Last updated on September 10th, 2018.
India has been one of my dream destinations since childhood. Nevertheless, I didn’t know for sure if I ever make it till there. I was following Tripadvisor type forums and package prices in the tour agencies (back then travel blogging was not a resource to find information). 1000+ USD return tickets to India were demotivating. In the developing world, it equals to years of work and savings if you are just starting out.
Nevertheless, the situation has significantly changed in the past six years. Nowadays, I take on average 10-15 flights a year and still live in the developing world. Through trials and fails, I have found ways to save on tickets as well as learned the cases when budgeting can result in a more expensive deal at the end. In this post, I want to share tips, resources and personal observations that can help you find cheap flights to India. Here are specific questions I will cover:
- Countries that have better flight deals to India
- Where to search for cheap tickets to India?
- Air companies that offer great deals to India
- Where to book flight deals to India?
- Flight searching tips for your next trip
Which countries offer the best flight deals to India?
If you search for flights to India from the USA or from Ukraine the price will be almost the same despite the distance is almost three times longer. Some destinations offer great deals for Indian tickets. I will not bore you with statistics, but briefly, there are two main reasons that form the flight hubs for India:
Popular destinations where Indians migrate
Indian population is currently over 1.2 billion people. Statistically, every 6th person in the world is Indian. Nevertheless, there are certain countries and regions where there are more Indians due to temporary residence, permanent migration, studies, and other reasons.
As a rule, Indians prefer the countries where English is widely spoken (USA, UK, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore). Given the fact that English is widely spread in different areas of life in India it is much easier for Indians to integrate into an English speaking environment.
Secondly, there are many Indian immigrants in the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, etc) due to the job market and professional opportunities. The last but not the least, there are many Indians around South Asia historically – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal.
Why is this information important? If you search for non-direct flights to India (maybe your country doesn’t have one), you will get some of the best options through Dubai or Qatar in the Middle East, Hong Kong or Singapore in South-East Asia, etc.
Where most tourists come to India from?
Talking about foreign arrivals to India, most of the tourists come either from the English speaking world or South Asia. Closer to the traveling season, there are hot flight offers from Europe and South East Asia to Nepal and Sri Lanka. If you are a long-term traveler you might consider spending some time in one of these amazing countries. Afterward, there are great flight offers from Sri Lanka to Kerala or Tamil Nadu in south India, or you can reach from Nepal to India by road within 1 day.
Why I’m making you bored with all these destinations? Simply because from these countries and regions you can find better deals.
Where to search for cheap tickets to India?
There are numerous searching platforms, but there are a few I use the most:
Google Flights – every year Google is coming up with new functions that improve your search overall. There is an Explore Destinations feature, where you can look into different cities on a specific date. Nevertheless, their flight search is rather basic, which includes start and end points and dates.
Skyscanner – this is way more advanced searching system, where you can compare prices and choose the cheapest month for booking if you are flexible with dates. You can as well download their app on Android and Apple.
Kiwi.com – this is my go-to search platform for flights at this point of time due to all advanced filters and functions. It includes a radius search which other search platforms are missing. Basically, you can select a radius within X km from an airport or any other place of the globe to consider nearby options. Same works for arrival.
Since you might be familiar with other platforms, here is a bit more information about Kiwi.com. Below are the main features that will offer you everything required to organize your tickets:
- Type of the trip – one-way, return, multicity. I love multicity feature as it literally helps you to set the whole itinerary if you are planning to fly to several cities in one trip.
- Departure: specific date, date range or anytime. Unless you are bounded with specific dates, I always recommend choosing anytime. This way you will get the best deals available for all the dates.
- Return: specific date, date range, time of stay, anytime. I recommend also choosing here anytime. If you are planning to stay less than 1 month, you can specify the time of stay. For a period more than one month choose a date range.
- Stops: here you can choose whether you want a direct flight or you don’t mind interchanges. I recommend selecting any. Kiwi.com always combines the best deals from different companies to form your route even if there are no direct flights available.
- Duration, times and airport formalities: here you can filter minimum and maximum duration of flights, set preferred timings for takeoff and landing and also define whether you agree with airport changes. I suggest leaving all standard settings unless you have certain restrictions. More flexible settings give you better options.
- Price – here you get three options – recommended (balance between price and length of flight); cheapest (better price, longer flight), shortest (more expensive as a rule, but the fastest)
Which air companies offer the best flight deals to India?
If you are traveling often in the certain region, it makes sense to start a membership with the airline and collect miles whenever possible. In addition to this, there are numerous companies that offer great deals. Here are a few airlines that offer great flight deals to India at times:
- Canada, USA flights to India: Wow Air
- Europe flights to India: Aeroflot, Ukrainian Airlines, Wizz Air (till Dubai and interchange there)
- Asia flights to India: Air India, Indigo, Jet Airways.
- Middle East flights to India: Fly Dubai, Qatar Airlines, Air Arabia.
Note, the Middle East is Asia but I’ve given it a separate chapter since it has plenty of budget deals. People from other continents have to fly either through Europe, South-East Asia or the Middle East mostly.
I had experience with Aeroflot, Air Arabia, Air Asia, Fly Dubai, Qatar Airlines, Air India, Indigo and Pegasus Asia (now Air Manas). I can recommend all of them but Pegasus – I will not ever book connecting flights from Pegasus unless there is no other choice. Their flights can get terribly delayed. I thought it was my karma, but online reviews tell it’s a regular case.
Heey! First time visiting India by chance? Don’t miss my detailed travel India guide 😉
Where to book flight tickets to India?
This is one of the most important questions to decide. You can either book through the airline website directly or through an online platform. Many online connoisseurs will advise you to book directly from the airline to save money on agent commission. There are just two cases when I recommend doing so: direct flight or an interchange with the SAME airline company.
Storytime: A few years back I saved 60 USD by booking three connecting flight tickets from India from two different airline websites rather than from an online platform like Kiwi.com or Skyscanner. Nevertheless, on the day of the flight, there was a delay caused by the airport procedures.
The flight was rescheduled by 24 hours. Of course, everyone lost connecting flights and couldn’t claim anything as it was not the airline’s fault. As a result, I had to buy another last minute ticket which brought a 300 USD extra expense.
That was a gigantic sum of money for me – think of it like one salary. This was a bitter lesson that saving money is good, but over saving might end up costing more.
To sum up, if you travel with different airlines, book your tickets through one platform. Alternatively, check with your insurance if it covers such cases (which most don’t).
General flight tips for India
We all are limited by certain factors that define our traveling – time, money, visas, zone changing and so on. Nevertheless, there are a few general flight tips you might find useful before booking:
Be flexible with the arrival destination in India
If you are planning a holiday in Goa, consider different airports around India. Though it’s so convenient to fly directly to Goa, the flights to Mumbai or Delhi can save you hundreds of bucks sometimes. India is very well connected with the train network and it’s quite easy to reach from big cities to smaller towns across India. Though consider that distances in India are bigger than it might seem on the map, so if you plan a holiday in the North of India, consider Delhi airport, in the south – consider Mumbai and Bangalore.
Read also: How to travel in India by train?
Direct flights to India and benefits of an interchange
Direct flights are making everything easier, but they also cost more expensive. On the search platforms like Kiwi.com you can add the possibility to consider the nearby airports and connecting flights. Often such deals are cheaper.
Be flexible with the dates and times of the flight to India
The main season in India is from November to March, however, you will always find suitable destinations at ANY time of the year. As a rule, September – October or March is considered as low season, when you can expect not only great flight fares but also accommodation discounts.
Read also: Best time to visit India
Which days are better to take tickets?
I couldn’t find statistics to back up this information, but according to personal observations, tickets from Tuesday to Thursday are often (not always!) cheaper. I think that’s because most of the people prefer to travel on weekends and take additional days that are close to the weekend. Whenever you make a search, choose a broader period of time for arrival and departure to compare different options.
Most of the great deals I bought were always connected to odd timings especially when it comes to low-cost deals – like late night arrival, or early morning departure or night flight with interchanges. Nevertheless, these small inconveniences gave me the possibility to see the world. The best return deal I’ve seen from Europe to South Asia so far was 260 USD.
Several airlines offer you a possibility to reserve a seat in advance to get a place you want. This additional service cost extra money.
Buy group tickets to India separately
In some airlines, when you search, they display the number of tickets left for that price. For instance, if there is one ticket left for promo fare and 10 for Economy, if you book for two people, the airline will not calculate 1 promo fare and 1 Economy. It will calculate 2 Economy because this way you will spend more money. That is why you need to buy group tickets separately.
Are you a frequent flier or have you visited India before? Which other flying tips would you suggest?