New Delhi, India Travel Guide by Wanderlist Travel
New Delhi is a demanding city on the traveller and is wholly unapologetic about it. But persevere and you’ll discover imperial history mixed with multicultural modern life in one of India’s most exciting metropolises.
A city built by empires, for empires, New Delhi has no shortage of impressive monuments.
By its sheer size, the Red Fort is one of New Delhi’s most impressive sites. This vast complex contains palaces and gardens that recall the Mughal empire at its height.
Old Delhi’s rabbit warren of streets are bursting with life and energy. Not for the faint-hearted, the best way to navigate this neighbourhood is by cycle-rickshaw.
The Jama Masjid is a red sandstone mosque dominating Old Delhi, another example of Mughal architecture.
Humayun’s Tomb is the final resting place of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. The design for his tomb inspired that of the Taj Mahal.
Lutyens’ Delhi was conceived in the 1930s as a powerful expression of British rule. Today it’s home to many government buildings and plush bungalows. Travel down Rajpath to India Gate to get a feel for the scale of this imperial project.
Qutub Minar is an incredibly well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Delhi, a monument dating from the era of the Delhi Sultanate.
The vast National Museum can make for a tiring visit, but its collections present a very informative overview of centuries of South Asian history.
Gandhi Smriti is a museum dedicated to India’s most celebrated Independence leader and where he spent his final days.
More of a sculpture than a building, the Baha’i Lotus Temple is a place to reflect on life and is open to people of all or no faith.
A LOCAL’S PERSPECTIVE
Away from the big tourist attractions, New Delhi offers some of the best lifestyle tourism in Asia.
South Delhi contains some of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods where affluent young professionals like to live and play. Hauz Khaz is a popular neighbourhood both day and night. The adjoining deer park is a favourite place for groups of friends and young couples to spend time, while nearby Green Park has some of the city’s best restaurants.
More centrally, Connaught Place, known simply as CP, is a favourite hangout for those looking to enjoy the buzz of the city and take part in its nightlife.
New Delhi can become unbearably hot in the summer months and many Delhiites escape to the cool weather of the hills. Shimla is one of the most popular hill towns and can be reached from Delhi on two connecting train journeys. The second leg of the journey is on the old toy train that reaches up into the Himalayas, passing through quaint colonial stations before reaching Shimla.
Being a melting pot of cultures, New Delhi offers up a huge variety of cuisines to suit every budget.
Bukhara is widely rated one of the best restaurants in the city and offers up tandoori kebabs in an interior that evokes the rustic setting of the North Western Frontier.
Karim’s has been serving Mughal cuisine for over one hundred years. Located in Old Delhi, this is the place to try the royal dishes that were once eaten by the great rulers that built the city.
Gulati is situated near India Gate in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi. Combining the best of North Indian cuisine with traditional hospitality, the restaurant is popular for both its lunchtime and dinner buffets.
The Toddy Shop has a relaxed vibe, situated in the heart of Hauz Khas village. This is the place to visit to get your fix of South Indian food.
Punjabi by Nature, a popular local chain, reflects the strong influence of Punjabi culture on New Delhi. With sleek modern interiors, this is the place to come to for dinner with friends. There are different branches across the city including a centrally located one in Connaught Place.
WHERE TO SHOP
For three very different shopping experiences, head to these Delhi markets.
Chandni Chowk is a crowded, colourful shopping street on the northern border of Old Delhi. Everything from saris to household wares are sold here and it’s the perfect place to put your haggling skills to the test. To pick up something truly authentic and for a genuine Indian shopping experience, Chandni Chowk is a great destination.
For something rather more upmarket, Khan Market has positioned itself as the go-to place for well-to-do Delhiites. While the streets and infrastructure don’t exactly scream luxury, the exclusive boutiques and trendy cafes make Khan Market a place to see and be seen, as much as a place to shop.
Government-run emporiums are common in India and Dilli Haat is one of the biggest. Catering very much to tourists, this food and craft market is a great spot to pick up some authentic souvenirs while supporting local craftspeople.
New Delhi’s metro network is world class. Bright, modern, clean, efficient. You’ll have to pass through an airport-style security procedure to access the ticket hall and platforms and there are often queues for this, although they move quickly. There are separate queues for men and women and the women’s queue is usually considerably shorter. At peak travel times, the platforms and trains can be as crowded as in any other major city and you may find yourself being pushed on (or off) the carriage by the crowd – be aware, and roll with it! There is also a women-only carriage, although women may use any of the carriages.
Delhi is a sprawling, low-rise city and the metro is by far the quickest way to cross town. However, there are vast swathes of the city not covered by the network so the best strategy is to use the metro to get to the general area you’re heading to, then pick up an autorickshaw, known as a tuk-tuk, outside the station to take you to the exact address.
There is usually a crowd of tuk-tuk drivers waiting outside station entrances looking for custom. Don’t be intimidated and don’t be afraid to haggle if you feel you’re being overcharged. You can insist on running the metre, although few drivers are willing. Most journeys cost no more than R100.
Uber also operates in Delhi, although free wi-fi is very hard to come by. You can also ask for your hotel concierge to book a taxi.
If you don’t fancy taking the metro into town from the airport, go to the police-run taxi booth in the arrivals hall (it’s the shabbiest looking one but don’t let that put you off). They will arrange a pre-paid taxi ride with a registered driver, waiting outside the terminal building.
Currency & Payment:
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee. The currency is only available within India so you’re not able to exchange money before you travel. Make sure to tell your bank and credit card provider that you’ll be travelling, then withdraw cash (or use the currency exchange kiosks) in the baggage reclaim hall upon arrival at New Delhi airport.
Cash is the preferred mode of payment and small bills of R10, R20 and R50 will come in very handy for tipping, buying street food and paying tuk-tuk drivers. Often, the latter have no change so you may find yourself paying over the odds if you don’t have the exact change. Hotels and western-style restaurants accept major credit cards, but make sure your card never leaves your sight.
English is one of India’s official languages and is quite widely-spoken in New Delhi, especially in tourist areas. Road signs are typically written in Hindi, English, Punjabi and Urdu. A simple “namaste” (“hello” in Hindi) when greeting people is greatly appreciated.
Best time to visit:
The best months to visit Delhi are February and March, when the weather is dry and before temperatures begin to soar. The monsoon season lasts roughly from August to October. December and January can be very cold in the evenings. In May, daytime temperatures often reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
What to pack:
Pack loose, comfortable clothing in cotton or linen. Female travellers may like to wear a salwar kameez, a traditional Punjabi outfit for women that is very practical in hot weather. Sneakers are the only suitable footwear for sightseeing.
Other useful information:
New Delhi has a reputation as a dangerous place to travel for solo female travellers. As in any destination, it’s important that all travellers exercise common sense and familiarize themselves with local customs. In India, so-called “eve-teasing” is a common practice, in which women are subjected to various forms of sexual harassment by men. Calling out untoward behaviour and loudly drawing attention to the culprits is often an effective way of dealing with this. If ever you feel unsafe, follow your instinct and err on the side of caution.
Drink only bottled water by a reputable brand such as Bisleri and make sure the seal has not been broken before you open the bottle.
Public toilets are hard to come by in New Delhi. Your best bet is to pop into a nearby luxury hotel and use their facilities.