25 India Travel Hacks: Tips Learned From 4 Years

Welcome, fellow adventurers! If you’re an American, European, or Australian traveler with a desire to explore the incredible country of India on a budget, you’ve come to the right place. 

As an experienced India traveler I’ve spent more than 4 years visiting many states and territories and I’ve found some budget travel tips to help your trip. 

Here are my top 25 travel hacks for India:

  1. Get 5-Year Visa Online
  2. Plan your trip during fall or spring
  3. Fly into smaller airports
  4. Book Monthly Accommodation for 20% Discounts
  5. Save on first-class hotels
  6. Save 1000% By Taking Local Buses
  7. Trains Are The Best Way To See India
  8. Use Uber To Save on Taxis
  9. Haggle for 50% Off on Rickshaws
  10. Eating For Less Than $3 A Meal
  11. Get Food Delivered To Your Hotel Room
  12. Ride the Metros
  13. Visit The Historical Attractions 
  14. Check Out The Local Markets
  15. Visit The Temples
  16. Interacting with Locals
  17. Get Help From Long-Term Travelers
  18. Stay Healthy with Grapefruit Seed Oil
  19. Blend In To Stay Safe
  20. Purchase Travel Insurance
  21. Haggle To Save 50% On Souvenirs
  22. Check Viator for Tours
  23. Get Street Food Recommendations From Locals
  24. Use Booking.com for Stress-Free Accommodation
  25. Use An India Travel Checklist 

I wasted a lot of time and money in my first couple years, so you won’t want to miss reading this entire article to save yourself the trouble. 

Let’s dive in! 

25 India Travel Hacks

1. Get a 5-Year Visa Online

India is one of the easier long-term visas for foreigners, and Americans can get a 5 year visa online. If you want to do some more work, like I did, you can get a 10-year visa. The total cost is less than $300. 

Most Indian visas are much cheaper (about $80 for 5 years) and even less for the short term tourist visas. 

You can also spend up to 180 days at a time in the country. Versus other places like Bali or Thailand which only give you 30 days or 90 days at most. 

This is one of the main reasons I initially wanted to spend more time in India. 

2. Planning Your Trip During Fall or Spring

Out of the more than a million American tourists that visit India each year, the most popular time to visit India is the December and January. But you can find better deals and still enjoy pleasant weather if you come to India in the fall or spring. 

During October or November the average high temperatures in India is in the 85 (around 30 degrees Celsius) and the monsoons have ended in most places. This mean you can visit the Taj Mahal with fewer tourists, save 10 to 20% on hotels, and save on great tour guides as well. I went to Kolkata in October in 2023, and got to see the famed Kali Puja. I also took a local street food tour and stayed on a floating hotel on the river, all while saving some cash.

During March and April it is spring in most places in India and the average high temperature around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (~30 degrees Celsius). You can get the same deals on tours and hotels during this time. I went to Goa and stayed for a month in a cabana near the beach and spend less than $750 total for my time (not including flight). 

If you can stay in India during the winter, it is the most pleasant time as temperatures are the most mild and there are a lot of fun festivals. But if you want to save money come a little earlier or later for better deals. 

Read more: Check the early deals on my favorite hotel booking app

3. Fly Into Smaller Airports

You can get better deals on flights by flying into smaller airports such as Kolkata or Chennai. Delhi or Mumbai are the most convenient airports but you also will find higher prices. 

I typically spend $1300 roundtrip to go from Chicago to Delhi. But I saved $150 to fly from Kolkata to Detroit last year!

Pro Tip: Set up flight alerts on Google Flights or Skyscanner for airports such as Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, and Kochi to see if you can scoop up a great deal. 

Read more: The Best Days & Months To Book Flights To India

4. Book Monthly Accommodation for 20% Discounts

You can save a lot by booking monthly accommodation on AirBnb. If you book a stay for 28 days, you can often save 20% but sometimes even up to 40% on your stay. 

Staying for a week will also yield discounts between 5 – 10% and this can mean you an upgrade your stay to better places. 

I’ve been fortunate to stay in guesthouses in Leh with views of the snow-capped mountains all for close to budget prices. 

Pro Tip: Compare the top booking platforms such as Booking.com, Agoda, MakeMyTrip, EaseMyTrip, Goibibo, and more. I search Google which lists all the options and shares the lowest prices. The prices can vary and you could scoop up a deal. 

5. Splurge On First-Class Hotels

You can find amazing accommodations in India for reasonable prices compared to USA prices. I’ve stayed in first-class hotels for less than $40 a night. I stayed in a floating hotel in Kolkata for less than $40 a night. 

You can find heritage palaces and quirky AirBnbs like a hobbit home all for reasonable prices. So if you want a taste of luxury, and I recommend you try it, then see if you can get great deal on a first-class place at least once in your trip. 

6. Save 1000% By Taking Local Buses

When it comes to getting around in India, public transportation is your best friend. Buses are not only more affordable but also offer a chance to interact with locals and experience the country’s diverse landscapes.

I took a lot of cabs and private cars on my early Indian trips. One 4-hour trip usually cost $45 but once I figured out the express bus I was paying less than $4. 

How To Book Indian Bus Tickets

Indian buses are another way to experience the real India. They can be an extremely budget-friendly way to travel for those wiling to go with the flow. 

Sleeper buses are a comfortable-enough way to spend the night. You can get your own berth, often with a curtain, outlets to plug in your phone, and pillow and bedding. I like booking one and saving on accommodation and ending up in a new place. 

Redbus is my favorite site as you can get refunds if you cancel. EaseMyTrip and MakeMyTrip are other options. 

If you are willing to go with the flow, head to the local Indian bus station, ask the people there for your destination, and hop on the next bus. It seems like chaos and can be overwhelming at first, but once you have a great experience and get to your destination in decent time for a small price, you’ll start to see why they call it Incredible India.

7. Trains Are The Best Way To See India

Indian trains are my favorite way to travel in India. I love passing a day looking out the window, ordering food at the stops, and sipping chai as I chat with the other travelers in my berth. Plus, first-class tickets are surprisingly affordable. 

How To Book Indian Train Tickets

The official Indian website is the best place to go but there are third-party sites like MakeMyTrip and EaseMyTrip. You can set up an account as a foreigner and to find and book your tickets. 

Booking train tickets in advance is highly recommended. I try to book at least 2 weeks in advance as there can be a waiting list. 

But Indian Railways has an extensive network that covers almost the entire country and in my opinion it’s one of the most fun and comfortable ways to see India. I’ve booked first-class tickets ($25 for a 12 hour trip) and been able to meet warm families and even a noteable cinematographer, which has led to some great chats as Indian villages and landscapes zoomed by outside. 

8. Use Uber To Save on Taxis

Uber is in most big cities in India and can save you a lot of money on cabs. Not only can you find lower prices than you’ll find on the street. But you can also head to different intercity destinations. 

For instance, heading from Delhi to Agra for the Taj Mahal can be booked on your phone in a few minutes. 

Using Uber is also a great way to estimate how much your trip will cost, which you can then use to negotiate with a local taxi driver. This is one reason that some states and cities like Goa or Ladakh have banned Uber, due to pressure from the powerful taxi unions. 

But for tourists is should be a must-have app on your phone.

Read more: The Complete Guide To Using Uber in India

9. Haggle for 50% Off on Rickshaws

Rickshaws are a fun Indian travel experience, but it can make it less fun if the driver charges you unfair prices. You’ll need to negotiate with the driver before you start the ride in order to get a decent price. But as a tourist I’m at a disadvantage since I don’t know the going rates, so here’s a quick guide anyone can use to negotiate.

Pro Tip: Ask the driver the price and no matter what he says, counteroffer at 50%. This is a safe strategy since most drivers will try for 2x on an unsuspecting traveler like yourself. 

If it’s a short ride of 2 km or less, then the ride should be around 50-100 INR. Each km added on should be around 50 INR. But prices will vary widely based on your location. For instance if you’re in a touristy part of Delhi surrounded by many new tourists you may find an ambitious driver charging 500 INR when a similar distance would cost 50 INR. 

I start at 50% for most places and if I don’t get a good vibe from the driver, I’ll leave and try to find another. This may often get me a reduced price as walking away is a valid negotiation strategy. 

Read more: How To Avoid Rickshaw Scams – A Simple Script

10. Eating For Less Than $3 A Meal

Eating street food in India is an experience you don’t want to miss. I stayed away for more than a year at first and I regret it. 

You can find busy hygienic street food stalls offering delicious mouthwatering local dishes for extreme budget prices. 

I’ve never gotten sick in my many street food tours that I’ve published on Youtube, but do be careful. 

Look for busy places that are clean. Don’t drink anything with ice. Most of the food will be cooked right in front of you, so you can more easily know it’s healthy and safe. 

11. Get Food Delivered To Your Hotel Room

Food delivery services are everywhere in India and you can get amazing food delivered right to your hotel room. 

Travel gets tiring so if you want a night in, while getting food from anywhere in the city sign up to Swiggy or Zomato. These are the two biggest food delivery apps that you’ll find in most cities. You can put in your international credit card and your hotel, then have it come right to your room. 

Read more: The Best Travel Apps for India

12. Ride the Metros

Delhi has a metro with 255 stations and 10 color coded lines that have air-conditioning and are super affordable. I paid $0.20 to go quite a distance and there’s no haggling. 

Delhi’s metro is the largest and most convenient but you can find metros in most major Indian cities including Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Kochi, and Chennai. 

Pro Tip: Book a hotel near the metro, so you can quickly get around most of the city in air-conditioned comfort. 

13. Visit The Historical Attractions 

India is a treasure trove of cultural and historical attractions, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to explore them. Many attractions have free or low-cost entry, allowing you to soak up the rich history and vibrant traditions without emptying your wallet.

India’s history stretches back for thousands of years, in contrast to the USA, so I love how walking through these old places has changed my view of the world.

Some of my favorite historical attractions were:

  • Varanasi’s burning ghat
  • Delhi’s Red Fort
  • Khajuraho’s Love Temples

14. Check Out The Local Markets

Exploring local markets is another fantastic way to experience the vibrant culture of India. Whether you’re strolling through the bustling lanes of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk or bargaining for souvenirs in Jaipur’s bazaars, you’ll be amazed by the kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and smells. 

Remember, bargaining is a part of the culture here, so sharpen your negotiation skills and snag some incredible deals.

15. Visit The Temples

Visit stunning temples that dot the country’s landscape, such as the iconic Golden Temple in Amritsar or the ancient temples of Hampi. These architectural marvels offer a glimpse into India’s spiritual heritage. And the best part? Most of them have minimal entry fees or are completely free to enter.

I lived near a historical temple in South India and loved to walk through the temple with the other pilgrims when I wanted some peace. 

16. Interacting with Locals

Interacting with locals can enhance your travel experience in India and provide valuable insights into the local way of life. Indians are known for their warmth and hospitality, so don’t be shy to strike up conversations.

I remember a time when I was exploring the city of Varanasi, and I got lost in the narrow, winding alleys. Instead of panicking, I approached a local fruit vendor for directions. Not only did he point me in the right direction, but he also insisted on giving me a taste of a rare local mangos that I had never seen before. It was a delightful experience that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t interacted with him.

17. Get Help From Long-Term Travelers

Consider participating in Facebook groups on your destinations of choice. Most cities in India have expats, so search “CITY Travelers/Tourists/Expats” and you’ll find plenty of potential new friends. 

You can use these groups to find long-term accommodation, tour guides, and buy souvenirs. 

I used my local group during the Covid Lockdown to stay up-to-date on visas and travel restrictions. Then when there wasn’t a worldwide emergency, it was a great spot to hear about beautiful out-of–the-way places to visit. 

18. Stay Healthy with Grapefruit Seed Extract

Delhi Belly, or stomach troubles is a real concern, and if you get a bad case you could ruin a week or more of your trip. 

Aside from avoiding unhygienic spots, drinking the water, and ice, you can bring one stomach remedy which can help: Grapefruit Seed Oil.

You can find it on Amazon in the US or your country and it’s a small bottle to keep in your bag. Don’t buy it in India as I paid $50 for a bottle here and I think it was watered down. 

19. Blend In To Stay Safe

Always stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded places. Keep your belongings secure and avoid displaying flashy items that might attract unwanted attention. If you’re traveling solo, inform your accommodation about your plans and whereabouts.

20. Purchase Travel Insurance

You can rest easier knowing any big expenses will be covered. I’ve used travel insurance and always slept better at night knowing if something terrible happened, then I wouldn’t be bankrupt.

When my mom and Aunt came to India they used travel insurance and it helped to take a lot of stress out of their trip. 

I like SafetyWing since it’s the most inexpensive option. 

Pro Tip: Also, carry a basic first aid kit and any necessary medications, as they can be expensive or hard to find in certain areas. It’s always better to be prepared for minor illnesses or injuries. Additionally, consider purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself against any unforeseen circumstances that may arise during your trip.

21. Haggle To Save 50% On Souvenirs

Saving money while traveling in India requires a little bit of street smarts and a willingness to explore off the beaten path.

When it comes to shopping, don’t be afraid to bargain. Haggling is an art form in India, and you can often get items at significantly lower prices by negotiating with the vendors. Remember to be respectful and have fun with the process.

Instead of splurging on high-end malls, explore local markets and street vendors for affordable shopping options. Whether it’s handicrafts, textiles, or spices, you’ll find unique treasures that won’t break the bank. And trust me, the joy of finding that perfect souvenir at a bargain price is truly unbeatable.

Pro Tip: I usually start negotiating at 50% of whatever price I’m initially quoted. I often check Amazon to see if I can find prices on similar products. I often say “woah, high price” no matter what price they start with and try to look a bit shocked. 

22. Check Viator for Tours

Viator is associated with TripAdvisor and has tours in most places. I know when I’m booking a tour with them it’s going to be quality. 

My favorite are the walking tours as they can be more budget-priced. Look out for free or low-cost activities and events happening in the area you’re visiting. Many cities organize walking tours or cultural performances that are either free or available at a minimal cost. Take advantage of these opportunities to delve deeper into the local culture and make unforgettable memories.

Pro Tip: For cheaper tours, you can find guides at almost every tourist destination. They wait nearby and you can negotiate with them for a decent tour. I’ve been happy with most of my tours, but you won’t get the guaranteed quality you get from Viator.

23. Get Street Food Recommendations From Locals

Street food is an experience you definitely want to try, but it can be difficult to understand which places to taste. That’s where it helps to learn from the locals what is best. 

I invest in street food tours because it can save me so much time. I went on a street food tour in Kolkata and the guide had found only places that were more than 100 years old. I never would have been able to have that experience on my own, and the price was very reasonable. 

My favorite street food tour company is A Chef’s Tour. You can find them in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi as well as other big Asian cities. 

24. Use Booking.com for Stress-Free Accommodation

I often use Booking.com’s free cancellation option as I plan my trip. This let’s me book in a few places I like as I’m researching and then as I get closer to booking I can cancel those that won’t work. 

Having the right accommodation can really make or break your experience, so this added option is a huge benefit and takes a lot of stress off my plate. 

25. Use An India Travel Checklist 

There’s a lot to remember when you’re traveling to India for the first time. I remember being nervous myself and I’d done a good bit of advneture travel. When my mother came we had a number of conversations where she was quite worried about what to expect. 

Using a travel checklist from an experienced traveler (like myself) can help you know what to bring and not worry. 

You can download the India travel checklist I use for free.


What’s the best way to travel to India? 

The best ways to see India are by train, plane, buses, and rickshaws. Trains will let you see the landscapes and villages. Planes will let you go long distances for cheap as most domestic flights are less than $100. Sleeper buses are a comfortable way to get to a new place. Local buses are super cheap and you can meet local people. Rickshaws will take you around the city, but use Uber to help you negotiate. 

How can you prepare for travel to India?

The best way to prepare for your trip to India is to consider getting vaccinations like malaria. Buy travel insurance. Book accommodations using free cancellation sites like Booking.com. Check out the festival’s calendar as that will affect how busy it gets. Watch Youtube channels like Ben Jenks’ for videos of popular destinations to help you pick your route. 

Is it risky to travel to India?

India ranks 135th out of 163 countries in the 2021 Global Peace Index, so it has more risk than most countries. If you select good accommodations and practice common sense such as avoiding staying out late at night, then you lower your risk of anything dangerous happening. 

Is India stressful to travel?

India can be a culture shock to most travelers leading to stress and anxiety. With so many people and diverse traditions, you can expect to feel more stress than most countries. You can reduce this stress by reading and watching Youtube videos about what to expect. 

How many days are enough for an India Trip?

The average trip to India is about 2 weeks and in that time you can see many great places. One popular trip is the Golden Triangle of Delhi, the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur which is also famous for historic palaces. In 2 weeks you can get a great sense of these beautiful places. 

Is India cheap for tourists?

India is ranked 191s out of 197 countries on the cost of living Index, and it is roughly 60% cheaper than the USA. You can eat good meals for $4, stay in nice hotels for $20, first-class hotels can cost $50, and flights across the country can cost $100. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, India offers a wealth of opportunities for budget travelers seeking an incredible adventure. By implementing these 25 travel hacks, you can make the most of your trip while saving time and money. From obtaining a 5-year visa online to exploring the country’s historical attractions, there are endless possibilities to immerse yourself in India’s vibrant culture and rich heritage.

Planning your trip during the fall or spring seasons allows you to enjoy pleasant weather and take advantage of discounts on accommodations and tours. Flying into smaller airports like Kolkata or Chennai can often result in better deals on flights. Booking monthly accommodations through platforms like Airbnb can save you up to 20%, while splurging on a first-class hotel occasionally provides a taste of luxury at affordable prices.

Embracing public transportation, such as local buses and trains, not only helps you save significantly but also offers a more authentic experience, allowing you to interact with locals and witness the country’s diverse landscapes. Using ride-hailing services like Uber can further reduce transportation costs and provide convenience in exploring different cities.

Indulging in street food is a must-do, and with the guidance of locals, you can discover the best culinary experiences at budget-friendly prices. Additionally, visiting historical attractions, exploring local markets, and immersing yourself in the spiritual ambiance of temples offer unique and enriching experiences without straining your wallet.

Interacting with locals, seeking assistance from long-term travelers, and using reliable travel resources like Booking.com and Viator can enhance your journey and make it more enjoyable. Remember to stay safe by blending in, purchasing travel insurance, and following common-sense precautions.

India may present its share of challenges and cultural differences, but with proper planning, an open mind, and a sense of adventure, you can create unforgettable memories while exploring this extraordinary country. So pack your bags, embrace the travel hacks, and embark on a budget-friendly Indian adventure of a lifetime!

Benjamin Jenks

Traveler, Filmmaker, and Lover of India. I've been living, writing and sharing what I've learned about traveling in India since 2018. Learn more about me here or Youtube.

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