Once known as Bombay, Mumbai offers the full range of emotions to travelers willing to take a thrilling, eye-opening ride. Expect a vacation filled with highs and lows—the best restaurants, the sleekest hotels, and pulsing nightlife, side by side with unavoidable poverty, hot climate, and crowds. Your visit will be what you make of it. But while you're here, the one thing you won't be is bored.
Airfare from New York starts at $855 for travel in April and May, and I found a three-star hotel from $88. A week's stay comes in at $2,326 for two. Once in Mumbai, $1 USD gets you 45 India rupees, and it's not unusual to pay $12 or $13 for a mid-range restaurant meal for two. Bargain for one-of-a-kind finds at one of the city's many bazaars, or take in the city's colonial and art deco architecture with a self-guided walking tour.
Let's then compare a Mumbai trip to a London vacation. Both are the gateway cities to their respective countries, serve as important commercial and tourism centers, and have thriving arts scenes and fashionable nightlife. Airfare from New York starts at $523 in spring, and I found a three-star hotel from $140 per night. All told, the base price for a week's vacation for two is $2,026, about $300 cheaper than Mumbai (on first glance).
The currency, once again, is what will make costs add up. The U.S. dollar is only worth about £0.66, and considering London is widely known as one of the most expensive cities worldwide, we budget-conscious travelers have our work cut out for us. Lonely Planet notes that a "good meal for two with wine" usually costs £80 to £100 ($121 to $151), movie tickets are £10 ($15), and transportation can add up without pre-ordered discounts (such as an Oyster card). The one silver lining is that all public museums are free, so your per-day costs could be kept down provided you stick to those establishments. Additionally, too, London features exorbitant airport taxes, which may increase your overall airfare and the base price of your trip. Any way you cut it, though, that $300 base price savings (compared to Mumbai) will quickly be eroded once you try to enjoy all London has to offer.
Have you taken a trip to a far-flung destination and found it surprisingly affordable once in-country? Tell us about your favorite worldwide bargains by leaving a comment below!