Hyderabad, Deccan being my hometown, today am going to play the city evangelist and planning an itinerary for 10 dollars and one day in this beautiful, historic city in the South of India.
India is quite well known as a cheap place for travel. Although that’s not entirely true for major cities as the cost of living can get high and the major tourist attractions can be pricier for tourists than for locals. Nevertheless, you can still get the bang for your buck even in large metropolis like Hyderabad (the fourth largest in India, to be precise) if you are penny wise, get into the heart of it all and enjoy the little things that are truly local.
Hyderabad is a city rife with history and culture quite distinct from the surrounding areas. With a strong Muslim presence and a lot of Arab influence, the city has still maintained the glory from its rich Muslim rulers of the past.
We start right in the heart of the Old City. If you are heading there from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, your experience begins right through your journey. Enjoy the breezy ride through the red soil plateau with manicured gardens and greenery all around. Alternatively, if you are traveling from the new city, then take the route through India’s longest flyover for an early arrival and you will witness the busy city life on the way without getting stalled in traffic. In any case, most likely you will pass through the Falaknuma bridge. Don’t forget to spot the opulent Falaknuma Palace perched atop the hill and admire it’s grey color which matches the overcast skies staying true to its name as the mirror in the sky. This could easily be the most grand palace in the whole of India, now turned into a luxury hotel. So, it’s out of bounds for today’s frugal adventure! Let’s begin the accounting from now on.
10 USD = approx. 700 Rs
Our first stop would be the Mecca masjid – an ancient and one of the largest mosques in India, which is right next to the Charminar. Make it an early arrival around 8 am so you can catch empty roads and flocks of pigeons in the mosque courtyards. Don’t forget to cast a handful of grains (which should cost you about 20 Rs ) and you can catch an Instagrammable sight!
After the long ride and exploring the mosque, let’s have a cuppa to re-energize. Grab your cup of Irani chai and Osmania biscuits ( cost 25 Rs/- ) from the hotel joints around and relish it with a view of the majestic building behind as that is where we are headed next – one of the most iconic and recognizable places of India – The Charminar!
If you are Indian or can manage to look Indian – you get a ticket for 50 Rs or else here we part with 200 Rs. Now it’s time to climb 52 high rise stairs through a claustrophobic minaret which will lead you to the first level of this 425 year old structure built by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty.
With unmatched views of the city on 4 sides – each with it’s own arch built about 500 m away for the structure ( that’s why this place is also known as the Char Kaman – 4 arches). Just walk around and read the boards helpfully installed on each of the 4 sides describing some of the key landmarkds on that side. Don’t forget to spot some of the famous buildings like the salarjung museum, the beautiful high court of the city, the city college, the Unani hospital – all of which are easily discernible due to their distinct architecture.
Back on the ground, explore the surrounding areas. The bustling bazaar which will be jam packed by 11 am is full of colors, sights and smells of the city. Gaze at the colorful bangles, admire the beautiful pearls (the city is nicknamed the ‘city of pearls’), watch the famous lac bangles being made if you can. The “Charminar Pedestrian Project” realized about an year ago has made this a very pleasant experience, compared to before, as you can freely walk about without wading through traffic. From here we walk till Khilwat to our next destination – The Chowmahalla palace complex (ticket – 200 Rs) This is a piece from the next chapter of Hyderabad’s history, a testimony to the splendor of the Asaf Jah dynasty which was the next to rule over the state. Here four palaces with exceptional finesse, four manicured courtyard gardens, well- curated museum of exhibits of the life and times of one of the richest rulers at their time, are all for you to explore. You are bound to spend a good amount of time exploring and relaxing in this area.
Once you are done, it’s time for a hearty lunch to enjoy the rich and world famous cuisine of this place. From here we can take a walk over to the other side of the Charminar and through the bazaars towards Shah Ali Banda. It’s not very far but you may take about 15-20 minutes to get there because of the traffic. You may be tempted to hire an autorickshaw but don’t forget that today is all about saving and in any case, a peripatetic approach is the best one to explore any city. Walk towards the famous “Shah Ghouse Café” where you can enjoy an authentic plate of Hyderabadi Biryani or a plate of the famous “Haleem” from the stall opposite to the restaurant. Whatever you choose, a budget of 150 Rs should be a good approximation for this filling, delicious and authentic Hyderabadi lunch.
Although there is a lot more to explore on the other side of the city like the Golconda fort, seven tombs, the Salarjung museum, etc but it would be a logistical issue to cover it in a day. Besides its likely to be late afternoon and you have got a good dose of history by now. So from here we head over to the newer parts of the city. The cheapest way to get there is via the public bus transport. From the Charminar bus station (helpfully close to the spot where you had lunch) you can take the TSRTC or the Metro bus to Tank Bund. You will now be on the shores of the Hussain Sagar lake, a man-made lake from a tributary to the Musi River which flows next to the city. Housing a huge statue of Buddha in the middle, a park around its shore, boating facilities, and a paved walkway on most sides, this place is definitely worth an evening stroll and that’s exactly why we are here. That would be totally free of cost, relaxing and a great end to a penny-wise yet an adventurous day. And guess what, if you have been scrupulously following along, you have few rupees in your pocket which you are totally free to splurge with.
Balance Sheet for the Day
- Grains for the pigeons 20 Rs
- Tea and biscuits 25 Rs
- Charminar entrance fee 200 Rs
- Chowmahalla entrance fee 200 Rs
- Lunch 150 Rs
- Bus fare 15 Rs
- Total 610 Rs
- Spare 90 Rs
The 10 dollars got you inside two historic places cum museums, included transport, covered you for tea and lunch, heck you even fed some birds and still have a few rupees to spare for dinner! You made it and hope you had a great day!