Delhi Travel Tips: 21 Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Delhi
If you’re visiting India, most likely your flight will land in Delhi. It is a massive city and can confuse anyone that’s not familiar with it. It is divided into 6 main zones – North, South, East, West, Central and Old Delhi. It has an interesting history – it was destroyed and rebuilt many times, a fact that’s evident in many landmarks all over the city.
Please don’t believe everything that you read on the internet. I have lived in Delhi for many years and some so called “facts” about the city just make me laugh. This is the first post for Delhi Travel Tips in Backpacker’s Guide to Delhi. Here’s a list of 21 things that you need to keep in mind while visiting Delhi:
- Visit Delhi in the months of February, March, October or November. Delhi has unbearable summers and foggy winters so please avoid those seasons. Although Delhi rains are unpredictable, but it usually rains around the months of July and August. Delhi does look beautiful when it rains but the already slow traffic comes to a standstill.
- You will not face any language barrier in most of the parts of Delhi. Hindi is the most commonly spoken language in Delhi but most of the locals speak really good English. Learning a few Hindi words will definitely be an added advantage.
- Get used to the crowds. Delhi is one of the most populated cities in India. The people of Delhi are called Delhi-ites. It is a melting pot of many different cultures due to a heavy inflow of migrants from all over the country. You can experience many different cultures from all over India in this city.
- Delhi has a culture of an “early nightlife” because most bars don’t have the permit to remain open post 12:30 am. If you’re planning on buying your own alcohol to drink in your room, ask your Hotel or Hostel staff to guide you to the nearest “Wine and Beer shop”. These shops shut at 10:00 pm.
- Try to celebrate at least one major North Indian festival in Delhi – either Holi (February or March) or Diwali (October or November). You will cherish these memories for life.
- Eat as much different variety food as you can. Delhi has many awesome restaurants with a variety of cuisines. Make some local friends and get them to take you to their favorite places. Vegetarians and vegans will LOVE Delhi food. Drifter Planet strongly recommends Kebab Gali and Biryani Inc.
- ONLY drink bottled water, unless you’re invited to a local resident’s home where they have their own filter system. This also applies to ice because tap water ice cubes can make you sick.
- Have you heard of Delhi Belly? If you’re not from India, most likely you WILL develop a case of “Delhi Belly” in the first week of your visit to Delhi so please carry your diarrhea medicine. It usually lasts for just a day but can last for 2 or 3 in total. Don’t eat melons or papaya if you develop a “Delhi Belly” but bananas will help.
- Carry toilet paper. Although most of the hotels have them but some don’t. Urban India’s method of sanitation is a “water gun” kind of a jet sprinkler that cleans bums efficiently – better than using just a toilet paper. This is called a toilet jet.
- Prepare to be shocked. Some aspects of Delhi, such as the beggars on the road, dirty sidewalks, etc will shock you on your first visit but wear your smile and enjoy the different experience. Keep your mind open to accept the different culture.
- Public Display of Affection is not the best idea in many parts of Delhi. However as per my personal experience, holding hands is cool. Location matters, so be mindful of where you are.
- Bargain everywhere. The simplest way is to cut the quoted price in half and then negotiate your way to a middle figure. Bargaining works even in big designer showrooms – I did this while buying my wedding attire.
- Be careful of touts. They’re everywhere! If you land in Delhi’s international airport, please directly head to the pre-paid taxi booth. If you arrive by train, please be prepared of many touts that will harass you to go to the hotel or hostel that they recommend. Many of them will try to send you to a dingy hostel in Paharganj – don’t! Delhi has a lot of affordable hostels in better areas that are easily connected via Delhi metro. I get to witness this on many occasions when I travel with my husband. He’s from Germany and it’s hilarious how the touts always surround him.
- The most useful resource to eating out is a website called Zomato where you can find information about almost every restaurant, read their menus, check reviews, get an idea about the prices and location coordinates. This is also available as an app and is very useful to get a sense of where to eat and what to order for your budget. Click here to access this awesome website.
- The Best way to get around is Delhi Metro which connects most parts of Delhi really well. It has a separate dedicated coach for female passengers, which is usually the first coach. Click here for more information. Additionally, Delhi has a massive fleet of tuk-tuks which are more commonly known as auto rickshaws or just autos for short. Don’t forget to negotiate if you decide to ride one. For traveling at night, I recommend you avail an app-based taxi service by Ola which is tracked by GPS.
- People in North India tend to stare a lot. Please don’t be offended because most of them do this out of curiosity. Get used to it and don’t let this make you uncomfortable.
- The concept of personal space is almost nonexistent, not just in Delhi but all over India. Whether you’re standing in a queue or traveling in the metro, get used to moving shoulder-to-shoulder.
- This is for women travelers – Dress sensibly and don’t walk around alone at night. As a thumb rule, try to blend in with the locals and wear what you see them wearing. It’s completely okay to wear a pair of shorts and walk around in places that are popular among the youth such as Hauz Khas Village, Khan Market, etc. However, wearing the same thing in conservative areas such as old Delhi or train stations will attract unnecessary attention and is almost as good as inviting trouble.
- Transport to and from Delhi Airport – Delhi airport (Indira Gandhi International Airport) is around one hour away from the main city. If you are a woman traveler and your flight lands in the middle of the night, it’s a good idea to stay in the airport till early morning (5 am) and then move on to your hostel or hotel. Delhi Metro has a station right outside Gate 4. Alternatively, for safe Delhi airport transfer, you can pre book your ride with Blacklane and have one of their professional drivers pick you up in a luxurious car.
- Carry a bug spray or insect repellent. Although a lot of mosquito bites will only cause you irritation, but some may cause Dengue or Malaria. I have suffered from Dengue once and it was horrible. If you end up catching any sickness like this – just write to me, I will do the best to help you.
- Attend a Delhi wedding. Of course, you’ve heard that Indian weddings are big. But you must keep in mind that Delhi weddings are massive. Try to get yourself invited for one while you’re there. Indian weddings don’t really have a major restriction on the guest counts. I had a “small” wedding by Delhi standards and it had close to 300 people. Attending a Delhi wedding is a “must do” experience. If you get to make some local friends, express your desire to attend a local wedding – most likely they will make this possible.
Emergency Numbers: 100 for police, 101 for the fire department and 102 for an ambulance.
It is possible to love and hate Delhi at the same time. I recommend you carry your camera around – who knows, you may spot a lazy cow chilling on the road while the rest of the traffic comes to a standstill or a monkey enjoying a motorbike ride with his human friend. Delhi has a lot of interesting sights and it never fails to surprise me even after living here for many years. Stay tuned for more Delhi Travel Tips in the “Backpacker’s guide to Delhi” series for information about where to stay, what not to miss, what to eat and where to drink.
Where to visit after Delhi:
Kasol and Parvati valley in the Himalayas
Varanasi – the spiritual capital of India
Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
Kheerganga in the Himalayas
Dharamkot in the Himalayas
Or, you can get on a flight to Goa to enjoy beaches.
For more destinations, check out my India Travel page.
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