Are you planning a backpacking trip to India? We wouldn’t be surprised as the vast nation of India has plenty of backpacking destinations to be explored. From the Himalayan Mountains in North India to the historical cities of Rajasthan in Central India to the backwaters of Kerala in South India, there’s no dearth of destinations in India for backpacking.
Whether you are a first-time backpacker to India or you have backpacked to India earlier, our compact travel guide on backpacking in India can help you get a good head start on your next backpacker vacation in India.
Budget for Backpacking in India:
Foreigners, especially from America and Europe, will be surprised to know that the daily expenses (on an average) on a backpacking vacation in India cost as low as US$20 or 1400 INR, which include the cost for meals at hole-in-the-wall joints, cheap public transportation, sightseeing, and accommodation in a cheap hostel.
So, you can put the average budget for Backpacking in India at $600 per month.
Securing an e-Tourist Visa for India:
Travelers from countries like the USA and UK can now opt for an e-Tourist Visa to fly to India. You need to submit the e-Visa application online at least four business days (to a maximum of 120 days) in advance of the date of travel. The electronic visa, if granted by the embassy, is sent as an attachment to the e-mail address that was given at the time of lodging the e-visa application online.
Travelers need to take a printout of an e-Tourist Visa which gives them entry to India and is usually valid for 60 days.
Indian Rupees is the local currency:
The official Indian currency is the Rupee — Indian Rupee. Most of the time, you will find that the Indian rupee is weaker than the US dollar and the British pound.
Exchanging your dollars or pounds with the local Indian currency when there is a big fall in the rupee can help you gain more value as you would be getting more rupees for your dollars or pounds than otherwise. But as a general rule, you must never exchange your foreign currency as the exchange rates and hidden fees involved are high.
Best Backpacking Destinations:
Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, Rishikesh is a popular pilgrimage site. It is also the Yoga Capital of India and is a perfect backpacking destination in India.
The must-do things are visiting the yoga centers for gaining inner peace, attending the Ganga aarti at Triveni Ghat, and whitewater rafting in the Ganges.
Cheap Backpacking Hostels: Bonfire Hostel Rishikesh
Cost: Under 650 INR per room
This is a high-altitude hill station set in the beautiful Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. This cool hill station helps you escape the scorching summer heat and hence is perfect for backpacking in India during summer. In winter, the picturesque hill station is a paradise for skiing. Backpackers can stay in Old Manali for leveraging the lowest tariffs on hotels.
Cheap Backpacking Hostels: Born Free Hostel and Cafe
Cost: Under 650 INR per room
Goa is one of the best places for backpacking in India. Goa entices backpackers with free sunshine, free access to beaches, cheap hostels, and cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants offering Goan food. The must-do is visiting the highly popular floating casino — Deltin Royale Casino.
Cheap Backpacking Hostels: Backpacker Panda
Cost: Under 300 INR per room
Delhi, the nation’s capital city and political seat of power, has plenty of attractions. The city was ruled by the kings of great dynasties of the likes of Rajput, Delhi Sultanate, and Mughal.
New Delhi is undeniably a top backpacking destination for exploring ancient historical structures like India Gate, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, and Jama Masjid.
Best Backpacking Hostels: Madpackers Hostel
Cost: Under 650 INR per room
This bustling capital city of Karnataka is nicknamed ‘Silicon Valley’ for housing the highest number of MNCs in India and is one of the best destinations for backpacking India 2020. From chilling out at cheap bars to sightseeing to shopping for local souvenirs, there are plenty of things to do for backpackers in Bangalore.
Cheap Backpacking Hostels: Cuckoo Hostel
Cost: Under 400 INR per room
This is the capital city of Rajasthan, best-known for palaces, forts, and Havelis. It is nicknamed ‘Pink City’ because most of its buildings are painted in pink. The must-visit attraction of the city is Hava Mahal — a magnificent red sandstone building with 1000 rooms and a stunning example of Rajputana architecture.
Cheap Backpacking Hostels: The Moustache
Cost: Under 250 INR per room
Backwaters of Kerala:
The backwaters of Kerala are perfect for backpacking in India. The calm backwaters are a network of lagoons, natural lakes, rivers, and canals spanning 1500 km. The best thing to do for backpackers is taking a signature-style houseboat (also known as ‘ketuvallem’) cruise in Kerala’s backwaters for getting lost in the lap of nature. Our top picks for the Kerala backwaters are Kochi and Alleppey.
Cheap Backpacking Hostels: Adams Woodhouse in Kochi, The Wind ‘n’ Waves in Alleppey
Cost: Under 350 INR per room
How to get around while backpacking:
While backpacking in India, you definitely wouldn’t want to spend a fortune on traveling around the places of interest across the vast length and breadth of the country. Avoiding flights and moving in public buses, trains, and metro rails can save backpackers huge money.
Use domestic flights only if required as they are relatively costlier. Auto rickshaws and cabs are other alternatives:
A ‘Tuk Tuk’ or an auto-rickshaw is the signature style mode of public transportation in India and isn’t that expensive; use it a few times for a one-of-a-kind experience. Cabs, on the other hand, can be quite expensive, but you can use them at those places where you cannot access buses and metro lines.
Just a word of caution — Cabs in India are app-based (mainly Uber and Ola), and you need to have an Indian SIM card with a registered mobile number to book a cab ride through the app.
Now that you’ve got a bigger picture about backpacking in India, don’t you think it’s about time you planned a travel itinerary to this highly touristy country for getting a backpacker vacation started? New Delhi can be a good jump-off point for international travelers entering India.
Reading our essential backpacking tips can further aid you in having a seamless journey to India. Have your cheap flights to India booked with Indian Eagle and save huge on airfares.