As I remarked in my post of 2008.12.18, some poor countries have the benefit of having a dynamic market for goods and services, where even the relatively poor can afford a great deal of market products, while many of the poorest countries suffer from a near total lack, in both supply and demand, of affordable consumer goods and services. India definitely belongs in the former category. Whether it’s because of the unusually large size of the country as a whole and its growing role in the international economy, or more likely the well-established and growing middle class, who are educated and have a place in the formal market economy, India is, both for the traveler and for the local, I believe, one of the most affordable countries in the world.
India is crazy cheap. Quality generally may not be as high as Thailand or Bali–where even quite cheap food and lodging can be truly first rate, even by international standards–but prices get even lower on the bottom end than those countries, while still well satisfying minimal expectations of hygiene, comfort and taste.
Some examples of prices in India:
Subway, Delhi – 6-9 Rs (USD 0.12-0.18)
Cycle rickshaw, Old Delhi – 15 Rs (USD 0.30)
Car hire for a day – 700-900 Rs (USD 15-20)
Taxi to Delhi airport – 250 Rs (USD 5), or twice as expensive in a radio taxi
Train from Delhi to Varanasi in 3 Tier AC – 861 Rs (USD 18)
Streetside somosa in a small town – 1-2 Rs (USD 0.02-0.04)
Upscale thali – 100 Rs (USD 2)
A dish at Khyber, an excellent high end Bombay restaurant – 300 Rs (USD 6)
Bottle of soda in a shop – 12 Rs (USD 0.25)
Cheap but clean room with bath in a smaller town – 150 Rs (USD 3)
Reasonably comfortable hotel with AC, etc., in Delhi – 1400 Rs (USD 28), in Fatehpur Sikri – 650 Rs (USD 14)
Qutb Minar admission – 250 Rs (USD 5) for foreigners, 10 Rs (USD 0.20) for Indians
Taj Mahal admission – 750 Rs (USD 15) for foreigners, 20 Rs (USD 0.40) for Indians
On foreigner pricing for admissions, see my post of 2008.07.24.