Our India experience started off with what can only be described as organised chaos! We’d read over the ‘do’s and don’ts’ before our travels and were well aware it was going to be a huge culture shock upon arrival but Delhi surpassed all expectations.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, we were greeted by madness. We were bombarded with questions, offers and people begging for money. Our tip; just get your head down and storm straight through – don’t let anyone distract you on your way to the city. (we recommend taking the metro, it’s super efficient and costs only 50 INR each) Once you get off the other side the madness only continues. So in the short amount of time it took us to find our hostel we soon learnt the easiest thing to do in India is make solid eye contact and hit everyone that tries to sell you something with a firm ‘NO’.
Before we left the UK the most important thing we’d agreed on was to go to India with an open-mind and to expect ANYTHING. Well, during our first few days alone in the capital we got EVERYTHING. From crossing the highway with elephants and camels to being squashed on the metro at rush hour, oh and not to mention the amount of cows, pigs and horses just chilling on the streets.
We’d recommend staying a little outside of the main bazaar. This is the area where most cheap hostels appear and nearly all backpackers head to but it’s a bit of a tourist trap. I mean there’s no way of avoiding being targeted in India, but if you can steer clear of the renowned scam areas it will make life a lot easier.
We instead headed over to Joey’s Hostel on the East side of the river and it was the best decision we could have possibly made. With super friendly staff, daily tours of New and Old Delhi and a real positive vibe it’s somewhere that took the edge off the unfamiliar and was like a home from home. If you’re stuck for somewhere to stay definitely check these guys out!
One thing that really stands out in Delhi is the difficulty to survive for the poorer population. I think we underestimated the sheer amount of people there’d be on the streets begging for money or fighting for business. It’s one of the most populous cities in the world so the competition is fierce and the men to women ratio was overwhelming.
Also, be prepared for food overload! Your body will take time to get used to the flavours but after only a couple of days we were craving more and more momos and lassi. If arriving in summer (April – end of July) get ready for some serious heat! We arrived in the peak of summer hitting tops of 48 degrees so STAY INSIDE. Even the locals hibernate during the daytime and wait for the sun to go down a little. Save your exploring until after 4pm!
If you can get in with the locals though (not any old stranger but preferably someone that works at your accomodation) try and get them to take you on a personal tour of their favourite spots. The monuments and temples you’ll find on trip advisor are awesome but our favourite place in Delhi was a secret rooftop down a lane of a spice market and up some stairs that we’d have never found if it wasn’t for Charan.
We also got to check out the popular Saturday nightlife and an India Vs Pakistan cricket game whilst enjoying Masala Chai (Tea) which was pretty patriotic!
So yeh, take a few days in Delhi, don’t rush through! Take time to adjust yourself to the food, currency and most importantly culture. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt for the beginning of your trip here.
It’s true what they say, India (New Delhi in particular) is as hectic as everyone makes it out to be but don’t let that put you off visiting one of the most unique cities in the world.
Have you visited Delhi? Let us know your thoughts or the secret spots to check out…