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India on a Shoestring? Ask The Expats

If you’ve read one travel guide about India, you’ve probably read them all. However, sometimes it’s best to turn to people who actually live in a location and know it inside out. Our Expat Info Desk writers are true experts on what India has to offer and so we sought their opinion on some of the best ways to explore India without breaking the bank, whether you’re visiting or moving there on a permanent basis.

Here’s some of their (lesser-known) money saving tips for making the most of a limited budget.

Things to scrimp on:

  • Don’t accept ripped or damaged bank notes – many places will refuse to accept them, even banks. You should always hand the Rupees back if they show the slightest sign of ripping or damage; otherwise you may end up with wads of worthless notes.
  • Travel by train. Overnight. The trains in India are relatively efficient and if you travel on them overnight you can save a night’s hotel accommodation. Ask the staff at your hotel what the train fares should be before you buy a ticket, that way you can make sure you pay the right price.
  • Ask the expats. If you’re planning a visit to somewhere in India consult the expat forums for insider tips; these guys will know much more than your average travel guide and will be able to offer snippets of information about getting the best deals and avoiding being scammed. Consult our guides to living in India for true expert tips.
  • Avoid hotels all together. Try www.couchsurfing.com, an online network that allows you to connect with people who have a couch going spare. There are currently 11,000 registered couches in India and many of them belong to expatriates. There’s a ton of safety mechanisms in place to keep you safe while you enjoy a good night’s sleep, so it really is worthwhile checking out the website.

Things you really should shell out for:

  • Bottled water. Once you’re out of the major cities, make sure that you only purchase water that has both a hard top and a cellophane wrapper. Try to stick with reputable brands and read the label carefully; you can usually tell if something is a copy of a well known brand by the standard of the written English used for the product description.
  • A good hotel. If couch surfing isn’t for you, reserve rooms in advance… at more than one hotel. I tell my expat friends to make more than one reservation so that they can change to an alternative hotel easily if the first one doesn’t meet their expectations. This is possible in India because the majority of hotels do not require a credit card for reservation purposes.
  • A hotel room with a ceiling fan. If you’re staying in a town or city in the south of India make sure you get a room with a ceiling fan. Power failures are frequent in India and in the event the air conditioning fails—which is a regular occurrence—you will need a viable alternative to cool you down.
  • Good food. Avoid the temptation to eat on the cheap. You really will regret it. In addition to this try to avoid empty restaurants. Not only are they empty for a reason but the chances are that their lack of custom may mean the food you’re offered is less than fresh.

Do you live in India? Do you have any tips for saving money while exploring the surrounding country? Leave a comment and tell us all about them.

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