Some of my friends have remarked that I should be earning a lot since I travel a lot! First of all I would like to clarify that my earnings are mostly modest. Secondly, it is a wrong notion that travel requires a lot of money. In this article I will discuss how to travel cheap. These are the methods that I have adopted myself and are mostly suitable for travelers of my kind.
Do you want to travel cheap?
This is really the first question that you should ask yourself. I have seen my friends who spend on travel as if there is no tomorrow and then regret for having spent so much. Little bit of discretion helps a lot in saving plenty of money in traveling. You should be clear from the very outset that you won’t be spending unnecessarily. It is not that you will be a miser but only that you will make sure that you don’t spend unnecessarily and more importantly won’t fall prey to aggressive and irrational pricing.
Tip 1 : Plan Early
It is always good to plan your trips at least two to three months in advance. This will mostly ensure that you will get confirmed rail tickets and low fare air tickets. If you are looking for accommodation in busy pilgrimage places, you must plan early.
Tip 2 : Flying at low cost
Keep an eye on flash sales offered by different airlines. Sometimes you will get tickets at incredible prices. Once we flew from Dehradun to Bangalore in Jet Airways for ₹2750! and to Srinagar in a Premier carrier like Vistara for ₹3300. It is possible to get a return ticket for any destination in India for ₹7000 or less if you plan properly. I have sat next to a passenger who paid ₹10000 to the same ticket which I got for ₹3300. It all depends on how smartly you plan.
Keep an eye on service providers like Freecharge. You will get some incredible offers to save on flying cost. You can end up saving at least 500 rupees. www.ixigo.com is one service provider that should be on your radar. Keep an eye on Ixigo Money. It has saved me few thousands. Even if you don’t get these offers book on your Banking apps (Kotak, PayZapp, HDFC Smart Buy, etc) where there will be no Convenience Fees for Air Ticket booking. You can save minimum ₹250 on each passenger.
Credit and Debit Card Offers :
Check your Credit Card Statement and offers email from Banks. For example : For any ticket booking of more than ₹6000, MakeMyTrip sometimes gives a cashback of Rs. 1250 for Axis Bank Cards for tickets booked on a Wednesday. Keep an eye on these offers. You will be saving a lot. Also, check for Airport Lounge access facility on your debit and credit cards. Get a card that offers free lounge access. That can easily save you more than ₹500 every time you need to take decent food at Airport. If you are planning for an International travel, get Priority Pass from your service provider bank. Most Banks have a Card that gives Priority Pass membership. This will give you free lounge access in International Airports too.
If you don’t have lounge access, it is better to carry food. Eating in Airport is highly expensive and eats into your pockets.
Another way to fly at low cost is to convert your Debit and Credit Card spends into Air Miles. In addition, enrolling into a program like Jet Privilege (www.jetprivilege.com) is very useful. You can earn reward points for writing reviews in TripAdvisor, making purchases in FlipKart, Amazon etc. All these points can really make your Air Travel very cheap. I got my return Air Ticket for Kathmandu from the Jet Miles that I had accumulated over 2 years. It saved me almost ₹13000 in that trip.
Tip 3 : Choosing between Air Travel and Rail
If your journey is such that it is going to take around 12 hours by train, you better go by night train than by flight. This will make sure that you don’t to need spend extra money on a night stay in a hotel in addition to cutting down your travel cost. Remember bus journey is usually faster than Rail journey. Look for options.
More than 20 hours of travel in train, I find very uncomfortable and I usually avoid unless accompanied by a good travel group.
One thing that you should remember is that Sleeper Coaches in Indian Trains are not that good except in Trains like Duronto. Sometimes it can be a horrible experience. Check for the rail reviews, on time arrival history and cleanliness before you embark on a train journey that can take more than 20 hours. Remember that Sleeper Coaches in many trains do not have a water jug in toilet! You won’t face that problem if you take A/c Tier but that would mean your travel cost would increase. You have to make that decision. For night journey, Bus can also be a consideration. I find SRS travels to be quite punctual and clean.
Tip 4 : Saving on Lodging
In India, except in Mumbai and to an extent in New Delhi, it is possible to get decent accommodation for Rs. 500/- or less. Travel Aggregators like GoIbibo give a steep discount, PayTm sometimes has buy one night and get one night free offers. These things will help cut down your lodging cost. It is good to check multiple service providers for room booking. AirBnb is not exactly cheap but is a good option to explore if you are traveling as a group.
If you are on a long travel and your objective is to sleep for a night, fresh up and leave the next morning, it is advisable to take budget hotels. After all I don’t understand why people want to rent a luxury room if they are only going to sleep in the night and leave early morning next day.
The other thing to note is that in pilgrimage places most hotels are not listed on any online booking platforms. But do remember that it is possible to get a good room for ₹500 and less. If you are traveling as a group, the daily stay cost comes to around ₹150 per day, which is perfectly fine.
The other thing that you can look at is whether any of your good friends at whose place you are welcome reside in any of the places that you visit. You can stay with them. It is great to get such opportunities. You will connect with old friends, they can guide you and can do more to make you comfortable. I had couple of such opportunities and it was great.
Having been associated with the Holy Ramakrishna Order, sometimes I have been able to stay in Math Centers. That has always added value to our trips. The charges, if any, are only nominal. The monks will guide you with all the care and make sure that your journey goes well.
Tip 5 : Group Travel in a self drive or rented vehicle
This works out better compared to Bus Travel. We have traveled in Tempo Travelers and Tata Indiacas for inter state travel to Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and had no problem. With Young people it is perfectly fine. But if there are aged members in the group, it could cause them problems. In my opinion this is an option for journeys not extending beyond 1000KMs.
Tip 6: Local Travel
In places like Kolkata which is having very good local train connectivity, it is advisable to use local trains for long distance. For local sightseeing use Uber Pool or Ola Share, and as a group, you can hire a full cab. Make full use of local travel available like Metro, etc.. This decision you have to make on the spot looking at the pricing and reach.
Tip 7 : Avoid one way long distance cabs
As much as possible avoid taking one way cabs for long distances. They will charge you for both onward and return journey. This will increase the cost almost 5 folds as compared to reaching the same destination by other modes of travel. For example in Srinagar, a group of 6 members decided to take a Tavera to go to Ladakh even though bus was available and was more comfortable. Two of us decided to go by bus. We reached almost at the same time only that we paid ₹450 each while they ended up spending ₹3000 each for the same journey. But you must keep an eye on shared cabs or returning cabs going back empty. They charge a little over the bus fare but provide the same comfort as going by your own vehicle. This should be the most preferred mode of travel in the Himalayas. For these shared cabs, you can even pay for an extra seat and utilize it yourself. Still it works out cheaper and really helps you. We had our best moments when we traveled by these shared cabs during our Chardham Yatra and Ladakh visit.
Tip 8 : Eat Local Food, fruits or vegetables
Local food is usually cheaper. There is no point in searching too much for your type of food in a foreign place. It may or may not be available. Enjoy local cuisine as much as your system supports. Sometimes in Himalayas when I found it impossible to take local food, I just used to eat cucumber. It kept my system healthy and also saved me quite a bit of money. Make sure to drink clean water. This helps you immensely and saves you money and time.
Tip 9: Travel Solo or in Group?
This is a tough question and the answer is strictly relative. Sometimes I prefer going alone, sometimes in a small group and sometimes with family.
Going with the Family is definitely expensive as we cannot afford to cause inconvenience to them. Usually lodging cost goes up when we go with family. If there are elders in the group, we have to give them priority and look after their convenience. Money cannot be the main consideration in such cases.
Going with a group of like minded individuals is usually a very nice experience and can significantly bring down the travel cost also. But never include odd members in the group. If you are the protagonist, include only those people who fit in the group. That is always the right thing to do.
Going Solo is wonderful and has its own advantages. That can be another blog. But as far as expenses are concerned, it can be slightly on the higher side as you need to pay full amount for accommodation which otherwise would have been shared in a group.
To summarize I just want to say that if you want to travel and travel cheap, make it a definite objective in your mind and when the opportunities come, you will be able to utilize them. That is how it has always worked for me.
Tip 10 : Have faith in God
I always place my hopes on God and hope for the best. I have never been let down. Solutions have been found in some unimaginable ways during our travel. That is my final tip :).