Tips for Delhi Travel
While Delhi has enough history to keep a whole archaeological department occupied for decades, there are enough contemporary sights and sounds for visitors to the city. Its definitely a “teeming megapolis” and more cosmopolitan than most other Indian cities, other than Mumbai. With about 18 million people and an ever-expanding border, the city has the good, bad and ugly in generous proportions.
If you like reading up before taking on a journey I would highly recommend William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns and Sam Miller’s Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity for an insider’s account of the modern city of Delhi. For a good overview, go to Wikipedia. In addition to the Lonely Planet, the HT City Eating Out Guide and HT City Night Out Guide are great and are used extensively by locals to plan their outings.
Big Discounts on Hotels in Delhi
We have included our list Top 10 Holiday Destinations in India, if you would like to travel to other parts of India.
For places to stay, while “The Book” has enough recommendations in Paharganj for the budget tourist, it may be worthwhile to explore the newly started B&B in Delhi setups. There is a list of approved establishments at Incredible India. Inn at Delhi Bed and Breakfast is the only B&B, we are happy to recommend.
For the other end of the bandwidth, the best New Delhi Hotels are The Oberoi, The Imperial, Hyatt Regency and the Taj Mahal Delhi hotels. Tripadvisor now has an Indian website where you can check out customer feedback, but do double-check dates of reviews, as a lot of hotels are renovating these days with the upcoming 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games in mind. The best locations to stay in Delhi are either central Delhi near Lutyen’s Delhi or south Delhi. These locations would reduce travel time to popular destinations to a certain extent.
Moving Around New Delhi - Modes of Transport
* Private Car Hire in Delhi - Best Option
* Delhi Metro - 2nd Best Option
* Taxi Hire -
* Tuk tuk or Auto-Rickshaws
* Manual Rickshaw
* Buses - Not Recommended
For moving around the city, private car hire in New Delhi, is the best deal. If you are adventurous and keep track of your money and are not afraid of crowds, Delhi Metro is the next best option. The auto-rickshaws or Tuk-tuks are the next best bet and are easy to flag down. There is a fleet of radio taxis in the city now which are safe and not as teeth and bone-jarring as the auto’s.
Historical Sites of Interest in New Delhi
For those who would like to do some historical sightseeing, the must-do’s are Red Fort and Chandni Chowk in the Old City (the mandatory rickshaw ride is worth it), Qutub Minar, the Gandhi Museum and Humayun’s Tomb which was a precursor to the Taj Mahal in architectural terms. Local Sight seeing is very popular with locals as well and reservation is recommended as group-sizes are limited. One modern sightseeing destination that I often indulge in is Dilli Haat, which is a food and crafts bazaar with lots to sample from regional craftsmen. Bargaining is a must here but credit cards are not accepted in most kiosks. So do carry cash (I’m not certain that there’s an ATM nearby either!). It’s a great place to pick up gifts and local handicrafts.
Delhi has an extremely vibrant art and music scene and concerts by Indian performers are regularly held at the India International Centre, India Habitat Centre and Nehru Park. The best source to check out weekly listings are Timeout Delhi and What’s Hot which is a Friday pullout that comes with The Times of India newspaper. The Triveni Kala Sangam is a great hangout place for artists and art students. The beautiful building is designed by Joseph Allen Stein and the Triveni Café serves a great menu of home-style food which can be enjoyed on the terrace. I have spent enough hours here learning classical dance and eating the stuffed parathas at the café. The NGMA (National Gallery of Modern Art), The National Museum and the Rail Museum are great for museum-lovers.
Restaurants in New Delhi
The Delhi Punjabis are known for their fondness for shaking a leg and downing multiple pegs of Johnnie Walker Black Label. Some of the best bars with good music in Delhi, which locals frequent, are Kasbah at Greater Kailash N-Block market, Shalom which now has more than one bar, Q’BA in Connaught Place and Tabula Rasa at Saket. There is no dearth of drinking hot-spots in the city but these are my favourites. I have also heard good things about Manre and Ai, both of which have live music on certain days and great food, though have not personally sampled these. Both are located in the MGF Metropolitan Mall in Saket. Along with these, the Select Citywalk mall in Saket is the best shopping centre in the city with a great outdoor area and some nice coffee bars to while away time at. This mall is currently the hot favourite of local Delhiites, both for shopping and as a social meeting-place.
Sampling Indian cuisine would be high on the to-do list of several visitors and my favourites are Moti Mahal in Daryaganj for mughlai cuisine, Swagat at Defence Colony market for fantastic south-Indian seafood, Oh Calcutta at Nehru Place for a highly satisfying Bengali meal and Sagar for superb dosas, also at Defence Colony. I have had the best Italian meal in Delhi at Diva which also has an excellent wine-cellar and for a Mediterranean meal I head for Olive Beach at the Diplomat Hotel in Chanakyapuri. Of course, a Bukhara meal at Maurya Sheraton is on every tourist’s list, so you are welcome to it – its definitely very good. The Lodi Restaurant has a great al-fresco setting and you can take a stroll at the Lodi Gardens next door. I love these gardens in the middle of the city. It has some beautiful old structures and is also a very popular picnic-spot in the winters.
Finally, if you want to experience a real local’s lifestyle, we would recommend the following:
1. Travel at peak time down any of the arterial roads to experience traffic nightmares
2. Eat chaat (a local savoury snack) at Prince Paan Corner at GK1 M-Block market, followed by a chaser of your favourite digestive. Chaats are really yummy street-food but its best to eat from a clean source. Bengali Sweet House in Bengali Market is another good source of these.
3. Watch the latest Bollywood blockbuster (Slumdog Millionaire does not count!). Ask a local for a recommendation.
4. Shop for saris in the Karol Bagh or Lajpat Nagar markets. You’ll get enough photo-ops here to capture the chaos that most locals wade through everyday
5. Visit the neighbourhood vegetable market. Some good ones with a fine balance of fresh veggies and slippery sludge are the CR Park market in south Delhi and INA Market opposite Dilli Haat. You could pick up some great spices at these markets as well.
6. Hangout with local university students at the north campus of Delhi University and sample Tibetan momos with them at Majnu-ka-Tila.
7. Watch an evening arati at a Hindu temple. Or eat langar (the free lunch available for all) at a gurudwara. Most Indians visit their place of worship pretty regularly.
8. Do a weekend-trip to one of the several destinations around. Besides Agra for the Taj Mahal, other places nearby that I love are Rishikesh, Bharatpur, Kasauli and Mussoorie. You are sure to meet several Delhiites at any of these places!
9. Avoid Dirtiest Hotels in Delhi
While Delhi does have a bad scorecard for safety, as a local, I have never had a bad experience primarily by not indulging in foolhardy late-night activities. As a woman traveler I would try and develop a rhino-skin to deflect unwelcome male attention and ignore friendly overtures by all strangers. If you are partying late-night do so when with friends and never ever travel alone post 9 pm in an auto-rickshaw or an unregistered cab. On such occasions its best to call a radio-taxi. With these precautions, Delhi is a great place to explore.
Indians are hospitable by nature so if you have any local acquaintances do contact them before you get there. Most people would be happy to show you around the city. I love the city despite its chaos and would recommend it to both the adventurous and the conservative traveler. Happy traveling!