This is the third in a series of reports detailing my travel expenses during a six-month sustainable travel trip through India, Vietnam, and Nepal, as outlined in The Plan: 6 Months, 3 Countries, and $3,000.
In my recent reader survey, several of you mentioned that you really enjoy these Frugal Travel Reports. This month, I have been even more meticulous with tracking my expenses and I have discovered that it really helps me see exactly where my money is going. I've been keeping a single page in my notebook dedicated to all the expenses for the current month.
The month of May has seen me travel the most since I arrived here in India more than 80 days ago. In fact, I moved around a lot more than I would have preferred. However, I was invited to a wedding in New Delhi and decided to take advantage of the journey and stop in several places along the way, including Gokarna, Mumbai, and Udaipur.
Total Distance Traveled: 2,503km (1,555 miles)
In addition to the transportation expenses, I've decided to also start tracking the total distance traveled. This total only includes transportation by bus, train, and airplane. Distances traveled by taxis or rickshaws around the cities are not included.
Since I booked things at the last minute, several of the train rides were more expensive than they needed to be. The better class seats sell out less quickly, but are about three to four times more expensive. Planning ahead here in India is absolutely essential to get the cheapest seats, as they often get booked out months in advance. Tickets can be booked up to 90 days in advance.
From my experience so far, I prefer riding the better AC2 or AC3 trains for long overnight journeys, but opt for the much cheaper Sleeper class when taking shorter day trips.
Another unusually high transportation expense came from the rickshaws and taxis. While I was in Mumbai and Udaipur, I used a taxi several times to explore parts of the city that I wouldn't have otherwise seen with the short duration that I was staying there.
This month I also purchased the two plane tickets for Vietnam and Nepal. However, I've decided to include them in next months budget since that's when I will be using the tickets.
This was another unusually high expense. In fact, it ate up almost my entire $250 monthly budget! My target goal for lodging is between Rs.200 ($4) and Rs.400 ($8) a night. Whenever possible, I look for a private room that includes a bathroom but I never care about having an A/C. The only other thing I look for is security: I prefer to feel comfortable leaving my laptop in the room when I go out during the day.
I was fortunate to find a nice place to stay for two weeks in Gokarna, the Sarvitri Guest House, for only Rs.300 ($6.60) per night. But when I got stuck in Surat, I ended up paying Rs.680 ($15.11) for one night in a hotel room.
The most expensive lodging on my trip so far has been my stay in Mumbai. I suppose that's no surprise though, since Mumbai is known to be expensive (similar to New York City). While I definitely could have found cheaper accommodations, the New Bengal Hotel was right in south Mumbai, within walking distance to most of the places I wanted to visit. At Rs.1100 ($24.80) a night, my three night stay cost me almost a third of my entire monthly budget. At least it's not $508 a day in Equatorial New Guinea!
In Udaipur, I found a lovely place to stay for three nights called Hotel Kumbha Palace for only Rs.380 ($8.48) per night. This place might as well have been a five-star hotel in comparison to the other places I've stayed. The rooftop restaurant was beautiful, the hotel service was excellent, there was a backyard with grass and flowers to relax on, and the room was clean and comfortable.
And finally, I arrived in New Delhi on the 28th of May and have been fortunate to have free lodging at my friends' house. I will be here for the first two weeks in June, so hopefully I can make up for the unusually high lodging expenses for May.
I'll admit, I indulged a little more than usual this month. In Gokarna, I discovered the food cost was a lot higher, at least three times higher, than in Ujire, no doubt because Gokarna is a tourist attraction. I splurged on delicious mango and pineapple juices almost every day while I was there. Idli for breakfast, and a big south Indian thali for dinner.
In Mumbai, I discovered the Barista Lavazza cafe, a place a lot like Starbucks back in the States (and comparatively expensive too!). I enjoyed iced mango smoothies, delicious lattes and cappuccinos, and various snacks every day I was there. It was a comfortable place to get some work done too!
In Udaipur, the rooftop Kumbha Palace restaurant was irresistibly beautiful and served as my preferable place for breakfast and dinner. I discovered Cafe Coffee Day further north of the old city, and spent a few hours working there on two of the days. On my last day, my new friends Zaheer and Shakti treated me to a delicious traditional Rajasthani lunch at a place called Apani Dhani.
Thankfully this months Other expenses are much lower than the previous two months. As I've mentioned before, I try to keep other expenses to a bare minimum.
Before I left Ujire, I shipped a box of stuff back to the USA that was weighing my bag down. I realized there were several things in my bag that I wasn't using and lugging them around everywhere was becoming a chore. The box included a fleece, a pair of wool socks, a second external hard drive, and a bunch of small miscellaneous items.
In Mumbai I visited the the Prince of Wales Museum and the Nehru Science Center where I watched the Odyssey film "EVEREST" (basically a movie in a dome theater exactly like the Omni Theater in the Boston Museum of Science).
In Udaipur, I spend Rs.110 ($2.40) and watched a Rajasthani dance show. The show was nice, but it obviously catered to tourists (90% of the people there were foreigners) and it was much shorter than I expected (45 minutes).
As anticipated, this months expenses were much higher than the prior two months. In fact, I spent almost double my entire $250 monthly budget!
Traveling more frequently makes it a lot more difficult to find cheap places to stay and cheap food to eat, however with a little more planning I think I could have stayed within budget. I didn't expect train tickets to be so difficult to book and I splurged a little on coffee and juices. If I had planned ahead of time, I also could have found cheaper places to stay.
Early in the month, I realized that I needed to start bringing in some income to make up for going over budget, so I began looking for freelance work. I have since secured several PHP and Web Development projects. I'm also a capable copyeditor, so if there is something I can help you with please don't hesitate to contact me.