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How To Travel In India: Tips From My Husband

  August 12

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how to travel in indiaI’ve been keeping a secret from you, blog peeps! I hope you’ll forgive me, but I didn’t want the blog boogeyman to come and get me while I was home alone without the hubs, who just got back from a 3 week trip to India!

We paid for his entire trip with my side hustle income and some of my overtime money, so we didn’t have to go outside our regular budget at all to pay for it. I’m super happy about how it all turned out, and I convinced him to write about his experience and give tips on how to travel in India just in case any of you are interested in visiting such a cool, faraway place. 🙂 So, without further ado, my other half:

Hi BudgetBlonde readers! I know you all get little snippets about my life from time to time here on Cat’s blog, but trust me when I say Cat tells me all about her blog-friends and blog readers all the time. So although you may not realize it, I feel like I know some of you pretty well too.

With that said, it’s my pleasure to share with you what I’ve been up to lately. As you all know, we’re on this crazy adventure here in Grenada because I’m in medical school. My school offers a variety of elective courses for the summer ranging from dive & underwater medicine to medical experiences in different places like Sweden, Prague, Thailand, Kenya, and India.

Since my undergraduate curriculum was pretty specific, I didn’t get the option to do a study abroad, and it was something I’d always wanted to do.  Of course the last three years of graduate/medical school have technically been abroad, but after about a few months here, it starts to feel more and more like home. So, after some discussion with Miss Catherine herself, we decided to start saving so I could participate in the India Medical Experience Program. Three weeks, ten flights, and one big SmartyPig savings account later, I’m back home in Grenada, and this is my story:

How To Travel In India

Since this is personal finance blog, I’ll share a little about the costs. How my amazing wife came up with the money for me to do this is some sort of magic. (Editor’s note: I was able to take my blog to the next level  after taking this class.)

Airfare

As you might expect, the big ticket item for the trip was airfare. I had a total of ten flights that we broke into four tickets. To start, I flew from Grenada to New York (via Miami) and for that we used frequent flier miles. My next ticket was roundtrip from New York to Mumbai (via London) and for that we stalked Kayak and other sites until we saw a good deal and jumped on it when it came along. Within India, I flew from Mumbai to Delhi which was about as much a domestic flight in the US. Although there are discount airlines in India we had a really difficult time booking with them so we went with a national carrier and paid a little bit more. Lastly, we found a cheap flight back from New York to Grenada, but it required an overnight layover and airport switch in New York and then another overnight layover in Miami.

All in all I flew about 22,500 miles, and it cost us about $2250.

Housing, Meals, and Transportation

These were covered in the university fees for the course which amounted to $750. This also included 2 credits of coursework which will go on my transcript.

Touristy Stuff

After the course was over, I opted to stay behind in India for 4 more days during which I literally did as much as humanly possible. This added up to four nights in hotels, a tour of the Taj Mahal, which included private transportation and guide, and meals and souvenirs. Hotels were pretty inexpensive and averaged about $100/night. The tour and private car were definitely a splurge but well worth it and cost about $300, and meals and souvenirs were incredibly inexpensive. Most meals were less than $10 and breakfast was free at my hotel. And of course I got lots and lots of gifts to bring home like scarves, pashminas, bangles, and even a few sarees, which all together cost less than $300. All together the touristy stuff cost about $1100. I should note that I didn’t have to add on 4 days at the end, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see the Taj Mahal while I was there.

Other Expenses

I had to pay for hotels near JFK airport and near the Miami airport because of the overnight layover (incidentally, these were more expensive than the hotels in Delhi and Mumbai). I also incurred some overweight bag fees on my domestic flights in India.  To prevent this on my other flights, I bought another carry on bag. Lastly, there were a few cab fares to and from the airport but those were negligible. Together all of this added up to about $500.

Grand total for 3 Weeks In India + Flights: $4600

Like I said, I’m good at some things but if you want to know how my amazing wife was able to fund this trip, you’ll have to check out her posts on side hustling. I admit I’m pretty bad at saving money, but she’s a wiz at it and for that, I’m endlessly grateful.

THE COURSE

Now I know this is personal finance blog, and you’re probably more interested in how to travel in India, so I’ll spare you all the bloody details about my time in the hospital while I was there. Basically, I rotated through a different department every day for two weeks, which means I got to see a little bit of everything. I will say that this was my first clinical experience since I started medical school and so it was the first time I was able to see many of the things that I’d only read about. I’ll also say that the hospital where I rotated was in a rural part of India and so it differed quite a bit aesthetically from what you’d see in the US but medically it was every bit as effective.

how to travel in india

For example, most departments are not air conditioned (and it’s hot in India) and there are very very few private beds. I was also able to see some conditions that are pretty rare in the US. Lastly, the professors and residents there are incredible.  Everyone was eager to teach us and share with us as much as they could in the time we were there.

THE TOURISTY PART

So all in all, there were six students and two professors from my university who went to India. The other five students flew back home as soon as the course was over, but I opted to stay behind and visit Delhi (the capital city), Agra (home of the Taj Mahal), and Mumbai (home to Bollywood and most populated city in India).

how to travel in india

Mumbai

Mumbai is my new favorite city in the world.

It’s in the top 5 for both most populated and most densely populated cities in the world, so it’s crowded. You realize this as soon as you step out of the airport at 2:45 am, and it seems like at least one million of the 12.5 million residents are right there waiting for you trying to get you in their cab, to take their tour, or to stay at their hotel.

You further realize how crowded it is when you notice how bizarre it is that there is fairly heavy traffic at 2:45am. From the window in my hotel room, Mumbai could be any other big, dirty, busy city but Mumbai is truly a city you have to experience with all of your senses, which means you have to get out there. The sights are beautiful, breathtaking, and sometimes disturbing. Amid the beautifully colored clothing, jewelry, and smiling faces, there is a lot of poverty.

The sounds range from the never-ending cacophony of car horns to hawkers who want you to buy their sandals to the unique upbeat rhythm of Indian Music. Wonderful smells and tastes can be found throughout the city at stalls selling various snacks and teas like vada pav (think of a big spicy french fry on a bun with some spicy sauce on it) and masala chai (black tea spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom and made with sweetened buffalo milk).

Oh, and people in Mumbai are super friendly, like the three guys below who just started chatting with me at the Gateway to India. They asked to take a picture with me:

how to travel in india

Delhi

I found Delhi to be quite different from Mumbai. Gone were the narrow roads that seemed to be endlessly clogged with traffic (even at 3:00 am) and in their place were broad avenues with trees on both sides and wide sidewalks. Instead of overstuffed local trains clunking around, there was a super-modern metro. I was discussing this with my driver in Delhi and he told me that he loved both cities but Mumbai was more like a girlfriend and Delhi was more like a wife. In any case, I liked Delhi too, but I will have to spend some more time there on a future trip to really explore and experience it properly.

Agra

Agra is a four-hour drive from Delhi and home to the Taj Mahal. Normally I don’t advocate guided tours because I’m a huge fan of getting out and experiencing a city on foot and on my own terms. That said, I knew I had only about 18 hours to somehow get from Delhi to Agra, tour the Taj Mahal and if possible the Agra Fort, and then get back to Delhi.

So we bit the bullet and paid for a private guided tour. If you’re wondering how to travel in India, I admit it was EXACTLY what I wanted and very safe. My driver was super friendly, and although his English wasn’t that great, we were able to chat and he shared lots of stories on our drive. The tour guide was super informative and knew just how to maneuver through the crowds and even took pictures of me at all the sites.

The Taj Mahal itself is architecturally amazing.  The symmetry, the craftsmanship, the delicate gemstone inlay, and the sheer size are breathtakingly beautiful. My words and pictures come nowhere close to capturing its true magnificence. Guided tour or not, if you ever get the chance I highly recommend seeing it in person.

India Budget Travel 2

So that’s what 3 weeks in India sounds like in a blog post. Looking back I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to finally have my study abroad experience. It was everything I hoped it would be. Looking forward, I really would love to go back again with Catherine, possibly as a visiting physician in a few years. I’ve also busied myself with trying to learn how to cook various Indian dishes, so if you have any tips or other recipes, feel free to send them my way.

Lastly, I know most of you are trying to save money, but let me encourage you to perhaps save for a trip to visit India. I know it’s not Paris or Rome or some secluded island like Grenada in the tropics, but India is beautiful. The people there are wonderful and friendly, and I promise it will be unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been.

Thank you hubs for taking the time to write a post. I hope you all enjoyed his recap and his pictures. 🙂

So, who wants to go to India now? What do you think would be the best/worst part? Do you have any questions for the hubs about how to travel in India?

Images courtesy of Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences

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64 responses to “How To Travel In India: Tips From My Husband

  1. Excellent post! I know this is a personal finance site but I particularly liked hearing about how medical care/conditions/etc. vary from India to the US or other developed countries. I have some friends who have been to India once or even multiple times on mission trips. Some of the stories are heartbreaking as far as medical care goes. Definitely something I think we as a human race need to keep investing in.

    Enjoyed reading about your travels in India. My friend went there for a wedding last January and I heard a bit about it but I liked hearing from your perspective as well. I really would like to travel there sometime, either for work (I work with some people in India on a weekly and sometimes daily basis) or for some sort of mission trip.

    1. Thanks David! 🙂 The university where he worked had pretty sophisticated equipment and he was really impressed. He had some heartbreaking experiences though where people couldn’t get a procedure because they couldn’t pay for it, procedures that were very expensive to them but only about $200US. So, he had some tough moments there. I think you’d love it there and that you could do a lot of good on either a mission trip or a work trip.

    2. Glad you liked the post David. I might try to do another post in the near future that focuses more on the costs, billing, and services provided in India and compare that with the US.

      I hope you get a chance to visit soon. It’s a wonderful place.

  2. Great post! So very proud of you and Cat!! Hope to get together once y’all are back in the States. xx, your old college roomie.

    1. Katie! We should totally get together when we get back. Next stop for us will probably be the NYC Area — you don’t mind visiting us there right???

    1. I was so glad that I chose to stay behind a few days too. The other students flew back to the US pretty much immediately, but we agreed that after flying halfway around the world, I might as well stick around and see the sights. As you can tell, I’m glad I did. =)

  3. Your Hub’s work over there with the sick is the kind of stuff that makes me hate what I do for a living.

    I need to hurry up and retire so I can do something with meaning.

    Great travel write-up and photos.

    1. I’m glad you like the pictures & write-up, and I’m honored that I’ve inspired you. =)

  4. India is on my list of places I want to get to some day, and I’ve heard there are some pretty amazing yoga retreats there, so that may be how I end up going there.

    1. There are some pretty amazing yoga retreats, in fact we were able to rotate through an Ayurvedic Health Center as part of my coursework. I was surprised to see how traditional & alternative medicine, like Ayurveda and homeopathy, is practiced right along side modern medicine. As I’m sure you’re well aware yoga is practiced both religiously and medicinally – so lots of yoga for everyone. I hope you get to visit soon.

  5. I love the pic with your husband and the Taj Mahal Breathtaking! I have never been to India and it’s certainly a place I would like to visit eventually. I had always heard they were pretty wild drivers although some might say we Californians are too! I think it’s great your husband had the chance to practice and learn medicine in a different culture. And way to go Cat, on earning and saving enough money for him to go!

    1. Shannon the drivers are completely crazy there. They have no qualms about driving on the side of the road, in the middle of the road, or even against traffic on the other side of the road. Their mentality is that if you honk your horn, everything is okay. It was a great adventure, and I hope you get to go some day soon!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing that story, and it’s pretty rad that you got to serve in the hospitals there, too. It sounds like a great way to teach students in a different setting…I can imagine there being some diversity in the types of health ailments you’d see when going to the other side of the world.

    My wife and I want to see 6 of 7 continents and Asia has been a tough one to settle on. Maybe India is the ticket!

    1. Do it!!! India is amazing, and once you’re there it’s really easy to check out some of the other nearby countries!

  7. Well if the doctor thing doesn’t work out, you and Cat could be the blogging powerhouse couple 😉 I think that’s awesome you stayed an extra 4 days in India to fully enjoy the beauty the country has to offer.

    1. Blogging is too hard for me; I think I’ll stick to doctoring 😉
      Thanks for your kind comments

  8. So interesting! One of my BFFs did her summer medical placement in India (also her birth country) though she originally wanted to go to England.

    When you’re in a very different country and/or short on time, sometimes tours are the bes bang for buck.

    1. Agreed! The tour (although expensive) was the best bang for the buck, and now when I go back, I know just how to do it on my own!

  9. 22,500 miles? Wow! That’s some serious flying. Sounds like that was an incredibly beneficial experience for you and to do it on such a low budget is fantastic. Definitely a place I would like to visit one day.

    1. Luckily I was able to book all of those flights through our primary frequent flyer airline, which means I accrued almost enough miles for a domestic roundtrip ticket!

  10. Really enjoyed this post. India is definitely on my “too see” list. What an amazing experience that must have been. Way to go Cat for saving up that extra money! Hoping next time you’ll get to go with hubby 🙂

    1. I agree with you KK, way to go Cat, without her planning and mad side hustling skills I could have never pulled this off. And yeah, next time she’s coming with me!

  11. I cannot believe that you were able to do this for less than $5000! What an amazing, life changing experience. I have a friend who is currently doing her residency and she did something similar in Guatemala (it may have been a medical spanish course) it was a great way to balance out the intensity of medical school and life as a young doctor. Thanks for sharing this experience.

    1. Michelle I couldn’t agree more; it was a perfect way to add some balance to the whole medical school process. Amid all the books, lectures, and exams of the first two years of medical school it is really easy to lose sight of why I chose this profession in the first place. This trip definitely served as a reminder!

  12. Nice article! India is one of the countries I’d love to visit some day and this post is really complete on offering info about that. And even more important, it proves us that side hustles can help us get there, so back to work now! 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing, brought back lots of memories. I’ve been to India a couple of times and although it didn’t cost near as much as you paid it was one trip I will never forget. I’ve travelled all over the world and India really captured me with the sites, sounds and smells because it’s like no other place I’d ever visited. I would suggest if anyone wants to make the trip, to do it.

  14. I think that’s that perfect way to take a trip like this, have a purpose and then be a tourist. I feel like such a baby in the whole scheme of world travel. There are so many places I have never been, and seeing the Taj Mahal would certainly be amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    1. No worries Kim, I feel like I’m still kind of a travel toddler myself. There are SO many places in the world to see!

  15. Someone with great travel advice on the cheap is my buddy Mark Wiens over at migrationology.com. Looks like you guys did pretty good, but he’s a cool guy to follow for great travels without breaking the bank. He’s currently out in Thailand.

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com

    1. Nick, it was my pleasure to visit and “help” and I’d be honored to go back as soon as they’re ready for me =)

  16. India is one of the few Asian countries I have left to visit. I’ll have to refer back to this post when I finally get around to planning that trip. Glad you had a great time!

  17. Underwater medicine, wow that has to be pretty amazing, and I don’t have the first clue about how it gets done… like you have no idea about how Cat makes money, well she works HARD she told you at the beginning of the post haha.
    Also, no private beds in Indian hospitals do you mean people share a bed or a bedroom?
    Looks like a fabulous trip, glad you were able to enjoy it and have your lovely wife earn more to send you there.

    1. Ya know Pauline, I’m not too sure I know how underwater medicine gets done either . . . I’ve done some diving and I’ve studied some medicine, but yeah, not sure how that works 😉 That said, I do know how hard Cat works, often times it’s harder than I do!

      To answer your question, yes private rooms do exist in some hospitals in India. However, I was in a very large, well-equipped hospital in a rural part of India (about 8 hours from Mumbai), and I only saw about 15 private rooms in an 850 bed hospital. So most patients are in open, non-AC wards, with each bed about 4 feet from each other. If you look at the picture of me above you can actually see two more patient beds in that photo. It’s pretty cozy.

  18. Go Cat and your earnings! That’s fantastic that you were able to go to India. Some med-school friends have had really neat experiences, like working on immunization and temporary clinic projects in rural Kenya, for example.
    That’s also great that you tacked on a few days of tourist activities, after flying all the way there, it would be a shame to not get any time at all to see things.

  19. Hi,
    I found you on smartpassiveincome.com . This was amazing and informative post. I am from India,thamks for writing about India. I hope you enjoyed trip and Indian people. Thanks.

  20. What an absolutely wonderful post. I think I was meant to see this! We are struggling to figure out how to travel on the cheap. This year in Oct – Nov, we are going to Peru for 2.5 weeks, and earlier this year our plans had included going to India in March 2014 for 2-3 weeks as well. But, we figured out not too long ago that we just couldn’t swing it financially because the two trips would be a mere 4 months apart (my visual during planning was this: me, with handfulls of dollars, throwing them up in the air, shrugging, and stalking off). The India one was an opportunity of a lifetime (there were some big particular details that I won’t get into here), so we’re still trying to not be upset about it falling through.

    I’m awed that you flew so far for so little. I’m going to need to re-read this to really absorb how you did that. The whole article was amazing, and I’m glad that I got to live a little through your experience! I’ll need to send this to my boyfriend. Were you able to take a dip in the Ganges River? That is something we have always wanted to do, for the experience and the mental cleansing/spiritual benefit. I think I will bookmark BudgetBlonde and read through to get some more hints and ideas! Thank you for sharing this transformative and delightful experience!

  21. It’s awesome that you paid a the entire 3 week trip with your side income! I’ve never been to India but I’d love to visit, thanks for such a detailed trip report. I see that you’re in the Yakezie Challenge too, awesome! I joined it last month and love it.

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