Typical Costs When Traveling
The currency in India is the Indian rupee (₹). Exchange rates are subject to fluctuations, so be sure to check this regularly as your trip approaches. On average, ₹1 is equal to about £.01 British Pounds, $.01 U.S., €,01, and .10 Chinese Yuan.
A budget hotel room will be around ₹700 a night (£7.25, $10, €9, 68.5 Yuan). A mid-range hotel can be from ₹1500–5000 a night (£15.50-52, $21-70, €19-64, 147-490 Yuan). More luxury accommodations start at around ₹10,000 a night and go up from there (£105, $140, €128, 1980 Yuan).
Airbnb prices usually average around ₹2140 a night (£22, $30, €27,50, 210 Yuan).
An all-you-can-eat thali (plate meal) is between ₹100–₹300 (£1.05-31.25, $1.40-4.20, €1,30-3,75, 9.75-29.50 Yuan). A meal in a midrange restaurant will be from ₹600–₹1500 (£6.25-157, $8.50-21, €7,75-19,50, 58.50-147 Yuan). And a meal at a fine dining restaurant will start between ₹2000–₹5000 (£20-52, $28-$70, €25,50-64, 196-490 Yuan) and go up from there.
Alcohol prices vary depending on if you’re in a larger city or a less-touristy area. On average, a beer cost ₹285 (£3, $4.00, €3,60, 28 Yuan), and a locally produced bottle of wine is ₹785 (£8.25, $11, €10, 77 Yuan) and ₹1565 for an imported bottle (£16, $22, €20, 153 Yuan).
India’s larger and mid-size cities will have a combination of these public transportation options: buses, cycle-rickshaws, autorickshaws, taxis, boats, tongas (horse-drawn carts), metros, and urban trains. Public transport costs vary from city to city, but the fare should be relatively cheap.
For any transportation without a fixed fare (like taxis and rickshaws), make sure you agree on a price before you start you trip, and make sure the fare includes any luggage you have and all members of your group. You’ll need small bills for taxi and rickshaw fares because drivers usually can’t make change.
If you rent a car, I recommend hiring a driver as well. The roads and rules-of-the-road in India are chaotic and poorly marked and defined. Most towns have taxi stands or car-hire companies where you can arrange day or multi-day tours.
Make sure you ask for a driver who speaks some English (English is likely the only language drivers will speak that’s not Hindi or their local dialect) and knows the region you intend to visit. You’ll also want to see the car and meet the driver before paying anything.
Get a written agreement of what you’re paying for – quotes should include gas, sightseeing stops, all your chosen destinations, and meals and accommodation for the driver. If a driver asks you for money along the way for gas because he’s short of cash, get receipts for reimbursement later.
Car-hire costs depend on the distance, terrain, and state you’re in. What you’ll pay for multiday trips should cover the driver’s meals and accommodation, but the drivers will make their own sleeping and eating arrangements.
For day trips, plan to pay around ₹1800 (£19, $25, €23, 176 Yuan) for a car and driver with an eight-hour, 80km limit. For multiday trips, drivers usually estimate a 250 kilometer minimum distance per day and charge about ₹9 (£.10, $.15, €,12, .90 Chinese Yuan) per kilometer.
You should also plan to tip ₹200 (£2.10, $2.80, €2,60, 20 Chinese Yuan) per person per day.
Buses go almost everywhere in India, and they’re the only non-hired-car-way to get around the more mountainous and rural areas. But buses are less regulated, more hectic, and have higher accident rates than trains. So to mitigate some of these risks, avoid night buses, and book bus tickets ahead of time for deluxe or super deluxe buses.
Deluxe buses should get you air conditioning and better treatment of your luggage. And booking a head will guarantee you a seat so that you don’t have to stand up for your journey. On any bus, try to sit up front to minimize how much you feel the bumpy roads, avoid sitting directly above the wheels at all costs, and bring a good pair of earplugs or headphones.
Fares for deluxe bus services will start at ₹300 (£3.15, $4.20, €3,85, 30 Yuan). Arrive at least an hour before you departure time to maximize your changes of getting your luggage put underneath the bus instead of on top of the bus.
Most deluxe buses can be booked in advance at a bus station, through travel agencies, or online. Some of the best sites for bus tickets in India are Cleartrip and Makemytrip.
Train and Air Transportation
Trains are the iconic way to travel through India. They offer more space and smoother rides than buses. If you’re going to be traveling through the night, choose a night train over a night bus. The main downside to trains is that delays are very common. So leave plenty of leeway in your travel plans.
You’ll want a chair-car, executive-chair-car, sleeper, 1AC, 2AC, or 3AC carriage to have a restroom facility that’s not a hole in the floor, a modicum of security, and a bed. So you’ll want to book your train tickets in advance through Indian Railways, Erail, or Seat 61.
India does have several luxury train tours you might want to consider. Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, and Mahaparinirvan Express are a few options. These tours range from ₹322,180-465,375 (£3368-4865, $4500-$6500, €4150-6000, 31480-45,470 Yuan).
Domestic air travel is also becoming a more popular option in India. Several national and regional airlines now serve all corners of the country.
I’d budget around ₹500 a day (£5.25, $7, €6,50, 48.50 Yuan) for entrance fees, tours, guides, snacks, tips, and souvenirs.
ATMs are common in all but the smallest towns. Indian ATMs charge a set fee between ₹150-300 (£1.50-3.15, $2-4, €1,90-3,80, 14.50-29 Yuan). Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, and Maestro are the most commonly accepted cards. Never take damaged rupee bills because you won’t be able to spend them.
Credit cards and international debit cards are accepted at more and more shops, cafes, upmarket restaurants, and midrange and top-end hotels in larger cities. Credit cards can also usually be used to pay for flights and train tickets onsite. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted cards.
Transaction fees can be high in India, so check this with your credit card provider.
Smaller cities and towns and more rural areas won’t accept credit cards as widely as the larger cities, so make sure you always have enough cash on hand for anything you want to do or buy.
Tip bellhops and train and airport porters ₹10-20 (£.10-.20, $.15-.30, €,12-,26, 1-2 Yuan). Restaurants and hotels usually automatically add a 10% service fee. If not, then you should tip 10%. For taxis and rickshaws, you should tip a couple of rupees. I would always round up my fare to the nearest five denomination.
If you’re trekking, tip guides ₹350-500 (£3.60-5.25, $5-7, €4,50-6,50, 34-49 Yuan) per day and porters ₹200-350 per day (£2.10-3.60, $2.75-5, €2,50-4,50, 20-34 Yuan). For tour guides, you should tip ₹200-350 (£2.10-3.60, $2.75-5, €2,50-4,50, 20-34 Yuan).
Suggested Daily Costs
These budget estimates include eating and drinking out at least once a day and a couple of train, bus, or airplane tickets.
Lower End: ₹3000 a day (£31, $42, €39, 293 Yuan). Midrange: ₹7000 a day (£73, $98, €90, 684 Yuan). Higher End: ₹10,000 a day and up (£105, $140, €130, 977 Yuan).