Shillong on a Budget: Affordable Travel Tips and Tricks

Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is often referred to as the “Scotland of the East” due to its rolling hills, picturesque landscapes, and pleasant climate. While it’s known for its scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage, Shillong is also a destination that can be enjoyed on a budget. Here’s a detailed guide to experiencing the best of Shillong without breaking the bank.

Getting There

Affordable Transportation

1. By Air The nearest airport to Shillong is the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, Assam, approximately 120 kilometers away. Budget travelers can often find affordable flights to Guwahati. From the airport, you can take a shared taxi or a bus to Shillong. Shared taxis cost around INR 500-600 per person, while buses are even cheaper, though slightly less convenient.

Shillong on a Budget: Affordable Travel Tips and Tricks

2. By Train Guwahati is the nearest major railway station. Trains to Guwahati are available from various parts of India, and they are generally cheaper than flights. From Guwahati, you can take a shared taxi or bus to Shillong as mentioned above.

3. By Bus For those who prefer road travel, buses operated by the Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) and private operators connect Shillong with Guwahati. The journey takes about 3-4 hours and is quite economical.

Budget Accommodation

Affordable Stays

1. Guesthouses and Homestays Shillong has numerous guesthouses and homestays that offer comfortable and budget-friendly accommodations. Areas like Police Bazaar, Laitumkhrah, and Bara Bazaar have many options where you can find a room for INR 500-1000 per night. Staying in a homestay not only saves money but also provides an opportunity to experience local hospitality and culture.

2. Budget Hotels There are several budget hotels in Shillong that offer clean and basic amenities at reasonable prices. Hotels like The Shillong Hills Guest House, Hotel Rainbow, and The Heritage Club – Tripura Castle provide decent accommodations starting from INR 1000 per night.

3. Backpacker Hostels For solo travelers or those who enjoy meeting fellow travelers, backpacker hostels like The Travellers Nest and Aerodene Cottage offer dormitory beds and private rooms at very affordable rates. Prices for dorm beds can be as low as INR 300-500 per night.

Cheap Eats

Affordable Dining Options

1. Local Food Stalls Shillong is famous for its street food. Areas like Police Bazaar and Laitumkhrah are bustling with food stalls offering local delicacies such as momos, chow mein, and pork skewers. A hearty meal from these stalls can cost as little as INR 50-100.

2. Traditional Khasi Cuisine To experience authentic Khasi food without spending a lot, head to local eateries like Trattoria in Police Bazaar. You can try traditional dishes like Jadoh (rice cooked with meat), Dohneiiong (pork in black sesame sauce), and Pukhlein (sweet rice flour bread) at reasonable prices.

3. Budget Restaurants There are several budget-friendly restaurants in Shillong that serve a variety of cuisines. Places like Delhi Misthan Bhandar, Bread Cafe, and Madras Cafe offer affordable meals ranging from INR 100-200.

Free and Low-Cost Attractions

Exploring Shillong on a Budget

1. Ward’s Lake Located in the heart of the city, Ward’s Lake is a beautiful man-made lake surrounded by a well-maintained garden. Entry fee is nominal at INR 10. You can enjoy a peaceful walk around the lake, feed the fish, or simply relax and take in the serene environment.

2. Lady Hydari Park This park, named after the first lady of the state, is another affordable attraction. The park features a small zoo, a butterfly museum, and well-manicured gardens. The entry fee is around INR 10-20.

3. Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures For those interested in learning about the rich cultural heritage of Northeast India, the Don Bosco Centre is a must-visit. The museum showcases various artifacts, costumes, and tools of different indigenous tribes. The entry fee is INR 100, making it an affordable cultural experience.

4. Shillong Peak Offering a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding hills, Shillong Peak is the highest point in Shillong. Entry is free, but a small fee might be charged for parking. It’s an excellent spot for photography and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

5. Elephanta Falls Located about 12 kilometers from the city center, Elephanta Falls is a three-tiered waterfall that is a popular tourist spot. The entry fee is minimal at INR 20, and the falls offer a refreshing escape into nature.

Affordable Activities

Budget-Friendly Things to Do

1. Local Markets Exploring local markets like Bara Bazaar and Police Bazaar is a great way to experience the local lifestyle. You can find everything from fresh produce to handicrafts and souvenirs at reasonable prices. Bargaining is common, so don’t hesitate to negotiate for a better deal.

2. Walk and Hike Shillong offers several scenic trails and walking routes that are free to explore. The Laitlum Canyons, located about 25 kilometers from Shillong, offer breathtaking views and are perfect for a day hike. The trails around Shillong Peak also provide excellent hiking opportunities.

3. Live Music Shillong is known for its vibrant music scene. Many cafes and bars host live music sessions, especially on weekends. Places like Cafe Shillong and Dylan’s Cafe often have local bands performing, and you can enjoy great music with just the cost of a drink or a meal.

4. Local Festivals If you time your visit right, you can experience one of Shillong’s many festivals, such as the Shillong Autumn Festival or the Wangala Festival. These festivals are rich in cultural performances, music, and local food, often at no cost to attend.

Tips and Tricks

1. Travel Off-Season Visiting Shillong during the off-season (June to September) can significantly reduce your travel expenses. Accommodation and transport are often cheaper, and the city is less crowded.

2. Use Public Transport Shared taxis and local buses are the most economical way to get around Shillong. They are frequent and cover most of the city and surrounding areas.

3. Carry a Water Bottle Shillong has clean and drinkable tap water. Carrying a reusable water bottle can save you money and reduce plastic waste.

4. Plan Ahead Booking accommodations and transport in advance can often get you better deals. Look for online discounts and travel packages.

5. Engage with Locals Locals can provide the best tips on where to eat, stay, and what to see. They can guide you to hidden gems that are not on the typical tourist radar.

Shillong, with its enchanting landscapes and rich culture, offers a myriad of experiences that don’t have to be expensive. By planning carefully and taking advantage of budget-friendly options, you can explore this beautiful city without putting a strain on your finances. From affordable accommodations and local eateries to free attractions and budget activities, Shillong is a destination that welcomes every traveler with open arms and a light wallet.

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