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Delhi is a chaotic city. It’s huge, it’s busy, it’s loud, it’s often very polluted, yet most backpackers, travellers and general foreigners to India will wonder where the best place to start a trip to India is, and Delhi will be the answer because it’s centrally located to Rajasthan– a popular area of India for tourists to explore, Agra which is home to the Taj Mahal and just an overnight train away from one of the oldest cities in the world- Varanasi.
I don’t think that starting a trip to India in Delhi is a bad thing but to really enjoy Delhi and to leave not feeling scammed, overwhelmed and with the opinion that you’ll never go back (as some tourists to Delhi do) there are certain Delhi Travel Tips that you need to know and that’s what I’m going to share with you in this Delhi Travel Blog and Delhi Travel Guide.
To SEE Delhi and my travel tips, have a watch of this YouTube video:
1 – Go with an Open Mind.
I’m sure you’ve been told horror stories about Delhi, I’m sure you’ve read horror stories about Delhi and my advice is to forget all of that. Firstly because you’re going to arrive in Delhi with a bad and negative mindset whereas arriving with an open mind will enable you to enjoy Delhi much more. Secondly, Delhi and India in general, has changed so much in the last few years, if you know someone who had a bad experience in Delhi 10 years ago, chances are, if they went back now they wouldn’t even recognise the city.
The city has modernised and the generations of India have modernised too making Delhi tourism that bit easier.
2 – Stay in a Good Area of Delhi.
This took me 3 visits to Delhi to realise this important Delhi travel tip so I’m going to tell you for your first visit to Delhi, so you don’t make the same mistake.
There’s an area in Delhi called ‘Paharganj’ which is located close to New Delhi Train Station. This may seem like a popular area of Delhi to stay in because it’s well located to the station and it has a huge concentration of accommodation on the likes of Booking.com, in fact, it’s known as the backpacker area of Delhi. However, Paharganj isn’t a nice area.
Paharganj has a busy main bazaar with many shops aimed at tourists, it has budget accommodation and from my experience, the hotels are budget quality, they are not nice hotels in Delhi and will leave you disappointed. Therefore, I really do not recommend you stay in this area of Delhi.
Old Delhi is another popular area of Delhi to visit (more on that below) but saying here is a big mistake too.
So where is the best place to stay in Delhi in a safe hotel in Delhi? Well, either Central or in South Delhi.
Central Delhi is a good area of Delhi to stay in for foreigners because it’s well located to Delhi monuments like the India Gate and the Jantar Mantar but it’s also close to Connaught Place (CP as it’s known to the locals) which is pretty much the very centre of Delhi. Lots of metro stations meet here meaning it’s easy for everyone in Delhi to get to, Connaught Place itself has a nice park to sit in, and there are higher-end shops and restaurants here too.
I stayed at Bloom Rooms Hotel Janpath in Central Delhi for 3 nights in Delhi which I loved and really recommend to you. It’s in the area of Janpath which has its own metro station, Janpath Market is close by which is a nice place to shop, it’s two stops from Khan Market (more on that below) and a short walk from Connaught Place. Not only that but the hotel is beautifully designed, the staff are welcoming, it has a great cafe on-site and generally, it’s a nice place to recuperate in after sightseeing in Delhi whilst still staying in Central Delhi.
If you’d prefer staying in South Delhi, this is possible too. I also stayed at Prakash Kutir B&B in South Delhi in Hauz Khas. Staying here means it takes a bit longer to get into Central and Old Delhi however there are Delhi monuments to visit such as the Lotus Temple and Qutub Minar nearby and from staying here you get a much more residential and local look at Delhi. Prakash Kutir B&B is more like a homestay to be honest as the building is part family home, part hotel. In fact, this is the hotel I’ll be staying in for the group tours to India I’m hosting.
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3 – Know that Delhi is NOT JUST Old Delhi.
What do you know about the best areas in Delhi to visit and what to see in Delhi? Old Delhi is probably what comes to mind first and that’s understandable, as a tourist this part of the city is what we are drawn to and told so much about in the media but Delhi is so much more than just Old Delhi. By all means, go there, there are things to do in Old Delhi such as the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk street and Jama Masjid- the biggest mosque in India but do not think that this is Delhi. Old Delhi is also an intense area to see alone as a tourist to Delhi, which leads me onto…
4 – Make Use of the Tours.
There are so many tours on offer in Delhi like full city tours, street food tours, slum tours, cycling tours and free walking tours.
Going on a tour of Delhi not only helps you learn more about the area, and ensures you see the key places to visit in Delhi but having a guide to follow is priceless, especially in Old Delhi.
Old Delhi is chaotic, it’s everything you probably had in mind of India and of Delhi, it’s also very old with pavements missing, potholes, wires everywhere, dust everywhere and a whole lot of people!
I went on two tours around Old Delhi that I’d recommend to you to help you enjoy Delhi and therefore this is one of my biggest Delhi travel tips!
Last year when I was in Mumbai I went on a slum tour in Mumbai with Reality Tours, they are a company that has been designed with an incredible mission and values to give back to local communities. I left their Mumbai Tour thinking highly of them so I was happy to see they offer a Street Food Tour in Old Delhi. I met my guide Sagar in Connaught Place before getting the metro together to Old Delhi, we had 5 delicious food stops, visited the Sikh Temple on Chandni Chowk, the Spice Market- Asia’s largest Spice Market and we also took multiple rickshaws throughout Old Delhi from place to place so I could soak up the pure craziness of this area!
Not only did I eat a lot of nice foods but I learnt so much about the area, about life in India and even picked up a few Hindi words. It was so amazing being able to see Delhi like this as well as certain tourist places in Delhi, but not feel overwhelmed about trying to navigate Old Delhi’s little streets and the traffic on my own. I 100% recommend this Delhi Street Food Tour to you and it’s 2000Rs / £23.00 / $28.00 which is a reasonable price for the quality and to give back to a community through the tour.
I also wanted to check out a free walking tour in Delhi, there are a few on offer but I ended up going with Yo Tours Free Walking Tour around Old Delhi, it was just 90 minutes but I considering it’s free with a recommended tip of 400Rs you can’t expect much more. The guide was lovely, I learnt more about the history and again it was so nice seeing the windy streets of Old Delhi but not on my own and not worrying about where to go.
Plus, being with a guide in Old Delhi really reduces the amount of hassle you get from shop owners etc as they can see you won’t stop as you’re on a tour.
To SEE my Street Food Tour in Delhi, have a watch of my YouTube video:
Here are some more Delhi Tours from Get Your Guide which all have good reviews, sometimes I find it reassuring to book tours like this in advance if I have limited time in a city:
5 – Don’t be Afraid to Sightsee Alone.
With the above being said, don’t be afraid to see Delhi alone either. You can get the Metro, Uber and Rickshaws around the city perfectly fine on your own and very cheaply. Central and South Delhi are good areas to explore alone and you can get to many of Delhi’s most popular monuments by metro. I’d say a good mix of seeing Old Delhi with a guide and other areas on your own is a good way to do your Delhi sightseeing.
6 – Use the Metro like a Local.
The traffic in Delhi can be crazy and although you can walk around parts of Delhi I don’t suggest you try to walk all day because of the noise, heat and pollution. The best way to get around Delhi is using the metro!
This may surprise you, it may not, but the Delhi Metro is ultra-modern! They have a number of lines connecting the city and places to visit near Delhi. The lines are colour-coded, the signs are in Hindi and English and best of all, the platforms and the carriages are air-conditioned which is bliss when it’s hot in Delhi!
If you’re worried about how to use the Delhi Metro, you can buy tickets two ways. One is to buy a token per single ride from the machine, this will cost you between 10-30Rs depending on the distance, on that note, the Delhi metro is very cheap to use with set fares. This is a good idea if you’ll only use it once or twice but if you plan to use the Delhi metro as a tourist more than that (and you should), you can buy a Delhi Travel Card for 150Rs from the information counter in any metro station, it will have 100Rs loaded onto it already and you can easily top it up in the stations. This will save you queuing each time to buy a token and it will make you feel like a local!
As a solo female in Delhi, I felt very safe on the metro in all carriages but just so you know, the first carriage in the direction the train is going is always a female-only carriage!
It’s also worth noting that the metro is linked to the airport so if you’re wondering how to get from Delhi airport into the city, you can catch the metro for a cheap, air-conditioned ride from the airport.
7 – Keep Your Wits About you at the Airport.
Talking of the airport, this is where you may well experience your first scam in Delhi. Delhi Airport is notorious for this, even these days.
For example, Delhi Airport now has an Airtel store which you can buy a sim card in for 900Rs and it’s much easier buying a sim card here than in the city (so I’d 100% recommend getting a sim here), however I gave the guy 2000Rs, he took a while to give me my change until I reminded him and then he only gave me 300Rs change or something silly like that! Because I’d been to India just a few months before for 4 months, I knew the currency and knew it wasn’t right, I told him and he said ‘oh how much did you give me?’, he knew he was in the wrong and gave me the full change but had I not known I would have taken it and left without realising!
Here’s my full post on how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport. I really recommend you have a sim card or a data device to stay connected in India. If you don’t want to get a sim card, or your phone is locked and you can’t get a local sim, then get a portable device like this instead:
Getting a taxi from Delhi Airport into the city is another way people may catch you out by charging you way more than the correct fare. The best thing to do is to prebook a taxi from Delhi Airport to your hotel like this which is a reasonable price, or to go to the mini-cab office outside of the airport, they will give you a set price which is the best rate, you pay the guy then and then get the taxi. I did this and it was the cheapest option. Just make sure you have the address and phone number of your Delhi Hotel on hand so the driver can call them if they can’t find it.
The other option is Uber but your sim card won’t be activated until 2-3 hours after buying it in the airport and the mini-cabs are not much more expensive.
Either way, I know it’s hard because you’re tired from the flight and the heat when you step outside will probably hit you but a top Delhi travel tip to avoid scams in Delhi is to try and keep your wits about you and keep a level head at the airport. Don’t stand for the men trying to confuse you, tell them to leave you alone or walk off never listen to them wanting to take you to a ‘tourist office’ because it’s all a scam. There’s a Costa Coffee in Delhi Airport arrivals so you could grab a coffee, think things through and then start your journey into Delhi.
8 – Be Aware of Scams.
Let’s touch on scams in Delhi a bit more and how to avoid scams in Delhi. As mentioned the airport is where you may get caught because they know you’re new to India and probably just off a long flight.
Other scams in Delhi to be careful of are around the Delhi tourist monuments, not all the men (and I say men as India is male heavy and you will come in contact with way more men than women in India) will be trying to scam you, some will just ask if you want a guide, a rickshaw/tuk-tuk or if you want photos taken in front of monuments, but others may try to get you into their friends or uncles shop if you’re on a tour and others will mention a government official tourist office which is a famous Delhi scam, or they’ll talk about government shops. They’re all in it on commission and you will get charged way more for whatever you purchase. Plus, Indian people can be very convincing so you probably won’t even want what you are purchasing!
I really urge you to speak to the locals in Delhi, after all, part of being in India is to talk to Indian’s as many people are very friendly but don’t let any Indian person pressure you into going somewhere and don’t go until you think about it properly and with a level head so you can avoid scams in Delhi.
With that said I have always felt safe in Delhi and felt like my belongings are safe. Of course, you need to keep an eye on your bag like in every big city in the world but in all of India, I have never felt like I may be mugged or robbed and be part of a scam this way, so don’t let this worry you. Be sensible but don’t be over paranoid.
9 – Dress Appropriately.
This is aimed at women and what to wear as a woman in Delhi because unfortunately, things are not equal in India, men can wear what they want and women can’t.
Even though Delhi is a modern and cosmopolitan city in some areas, you still need to be careful with what you wear in Delhi. For example, as a woman, I have always, and will always, wear long or 3/4 trousers or a skirt past my knees, I’ll never wear shorts in Delhi, even though you’ll see some local younger girls wearing them. I have worn a tank top in Delhi with a shawl around me but in all honesty, if I compare the experience to wearing a t-shirt, I feel much more comfortable in a t-shirt in Delhi.
10 – Visit Local Places.
Finally, remember there is so much more to Delhi than it’s tourist monuments, yes the Red Fort, the Tombs, the Temples are good are good to see, especially if this is your first stop in India and you want to soak in the culture but remember you’ll see plenty more during your India trip whether you’re in India for 2 weeks or 2 months, so be sure to head to some local places in Delhi too.
My main suggestion would be to go to Khan Market during the day or in the evening. During the day Khan Market is full of shops and cafes for lunch and come evening it comes alive with restaurants and bars. It’s not a market stall type market. Sure the shops like MAC, Starbucks and Hamleys may not seem appealing but this is where locals go on a weekend evening.
Hauz Khas Village is another great place to visit, again full of restaurants and boutique shops and this is especially good to visit if you are staying in South Delhi.
If you want to get some peace and quiet in Delhi, and you probably will, head to Lodhi Garden which locals visit but it’s also home to some tombs so you can seesight and relax in one go.
Now that you know how to visit Delhi in the best way possible. Here are some other blog posts to help you out for the rest of India:
Note – I worked with Bloom Hotels on a complimentary stay in return for content but I do truly recommend them as a fantastic hotel to stay at in Delhi.