The kitchen allowed us to cut down on food costs, eat healthier and save a lot of time during meal breaks
In a summary, here are the two sides to this trip -
PROS - You breathe fresh air away from cities, keep your mind sane in these tough times, explore a new culture like you never can on a defined holiday, Not worry about grocery, cooking, managing a house like you would back home , get more productive at work as you have something to look forward to before or after work, make the most of WFH times! The biggest pro is you explore a new beautiful lane everyday and move beyond the touristy tick marks at your own pace as you are not covering an itinerary anymore. This was the most liberating feeling for me!
CONS - Could be expensive depending on the stays you choose, may miss home food faster than I did, in case of emergency not very easy to get back home, the nearest airport is 10 hours away. Bhuntar is technically an airport with one flight a day and three times the cost, be ready to be mobile and live out of the suitcase.
EXPENSES ON STAY/HOW TO CHOOSE A STAY?
Stays in Himachal can suit any budget. There are multiple factors to consider for choosing a long term stay. Monthly stay cost can range from Rs. 25K to Rs. 90 K a month. Here are some of the key factors based on which these prices depend -
1. Location - Old Manali is cramped and harder to get an open space kind of homestay, there are more of hotels and yet pricey. In manali , we stayed in Dhungri near Hadimba but essentially location means less secluded, closer to cafes and the happening part of the town - be it Manali or Naggar. I strongly recommend looking for slightly outside areas like Bhatahar, Aleo, Burwa as they still have great views, less tourists, driveable to manali and yet cheaper. You can always do a bit of both these types of stays too.
2. Size of the room or common private space - In our Dhungri village stay ( not recommending at all, hence not naming here) , we had the best room in the stay but the ground floor rooms which were smaller and had no private balcony were priced at half of what we paid. They still had the common living area and a common balcony access. Small compromise but a great cost saving!
3. Views - Direct views from room/stay is an add on as you feel like you are in the Himalayas and not in a flat in Mumbai facing other buildings :)
4. Aesthetics - Living in a concrete house vs a wooden flooring and ceiling pahaadi house does have a big cost difference too. This is a personal choice, we didn't want to live in anything like our flat but some may feel that they still have access to everything pretty outside, so why not save some penny here. Sure!
5.Amenities - This would mean access to laundry ( one gave us free access to the common washing machine, one took our clothes to a laundromat and charged, one offered nothing!) , open garden spaces where you can work from, room service for cleaning and food, in-house chef. Main manali food is a tad pricey but Naggar was very affordable and well priced
Depending on the compromises or inclusion of the above parameters, you can get a good stay anywhere from Rs.20k to 90k a month. The highest end of spectrum will check all the tick boxes and I am not looking at super grand 5 star like hotels as that's not the intent here. If you can give upfront commitment for longer stay, you can steal a discount of 25% too.
For a ballpark figure, our first ( Naggar ) and third stay( Bhatahar) were around 3k a night, while the one in Manali - Dhungri Village was for Rs. 1800 a night. For food , we paid around Rs.500 a day per person but this includes coffee, three meals, deserts, just about anything we wanted to eat , when we got our own kitchen, this substantially came down.