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See the world... on a budget

Soma Sarkar | March 09, 2006

There's something thrilling about budget travel. Low on cost and filled with surprises, this mode of travel refers to travelling on a shoestring budget, off the tourist trail.

You chart your route, change destinations at whim and have the pleasure of discovering places all on your own.

However, you need to support all this freewheeling with a good travel plan. We show you prepare one.

Choosing a destination

Start by zeroing down on a destination. Ask yourself what exactly are you looking for. Walking down mountain trails? Exploring a place of historical interest? Watching the sunset in a desert or a beach?

Once you've picked out the place or at least the kind of place you'd like to travel to, it's time for some research. Check out travel sites like:

Personal accounts of individual travellers come in handy. The best way to source this information is to talk to somebody who has already visited the place. The Internet is another good source of information. Google the name of the destination together with the word 'travelogue' and you're sure to come up with some interesting and informative accounts. Make a note of places along the route, transport options, hotels, etc.

What's the budget?

Based on your research work out your budget. Some of the heads would include:

~ Transport: Cost of travel to closest city or town plus local transport.

~ Stay: Calculate according to the total number of nights.

~ Food: Account for three meals a day plus alcohol.

~ Gifts and miscellaneous.

Remember, as you go to the interiors, away from the regular tourist places, the rates get cheaper. And, the food -- tastier!

Preparing in anticipation

To enjoy your travel to the optimum, you need some preparation:

~ Read up a little on the place you'll be visiting

You'll get insights into its culture, geography and people. It'll also provide for richer vacation daydreams! You could browse through The Penguin Book of Indian Travels edited by Dom Moraes for some interesting travel accounts. I was surprised to find RK Narayan's description of Kemmanagundi written more than three decades back tally exactly with what I saw.

~ Prepare your body for travel

Sudden exertion after a sedentary life may leave you feeling exhausted. Do some light exercises and build up a little stamina.

Book your tickets

If you're going by air, book well in advance to avail of check fares and discounts. Web sites of different airlines and travel sites like and rediff's Fare Search offer online booking facilities.

Log in to for rail tickets.

Packing begins

Packing signals the fact that the much-awaited trip is finally on. The key is to travel light and pack right.

If you are travelling by train, don't forget to add a chain and lock so you can secure your luggage.

~ Clothes

Pack a small number of comfortable clothes. Don't carry anything fancy. Keep aside a pair of sturdy broken-in shoes for travel and pack in a pair of slippers. A dupatta is a must for women. It offers protection from the sun, dust and can also double up as a sheet to cover oneself with.

Don't carry or wear too much jewellery.

~ Medicine

Check with a doctor and buy medicine for common ailments like headache, dysentery, allergy, etc. Along with some strips of band aid, also carry tubes of Soframycin, Dettol, etc. Most important, don't forget to stock up on mosquito repellent creams. You wouldn't want something as mundane as mosquitoes to spoil your evenings.

Film, camera, torch, batteries, etc

Pack stocks of any photography material that you'd need on your trip. In the hinterland, film rolls may be hard to get. Add a few extra batteries

A torch is a good idea if you going to areas where power breakdowns are a possibility

Books, music, diary

Pack your favourite music and something to read. Whether you are travelling alone or in a group, there are bound to be times when you're bored. A good read and some music will help you ride out such moments.

Use a diary to record your daily experiences; it will help you savour the memories later.


Keep a number of biscuit packs, nuts, etc. You can keep replenishing your stock as you go along. 


While travelling, never throw away the newspaper. You can use it to plug a train window that doesn't shut properly. Place it anywhere and get a clean seat. And, believe it or not, you can also place a sheet under your shirt to beat the night chill!

Cheap thrills!

One of the kicks of budget travel is beating the budget, getting more for less. Here are two tips:

~ Night travel. You'll be saving your hotel expenses if you travel at night and you'll also get more time on hand. 

~ Go local as far as the food is concerned. Check out the roadside joints. Sometimes, you will find locals who're willing to cook for you.

These options are not only cheaper, they give you a real taste of the place you're in. Similarly with drinks, go in for local varieties like toddy, mahua, chang, etc.

These are cheap and good on the stomach. Usually, the food and natural drinks aren't adulterated in the interiors. But it's always better to use discretion in such matters. 

Enhance your travels

Travelling can be strenuous and small disasters may spoil your holiday. Here are some ways to add value to your travel.

~ Avoid crime

Take care of your belongings and lock your bags. Carry your cash close to your body, so that you're safe from pickpockets.

~ Bond with the locals

One of the main pleasures of travel is observe entirely different ways of life. The more you mingle with the locals, the closer you get to their culture.

Explore local markets

Nothing like a trip to a local market to soak in the colours, smells and flavours of a different place. You might chance upon some good bargains too.

~ Never splurge

Last and most important, stick to your budget. Nothing can be worse than running out of cash in an unknown place, with no ATM in the vicinity.

Make it memorable

Once you have a good travel plan ready, you can give in to the spirit of adventure. You'll end up with a host of memorable moments.

Out on a journey, things just happen. You might get invited to a tribal wedding or a night on a fishing trawler deep in the seas. These events aside, just the fact of travelling to new places leaves you with interesting memories.

Once while travelling in Sikkim, my friend and I were befriended by an elderly Tibetan lama. We spent a night in his monastery, up in the hills, where there's no electricity and no toilets either. We slept on silken Tibetan sheets and kept swatting mosquitoes through the night!

Don't be surprised if later, when you're back in your air-conditioned office, cut off from natural light, images like drinking toddy from a fresh leaf cup sitting under the palms trees, or hitching a ride on a bullock cart, blur your vision.

Are you an ardent traveller? Share your travel experience with us. If you know the contact details of the hotels you stayed at, or details of how to get there, do share them with us.

Don't forget to add your name, age and contact number.

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