How To Reduce The Cost Of Your Himalayan Trek

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.

The Indiahikes team at Sasihithlu on an annual meeting. Picture by Raisin George

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.

The Indiahikes Bangalore team at a meeting in Sasihithlu. Picture by Raisin George

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!

A simple step like choosing to travel by train instead of a flight can cut your budget in half. Picture by Komal Shivdasani

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.

At Indiahikes, we always travel by bus where possible. This brings down our expenses to a great extent! Can you see all our tents and sleeping bags near the driver’s seat? Picture by Komal Shivdasani

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.

Choose to stay at a dorm as opposed to hotel rooms. The price is around one third that of a hotel. And you get to meet like-minded travellers! Picture by Komal Shivdasani, shot at Zostel, Agra

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.

Eat Well dhaba on the way to Sankri. Choose such dhabas where they serve food quickly. And eat basic minimal food. Don’t be extravagant with your food. Picture by Vinod Krishna

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!

Your first aim must be to borrow trekking gear. See whose fits, whose doesn’t and only buy/rent the things you cannot find. Picture by Nikshep Trinetra

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!

Most gear companies will constantly come up with new models of all products. But even the basic ones usually suffice, especially if you’re planning to do just 2-3 treks.

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.

What you should do now

1. If you liked what you read and want more such tips, check out all our Trekking Tips. They’ve been put together by our experts who have years of experience trekking in the Himalayas.

2. If you want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. So the sooner you apply, the better.

3. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.

4. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our guide here.

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers. Swathi is known for her expertise in digital content, which has made her a much sought after resource in many events. Before joining Indiahikes, she worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to impact a person's mind, body and spirit. Read Swathi's other articles. Watch Swathi's video series here.

19 thoughts on “How To Reduce The Cost Of Your Himalayan Trek

  1. I think we should not cut corners and do jugar with gear. I also dont think we should sacrifice comfort. Here are my reasons

    1. The Sting can break with a torch makeshift headlamp
    2. If you have 5 people in a bed you will not wake up relaxed.

    I think one should invest in the best stuff money can buy and you can afford. Dont borrow packs and boots, they need to fit you.

    I have tried my hand on quite a bit of gear and had to go through 4 packs before I found the one I like. I am still looking for my summit pack and have not found one I like.

    Those are my thoughts. I save every penny for my treks so I can have the best gear I know wont fail me.

  2. The items to be carried on the treks as mentioned in the website are generic to all the treks. I carried a thick jacket and gloves, and other woollen items like a muffler etc to Valley of flowers trek I did in August. It was quite hot then and most of the warm wear was never unfolded. A fleece jacket was more than sufficient in the nights too. As a suggestion I would like to say, you may tailor the list based on season and place of travel.
    I understand your constraints in making such a list as people may complain, later on the treks as the comfort levels of each person can differ. To this issue you may offer advice on the website and leave it to the invidual trekker to decide for himself.

  3. Thoughts of mine resonates with your hacks Swathi, I also follow these tips with my family and friends whenever and wherever we pursue a Himalayan trek.
    I would like to thank you and your team for raising concerns on the matter, and giving such an illustrated description as how to follow these steps.
    I would like to add one basic thing from my side i.e. while taking a bus to base camp, one should always be aware of the timing of the first and last bus for the destination. As it makes the travel hassle free.

  4. My dear friend Aravind , I appreciate your concern for the useless burden in the form of extra clothes but as a native of upper Uttarakhand region , I would like to convey that, weather conditions in upper Himalayas can change within hours.
    For example a little bit of drizzle and wind can make it unbearable in the summer season .
    So to be on the safer side it is advised to carry required gear .
    It’s my perspective , yours may differ from mine.
    Happy trekking 🙂

  5. Can easy Trek for senior citizen as I am 64 year old and fit as well. I want to have some trek experience at near rishikesh/ guide us .
    P.K. Sengar
    Agra Uttar Pradesh

  6. @p.k. sengar ji, yes ofcourse, senior people can also trek , it’s not about your age it’s only about your physical strength and will power.
    Many people who are elder than you take part in chardham Yatra , which is not less daunting
    Than a easier to moderate trek. So prepare yourself physically and start trekking.
    And as you have asked for, there are not many treks near Rishikesh but you can have a go at kunjapuri sunrise trek or Neelkanth Mahadev trek in the vicinity.
    Please remember if a person of your age is having any medical conditions than he/she must avoid any kind of physically straining activities.
    Hope you will have a good time.

  7. Better own a camping tent. A basic ine would come around 1500 to 2000 for 3 sharing. A group can contribute and same can be used for stay instead of lodging.

  8. I usually not in need of man made trekking pole, usually a good quality stick would do the job. I tried a trek pole in last trek, it got band in snow due to little more pressure. What is the use of 1k INR stick

  9. One more hack which I personally follow is by boarding NIGHT Trains.
    Last year, I traveled to Rishikesh for Bungee Jumping from Pune. Total journey was of 5 days & 4 Nights but We manage to plan in such a way that I checked-in Hotel only for 1 Night, rest all nights we spent sleeping in train coaches. Just check which train takes more time to travel so that you can also have luxury of 8 hours sleep 😉 E.g. I preferred Mussories Express from Haridwar to Delhi which takes more than 8hrs to travel rather than Nanda Devi Express with journey of just 4hrs 20mins. This way I had good sleep as well.

    Happy Trekking.

  10. Hello Swathi,

    My first trek guide was YOU and today I can say a minimalist packing would be more effective if we keep our feet, ear head and waist protected. I have seen people wearing tennis socks and shivering in a quilted jacket. Carrying excess luggage but ending up with a woolen gloves in a snowy terrain, hip half broken and fingers frozen.

    Thanks Swathi for showing us the way out!

  11. Quite a lot has been said about shoes in this article but as someone who has done a lot of treks, I would advise people not to compromise with your shoes. You can compromise on everything but not shoes because your feet are your most important asset when trekking and you need to make sure your feet are feeling comfortable.

    Cheap shoes do not have the same comfort level as more expensive shoes. Expensive shoes have more cushion, more padding and more flexible sole with better grip and are also significantly lighter due to higher quality materials used. All of these things make a huge difference. Unless it’s a winter trek, please don’t buy those super expensive trekking boots either because they are heavy, cumbersome and the ankle protection reduces your agility and restricts your ankle movement which increases the effort required to walk manyfold.

    Buy typical light trail running shoes without ankle protection. After switching over to these shoes, it made a world of difference to me. Carry lots of extra socks because these shoes are not waterproof but they do dry very quickly which in my opinion is a huge advantage. Boots, once they get wet, you are toast.

    As for renting gear, if this is first trek, it does make sense to rent but after that, if you feel this is a not a one time activity for you and you have ignited the passion to trek for the rest of your life, then go ahead, spend the money and buy the best gear you can. Over the long term, you will save buckets load of money because renting is not cheap and using gear used by others, especially sleeping bags is neither pleasant nor hygienic. There is also a reliability factor. You don’t know how reliable old rented gears will be and they can fail when you need them the most. Weight is another factor. Rented gears often tend to be low quality heavier ones which will add to your load. Last but not the least, owning your own gears open up the doors to do solo independent treks in future without the help of any agency and trust me, it’s way more fun than being shepherded in a huge group where you may not get along with everyone. Most of the time, it also works out cheaper.

    Except for the gear part, all other tips shared in this article are very good and you will definitely save money by following them.

    1. Hi Tanuk,

      I agree with your ideas. I also see that light trail running shoes with no ankle support might have worked for you, but for Himalayan treks they are generally not advisable. Although these shoes are heavier they provide ankle protection which is very much required to protect your ankle from unwanted twists. Also more your ankle rotates more stress you’re putting it through. It’s better to cushion it and put all the weight on your heels and sole by keeping the ankle straight. As for the waterproof purpose, I can understand that it may take long to dry it, but if you carry multiple socks it shouldn’t be a problem.

      I completely agree with you on the rented gears part. The ‘Rent Gear’ option is for first-time trekkers and trekkers looking for an easy fix. Although we do repeated checks on our gear for their quality it’s always better to carry personal equipment and get used to it.


  12. I didn’t know that a train journey costs half as much as a flight but that’s a really good tip! My husband and I want to take a year to do things we’ve never done before. Our next stop is a Himalayan trek so this was a really good read.

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