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5 Tips to Find Cheap Accommodation in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is a beautiful city that’s famous for its wild nature, river Ganga (Ganges), river-rafting, yoga and meditation. Though I do not support yoga nor meditation due to their links with Hinduism and therefore fallen angels, I love visiting Rishikesh because of its beauty and affordability.
Since I’ve been to Rishikesh around four times, each time staying for a month or two (as far as I remember), I think I’m qualified enough to give you some tips of how to find cheap accommodation in this city.
Just to let you know, my last visit was in September 2016, and I’ve stayed for around a month there. So here are some tips to help you find truly affordable accommodation.
Tip No. 1 – Know the Price Range
Before going to Rishikesh, it’s wise to decide what’s the maximum amount of money you’re willing to spend on accommodation. To give you a good estimate, very cheap Rishikesh rooms will cost around 300 rupees or even less.
However, rooms that are below 300 rupees will be of very poor quality. They will be without hot water and there will be no internet, nor electricity backup.
It’s not a problem if a hotel doesn’t have an electricity backup, since power outages take place only for a few hours a day - I guess around two or three hours. Having no hot water, however, might pose a little problem, especially if you come during colder months such as December, January and February. Though even in September, the month I was there, mornings were cool, so without hot water it might be a bit difficult to take a shower.
For 400 rupees you will get an average room, probably with internet, though it might not work in your room and so you may need to go to the main corridor or reception area to use it. In general, I found that most Rishikesh guest houses have very poor internet; it usually works fifty per cent of the time. Usually cafes have better internet than hotels, at least that’s how it appeared to me.
For the 400 rupees' price range you should expect to get a clean room with a private bathroom, hot water, and maybe even a private balcony.
For 500 rupees you should get a nice room with all the already mentioned conveniences. You should be able to get a private balcony with a nice view of river Ganges, mountains or forests.
For 600 rupees you should expect to get a really high quality room with a great view. For this price range you should easily get a room in a well-kept guest house or hotel situated right on the bank of the Ganges river, with an unobscured river view. There might be breakfast included too.
Rishikesh is a very cheap place, so if hotels charge above 600 rupees, they might be trying to rip you off, especially if they see that you're a newcomer (and it's very easy to notice newcomers, though you might think you're blending in perfectly:)). That is a usual practice all over India, unfortunately.
If the price is truly higher than 600 rupees, the hotel should be truly luxurious and exceptional. If I were you, I wouldn’t pay more than 400 rupees anywhere in Rishikesh. But, of course, different people have different comfort levels. I’m happy with a clean bed, private bathroom and a window with an acceptable view, plus an okay-working internet and ideally hot water.
Other people aren't comfortable with such facilities and want a better-looking room with fast internet and a private balcony. So they would need to pay 500 or 600 rupees for such better conveniences.
Tip No. 2 – Know the Rishikesh Area You Want to Stay in – Laxman Jhula or Ram Jhula
Map of Rishikesh
The touristy part of Rishikesh is split into two parts – Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula. “Jhula” means a bridge; so these two areas are called by the names of those bridges which are 30-minutes’ walk away from each other.
Laxman Jhula Location
Laxman Jhula is the main tourist place. It abounds in all kinds of accommodation types, from very cheap to more expensive ones.
It’s the place that’s noisier as more jeeps pass by, and they tend to beep very loudly and drive really fast – so be careful when you see a white jeep. The drivers can be quite reckless, but that’s the case with all India.
There are many more cafes and shops in Laxman Jhula than Ram Jhula. So it’s a good place to get entertained, to shop and to dine, though if you want to take a relaxing walk, it’s not the place to be.
Ram Jhula Location
Ram Jhula is perfect for long walks; the winding road leading from Laxman Jhula to Ram Jhula is beautiful and peaceful, except for some noisy jeeps passing by. Just follow the asphalt road right from the Laxman Jhula Bridge, and it will lead you right to the Ram Jhula Bridge.
It's a truly peaceful walk - I walk this way almost every day when I'm in Rishikesh. Then when you reach the Ram Jhula bridge, simply keep following the same road, leading you to the dirt road that's a little bit into the wilderness, but eventually you'll emerge in Laxman Jhula again, completing a nice and narrow loop.
I don't think it's possible to get lost there, but who knows! If you're not sure if you're still on the right road, just ask some passers-by, preferably women or families, but not lone men if you're a female, as they will probably think that you're chatting them up for something (it's a different culture).
I do not, however, recommend taking that dirt road after the sunset, as there are no lights in that part and there are quite a few beggars in certain parts of the walk.
Ram Jhula has more beggars, posing as holy men dressed in orange robes. An ATM machine is also located in Ram Jhula; I think this time I saw two ATMs (before it was only one) located close to each other, where the SBI bank is, and where most beggars and monkeys are.
Ram Jhula has accommodation too, but it seems that long-time visitors tend to book it out quickly, because this location is much more peaceful, therefore more in demand. Once I was about to book a nice spacious room there (I don’t remember how much I was about to pay for it, but it was cheap – maybe 400 rupees or so), but the staff member was so rude that I decided not to proceed. I guess that’s because they have almost no competition on that side, unlike the Laxman Jhula part; so they get away with treating customers this way.
Ram Jhula has cheaper eating outlets, especially traditional Indian eateries. Though I don’t recommend eating there, especially if it's your first trip to India, because this time I got stomach problems as a result of eating there. So from then on I only frequented popular tourist cafes in Laxman Jhula, though I still visited a few higher-end cafes in Ram Jhula too, such as the Honey Hut Café.
So if you want to relax and stay long-term, maybe Ram Jhula is a better option. If you’re looking to meet fellow travellers, or like to visiting different cafes and want to do some souvenir-shopping, Laxman Jhula is a better place.
Tip No. 3 – Ashrams or hotels?
There are four types of accommodation in Rishikesh. Below I'm listing them from the cheapest to the most expensive one, explaining how they differ from each other.
1. Rishikesh Ashrams
These are yoga ashrams that have a large amount of rooms and are priced from around 250 rupees to 500 rupees. Please, do not pay 500 rupees for ashram rooms! Ashrams are supposed to be the cheapest places to stay, and they are sometimes even given for free for local holy men. I think that was their original purpose in the past.
Now there are many high-end ashrams in Rishikesh, but these are truly not living up to the standards of an ashram and are purely commercial establishments. So I'm not talking about these commercial yoga places.
Though I know that some people like to identify themselves as members or clients of such institutions as the names of such organizations might be quite well-known. Such "ashrams" usually cater only for the "higher-end" customers - average or above-average earning foreigners as well as richer Indians. Other people aren't welcome.
Traditional ashrams usually aren’t known for their cleanliness in Rishikesh, though there are exceptions. You are likely to get a room that has no towels, no toilet paper, cold water only, maybe no internet, and used bedsheets (which you should kindly ask to be changed, and check if they’re really replacing them with clean ones or are simply giving you another set of used bed sheets, which sometimes happens).
Sometimes ashrams can give very good value for money; that is if you have around 400 rupees to spend per day. In such a case, you might be able to get a room with a private balcony and a good view. Though I do not recommend staying in Ashrams if you are not Hindu.
I know that many tourists stay in such places, and I did too in the past; but ashrams are dedicated to Hindu gods. These gods are fallen angels, or, in other words, demons. I know this because after being involved in Hinduism for four years I figured it out through my own terrifying experience.
It’s dangerous to be under this kind of influence - please understand that I’m not making this up, but trying to warn you. Just be careful if you do decide to stay in such a place, and please do not bow to any idols nor get a red dot on your forehead if you stay in an ashram.
2. Rishikesh Dormitories
I personally know only one dormitory there, though there might be more. I’m afraid to mention its name, since this hub got already flagged for overly promotional material, though I don’t promote anything. The first part of the dorm name is shiv, and then shakti, followed by guest house.
It is a very popular guest house, but it’s quite expensive for a dormitory as it’s priced at 400 rupees; and because this guest house is so popular, I’m not sure if you could get the price down if you just appear at their door, since they’re usually fully booked anyway. You might get lucky if you go there off-season time, which is May to June; June is the hottest month so usually Rishikesh attracts fewer tourists.
3. Rishikesh Guest Houses
This is probably the most popular type of Rishikesh accommodation. There are plenty of guest houses to choose from. Most of them are on the cheaper side and quite basic, starting from around 300 rupees to around 500 rupees.
I personally this time stayed in a place that’s called dharm followed by yatri and then niwas. I paid 300 rupees and got a private balcony, but that’s because I was staying for around a month. If I would have stayed only for a few days, for the same room I would have to pay 400 or 500 rupees. The room had clean bedsheets, had hot water (though only on rare occasions), 50% of the time the internet worked, though not in my room (but I could use it on the same floor where I stayed – the first floor). I had a semi-private balcony and it faced the main street, so at night sometimes I would hear the noises of people or cars.
I also checked out another room, which was truly basic but was located right on the river bank. It was the first hotel from the public lavatory very close to the jeep parking place and the Laxman Jhula bridge. The room was truly basic and dark, since the window was internal (it faced the internal corridor). It’s possible to get that room for 300 rupees, or even less if you stay long-term.
4. Rishikesh Hotels
Around year ago I also checked out what looked like a hotel in Rishikesh. It was located right on the Ganges bank, and it had the best view from the third floor. I don’t remember its name, but it was located very close to the pumpernickel bakery (on the same side of the street). It was priced around 500 rupees if I remember correctly, and a better room, I think was priced 600. That hotel had all the above mentioned conveniences. I think it was priced a little higher because it had better quality amenities, the rooms were in a slightly better condition, and the view was fantastic.
There are a few more hotels available in Rishikesh, but don’t expect anything luxurious. They will have a little more comfort and maybe a few more facilities, but nothing similar to the hotels in major Indian cities.
I probably would never stay in a hotel in Rishikesh, because it’s not the type of city that in is harmony with hotels. It’s great to stay in hotels in stressful traffic and pollution-filled Indian cities such as Delhi or Bangalore; but Rishikesh looks like a village. It’s full of wild nature; river Ganges runs through it. It just feels right to stay in the type accommodation that’s more in harmony with its surroundings. But maybe it’s just me!
Tip No. 4 – Length of Your Stay
You are likely to get much better value for your money if you stay in Rishikesh longer. Even if you stay for a week, you might expect a small discount. If you stay two weeks or more, you should expect a greater discount.
For example, as I’ve already mentioned, the last time I stayed in Rishikesh, I paid 300 rupees for an average room with a semi-private balcony, private bathroom, sometimes working internet, and clean bedhseets. I had no towel though. If I were to stay for a few days, probably I would be charged 500 or 450 rupees. If I would have stayed for a week or so, I would probably be charged the same amount – 300, or 350 rupees. Different guest houses will come up with different discounts.
In India it works out much cheaper to stay in one place for a long time. You’ll also get to know the place more better, rather than jumping from one place to another each few days. So if you’re looking to save money, plan to stay at least a week in Rishikesh.
Tip No. 5 – Booking Accommodation Online vs. Appearing at the Door
I think it’s unwise to book Rishikesh accommodation online, as you’re more than likely to get ripped off. You’ll probably be charged three or more times the amount you’d pay if you’d just turn up at the guest house itself. I think even during peak times you’ll be able to find accommodation, because there are just so many guest houses there.
Though if you’re coming to Rishikesh for the first time, and you’re coming at peak season (October to February), maybe it’s worth booking a room for a day or two online. Apart from this situation, I would not recommend booking your room online.
In order to have an affordable stay in Rishikesh, make sure you know your budget and therefore are aware how much you can spend on accommodation a day. Next, think over whether you’d prefer to stay in a quieter part of Rishikesh (Ram Jhula) or a more touristy part where all the action is (Laxman Jhula).
Furthermore, decide on the type of accommodation you’d like to stay in – a dorm, ashram, guest house or hotel. It would make more sense to stay in a more beautiful room if you plan to stay long-time, and for the long-term stay you should expect to get a good discount.
Lastly, if it’s the first time you’re visiting Rishikesh (or India in general), and you’re visiting this city during peak time (October to February). Otherwise, no booking is needed, as there are plenty of inexpensive accommodation options to choose from.