Updated: July 24, 2018 / Kamlesh Nayal
Winters are just around the corner in the country and everyone is gearing up making plans for their dream winter vacations this holiday season. Whether you are seeking a soul-soothing holiday somewhere snuggled in the lap of Himalayas, a historic & cultural exploration or a romantic beach vacation, the choices for winter escapades in India are unlimited owing to diverse and varied topography that this great nation has been blessed with. While there are numerous options to choose from, it sometimes becomes a little tricky for economy travellers to pick an ideal location that well fits within their budgets. If you are also amongst those, here is an extensive travel guide listing few budget-friendly holiday destinations in India along with some useful money saving tips.
The abode of glistening backwaters, land of magnificent temples and home to captivating tea gardens & spice plantations – Kerala is one destination in India that every avid traveller dreams to explore once in his lifetime. And the chilling winters in northern parts of the country, all the more provide for an apt reason to head to this ‘God’s own country’ to witness its enchanting scenic beauty and serene & tranquil settings; needless to say, a rather warm and cosy ambience is off-course an added bonus for the tourists. Being one of the hot spot tourist destinations in India, undoubtedly, a trip to Kerala is generally a costly affair but, for those who plan to travel here on a shoestring budget, here are a few tips that can definitely help them experience a pleasant holiday without burning a hole in their pockets.
- The first and foremost tip is to go for an early scheduling if you are planning for a vacation in Kerala as it will help you get better deals; be it on air tickets or hotel stays.
- Kerala is famous for its backwaters and all the tourists travelling to this southern state of India, well make it a point to feel and admire the enchanting beauty of these languorous networks of water channels sailing on the traditional houseboats. While the idea of houseboat rentals may sound quite interesting and alluring, if you are travelling on a tight budget, make sure to rent these houseboats as a group because doing so would prove to be much more economical. Also, you can surely save on few extra bucks by avoiding the night stays on the houseboat and rather only opting for the day cruises along the backwaters.
- As Kerala continues to attract tourists, hotel accommodations are increasingly getting expensive for the budget travellers. To save on hotel expenses, it is much recommended to go for homestays and paying guest accommodations. Additionally, these options would help you provide a lifetime opportunity to get a deep insight into local cultures and traditions.
- If you want to save some extra bucks in your pockets, do remember haggling is the mantra here. Be it shopping or getting an Ayurvedic massage, be sure to make optimum use of your bargaining skills.
Sun-kissed beaches, thrilling water sports, vibrant nightlife scene and a delectable seafood – Goa is truly one of the most famous holiday destinations in India attracting innumerable tourists every year. Needless to say, winters is the peak touristy season in the town with hordes of international travellers flocking in and making their way to the balmy beaches and revelling themselves in the festive aura of the city. With the outbreak of countless tourists during the peak season, it is obvious to notice a hike in prices – be it accommodation, local transportation, shopping, or sight-seeing. For those planning a winter family vacation in Goa, the underlying budget tips are sure to help them enjoy their holidays to the fullest, that too without emptying their pockets.
- Hiring private cabs and taxis to explore the Goan countryside can prove to be a much costlier affair. So, the best and most budget-friendly way to explore this colonial town is by far renting your own scooter or a bike. And needless to say, the roads are good and safe for both Indian and international drivers.
- There is no dearth of accommodation choices in Goa for budget travellers. From cheap hotels and beach huts to budget-friendly guesthouses and backpacker hostels, you can choose for a suitable option that is well-fitted in your pockets. Also, if you book these well in advance, it can work out even better in terms of prices. House rentals is also getting common these days in Goa and is best suitable for tourists wanting to stay in this laid-back beach town for months.
- Goa is a foodie’s paradise and needless to say, there are ample choices of good beach shacks and restaurants for travellers here on a shoestring budget. And surprisingly, even at a small shack, you can relish an amazing multi-cuisine menu at quite an affordable price. What more? Most of these shacks and restaurants are known for their friendly and electric vibes with regular night parties and live music, providing you that signature hippie Goan feel.
- For shopaholics, the best bet is to take home many bargains from the famous local flea markets. From souvenirs and knick-knacks to chic clothing and electronics, you will get anything and everything here at cheapest of the prices. Some nice haggling skills can even save you those extra pennies.
Pristine beaches, a heritage French architecture, narrow cobble-stoned streets, bougainvillea decorated townhouses and a tranquil ambience – a trip to Pondicherry takes you back in times of the gothic era when French ruled the nation. This little slice of France in India, located along the beautiful coastline of Bay of Bengal is often referred to as the ‘French Riviera of the East’ and attracts both domestic and international tourists in large numbers. Winter months starting October through February are considered ideal to spend few days in Pondicherry owing to its pleasant weather, perfect for sightseeing and indulging in water sports activities. For those planning to enjoy winter vacations in this French capital of our country, here are some helpful travel tips that are sure to keep you glued to your budget restrictions.
- Go for an economical holiday by opting for cheap guesthouses and homestays that are ample in this colonial town. For a much fulfilling and spiritual experience, stay at the Auroville Ashram at an unmatched reasonable accommodation expense.
- Get on to the city tour by renting out bicycles to pedal around and explore the rich culture and heritage of Pondicherry. For a “zero expense” experience, walk on your foot and wander around spacious boulevards to admire the colonial architecture.
- For ardent food junkies who wish to enjoy gastronomic pleasures on low budget must lookout for plenty of eating joints that serve tasty and inexpensive food. From western to Indian palates, you can relish a hearty breakfast in Pondicherry well under 100 bucks.
- Pondicherry is truly a heaven for shopaholics as this union territory is duty free and local products such as aromatic candles, essential oils, antique wooden carvings, hand painted silk scarves and leather goods can be purchased at subsidized rates. For much cheaper deals, head to the famous Pondi Sunday Market that is always filled with eager buyers.
Massive forts, opulent palaces, magnificent temples, the world-famous camel safaris & sand dunes and above all, a colourful and vibrant culture – Rajasthan has attracted uncountable tourists and travel enthusiasts from far and wide throughout its history. This North-Western state of India makes for a perfect winter getaway owing to its balmy temperatures in day time even during chilling months of December and January. While this princely state is famed for its unmatched grandeur and opulence that it offers to its guests, few money-saving tips during your holidays here are sure to bring a smile on your faces.
- Rajasthan is all about magnificence and splendour and your stay in this royal state is considered incomplete if you haven’t tasted the feel of royalty and traditional culture during your holidays here. Having said so, it does not mean you need to book an expensive heritage hotel for yourselves; many ancient havelis in Rajasthan today have been converted into boutique hotels and homestays that offer lovely and traditional accommodations at affordable prices. Search one for yourself and enjoy a rustic stay and a traditional Rajasthani hospitality.
- The princely state of Rajasthan is full of forts and palaces, the tour of which is rather pointless without a knowledgeable tour guide. While hiring a guide individually at every attraction may cost you a good amount, hiring one in a group can save you considerable money. Also, make sure the guide abides by the guide rates mentioned at the ticketing counters of all these attractions.
- Shopping is great fun in Rajasthan; from colourful bangles and jewellery to hand-crafted wooden sculptures, metal artefacts and hand-printed sarees, bedspreads and quilts – you are sure to get awed with the variety available. While purchasing all these, make sure to bargain at your best; chances are you might end up getting the items at even 30-40% less of the originally quoted price.
- While finalizing on a desert safari trip, make sure to negotiate well and be clear on what all will be included in the trip. Meals, folk dance performances and fire & acrobatics shows are usually included in standard safaris; don’t let yourselves be fooled by paying extra money for these inclusions. Also, to save extra, plan for a desert safari to relatively less crowded dunes such as Khurri; it won’t be inappropriate to say that Sam Sand Dunes are much overrated and therefore, much expensive.
- Festivals and fairs are the lifeline of Rajasthan and off-course a major draw for tourists. If you plan to be in Rajasthan around the time of these festivities, make sure to book your accommodation well ahead of time so as to avoid paying hefty amounts at the last minute. A huge influx of tourists during these fairs means a hell lot of money-making opportunities for the locals. Don’t be surprised if gypsies, acrobat artists and camel traders ask you for generous amounts for taking their pictures; be prepared to firmly say ‘No’ and walk ahead to save your pockets. Also, don’t fall in traps of priests and Brahmins approaching to give you their blessings and in return pestering you for huge donations.
Majestic snow-clad mountains, thick woods of pines & deodars, gushing sound of the meandering Beas River and a soul-soothing environ – Manali is yet another magical winter holiday destination in India. Known for its breath-taking scenic beauty that gets beyond description during winters, it’s truly a paradise worth spending few blissful days steeped in deep solace and tranquillity. If you are also planning for winter vacations in this picturesque hill town, here are some money saving tips that are sure to make your holidays a far better experience.
- A money savvy holiday needs to begin right from the time you get on with your journey. So, instead of hiring private taxi or a cab, board one of the Himachal Pradesh state run buses that ply regularly from different parts of Northern India. Needless to say, these buses are quite comfortable and will get you to Manali without causing a big burden on your pockets.
- Winters is the time when this beautiful town is packed with tourists, especially around Christmas and New Year. And needless to say, this is also the time when tourists experience annoying hikes in tariffs. So, to avoid those skyrocketing accommodation prices, book your hotels well in advance.
- Manali is a small yet captivating hill town with tall deodars and pines all around. The most ideal way to explore the surreal beauty of this quaint hill resort is on foot and needless to say, it will definitely save you few bucks which you would have otherwise spent on hiring local transportation.
- Mall Road in Manali is a heaven for foodies and if you are looking for some reasonable options to satiate your hunger pangs, there is no shortage of cheap eateries and restaurants serving delicious snacks and meals. The Tibetan shacks serving lip-smacking momos and soups around old Manali are also some great choices for budget travellers.
- A day trip to Rohtang Pass is always on the minds of tourists travelling to Manali. Be informed that you are charged extra for waiting time if your taxi is stuck in jam on the way to Rohtang. So, study the weather and avoid the trip if there are chances of snow on that particular day because probably roads would be blocked and you might have to encounter heavy traffic jams.
- Plan your trip to Solang Valley in the early morning hours as that’s the best time to enjoy adventure sports at much cheaper rates. As the day progresses and tourists start pouring in, the rates get substantially higher. Also, get the most out of your trip here by negotiating the prices up to half for every adventure activity you are interested in.
Dharamshala – McLeodganj
Towering snow-covered peaks, a rejuvenating ambience, all-embracing scenic beauty and solemn sounds of Buddhist chants and ringing bells reverberating in the air – Dharamshala and McLeodganj are two quaint little hamlets nestled on the foothills of Dhauladhar mountain ranges, luring thousands of travellers from all across the globe. The winter months in these twin towns bring in swarms of holiday seekers who long to witness the surreal beauty of this place engulfed in carpets of snow and mist. Despite being one of the top winter holiday destinations in India, Dharamshala – McLeodganj are also counted amongst the cheapest tourist destinations and if you are really on a very tight budget, few of the below listed money saving tips are sure to further help you enjoy your holidays in these Buddhist towns to the best.
- For the best budget-friendly experience, hop on to the train that plies from New Delhi railway station to Pathankot and further, carry on with your journey to Dharamshala by boarding a state run bus that will drop you at your destination in just about 2 hours.
- For sightseeing and travelling back & forth between Dharamshala and McLeodganj, save on some money by taking the internal bus service – a much cheaper option as compared to hiring a taxi for moving around the twin towns.
- For money savvy travellers, Dharamshala – McLeodganj offers ample budget accommodations ranging from B&B hotels and homestays to private cottages with attached kitchenettes – just in case the guests want to prepare their own food. But before finalizing one, make sure your accommodation is located near the area of your interest so that you can further save on the transportation costs.
- This tiny Buddhist town is truly a paradise for food lovers and the best part is, you need not shell out big bucks to relish a tasty and hearty meal; there are numerous cafes and eating joints around serving mouth-watering Tibetan, European, Israeli and Italian cuisines, that too on much affordable prices.
Corbett National Park
The home of royal Bengal tigers, Corbett National Park snuggled in the foothills of Himalayas in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand is an ideal holiday destination for those seeking some jungle adventure this winter season. And needless to say, misty mornings, a slight nip in the air, sight of colourful birds and a greater possibility of spotting the majestic cats in winter months make the experience a whole lot better. What further adds to the rustic charm of a trip here is the park’s serene ambience, picturesque landscape and breath-taking natural beauty that apart from thrill seekers and wildlife enthusiasts, attracts nature lovers and holidaymakers too who throng here in great numbers in search of tranquillity and solace. If you are also amongst those who are planning a holiday trip to Corbett the upcoming winter season, few of the below tips might definitely help you save few extra pennies.
- A trip to Corbett National Park is incomplete without venturing on a jungle safari experience but, if you do not wish to shell out big bucks, opt for a canter safari which is much cheaper than the usual jeep safaris.
- Area around the Corbett Park is replete with many budget hotels and lodges. Besides offering cheap accommodation, these lodges are equipped with all basic amenities and guarantee a rejuvenating experience to the guests. To cut down even more on your accommodation expenses, try to book the Dhikala Forest Lodge that is run by the state forest department and offers a rustic yet comfortable stay amidst jungle noises and pristine surroundings.
Lofty mountains, quaint villages, pristine scenery, holy lakes and vibrant Buddhist Monasteries – Sikkim, a tiny hill state tucked in North Eastern part of India needs no introduction. The bucolic natural beauty and spiritual vibes filled in its air magnetizes thousands of holiday seekers who come here to soak themselves in the aura of ample peace and solitude. The myriad adventure activities too adds to the touristy charm of this tranquil hill town, calling innumerable trekkers, mountaineers and rafters from different parts of the world. Though the place is undoubtedly, one of the greatest spots for vacations in India all throughout the year, winters here are special and bring in an unparalleled magical charm that is just beyond words. And if you thought Sikkim was one of those destinations you’ll need to save big for, think again! Listed below are few tips that will help you plan your dream holiday without a strain on your pockets.
- Entry point to Sikkim is through New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri in West Bengal. From these points, don’t go for a private taxi or cab; instead hire a shared taxi or jeep up till Gangtok to keep your budget under check. Also, for local sightseeing, opt for shared transport options that will prove to be much cheaper.
- Plan your travel during off-season i.e. ideally in winter months. This is the time when you would be able to get hold of affordable deals for hotels and transportation. Needless to say, pick your hotel carefully which means it must be near to all the major tourist attractions so that you can further cut down on your commuting costs.
- Owing to the close proximity to Chinese border, many tourist attractions in Sikkim such as Tsomgo Lake and Nathu La Pass lie under restricted zones, visiting which require special permits from the state forest department and Army authorities. It is always advisable to apply permits well in advance and only from the concerned authorities; don’t fall in traps of local guides who would try to rip you off money asking to get the permits at cheaper rates.
- Sikkim is known for its beautiful wooden handicrafts & furniture, woollens, carpets and Buddhist murals and thangkas. While shopping in this beautiful north-eastern state, do not forget to put your bargaining skills under stringent test.
- Being a budget traveller doesn’t mean you have to skip meals. Sikkim is a place where you will find hundreds of cafes, roadside restaurants and eating joints serving delicious food at unmatched cheaper prices. The typical Tibetan momos, thupkas and Yak butter tea at a decent eatery will cost no more than 80 – 100 bucks.
Sprawling tea gardens, rolling hills covered in the veil of mist, splendid views of the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga and a salubrious weather – Darjeeling is undoubtedly referred to as the queen of the hills in the East and is truly a paradise for nature lovers, honeymooners and adventure enthusiasts alike. Best part of holidaying in Darjeeling is, you need not worry about going over budget owing to its plethora of options offering a memorable yet affordable stay.
- If you are backpacking or travelling on a tight budget, Darjeeling offers a number of budget hotels, holiday homes and hostels. Pick a one that suits you the best.
- To keep your budget under check, whenever possible, opt for shared transportation to look around the town and explore the markets. Shared jeep tours are quite common in the region and are best suited if you intend to visit the major tourist attractions in the city.
- For shopaholics, best buys can be grabbed from Chowk Bazaar which is renowned for its cheap souvenirs and knick-knacks.
Rann of Kutch
Renowned as one of the largest salt deserts in the world, the great Rann of Kutch located in the state of Gujarat is yet another favourite winter haunts and undoubtedly, a unique travel destination in India that is swarmed by hordes of nationals and foreigners every year. Months between November and February are a time of great festivities here owing to the world-famous Rann Utsav which is organized by the Gujarat Tourism Board to promote rural tourism in the region. While a visit here can be a little heavy on pockets, certain tips can definitely guide you on saving few pennies.
- Major attraction of every tourist visiting Rann of Kutch is those traditional mud houses called Bhungas. Staying in these beautifully decorated huts and enjoying the traditional Kutchi hospitality is what all the tourists look forward to while coming here. While Dhordo is the nearest village to the salt desert and is replete with these Bhungas offering comfortable stay to visitors, the cost per night is quite expensive. If you are travelling on a low budget to this region, try staying at Devpur/Bhuj where you will find similar accommodation at much cheaper rates. One can easily spend an eventful day in the white desert and then head back to Bhuj in the evenings.
- As far as transportation is concerned, private vehicles can be easily hired from Bhuj to the desert region but if you want to save some transportation costs too, go for state run buses that regularly ply from Bhuj to Rann during winter months.
- If you intend to do some shopping, it is recommended not to do at the main fair grounds as the prices would be much higher even after bargaining. Go around the nearby villages where you will be able to grab much better deals.
- Last, but not the least, bargain well while finalizing a camel safari or hot air balloon ride.
In a land like India, there is no dearth of cheap and reasonable holiday destinations; the above listed locations are counted amongst the top few. If you are a backpacker or a budget traveller, hopefully this list will help you plan out a memorable vacation, that too within your budget constraints.