Feature Story

India cost of living - Travel how-to & tips

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How to find out what is a reasonable price ? Indian services and goods cost about a 1/10 of what similar would cost in the USA. If this ratio is greatly acceded on any product or service it usually means the target market are tourists or the rich. Try to find what is the local alternative, it's a good opportunity to learn about traditional solutions and save money as well. (Non-local examples: Toilet paper, roll-on deodorant, bread, ½ – 2 liter mineral water bottles, lodge rooms with hot running water, laundromats, ice cream)

Indian money bills are used till fall apart. Keep away from torn, mended or highly eroded ones, as locals do, these can usually be deemed only at an 'Bank of India' government branch.

Avoid, if possible, changing your foreign currency into Rs.1000 bills. Local small businesses find it hard to give change for even Rs.500 bills

All prices are bottom line, in rural India. There are no extra tax, vat, gratuity, tip, fee, charge etc...

Bargaining is the nature of consumer business in India. Barber, tailor, Internet browsing center, mobile/computer shop or any service (Vs. packaged goods) is open for price negotiation.

All packaged goods bear an M.R.P (Maximum retail price) which is the sale price at all city and village shops. There's no bargaining as shop's profit margin is only about 5% . M.R.P is surpassed at highway bu stops.

Price list – Products and services – Rural India:

Room at a Local lodge

Rs. 150 - 200

Non attached, start from Rs. 70

Room at an apartment complex

Rs. 45

Long term, Electric bill extra

Monthly Electricity bill

Rs. 200

4 member family household. Light, fan, TV & fridge

Fuel, Gasoline - 1liter

Rs. 80

5 minutes Auto Rickshaw ride

Rs. 20

Links to relevant stories

30 minutes government bus ride

Rs. 15

24 hours train ride

Rs. 300

In a sleeper car

1 hour internet use

Rs. 10 - 25

Cyber cafe, Negotiable rate, Usage frequency based

Movie ticket

Rs. 10 - 50

Price drops along screening weeks in same cinema

Haircut (men)

Rs. 25 - 40

Laundry detergent 200gr.

Rs. 10


Rs. 15

Intl. brand name, 2 pieces per pkg.

Toothpaste Ayurvedic 150gr.

Rs. 70

Soap – 75gr.

Rs. 14


Soap – 92gr.

Rs. 25

Recommended by Siddha (Tamil herbal med.) doctor

Food plastic container – 400ml.

Rs. 15

Filter coffee kit

Rs. 60

Personal, non electric, room use, Stainless steel – Size no. 5

1 cup of chai at a street stall/shop

Rs. 3- 6


Rs. 1-2

Assorted, at a street kiosk

Coffee grind 100gr.

Rs. 32

From freshly roasted beans, Price only for south India

Fried split garbanzo snack 200gr.

Rs. 13

Tomatoes 1kg.

Rs. 5

Egg (unprepared)

Rs. 3

Wheat flour 1kg.

Rs. 25

Thali – Indian lunch combo plate

Rs. 35 - 40

Porotha, served hot

Rs. 6

South Indian flat bread


Rs. 7

Rice biryani

Rs. 16

Stir fried with vegetables & gravy

Mineral water bottle 1liter

Rs. 12 - 15

Mineral water 20liter jug

Rs. 30

Rs. 100 avg. deposit for jug

Coke, Sprite, Mango juice 330ml.

Rs. 10

Glass bottle, drink and return

Coke, Sprite, Mango juice 600ml.

Rs. 20 - 28

Disposable plastic bottle

Grapes, green 1kg.

Rs. 60

In march


Rs. 1

Pocket notebook, 100 pages

Rs. 18


Rs. 3

B&W, copy-machine or printer

4" X 6" photo print

Rs. 5

From a digital camera SD card

Hot lamination – A4 size

Rs. 15

Postcard postage to USA

Rs. 25

Sleeping mat, roll-able

Rs. 60

Alopathy ointments

Rs. 15 - 30

No Prescription, at Alopathic Pharmacy.

All doctors were seen for the same purpose

Homeopathy ointment

Rs. 30

Private clinic

Siddha oil


All appointments and medication are free at government hospitals. Siddha = South Indian traditional herbal medicine

Mosquito deterrent

Rs. 50

plug-in machine, 30 night refill

Anti-Ant chalk

Rs. 15

Effective ant detterant

Immersion rod 500w

Rs. 150

For lodge room water heating

Electric adapter

Rs. 30

USA to Indian wall outlet syetem

2 rechargeable batteries +charger

Rs. 500

2GB micro SD card

Rs. 250

Micro SD adapter for PC

Rs. 20

Blank DVD

Rs. 15

In a plastic sleeve

Virus removal

Rs. 50

In-Shop service

Mobile phone

Rs. 1000

Simplest international brand name handset. B&W

Cellular air-time


Depends on carrier offers.


Rs. 190

Tamil men wraparound Cotton,High thread count

Boxer shorts

Rs. 40

Sold packaged for Rs. 250 in a big Indian city


Rs. 80

Tailor customized, Buttons & collar, Labor only

Printed bag

Rs. 10

Shopping or used rice sack, Cotton, colorful printing

Traditionally money should be payed and received with right hand only.

The cost of being – In the 3 months since arriving to India I used only $200. I also earned $120 by having a 'garage sale' stall on market day and in a local festival, selling my used clothes and belongings. Most of my contribution here are my skills and services, not money:

Family and event photography and video while staying and traveling with my local friends/hosts. Later I photo-collage these, print and gift. The prints are only Rs.5 per a 6X4 copy but I have avg. 2 creative hours invested in each (links to postcards). Spoken English practical experience while communicating with locals for the local necessities we work out together. Cultural exchange, while kids gather to watch western films and animation on my laptop (My personal collection of non violent and thought provoking movies). DVD and CD burning of our common photos/video collections, sometimes with light Photoshop editing. Printed photo collages and personalized DVDs I put together from our photos and videos of documented adventures together and give away to local friends as farewell and birthday gifts. Screening videos of local life, nature and culture on big screens, usually made of a few Dhotis hung together, using the projector donated by Mr. Atul Thakkar, I brought along. But further more, the everyday tradition of welcoming of a guest here as just another a family member doesn't seek direct or immediate materialistic compensation.

My standard of living, which is common in rural villages and towns are lodge rooms that have no air-conditioning, hot running water or even a mattress. No glass or mesh installed in the windows. With squat toilet, bucket & jug bathing, laundry in a bucket, dine at local fixed-menu diners and forget about TV/phone/internet/refrigerator etc..

On the other hand my days flow naturally starting with 2 morning hrs daily of Amaroli, Acupressure, Pranayama, Yoga Asana and meditation. After I play it by ear: by which are my friends' next events or programs and which are my own interests and errands.

Click each photo in this story to find out the details

& cost behind the various Indian daily street & market activities.

You are welcome to come up with questions and suggestions for extra info on this story.


More about this documentary on My India: Where every village is home - Experience !.

India cost of living – Rural products & services price list – budget travel index for saving money - Rupee Dollar rates 2011

For comparison, here is a chart by US department of state for 'Foreign Per Diem Rates by Location', it describes costs for major cities (but last updates vary, as you can see along with relevancy)



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India cost of living - Travel how to & tips

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