Although I still not consider myself as an expert in budget travelling, I have more and more experiences, which I am glad to share.
When you are travelling
I remember how scared I was first when I was travelling by sleeper bus in India and after reading some articles about some rape cases in trains, for quite a long time I avoided travelling by train. By now I know that there is no real reason to be scared even if you are a girl travelling alone, as long as you are smart enough. So the first tip: if you have time, forget about travelling by flight, just take the bus or train (at first the regular sleeper class may be a shock in the train, but the 3AC can be a good and still cheap choice).
In the areas attracting many international tourists and travellers it can be even fine to hitchhike in India and there are also some communities which may be helpful in these cases (to find a ride e.g.). The biggest one I met:
Backpacking Budget Traveling in India
This is quite a big community on facebook, including thousands of international and Indian travelers, some looking for advice, some so glad to share their experiences. I remember that first I heard about this group before I went to Parvati Valley. By this time I felt a strong urge to go as low budget as possible and I was writing a post, looking for cheap accommodation or volunteering/short term job opportunities. In a few hours I got so many suggestions, job offers, etc…And here I also met a girl with whom we shared a room in my first week in Kasol.
This is the platform where you can ask about anything: looking for a travel partner to share a ride, looking for advice in itinerary, or asking for fellow travelers’ experiences when you are concerned about how some places are affected by extreme weather conditions, etc. If you come to India, you definitely can only gain from joining this group.
Accommodation for free?
Yes, in India there are actually quite a few places where you can stay for free, although you may need to adapt to some rules, e.g. in the sikh temples (gurudwaras) which are mostly available around Punjab. Here you need to follow some rules, cover your head, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, but in exchange you get free accommodation and food.
I have also heard about some other temples, e.g. near Prashar Lake (Himachal Pradesh), where you can stay for free, just by the lake (which is a sacred place, famous for an island in the lake changing its position from month to month).
I am sure there are loads of other opportunities, will add them later on my way 🙂
If you are looking for volunteering programs or occasional jobs, you may like these websites:
And the ultimate place to find volunteering programs, learn and share knowledge with people from all over the world is Auroville, an independent international community aspiring after self-sustainability, in Tamil Nadu.
However, you may need to know that when going for these opportunities, in some cases you may be required to have more than a regular tourist visa.
And the ultimate advice: Just go with the flow
Remember that in India everything is possible (Sabkuch milega). This is the place where you don’t need a qualification to give yoga/dance/English classes, become a chef, etc. And where you can really experience that if you are open to meet new people and learn from them, loads of opportunities will open for you. So… don’t plan too many things in advance and most of all, don’t book your flight ticket back home too early 🙂