Delhi in India
Don't let your first impressions of Delhi stick like a sacred cow in a traffic jam: get behind the madcap façade and discover the inner peace of a city rich with culture, architecture and human diversity, deep with history and totally addictive to epicureans. Read more...
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Don't let your first impressions of Delhi stick like a sacred cow in a traffic jam: get behind the madcap façade and discover the inner peace of a city rich with culture, architecture and human diversity, deep with history and totally addictive to epicureans.
Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI, ) http://www.newdelhiairport.in/ is the arrival point for many visitors into Delhi. The airport has been taken over by an international consortium. Most terminals have basic facilities like money changing and restaurants, but the major problem remains overcrowding — during the peak hours (middle of the night for int'l flights, early morning for domestic).
The airport is split into three terminals, with the domestic terminals 1A and 1B commonly known as Palam Airport.
Terminal 1A (Domestic): Air India flights with IC numbers(flights fomerly operated by Indian), Kingfisher and GoAir Terminal 1B (Domestic): All other domestic flights (except Indian, Kingfisher and GoAir) Terminal 2 (International): All international flights and Air India domestic flights with AI numbers
Keep some time if your flight departs at terminal 1B or 2 as they are in a complete mess. The new terminal 1B (which should be at international standards) will open in August 2008. The new terminal 3 (where all terminal 1A and 1B flights operated by full service carriers such as Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher will shift allong with most flights operating from the current terminal 2) will have Singapore Changi standards will open only in July 2010. Terminals 1A and 1B are fairly close (around 0.5kms), but both are a long way from Terminal 2 and you should reserve at least three hours to connect. If you are making connections, it can take between 15 and 30 minutes once you exit one terminal to get to the other one by car, depending on time of day and traffic. There is supposed to be a free shuttle bus between T1 and T2, but it runs only once per hour. (On the upside, it crosses through the airport, and can be much faster than detouring on the congested roads outside like taxis do.)
Security at the airport is tight, so you should show up at least two hours before your flight is scheduled.
In Terminal 2, carry-on is limited to one (1) bag and all hold baggage must be X-rayed and sealed before check-in. Note that all lounges and tax-free shops are between immigration and the final security check: once you pass the final check, there is no way back and nothing to do, so plan accordingly.
The easiest and safest way to get from the airport to the city is to arrange transport ahead of time from your hotel (some hotels provide this service for free). Alternatively, pay for a taxi at the prepaid taxi booths in the international terminal (it is advised to to check your change). The number of the taxi assigned to you will be on the receipt. Then, go straight through the airport and turn right immediately outside the front doors and someone will help you find your taxi. There are several options, but the booth operated by the Delhi Police is considered the best, with non-A/C taxis to most points in the city Rs.200-300. Some good-humored visitors find that being shortchanged by the police is actually an excellent introduction to what they can expect during the rest of their visit to Delhi. If you don't view it this way, however, try to appear familiar with the currency, carefully count out your payment and your change, and do not use a large bill. Another scam, at the Traffic Police taxi booth is to return your note saying something in Hindi. If you give a 500 ruppee note (the most likely to be used by arriving tourists), the man there will pick it up, search his drawer, with the same hand holding the note and then discover you only gave a 50 or 100 ruppee note. Thinking, it must us who made a mistake (and unless you have read this page, thinking the Police cannot possibly cheat), you will cough up more money.
Do not give the receipt to the driver until you get to the destination as this is what they are paid on. Also, ignore any explanation the driver offers at the destination to explain why he requires additional payment. Take your baggage first, then give the driver the receipt and walk away without further discussion. There is a problem with this as there is a checkpoint manned by the traffic police just as your taxi moves away, you will have to give the receipt to the driver who will hand it over to the police who will record the number-try getting the receipt back from the driver! Looks like the police are really helping the drivers out.
It is also possible to take a city bus during the day, or a private one run 24 hours a day. As everywhere in India, ignore taxi touts!
During the winter (Dec-Jan), Delhi often experiences dense fog and visibility is reduced considerably, making it difficult for flights to land and take off. Both international and domestic flights are often diverted or cancelled, so plan accordingly and allow for 1-2 days of possible delays.
Buses arrive from Kathmandu and Chitwan in Nepal (36+ hours) and virtually every city in India. Not as comfortable as the trains, buses are the only choice for some destinations, mainly those in the mountains.
Delhi has a confusing slew of inter-state bus termini (ISBT), which all have two names to boot. The Delhi Transport Corporation http://dtc.nic.in/dt4.htm is the major operator, but every state also runs its own buses and there are some private operators too.
Kashmere Gate ISBT (aka Maharana Pratap), Metro: Kashmere Gate. This is the ISBT and the largest of the lot. Buses to points north, including Nepal. Sarai Kale Khan ISBT (aka Vir Hakikat Rai), next to Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station. Buses to points south. Anand Vihar ISBT (aka Swami Vivekanand), on the east bank of Yamuna. Buses to points east.
Trains arrive at one of three main stations: Delhi Junction, also called Old Delhi or Purani Dilli, the second at New Delhi which lies in Central Delhi, and one at Hazrat Nizamuddin a few kilometers to the south. (A very few trains also use Delhi Sarai Rohilla or Delhi Cantt stations.) Delhi Junction and New Delhi Railway Station are now conveniently connected by Metro Line 2, just minutes apart. It will take around 40 minutes to an hour to travel from the New Delhi Railway Station to the airport by car, depending on traffic.
A ticket office open to all is on the road to Connaught Place with longer hours and often has waiting times not much longer than at the tourist booking office, you will need to know the number or name of the train you want to take. Easiest of all, though, is to book on-line through the Indian Railways booking website.
New Delhi Railway Station
The main entrance to New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) is located just outside of Paharganj, the backpacker ghetto. The Delhi Metro now connects directly here, but the metro exits are on the Ajmeri Gate (second entrance) side near platform 12. You can also take prepaid rickshaws and taxis from the plaza outside the main entrance.
The station is large, crowded, confusing and packed with touts, so allow one hour (yes, really) to find your train the first time you visit. Don't trust the electronic display boards, which often show incorrect information, instead listen to the announcements and ask multiple people in uniform until you find your train. However, anyone, in uniform or not, who approaches you spontaneously should be ignored. Use one of the porters (in orange) who will find your train easily.
A tourist ticket office called the International Tourist Bureau is open during office hours, upstairs of the main New Delhi railway station. Ignore touts who will try to convince you that it has moved or is closed. Note that it is only for foreign tourists, so you must have a tourist visa (i.e. student and working visas are not acceptable). Non-resident Indians can also book their tickets through this office. Bring your passport and cash or traveller's cheques in US dollars, British Pounds or Euros. If you wish to pay in Indian rupees you must show an official exchange certificate (from India, not valid if you changed in another country) or an ATM receipt. To get a ticket, first get a form from the centre of the room, and fill it out. Then go to the information desk near the entrance. There, have the clerk check the availability of the train(s) you desire, and fill out your form accordingly. Then line up at one of the two u-shaped lines of chairs for the reservation desks.
There are lots of tricks and scams in operation at NDRS. It is a baffling place, especially if you just arrived in India. Basically do not believe anybody who approaches you to volunteer information. Stuff like 'oh that train goes from another station.' or offers of assistance with bags or help taking you to where you want to go. Its a con. If you need help, YOU choose who you want to help you, don't trust strangers who appear out of the crowd.
Delhi Railway Station
Formally Delhi Junction (DLI), but best referred to as Old Delhi Station for clarity. Like New Delhi RS, this station is huge and confusing: the platforms are not in linear order, with some hidden in the west and east wings of the stations. The railway station is served by Metro Line 2 Chandni Chowk station.
Hazrat Nizamuddin (NZM) is the departure point of many trains heading south. Practically speaking, the only way to get here is by taxi or auto. It's the least chaotic of the Big Three, but still pretty big and poorly signposted — listen to the announcements to figure out your train. The station has a pretty good Comesum food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks (sandwiches, samosas, etc).
If you have some time to kill, pay a visit to Humayun's Tomb, which is so close to the station that you can hear the announcements from inside — although it's a long, circuitous walk from the station to the entrance.
Getting around Delhi is always an adventure. Traffic is, by and large, horribly congested and many drivers will think nothing of quoting ten times the going price to a tourist. Use the prices below as broad guidelines, agree on prices before setting off, and don't get too hot under the collar over a rupee or two — they mean a lot more to the cycle rickshaw-wallah earning Rs. 50 on a good day than they do to you.
As of 2006, the following lines are open:
Line 1 (Red Line): Shahdara-ISBT-Rithala Line 2 (Yellow Line): Vishwa Vidyalya (Delhi University)-ISBT-Connaught Place-Central Secretariat Line 3 (Blue Line): Indraprastha-Connaught Place-Dwarka City
Line 2, in particular, is useful for getting to the Old Delhi (Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid) and New Delhi railway stations, the ISBT bus terminal and the backpacker ghetto of Paharganj. Fares range from Rs. 6 to 22. Take the token till the final destination and change lines if required. If you're planning on sticking around for a while, you can buy a Smart Card for Rs. 200, which is worth Rs. 110 and includes a Rs. 100 deposit. There is also a Tourist Card allowing unlimited use for Rs. 70/day, but it's highly unlikely that you'll travel enough to make this pay off.
Line 3 is useful for reaching Karol Bagh, a large shopping area. The Karol Bagh metro station is located in the crossing of Pusa Rd and Ajmal Khan Rd. The RK Ashram Marg station is very useful for reaching the western parts of Paharganj (and the station is located on the same side of the railroad tracks, which is not the case with the New Delhi station on line 2). Unfortunately the line 3 stations are not marked on most tourist maps as the line has only recently been opened.
Note that Metro stations all use the new Indianized names, so Connaught Place is Rajiv Chowk, Old Delhi Railway Station is Chandni Chowk and ISBT is Kashmere Gate.
There are limited commuter services on Delhi's railways, but the facilities are a far cry from the user-friendly Metro and stations are for most part inconveniently located. There is no passenger service at all on the Delhi Ring Railroad outside rush hour.
All parts of Delhi are well connected by buses and with tickets ranging from Rs.3 to 10 they're very cheap, but they're also the least comfortable means of transport and the hardest to use. Delhi's buses are quite crowded, rarely air-conditioned and drivers often drive rashly. Bus routes are often written only in Hindi and bus stops don't have any route lists, so it can be difficult to find your way — asking other people at the bus stop is often the best way to find out about bus routes to your destination. Buses are pretty frequent, running every 15-20 min or so on most routes. There are two kinds of buses in Delhi:
Government run DTC http://dtc.nic.in/ buses Privately run Blue-Line buses
If you have a choice, go for a DTC bus: they will stop less frequently and will generally be less crowded too. Note that many buses, DTC ones too, will stop pretty much anywhere if there are enough people getting on or off.
Board buses at the back and pay the ticket seller sitting right next to the door; be sure to hang onto your tickets, as ticket checks are fairly frequent. Some seats on the left side of the bus may be reserved for women and the handicapped. When it's time to disembark, move to the front of the bus and hop out from the door near the driver. As you might expect, all these guidelines are regularly ignored when buses are very crowded.
A taxi or hired car (usually with driver) is required to see many of the far-flung sites around and just outside Delhi. To get a taxi or a hired car, you have to go to a taxi stand; they are not usually flagged from the street. Alternatively, you can call for a cab at 1090.
Most Delhi taxis are old but reliable Ambassadors in distinctive black-and-yellow livery. While all are equipped with meters and should cost Rs. 6 to start plus Rs. 7/km, they are often rigged and it's better to agree on the price in advance. Most trips around the city should be Rs. 50-100, while a trip to the airport would be around Rs. 200. An eight-hour charter should cost around Rs. 500, and a tip is expected if the driver is helpful. Note that most Ambassadors are not air-conditioned.
The death knell of the Ambassador was rung in December 2006, when a modern radio taxi service was launched. At Rs.15/km, they're twice the list price of the competition, but they use modern vehicles with air-conditioning and can be dialed up 24 hours/day at 123 or 1921 or 432434343 or 1920. The fleet starts off with a rather modest 15 vehicles, but this is expected to increase to 500 by March 2007 and 10, 000 by 2010.
You shouldn't take non-official taxis, sometimes they take you to a wrong hotel, or to a tourist information center, and try to sell you overpriced things.
By auto rickshaws
Auto rickshaws (also called three-wheeled scooters or simply autos) are good for shorter trips. Always in a distinctive yellow-and-green livery, auto rickshaws are three-wheeled partially enclosed contraptions (no doors!) that run on CNG and can seat three people in the back. In general, they are much cheaper than taxis and can be hailed from the street. Although by law the rickshaw drivers should charge according to the meter in their vehicle (Rs. 10 for the first km, Rs. 4.50/km after), they will almost always try to haggle for price. (If they don't, the meter is probably rigged!) Even the shortest journey will cost around Rs. 20.
If you have any trouble with them, go to any of the numerous tourist police stations in the city center and they will give you a complaint slip which will result in a 500 rupee fine for the auto driver. There should also be a telephone number written on the vehicle to call in case of any complaint.
There are a number of PRE PAID Auto stands run by the Police. Tell them where you want to go and pay them upfront. The charge will include 5 Rs for the service. You then take the coupon and stand outside where a policeman will direct you to the next available Auto. When your journey is completed you hand the coupon to the wallah and that's it. Nothing more to pay (despite what they may say).
By cycle rickshaws
Cycle rickshaws are three-wheeled pedal powered rickshaws with seats in the back to seat passengers and a driver in the front. They are good for short distances, or places which are too far to walk but too short for taking a bus/taxi/auto rickshaw. Cycle rickshaws don't use meters, so establish a price before getting on. Rs. 20 is reasonable for most journeys of a kilometer or two, although many Delhiites will haggle if the driver dares to suggest Rs. 10.
Cycle rickshaws are best to use in Old Delhi to visit the intricate galis (walkways) and to enjoy the smells and sounds of the city.
Much of Delhi is quite pedestrian-hostile. Distances are long, road signage is poor, and you'll be constantly accosted by beggars and touts. Crossing roads often involves wading across multiple lanes of heavy traffic: try your best to move in a predictable straight line, so vehicles can weave around you. (Better yet, latch onto a group of locals and cross in their shadow.) If you really want to walk around, these places would be good: Walk from Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's house) to India Gate on the Rajpath-a walk of close to 3-4kms. Walk from Jama Masjid to Red Fort in the Chandni Chowk area.
When to go
Be on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice, and take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, etc. If this is your first time to India do not admit it, as this will make you a mark for the scam artists.
Delhi is an increasingly unsafe place for women. It is not uncommon to receive lewd remarks or even physical touching. If you are coming into Delhi at night, stay in the airport lounge, or well lit areas until daybreak. Try to avoid walking around alone or hiring cabs alone. Dress conservatively (preferably in Indian clothing so as to blend in), learn to shout, and consider carrying mace/pepper spray. Police vehicles (called PCR vans) are parked almost on every major intersection. Dial 100 in case of emergencies.
Carry your cash, passport, and cards in a secure money belt, with only enough cash for a few hours at a time in your wallet or other acccessible place. Some travelers recommend carrying an expendable wallet with a few ten rupee bills in it in an obvious place such as your hip pocket as a decoy to Delhi's ubiquitous pickpockets.
As a general rule, expect anyone handling your cash in Delhi to attempt to shortchange you; you may be favorably surprised once or twice during your visit. Learn the currency, count out your payment and change carefully, and be insistent in any dispute.
Delhi is a dusty city. That and the heat in Delhi does reduce visibility in the summers. In April through June, temperatures regularly top 40°C, meaning that proper hydration is a major concern. In winter, seasonal fog and, on a bad day, it can be difficult to see across the street. If you happen to be traveling in or out of Delhi during the winters, be aware of fog related flight delays.
Simple advice-use bottled water and avoid any water-related illness. Keep yourself covered in summers to avoid a heat stroke. Drink a lot-3 litres of water a day is a good guideline, especially in summer. Sticking to freshly, well-cooked vegetarian food will lessen your chances on acquiring the 'delhi belly'.
Delhi is said to be one of the oldest existing cities in the world, along with Damascus and Varanasi. Legend estimates it to be over 5000 years old. Over the millennia, Delhi is said to have been built and destroyed 11 times. The oldest alleged incarnation of the city shows up in the Indian mythological epic Mahabharata as Indraprastha. The earliest historically recognized version of the city is: Qila Rai Pithora-This dates back to the 10th century A.D. as per available historical records. Also known as Rai Pithora, this city was the capital during the reign of Prithviraj Chauhan, the local hero famous for his resisting, before finally losing to, the marauding invaders from central Asia (Muhammad Ghori in particular). Chauhan's ancestors are said to have captured the city from the Tomar Rajputs who were credited with founding Delhi. Anangpal, a Tomar ruler possibly created the first known regular fort here called 'Lal Kot', which was taken over by Prithviraj and the city extended. Some of the ruins of the fort ramparts are still visible around Qutab Minar and Mehrauli
Mehrauli-Muhammad Ghori managed to defeat Prithviraj Chauhan in battle in 1192. Ghori left his slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak as his viceroy, who captured Delhi the subsequent year. After Ghori's death in 1206, Aibak proclaimed himself the ruler of Delhi and founded the slave dynasty. Qutb-ud-din contributed significantly in terms of architecture by getting Mehrauli built. His most prominent contribution is the starting of Qutab Minar. This 72.5m tall tower was built across three generations and finally completed in 1220AD. A visitor to the Qutab Minar could also see the mausoleum of Kaki, Shamsi Talao and some other mosques. The Slave dynasty ruled till 1290, among them was Razia Sultan who ruled for just three years, but became a historic figure for being the first empress in India.
Siri Tughlakabad Firozabad Shergarh Shahjehabanad Lutyen's New Delhi