Is India Still Cheap To Travel? [2020]

A lot of the top articles about the costs of traveling in India are from 5 to 10 years ago, so if you want updated prices this is the post for you.

Is India cheap to travel to in 2020? The Economist found that Chennai, Bangalore, and New Delhi were among the 10 cheapest cities in the world. Also, the average prices for good hotel rooms are as low as $7.60 per night and $3.30 for a bed in a hostel. Dinners at good restaurants start at $2.94 for two people.

Major Travel ExpensesAverage Price Of The Lowest-Priced Yet Well-Reviewed Places Per Night (USD)Average Price Of The Lowest-Priced Yet Well-Reviewed Places Per Night (Rupees)
Lodging – Hostel Bed in A Dormitory*$3.30253
Lodging – Private Hotel Room*$7.60583
Restaurant – For Two**$2.94224
*Average prices found on by looking at accommodations with at least 25 reviews and a score of +7 in 10 popular Indian tourist destinations
**Average prices were found on by looking at restaurants with the highest number of reviews in the first 10 pages for 10 popular Indian tourist destinations

In 2020, you can still spend less than $20 per day on a two-week trip to India. If you spend $10 to $20 more a day, you can have a significantly better experience, but it can be difficult if you’ve never been to India before. But let’s take a look at how cheap it is to travel India in 2020…

How Much Would A Trip To India Cost?

I spent $65 a day to see 5 popular Indian destinations over 15 days on a mid-range budget.

Before I show you the lowest prices for all major travel expense categories… here are some specific numbers from a trip I took in 2020.

For a mid-range budget trip including private drivers, tour guides, and even a 5-star hotel (mostly 3-star hotels though), I recently spent $65 a day, including visa and travel insurance.

  • Average spent per day: $65 a day. Including visas and travel insurance. Not including airfare to India.
  • Lodging: $21.94 per day. We mostly 3-star hotels but did stay in one 5-star hotel.
  • Transportation: $10.59 per day. 2 domestic flights, 12-hours in long taxi rides, countless rickshaws, and 1 ferry.
  • Food: $10.00 per day. Dinners were often at nice restaurants recommended by the Lonely Planet Guidebook.
  • Entertainment (tours and admission fees): $6.10 per day. Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Khajuraho’s Erotic Temples, Varanasi Tour with sunset Ganges boat ride.
  • Other (Shopping, Gifts): $2.31

My mom and aunt came to visit me in India and we went to 5 destinations over 15 days in both North and South India. This was NOT a budget trip. We were getting picked up by the airport and train stations, and had tour guides for all the major monuments.

But we also saved money by splitting the cost of transportation and big hotel rooms in three ways. We tried to eat the breakfast included at our hotel, ate fruit for lunch, and negotiated ruthlessly. 😈

For those prices, we:

  • Ate at a 5-star hotel/restaurant in Agra and had delicious 12-hour roasted lamb shanks in a dinner that cost over $150.
  • Had pools at 4 out of 6 of our hotels.
  • Stayed at a 5-star hotel in Cochin with robes and slippers, as well as a breakfast buffet with enough food for a king.
  • Had 5 tour guides explaining beautiful monuments and palaces like the Taj Mahal to the lush peaceful backwaters in Kerala to the quintessential Hindu culture in Varanasi.

I only mention my experiences and prices so you can see specific examples of prices and what YOU can get for reasonable prices.

HOWEVER, if you’re wanting to go super cheap and spend as little as possible on your trip while getting the MOST out of your experiences, then below I spent hours researching the lowest prices on major websites to save you time.


Before we talk about travel expenses like food, lodging, transportation and others you probably are thinking about… let’s calculate how much it will cost you to prepare for your India trip.

You need a visa to go to India and for most travelers, I recommend getting at least basic travel insurance.

Visa – $26-50

You can go online and get a 30-day tourist visa for India without too much trouble. It costs $26* (*visa prices often change).

Type of VisaLengthNumber of EntriesMaximum StayCost in USD
e-Tourist Visa30 DaysDouble Entry30 Days$26
e-Tourist Visa1 YearMultiple Entry180 Days$41
e-Tourist Visa5 YearsMultiple Entry180 Days$82
e-Business Visa1 YearMultiple Entry180 Days$102.50
e-Medical Visa60 DaysTriple Entry60 Days$102.50

Apply for your visa 3-to-4 weeks before your trip. You should hear back whether you are approved within 2-3 days. I heard back and was approved in 1 day.

WARNING: Some friends have had trouble filling out the visa form and others I know just don’t want to deal with an Indian government website, haha. If this is you, then you can use a service like iVisa to handle this process for you. They charge a service fee, but it’s reasonable for how much time and trouble they can save you. Check out how to proceed here (affiliate link).

Travel Insurance – $40-160

When I first traveled to India, I was on a strict budget so I was considering taking the risk without travel insurance. But then I laid awake for a few nights wondering, what might happen?

  • Food poisoning?
  • Tooth ache?
  • Scooter accident?
  • Gored by an angry sacred cow? 😱

I know travel insurance can be a gut punch to research, so I made a video about When to NOT buy travel insurance (& when you should).

SafetyWing (!$40 a month)- It’s the best-priced travel insurance with great coverage. You get emergency medical and evacuation coverage. You also get trip interruption coverage if you need to head home for an emergency. The downside is you do NOT get trip cancellation insurance, so couldn’t get a refund if you had to cancel your trip BEFORE you depart. BUT if you book your hotels with and get a refundable flight, then you might not have many pre-paid expenses anyways. If you want a personalized quote in a few minutes, check the price here (affiliate link).

If you are wondering if you need trip cancellation insurance or not, I made a video about that here to help you make the call:

World Nomads (~$80 a month) – If you’re an adventurous traveler who wants trip cancellation insurance, then this insurance is for you. Unlike most insurance policies, it covers activities like hiking, scuba diving and more. I’ve used World Nomads for over a year and liked it. The cost is better (I paid ~$83 a month for a 6-month plan) than the average basic travel insurance policy (~$100 according to research by ValuePenguin). You can also sign up in a few minutes and renew your policy after you start your trip, which is also rare. If you want a personalized quote in a few minutes, check the price here.


Views of the Taj Mahal from the rooftop of my Agra hotel

Depending on where you travel to in India, the prices can vary significantly. One metric we can track the cost of living in a city is using Numbeo, which compiles average cost of living metrics from residents. The cost of living index uses rent, transportation, food and entertainment to figure out how cheap it is to live here. Here are 7 popular Indian tourist destinations:

CitySingle Person Monthly Costs in Rupees without Rent (USD)Cost of Living IndexWorldwide Rank
Mumbai27031₹ ($353)26.71424
New Delhi27701₹ ($362)26.69425
Jaipur23676₹ ($309)23.36437
Goa24478₹ ($319)25.04431
Kochi21380₹ ($279)22.29447
Chennai23445₹ ($309)23.31438
Kolkata22895₹ ($299)23.24439

These are Indian’s most expensive places and they are still some of the most inexpensive places in the world. Mumbai is the most expensive, but it’s still cheaper than 93.4% of all the other cities that were ranked by Numbeo.

For even better prices you can head to smaller cities like:

Pondicherry in South India

This small city on the beach in South India was once colonized by the French, and still has many French-influences such as the cuisine.

It’s about 4 hours from Chennai by bus or Uber.

You can come for a quiet beachside vacation and get great deals on accommodation with low alcohol prices. I recommend getting a crepe for breakfast at Crepe in Touch.

Kasol, Himachal Pradesh

In North India, Kasol is a place where budget backpackers, hikers and nature enthusiasts come. It is full of hippies, very inexpensive, and is the start of some beautiful treks along the nearby river and mountains.

It’s about 8 to 14 hours from Delhi, depending on traffic and weather.


The 5-star Casino Hotel in Cochin was a treat

You can find good lodging in India for less than $5. If you’re looking for very cheap places, you will find some unclean places that you’d be better off spending a few dollars more for a better place.

Typical amenities at budget places:

  • Shared rooms
  • Shared bathroom
  • Fan only, no A/C
  • No TV, definitely no English channels

I wanted to see what the EXACT prices were in 2020, so I went on and I checked for the lowest prices places in 10 popular tourist destinations.

BUT I did NOT want to look for the super cheap filthy places you can sometimes find, so in my search I had a couple rules:

  • The hostel/hotel must have at least 25 reviews
  • The hostel/hotel must have a score of at least close to 7 (which means it’s GOOD).

I recommend you do a similar search when you’re looking for accommodation. You can find cheaper accommodation with zero reviews or low scores, but if you stil to popular places that are well-liked your trip will be much better… unless you’re into bed bugs 😬

Budget Travel Tip: Before you check-in, ask about the taxes and any extra charges that could be added to your hotel bill. You can ask to have those charges waived by asking nicely and doing some negotiating.

Hostels – Shared Bed In A Dormitory

For the lowest prices, get a bed in a shared dormitory room. Some are men only, others are women only, and some are mixed.

The average cost for the lowest-priced shared accommodation was 253 INR ($3.30 USD) with 136 reviews and a score of 8.3.

CityEstablishmentPrice Per Night in Rupees (USD)Review ScoreReviewsRoom Type
MumbaiSuper Dormitory279 ($3.65)7.941Bed in 10-Bed Mixed Dormitory
New DelhiThe Desire Hostel230 ($3.01)8.6551Bunk Bed in Female Dormitory
AgraHeadquarter Agra249 for women ($3.25). 299 for men ($3.91)8.8126Bed in 4-Bed Female Dormitory Room
JaipurMoonlight Homestay & Hostel187 ($2.44)8.972Bed in 10-Bed Mixed Dormitory Room
GoaFootloose200 ($2.61)8.8114Bed in 6-Bed non-AC Dormitory Room
CochinMyown Dormitory A/C250 ($3.27)7.635Bed in Male Dormitory Room
ManaliBackpackers Headquarter234 ($3.06)9.785Bed in 6-Bed Mixed Dormitory Room
VaranasiLake View Hotel199 ($2.60)6.9141Bed in 6-Bed Dormitory Room
LehOdbar400 ($5.23)8.683Bed in Dormitory Room
BangaloreManana305 ($3.99)8.4112Bed in 6-Bed Mixed Dormitory Room
Note: I’m not recommending these hotels, just showing you what the average lowest cost beds in good hostels would be.

Hotels – Basic Private Rooms

Simple basic guesthouse room

For a few dollars more, you can get a private room (like the $10 room I stayed in the above video). I used the same criteria for searching for hotels but looked for private rooms only.

The average cost for the lowest priced private room was 583 INR ($7.60 USD) with 155 reviews and a score of 7.9.

CityEstablishmentPrice Per Night in Rupees (USD)Review ScoreReviews
MumbaiHotel Astropods Airport999 ($13.06)8.3128
New DelhiHotel Premium700 ($9.15)7.0143
AgraNature Resort264 ($3.45)7.2106
JaipurBlue King340 ($4.44)8.2120
GoaAguiar Guest House600 ($7.84)7.6101
CochinKay Kay Residency475 ($6.21)7.439
ManaliOrchards House – The Hidden Tribe486 ($6.34)9.0347
VaranasiGoldy Guest House399 ($5.22)7.3279
LehOdbar800 ($10.46)8.683
BangaloreCuckoo Hostel774 ($10.12)8.3204
Note: I’m not recommending these hotels, just showing you what the average lowest cost rooms in good hotels would be.

Budget Travel Tip: If you bring or meet a friend and are willing to share a double bed, then you can get better prices on private rooms.


Rickshaws are an inexpensive yet sometimes death-defying ride. Also a quintessential India experience

If you’re looking for a cheap trip, then India has a lot of options for transport. Rickshaws, buses and trains are your best options. Most domestic flights are under $100 one-way as well.


Trains are one of the best ways to see the country and are very reasonable. You’ll also often meet Indian travelers who will want to hear about your travels and share what they are up to.

Here are some of the prices we were quoted:

  • Agra to Khajuraho (8-hours): First Class – $25
  • Agra to Khajuraho (8-hours): Second Class – $17
  • Khajuraho to Varanasi (11 hours): Third Class – $12

But let’s look at one popular tourist route, from Delhi to Varanasi:

Popular RoutesPrice in Rupees (USD)Time (hrs)Class (see below)
Delhi to Varanasi2895 ($38)12EC
Delhi to Varanasi2695 ($35)121A
Delhi to Varanasi1545 ($20)122A
Delhi to Varanasi1420 ($18)12CC
Delhi to Varanasi790 ($10)123A
Delhi to Varanasi400 ($5)12Sleeper
Delhi to Varanasi225 ($3)12General
NOTE: These are estimated prices and your price may vary

Budget Travel Tip: For the best value and the most comfort, I recommend getting Third Class (3A). It feels a little crowded but the price savings is significant (almost half off!) and you can often meet friendly locals.

Indian Train Classes Explained:

  • EC – Executive Class. Similar to business class. Reclining seats and cushioned leg rests. No sleeper seats. Headphones to watch movies or listen to music. Clean toilets and catering.
  • 1A – First Class AC Sleeper. 2 or 4 seats/beds in each compartment. Can take showers. Food prepared in pantry cars.
  • 2A – Second Class 2-tier AC Sleeper. 6 seats/beds in each compartment. Food is the same as 3AC. Better service than 3AC.
  • CC – Chair Class. Similar to coach on flights.
  • 3A – Third Class 3-tier AC Sleeper. 8 seats/beds in a compartment. A common way to travel cheaply. Toilets are less clean, feels a bit crowded. More interaction with locals.
  • Sleeper. 8 seats/beds per compartment. Fan only. More noise. Crowded. Some people standing or sitting on the floor.
  • General. Fans only. Seats are first-come-first-serve basis and they can be overbooked with standing room only.


If you’re anywhere in India you will eventually hear a LOUD screeching horn that will let you know you are near a local bus. While the horns are ear piercing for pedestrians, you can get great prices on the local buses.

My friend traveled 4 hours for $3. However, she also called me crying beforehand because she couldn’t find the station and the rickshaw drivers were telling her it didn’t exist.

If you are persistent though with a bit of time, traveling by buses can be a dirt cheap way to travel.

Budget Travel Tip: Don’t book a bus trip on a true local bus that is longer than 4 hours. Or you may be spending more on a chiropractor afterward.

You will need to be watching your Google Maps because you will need to know when to get off. They are also crowded and you may have to stand.

You can also book luxury sleeper buses and pay a little more, with a guaranteed seat, your own window, your own own sleeper compartment, and AC. You won’t have a bed and it is hard and bumpy, but if you have a sleeping bag you can make it work.

There are more backpackers on sleeper buses so you might feel more comfortable.

You can use the app, RedBus (one of the best travel apps for India) to estimate some prices:

Popular RoutesPrice in Rupees (USD)Time (hrs)Class
Delhi to Varanasi1549 ($20)13.5A/C Sleeper
Delhi to Varanasi850 ($11)14.5A/C Sleeper
Delhi to Agra399-499 ($5-6.50)4A/C Seater
Agra to Jaipur300-1000 ($4-13)5A/C Sleeper
Jaipur to Delhi500-800 ($6.50-10)5.5A/C Sleeper

NOTE: These are quoted prices on the RedBus app and your price may vary


Simple thali meal

You can eat good safe food in India for less than $5 a day. But you want to pick the restaurants very carefully. On a mid-range budget, I spent $10 a day.

In general, the cheaper a restaurant is, then the higher risk you have of getting sick.

Budget Travel Tip: Eat Indian food like thalis and masala dosa. Avoid Western dishes like pizzas or chicken burgers, because they are overpriced and often not nearly as delicious as what you’d find back home.

However, you can find very popular inexpensive street food with long lines and these can be delicious and safe too. I looked through Zomato, a food delivery app for the lowest prices restaurants with a LOT of reviews and a good score.

Cheapest Good Restaurants in 10 Popular Tourist Destinations:

The average price for the lowest-priced restaurant was 225 rupees ($2.94) with a score of 4.02 and 584 reviews.

CityRestaurantCost for two people (USD)ScoreNumber of Reviews
MumbaiAshok Vada Pav Stall100 ($1.31)4.31118
DelhiJung Bahadur Kachori100 ($1.31)4.1905
AgraChimmanlal Puri Wale150 ($1.96)4409
JaipurKota Kachori150 ($1.96)41367
GoaChi:Noa Kitchen250 ($3.26)3.9121
CochinMash Resto Cafe200 ($2.61)3.9530
ManaliDrifters’ Cafe500 ($6.53)3.8153
VaranasiKashi Chat Bhandar150 ($1.96)4.9873
LehSorriso Pizza500 ($6.53)3.360
Central BangaloreSiddappa Hotel150 ($1.96)4309

NOTE: These are estimated prices on Zomato’s app and your price may vary

I ate at a local restaurant in South India every day for months. The local dinner is masala dosa, a potato and vegetable curry in a savory thin pancake. Add in a parotta (a chewy flatbread), three eggs, and a sweet chai and my cost was 170 rupees ($2.22).

  • Masala Dosa: 60 rupees
  • Parotta: 30 rupees
  • 3 eggs: 60 rupees
  • Chai: 20 rupees

Budget Travel Tip: If you pick a popular budget hostel/hotel, then there will often be a safe inexpensive restaurant close by.

The Number Of Cheap Restaurants in 10 Popular Tourist Destinations:

There are a LOT of inexpensive restaurant options. Mumbai has 2963 restaurants with an estimated cost of less than 250 rupees for two people. Here are the number of restaurants with estimated costs, according to Zomato

CityLess than ₹250₹250 to ₹500₹500 to ₹1,000
Central Bangalore163298231
CityLess than ₹350₹350 to ₹750₹750 to ₹1,500

NOTE: These are number of restaurants on Zomato’s app which may vary


Admission to Khajuraho’s Erotic Temples costs 300 rupees

India has a lot to do and much of it is free. People-watching at chai shops, browsing street markets, and chanting at ashrams. However, there is also a lot of tourist destinations to see which have admission fees.

Admission Fees

According to a study commissioned by Ministry of Tourism, over 70% of tourists visit India to see historical sites like monuments, forts, palaces, museums.

The average cost of these popular tourist destinations is 506 rupees ($6.61).

Taj Mahal, Agra130050
Agra Fort, Agra55040
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra55040
Itimad-Ud-Daula’s Tomb, Agra (Baby Taj)21020
Red Fort, Delhi50035
Humayan’s Tomb, Delhi50030
India Gate, Delhi00
Amber Fort, Jaipur500100
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur20050
Elephanta Caves, Mumbai25010
Gateway of India00
NOTE: Prices by

Alcohol & Nightlife

If you’d like to party, India has some nightlife options, especially in places with a lot of young people like Goa, Bangalore and Mumbai.

If you want to sip a tasty beverage and hake the night away with. Numbeo estimates alcohol costs in restaurants per city.

The average price for alcohol in India in restaurants is:

  • Domestic beer: 127 rupees ($1.66)
  • Imported beer: 248 rupees ($3.48)
  • Bottle of wine: 660 rupees ($8.63)
Domestic BeerImported BeerBottle of Wine
NOTE: Prices are estimates on a cost of living website.

Tours, Yoga, Trekking

India has the best prices on yoga training in the world. My friend would pay less than $1000 for a two-week training with food and lodging included. Yet similar yoga trainings in Bali would be $3000 WITHOUT food or lodging.

On the other hand, you also could spend a LOT on specific tours such as a houseboat tour in Kerala. For instance, you could pay 17,000 rupees ($221) for a couple for one night.

If you want to save money, you can skip the premium houseboat tour and take a ferry through the backwaters between Alleppy and Kollam, an 8-hour trip for 300 rupees ($3.91).

Taking a trekking tour can also be expensive. For instance, a trek in the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand costs between 6,000 – 10,000 rupees for a 2 to 3 day trip.


“India is a shopper’s paradise,” my aunt asserts. You can find great deals and the salesmen won’t be shy about pitching you to “see their shop.”

If you are on a budget avoid expensive items like cashmere. Classic pashmina shawls can cost between 10,000 and 50,000 rupees. It’s so fine it is weaved and spun by hand. You can NOT find cheap cashmere and if you do it’s because it’s fake.

Also, avoid saffron which can cost between 79-520 rupees per gram.

Good budget-friendly souvenirs are:

  • Spices: Tamarind, Cumin, Cardamom, Curry, Clove
  • Indian pickles: Unique to India you can find different pickles in each state from cucumbers to chicken.
  • Tea: Masala, Darjeeling

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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