What to expect when arriving in New Delhi for the first time!
So you are arriving in New Delhi, India via plane and its your first time in India. What should you expect? Expect a sensory overload. Arriving in a new country, jet lagged, tired and hungry is a recipe for trouble but with some planning, everything can be avoided. I have put together a quick summery of what I learned in the first 24 hours after arriving in New Delhi. Most notable, how to avoid the scams in New Delhi…
I suggest having a hotel or hostel booked ahead of time to make thing easy. If you do not, know the name of one in the area where you plan to go and tell everyone you have booked online. Otherwise, a taxi driver will try to take you to multiple hotels where they get a commission, avoid the hassle. There are many in the Parahganj Neighborhood by the New Delhi Train Station. This area is known as the backpacker ghetto and was a good home base for beginning my trip.
I paid 400 INR from the airport to the Parahganj Neighborhood via the prepaid taxi stand at the airport. The driver will expect a tip so having some small change will be nice. If you have prebooked accommodations, most hotels and hostels offer an airport pickup too, but mine quoted almost double the price as the prepaid taxi.
Get ready for the insane traffic! There really doesn’t seem to be any real organization to anything. Imagine trying to fit 4 cars in two lanes with a couple of motorbikes and auto rickshaws thrown in. All of which want to drive as fast as possible, so they lay on the horn anytime someone is in their way, which is constant. You will however get used to it quickly and I found it to be entertaining. How are they not crashing into each other!? One of my taxi drivers told me “To drive in India you need three things: a good horn, good breaks and good luck”.
When you arrive at your accommodation and get settled, head out for a walk. Within probably two minuets you will meet an overly nice Indian fellow who speaks perfect English. He will likely tell you to wear your backpack in the front because of thieves and other seemingly useful information. Then he will ask when you arrived, and where you are going which seems harmless. Then it comes, he will somehow attempt to steer you to a fake tourist office. These offices present themselves as Government Tourist Offices and even have the official logos. Connaught Place seems to be the worst area for scams, be careful in this area.
After our initial run in with these people, we had at least 10 other offers within a couple hours.
It is ok, however, to go to the fake tourist agency if you need information for planning your trip, they are pretty informative. But, DO NOT buy anything from them. It may sound like a good deal when you compare it to your home currency, but the truth is you will be paying at least three times the price. They do have good route information though and they helped me replan my trip, but became aggressive when I declined to buy their package. They even denied that there was a real Government Tourist Agency, but I had Maps.me, and knew it was right around the corner.
To clarify, I have heard may stories from travelers who were very disappointed in their decision to book with them. They often bought a full tour package including transportation, accommodation and tours for multiple week trips in India. This generally cost $25 USD per day, not bad right? But the truth is, this doesn’t include food or personal items, so most backpackers have already blown their budget. I traveled India for three weeks on about $20 USD per day, including everything! (Check out my post on that budget here). On top of that, you don’t know where you will be staying and changing your itinerary can be a pain. Others have paid insane amounts for private taxis after being told no buses or trains are available.
To buy your train tickets, go to the Tourist Office in the New Delhi Train Station, it’s on the second floor. Don’t listen to anyone outside of the train station, you don’t have to pay to enter and the office didn’t move. Push everyone out of the way (except police) and go straight to the office. Their you can book your train tickets without the hassle. And if a train is sold out, a number of tourist tickets are always reserved and this is the only place to get them.
You may also notice that a lot of items have an RMS price stamped on them. It’s basically the suggested retail price but I had a hard time getting to that price sometimes. I found that the easiest way to get the actual price is to have the exact amount in my hand, give it to them before they ask a price. Otherwise, they often make up a price and hope you pay! Dont forget the easiest way to negotiate is to walk away, they will usually negotiate when they see you leaving, but always keep a smile on your face!
Once you have made it this far, you have probably figured out how things operate in New Delhi. It’s chaotic but exhilarating!
After arriving in New Delhi Airport there will be prepaid taxis at the airport that offer a fair price.
Do not buy from the fake tourist offices. The Official Tourism Office only has maps and information, they don’t sell anything. Connaught Place seems to be the worst area for scams, be careful in this area.
To buy your train tickets, go to the Tourist Office in the New Delhi Train Station, it’s on the second floor. Don’t listen to anyone outside of the train station, you don’t have to pay to enter and the office didn’t move.
Auto rickshaw from the Airport to Parahganj Neighborhood: 400 rupee
Auto rickshaw in town: 20 rupee plus 8 rupee a km is the government listed price. We never
got that rate and had to haggle for anything reasonable.
2L bottle of water: 30 rupee
Food varies a lot by location and westernization. Go to a local restaurant and the price will be around half that of a hotel restaurant.