I get a lot of questions about how trekkers can reduce their expenditure on treks. I notice that many of them tend to spend an awful lot when it isn’t required at all! So I have a few excellent hacks for you today.
Why this topic?
Well, last week, the Indiahikes team from Bangalore went to Sasihithlu, a beach near Mangalore. We left on Friday night and returned on Monday morning. We were 23 of us.
How much do you think we spent on the trip?
Believe me, you’ll be stunned.
We spent just Rs.9300 for 23 of us for a two day trip! This is minus the train ticket.
I was stunned too!
I wasn’t part of the budgeting team or the money management team. I enjoyed all the comforts of a good breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was pampered with post-lunch ice cream and evening chai too! I hadn’t for a second imagined the team to be this efficient with their finances.
So I asked everyone just how they pulled this off. A lot of their tips can be translated to your trek. I’ll share them with you. Here goes.
1. Take trains. Travel to the very last mile by train. A train journey costs half as much as a flight. Perhaps lesser. Also, most metro cities are connected to Delhi by fast trains that take less than 24 hours. So if you can manage to add a Saturday/Sunday to your trek, then blindly take a train!
Our co-founder did the Valley of Flowers trek this way and spent less than Rs 10,000 from Bangalore to Bangalore!
2. Use public transport, especially buses, to the base camp. Most of our base camps are well-connected by bus. especially from central points like Kathgodam, Haridwar or Dehradun. Buses usually leave early in the morning, and if not all the way, they cover at least 80% of your journey to the base camp. You may have to change buses for the last stretch, but that’s an adventure in itself.
If you do your homework on the buses available, you’ll be the most independent, efficient traveller! And it’s thrilling how less you spend. You might spend Rs 300 on a bus in comparison to the Rs 1,100 that a shared cab will cost you.
3. Plan in advance. There’s nothing more crucial than this. If you’re planning a trek this year, whether in August or even December, then plan now! With every day that you waste, the flight price is competing with the trek fee. Almost always, it beats the trek fee too. So planning early is key.
On our part, we have already scheduled treks for the rest of the year. So take a look at our upcoming treks here and plan your travel right away.
1. Stay at dorms. You’ll be surprised at how easily dorms are available in most cities. Most GMVN, KMVN accommodations have dorms. There are also dorms like Zostel that are pocket-friendly. So avoid big rooms just for those few hours you have. Choose dorms.
2. Stay at railway retiring rooms. These rooms cost less than Rs 450 for 48 hours of stay. All you need is a confirmed railway ticket! The rooms are usually neat and clean with the basic requirements. Find more details about this here. If you just have a few hours to spend, then this is a terrific option!
Food on transit
1. Eat basic food at dhabas. There are always dhabas along the road that serve up quick and delicious food. Stick to your aloo paratha with a dollop of butter. Or maybe curd rice! Avoid anything extravagant. It will burn a hole through your pocket and likely, through your stomach.
2. Better yet, carry your own food. When any of us from Indiahikes travels, we always carry food for the first length of our travel. Roti and jam, sandwiches, chapati rolls, anything that can last a day, or maybe two. Especially if you’re travelling by flight, don’t pay Rs 100 for a bun with a slice of tomato inside it. Carry your own bun and tomato for 10 bucks!
3. Make do with quick, light meals. Instead of buying a whole meal from a restaurant, you could buy bread and fresh veggies and make yourself a wholesome sandwich. This way, you know exactly what is going into your stomach and you spend less.
Gear – The mother of all expenditures
1. Beg, borrow,
steal trekking gear. Your first approach should be to borrow gear. I did my first 3 Himalayan treks without owning anything but shoes (which I bought for Rs 999 at a clearance sale and it has lasted more than 10 Himalayan treks). I borrowed my brother-in-law’s jacket, my aunt’s sweaters and woollen socks, my dad’s garage torch, my colleague’s backpack…
With trekking becoming popular, more and more people own gear. It isn’t hard to find someone willing to lend it to you. Just post on a trekking group, or maybe ask your friends. You could even shoot out a question on your family Whatsapp group! You’ll never know who might be able to help!
2. Rent gear. You know, it makes us cringe when someone spends more on their gear than on their trek. So Indiahikes has started renting gear. Instead of spending Rs 4,000 on a pair of shoes alone, spend Rs 1,400 on shoes, a trekking pole, a padded jacket and a poncho.
And if it’s your first time on a Himalayan trek and you’re just testing the waters, then don’t think twice. Just rent gear. Here’s the page you can rent gear from. If you’re trekking by yourself, there are several rental websites. Just do a bit of research.
3. Try some jugaad with gear. Instead of buying a headlamp that may cost you Rs 600, tie a sling to your 60 rupee torch and make it a headlamp. Instead of buying woollen socks (they’re ridiculously expensive), wear two pairs of shin-length cotton socks. Or you could go to the mountains and then buy woollen socks. They’re very affordable there! There’s a lot you can make do with. It’s what true minimalists do.
4. Don’t get starry-eyed for big brands. We’ve noticed that many trekkers go by the brand. But even a pair of shoes from a Moti Bazaar at Dehradun or Chandini Chowk in Delhi can do the job. Just go by the techniques of choosing the right shoes. Looking for a brand name is not one of them.
5. You don’t need high-end models. If you are going for a branded pair of shoes, don’t go for the high end models. Even the lower-end models will give you a similar performance. You may have noticed many local folk in the mountains trek wearing canvas shoes. What you really need are nimble feet!
6. Share your gear. If you’re travelling in a group, share your toilet kits and medical kits. You could carry, say, one kit for five people.
The biggest takeaways
One of the primary reasons we started Indiahikes was to make trekking accessible to the lay person. Bringing down the cost of trekking was a big part of this.
Even today, we believe that trekking lends itself to a very pocket-friendly sport. “The more you save from one trek, the more you collect for your next one,” says Sandhya, our minimalist co-founder.
I couldn’t agree more! It does involve a bit of a lifestyle change — overlooking luxuries, sacrificing a few comforts… But learning to manage with minimal resources is a very valuable life skill, something that you’ll value for the rest of your life.
Let me know if you have any more hacks. Drop them as a comment below so that more people can follow your budget-friendly way of trekking!
Cover image by Vishwas Krishnamurthy.