In this article today, I will answer a big and most frequently asked question about traveling to Spiti Valley on this blog, “Can I make a budget trip to Spiti Valley“? We all understand that number of tourists visiting Spiti Valley has grown enormously in last few years. Spiti Valley popularly called the middle land, is right on its way to becoming one of the most popular destinations in India as Ladakh is just like Manali now 😀 … The hotels are on the rise in Spiti Valley and so is the budget for making a trip to Spiti Valley.
Having said that, there are tons of budget traveler like me who look forward to making a budget trip to any place and Spiti Valley is no different. The major issue when making trips to places like Spiti Valley or Ladakh is that you need a good number of days at hand. As you know that even in my recommended most common itinerary for Spiti Valley, you need at least 10-11 days to make the whole trip. Hence, the impact of daily budget is very critical on the overall budget of Spiti Valley trip.
My Top 6 Tips for a Budget Trip to Spiti Valley
In the past I have already written on the topic of calculating the budget of Spiti Valley trip which helps you calculate the overall budget in an eased out manner. However, in this article today, I will enlist some of the tips that I follow when making to Spiti Valley to keep a check on my budget. I am sure that the following tips will also help you optimize the budget for your Spiti Valley trip without making a big dent in your pocket 🙂 … So, let’s look at them one by one.
1. Travel in shoulder season – May OR September/October
When you travel to Spiti in winter (offseason), there are upsides as well as downsides to it. But, you can choose to travel in the shoulder months like May when the season is about to start or September / October when the season to travel Spiti Valley is about to end. The biggest advantage of such months is that stay options are pretty much about to open or close and hence are more than welcoming to tourists. It gives you three levers to pull:
a. Instead of pre-booking your stay, you have the option to book on the spot because majority of stay options will be available due to less number of tourists.
b. The hotels or guest houses are ready to offer lucrative deals like a free extra bed, allow you to sleep more than three in one room or in general good discounts. In our case, most of the guest houses did not even care if we were 3 or 4 in the rooms.
c. Less tourist means, less rush and more time on your favorite spots. You don’t have to wait for tourists to clear a spot and then take a photo. Spiti Valley feels far more peaceful in the absense or lack of many tourists.
In the end, there are some disadvantages as well like in the month of May, you cannot travel on the route from Kaza to Manali as the road is closed due to snow. Hence, you cannot complete the full Spiti Valley circuit. In the season end months, it starts to get a bit cold and winds get nippier especially at night. However, the cold can be managed by carrying proper clothes on Spiti Valley trip.
2. Travel in the groups of 3-5 members
Traveling in the group of 3-5 members opens up a good number of options to save more cost. For example, like mentioned above in Tip #1, some hotels may give you free extra bed. Hence, if you are three then you get a room with discount and free extra bed but you divide the cost by three people. So, you are getting discount as well as saving money as well.
When we talk about commute option when you travel in a group of 4-5 the cost of the taxi is shared in an optimum value as well as you stay comfortable in the car too. According to me, following guidelines should be followed for your mode of transport or commute:
a. 1-2 people, then choose Bike Rental OR Shared Taxis. Hitch Hike / Public Transport where ever possible and routes of least interest like Delhi – Shimla or Manali – Delhi Highway.
b. 3-5 people, then choose taxi or a self drive car of SUV type.
c. 6-10 people, then choose Taxi as Winger/Tempo Traveller which will save you directly about 55-60% over hiring two taxis and you travel together in the group as well.
Ofcourse, self-drive or self-ride on your own car or bike is always the cheapest & the most flexible way to commute on any trip. And if mixed with this tip, it can really bring down the cost of travel because commute is one of the major pie of the cost of any Spiti Valley trip.
Pro Tip: If you are doing a self drive to Kinnaur Valley, then make sure to read the article 40 Must Have Things to Carry on a Self Drive Trip to the Himalayas
3. Make on the spot bookings for stay & transport
If your luck does not work out well then a lot can go wrong in high altitude places Spiti Valley. Roadblocks, landslides, acute mountain sickness or health issues are few things that hover over any Spiti Valley trip. When you pre-book, you also lose the flexibility of staying more at a place which you like a lot. Or you may run madly to make up for the lost time in a landslide to reach your place of overnight stay. You should consider following things when you bring cost into play:
a. In a place like Spiti Valley, if you are not so choosy or finicky over particular things, you will certainly find some guest house or a homestay to spend the night unless your stars are completely wrong in place 😉 … So, on spot booking can be easily relied in case you hunt few places on arrival. It will also help you in being flexible to makes changes to your tour plan while you are on the trip.
You can always keep the article on the list of good places to stay in Spiti Valley handy with you to keep in touch with them on the go. If you are plying in the taxi, then your taxi guy will help you easily hunt a nice place to stay in your budget.
b. When traveling the Himalayas, always tend to follow my golden rule Leave Early, Sleep Early. When doing on the spot bookings, the key is to let the owner know that you do not care about staying and only looking for a good price. The late in the day you reach the place, the less bargaining power you will have because soon it will be dark. Hotel owners will know that you will not have much options and energy to explore.
You can get connected directly to some drivers in Himachal or Spiti Valley or Kinnaur Valley at the link: List of Taxi Drivers for Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley. These drivers can come and pick you up from Manali / Shimla / Delhi / Chandigarh too, of course with a price of the pickup as well. The rates of the taxis are about Rs 3200-3500 per day depending on the number of days you plan to travel, more the days, less the price. If you are 2-3 in the group, you can opt for sedan taxi cars as well which charges around Rs 2200 per day. Otherwise, taxis, in general, are also available on the spot from Shimla or Manali from respective taxi stands. These drivers can help you with finding local stay options too.
4. Be wise in choosing accommodation & where it is located
You should forget the word “hotel” when you travel on a budget. Most part of your day will be on road or outside when traveling or sightseeing in Spiti Valley. Hence, any decent homestay or guest house with cleanliness, comfortable beds, and clean toilets should be a good preference for a stay.
Sometimes the disadvantage of such small homestays or guest houses is that food may not always be available on your request. It will be prepared when food is being prepared for the homestay. Hence, the concept otherwise you are better off with a hotel.
5. Be wise what and where you eat or drink
Eating at the roadside dhabhas or tea shacks or a local Tibetan food shack is going to save much more money than eating at the hotel or fancy restaurants. Try some local food at home stays and limit your unnecessary spendings. You should try to create a balance between eating at local places or joints and good fancy restaurants throughout the trip to get taste of everything.
6. Pay for Individual Meals??
Well, though in a group of friends sometimes it looks odd in a country like ours. However, it is quite common to pay on table individually in many parts of the world and I feel nothing wrong at all in it especially when traveling with strangers. I know that things get a bit messy if you are not used to the custom. But, it gives good control on your food expenses If you take this up, you can additionally save about 10-12% in your overall trip or help someone in the group save it 😆
Online Travel Partners for Spiti Valley Trip?
You can even search for online Travel Partners for your Spiti Valley trip to reduce the overall cost and at DoW Community we already have an easy way to spot Travel Partners through our dedicated and very easy to use DoW Travel Calendar. Using our Travel Partners Forum & Calendar, you can pretty quickly and easily spot on which dates people are traveling and if some group suits your need to gel up or not. You can filter the travel partner calendar entries based on your preferences and places of choice. So, take the advantage and travel in group to reduce your travel cost for Ladakh trip 🙂
I hope this article will help you in reducing the overall cost and help you make a budget trip to Spiti Valley. You can also read one of the topics in DoW Community regarding Customize Tour v/s Self Organized Tours to Ladakh to really see the benefits of traveling on your own.
Do you have any questions or suggestions or need any help in planning your trip to Spiti Valley? If yes, please feel free to post them either in the comments section of this article below or our newly introduced “Ask a Travel Question” section of the website. You can also take guidance from other travel experts in DoW Community | Itinerary Advice forum for Lahaul, Spiti & Kinnaur Valley and discuss your upcoming travel plans for Spiti Valley 🙂
If you like the article, please feel free to share it with any of your family or friends who are planning to make a budget trip to Spiti Valley. In the next article of the series, I am going to talk about some lovely places of Spiti Valley as a detailed travel guide.
PS: Wishing you and your family a very very Happy New Year 2018 !!