As a student we always dream of travelling. But once we start calculating the expenses, we pack this dream and bury it till when we will start to earn. Who knows if we will ever get time when money keeps rolling to us. Pack your backpacks and let the dreams flow out. Be a bit strict to yourself on how you spend and yet be free to enjoy your life. These are some tips from my personal experience of having touched down at 14 Indian states and 2 Union Territories. Happy travelling.
Choose your location wisely. This is the first and the most important step in starting to stop draining of money. The location you choose will decide how much you will spend on the trip. Ditch that exotic location. You can always travel that when you have a thick wallet. Choose something that's near to your current location. India has a varied choice to offer. There may be more places nearby to explore than you ever thought. If you are not based in the metros of India; paying a visit to them is not a bad option. They have certain benefits to offer to a travelling student as I will discuss soon. In case you are based in a city and want to escape the city life, some gate-away is definitely waiting for you.
Stay. If you are comfortable in spending your night with just a mattress and a pillow then this tip is for you. YHAI offers probably the cheapest lodging option with an average price of ₹100/-. Their youth hostels are located at all major locations in India and offer a clean and hygienic dorm facility. But you have to follow certain discipline while staying there. I have personally stayed at YHAI Bangalore and Mysore and the experience was pretty good. I tried looking for accommodation at their hostel during my last visit to Pudducherry but I was late. So it is advisable to book in advance if you are planning to stay there. The alternate I accommodation I found in Pudducherry is another option to stay while traveling. The ashrams and their guest houses. This is mostly applicable to the spiritual locations across India. Same as YHAI you may have to abide by certain rules while staying there. Staying in a dorm can connect you with other members who may be able to guide you on your travel plan. This tip remain unchanged if you are planning to stay with a local. Couchsurfing looks another upcoming option while traveling in India. They connect you with hosts who are willing to allow you to stay at their place for free. I am yet to try this. For hotels: search on hotel aggregator sites but book directly on call. The process as I have heard increases the cost. Looking for hotels on reaching the destination may also be a good option as most small hotels are not online. As an Indian you may have a well established relative network. Dear friends use this now. Last tip on finding accommodation - make friends. They may help you find cheaper deals or let you stay at their place (my stay on trip to Mumbai, July 2016) or may even sneak you into their hostels and share their bed (offered on trip to Hyderabad, January 2016).
Travel. As I told you earlier where you want to go will decide how much you spend. Choosing a location that's on the Indian Railway network can cut down a lot of expenses but only if you promise to travel in non-AC coaches. For places not in the IR map, check if they have frequent road connectivity from your place. The intercity bus network in Assam and Tamil Nadu is good (to be noted: from my experience).
Getting around. A location that provides ample options for public transportation is according to me the best destinations. Indian cities and most towns has excellent public transport system to avail. Cities like Kolkata and Mumbai with its well layed out suburban train network can take you to any corner of the city at the cheapest price. Additionally they are backed up by buses and share autos to keep your travel cheap. The underground rail system in Delhi and Kolkata are the best option to criss-cross the city fast. For smaller towns they mostly have buses or autos to get you around. For still smaller places use your legs. Walking around the French town of Pudducherry or getting mingled with the crowd in Kolkata or Mumbai will be definitely the best experience. With smart phones in every one's pocket it's no more hard to look for distances between places and find how to travel. Over 3 years I have used Google maps to find my route in Kolkata and I must say they are about 90% accurate in producing details even regarding bus route numbers. If you don't have a smartphone like me the pan-wala and co. is always there to help you.
Food. Again ditch that exotic restaurant and go desi on the streets. I feel they have a unique yet varied taste to offer. They let you taste the local cuisine as well as some imported stuff with remixed taste.
Travel accomplice. Go solo or with a team? Both has advantages and disadvantages. Going solo can make you flexible but at few places your group can bring down accommodation expenses. At certain destinations booking a hotel room may be cheaper when you are in a group as you are going to share your prices. The same principle applies when you are in a good restaurant or even hiring a vehicle for getting around. The best thing about going solo you can decide where and how you want to go, where will you stay, what you eat etc. You are your own boss and don't have to wait for consensus for you group. Yet I must confess that my college trip to Himachal Pradesh with the entire batch of 70 will be the most memorable one.
Research well. Study about the place you are going. Read travel articles. Browse websites related to your destination. You may be able to skip hiring a guide. Apart from travel websites and Wikipedia try checking Archaeological Survey of India's website for details regarding sites maintained by them. State and district government websites also have pretty good share of information. If your destination has a major university their website may host some details regarding the place. I agree they have fantastic story to tell but let's keep it for the next time. Don't hesitate to look for advice from Facebook groups or friends who have already traveled to the place.
Funding. As I learned from a travel blogger , travelling is all about priority. The amount I spend to travel, someone may be spending the same or even more on buying expensive branded accessories/wears or on food in a popular restaurant. As a student getting a paid internship can take you places (Bhavnagar & Mumbai, 2016). But please do respect your commitment towards the internship and of course explore the place.
This is not an exclusive list of tips to travel cheap. Find your own way to cut down cost.
With more trips to come; more tips will be added.
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank each and everyone who had been a part of this journey and those who will be; family for their support, friends for encouragement and the strangers for showing the way.
The list of tips was first published on my blog D Fickle Mind.