Accommodation in India

Accommodation In India…Some Of My Personal Favorites

Derek India, Travel Costs 58 Comments

Accommodation in India

My latest visit to India is about to come to an end. And from my beach hut balcony I now sit, staring out at the Indian Ocean, writing in rhythm with the lightly crashing waves, wondering how I still have my teeth given the amount of sand that has ended up in my mouth as of late…and most importantly, feeling as relaxed and clear-minded as I had hoped I would be from spending twelve days on Palolem Beach in Goa.

That’s twice in a row now. Two visits to Palolem in the past year, both visits to try and clear my head. Both visits a major success.

Maybe it’s the beach. Maybe it’s the quietness of the village. Maybe it’s all the fresh fruit I’ve been eating. Maybe it’s the breakfast-sun-work-wander-swim-sunset-dinner routine I’ve been partaking in every single day.

Whatever it is, I will leave India feeling happy and healthy, ready for the next adventure, ready to continue creating, thinking, enjoying and living life to the fullest.

Back to my beach hut balcony. Here it is…

Havana Palolem, Goa

Not bad, right?

During my previous visit to Palolem back in December/January, I stayed at a place called Resort de Palolem which was by no means anything that resembled a resort. However, they had some of the best value beach huts on the entire beach and staying there was an absolute highlight of my visit. But when I returned this year, six weeks earlier than when I arrived last year, Resort de Palolem was an empty patch of grass. Since it wasn’t the busy tourist season yet, they had not even started building their huts, something they have to do every year because the local law requires all beachfront establishments to take down all huts and restaurants during the off-season.


So, this year, off in search of a new hut I went. And that’s how I found Havana Palolem, where I am now, and where I’ve been for the past twelve days. This hut definitely rivals my hut from last year, offering a spacious interior (in comparison to other huts in the area), a comfortable bed, plenty of light and an ocean view, all located in a quiet little “hut neighborhood” only steps from the beach. Ideal indeed!

And the prices, always negotiable, range from around 2000 Indian Rupees for a hut on stilts down to around 800 Indian Rupees for a standard version, which is a great value on this beach, hence the reason why I would fully recommend staying here.

In fact, as I began this post, which was originally only going to be about Goa, I realized that there are all sorts of accommodation in India that I would love to recommend as well. Palolem isn’t the only destination I travel to over here and after 10+ visits and 2.5 years in total spent in India, I certainly have my favorite hotels and guesthouses. And perhaps this information will prove useful to anyone coming to India who is trying to figure out how to choose places to stay.

(Keep in mind that this list will focus on the north of India since that is the region where I’ve spent most of my time during my last few visits.)

My Favorite Accommodation In India

Delhi:
For years I’ve stayed at the Smyle Inn in Paharganj, a busy market area that is definitely hectic and intense, but is also conveniently located and somewhat easy to adjust to given that most budget travelers do stay over here. Smyle Inn offers good, clean rooms, with fans, air-conditioning, private bathrooms, free breakfast, solid wifi throughout and friendly, trustworthy staff who can assist with anything you may need. They have slightly smaller and cheaper rooms in their original building and larger, more expensive (around 1000 rupees per night) rooms in their ‘newer’ wing. Overall, this place is as reliable a budget option as there is in Delhi which is why I am always recommending it to travelers headed to this city.

McLeod Ganj:
When visiting this village in the Himalayan foothills, I head straight to Pink House these days. Yes, you have to walk down 147 stone steps to reach it, and you must indeed walk up 147 stone steps to get back into town, but believe me, it’s all worth it when you see the view from your private balcony. And that’s not to mention the large, comfortable, warmly-decorated rooms, private bathrooms and helpful manager who will make sure you are happy throughout your stay. Cheaper rooms are in the old building, and slightly pricier, but significantly nicer, rooms are in the newer building. Expect to pay between 600 – 1400 Rupees per night depending on room type and season.

Pink House, McLeod Ganj

Agra:
I’m not a fan of the area known as Taj Ganj, a neighborhood that is jam-packed with budget hotels and tourist restaurants and cafes. In my opinion, there’s a negative vibe over there and as a result, I prefer to stay away. I tend to stay at a random hotel called Hotel Daawat Palace, located just a two minute walk from the West Entrance to the Taj Mahal. Most of the people staying here are Indian tourists with a sprinkling of foreigners too but the rooms are larger than most in Agra, quite clean, come with air-conditioning, a large open courtyard on the third floor and a rooftop with a view of the Taj as well. The rates hover around 1000 rupees per night, a good deal for this class of room in this city, which happens to be one of the most expensive in the country when it comes to accommodation. (Also, just next door to the Dawat Palace is the Maya Restaurant, which I think is one of the most reliable restaurants, with great tasting food that does not cost a fortune, in all of Agra.)

Bundi:
Oh yes. Whenever I think of the Shivam Guesthouse, I immediately start to smile because I’ve had nothing but wonderfully memorable experiences while staying here over the years. Bright, clean, colorful rooms in an old family home right in the heart of town, run by a family who are all as helpful and kind as can be. It’s not possible to stay here and not be extremely happy, trust me on this one. Great food on the rooftop restaurant, only a few minutes walk from the Bundi Palace and as an added bonus, the owner’s daughter-in-law is one of the most talented henna artists I’ve ever seen in India and she’ll gladly henna ladies’ arms, hands, legs or feet for a small fee. Room prices are around 300 – 1000 rupees.

Udaipur:
Poonam Haveli Hotel. Remember those two words and you’ll be all set. Simple, but spacious, quiet and absolutely spotless rooms, some designed in the style of a room in an old haveli (historical Indian private mansion), an unreal rooftop view of Lake Pichola and the surrounding area, and as perfect a location as you can get in this city. And you get it all for around 1000 Rupees per night. (If you’re looking for something less expensive, go to the Panorama Guest House. 400 rupees per night will get you a double room with private bathroom in a superb budget establishment.)

Palace on Step, Varanasi

Varanasi:
Some people prefer to stay in the heart of the Old City and I’ve certainly done that myself. And when I do, I stay at the Palace On Step Hotel (also known as Ajaya Guesthouse), located right behind Rana Mahal Ghat, on the edge of the Ganges River. The rooms, spread out over a few buildings, all vary in terms of price and quality so make sure you look at as many rooms as they have available before choosing. And be sure to ask for a room that has a window overlooking the Ganges. The staff might be a little grumpy at times, but given that you’re a 30-second walk from the bank of the river and a 30-second walk from the heart of the Old City, and you have a clean room in a town that doesn’t have a great deal of quality budget accommodation, it’s still well worth it. Rooms here range from 800 – 5000 rupees per night.

On the other hand, if you prefer some peace and quiet instead during your stay in Varanasi, then I recommend heading south along the river, just past Assi Ghat, and staying at the excellent Rahul Guesthouse. As you pull up to the place, you’ll probably think that you’re experience is going to be anything but enjoyable, but once you enter your room, you’ll feel a lot better. The rooms are much more modern and comfortable than you would ever expect, the rooftop offers one of the best views of the city and the river that you’ll find anywhere, the neighborhood, while very local, is only a short walk away from the ghats and from plenty of restaurants and cafes, and there are also rickshaws hanging around that will whisk you into the Old City for 60 rupees. This place offers a truly quiet, peaceful experience, and the owners, a very kind family, will do their best to make you as comfortable as possible. Rooms typically cost from 800 – 2500 rupees.

Mumbai:
If you need to be near the airport, have a look at the Anjali Inn. It’s a small hotel located less than a mile from the airport entrance, with small, but more-than-comfortable rooms with private bathrooms and hot water for around 700 rupees (which is a bargain in Mumbai!). The staff are friendly, there is no shortage of restaurants on the main road out front and an airport pick-up and drop-off service is offered for guests as well.

If you want to be in the heart of the city, I would recommend the YWCA International Guest House (men and women are welcome) over in the Fort area which is probably one of the best budget values in Mumbai. Otherwise, if you want to stay in the popular Colaba neighborhood, which is the main travelers hangout, I would just head there and go door to door looking for a room that suits you. Quality is generally quite low over here and the prices are shockingly high, but there are dozens of options to choose from so eventually you should find a room that is good enough and won’t clear out your bank account. Then again, for the real budget-conscious, you might want to have a look at this no-frills budget hotel that I reviewed last year.

Good timing. My taxi driver has just arrived to take me from Palolem to the airport. And I’m all packed and ready to move on. So, upon closing my laptop in just a few seconds, I shall walk down the steps of my perfect little beach hut one final time, I shall bid farewell to the beautiful Indian Ocean and I shall walk away wondering when I’ll have the good fortune to find myself back in this small slice of paradise.

In the meantime, I hope the above helps and if you have any questions about accommodation in India, just let me know!

**I was not paid by any of the hotels or guesthouses for mentioning them here. None of them even know I’m mentioning them in this post. These are my 100% honest recommendations based on my years of travel to India.

Any of your own Indian accommodation recommendations to share?


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Comments 58

  1. lisa

    Hello,
    Thanks for the amazing blog! I always enjoy it.
    I visited Varanasi last year and for me two days just wasn’t enough. I would like to go back for a few more days but the only time I have available is the end of September. Would you personally travel there during that time or would you be too concerned about the rain and especially the heat?
    Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author
      Derek

      Hey Lisa – That’s tough because with the rain, the river is usually so high that you can’t walk along the ghats. So it becomes a very different experience as you need to walk mostly in the old city and you don’t have all that activity along the river. And then the heat can be unbearable too. I personally don’t like to visit Varanasi outside of November – March.

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  3. Kathryn

    Hey! Great list of recommendations! I’ll be in India for 2 months in 2016 and will definitely take your advice on these places. Quick question though: Is it necessary/recommended to book accommodation in advance, or can you usually just show up and get a room/bed?

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  5. Myrthe

    Hi Earl, great blog and thanks for the tips, I’m sort of planning the same trip as Owen above and also would be interested in any further recommendations! Thanks and Enjoy!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Myrthe – If you let me know more about your itinerary, I can definitely offer some recommendations!

  6. Ed

    Hi Earl. What a selfless, honest, helpful post. In a reply to Missy you say that it’s “not really worth” going to India during the rainy season. I had heard that outsiders’ perceptions of that time of year – nonstop, pounding rains for weeks at a time – are inaccurate. Yes it rains, and hard, but mostly in the afternoon. It’s also cooler than in the months leading up to the rainy season. Is my information wrong? My travel time is limited to June-August.

    Wonderful blog.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ed – It really depends where you go during the rainy season. Many people go into the mountains as it’s not as rainy up there, but in some places, like the south, it can rain heavily for much of each day. The rainy season here definitely can get in the way of your travels but the key is to pick the spots that you’ll visit more carefully and avoid going to the areas that are typically more affected (mainly the south).

      June – August is perfect for the mountains north of Delhi!

  7. Mike

    I just looked into booking a room at the Anjali Inn in Mumbai and was told that the 700 rupee rate was for a dorm room with no private bath, and is now up to 800. The price for a single room with private bath, but no window, is 1500 rupees. From the hotel:

    Greetings from Anjali Inn!

    For Rs. 700/- it was dorm bed, not any private room.
    now dorm will cost you Rs. 800/- n private room Rs. 1500/-
    Inclusive of tax and one way airport transport.

    We greatly appreciate you giving us an opportunity to serve you.

    Thanks and Regards
    Anil.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mike – Just make sure that it is the correct Anjali Inn. There are two, one very close to the airport (which is what I mention) and one that is a few kilometers farther away from the airport (which I don’t know much about).

  8. Owen

    Palolem Beach looks incredible !! I’m planning to go to India but unfortunately I can only go to India in July, which rules out any beach trip to Goa 🙁 Instead my plan is to do Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur, so your suggestions are extremely useful ! Do you have any favourites in Jaipur or Jodhpur ?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Owen – It’s been a while since I’ve been to Jaipur and Jodhpur so I don’t have any recommendations for those cities. But I will be there in about a month or so and can let you know!

  9. Michele

    Thanks for the info on places to stay in India. BTW – it’s the Arabian Sea we are looking at when you are facing the ocean in Palolem – but that’s a minor issue. My first take on Palolem was it was TOO touristy. But you are right it’s very relaxing. Love the tempo of life here. We moved from the very lovely Palolem Guest House – old Goan architecture and about $40 per night (which we thought was a bargain) very comfortable – actually luxurious to a great little hut in Padnem Beach called The Bridge. It is a five minute scooter ride from Palolem and our hut is costing us about $20 per night. Great food and wifi (what else does one need). My new office is the front veranda with a palm tree protecting me from the hot afternoon sun. Time to get some writing done (that was one of the intentions of living cheaper in India and Asia this winter. But back to great places to stay: Veeniola Guest House near Cavelossim Beach is absolutely wonderful. I miss it already. The rooms are nothing special – though nice and clean. It is the wonderful friendly staff, the quiet location in the countryside about 7 minutes by scooter to the beach – a much quieter beach scene. And the people who show up at Veeniola really make it delightful. Many places people are courteous but don’t interact. Not at Veeniola. Maybe it’s the proximity of the tables but pretty soon everyone is sharing stories. We (in our 60’s) got up early and went with 2 young women (in their early 30’s) to do yoga on the beach. Just perfect way to connect with others all around the globe. And Lenny at the bar at Veeniola is a great guy – always friendly. Good food too.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Michele – Thanks for sharing all of that great information although, if you think Palolem is touristy, I would advise against going to some of the other beaches in the north of Goa! (And the Arabian Sea is just a region of the Indian Ocean so both are correct.)

  10. Ashley at NOXP

    Yay! So glad I found this post! I was actually considering shooting off an short email to you asking for your favorite places to stay in Delhi and around…trying to put together a trip to do the Golden Triangle in February, and always prefer recommendations over choosing some random hotel to stay at.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ashley – As you continue to plan, do let me know if you have any questions. And I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

  11. Kara

    I love the pictures and the beach huts sound amazing. I’m in college right now, but I have dreams to travel extensively one day after I finish school. Your blog teaches me what I need to know before I finally get the chance to live my dream, and gives me hope that it can actually happen.

    I also love when you mention places like this. It gives me ideas of where I want to visit and what I want to experience. Nicaragua is actually one of my top destinations. I love reading about the culture and seeing how colorful it is. I also have a penpal in Trinidad & Tobago that tells me about where he lives so I would love to go visit there.

    Thank you so much for sharing everything you experience with the rest of us so we can have great experiences, too! 😀

  12. Rashad Pharaon

    Wow, that beach hut would make it very hard for me to keep wandering! I’m looking forward to being near a few of your hotel recommendations in a few weeks when I start my month-long trip to Nepal. Maybe once I leave there, I can try the pink hotel at McLeod Ganj!

  13. Erin

    Hey Earl. I just came across your blog and wish I had found it years earlier. I spent 3 weeks in Palolem in March 2010 and loved seeing the huts and view. I miss my wandering days and your posts have made me want to do it again even more. I’m curious as to what you did before leaving the states? Just finish school? How did you get started on cruise ships? Was it good? So many questions…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Erin – I did start traveling just a few months after graduating school and I got started on cruise ships after a friend recommended I give it a try. I applied, got the job and off I went…

      You can find more information on my Getting Started page. It might help answer some of your questions 🙂

      http://www.wanderingearl.com/getting-started/

  14. Prince Bhatia

    Hey Earl, I am from India and visited these places but still I don’t know about the accommodation at decent prices. I really appreciate your work for posting about budget accommodation with decent facilities I am planning to go Mcleod Ganj this month and I am looking forward to follow your recommendation for the pink house. I just want to know don’t you miss United States as Indians are crazy about going there for life.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Prince – I do go back to the US 2-3 times per year to visit family and friends and so far, that is a perfect amount for me.

  15. Megan

    Super helpful, definitely bookmarking this! I’ve always had this stigma in my head that finding accommodation in India would be really difficult due to a ton of different options.

  16. Ajay

    Hi Earl, I missed seeing you. My work kept me pretty busy and forgetful. Hope we can meet some other time. Hope you had a nice journey to India this time.

    In case you don’t remember who I am, I would like to remind you that I quoted an urdu couplet for your traveling spirit.

  17. Katie

    hi Earl!

    Headed to India for an extended trip in a week!! I’ve already booked the Smyle in Delhi for my first couple of nights and am using them for airport pick up as well since I arrive at night. Any suggestions for Amritsar accommodations?

    Thanks!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Katie – You can stay at the Gurdwaras at the Golden Temple which are designed for pilgrims who are visiting. But there is one reserved for foreigners and I think it just costs around 50 Rupees per night. Other than that, I tend to stay at the Golden Heritage Hotel…it’s ‘okay’ but it’s only 15 seconds walk from the Golden Temple which is what I like it.

      Let me know how it goes in Delhi!!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Rachel – Some of them have websites, such as the ones I linked to above, but many don’t. You can easily show up, walk up and down the beach, look at all the huts, ask for prices and then choose the one you find most suitable. It’s very easy as there are always huts available.

  18. Missy

    What are the dates of the “off season” so I don’t make the mistake of going then? Is there really only empty patches of grass everywhere during the off season and zero places to stay? Why is it the off season… weather?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Missy – The off season is due to the monsoon rains so it’s not really a good time to go. And while the huts are all required to be taken down, apparently one or two remain up each year after paying a hefty bribe for that right. But with the weather, it wouldn’t be worth it. The off season generally starts in April and lasts until October.

  19. Casey

    Ah, Pink House, a McLeod Ganj classic. We preferred Dharamkot for peace and tranquility, even though we had to walk past at least a dozen irritable monkeys every time we went up and down to town. 😉 I also feel cheap after reading your post because 800-1000 rupees seems expensive to me. We went with the lower-range digs throughout India!

    Also appreciate the note that you were not paid for any of the mentions. It’s unfortunate that you have to say it – a couple of years ago everyone would have just trusted that a travel blogger only recommends places where they have paid for their stay and enjoyed it but it’s a sponsored world nowadays…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Casey – Yeah, the world of travel blogging certainly is changing like that and these days it’s the opposite…it’s often assumed that the blogger is indeed getting paid when anything is mentioned in the post.

      On a side note, Dharamkot is definitely a great spot too 🙂

  20. Steve C

    Earl, great recommendations. I’ve also bookmarked this for future use.

    Question: I wonder, how long this bookmarked page will stay up? Will it still be their a year from now?

    Also, you might think of doing this same thing with other places you’ve visited. Thanks

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Steve – I’ll definitely try to do it with other places although it’s a bit more challenging. With India, I know the country so well and have been all over, so I can offer much more reliable information than for other countries that I haven’t explored so thoroughly. But I will absolutely keep it in mind for my upcoming travels! Thank you for the suggestion.

  21. TravelingFirefighter

    The information you put out there Earl is like GOLD, which is why, in an effort to have a light inbox, I’ve stopped my subscriptions to several (not all) other travel blogs but certainly not yours. Yours is simply the best, you give unselfishly of yourself, and it shows. Much appreciated!

    1. Wandering Earl

      @TravelingFirefighter – That means a great deal to me and I’m just happy that you find the information useful, as my goal with every post is to try and make it as useful as possible. Thank you as always for being such a long-time reader of the site my friend!

  22. karen

    I think India is more expensive than people expect if you don’t bargain! You definitely need to bargain and not listen to their excuses as to why prices are so high. The place I am staying told me 1900 rupees for a room which is ridiculous. The price then reduced to 800 and after a bit of complaining about price I now have one for 500 🙂 And for lunch today I looked at a menu charging 60 rupees just for a plate of white rice, walked down the road a bit and got a nice local thali (rice, dahl , chapatti, poppadum and some other things) for 80 rupees. The lesson is – shop around!

  23. Dominic Cowell

    Unbelievably useful article, Earl! Been looking a fair amount into accommodation recently, particularly as I shall be in India in less than 50 days (starting in Chennai). Hoping to do some little articles like this on my own travels… when I can eventually decide on a domain name.

    “Pink House” looks amazing, and so do the huts at Goa (I saw the video you made a while back at these), although my attraction to Goa as a destination itself still isn’t really there.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dominic – Glad it might be useful. And as for Goa, it’s a completely different Indian experience. It’s beach living and really just a great place to relax and unwind. There’s not much else to do there. And while that might not sound too appealing right now, after a few weeks or a month in the other, more intense, parts of India, having such a break just might sound like a much better idea 🙂

  24. Subhadip

    Welcome to India Earl & have a nice stay here. You should also visit the “City of Joy – Kolkata”, the earstwhile capital of British India. You will truly appreciate it. Bengal has it all; from sandy beaches to mighty Himalayas to dense jungles to astounding history & architecture. So rush there before you pack up. Visiting India without a trip to Bengal is like having the plum cake without the plum in it. Enjoy the trip.

    Regards,
    Subhadip

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Subhadip – Thanks for that recommendation and I’ve actually been to Kolkata 3 times over the years. Definitely a great city!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Kathryn – A lot of people do say that and I think one of the reasons is because India can be so intense that people tend to choose more expensive accommodation and restaurants so that they have a little more comfort and a better respite from the ‘madness’ outside. So it quickly becomes more expensive as a result.

  25. Raz

    Paloleeeeeeeem

    Everything written in this post, though is right, I believe is just half of the wonders that expect you at Palolem beach in Goa, India. The other half simply cannot be explained in words but the effect is that it clears your mind and calms your soul in the most miraculous way I ever experienced.

    I spend 47 days in a row last December – February there and the only reason I left is because my Indian visa was about to expire 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Raz – You are absolutely right and after this trip there, I realized I could probably spend a month there every year! I’m sure you feel the same 🙂

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