Planning a Budget Trip to Rishikesh
April 17, 2019
by Mayka Sabova
Rishikesh has always been a bucket list destination and after spending one fulfilling month in this vibrant hub, it became the top value for money trip in India. Set on the Himalayan foothills and caressed by the exceptionally clean river Ganges, the so-called Yoga Capital of the World boasts a unique atmosphere promising a life-changing travelling experience.
For many, India means stepping out of a comfort zone but Rishikesh takes good care of Western visitors. It is a place, where India meets West with friendliness and availability of products, while the West meets India through a plethora of spiritual and Yoga centres, holy sites, Ayurvedic therapies and cultural programs. Even adrenaline junkies will scream with joy exploring the surrounding jungle or pumping the blood with rafting, bungee jumping and trekking.
Planning Your Travel
If you travel from far away, allow enough time to make the most out of your trip. While it is recommended to reserve your accommodation and transport beforehand, the city supports spontaneity and it is very easy to plan your activities on the spot.
In terms of seasons, we stayed from the beginning of February until mind-March and experienced heavy rains, wind and chilly nights. March and April are probably the best call but secure your accommodation well in advance during this high season.
Getting There & Around
If you fly to New Delhi, you can pre-book a taxi ride to Rishikesh. There are many travellers’ groups on social networks posting information about their arrivals for taxi sharing. This was a convenient option for a budget trip but keep in mind that some 230 km take almost eight hours on the road. The easiest option is to book a short flight from New Delhi to Dehradun and catch a taxi for a 30-minute ride to Rishikesh.
Local rickshaws fight for saving your daily steps for as little as 2.5 Eur per ride and if you share with passers-by, the costs become very minor. To cross the riversides and avoid congested suspension bridge, you can enjoy a short and very cheap boat ride.
Make sure that you book your room in Tapovan, close to the Lakshman Jhula or on the Badrinath Road. We were content with the Nammastay Travellers’ Hub, a good value for money providing all basic facilities and clean, simple double rooms. If you feel like making new friends and saving more, book a bed in a dormitory and although your days will be filled with lots of socializing and spontaneity, be ready for compromising your privacy.
You can get all your daily use items in Rishikesh, so save space for souvenirs! However, the following can make your life easier:
- Flashlight for short but frequent electricity cuts
- Portable charger
- Microfiber towel
- Thermal clothes for cold days (base layers and a warm fleece)
- Comfortable walking shoes
Pack your debit card for cash withdrawal and purchases but remember that during the high season, the cash machines run out of bank notes very quickly. Bring enough cash for your convenience, exchange a small amount at the airport just to get by on your first day and get the rest at the city’s bank authorized exchange providers.
The Highlights of Rishikesh
Explore the landmarks around Tapovan, Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula tourist areas. Outside of Rishikesh, plan a hike to the waterfall, book a jungle safari or a bus tour to Dalai Lama’ s residence, Dharamshala.
The city’s iconic suspension bridge is the sought-after landmark and a pilgrimage site. The scenery is complemented by the colourful Tryambakeshwar Temple, a 13-level shrine with stunning views. The cheeky monkeys also love the lively atmosphere, giving them a chance to snitch a snack from your hands, so better to walk empty-handed.
Close to the Ram Jhula, the second suspension bridge, one can chill-out on a sandy beach. A quiet spot for contemplation or Yoga, and if you dare, for taking a dip in the holy waters (the river is very clean in Rishikesh).
The timeless devotion to the Lord of destruction and creation is materialized in a few eye-catching statues, which can be admired around Lakshman Jhula and at Parmarth Niketan ashram. Another spectacular piece was built over the Ganges in the neighbouring town Haridwar.
Parmarth Niketan Ashram
Probably the most renowned spiritual centre in Rishikesh facilitates a celebration of the holy river every evening. Open to all, it is a unique opportunity to be a part of Hindu devotional ritual at its best. The premises are also worth visiting and if in the town in March, it hosts a week-long International Yoga Festival.
Keya Goswami Music School
Keya’s guidance in playing the harmonium was the highlight of the trip and one of the main incentives to return. Many foreigners visit the school daily for learning harmonium, singing and voice-tuning in one on one sessions. The school offers reasonable prices and flexible schedules.
Rishikesh is meat and alcohol-free destination! There is a great availability of Western dishes but if you crave the local cuisine, experiment with the new flavours slowly for a digestive hustle-free trip. Among the places in Tapovan offering clean food, versatile menus and unique vibes, the peaceful Ramana’s Garden & Organic Cafe is the top lunch spot, while Ira’s Kitchen & Tearoom and AyurPark are also popular and budget-friendly options. If the coffee time kicks, enjoy the view of the Ganga Cafe below Lakshman Jhula or energize with a good espresso at Honey Hut Cafe.
Rishikesh is a paradise for buying clothes, art and crafts, jewellery and accessories, books, incense, natural cosmetics and musical instruments. You will find pretty much of everything on every corner! Pop-in Fab India for a good quality Indian clothing, Sanskriti for a reasonably priced yet unique garments and Arora Organic Shop for every item that your modern lifestyle may require.
There is so much more to experience in this abundant place, where spirituality is almost tangible. It will not leave you unaffected, be prepared for inquiring about life and perhaps discovering more than your camera can capture. With planning beforehand yet leaving space for spontaneity, Rishikesh may quickly become your favourite escape destination.