India Budget

india budgetI’m finishing up our travel budget guides with our India budget. Overall, we were both very pleased at just how cheap we could travel around the country, eat and stay. While it is definitely possible to fly from place to place or even hire a driver to take you around the country, we decided after much encouragement from some friends from India to take the local trains. We had heard horror stories about delays (even though we did experience a 9 hour delay) sold out trains months and general chaos surrounding the Indian train system. Thankfully with guidance and lots of patience, we were able to book our tickets and make it to our trains with little to no hassle. My best advice for navigating the train systems? Go through Cleartrip. They make the headache of registering and booking tickets a little less stressful. And also, book your tickets as soon as possible. We booked ours about a month and a half before our trip and there were only a few seats left. From what we’re told, this is the norm and if you don’t book in advance you’re in for a headache. The worst thing that happened to us while we were traveling was waiting at a less than sanitary train station (Agra was by far the worst one we experienced) for nine hours since our train was delayed due to immense fog that morning. But alls well that ends well since we made friends with a fellow passenger and was later invited to his house for a homemade meal by his mother. It’s one experience we just couldn’t pass up and ended up not only meeting one of the sweetest families during our travels but also having the best Indian food we have ever tasted. Everything after that is held to a much higher bar. I am so grateful for the kindness of perfect strangers and of course, delicious food. 

The India budget below is for 11 nights and 12 days and reflects the price for both my husband and I.india budget

Panna Meena ka Kund, Jaipur Stepping Well

I’m going to keep this short and sweet so I can get to the good stuff. Aka pictures. We had some extra time while we were in Jaipur, India and stumbled along the Panna Meena ka Kund, an old step well in close proximity to the Amber Fort. It’s pretty hidden from the road since the top is close to being flush with the road. I loved visiting Panna Meena ka Kund because unlike one of the larger step wells in the area, such as Chand Baori (which I would also highly recommend if you’re in the area), this one is pretty desolate of tourists and is unrestricted; letting you walk all the way to the bottom with no problem. We were also told that in the summer this area is used as a local swimming hole for some kids; although just looking at the water, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re taking the 15 minute trip out to the fort, make sure to also make the stop by Panna Meena ka Kund.

jaipur step well jaipur step well jaipur step well jaipur step well jaipur step well jaipur step well

Nepal Budget

nepal budgetNepal was easily one of those countries that you instantly fall in love with when you exit the plane (after the two hour wait to get your entrance visa of course). We splurged more on this trip especially on the Everest flight because well…we got to see Everest. It was one of those times where a splurge was completely justifiable in our book. Another thing that we spent more on than usual was food, even though you could hardly tell from the average $20 a day we spent. We were overly cautious about what and where we ate while we were in both Nepal and India and therefore picked nicer, more established restaurants rather than eating street food like we usually do while we travel. Although the best food can be found on the street, it’s just a whole lot more risky. We learned this the hard way by getting deathly ill after both Thailand and Cambodia. In hind site, we should have been more careful but I have no regrets about how we’ve traveled.

But this trip was an exception since we were going to be seeing family for the first time and announcing that we had moved back by surprise and I just didn’t want to take the chance of getting sick for that. As careful as we were, it still didn’t quite work out for me and I still got sick. I should add though that I don’t think it was from the food but instead from the fact that I kept forgetting to brush my teeth with the bottled water we bought and ended up drinking some of the water. Jeremy was better about it and wasn’t affected at all. It was only me that surprised our family members immediately followed by ‘where’s the nearest bathroom?’ Not quite the entrance I was expecting but after just under a week I was finally able to enjoy all the American food we missed so much.

The Nepal budget below is for 7 nights and 8 days and reflects the price for both my husband and I.

nepal budget

Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal

taj mahalJust like you can’t visit China without visiting the Great Wall or Nepal without seeing the Himalayas, you just simply can’t visit India and pass up seeing the infamous Taj Mahal, meaning ‘crown of plalaces’. It is beyond breathtaking with its intricate details and sprawling garden grounds. Take note Jeremy, this is how you pay tribute to your wife! Granted it was just one of emperor Shah Jahan’s many wives (no thank you) and it was after she passed away while giving birth to their 14th child (ouch). Same same right? The gorgeous sites are enough to book a plane ticket on their own but what about the pictures? Here are some helpful tips for visiting the Taj Mahal and capturing photos that guarantee a hassle free visit plus are sure to get you drool worthy photos to guarantee friends and family back home a small dose of wanderlust.

Morning Fog. If you go during dry season, beware! If you’re not, you can skip to the next tip. During dry season there tends to be much more fog and clouds which doesn’t exactly condone the best views and pictures of the Taj Mahal. We decided to get up before dawn and get to the Taj Mahal around 6:30 in the morning. It was a little foggy but only grew worse as the morning went on. At one point we were standing literally right beside it and couldn’t see a thing because the fog was so thick. Thankfully the nice guards at the entrance let us re-enter later that day when the fog had lifted. Below you can see what a difference just a few hours can make. Even though there were far more crowds in the afternoon, the better views were well worth the trip back. Plan your timing according to the weather and check with the front desk for their opinion on what time you should go. early morning vs early afternoon picturestaj mahaltaj mahal grounds

Dress Appropriately. Thankfully we didn’t have any problem with this since it was fairly cold when we were there (not what I expected when visiting India!) But remember that you are in a very conservative country and should try to cover up as much as possible while visiting national and religious monuments. Granted, there is no enforced dress code at the Taj Mahal but out of respect I would recommend trying to cover your knees and cleavage if possible. Maxi skirts, long dresses and the popular loose thin trousers found in India are great choices. I also try to carry a scarf with me just in case I need to be even more covered up. If you want more ideas of what to wear in India check out this blog post.

Crowds. On the reverse, if there’s no fog (the fog usually goes away by the end of January) make sure to go early! By the afternoon, I’ve heard horror stories of the thousands of people in the complex. Not shocking seeing as how over 3 million people visit per year and about 15,000 people visit per day. Even by the time we left around 1pm we could see the warms starting to file in.

photo tips for the taj mahal

No Tripods. Yup, it’s true. There are no tripods allowed in the Taj Mahal or most public monuments in India. I’m not really sure of the reasoning behind it but it’s better to just leave it in the hotel room rather than have to go through the hassle of renting a locker for a few hours, even though that is a good option if you forget to leave it behind. But don’t worry, see all those friendly people with the really nice cameras? Wait till they’re done taking their photos and I’m sure they’d be more than happy to oblige in taking your photo for you.

Check Pinterest. Not exactly the traditional advice huh? Before a big trip I always like to check Pinterest and look for photos of a certain attraction we are going to. Often times you will find areas not well marked on a map, different angles to try out or inspire a completely different idea for really unique photos. Simply take a screen shot of the pictures you like so you can pull them up on your phone without wifi when you are there. And to go along with that, try playing around with different shadows, angles and areas. Even though the fog was a real bummer early in the morning I actually really like how some of them turned out because it added a whole other aspect to the building that I hadn’t seen before. You might be surprised what aspects you thought would be a negative actually make for a great photo.

photo tips for the taj mahal couple photos at the taj mahalMahtab Bagh. This is a place you can’t miss. Take a tuk tuk across the river from the Taj Mahal and to the Mahtab Bagh garden. Here you have one of two options. In front of the gate (not entering the garden) take a right and go all the way to the end of the street until you reach the river. This provides a great view of the Taj Mahal from the back side but you can’t get directly in front of it. If you want a better view, pay the $1.50 admission fee and enter the gardens and go directly to the back for a truly amazing view. We went at sunset and I would highly recommend the same time frame to snatch some pictures that are sure to be your favorites. photo tips for the taj mahal

China Budget

china travel budgetWith only 72 hours in China, this was one of the easiest travel budgets we’ve had to make yet (thank God!). We spent the three days exploring the city including both historical sites such as the Forbidden City and Great Wall and also trying to find the best local brewery and American food in town. I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of the food in China. Not one bit. I tried I really did; we tried the duck, we tried the dumplings, we tried the soup that the lady behind us insisted that we just can’t possibly leave China without trying. It turned out to have large lumps of fat floating in it. No thanks. Thankfully Slow Boat Brewery came to our rescue New Years Eve with one of the best burgers and pale ale’s I’ve ever tried. But then again, we also thought the same thing about a burger place we took Jeremy’s family while in Tokyo. Jeremy and I were chowing down praising the Lord for this delicious piece of beef and claiming that it was one of the best burgers we’d had. Only to be met by the skeptical glares of our family who broke the news to us that it was in fact, not good. Not good at all. I guess that’s your sign that you’ve lived overseas for too long. You think mediocre American rip offs are the best thing since that time you found peanut butter M&M’s in the local foreign mart.

The China budget below is for 3 nights and 2 days and reflects the price for both my husband and I. china budget