Saturday, December 10, 2011

19 Tips for Visiting Delhi

Many people ask about packing and tips when they are visiting India. While recently responding to a comment here asking for tips I realized just how many I've collected and thought maybe posting a blog about it is a good idea. That comment got pretty long and I only touched on a few things. So here are my best tips for visiting Delhi. (I will update as I get more to post.) I will post another about Amritsar very soon.

Hotels
  1. Don't pay a ton for an international hotel just because you recognize the name! There are hotels in Ram Nagar right next to the New Delhi Railway Station that cost about $80 a night for a hotel that would be top quality in the US. There are about 50 in one tiny neighborhood in Ram Nagar and it's literally 2 blocks from the train station so if you want to go somewhere else it's quick and easy. Many also provide tours for a fairly low price ($30 a person to the Taj Mahal). My fav hotel is http://www.hotelajanta.com/ and we almost always get the superior room though the deluxe is almost identical (the bed's are shorter is the only difference I see). Be forewarned this hotel fills up quick and we've went without reservations and almost didn't get a room during a weekday!
  2. If you want a more centralized hotel then check out Cannaught Place. There is a Hotel Bright there that is really wonderful. The staff is super nice and you get free breakfast with the room. Now, keep in mind these rooms are kind of small and cost a lot more than Ram Nagar though they are only a 3 minute rickshaw ride away. The bonus here is that Cannaught Place is a major shopping area and has tons of international goods and you won't need to pay for a taxi or other transportation if you don't want to just to get food or some exercise in the evening. There is also a metro station right at Cannaugt Place which you can take to go many places in and around Delhi.
Food



  1. As I already mentioned there are tons of options in Cannaugt Place including international cafe's, a sheesha bar (I'd tell you but then I may have to kill you), high class restaurants, a Chicago Pizza, fine Indian cuisine and more. There's even a MacDonalds and a KFC in case you miss American food though I highly recommend you enjoy the international offerings.
  2. There's a TGIFriday's, Chili's and tons more available at the Vasant Kunj malls. You will likely need to hire a car (taxi) to get there but it's worth it. There are 3 (with a 4th being built) large malls side by side at this location and ask the driver to take you to Ambience Mall or DLF Promenade and they should know where it's at.  There's international cuisine as well as American (including a Dominoes) located here so everyone is bound to be happy.
  3. Hauz Kaus Village has some good higher class options. There are upscale cafe's, authentic Japanese food and more but you may have to walk around (it's shopping so it's okay lol) to find what you're looking for but it is well worth it.
  4. I do not recommend asking your taxi driver to take you somewhere with good international cuisine. I have done this a couple of times and normally they get paid a commission to take you to certain places. Now these places are good but won't likely have what you're looking for. It's up to you if you want to take the chance. My only complaints (we've used this option 3 or 4 times) is that the food is way over priced, the restaurants are usually fairly empty and their idea of international is nowhere near the same as mine. 
Shopping
  1. Hauz Kaus Village has all the stores you wish you could find in the local bazaars only better. This is where the fancy higher class outfits you see in Bollywood movies can be found as well as some very stylish and trendy western wear with Indian flair.
  2. Cannaught Place - see above!
  3. Vasant Kunj's Ambience Mall and DLF Promenade (if your taxi will take you then venture over to the Gurgaon Ambience Mall - I've heard it's bigger and better but our taxi won't go out that far so I've yet to see it for myself.)
  4. Your taxi driver may ask if he can take you to a rip off market to make his commission. I personally feel it's good to agree. This gives you an idea of what prices NOT to pay for goods in India. You can walk around, see some stuff and then simply walk out. These markets are not in highly accessible tourist locations and it is a fun experience. Yes...I let myself get ripped off at one once so beware - even the toughest most stuck up shopper can be taken in by these salesmen. Read about it here.
  5. INA Market - Unfortunately I haven't made it here yet. I've been told by several people of the availability of international goods in this market. You will need to bargain a little on the prices but if you get excited seeing American goods in India (like I do lol) then this should be a good place to go.
  6. Paharganj - This is where I got run over! It's not a normal occurance and I don't think it will keep me from going back. I like this market. Not only is it close to our hotel but it's fun to shop there. You see tourist from all over the world and find some great stuff really cheap without bargaining. I probably should bargain but I'm a slacker so I don't. They have a fabric store, clothing shops, watches, jewelry and tons more. There is also food but I don't eat much there. I don't go to Delhi to enjoy Indian food lol, I want my American fix while I can get it so I skip eating at the dhabas. I don't recommend buying goods from the guys who sit on the road with a blanket and sell stuff. Hubby says it's used merchandise. I haven't checked to verify that though.

Other Tips

  1. Money - it mostly averages close to 50 INR for $1 and I still use this to decide if a purchase is worth it. I relate what I'm buying to how much I would pay in the US. So when I'm buying a scarf if it's over 300 INR (abt $6) then I take into account whether or not it's worth it and how I will use it. Unique items that I can't find in the US I do sometimes get ripped off on but I feel it's worth it for the benefit and joy that comes from the purchase. Still, I find most things are far cheaper here even at rip off prices for an Indian. 
  2. Weather -  February is gorgeous weather, about 70 in the day and 40 at night. It starts getting really hot around April or May. Then cools back off to around 85/70 around October. Now, keep in mind the heat here does not feel like the US so 95-100 here is comfortable (even for a cold weather lover like me). It mostly depends on your heat tolerance level. Avoid December and January if you don't like the cold - though I must say Delhi was quite nice and I didn't use a jacket the whole time I was there in early December. Long sleeve shirts were great and all I needed.
  3. Traveling - Bargain with the rickshaw drivers, you should be able to go most anywhere for less than $2 (100 INR) and most places will typically cost far less. They will often charge more if they are going to be transporting more than one person. Taxi's can be rented for full or half days and they will wait for you at your destination then take you home. It is customary to tip a taxi driver. The metro (I've been told) is very easy for a foreigner to navigate and everything is said in Hindi and then in English so you won't get lost.
  4. When you're riding around town don't put your window down at stoplights. There are beggar children and if you give one money they will all run to you and we had one hold onto our window and would not let go (Hubby told me to give them coins lol...funny story). He was literally running along side the car holding on while we tried to leave.
  5. If you're married to an Indian citizen then take a copy of your marriage license with you. It can save you from paying the tourist prices at local tourist destinations. Otherwise you'll pay about 10-20 times what everyone else pays (literally). You may also need it to stay in the same hotel room (this is random and was a rule at one time but may no longer apply, just be prepared in case they ask.)
  6. It's okay to talk to some people but be careful with it. It's entirely personal preference but some will try to take your picture and then tell their friends they were 'with' you. Others may take your western courtesy as flirtation. So just be a little more on guard, especially with the 15-25 year old crowds if you decide to be hospitable. 
  7. Practice an evil eye look. It will stop the staring from the old aunties and uncles if that gets out of hand or begins to bother you. Just don't overuse it because they are not taught it's impolite to stare and you will be the star attraction.

5 comments:

  1. nice tips, really practical

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  2. Great post! Can't believe it's almost been 2 years since I was in Delhi. I also liked Connaught Circus area (Janpath Market). I bought a lot of stuff to take back home to my family and friends there. And Saravana Bhavan is there which is a plus :) Khan Market is expensive but I enjoyed walking around and they had some good cafes and restaurants that weren't too pricey either. I spent a lot of time there because I was staying just a block or 2 away.

    About the cold.  I kept being told how cold it would be before my trip and to pack tons of warm stuff. I was there end of December to beginning of January.  I brought a few jackets but during the day it was nice out! I remember one day, the wind made it cold. But the other days I wore a light, long sleeve sweater and was just fine.  At night, it was cold in the house and and outside, but I was fine with a thin jacket. Not sure what the fuss was all about. I didn't feel it was any colder than my "winter" at home - which is not much of a winter.

    Also, next time you go, if you haven't been already - go to Lodi Gardens! It's beautiful and a nice green space in Delhi, away from the traffic and dusty streets.  There's also a little restaurant in there that for lunch, serves yummy sandwiches and has good coffee. There's people walking around, sitting on the grass having lunch, and it's just quiet. I went there a few times with a friend to have girl time away from the boys.

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  3. Thanks for the added tips! I may just try out that restaurant on my next trip.

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