Two months in four countries
Cost: ₹4 lakh
My husband and I spent two months travelling across Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia on a budget of ₹4 lakh, of which ₹2 lakh were just our tickets. My biggest trick is to find accommodation close to train stations so that you can walk with your luggage—we always carry backpacks—and to find hostels with private rooms since they’re always clean and cheaper than hotels, yet you have your privacy. I researched thoroughly, checking bus/train timings and fares so that we knew which option to pick. Another tip is to find out what’s free in a city and enjoy that.
I remember standing in the square in Cusco thinking we were in some remote, alien land. We felt so far far away from everything we knew. People, language, landscape, food, culture. This experience really made us feel alive. A lot of our memories are about the people we met and the conversations we had over large shared tables in the hostels we stayed in.
—Rasika Fernandes, Goa
45 days in 10 cities
Cost: ₹2 lakh
We took a 45-day trip across Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest, Bratislava, Krakow, Zakopane, Wroclaw, Berlin, Dresden and Prague, with plenty of day trips thrown in. Couch-surfing, staying in private rooms in hostels and cheap but clean hotels–all of it helped. We used public transport within the cities and didn’t compromise on our food. We mostly used the Eurolines bus service while commuting from one city to another and InterCity trains in Germany. We had plenty of time and we went around at our own pace. Up and down tickets to and from Chennai to Vienna cost around ₹35,000 per head and our overall expense was around ₹2 lakh for the two of us. It was an unforgettable and adventurous experience. After this, we successfully completed a similar trip across France, Spain and Portugal for 37 days.
—Urmi Basu, Chennai
Backpacking through the west
Cost: ₹1.5 lakh
I went solo backpacking through western Europe for a month. The whole trip, including flights, cost me ₹1.5 lakh. I visited Paris, Brugge, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Milan, Ivrea, Turin, Florence, Pisa, Rome. I planned to enter Paris and leave through Rome. In between, I would visit places like Brugge, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, and the Tuscany regions of Florence and Pisa. In Italy I would spend most of my trip visiting Milan, Venice, Rome, Torino, and living for a week in a small town called Ivrea with an Indian-Italian family. Since I’m a history buff, Florence, Rome and the Vatican were extra special. I would spend three to four days in one place—four days in Paris, two days in Brugge, four in Berlin, etc. While I splurged on food, the main savings came from staying in very cheap but excellent hostels, all booked through HostelWorld, sampling local food away from tourist traps and typical social media areas, and using the best public transport I’ve ever seen.
—Rohan Dutta, Pune
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Kolkata to Greece for 11 days
Cost: ₹2 lakh
In 2016, my companion and I went to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini from Kolkata. We booked cheaper connecting flights and budget hotels. For the city tour in Athens, we mostly walked and booked the blue line hop on-and-off bus services which charged €16/₹1,320 per head for two days. Complimentary breakfasts, brunches, Maggi, fruits and eggs got us through most meals. After five days in Athens, we booked ferries to Mykonos and Santorini for about €65/₹5,365 per head, per trip. We used public transport to get around. Since we were on a budget and we don’t drink, we avoided restaurants and bars.
—Anindita Kundu, Kolkata
Budapest with family
My cheapest international trip was to Budapest with my mom. It was part of a much longer itinerary to Austria and we landed in Vienna and immediately took a train to Budapest. We stayed there for about three-four days. Booked a B&B and the total for four nights was only ₹14,000. The apartment was beautiful, centrally located and very accessible from the metro. Close to our apartment was the stop for red bus tours and I highly recommend taking the two-day pass and seeing the sights as that way it’s easier not to get lost in a city where people don’t really speak English. Just shop at a supermarket and eat at home. You must try the locally brewed beers at one of the beer gardens. It is best to go around Easter or Christmas for the markets.
—Gayatri More, Mumbai
Solo backpacking for 9 days
Cost: €450/ ₹37,146
While living in Germany, I travelled to Italy via Slovenia and Croatia. I backpacked solo for nine days in an unconventional time, taking an unconventional route through Ljubljana, Bled, Zagreb, Trieste and Venice in the freezing winter of 2018. My first stop was Ljubljana, where I stayed in a vibrant youth hostel for the next four days. Slovenia’s public transport was quite frequent, even though it was a holiday season due to Christmas. I visited lake Bled, lake Bohinj, Mostnica gorge in Kranska Gora region. I travelled to Zagreb for a day, to see the Christmas markets.
I dedicated the rest of the trip to Italy. First, I travelled in FlixBus from Ljubljana to Trieste for a day trip. Having walked around the city, I took a train to Venice Santa Lucia. Once again, I stayed in a youth hostel, close to the train station. I explored Venice, and took a boat trip to its lovely islands, Burano, where the fishermen live in their colourful houses, and then to Murano, to see intricate glass art, decor items and jewellery. I walked endlessly, saw places without the usual touristy hubbub, ate from street vendors, and came back home with a full soul. For me, those nine days were the absolute definition of freedom. Neither the freezing weather nor the endless walking deterred me. I met some amazing people in the hostels, had great laughs and sipped mulled wine in -4°C. Sometimes that’s all it takes for strangers to turn into friends, for a budget trip to turn into a defining moment of one’s life.
—Apoorva Hegde, Heidelberg, Germany
Student life in Europe
My partner and I went to Germany to do our PhDs on full scholarships and paid flight tickets! We completed our studies in Germany and travelled within and out to other countries like France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Spain. Europe is known for its best public transport. Due to our student status travel tickets were cheaper and we utilised it fully to travel to near and faraway places. We took advantage of clean and hygienic but cheap youth hostels. Roaming across small and big cities of Europe with minimal planning and cheap but clean travel and stay options constitute some of the best memories for me.
—Chandrima Pal, Bangalore
15 days in Vietnam
We started backpacking from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, covering several cities in between for 15 days. We stayed in hostels and dormitories—the hostels were as low as ₹350 per night—ate street food, travelled by local transport and explored by foot sometimes, all within an unbelievable budget of ₹25,000 per person.
We wanted to explore the country like the locals. We moved from one place to another using buses, trains and taxis, trekked, cycled, walked long distances and even hitchhiked. Some of our most loved experiences on this trip were walking through the lantern-lit lanes of the ancient town of Hoi An, cruising in the turquoise waters of Ha Long bay through huge rocks that appear to be floating, enjoying the Da Lat flower festival, boat ride through limestone caves at Trang An, watching the majestic Ban Gioc waterfalls, staying at the spooky Crazy House in Da Lat, trekking over Mua Caves, and taking the world’s longest one wire cable car journey to Sun World Ba Na Hills.
Vietnamese street food is delicious and easy on the pocket. We tried Bao, Pho, Banh Mi, Goi Cuon, Banh Trang Nuong and Vietnamese egg coffee. This journey has been an eye-opener in many ways. We let go of the luxuries of a tourist and embraced the hardships of an explorer. We had the best of our days watching the sunrise over Ha Long Bay, eating in Hanoi, walking in the rain outside Ngum Ngao cave, and also some not so good days when we lost our way and ended up in a deserted petrol pump. We loved Vietnam so much that we got remarried here in a Buddhist Pagoda.
—Gloriya Khamrui and Sourab Acharjree, Bangalore
Flight tickets to Kuala Lumpur worth a steal
One time my friend found return flights from India to Kuala Lumpur at ₹6000. At the time, we were planning to go to Goa but these tickets were cheaper. So we booked our tickets instantly and looked for some really cool hostels for our entire trip. And the trip ended up costing way less than expected.
–Chayanika Moulik, New Delhi
Seven days in Bangkok
My cheapest trip was to Bangkok, Thailand, with my partner after marriage. We backpacked and lived in the old Khao San road area for one week and explored the capital. One day we hopped onto a train to Ayutthaya and rented a cycle there and explored the entire city. The next day we took a bus to Pattaya and explored the ‘city that never sleeps’ and slept on the promenade. Next morning we took the government ferry and reached the private islands, rented a scooter and rode to several areas of the island. We rented two chairs and slept to the sound of waves.
—Leena Steen, Hannover, Germany
Malaysia on a budget
I travelled to Malaysia in 2019. A return ticket to Kuala Lumpur was purchased for ₹5,600. Throughout the trip, I stayed in hostels for ₹300 a night and ate food from 7/11 and supermarkets.
Java in a bargain
As a solo female traveller I have been looking for safe and cost-effective tours. My visit to Java, Indonesia has been the cheapest till date. A good three-star would cost around ₹1,500 and a luxurious 5-star just at ₹5,000. I travelled using cheap public transport. Street food is found everywhere and shopping is pocket-friendly too.
—Ramana Shah, Mumbai
A tale of three trips
I had not one but three international trips that were uber-cheap. My first solo backpack trip to Sri Lanka for 15 days cost me under ₹20,000, Bhutan in 2017 for 10 days was under ₹15,000, and Vietnam for 15 days in 2018 was under ₹20,000. I stayed in hostel dormitories, travelled by local transit only, ate local food (and a lot of it), visited museums and villages to know their life better, a lot of beers, historic and religious places, and an unimaginable amount of walking.
Sri Lanka in 2016 was my first international solo backpack trip. The country shares a ton of resemblance in food, culture, lifestyle with India so while it may still be a different world it isn’t vastly out of your comfort zone. More importantly, it has everything that one looks for in a trip—natural beauty, wildlife, toy trains to hill stations, religious influence, historic sites, and adorable beaches.
—Gagan Sharma, Delhi
Malaysia makes it easy
My cheapest international solo flight was from Kochi to Malaysia cost under ₹1500. I have also travelled from Bhubaneswar / Chennai to Malaysia for less than ₹3,500 a couple of times. I’m a solo traveller and staying in hostels and eating local food has been very cost-effective.
–Ashwini Indalkar, Mumbai
Country hopping through the continent
Cost: ₹1.6 lakh
I travelled for five months around Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos–a lot of walking, bus rides and fried rice.
–Katja Hoffman, Germany
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Three destinations on a spree
My cheapest trip was to Thailand, Bali, Vietnam and Malaysia. I planned well to reduce flight costs which always make half of your budget, then booked best in budget hostels and hotels, used public transport, scooter and walking.
My first international solo trip was to Malaysia in June 2019 and being a budget traveller, I planned it well in advance. I did get cheap flights for around ₹14,500. Malaysia was not only an amazing country with great infrastructure, but is blessed with natural beauty, delicious food, good people and astonishing wildlife. Kuala Lumpur has an outstanding network with the metro rail, monorail, free city bus services and the train system called MRT. City also offers spectacular views of skyscrapers, lovely restaurants and parks.
—Nisarg Gosalia, Mumbai
Asia to the Land Down Under
Cost: ₹1.20 lakh
I went from New Delhi to Ho Chi Minh City and then Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Singapore for 21 days. I volunteered to teach English in Ho Chi Minh in exchange for food and accommodation. Melbourne to Sydney was covered by ride sharing (just AUD 30/ ₹1,700). I redeemed credit card points for a flight and airline miles for sightseeing tickets in Melbourne and Singapore. Bunked at a cheap yet good B&B in Melbourne and Singapore and used public transportation in all the places except Ho Chi Minh where I used bikes. To cut costs on air travel, I bought tickets with cabin luggage only and travelled light. I splurged a bit in Australia otherwise I would have ended up spending even less.
—Neeraj Singh, Bhiwadi
The perks of Portugal to Mumbai
My cheapest international trip was from Portugal to Mumbai. I stayed in a hotel and travelled by the local train. I ate outside in the restaurants every day; even the street food was delicious. My wish is to visit India again to see the Taj Mahal among other places.
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