Your wallet may come with its limits, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be packing your bags right now. We’ve got a list of affordable ways to travel across the country.
Kerala is synonymous with paradise for a reason. There are multiple destinations to choose from, each one more scenic than the next. And you don’t even have to break the bank to visit them. Hotel chains like Vedanta Wake Up offer budget-friendly, yet comfortable accommodation which proves to be a great way to cut costs. Vedanta currently has properties in seven locations in the state, with others opening soon. Go on boat rides in the backwaters of Alleppey, walk around the quiet streets of Fort Kochi or spend a day with the sun and surf in Varkala. There are two room options – a double-bed AC room or a six-bed AC dormitory. We stayed in the dorms in Varkala and Alleppey last year and for ₹699 a night, it’s a great deal, especially if you’re travelling in a group.
We’re firm believers in learning wherever you are, even while on holiday. Companies like White Collar Hippie and Blueberry Trails can tweak your itinerary to fit in a class you may want to take – our Web Editor Neha Sumitran took a cooking class in the Malvan on a trip with the former. Learn to surf in Manipal or take a pottery class in Karjat. Interacting with locals to learn about the ecology of the region you’re visiting is also a possibility on trips with Journeys with Meaning. They have packages to Ladakh and Kashmir that you can book now.
Go trekking in the Himalayas, cycling across the Thar desert or camping in Darjeeling. Sign up with the Youth Hostels Association of India for such trips all year round. Generally inclusive of tented accommodation, food and basic gear, some of these are great deals. There’s a nominal membership fee; lifetime membership for those above 18 is ₹2,225. You could also take the International Youth Travel Card along with your YHAI membership. Valid for a year and priced at ₹500, the card offers discounts on accommodation, food, entertainment and other activities across the world.
Bonus tip: Sign up for an International Students Identity Card, if you’re enrolled at a recognised university. This is your key to getting discounts on hotels, restaurants and services all over the world, including India. Card-holders can even get discounts on airline tickets from Air India. You can get more information about the offers on the ISIC website.
A fun way to see places and win karma points is to opt for volunteer travel. Usually, you offer some sort of services in return for boarding, food or sometimes even both. But that isn’t always the case. Depending on who you volunteer with, services can range from teaching English, to setting up local radio stations to helping set up a village school. This no-frills holiday is gaining popularity with a number of such groups coming up all over the country. Try building greenhouses with Ecosphere in the beautiful Spiti Valley (like Web Editor Neha Sumitran) or working on environment conservation with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team.
Take a motorcycle holiday discovering Ladakh or Rajasthan or zoom down the lush Western Ghats, and carry a tent along to really soak in one of those gorgeous open vistas. Of course, getting closer to nature includes getting closer to wildlife too.
Apart from the many national parks, which are sometimes expensive, you could try rural homestays to enjoy the local flora and fauna. Try one of the homes in Velas and watch turtle hatchlings make their way to the ocean during the Turtle Festival. Or visit Purushwadi with Grassroutes and discover the magic of fireflies while enjoying the local culture. You can also check out the Bombay Natural History Society’s camps across India that are budget-friendly and great fun.
For something a little different, how about stargazing? Organisations like Khagol Mandal organise weekend stargazing camps – Features Writer Kamakshi Ayyar went on one – that are well worth a visit.