By Rohit Agarwal
Visitors have been visiting India for thousands of years. They have left a variety of comments on their observations. Some reported on the advanced level of civilization. Some reported on the wealth and majesty of the ancient kingdoms. Some reported on the variety in the terrain. And even more reported on the variety in the people. From human-eating Aghoris to God-like Kings, there are reports on the beauty of the women. Always accompanied by more reports of the beauty and lustre of their ornamentation. There is, however, not a single comment on India being an expensive place to visit or live in.
This has in fact led to a new trend today. Many expatriates, especially pensioners, have decided to not just visit India, but to in fact spend their lives here. This phenomenon is also seen in many other countries in South East Asia. The availability of all necessities at a reasonable rate is the primary factor. In many of the popular places where you can find expatriates living in India, such as Goa, Jaipur, Agra, Lucknow and many of the hill stations in India, such as Darjeeling, Ooty, Mussoorie, Manali and Naniatal, the cost of living is much lower than in any developed country.
First of all, everyone needs a place to stay or spend the night. The availability of economic accommodation is, in fact, on the rise in India. Although the rents and prices are quite high in the big cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, this has led to smaller cities, which very earlier not so confident, offering much better alternatives. For those on a very short visit of less than a month and wanting to cover as much territory as possible, there are even sites where locals host guests in their own houses for free. Such sites include couchsurfing.com and globalfreeloaders.com. These are very popular in India, with Indians wanting to host guests to learn more about the world through their guest’s experiences.
Asians are very hospitable by nature and Indians are no exceptions. If you are able to strike a real rapport with the locals, they will usually offer you some food and drinks. And if you actually like it and let them know, you will get enough to fill you up and more.
Some useful economical accommodation options:
Salvation Army’s Guesthouse at Colaba, Mumbai. This is a stone’s throw behind the famous Taj Mahal Hotel, which fronts the Gateway of India. YMCA & YWCA have an extensive network in India. Youth hostels are a great option. The added advantage here is that you will get a chance to mingle with locals, as youth hostels are popular with the locals too. You might even end up making a friend or more for life.
Thanks to the British, and then India’s social politics, travelling in India is easy. Travelling by train is the best and most economical way to transit between one city/town and another. There is a special quota reserved for foreign visitors, so it is usually not a headache to get a seat. But do try to always book your tickets at the earliest, as the trains in India are always full.
The canteens at railway stations are an economical refreshment option. The hygiene is better than in most other small outlets in India. You would usually get some simple western-type food, such as sandwiches or cutlets, and drinks as well as the staple Indian cuisine.
Other common modes of travel include the airlines, buses and taxis. Rickshaws operate in most big cities for travel within the city.
Food & Beverage
India offers some of the spiciest and some of the sweetest food in the world. As anybody who has eaten at any Indian restaurant will know. The Samosa has become our mascot for cultural exports.
The cuisine in India varies with its people. As you move from one social group to another, you will find a different cuisine. And the variety in India beats any other country, hands down.
The variety in the beverages is also just as splendid. From the thick Lassi of Punjab to the refreshing Chaach of Gujarat to the invigorating Nariyal Pani (Coconut Water) of the coastal belts, your thirst will be quenched in India.
Almost everybody who visits India wants to take back a souvenir. There are so many monuments in India and all of them would be replicated in small souvenirs that you can buy. India is also famous for its handicrafts. As it has a huge tribal population.
India was also the only source of diamonds in the entire world till about only a century ago. It has again become the largest diamond cutting and polishing centre in the world. Gems and jewellery is a very popular shopping item in India. Many tourists buy things in India which they can sell in other countries for a profit. This is a smart way to reduce or even totally compensate the cost of your trip to India.
As you can see, coming to India is never a question of money. It is only a question for the heart. India beckons; will you answer the call?