If you’ve checked off the Taj Mahal and finished in the Keralan Backwaters but want to continue on with that South Asian adventure, you might just be looking for the cheapest countries to visit from India. Well budget seeker, you’ve come to the right place…
From the spice-scented bazaars of downtown Bangkok to the soaring heights of the Nepalese Himalaya, the gurgling coral reefs of gorgeous Sri Lanka all the way to the untrodden ranges of Pakistan, this guide ranges across the region to help you decide where’s next.
The good news is that the cheapest countries to visit from India are a pretty varied bunch. We’ve chosen to highlight just five options on this list, but there’s plenty for all sorts of travelers, no matter if you’re after tropical surf breaks, megacities, or bargain hiking destinations. Let’s begin…
While the history and politics between India and Pakistan hasn’t always been amicable, and it’s certainly not easy to understand, there’s a definite allure to the vast nation that lies to the northwest of the subcontinent. It’s an allure driven on by the ice-capped rises of the Karakoram Range and the remote Chitral valley, the dome-topped Mughal palaces of ancient Lahore, and the bustle of megacities like Karachi.
So, there’s loads to see. But how much will it cost? Well…Pakistan has a cost of living that’s something like 74.5% lower than the USA average. Cost collators like Budget Your Trip estimate that most travelers will need around the $54/day mark to get by here, but that’s an upper estimation for midrange stays. Budget travelers might be able to spend as little as $21/day.
Sadly, because of enduring national tensions between these two Asian neighbors, travel between them isn’t going to be the easiest. There’s a distinct lack of direct flights. At last count, there was just one option – a link from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport to Lahore. You could choose to do the adventurous route and go overland via the Wagah border crossing, where there are elaborate military displays to see before you cross. Just expect queues and admin if you do that.
The obvious choice when on the hunt for the cheapest countries to visit from India comes in the form of the Teardrop just to the south. Welcome to Sri Lanka, a dash of jungle and tea field in the balmy Indian Ocean that’s got plenty going for it. Cost wise, we estimate that the average traveler will need around the $800/week mark, but up to $2,500/week for luxury holidays, or even less than $500 a week if you do Sri Lanka on a tight budget.
And there’s more good news, because getting from A to B, India to Sri Lanka, should be a cinch here. There are regular flights from all manner of major airports on the subcontinent – Chennai, Bengaluru Delhi, Mumbai. There are even ferries that travel between the two, going overnight from the port at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu all the way to Colombo.
We really don’t think Sri Lanka will disappoint. You can choose romps to the Central Highlands to surround yourself with soaring peaks and forests stalked by elephants. You can go to the east coast for lesser-known beaches and safari parks filled with leopards (yes – we said leopards!). Then there’s the tried-and-tested southwest coast, in season from November to March. That’s a touch pricier because it’s popular, but the beaches, reefs, and surf spots are simply fantastic.
India to Thailand? You bet! There are now countless low-cost airlines jetting over the Bay of Bengal between the home of the tiger and the Land of Smiles. It’s about 3.5-4.5 hours in the air from Delhi to Bangkok, but tickets won’t set you back all that much – we recently found links from the Indian capital to BKK for $150 per person (check cheap carriers like IndiGo and Air Asia first).
What’s more, Thailand is affordable once you’re on the ground, too. Yes, it’s gotten a whole load pricier in the last 20 years or so. But it’s still on par with the cheapest European destinations. We’d guess that a whole month in the much-loved home of sticky mango rice to be around the $3,000/per person mark. That’s a whole, darn month!
Of course, you can spend a lot more than that. Destinations like Patong in Phuket and Koh Lipe in the south Andaman have increasingly become more jet-setter about their offering of hotels and restaurants. But you can also spend less thanks to budget islands and resorts like Koh Tao and Koh Lanta.
The other thing worth saying is that Thailand is unlike anywhere else. This land of gold-tipped Buddhist temples and jungle-dressed hills offers everything from massive cityscapes to night bazaars to pristine tropical beaches. It’s got UNESCO relics from old Siam, Buddhist ruins, and one of the friendliest bunch of local we can think of!
Bangladesh is mind-bogglingly cheap. Most agree that it’s even cheaper than India itself. Backpackers who’ve been and gone and traveled the country extensively report that a budget of between $15-20 per day is just fine in these parts. Travel price collators like Budget Your Trip say that a max of $45/day is more likely, though that’s for midrange vacations in three-star hotels, along with meals out. The point is, whichever way you look at it, a jaunt to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh should never break the bank.
For some reason the low rates haven’t drawn attention. This corner of the Bay of Bengal, which has a whopping population of over 166 million, still only receives an estimated 350,000 tourist arrivals each year. Most of those come from neighboring India and Nepal, too. Today, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says that just 1.8% of the gross GDP of Bangladesh is generated through tourism channels, putting the country in the bottom 25 countries on the planet when it comes to income earned from travel. Hmm.
So, it’s not in the spotlight. And it’s cheap. What’s on the menu? Quite a lot! In the south, there are salt-washed beaches at Cox’s Bazar backed by spice-plumed seafood restaurants. They roll into the mist-gathering ridges of the Sajek Valley, a burgeoning hiking area to rival Myanmaar’s Shan Hills. Go west to the Sundarbans and you’ll enter a UNESCO world of wetlands and swamps stalked by the ever-formidable Bengal tiger. Go north and there’s Paharpur, where the ruins of an ancient Mahayana Buddhist civilization rise from the flats. Amazing, eh?
If you thought that the Indian Himalaya were something special, just wait until you cross the border and lay eyes on the mountains of Nepal. This is where Everest crashes to a mega 8,849 meters above sea level into the clouds, where Annapurna zigzags up to its glaciated top, and where the faces of Lhotse and Nupste crowd the Chinese border.
These days, an attempt at the greatest summit on the planet doesn’t come cheap. At last estimation, you were looking at a bare minimum of $28,000, with costs potentially exceeding $120,000. But Nepal is about much more than that now-sadly crowded monster up in the Khumbu Valley.
You can hit the adventure hub of Pokhara to handglide over sweeping vistas of the Himalaya range, with glistening lakes rolling out below. You can head west to Chandannath to visit immersive temples set in snow-covered hills. There are also loads of more affordable trek options, from the Annapurna Circuit to Poon Hill to the Langtang Valley. And the capital still offers loads in the way of hostels for backpackers – think $5 a night.
It’s also been noted that one of the cheapest ways to get to Nepal is via India anyhow. There are far more airlines making the hop to Delhi than to Kathmandu. You can even turn it into an adventure, by going overland to the border north from the Indian capital – it takes almost a full day but it’s a real joy.
The cheapest countries to visit from India – our conclusion
Because India sits in the heart of South Asia, you should find that there are plenty of budget-friendly destinations right on the doorstep. In this guide to the cheapest countries to visit from India, we’ve showcased just five options. They make for tempting reading if we do say so ourselves. You’ve got the gold-tipped Buddhist temples of Thailand a mere four-hour low-cost flight away. There are the beaches of south Sri Lanka over the strait to the south. And there are the ice-capped Himalayas of Nepal to get through. Where will you go?