How much spending money should I bring for a 15Day trip to India??
December 17, 2007 2:04 PM   Subscribe

How much money (in US$) should my S.O. and I bring on a 15 day trip to India?

Here's the backstory: My wife and I are going to India, so that my parents can at least have a Hindu wedding ceremony so that extended family can join in the festivities of me (an only child) get married (to a non-Indian). Basically this trip and the ceremony is for my parents. We're going to be staying with family in Mumbai, so lodging would be free, but I'm sure that we'll be eating out, as well as taking tours, tipping cab drivers, and all the other charges that come with being out of the country on a pleasure trip... so... being that the US dollar doesn't command as much value as it once did:

How much spending money for 15days in US$?
posted by lonemantis to Travel & Transportation around India (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Bring or budget? You'll be able to get money out of ATMs in India, so you don't need to bring more than an emergency amount of cash.

As for budget, that depends on what level of luxury you're accustomed to. I think $15-20/day per person should more than cover meals at restaurants, taxis, tourist site entry, etc, even in Mumbai which I gather is more expensive than the rest of the country. Despite the decline of the dollar, India is still quite cheap compared to any where in North America or Europe.
posted by justkevin at 2:25 PM on December 17, 2007

Justkevin, thanks for your input...

Shows just how little I know about international travel: Don't international ATM's carry charges which aren't inconsequential? My parents suggest that we bring cash and not deal with ATMs and the like... so in that respect, any further advice would be great! On the conservative level, if we bring $20/day would you mean $20 for the both of us = $300US for the two of us?

We're not accustomed to luxury, nor are we expecting any degree of luxury apart from western toilets (which are at the family houses we'll be staying at). :-)
posted by lonemantis at 2:40 PM on December 17, 2007

Oops... $600 for the both of us, not $300...
posted by lonemantis at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2007

There is (usually) a charge to take out money via the ATM, but I'd recommend doing that over the hassle and stress of physically bringing large amounts of cash, and you'd probably take a hit exchanging your dollars into rupees anyway. I went budget traveling in India 18 months ago, and without having to pay for lodging would be able to get by handsomely on $20 a day per person (~800 Rs), and with budget meals etc on $20 for both of you.
posted by AwkwardPause at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2007

Don't international ATM's carry charges which aren't inconsequential?

The charges are primarily set by your U.S. bank, so you can call them and ask what it is. It'll probably be less than what you'd lose exchanging cash.
posted by grouse at 3:32 PM on December 17, 2007

Maybe not helpful, but the charges for taking US$40 (1600 baht) out in Thailand was about 10 baht, or 25 cents. So I just used my debit card everywhere I went there - I got a better exchange rate when using it than I would have at any moneychanger.
posted by luriete at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2007

I think $15-$20 a day is a good estimation, but your question makes me think you need to set a budget... so I think you may be better off figuring out how much you CAN spend per day, and shooting for that. Because India can be a very, very cheap place, but it can also get "expensive" if you want it to. When I was there, I was eating two meals a day for probably $4 total, and they were great meals each and every time.

And ATMs are EVERYWHERE, so don't worry about that. Just make sure you tell your bank that you'll be in India, because they might freak out and lock your account if they see withdrawals from another country. Mastercard/Visa charge 1% for foreign charges no matter what, and your bank may or may not tack on another 1-2%. Even so, worth it for the convenience, in my opinion.

Prices for tourists attractions will vary, but if my memory serves me correctly, a trip for five adults to Elephanta Island (highly recommended, beware of monkeys), there-and-back, was something like $10USD total. If you're not Indian, you will be charged more to visit tourist attractions... but it's really not all that much.
posted by nitsuj at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2007

Remember to let your bank know you're leaving the country and will be using foreign ATMs. I got locked out of my bank account attempting to use ATMs in Colombia a few years ago. My bank already knew I would be out of the country, but my trip just so happened to coincide with the theft of my debit card number and the forging of a fake card used in multiple locations in Canada the very same week. When the bank noticed the transactions coming from Canada after being notified I would be in Colombia, the bank froze that card number, locking both the thief AND me out.
posted by emelenjr at 4:32 PM on December 17, 2007

Thanks everyone, I hope the suggestions keep coming. I think my wife and I need to sit down and set up a budget. My parents who have been back and forth A LOT seem to be jaded about the amounts of money to take there in lump sum, but I think we'll take several hundred dollars, and pay for everything with ATMs.

I'll go to my bank to ask about ATM charges abroad. This at least gets me started on asking the right questions.
posted by lonemantis at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2007

Over the course of my 15 day trip in March I spent about $400. This included eating out two or three meals a day, some gifts for people back home and copious consumption of the local tipple.

I only brought about $40 with me and got the rest from ATMs. It was worth the $10 or so in charges to not have to worry about losing a wad of USD.
posted by esch at 5:19 PM on December 17, 2007

I only brought about $40 with me and got the rest from ATMs. It was worth the $10 or so in charges to not have to worry about losing a wad of USD.

FWIW, I would recommend to never, ever travel with that little cash.

There are occasions where bankcards fail for no good reason at all, and as such any reasonable traveler should have, enough money to not just leave the airport, but to survive for a few days on cash.

Similarly, I'd recommend that travelers carry their wallet (id/plastic) in a different pocket from their cash, so it is unlikely that you'll lose both at once.

I know this wasn't particularly germane to this question, but I hate seeing people imply that it's a good idea to travel with $40, when that's a recipe for total disaster.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:03 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I felt a lot better about traveling with $40 in my pocket(which is comfortable for more than a few days in India) and backup plastic than I would wandering around with what amounts to a few months pay for an average Delhi resident.

And honestly, what are the odds of everyone in your party being unable to withdraw funds especially if you'll be traveling with residents?
posted by esch at 8:37 PM on December 17, 2007

So you are of Indian descent? One thing you should be aware of is that the price for Indian citizens or NRIs for things like museum admission is often much, much less than for more easily identifiable tourists. Furthermore, if you are taking any side trips and are thinking of buying train tickets or plane tickets, get one of your relatives to book them from within the country, also much cheaper that way.

I think you could easily travel in India for $20 a day per person if your lodging is taken care of. The thing about India is, if you spend a little bit more, your comfort level increases *a lot*. Things like air conditioned taxis vs. auto rickshaws, 1st class train tickets, having a guide to take you through temples -- these things don't cost too much, maybe another $20 a day, but might really improve the quality of your trip. If you spent $75 a day, you'd travel like royalty.

If you haven't been before, I'd also recommend having a shopping budget for yourselves and for gifts to bring home to friends.

PS. I am a honkey who married an Indian woman. The first time she took me to meet the family in India was an absolute thrill, one of the highlights of my life. You say you're just doing it for the parents, but I do hope your spouse gets a chance to have her mind blown.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:28 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why would you ask us instead of your family? If it's just a budget issue, you'll live like royalty for $50 total per day, especially if you are paying non-tourist prices. If you are getting married, will your family not also do a bunch of stuff for you? Maybe you will spend the rest of the time relaxing, without spending much money.

It seems to me that you are overthinking this question. Relax and plan some fun stuff to do; don't worry too much about the money. In my experience, the reason lots of Americans of Indian ancestry bring lots of cash to India is to give money to family and buy lots of jewelry to bring back (while wearing all of it because then there is no duty), not to pay for food, taxis and other incidentals.

Which brings me to my point: show your new wife the beautiful majesty of India, and buy her a bunch of jewelry and saris, take her to beautiful restaurants, etc. The only expensive part of that is the jewelry and the saris, and even those aren't that expensive by US standards. You say this is just for your parents, but it's a great chance for a great trip and a great time.

I know this wasn't particularly germane to this question, but I hate seeing people imply that it's a good idea to travel with $40, when that's a recipe for total disaster.

Isn't this a bit dramatic, and kind of wrong? Carrying a big wad of cash is in no way better than having access to it via ATMs or just using credit cards in the first place. Also, personally, I have never been unable to get cash because of a network problem, a security issue or something like that in the 20 years I have been using ATMs. I have not always told my bank when I have been overseas but I have sometimes done so. Are there a bunch of people often unable to access their money because of system or security problems? In a way that can't be fixed with a quick phone call?
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 10:36 PM on December 17, 2007

Thanks for all of the answers, let me also say that my parents aren't treating us to anything, and we've already paid for their and our plane tickets, and some of the wedding ceremony expenses. They (my parents) want us to travel with several thousand dollars in cash, and this is why I wanted Mefi's opinions.

We're (my wife and I) are unsettled about travelling with that much cash, but my parents have always done so on their many trips to India, so we obviously trust their judgement.

Some backstory (I'm full-blooded Indian), rebelled and didn't get an arranged-marriage, instead fell in love and married a white girl... My parents, though not initiall thrilled about that, do like her, and wanted us to have a Hindu wedding ceremony, so we obliged, thinking that their overture meant that they would be covering the costs of the wedding. I offered to pay for the plane tickets for the four of us to India. (My parents said that a ceremony with extended family would be cheaper in INdia, than holding it here in the States). In any case, now my parents are asking for more $ to help with the wedding and other ancillary expenses knowing that their tickets have all been paid for.

This may be too much information for all of you, but money is an issue, and we don't think my parents would be the best parties to ask.
posted by lonemantis at 5:42 AM on December 18, 2007

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