When I started writing this post on some of the top Delhi travel tips for first timers to India, I had to pull myself out from the rut and present the City in an altogether new manner.
I did not want to just focus on your Delhi itinerary; the central idea was to help you maximize your Delhi experience. And let me tell you this, these travel ideas come from my own personal experience of dealing with various India travelers, most of them foreigners.
Top Delhi travel tips
The bigness of the City
The first thing that strikes you is the sheer size of the city. It is one of the biggest metropolises in the world and is home to more than 12 million people! People are out everywhere, whether on the roads or inside the Delhi Metro.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the massive crowds that you face. There is an opportunity out here for the people watchers coming from abroad.
If you are coming to Delhi for the first time and want to observe how the city folk live and work, then having a 3-hour walking trip in the Old Delhi is eminently recommended.
In my personal experience, I have seen many of my foreign visitors stop in their tracks after watching Indian families enjoy themselves on the Delhi streets. While this is certainly not new for me, but the Delhi crowds are somewhat like magnets for my visitors.
My favorite places in Old Delhi are:
Haveli of Mirza Ghalib
But, why did I title this paragraph such?
Simply this: You would have to take at least 3 days to see Delhi in all her finery. One day is not enough and if your travel guide is promising you the moon in that period then he is trying to cheat you.
Plan your 2-day Delhi trip by clicking here
Whenever I take my visitors out, I always insist that they have a cup of tea or chai at one of the roadside vendors.
And there is a reason behind why having chai is included in this article on top Delhi travel tips.
The reason is that you make friends instantly while having chai. The strangers will make you smile and help you be at ease. If you are a researcher, businessman or an academic, then this is your chance to ask some questions about life in general from the chaiwallah.
Did you know that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the chaiwalas to reach out to a cross-section of Indians during hhis election?
Selfies? Oh, it is ok!
May I take a selfie with you?
You will be assailed by these requests in places like Jama Masjid, Red Fort etc. Young boys will come up to you and will kind of force you to take selfies with them.
Don’t worry, these are harmless antics. These guys will later share these photos with their friends and brag that you are friends with that selfie guy. So relax, take a deep breath and simply smile at the selfie crowd. It is a harmless activity, folks.
Top Delhi Travel Tips
Location, Location, Location
Don’t let your budget considerations compromise your security.
Many travelers head over to seedy places like Paharganj and Karol Bagh for cheap accommodation but this is clearly a no, no. Do you know that these places are dens of drug runners and other criminals? Avoid these locations at all costs.
Rather, my advice is, that you should look out for guest houses and travel hostels in Central Delhi localities like Defence Colony, Hauz Khas, Sarvodaya Enclave and Mehrauli. Closer to many heritage destinations, these localities are neat and clean, and are largely free of security problems.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that you must pay something extra for your services in the name of ‘foreigner tax’.
First of all, there is nothing like a foreigner tax. But whenever you hear these two words from an auto-driver, a bangle seller or any other accessory seller, take a deep breath and realize that you are being asked for something extra. No doubt you are being scammed, but the amount is really very very small and doesn’t pinch you. No need to get into heated arguments with shopkeepers and set your blood boiling.
While in Delhi, try taking the Delhi Metro. The maximum fare that you pay is INR 50, which is less than $US 1. Now that is quite a deal, isn’t it? But if you were smart, you would buy a Metro Card which lets you beat queues and also helps save you some money too!
If you are planning to take the Delhi Metro, then take the Yellow Line for Chandni Chowk, Qutub Minar and Mehrauli, and the Red Line for Red Fort. Ladies have a separate coach for themselves.
Please consult this Delhi Metro map for getting around in the city
If you so desire to take an Uber, then take note of its competitor too, and that is Ola. These days, Uber is offering deals to its customers on their first 10 trips. I won’t recommend Ola, though; this company has been accused by many riders of not being transparent.
Auto rickshaws, by law, are supposed to ply according to meter. But my advice to you is not to force your driver to stick to the metered fare. Place your comfort above everything else.
There is a new religion in the world and that belongs to the foodies. You can find them everywhere in the city and an increasing number of these is made of people coming from Europe, North America and Australia.
However, there is a small piece of advice to you, dear Delhi traveler; avoid eating at the roadside joints if you want to fully enjoy your Delhi trip. The oil used by these street food vendors is horrible and is probably recycled many times. If your guide insists that you try out these goodies, then simply say no.
That being said, you should try out some mouth-watering delicacies in a few haveli turned hotels in Old Delhi. These places have a charm of their own, are safe to eat in and are also clean.
Where to shop in Delhi
Come on, if you didn’t buy any Indian sarees while in Delhi, then you have wasted your time here. The same goes for buying handicrafts and other souvenirs.
May I recommend you something? If you are planning to buy Indian apparel like saris, kurtas etc, then the best places to buy them are the state emporiums on Baba Kharak Singh Marg. The stuff that is on sale there is not just authentic, but also comes at the right price. You can also buy your preferred clothing at the various Khadi shops in Delhi.
Avoid buying at the Red Fort Chhatta Bazaar, most of the stuff there is low quality but high priced.
Other top Delhi travel tips
- Make friends with your hotel janitor, he is a storehouse of precious travel information
- If you are planning to stay long in India then have a Jio or a Vodafone connection. Spend less but browse more with the help of these mobile phone plans
- Visiting Jama Masjid? Deposit your shoes with the caretaker so that you do not lose them. Also, plan your Masjid trip when there is no Azaan.
- No to cigarettes on the streets; you may be penalized by the local police
I agree that there are several points that have not been covered in this article on top Delhi travel tips. If you would like to add your experiences to this list, please let me know.
Write to me if you find this advice valuable.