31.12.2010 30 °C
Whenever we think we are paying too much for something Sheila just shrugs and says, “It’s the cost of doing business.” So we thought you might be interested in knowing the actual cost of being a tourist in India.
Firstly, as tourists, we expect to pay a premium anywhere in the world. However, we’ve been far less aware of that here than in many other countries. Of course, the price of touristy knickknacks is always based upon the purchaser’s perceived ability to pay – so we never shop near ritzy hotels or mega tourist attractions.
Transportation accounts for a large chunk of our expenditure and the price of petrol has skyrocketed in the past month. Government regulated taxi and auto-rickshaw fares haven’t kept pace and the locals pay a miniscule amount. But even at the unofficial ‘tourist’ rate we are only paying about 25 cents a kilometer in an auto-rickshaw and 38 cents a kilometer for an A/C taxi. Trains are ridiculously inexpensive – even travelling 1st or 2nd class as we do. For instance: a standard sleeper from Delhi to Trivandrum, 3149 kilometres, takes 51 hours and costs a total of $13.50 cents. Buses are even cheaper, (though we never take them).
As for ferries: To cross the river in Champakulam is just 1 cent each way, while a two hour trip on a motor ferry to Allepey costs just 14 cents.
If you have a death wish, and a residential address in India, you could drive your own wheels. A new 250cc motorbike costs a thousand dollars, an auto-rickshaw two-thousand bucks, and a Tata Nano four-seater car is just over three-thousand dollars.
There are 720 million registered cellphones in India,( and 137,000 illegally erected cellphone towers according to the government which has ordered their removal – that won’t happen. We counted 52 towers from our hotel window in Chennai). The competition for business is so fierce that cell companies advertise unlimited India calls for just 19 rupees, (40 cents Cdn.), a month.
As for accommodation: There is a great divide between hotels catering to Indians and tourists. Locals and backpackers pay between $5 and $15 Cdn a night for a double room, while we pay between $50 and $100 or more, (considerably more in some cities)
Laundry costs us about $5 a week, (including ironing), and not, we hope, by the ladies in the river. The cost of new clothing depends on quality and the location, but women’s sarees and men’s shirt start at $2.50, and we’ve seen stores where all new shoes are just $3 a pair.
For the gourmands amongst you - this is a personal style of buffet called a Thali. It is a very full meal of numerous south Indian dishes and cost us $2 each in a restaurant...
Most foodstuffs are incredibly cheap by our standards, but 75% of the population rely on government subsidized staples . Fresh fruits, vegetables and fish are a fraction of western prices, but onions have been in the headlines because they’ve hit an unimaginable price of a dollar a pound. Most biscuits are 20 or 30 cents a packet, a litre of mineral water is 30 cents, and a litre of beer $2. The cost of eating out varies enormously. You can get a full meal from these street vendors in Calcutta for well under a dollar, if you have the stomach for it …
…or you can pay $30 or more each in an upscale restaurant. We usually pay about $15 for dinner for two. Indian tea or coffee is just 14 cents a cup, while a decent Cappuccino, (where available), can be two dollars or more. Some top hotels charge $5 or more for a cup of tea! Here's a sample menu from a small restaurant...
So, the cost of doing business as a tourist in India can be ridiculously cheap – as little as ten dollars a day – but that is still a lot compared to the 900 million locals who survive on less than two dollars a day.