“To drive in Delhi you must have three things – good breaks, good horn and good luck” We heard this multiple times during our three days stay in Delhi, India, but luckily for us, we were not driving, but it still didn’t stop me holding my breath everytime our driver sharply served to miss a rogue cow or I was practically in touching distance of the man in the tuk-tuk next to us. Before we arrived in Delhi, everyone I spoke to described it was an ‘assault on your senses’ and it is exactly what it is, but once you start to understand it, it grows on you.
We found most people spend an average of three-four days in Delhi, which I think is just the right amount of time to see all the sights and take in the atmosphere before moving on to your next destination. So here is my guide for to Delhi for a first timer.
A first timer’s guide to Delhi, India
Population:18.6 million! Bear in mind, the population of London is roughly 8.6 million, but the size of both is very similar.
Currency: Indian Rupees
Visa: Yes, regardless of the length of visit you will need a visa which you apply for in advance from the government website. Once approved it will allow you entrance into India within sixty days of the date of issue, so do not apply too early. Also, ensure you have a printed version of your visa on you, as they will want to see it before departing your country as well as on admission to India.
Getting around: Tuk Tuks (also known as auto rickshaws), Taxis and Uber. All are incredibly low cost and easily accessible, as a tourist, you will most likely get charged more unless you are good at haggling, but on average you are looking at roughly 120 Rupees (£1.10) per twenty-minute journey in a Tuk-Tuk. We opted for Tuk-Tuks more than cabs, but be aware you will be approached a lot by people begging or selling things when you stop at traffic lights.
What to wear: I worried about this a lot before we got here, but I really did not need to, as I found most westerners dressed however they wanted to. I did choose to be respectful by ensuring my legs were covered at all times, and generally, my shoulders were as well, however, as I mentioned I saw many women walking around in shorts and such with no issue at all. So, it is completely up to you.
Firstly, I have to say the people in Delhi (and all of India) are strong contenders for the nicest people I have met across the world, they were only too happy to help anytime we were lost or needed help and they were genuinely interested in talking to us. You may also find you get your photo taken a lot but don’t worry they always ask first (mostly!).
Hostel: Madpacker’s Hostel
Budget: Taj Princess
The Taj Princess has a lovely rooftop bar, which is the perfect escape from the hustle and noise of the city below. Spend some time up here and watch the wonderfully graceful Kite birds which soar over the city.
Luxury: The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa New Delhi
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Things to see in Delhi, India :
The fusion of Persian and Mughal architecture has lured its visitor since its creation, which started in 1565 and ended in 1572. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s wife Bega Begum, and it was the first gardened and heavily red-stoned tomb in that era. Many famous Mughal emperors rest here in peace. UNESCO listed Humayun’s Tomb as a World Heritage Site.
The India Gate
The India Gate was designed by Edwin Lutyens, a British architect who headed the architectural projects of New Delhi plan. The monument commemorates 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army and officers from the UK, who sacrificed their lives in the Third Anglo-Afghan War.
The building has won many awards for its wonderful architecture. The Lotus temple is shaped like a lotus, with immaculate petals. This temple is also known as Baha’i Temple. Be aware there are generally long queues to go inside – I personally did not think it was worth the wait, as the beauty is on the outside of the temple, but many people like to go inside the spiritual enlightenment.
Connaught Place (Sometimes known as CP by locals)
In this area you will find a lot of restaurants as well as western chains such as Starbucks, this area is more expensive than other areas, but it is a nice place to be in the evenings. I recommend eating dinner in Zaffran.
Paharganj Main Bazaar
Here you will find many market stalls selling traditional goods and you find many places that do traditional Mendhi hand henna. There is a great restaurant called the Exotic restaurant which sells really good low-cost curries with views overlooking the market.
Still planning your trip to India? Read my itinerary for two weeks in India
This mosque was built in 1656 by the famous Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The courtyard of the mosque is so big that twenty-five thousand followers can be there at once. Especially during the festival of Eid, this mosque becomes the top-most highlight of the city.
On entering this Mosque, ladies will be given a floor length robe to wear inside, you will also be charged to take in any form of a camera – but it is stunning, so I recommend paying for one camera to be taken in.
Red Fort (Laal Quila)
This is where the prime minister of India hoists the Indian flag in the occasion of Independence Day, every year. It is also another World Heritage Site.
Safety: I never once felt unsafe in Delhi (or any of India), there were a few times when I felt hassled, but only from a lack of personal space and my occasional claustrophobic tendencies but never once did I feel intimidated or worried for our well being. Of course be sensible, do not wander around late at night in quiet areas, ensure you only get in licensed taxis etc, but I hope this is something you wouldn’t do in any country. As always, be aware of pickpockets in busier areas.
Health: People say Delhi belly in inevitable, but I actually did not get sick until Kerala and DJ didn’t get sick at all. DJ eats meat, I don’t, either way, be sensible about where you eat and ensure strict hand hygiene (this counts when handling money as well). Only drink bottled water, but ensure the bottle you buy has a complete seal, as they do have a tendency to refill water bottles from the tap and sell them again.
You do not visit Delhi, you experience it, it is not relaxing by any means. I will not lie to you, at some points of our time in Delhi, I wanted to leave, this was times when I was tired and the hustle/noise got a bit too much but I left so wonderfully grateful that I have experienced it.
My top advice for a first timer visiting Delhi, or anywhere in India, is come with an open mind, embrace everything it chucks at you and when it all gets too much take some time out on a rooftop bar to watch the birds fly.