Delhi is much more than just India’s political capital. This is a place where the past and the present join hands to showcase beautiful art, architecture, diverse culture, and entertainment. Delhi gets crores of tourists coming in every year and I was lucky to visit the city a couple of times and I loved it.
The city has been the capital for about seven prior kingdoms and empires, leaving behind beautiful monuments, each one telling you a part Delhi’s magnificent history. It’s also famous for its delicious food and is known as a shopper’s heaven.
Many tourists who do visit the city, though, don’t really know where to start or how to go around discovering it. In fact, even seasoned travellers face challenges here. But you can’t blame them, Delhi is a sprawling metropolis with crisscrossing lanes and boulevards, large suburbs and so much to see. If you’re planning to travel here, this guide should be able to give you an idea of how to best experience the city.
Delhi is a massive city and includes many popular localities right from Connaught Place and posh Hauz Khas Village to the crowded markets of Old Delhi. It has a number of hotels catering to all kinds of travellers. Traditionally backpackers pick Pahar Ganj or Old Delhi which are extremely crowded areas and can be maddening for a first timer although they are cheap. I would suggest that you find a place somewhere away from the bustle and stay in the city’s more upscale neighborhoods in New Delhi or South Delhi because a number of guest houses, bed and breakfasts, backpacker hostels, and business hotels are now coming up in these areas. If you’re looking for economical options that don’t compromise on quality then look for a Treebo hotel in Delhi in the area of your choice.
Getting Around Delhi
Being the capital city of India, Delhi has an excellent network of metros and buses for local transport. The Metro is the fastest and most affordable mode of transport in the city. With an average frequency of about 5 minutes, and comfortable air-conditioned carriages you can get from A to B with no hassle. Don’t be afraid to use the metro if you’re a single woman traveller, as there is a separate ladies carriage denoted by pink signage.
If you’re travelling short distances, you can opt for Delhi’s massive fleet of AC and non-AC buses. They run at surprisingly low fares, but beware not to travel in them at rush hour. You can also always take an auto rickshaw, but make sure you settle on a fair price before boarding, just to stay safe. Another affordable choice is booking an Uber or Ola cab. It’s the safest method of getting around the city without exhausting yourself.
Zones to Cover
Delhi is too large to take in all at once. You’ll need at least three days to get a clearer picture of the city. There are a number of heritage sites, markets, parks, and restaurants to discover. Create an itinerary and pick an area for every day that you’re here, such as Old Delhi, South Delhi, and New Delhi. Here’re a few places to visit while in each zone. There can be scattered attractions in the North, East, and West Delhi too but they are not usually frequented by tourists. If you do intend to explore the other side of Delhi, you can read my post on offbeat attractions in Delhi.
|Old Delhi||Central Delhi||South Delhi|
Delhi can be a minefield for tourists. Making sure you stay safe is paramount. Never carry around expensive belongings or cash, as theft is pretty common in many areas in Delhi. What you can do it is to carry around your cash and cards in a money-belt or secure pouch, which you hang around your neck or stow away under your shirt.
Ladies, you might receive some unwanted male attention. Generally, try to avoid conflict and you should be fine but still carry pepper spray, just in case. Carry around a notepad with important numbers, in case your smartphone runs out of juice and you need help. Similarly, make sure that you have a functioning SIM card because you must be able to call in case of any emergency. This is especially true for foreigners who are visiting for the first time and is applicable to the entire country and not only Delhi. Here is a very useful guide for getting a local SIM card in India.
Keep an Open Mind
The thing about Delhi is that it can easily intimidate you, especially if you are coming from a more organized city and cooler climates. Especially if you happen to visit in summer, this can be horrifying. I personally never suggest anyone visit Delhi in the summer (I move away to the Himalayas myself). Also, certain recent events have created a terrifying image of Delhi, especially for women. All I can say is that it is a far more diverse place than it is given credit for. You should, of course, be careful like I have mentioned in the previous section but that is true for any big city in the world. Keep your eyes open to be safe but also keep your mind open to enjoy it.
Read Beyond Guidebooks
Also, in order to make the most of Delhi, you need to educate yourself about the place and explore beyond the most obvious tourist spots. Similarly, I see many foreign visitors complain about the food and fall ill. It is better to read about what you are going to eat beforehand. Here is a useful post about food in India from a foreign visitor’s perspective that maybe useful for you.
You can visit its numerous monuments and explore thousands of years of history. In case you are wondering, they are not limited to the Red Fort or Qutub Minar and there is much more. I have visited many of them over the years and you can find them in this section. You can also gain spiritual ecstasy by attending Sufi nights at Nizamuddin or be close to nature by slightly moving out of the city and exploring the wildlife sanctuaries in Haryana. In short, just don’t get bogged down by stereotypes, and limited information provided by guidebooks. Take some time to read more about the city and that will help you plan it better.