Almost everybody these days wants to travel. The whole world has opened up to us since the internet boom. And thanks to social media and smartphones, we are flooded with beautiful pictures of various places at our fingertips. And this creates an intense desire to go exploring and FOMO if we don’t. But while we would love to roam around Europe and backpack for months across South America, most of us, especially middle-class Indians, find ourselves looking for short trips to affordable destinations from India.
For those who haven’t decided to just live the nomadic life, there are certain challenges to travel. The biggest constraints are usually a budget, taking time off work or family, and for Indian passport holders, there is the added stress of getting a visa on time. However, finding the ideal destination that addresses all these challenges while still being fulfilling, is actually not as big a deal as you think.
There are several affordable destinations from India which are not only helpful on the pocket but have easy visa policies and are close enough that you don’t have to waste your precious planned leaves on long haul flights.
If you aren’t from India or are earning in Euros and Dollars these destinations will be ridiculously cheap in any case! So just pack your bags for a great adventure – on a budget.
I have to been to many of these countries myself in budgets under 30k for a minimum of a week, so I can tell you they are legit amazing. Look out for my special tips to these places.
Affordable destinations from India
The list checks for three things:
- Proximity to India
- Ability to get visas without too much hassle
1Bhutan (1 INR = 1 BTN)
What can you do in Bhutan
Bhutan is an unbelievably serene, beautiful and verdant country. It is the only carbon negative country in the world. Bhutan is an amazing place if you wish to revel in nature. You can go on treks or hikes, you can go river rafting or simply take in the clean, fresh air. The Dzongs are worth a visit for their architectural beauty and there are many noteworthy Buddhist temples and statues.
My Tip: Bhutanese people are very peaceful and friendly and they love and respect their country a lot. So, ensure you pay the same respects that they do to the things they care about. I also have some tips further down on reaching there and permits.
Bhutan’s advantage for Indians: An amazing advantage for Indians is that you needn’t exchange any currency as the Indian rupee is readily accepted all over Bhutan making it one of the most convenient yet affordable travel destination from India.
Visa requirements for Bhutan: Visa is not required for Indians to visit Bhutan and even a passport isn’t mandatory, but it is advised to keep any valid photo ID with you. Please remember that initial permits are usually extended to Paro and Thimphu only, and permits to other parts of Bhutan have to be taken from the tourist office in Thimphu. The procedure for permits is usually a hassle-free process.
How to Reach Bhutan
West Bengal is your gateway into Bhutan. Direct flights to Paro are limited and are only available on certain days. There are international flights to Paro from Delhi, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya, Guwahati, and Mumbai.
Apart from taking a direct flight to Paro, here are a few more ways to reach Bhutan:
- Reach Kolkata and take a train to Hasimara, the nearest railway station to Phuentsholing (a Bhutanese town that shares the border with Jaigaon in India. It functions as the point of entry for travellers arriving by road/rail from Kolkata, Jaigaon, Bagdogra and Siliguri). Staying in Phuentsholing does not require a permit or visa for Indians.
- You can also take a flight to Bagdogra and take a taxi from there to Phuentsholing. This is the route that I took while travelling from Bangalore to Bhutan.
- Take a train from New Jalpaiguri railway station in Siliguri town or New Alipurduar.
- Shared taxis are also available from New Jalpaiguri railway station to Jaigaon
- Or opt for Bus services from Kolkata, Siliguri bus station, New Alipur Duar town to Jaigaon.
2Nepal (1 INR = 1.60 Nepalese Rupee)
What can you do in Nepal
Be it adrenaline rush or spiritual awakening, Nepal has something to offer for every kind of traveller. The fact that Nepal has its fair share of the Himalayan range makes it the best place for some amazing views of mountains, valleys and lakes. You can gaze at the majestic Mount Everest, go to the Everest base camp or go for smaller hikes and trekking trails in places like Nagarkot, Pokhara and the Annapurna circuit. There are also various temples and shrines you can visit in the capital Kathmandu.
Nepal’s advantage for Indians: Nepal is extremely affordable and at the same time shares a lot of similarities with India that give a feel of being home away from home.
Visa requirements for Nepal: Visa is not required for Indians to visit Nepal. However, it is advised to keep your passport with you.
How to Reach Nepal
Go to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh (biggest India-Nepal border crossing), you can take a bus or Taxi from Gorakhpur to Kathmandu. There are also direct flights to Kathmandu from many major cities.
3Vietnam (1 INR = 326.48 Vietnamese Dong)
What can you do in Vietnam
Vietnam is a gorgeous, yet often underrated country. You’ll see many people backpacking through Vietnam showcasing it as a rugged destination where you cycle through endless paddy fields. But in reality, it has a mix of everything, cities, fields, beaches, caves, museums, markets etc. Hoi An city is well known for its UNESCO Ancient Town. And Halong Bay is supposed to be one of the most gorgeous destinations you can visit. The cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are packed with amazing things to do and sights to see. Vietnamese food is absolutely amazing and worth sampling for anyone who loves Asian cuisine.
Vietnam’s advantage for Indians: The biggest advantage would be the low currency rates and affordable prices. Vietnam is a budget destination for a reason, you’ll find your rupee or dollar going a long way there if you do your research right.
Visa requirements for Vietnam: Indian passport holders can get a Visa on Arrival after getting an approval letter online. The letter takes just 3-5 working days to receive after you have applied. A copy of this letter along with passport photos and the visa fee will get you a VoA at the immigration counters in Vietnam’s airport. Here’s a helpful link on the application process.
How to Reach Vietnam
As of now, there aren’t any direct flights from India to Vietnam, however, you will easily get flights from all the major cities in India with stopovers in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong.
4Sri Lanka (1 INR = 2.53 Sri Lankan Rupee)
What can you do in Sri Lanka
This island nation hosts lush tea gardens, golden beaches and many awe-inspiring sights. The bargains you can get here while shopping is an added advantage to it making the cut for cheap travel destinations. Train journeys in Sri Lanka are scenic and it has several temples and monuments of interest. The beach towns are beautiful and you can go snorkelling or diving or visit turtle conservation centres. Places like Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Kandy, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Galle, Bentota, Hikkaduwa are worth visiting.
Sri Lanka’s advantage for Indians: Just like Nepal, Sri Lanka is very close to feeling like home, yet amazing and unique in its own way. Sri Lanka is also an extremely affordable destination and it doesn’t take much time to cover several noteworthy places.
Visa requirements for Sri Lanka: Indians need to apply for an online visa to visit Sri Lanka. Tourists can also get an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) that allows you to enter the country for 30 days.
My tip: I got a VoA at the Colombo Airport when I went there in early 2017 (however, keep a check on the latest visa application procedures).
How to Reach Sri Lanka
You will have to take a flight from the nearest Airport (From Chennai or Kochi to Colombo) since travelling by bus or train is impossible.
5Cambodia (1 INR = 57.29 Cambodian Riel)
What can you do in Cambodia
Cambodia is such a beautiful country. While many people know of just the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia also has a tragic past that you can see in its museums. It also has an underrated coast, with many beach towns. You’ll find rugged countryside and less explored small towns.
Cambodia’s advantage for Indians: I’m telling you this from experience, you can get bargains like nothing else. I don’t (rather can’t) bargain and even I got ridiculously cheap deals on shopping. The country is on the poorer side and tourism is a good way for them to make money.
Visa requirements for Cambodia: You can get an eVisa online or you get a visa on arrival at the airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and at all major border crossings. I got a VoA at the border crossing from Thailand, it’s a fairly simple procedure, just carry the necessary documents and visa fees.
My Tip: You can use USD or Thai Baht for almost any transaction, there’s no need to convert to Riel. Begging is quite rampant, children are often used to beg or sell. Some parts of the country are not open for visitors as there might still be functioning mines from the war.
How to reach Cambodia
You can opt for any connecting flights via Malaysia or Thailand or Bangkok.
If you are country-hopping, you can also get there via train or road from Thailand and Laos.
I went to Cambodia through Thailand – I took a train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station to Aranyaprathet for a very nominal fee. From there you take a tuk tuk for a short distance to the border town Poipet. Stand in line, get your stamp and proceed to take a bus from Poipet to Siem Reap (about 2 hours or so).
6Laos (1 INR = 125.15 Laotian Kip)
What can you do in Laos
Laos is a landlocked country that shares borders with Thailand, Myanmar, China, Cambodia and Vietnam. The interesting thing about Laos is that it opened itself to tourists only in 1989. Laos has a very beautiful landscape and some of the well-known places of visit are the charming capital Vientiane, the party hub Vang Vieng, and the scenic Luang Prabang.
Laos’s advantage for Indians: It’s easily affordable. And it’s a small country so a lot more can be explored in less time.
My Tip: Back when I went there they had horrible bus transports, we had to change 2 buses as they kept breaking down, we were delayed by several hours and some people missed their flights. So take caution if you are travelling by road and keep buffer timings before any major connections.
Just like Cambodia, they accept Thai Baht and USD for most transactions.
Visa requirements for Indians: Laos has visa on arrival for Indians which you can get while entering the country via air or land. I got a VoA at the border crossing from Thailand, it’s a fairly simple procedure, just carry the necessary documents and visa fees.
How to reach Laos
Direct flights are not available from India to Laos. You can choose any connecting flights among Air-Asia, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines, Jet Airways, Air India and China Southern.
Or you can get there via train or road from Thailand. I went via train from Bangkok to Nong Khai in Thailand. From there you get the cutest little train to take you from Nong Khai station to Vientiane. The other option is to go via road using the friendship bridge.
7Myanmar (1 INR = 20.90 Myanmar Kyat)
What can you do in Myanmar
It’s got a lot of culture and ties to history which can be seen in its various monuments and temples. A balloon ride over Bagan is a must-do activity (according to various Instagram photos at least). Here are some of the must-see places in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s advantage for Indians: You can cross borders and go there if you prefer land travel
Visa requirements to Myanmar: Indians can now avail visa on arrival in Myanmar. There is a small town in Myanmar called Tamu that you can visit visa-free by road, read more about it here.
How to reach Myanmar
You can take a road trip to Myanmar. The India-Myanmar-Thailand highway makes it possible but you will need your Visa (get it from Myanmar embassy or get a visa on arrival by applying online), temporary driving license and special overland permit. The journey covering 3200 Km will take 2.5-3 days. You can also take a direct flight from Kolkata or Gaya to Yangon.
8Indonesia (1 INR = 193.04 Indonesian Rupiah)
What can you do in Indonesia
Indonesia has more to it than Bali (although I’ve to Bali and it is amazing). Bali might not be as offbeat considering its popularity, but there are still plenty of places in Indonesia that we ought to pay attention to. My favourites would be the Gili Islands and they are absolutely worth a visit. You can also visit Jakarta and other places in Java and Sumatra. Indonesia is made up of hundreds of islands, has amazing beaches and dive spots, volcanoes, temples, rice fields and pretty much everything your heart can desire.
Indonesia’s advantage for Indians: You’ll find similarities in culture and religion (while Indonesia has one of the highest Muslim populations in the world, most of Bali practices Hinduism). It’s also affordable and provides great bargains.
Visa requirements for Indians: There is no visa required for Indonesia if you plan on staying there for less than 30 days. No VoA, no documents, no photos, no fees. Just ensure your passport is valid for over 6 months and you don’t exceed the stay.
How to reach Indonesia
There aren’t any direct flights from India to Indonesia but you can easily get flights with stopovers in Bangkok, Singapore, KL etc.
As you can see all the countries here have an exchange rate that is equal to or below the rupee. But while exchange rates don’t always mean cheap or affordable, these places truly have a low or balanced cost of living. The visa procedures are also fairly hassle-free. And they won’t take more than a couple of hours of the journey, giving you more time to explore the place itself. So I hope this list of affordable destinations from India helps you make a plan for your next international travel.
Let me know if you’ve to any of these places or have any questions by leaving a comment in the section below.
Also, here’s a helpful list of 21 visa-free countries for Indians (not to be confused with VoA and E-visas). You can thank me in the comment section 😉
Find out more about applying for a visa here.
Disclaimer: Currency rates keep fluctuating, please check the latest rate before making your travel plans. This article was last edited on January 14, 2020.