First Time in India: What to Expect, Itinerary, Expenses, and Travel Tips

Filipinos can now travel to India easily. You do not have to go to the embassy to apply for a visa. All you need to do is apply for an e-visa online and voila, you’ll get a multiple entry visa to India valid for one year. Yes, the process is really straightforward and there are not too many requirements. So, if you are planning to explore India, now is the time! If it will be your first time in India, this is for you. This guide includes itinerary, expenses, and travel tips.

First Time in India: What to Expect, Itinerary, Expenses, and Travel Tips
Taj Mahal India

Important Things to Remember When Visiting India

  • Plan ahead of time. If you travel on a budget, it’s good to book your ticket in advance. There are promotions from different budget airlines from the Philippines with connecting flight in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
  • Apply for an Indian e-visa a week before your flight. The validity of the multiple entry visa is one year but the start of the date is when your e-visa is approved. So, to maximize the validity period of your visa, it’s wise to apply closer to your date of travel. At least, 4 business days in advance. Read our India Tourist e-Visa application guide.
  • If you plan to explore the South of India, it is wiser to fly to a southern city like Kolkota or Trivandrum. From there you can take a train or fly to other cities. Again, if you plan to fly instead of taking the train, make sure you book your ticket in advance for a cheaper rate.
  • For those who plan to visit Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it will be good to either fly to Amritsar in the state of Punjab or fly to New Delhi. From there, you can take a bus or fly to Leh, Ladakh. I highly suggest flying to Amritsar so you can experience India’s largest Sikh Temple.
The confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers in Ladakh, India
The confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers in Ladakh, India

What to expect when you arrive in India?

When you arrive in India, do not expect to get a sim card if you are flying to some international airports. Based on my experience, it’s only available in New Delhi and Mumbai. It is not available in Amritsar, Leh, and Srinagar airports.

I recommend getting a local sim to get connected to the internet so you can use Uber or its local competitor OlaCabs to book for your transportation within the city you’re in. It’s relatively easy to get a tuktuk or a taxi but to avoid getting ripped-off I highly suggest you use Uber or OlaCabs.

Srinagar, India
Srinagar, India

Buy a sim card at the airport if you can, It is quite difficult to get a sim card from the stores outside the airport as they will be asking you to provide a local ID. Just explain that your situation and tell the salesperson you only have a passport. Most will say no, but some will say yes. Take note that the sim card you buy will work in any state in India except Jammu and Kashmir. You will need to get another sim card if you are in J&K and it’s even more difficult to buy one. Roaming services, Uber, and OlaCabs do not work in Jammu and Kashmir. Also, the sim that you buy in J&K will not work in any other states of India.

Taj Mahal, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Taj Mahal, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World

English is widely spoken in India so it’s relatively easy to explore.

The Indian rupee is the local currency. One US dollar is about INR70. Bring USD or Euro to get better conversion. There is also a tax levied on foreign exchange conversion. Debit card with Visa and Mastercard logo can be used to withdraw cash from major bank’s ATM.

Taj Mahal Gate
Taj Mahal Gate

India Itinerary and Expenses

Day 0 – Departure from Davao City, Philippines

  • Depart from Davao to Kuala Lumpur via Manila at 10:50 PM. Total fare: Php3,975
  • Breakfast at Kenny Roger’s NAIA 3: Php250
  • Depart from Manila at 6:30 AM and arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 10:25 AM.
  • Lunch at Shihlin in KL Airport: MYR25
  • Depart from Kuala Lumpur at 7:20 PM and arrived in Amritsar, India at 10:30 PM. The fare was Php5,158.
  • Snacks Php200
  • Taxi from Amritsar Airport to Hotel: INR600. The taxi only dropped me at the main parking area near the temple. I had to walk about 20 minutes to reach my hotel. The street was still busy so I felt safe walking.
  • Hotel Mercury Inn by Sonachi: Php2411 for 2 nights. This property is very close to the temple. Book a room now.
  • Total expenses Day 0: Php12,754 / USD245 / INR17,045
Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai
Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai

Day 1 – Amritsar, India

  • Breakfast at the hotel: INR160
  • Morning visit to Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple. The entrance is free but you can make a donation. [Check out our list of top things to do in Amritsar]
  • Lunch INR200
  • Border tour via hop-on/hop-off bus: INR250. There is a VIP area for foreign tourists so you can proceed to the left side of the entrance area. Just present your passport to get in. There is no entrance fee and as much as possible, do not bring backpacks or handbags. If you have one, you can leave it at the store outside the Wagah Border control. There is a special section reserved for foreign tourists.
  • Water INR30
  • Dinner INR150
  • Total expenses Day 1: INR790 / Php590 / USD12
  • Check out our list of top things to do in Amritsar
Golden Temple in Amritsar
Golden Temple in Amritsar

Day 2 – Off to Srinagar, India

  • Breakfast: INR50
  • Tuktuk to Airport: INR320. I initially booked an uber but the driver canceled so I had to take a tuktuk since I do not have a local sim to access the internet.
  • Lunch at the Airport – INR390
  • Indigo Air from Amritsar to Srinagar. Departed Amritsar at 1:25 PM and arrived at 2:30 PM. The fare was INR3,395, one-way.
  • Prepaid Taxi from Airport to Hotel: INR750.
  • Hotel Mumtaz, overnight: Php754. Agoda gave me this rate which turned out to be very low compared to the actual rate. The hotel did not acknowledge my booking because of the rate discrepancy. I had to call Agoda twice because the first agent hangs up on me. It took almost 2 hours before the issue got resolved.
  • Sim card: INR600. Srinagar is a city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir so buying a sim card is more difficult than getting a sim card in the other states. The guy at the store initially asked for an electoral ID/voter’s ID which I do not have. Fortunately, the staff at the hotel helped me and explained that I only have a passport. The guy at the store called his colleague and asked if I can actually get one and the guy on the other line said yes but I had to wait. After almost an hour, I got a sim which only works in the state of J&K.
  • The Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden was already closed so I wasn’t able to visit it.
  • Took a tuktuk to the bus station to buy a ticket for next morning’s trip to Leh via Kargil – INR300. Unfortunately, buses were still not operational due to the heavy snow situation on the road.
  • Returned to the hotel via tuktuk since Uber and OlaCabs do not operate in Jammu and Kashmir. The tuktuk driver initially asked for INR250 but when we reached the hotel he claimed that he said INR450. I knew that he was scamming me and I was ready to go on a fight. A guy approached us and tried to tell the young tuktuk driver to get the money and leave but he refused and got mad at the guy. I gave additional INR100 because I don’t want to escalate the fight. He initially wanted to get the full INR450 but I said I am calling the police so he left with INR350.
  • Dinner at the hotel restaurant – INR150
  • Total expenses Day 2: INR7,405 / Php5,540 / USD107
  • Check out our list of top things to do in Srinagar
The road to Kargil from Srinagar
View from the road to Kargil from Srinagar

Day 3: Off to Kargil

  • Tuktuk to bus station INR100. He only asked for INR70 but since the driver was nice and tried to give me the change, I gave INR100.
  • Tip to hotel staff for getting me a tuktuk with a nice driver: INR50
  • Shared taxi to Kargil: INR1,600. The fare is only INR1,500 but the taxi lacks 1 more passenger so the driver asked us if it’s okay to pay additional INR100 each so we can leave.
  • Hotel in Kargil: INR2,000. I was with an Indian traveler in the van so we decided to share accommodation and paid INR1,000 as my share. It is cheaper to book online, you can book a room now.
  • Dinner at the hotel: INR200
  • Total expenses Day 3: INR2,950 / Php2,207 / USD43
  • Check out our list of top things to do in Ladakh
The road to Kargil from Srinagar
The road to Kargil from Srinagar

Day 4: Day tour in Kargil and off to Leh

  • Kargil Day Tour: INR4,500/2. Shared a tour with the Indian lady I met. We visited some of the popular tourist attractions in Kargil which is already part of Ladakh.
  • Lunch INR70
  • Bus fare to Leh: INR1,000. I took a mini bus because it was the only available transportation. Left Kargil late in the afternoon and arrived in Leh past 12 midnight which was a really bad decision. The hotel that I booked was already closed and nobody cared to open me or answer my call. I can hear the phone ringing from the gate so it’s impossible that no staff heard it. Waited for 30 minutes but nobody opened the gate so I walked and tried to check in to other hotels but everyone seems asleep.
  • Accommodation in Leh for 3 nights: Php5,710. I cannot recommend the otel that I stayed but this one has a better review: The Empyrean House
  • Total expenses Day 4: INR10,945 / Php8,190 / USD158
Kargil, Ladakh
Kargil, Ladakh

Day 5: First day in Leh

  • I was too tired because I had no sleep and the cold temperature outside made me feel sick so I just slept the whole morning.
  • Lunch in a restaurant near the market: INR250
  • Explored the market and bought mixed nuts: INR730
  • Bought med supplies: INR280
  • Snacks and water INR100
  • Dinner in a restaurant near the hotel: INR360
  • Total expenses Day 5: INR1,720 / Php1,287 / USD25
Indus River
Indus River

Day 6: Second day in Leh

  • Brunch INR200
  • Private day tour: INR3,000. Visited some temples, magnetic hills, and Indus river
  • Water: INR40
  • Dinner: INR450
  • Total expenses Day 6: INR3,690 / Php2,761 / USD53
Basgo Monastery, Ladakh
Basgo Monastery, Ladakh
Basgo Monastery, Ladakh
Basgo Monastery, Ladakh

Day 7: Off to New Delhi

  • Taxi to Airport: INR500
  • Breakfast in the airport: INR200
  • GoAir flight from Leh to New Delhi: USD77. Took a morning flight. Departed in Leh at 8:20 AM and I arrived in New Delhi around 10:00 AM.
  • Delhi Metro train from the airport to New Delhi Railway station: INR60. This is a very comfortable ride for less than 30 minutes.
  • Train to Agra: INR450. I highly recommend that you book your train ticket online to avoid the hassle. But, in case you haven’t bought a train ticket online, you can proceed to the international tourist bureau and someone will assist you to get a ticket to your destination. Do not fall in line in the ticket booths, you will just be wasting your time. You may book your ticket here. The travel time to Agra Cantt from New Delhi is around 3 hours.
  • Check out our travel guide on how to get to Taj Mahal from New Delhi.
  • Prepaid taxi to hotel: INR260. The prepaid taxi counter is just across the exit/entrance of Agra Cantt Train Station.
  • Sim card: INR700. Again, I had difficulty in getting a sim card and some stores did not allow me to buy one. The price was high but given the misadventures I’ve had because I did not have a local sim, I didn’t mind the price difference.
  • Birthday dinner at the Sky Restaurant in the hotel: INR1,200
  • Hotel accommodation at Crystal Sarovar Premiere Agra: INR7,600 for 2 nights. Crystal Sarovar Premiere is one of the few hotels in Agra with a nice view of the Taj Mahal. You can book a room now.
  • Total expenses Day: INR16,270 / Php12,173 / USD 235
  • Check out our list of top things to do in New Delhi
Leh, Ladakh
Leh, Ladakh

Day 8: First day in Agra but Taj Mahal is closed

  • Taj Mahal is closed every Friday so it was my rest day. I did not do much during the day and had time to enjoy the hotel.
  • Brunch INR250
  • Uber to Taj area: INR50
  • Coffee near Taj Mahal (Coffee Day): INR170 then waited for sunset at the back of Taj Mahal.
  • OlaCabs to Hotel: INR100
  • Dinner: INR250
  • Total expenses Day 8: INR820 / Php614 / USD12
Sunset at the back of Taj Mahal
Sunset at the back of Taj Mahal

Day 9: Explored Taj Mahal and left for New Delhi

  • Uber to Taj Mahal: INR50. You will only be dropped near at the gate entrance since vehicles are not allowed to get in. If you booked online, there are golf cars that you can avail to bring you to the entrance from the gate for free.
  • Entrance fee to Taj Mahal: INR1,250. This includes the INR200 fee to visit the main mausoleum. You will be provided with shoe cover and bottled water.
  • Photographer fee: INR500. I hired a photographer to take some photos of me inside the Taj Mahal complex. He took around 30 shots and I chose 10.
  • OlaCabs back to hotel: INR80
  • Lunch: INR250
  • Uber to Agra Cantt Train Station: INR155
  • Train back to Delhi: INR990. I took the semi speed train from Agra Cantt to Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station since there was no available seat for a train to Delhi Station. The train was comfortable with meals provided. HN Railway station is around 30 minutes by cab to New Delhi railway station, depending on the traffic, of course.
  • Ola to Hotel: INR170
  • Hotel accommodation at Hotel Hari Piorko: Php2,400 for 2 nights. The hotel is near New Delhi Railway station but it’s quite noisy during the night. I still recommend this because of its close proximity to the railway station. Book a room now.
  • Total expenses Day 9: INR5,845 / Php4,373 / USD84
Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal, India

Day 10: Explored New Delhi

  • Brunch: INR100
  • Water: INR25
  • Uber to India Gate: INR110. India Gate is one of the must-visit tourist spots in New Delhi. It’s FREE to get in.
  • Uber to Hamayun’s Tomb: INR95. Hamayun’s Tomb is nother must-see tourist attraction in New Delhi. The entrance fee is INR550 for foreigners.
  • Uber to Moti Mahal Restaurant: INR130. Moti Mahal is one of the popular restaurants in New Delhi known for its butter chicken.
  • Dinner at Moti Mahal INR700
  • Uber back to hotel: INR100
  • Total expenses Day 10: INR1,810 / Php1,354 / USD26
Hamayun's Tomb
Hamayun’s Tomb

Day 11: Off to Mumbai to catch a flight to Kenya

  • Walked to Delhi Metro Station from the hotel
  • Delhi Metro to Airport: INR50. My flight departs in Terminal 1D so I had to get down Delhi Aerocity Station.
  • Feeder bus to Terminal 1 from Aerocity Station: INR30
  • Late lunch at the airport: INR720
  • Coffee: INR330
  • Spicejet flight to Mumbai: INR3,938. Departed New Delhi at 3:50 PM and arrived in Mumbai around 6:00 PM
  • Uber to hotel: INR640. The hotel I booked is quite far from the city. It took me more than an hour to reach the hotel.
  • Hotel accommodation: INR2,500.
  • Singapore Airline flight to Davao via Singapore: INR18, 912. After Indi, I went to East Africa and came back after about 2 weeks. I flew from Mumbai back to Davao via Singapore Airlines/Silk Air.
  • Total expenses Day 11: INR8,208 + INR18,912 plane fare to Davao / Php20,290 / USD391

Total expenses including roundtrip airfare to/from Davao City: Php72,133 / USD 1,390

India Gate
India Gate

Travel Tips

  • Buy a local sim to get connected to the internet and avoid getting lost.
  • Download maps.me so you can access an offline map.
  • Use Uber or OlaCabs as much as possible to avoid getting scammed.
  • Uber and OlaCabs have booking counters in the airport in case you do not have internet to use the app.
  • If you are not planning on going around Mumbai and has a connecting flight, might as well book a hotel near the airport. The traffic in Mumbai is bad during rush hour.
  • You can reduce the expenses significantly if you stay in hostels or travel with another person to divide the hotel room cost.
  • Flying with a budget airline will also help you save money if you are traveling on a budget.

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