Budget hotels in India come in a wide range of quality, price, and comfort. You may get lucky with older hotels that have retained a colonial feel and cheerful staff, while others seem on the brink of collapse at any moment.
Use this guide for booking the best accommodation and to know what to expect outside of the expensive luxury hotel chains.
- Learn more about choosing the perfect accommodation in Asia.
Booking Budget Hotels in India
Many budget hotels only provide best effort for reservations via email or phone, as they do not know when other guests will be checking out. Call the day before you arrive to ensure that your room will be ready and have a backup just in case.
Booking through a third-party site is the best way to ensure a reservation. Unless you're traveling during one of the popular Indian festivals or staying at a top-pick hotel, reserve only the first night in advance rather than the duration of your stay. You can always extend a stay if you like the hotel, however, getting a refund for a reservation is nearly impossible.
Sometimes you'll find great deals on private rooms at backpacker hostels.
Some Tips for Choosing a Room
- Ignore the assault of hotel touts waiting for you to arrive at bus and train stations. These touts either work for a commission -- which is added to your nightly rate -- or will want to take you to an unknown hotel away from the main drag.
- Road noise and excessive use of horns is a real problem in India. If possible, avoid rooms that face the street.
- Most older budget hotels have many different rooms of varying size and quality. Ask to see a couple of rooms before taking the first one they show you.
- If you intend to stay for several days, you can negotiate for a better room rate, particularly during the low season. See tips for negotiating prices.
- Rooms without carpet are typically the best choice in older hotels. The carpet is rarely cleaned and can smell musky or hide pests. Read about how to avoid bedbugs while traveling.
- Some hotels will offer a surprisingly low rate with the hope that they can up-sell you for tours, safaris, or activities in the area. Use your judgment if a hotel is unexpectedly cheaper than others in the neighborhood.
Safety and Security
Rooms that lock with a padlock on the outside are best; you can carry your own small lock for additional security rather than using the one provided by reception.
Lock windows and balcony doors before heading out for the evening. Even if the staff and other guests are trustworthy, some places -- even in Delhi -- have trouble with curious monkeys who may come inside for a look!
Budget hotels and their attached rooftop restaurants are typically staffed with only young men. Solo female travelers should consider staying somewhere else if they are the only guest.
- See more India travel tips for safety.
Checking into a Room
Be prepared for 15 minutes of bureaucracy when checking into a room. Copies will be made of your passport and Indian visa; you'll be expected to fill in a large book at reception and possibly additional forms to keep everything legit.
Tax, Service, and Payment
Confirm when you are quoted a room rate that the price is inclusive of taxes and other additional charges. The government requires a luxury tax on rooms above a certain nightly rate, and a 'service' charge may be tacked on if you fail to book your onward transportation or tours through the hotel.
- See more about tipping in India.
If you're asked to pay for the first night in advance, get a receipt for evidence in case you are charged for the night again when you check out.
Credit cards are accepted at very few budget hotels in India, so have cash handy. You may have be charged an additional fee to pay with plastic. See more about using money in Asia.
Aside from the cheapest of the cheap, most budget hotels in India have Western-style toilets rather than squat toilets. Some have excessive plumbing; expect a bewildering array of knows, pipes, and spigots protruding from the walls.
Hot water is often provided by a smaller hot-water heater in the toilet itself or hidden within the walls. You'll need to switch the power on at least 30 minutes before you plan to shower. The breaker switch can be in the toilet, just outside the door, or even outside of your room.
Ask about the hot water when checking in. Some places have a centralized tank that must be kept hot, meaning that hot water may not be available after a certain time at night.
The power in India is 230 volts at 50 Hz with the round, European-style sockets. All power outlets will have a switch beside. Power cuts and unexpected blackouts are common; be careful when charging laptops and phones, as generators can cause a surge on the line when they are started.
- See more India travel essentials for survival.
- Read about protecting your phone and laptop while in India.
Advertised Wi-Fi doesn't always mean that it works, even if the reception promises that it will work tomorrow, and seeing an active signal doesn't guarantee connectivity. The Wi-Fi may only work in reception or in the rooftop restaurant because of the typical thick, stone walls.
Open Wi-Fi signals without password protection may be an attempt to steal your logins to sell to spammers later. See more about internet cafe security.
Many budget hotels in India lock their front door or gates in the evening when the staff goes to bed -- sometimes as early as 10 p.m. If you plan to be out late, it's a good idea to let the reception know before you leave.
Many great hotels have lousy rooftop restaurants and vice versa. Don't cave into pressure to only eat where you stay, the place across the street could have far better food.
Always confirm the checkout time with reception; checkout times in India can vary from 10 a.m. to noon. You may be allowed to store your luggage at the hotel until your evening transportation, however, you should keep your money, passport, and valuables with you.