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Travel on Rs 1,000 a day

Travelling on a shoestring budget need not mean cutting too many corners. We show you how to bag the lowest rates, yet holiday comfortably.

Sushmita Choudhury        Print Edition: February 19, 2009

There might be no increments this year (if you still have a job, that is), the economy is unlikely to recover any time soon and it looks like the finance minister will demand your loose change for future spending packages. You definitely need a holiday from this unrelenting bombardment of bad news, don’t you? The good news is that the travel industry is going all out to ensure that you don’t postpone the summer holiday you have been craving for but are afraid to splurge on. Mindful of the marauding economy and tighter travel budgets, it is promising value vacations.

Says Vella Ramasawmy, general manager of the Leela Kempinski Gurgaon: “This year will be all about good gestures, pampering guests and nurturing them for the future. We are living in a world where people are having a tough time financially. You have to be as accommodating as possible to make sure that your guests are getting value for their money.”

Stretch your Rupee
Book early for the cheapest rates, except in Summer 2009.
Leading portals often miss out on great budget hotels. Visit sites like Inasra and TravelPaisa for more options.
A package deal is often cheaper and more convenient.
Apart from price, weigh the value additions on offer.
Time your travel smartly by tracking hotels’ ‘rate of the day’ for a week, if not a month.
Save on meals; lunch buffets can be cheaper than a la carte.
Meal discount coupons from, say, Pizza Hut, should be taken along to save on the trip.
For cheap sightseeing, rent a bike/car from the locals.
Avoid hotel-arranged cars and local taxis like the plague.
Co-branded credit cards like the Yatra Barclaycard will yield regular discounts.

In fact, the drying up of the foreign tourist trail has made several places in the country surprisingly affordable. According to Karan Anand, head, relationships and supplier management, Cox & Kings, the financial meltdown has taken a toll on travel and many hotels have cut tariffs. Consider this: hotels in destinations strongly dependent on foreign tourists, like Rajasthan and Goa, have lowered rates by almost 30%, while tariffs in the metros and tier II tourist spots are down 10-15%. “In 2009, hotels will concentrate mostly on making the stay attractive with various value additions,” adds Anil Madhok, managing director, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts. What does this mean? Complimentary room upgrades, airport transfers, spa discounts and more. All of which implies that you can manage a perfectly good holiday —food, accommodation and sightseeing— for just Rs 1,000 a day.

The deal is further sweetened by falling air fares—airlines have pruned their base fares by 40-45% in recent times. Do your homework well, do it in advance, and you can bag not only the cheapest fares but also the most comfortable seats. Don’t be shy to ask for more; all they can do is say no. When it comes to hotels, they are more than likely to say yes, meaning that you get a lot more than what you’re paying for.

If your brain balked at the thought of a holiday on Rs 1,000 a day, allow us to show you how. All you have to do is ensure that your hotel doesn’t cost more than Rs 650 a night on a twin-sharing basis, and divide the remaining money between meals and sightseeing.

Budget accommodation

Think budget stay and chances are you're expecting seedy rooms that are more likely to be rented by the hour than by the day. But look at the various Ginger hotels across the country and you'll realise that budget need not mean bad. Ginger offers air-conditioned, Wi-Fienabled double rooms, complete with flat screen TV, coffee maker and a work station, for under Rs 1,300, or Rs 650 a head. If you opt for smaller standalone properties, homestays or hostels, and time your travel for the lean season, you can find excellent, no-frills options for less than Rs 600 per person.

The safest way to find such accommodation is to take the online travel facilitator route. Established sites like Travelguru and Yatra yield plenty of budget options, with rooms starting at as little as Rs 500 a night. An added facility now offered by yatra.com, which is likely to become an industry norm soon, is to let the guests check out the budget properties before paying the entire amount. Though Yatra officials say that most customers are happy with their first choice, the confidence provided by such a gesture is sure to give many travellers the courage to think budget.

The usually expensive stay options are now available forless. The Kerala houseboats, for example, are offering all-inclusive packages for Rs 1,000 a night, per head.

Unfortunately, the top online portals offer options that are far from comprehensive. It's the lesser known portals like arzoo.com, inasra.com and travelpaisa.com that offer a greater choice in the budget category. For instance, consider the Haveli Hotel Suraj, where spacious double rooms start at Rs 1,215 a night. The 500-year-old guesthouse in Jaisalmer has been delighting guests for over 25 years, but is only listed by Inasra and Travel Paisa, both of which allow online reservations. Similarly, Websites like www.thebackpacker.net and www.bedandbreakfast.com/ india.html throw up several interesting budget options.

As with most things, the longer you spend researching, the more likely you are to land a great deal. The rule of thumb is to book early as this is a sure-shot way of getting a lower room rate. However, Summer 2009 is an exception. Experts say that it won't pay to be an early bird since most players are going to wait and see if demand picks up till March before they start rolling out the bigticket discounts.

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