How to celebrate a white Christmas in India – on a budget

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and you can celebrate it with snow in these breath-taking places in the country.

How to celebrate a white Christmas in India – on a budget

When you think of a white Christmas, do you think of craggy mountains and alpine trees layered with soft, white snow? Building snowmen with carrot noses and skiing down the hillside? Mugs of steaming hot cocoa after a day out in the cold? You can have all of this and more without even leaving India. All on a budget! 

Here are some places in India that are just as scenic and magical as the Alps – or anywhere else in the world you can think of – during Christmas:

Auli, Uttarakhand

Auli is like a wonderland. It’s breathtakingly beautiful during the winter months, and one edge it has over other places is accessibility. A lot of other places in India that experience snow and are scenic during December are either extremely inaccessible or shut for tourist activity. Another advantage of celebrating Christmas in Auli is that it isn’t as popular as other tourist spots in the north, which means you won’t have to jostle around in the crowd or have anyone photobomb your pictures. 

Best of all, Auli is known as the ski capital of the country. You could end your year mastering a new skill, and if you are penning down a new year’s resolution to be healthier, this is a great way to get you started! 

Related: Unconventional Christmas gifts that you can give to your kids

Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Picture mountains white with snow. Picture cosy cottage resorts. Picture brightly lit Christmas trees and children running around having snowball fights. What you’re seeing is Manali in December. If you want to celebrate a white Christmas with all the merriment of large families who are there to indulge just like you, this touristy place will be the perfect choice. 

The advantage of a popular tourist spot like Manali is that you’ll be spoiled for choice with numerous excellent accommodation options. Shopping, playing in the snow, bonfires, Christmas carols… there’s something to enjoy for everyone in this resort town.

Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir

If winter activities like skiing, cable car rides, and going to church are an integral part of your ideal Christmas getaway, look no further – Gulmarg it is! The Gondola, the most popular attraction in town, is one of the world’s highest operating cable cars. A ride in it offers a once-in-a-lifetime panoramic view of snow-clad mountains, pine forests, and valleys. 

St Mary’s Church, with its Victorian architecture and 100-plus years of history, is just the place to experience the festive feel. The government hosts a yearly Christmas carnival to promote the local culture and traditions. There are certified ski courses run by the Ministry of Tourism at this time. Quaint bakeries, resorts with Christmas trees and stuffed turkey, and a whole town that comes together to celebrate Christmas – that's what Gulmarg is all about at this time of the year.

Related: 5 best destinations for holidays under Rs 1 lakh

Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

If you want to experience a white Christmas that isn’t overdone or commercialised, head to Dharamshala, the home of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. You are likely to see colourful prayer flags instead of Christmas lights, and hear traditional Buddhist chants rather than Christmas carols. At the same time, you will see hints of Christmas, such as cards displayed in book stores, Christmas trees outside shops, and the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting from local bakeries. 

Head to Dharamshala this Christmas and let the holidays take whatever meaning you want them to. Want to chomp down on momos while you admire the Himalayas on Christmas eve? Looking forward to visiting the neo-Gothic St John Church in the valley of McLeodganj? It’s all up to you since the place offers you an opportunity to disconnect and explore a different life. 

The cost advantage

If you’re wondering how much of a difference it will make to your budget if you were to celebrate a white Christmas in India instead of abroad, the short answer is... a lot.

Overall budget

Take Switzerland, a popular Christmas destination in Europe. Round-trip flight tickets to Zurich from any major city in India will easily cost you over Rs 50,000. With accommodation, food, and inter-city travel, your Switzerland holiday budget would easily top Rs 1.75 lakh or more depending on whether you shop or not.

On the other hand, the amount of Rs 50,000 would be more than enough for your entire budget for say, Dharamshala. This means you don’t need to end your year by spending three times more than you have to – and still enjoy a beautiful white Christmas. 

Additional expenses

There are additional expenses of travelling abroad that are often overlooked while planning the travel budget, such as visa charges, international phone plans, and unfavourable currency exchange rates. And it’s not just the financial cost but also the time aspect. It can be a lot of hassle when all you want to do is enjoy the festivities and end your year well.

Things like language barriers, culture shock, and lack of easy availability of vegetarian food are other disadvantageous aspects of celebrating a white Christmas abroad as against holidaying in the places listed above.

Budget tips for celebrating a white Christmas

In addition to booking your flight tickets and accommodation well in advance and looking out for deals online, here are a few more tips that can help you enjoy a white Christmas on a budget:

Choose Airbnb or homestays

If you’re going with your family or a big group of friends, renting an entire place through Airbnb makes a lot more sense economically and otherwise. It will be more affordable than hotels, especially during the holiday season, and you will experience the warmth of home which would usually be missing in bland hotel rooms. 

Additionally, since you would have access to a kitchen, you can cook meals with your loved ones and further save money on eating out. You can also bake cookies and cakes to get into the festive mood. 

Borrow or rent winter clothes

If you’re staying in a city like Mumbai or Goa where winter clothes have no business in your wardrobe, don’t waste money buying them just for your winter holiday. Borrow winter wear like jackets and boots from friends or relatives or take them on rent from specific stores. This can be a lot more cost-effective than you realise. 

Value experiences over material things

Let’s assume you’re torn between going paragliding and buying an expensive shawl. While you can do both, you may want to only focus on experiences while on your trip. Thanks to globalisation, you can order anything online and at any time. But experiences still can’t be packaged and delivered to your doorstep, so those are the ones you should seek when celebrating your white Christmas. 

Similarly, you could discuss with your friends and family and agree that since you are all going on vacation together, you can skip exchanging gifts. Spending time together and making lasting memories is the real gift anyway, isn’t it?

Wherever you celebrate Christmas this year, it can be beautiful if you’re honest with yourself about what you want and budget effectively for the same – whether it’s a ski trip to Gulmarg, a shopping expedition in Manali, or ending the year on a spiritual note in Dharamshala with your loved ones! Are you travelling in the winters? Here’s why you need travel insurance even more so. 

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