Some of the best things in India are free! While many of India's important monuments and historical sights do charge admission fees (which are unfortunately much higher for foreigners, and can substantially add to the expense of your vacation), there are plenty of fabulous things to do in India that won't cost you anything at all.
Here are the top 10 free things to do in India.
Being a spiritual country, festivals are at the heart of people’s lives in India. The numerous and varied festivals that are held throughout the year offer a unique way of seeing Indian culture at its best. But, best of all? They're free!
Dance with Lord Ganesh in the streets for Ganesh Chaturthi, throw colored powder and water all over people on Holi, watch brilliant fireworks displays at Diwali, marvel over guys forming a human pyramids on Krishna Janmashtami, see 50,000 camels converge on the small desert town of Pushkar for the camel fair, and admire the beautiful floral displays during Onam. Kerala is also renowned for its magnificant temple festivals, featuring parades of decorated elephants. Indian festivals are unforgettable!
If you're feeling tired from traveling, or just love the beach and want to chill out for a while, there are plenty of options for an India beach vacation. Forget the beaches of Ibiza, Rio, or even Australia. These days, India's beaches are where it's all happening.
India has some incredibly scenic beaches that offer everything from action to solitude, and of course parties. The best India beaches can be found on the west coast. The beaches on the east coast tend not to be as clean or appealing, with Mahabalipuram near Chennai being the pick of the bunch on that side.
If you really want to relax and unwind, try Marari Beach in Karnataka.
3. Visit a Temple
India's temples are magnificant in their construction, with so much intricate detail. Some of the major temples that don't require a contribution include the dazzling Golden Temple in Amritsar, Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, Haji Ali mosque in Mumbai, the Galta Monkey Temple in Jaipur, Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai, Brihadeeswara Temple in Tanjore, Srirangam Temple in Tiruchirappalli, Budhhist Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, and Karni Mata (rat temple) near Bikaner.The holy Hindu places Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Varanasi also have many cost free attractions to offer visitors. The temples and ghats (steps leading down to the river) in these cities are captivating. Don't miss the evening candlelit aarti prayer ceremonies by the Ganges river.
4. Marvel at the Architecture
Elaborate examples of architecture from India's past empires and rulers can be found all over the country. Many of India's cities are made up of old and new parts. It's fascinating to simply explore the narrow lanes of the old cities, and see where they lead.
Mumbai is full of grand colonial architecture, such as the Gothic looking Prince of Wales Museum, Victoria Terminus railway station, and the buildings of Horniman Circle in the Fort area.
Drive through the Shekhawati Region of Rajasthan and you'll come across beautifully painted old havelis (mansions).
Instead of paying the entrance fees to see India's palaces, wander though some authentic palace hotels.
5. Go for a Nature Walk
There are some very enjoyable gardens in India, which are free of cost. Many of them are in Delhi. One of the best is Lodi Gardens, built around the tombs of 15th and 16th century rulers. The Garden of Five Senses is also free. It's a sprawling 20 acre site designed to awaken all five senses.
In Mumbai, the Hanging Garden and Kamala Nehru Park are both free. Hanging Garden has an unbeatable view of Marine Drive and the beach, and a giant shoe for children to play in. The quirky Kamala Nehru Park is home to a motley menagerie of topiary animals.
The extensive Botanical Gardens in Kolkata are free, and feature a massive banyan tree.
India's mountains and hill stations are also full of refreshing scenery, perfect for hiking or a relaxing walk.
6. Visit Free Monuments and Attractions
In Kolkata, a walk across the Howrah Bridge is excellent entertainment value. It's said to be the busiest bridge in the world. The sheer volume and variety of traffic it carries is astonishing. The grassy expanse of the Maidan is an attractive place to have a stroll through. You'll come across a number of monuments there, such as Fort William, Shahid Minar, St Paul's Cathedral, and Victoria Memorial.
7. Window Shop at a Market
The markets in India are so lively and absorbing, you don't have to buy anything to enjoy them. These include Chandni Chowk in Delhi, New Market in Kolkata, Johari Bazaar and Chameliwala Market in Jaipur, and Chor Bazaar and Crawford Market in Mumbai. These chaotic and congested markets will keep you absorbed for hours, as you explore their winding lanes, marvel at the array of goods for sale, and watch the interaction between buyers and sellers.
The Kolkata flower market also makes interesting viewing. After seeing it, take a walk over the Howrah Bridge.
8. Get a Taste of Indian History
Mahatma Gandhi, affectionately referred to as the "Father of the Nation" has a special place in Indian history for his efforts in facilitating the country's freedom from the British.
In Delhi, a visit to Gandhi Smriti will show you the exact spot where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. He lived in the house for 144 days up until the time of his death. The Gandhi Memorial Museum, at Raj Ghat where Gandhi was cremated, displays the pistol with which he was assassinated.
In Mumbai, the engrossing Mani Bhavan museum is where Gandhi stayed during his visits to the city from 1917-1934. You'll be able to see the room that Gandhi occupied, picture gallery, library hall, and the terrace where Gandhi was arrested on January 4, 1932.
9. Admire Indian Art
Kolkata is well regarded as the cultural capital of India. Art enthusiasts will find the Academy of Fine Arts on Cathedral Road absorbing. It's one of the oldest art societies in India, and offers a fascinating journey through history of Bengal art. The Gallery of Contemporary Art, and carpet museum are part of the complex.
Mumbai has a dedicated arts precinct called Kala Ghoda (Black Horse), between Colaba and the Fort. It's full of art galleries, with the most famous being the Jehangir Art Gallery. It displays interesting works by Indian artists.
In Jaipur, head to the Juneja Art Gallery to see artwork by contemporary Rajasthani artists. The Modern Art Gallery there is also worth a look.
The Delhi Art Gallery in Hauz Khas Village is popular.
10. Check Out the Nightlife
If you're a female, you're in luck! Many bars in Indian cities have ladies nights during the week, where admission and drinks for women are on the house. The easiest way to find these events is to have a look at the local entertainment guides, such as Time Out, when you arrive in a city.
Monday nights are ladies night at Firangi Paani in Mumbai (Andheri West), while Zenzi and Zenzi Mills (Bandra and Lower Parel) have ladies night on Tuesdays, and the Wink Bar at the Taj President Hotel (Colaba) and Vie Deck and Lounge (Juhu) have ladies nights on Wednesdays. Underground, Shisha, and Venom hold ladies nights in Kolkata.