regis is located in the central entertainment and commercial district with a spa oasis, world-class dining, and opulent rooms. Prices start at $150 a night in the low season.
Hotel The Ivy Grand New Delhi ($$) – Located in the heart of India’s capital, The Ivy Grand hotel offers four-star service, an outdoor swimming pool, spacious suites and free parking, all for $35 a night. Prices vary in the high season.
Hotel Emperio New Delhi ($) Situated right next to New Delhi Railway Station, this three-star hotel offers an exceptional breakfast spread for just $2 a day, with a shared lounge, air-conditioned rooms, and free wifi for $20 a night.
The Musafir Hostel Goa ($) – Just 10 minutes on foot from Anjuna Beach, this lively hostel has a bar, terrace, private parking, evening entertainment, and room service, starting from just $12 a night.
Is India Expensive for Food and Drink?
Meal prices can vary, the average cost to eat in India per day is around NR 682 ($8.65) with the average meal out costing between INR 80 and 200 ($1-3.50) based on other travelers’ expenses. Breakfasts are cheaper than lunch and dinner, and lunch tends to be the biggest meal traditionally in the country.
If you want fast food from international chains, you can expect to fork out a little extra, closer to INR 300 ($3.80), while alcohol can also be pricier wherever you go. There are some regions where alcohol is either illegal or hard to come by due to religious laws. Importation duties on foreign spirits and wines usually exceed 150 percent, making them three to five times more expensive than elsewhere in the world.
Imported beer is twice the cost of domestic beer in India at INR 300 ($3.80) a bottle, likewise, a bottle of wine could set you back as much as INR 700 ($9) in a supermarket, so local alcohol is the way to go.
You can get your hands on local spirits like Old Monk rum, Royal Stag whiskey, gin, vodka, and rice-based alcohol for as little as INR 157 ($2) a liter. The native Kingfisher draft beer also goes for around INR 100 ($1.27) for a 500ml can.
When is the best time to visit India?
India is a vast country, and the weather can vary wherever you go. Still, unlike many South Asian nations, it experiences four seasons, with regional variations, namely winter, summer, monsoon, and a post-monsoon season. According to Hinduism, India actually has six seasons, including autumn and spring, but meteorologically, the international standard of four can be followed.
The best time to visit India is during the winter, which lasts from December until February, and sometimes into March. Most of the country experiences pleasant weather with temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit during this time, although it drops to around 50 degrees in the northwest, further away from the equator.
Winter is the driest and coolest time in the country although occasional rainfall, and even snow in the mountains, is characteristic of this period. March sees the beginning of summer in India and things really start heating up by April. Flowers are still blooming in valleys and meadows by early May, but in the north, temperatures can start to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making the idea of a vacation rather uncomfortable.
Goa is a favorable place to visit at the beginning of summer, with average highs in the low 80s. However, monsoon season comes in June and the nation at large is awash with heavy rains and faces a high risk of flooding and landslides. Still, there are some good reasons to visit India at this time, as long as you’re strategic about where you go.
Rajasthan, Spiti Valley, Pondicheery, Kerala, Goa, and Shillong experience some of the least extreme monsoon weather and you’ll still find great discounts on luxury hotels, fewer tourists, cheaper entrance fees, and some vibrant festivals. India is inexpensive for most travelers, but if you want to travel in style while on a budget, and don’t mind some extreme weather, the summer months could be a good time to visit.
Indian on a Budget: Our Top 7 Money-Saving Tips
You won’t struggle to stick to a budget in India, but there are some things to look out for if you want to travel the country on a true shoestring. Check out our top seven money-saving tips for India below:
- Eat street food – You have to savor Indian street food if you really want to get to know the culture and culinary scene. Always use your judgment when it comes to hygiene standards, and be prepared for your digestive system to be a little shocked at first, but street food is much cheaper than restaurants. There’s always a 20 rupee dosa waiting for you in Hyderabad, or a pav bhaji for 30 rupees in Mumbai.
- Invest in travel insurance – Prevention is always better than cure. India might be cheap, but your medical expenses as a foreigner won’t be. Don’t take the risk, especially with India’s low safety and hygiene standards, and always invest in good travel insurance.
- Visit in the low season – If you really want to save money, visit India outside of winter for cheaper hotel deals and entrance fees. This will be especially beneficial if you want to follow a tourist trail and see all the major sites.
- Travel overnight – It’s just as much about the journey as the destination and traveling long distances in India by bus or train, instead of a plane, is more exciting and much cheaper. You can jump on an overnight train or bus from Delhi to Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Shimla, and more. You’ll arrive at a new destination by morning and have one less night of accommodation to worry about paying for.
- Book in advance and take connecting flights – Wherever you’re coming from, your flights are likely to be the biggest expense. Search for deals well in advance of your trip and opt for routes with more connections as these can be much cheaper.
- Use backpacker hostels – Not only are hostels always the cheapest places to stay, but you’re likely to meet like-minded travelers who could even join you on the rest of your travels.
- Visit rural areas – Tourist hotspots like Mumbai, the Taj Mahal, and Goa are the most expensive places to visit and everything from hotels to transport will cost you a premium, especially in the high season. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track, as long as you find yourself a reliable tour guide or route to follow, and check out places like Ziro Valley, Champhai, the Kaas Plateau, and Majuli, for some spectacular natural beauty in the country.
Is India Expensive? Our Verdict
It’s been ranked as the cheapest place to live in the world in the past and India still has a weak currency, meaning there’s a good chance your holiday here will be inexpensive. Despite decades of popularity, India is yet to be saturated by tourist resorts and diluted by western influence and it is still one of the cheapest places for travelers, and well suited to anyone on a budget. So whether you’re a backpacker on a shoestring, or after luxury for less, all the culture, landmarks, and cuisine of India are well within your reach. Don’t let Delhi belly hold you back.