Thursday, 29 March 2012

Travel Cost in India

On the financial front, India pleases all pockets. Accommodation ranges from simple backpacker lodgings to sumptuous top-end hotels, with some appealing midrange possibilities that won’t bust the bank. A delicious array of eateries at all prices means you can fill your belly without emptying your moneybelt, and it’s possible to zip around economically, as well thanks to the country’s comprehensive public transport network.

As costs vary considerably nationwide, the best way of ascertaining how much money you’ll require for your trip is to peruse the relevant regional chapters of this book. Be prepared to pay more in the larger cities such as Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi, as well as at popular tourist destinations during peak season. In relation to sightseeing, foreigners are often charged more than Indian citizens for entry into tourist sites (admission prices for foreigners are sometimes given in US dollars, payable in the rupee equivalent), and there may also be additional charges for still/video cameras. When it comes to bedding down, hotel tariffs are usually higher in big cities (especially Mumbai) and tourist hot spots and may also be influenced by factors such as location, season and festivals. Given the vast differences nationwide, it’s misleading for us to pinpoint a countrywide average accommodation price. If you’ve got cash to splash, some of India’s top-end hotels are among the world’s finest, but be prepared to fork out at least US$200 per night at the better properties before even getting a whiff of room service. Surf the Web for possible internet discounts. So how does this all translate to a daily budget? Given the vast accommodation price differences across India, it’s impossible to arrive at one neat figure. However, as an example, in Rajasthan you can expect to pay roughly between US$20 and US$25 per day if you stay in the cheapest hotels, travel on public buses, do limited sightseeing and eat basic meals. If you wish to stay at salubrious midrange hotels, dine at nicer restaurants, do a reasonable amount of sightseeing and largely travel by autorickshaw and taxi, you’re looking at anywhere between US$40 and US$65 per day. Eating out in India is sizzling-hot value, with budget restaurant meals for as little as Rs40 (even less at the more basic street eateries), and usually from around double that for a satiating midrange restaurant feed. At the more suave urban restaurants, main dishes generally hover between Rs150 and Rs350 to which you’ll need to add the cost of side dishes, such as rice, and (usually) a tax of 10% to 12.5%. Regarding long-distance travel, there’s a range of classes on trains and several bus types, resulting in considerable flexibility vis-à-vis comfort and price. Domestic air travel has become a lot more price competitive over recent years thanks to deregulation and good internet deals. Within towns there’s inexpensive public transport, or perhaps you’d like to hire a car with driver, which is surprisingly good value if there are several of you to split the cost.

How to book trains in India

Travelling on an Indian train is a reason to travel all by itself. India’s rail network is one of the world’s most extensive and the prices are very reasonable. Bookings open 90 days before departure and seats fill up quickly – an estimated 17 to 20 million people travel by train in India every day. So if you have a route mapped out and dates locked in, you can book your train tickets before you even arrive in the country. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it.

Booking tickets

Booking online is the easiest way to buy train tickets. The railway reservation system is open from 1.30am to 11.30pm every day (IST) so keep this in mind when trying to book online, particularly if you are abroad. The following websites all issue e-tickets, which are valid for train travel. You may have to show your passport as ID along with the printout of your booking reference when you are on the train. The following websites all accept international credit cards.

Reserving a seat

You must make a reservation for all chaircar, sleeper, and 1AC, 2AC and 3AC carriages (check out the glossary below for more details). No reservations are required for general (2nd-class) compartments. Bookings are strongly recommended for all overnight journeys and if you plan on travelling during Indian holidays or festivals.

Some pointers about trains and classes

  • Trains and seats come in a variety of classes and not all classes are available on every train.
  • Express and mail trains usually have general (2nd class) compartments with unreserved seating and more comfortable compartments that you can reserve.
  • Shatabdi express trains are same-day services with seating only, in AC Chair and Executive Chair cars.
  • Rajdhani express trains are long-distance overnight services between Delhi and state capitals with a choice of 1AC, 2AC, 3AC and 2nd class.
  • New to the rails are eight women-only trains, which service New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennei and Kolkata
  • Some cities also have suburban train networks, but these are very crowded during peak hours.
  • In the higher sleeper categories bedding is provided but it doesn’t hurt to bring your own.
  • In all classes, a padlock and a length of chain are useful for securing your luggage to the baggage racks.

When to use a rail pass

The IndRail Pass permits unlimited rail travel for the period of its validity, but it offers limited savings and you must still make reservations. Passes are available for one to 90 days of travel. The easiest way to book these is through the IndRail pass agency in your home country. They can also book any necessary train reservations for you. Overseas travel agencies and station ticket offices in major Indian cities also sell the pass – click here  for further details, including prices. Note: there’s no refund for either lost or partially used tickets.

India on a budget

When setting foot in one of the world's most famous backpacking destinations, with your thoughts full of adventure, Northern India and camping in the national parks, it's hard to give more than a brief thought to your budget, It might seem easy to travel India on a budget, say, of £20 a day. But thousands of backpackers realize each year that, whilst it is possible to experience all your dreams of traveling in India for this much money, it does take a bit of organization. Although it may sound a bit dull, the best to way to stick to a budget is to be aware of it all the way through your trip. You're bound to meet backpackers around India that have no idea how much is left in their pocket; travelers who plan to go away for 12 months but are forced to return in less than six... firstly, it's a good idea to get your money organized into a bank account with online facilities before you go. This way, you can keep an eye on spending along the way. Also, pay for comprehensive travel insurance in advance so you don't have to fork out for any unforeseen expenses that will eat into that budget. Similarly, don't be tempted to buy any clothes specifically for traveling before you go; clothes and shoes are, as a rule, much cheaper in India than back home.