Last month when I was returning from my solo bike journey to Spiti Valley, I decided to spend a few nights in the town of Vashisht, near Manali, in Himachal Pradesh. Looking for a guest house, I went to my usual place, where I’d stayed before for at least a dozen times. I liked its peaceful ambience and the location which allowed me to sit almost at the top of the village, overlooking the mountains down below. But as I enquired about the price for a room, out of courtesy, despite being very much familiar to it, I went a little flabbergasted.
“No, just one bedroom” I repeated with all innocence, before the caretaker repeated, twice, the exact same figure.
“It’s 1,200 Rupees a night, sir”.
The same room which I’d earlier – about 3 months ago I think – rented for about 400 Rupees a night, was now available for a whopping 1,200 Rupees.
Then I saw a group of teenagers, seemingly from New Delhi, and I realised that this is the time of the year when Vashisth gets its maximum tourists.
The month of June. The Peak tourist season. Prices had to go up!
We often fell prey to Peak Travel Season Rates – a golden period when tourism businesses make most of the profit of the year. And innocent tourists/travellers bleed money because there is no choice.
I generally tend to travel places during off seasons. This is when things are cheaper, and the availability is not a question. Still, if I somehow end up at a place which is entertaining a tourist overload, I use the following tricks to keep my costs low:
Find A Travel Buddy
Travelling with someone is a great way to keep the travel costs low. Having a partner means you will be sharing the cost of accommodation, as well as of transport. Except for food, everything becomes at least half the original price. Every time I travel somewhere, which I think can be expensive, I try to tag a buddy along. If not, I look for a fellow-traveller on the way.
Look For A Hostel/Dormitory
Accommodation consumes most of our travel budget. And in peak tourist season, private rooms become simply unaffordable. During such times, look for a hostel, or a dormitory. They are popular among budget travellers. You can find a bed in a hostel pretty much anywhere in Asia, in under 500 Rupees a night. In Europe, they cost slightly more but consider paying around 1000 Rupees in countries like France. An average hostel room accommodates between 4 to10 individuals.
In addition to being cheap, hostels provide a highly social atmosphere. If you ever wondered how solo travellers keep travelling for months, and not get bored – this is how. We stay in hostels and meet new and interesting people every day. Speaking of India, there aren’t many hostels, but you can still find them in big cities or in very popular tourist towns.
Where people often consider volunteering as something that teaches them a new skill, it can be well used to make your travels cheaper, and not be affected by a peak tourist season. Volunteering often includes tasks like teaching English or working in farms and gives you free food and free stay in return.
There is a complete well-identified trail of travellers who travel around the world volunteering. Connect with other people to find a suitable work/travel location for you. Use the website called Workaway and you can find free travel almost in any part of the world.
Read about my workaway experience in Australia
Make Friends With Local People
Local people are an excellent source of information on the best places to go, to avoid a potential on-season loot. Every time I land in an alien town (inside India or abroad) I try to get suggestions from the local restaurant staff or a cab driver. They are the living encyclopedia of their town and are always full of options for a confused backpacker.
Taking the time to make friends with locals, in a bar, or a café to get travel suggestions never goes in vain.
Choose A Homestay
The very idea of running a homestay is building a trust between the host and the party. Unlike guest houses, a homestay is very less likely to take advantage of high tourists seasons. So look for a homestay around you and rest assured, you won’t get ripped off. Though homestays ideally charge a little extra than a Guest House, they cover most of your meals. They are also a great way to meet local people and gain an insight into their lives.
Further Reading: Dealing With The Dilemma of Money And Travel