Delhi – NCR Territory
Delhi is northern India’s largest city. One part of it, known as New Delhi, is officially designated the capital of India, but the names are often used interchangeably.
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 5,000 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.
Inspite of its rich historical heritage represented by the numerous monuments, Delhi’s population is hardly aware of it and has little pride or feeling for the city’s history. This is due to the simple reason that few Delhi residents actually belong to Delhi. The population of Delhi is a heterogeneous mix of people originally belonging to different parts of North India and beyond. Among the prominent North Indian communities are the Punjabis, who are the descendants of the refugees of the Indian Partition. They are easily the most affluent community. However, their dominance in recent years has been challenged by the increasing affluence of other North Indian communities. Delhi has a prominent South Indian Community, primarily in areas like RK Puram and Munirka. A Bengali Settlement, the Chittaranjan Park in south east Delhi is the Mini Calcutta of Delhi.
And the biggest irony is the fact that the descendants of the builders of Delhi’s many Muslim monuments no longer stay in Delhi. Most of them migrated to Pakistan during the Partition, with only a small, ever-diminishing community in Old Delhi keeping old courtly traditions alive.
Delhi’s climate is, sad to say, infamously bad, combining the scorching aridity of Rajasthan’s deserts with the frigid cold of the Himalayas. From April to October, temperatures are scorchingly hot (over 40°C is common), and the monsoon rains deluge the city in July and August. With every air-conditioner running at full blast, the city’s creaky infrastructure is often stretched beyond the breaking point, with power and water outages common. In winter, especially December and January, temperatures can dip to near-zero and the city is blanketed in thick fog, causing numerous flight cancellations. The shoulder seasons (Feb-Apr and Sep-Nov) are comparatively pleasant, with temperatures in the 20-30°C range, but short.
Indira Gandhi International Airport is the arrival point for many visitors into Delhi. Once one of the worst airports on the planet, the airport has been taken over by an international consortium, which has completed a first round of refurbishing that has already improved things greatly. Most terminals have basic facilities like money changing and restaurants, and even the toilets are now usable without gasmasks and hazmat suits, but the major problem remains overcrowding — during the peak hours (middle of the night for international flights and early morning for domestic), it can be hard to find even a place to sit.
The airport is split into three terminals, with the domestic terminals commonly known as Palam Airport.
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 one or two days for possible delays.
Buses arrive from Kathmandu and Chitwan in Nepal (36+ hours) and virtually every city in India. Although 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. The Delhi Transport Corporation is the major operator, but every state also runs its own buses and there are some private operators too.
Trains arrive at one of four main stations: Delhi Junction, also called Old Delhi or Purani Dilli; the second at New Delhi which lies in Central Delhi; Hazrat Nizamuddin a few kilometers to the south; and the upcoming Anand Vihar station to the east. (A very few trains 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, while Anand Vihar is served by Line 3. It will take about 40 minutes to an hour to travel from the New Delhi Railway Station to the airport by car, depending on traffic.
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.
Three lines of the new Delhi Metro are now open and provide a cheap, quick, hassle-free and air-conditioned way of zipping around the city. Unfortunately, the network is still limited and does not cover southern Delhi or neighboring areas like Gurgaon or Noida, but ambitious expansion plans are under way.
There are limited commuter services on Delhi’s railways, but the facilities are a far cry from the user-friendly Metro and stations. For the most part, train stations are inconveniently located. There is no passenger service on the Delhi Ring Railroad outside rush hour.
All parts of Delhi are well connected by buses and with tickets ranging from 3-10 Rupees 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 buses
* Privately run Blue-Line buses
A taxi or hired car (usually with driver) is required to see many of the far-flung sites within and around Delhi. To get a taxi or a hired car for Delhi Darshan or Delhi sight Seeing Log on www.tricabs.com or call 01126211290.They charge Rs. 950/- for indica a/c for full day sight seeing or 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.
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, 4.50 rupees per km after), this rate is unrealistically low and they will almost always try to haggle for price; some locals go so far as to say that you should not use the meter, because it means that either the meter is rigged, or the driver will take you the long way around! As rules of thumb, even the shortest journey costs Rs. 20, but you should not need to pay over Rs. 100 for any trip within the city.
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. Twenty rupees is reasonable for most journeys of a kilometer or two, although many Delhiites will haggle if the driver dares to suggest 10 rupees.
Much of Delhi is quite pedestrian-hostile. Distances are long, road signage is poor, and in the more tourist oriented areas, 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 3-4 kms).
* Walk from Jama Masjid to Red Fort in the Chandni Chowk area.
* Far South Delhi go walk about in the forest. Try starting from south of Indian Institute of Technology through Sanjay Van to Qtub Minar
* South Delhi- Green Park to Hauz Khas Village, then to the Hauz Khas ruined madrasa, offers a newer shopping area, a posh arts village, old ruins, and some quality greener.
The native language of Delhi residents is Hindi, which also happens to be the national language of India. Almost everybody you meet will be able to speak fluent Hindi. However, most educated people will also be fluent in English, and many shopkeepers and taxi drivers will have a functional command of English. Punjabi is also an official language, but it’s spoken much less widely.
Red Fort: The Red Fort (Lal Qila) is one of Delhi’s top tourist sights. A brilliant red sandstone fort built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (who also built Agra’s Taj Mahal) as his ruling palace. Completed in 1648, the years since have not treated the buildings kindly: the rooms have long since been stripped of all objects, the marble inlays are long gone and quite a few buildings are off limits. Still, the scale remains imposing and the gardens are kept lush and green even in midwinter. Major buildings within include:
* Chatta Chowk (Covered Bazaar) – True to the name, this is a covered bazaar between the gate and the fort itself, now filled with souvenir hawkers.
* Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) – This building separates the outer court from the inner court, and has a marble platform for the emperor’s throne.
* Hayat Baksh Bagh (Life-Bestowing Gardens) – Once a grand garden of full of fountains and streams, now sadly all dry — only dry channels and acres of green grass remain.
* Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) – Built completely of marble, this is where the emperor received special visitors.
* Khas Mahal (Private Palace) – The Emperor’s main residence. The octagonal Mussaman Burj tower looks out toward the Yamuna River, and is where the Emperor used to appear before the public for each morning.
* Rang Mahal (Colour Palace) – The residence of the Sultan’s main wife.
* Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel Palace) – Contained six apartments for the Sultan’s harem. Now used as a museum of court textiles, carpets, weapons, etc (free).
* Daawat Khana. A minor palace at the northmost end of the Fort, this was originally the residence of a prince, but it was converted into a tea house by the British, a function it continues today. Basic meals go for around 60 rupees, drinks 10-20 rupees, and it also has the cleanest toilets around.
* Swatantra Sangrama Sangrahalaya (Museum of the Independence Movement) – To the left after the Chatta Chowk, this is a reasonably well-presented museum on the history of independence activism in India, starting from the Mutiny of 1857 all the way to Gandhi.
The only open entrance is Lahore Gate, on the west side. Security in and around the Fort is very heavy, as it was the scene of a terrorist attack in 2000 that killed three people. Bags are allowed, but they’ll be X-rayed and you’ll be patted down. Tickets cost 10/250 rupees for Indians/foreigners, photography free, video cameras 25 rupees extra. Open sunrise to sunset daily except Monday. Allow for three to four hours in your schedule in case of long weekends and national holidays as lot of tourists flock around then. The most scenic way of reaching the fort is to take the Metro to Chawri Bazaar and then a cycle-rickshaw through the incredibly packed bazaar to the Fort (price negotiable, aim for 20 rupees).
The fort has a light and sound show (50 rupees) in the evenings from 7:30PM-9PM, depending on the season.
Be careful buying tickets at the booth, as the ticket sellers will attempt to shortchange you. Try to have a small bill. Due to enhanced security the parking can be a bit tricky as the walk from the now distanced away parking at nearby alternative slots is quite a bit. The congested traffic makes crossing the road even trickier.
Humayun’s Tomb: Humayun’s Tomb in south Delhi, near Hazrat Nizamuddin station, is one of Delhi’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Open daily from sunrise to sunset, entry is 10/250 rupees Indians/foreigners.
The tomb is in large, immaculately maintained gardens in the Persian Char Bagh (four corners) style that were thoroughly renovated in 2003 with the Aga Khan’s help and are consequently probably the best in Delhi. As you enter the complex, the first major structure on your right is the bulbous, octagonal tomb of Iza Khan, a court noble who built it in his own lifetime, some 20 years before Humayun’s tomb. As you pass through the first gate, you will glimpse the dome of the tomb and enter a floral path leading to the second (West) gate, which now acts as the entrance to the giant central garden.
The centerpiece is the eponymous tomb of Humayun, the second Mughal emperor. Built starting in 1562, it was the first major Mughal structure in the city and has been described as a predecessor or prototype of Agra’s Taj Mahal. The structures are, indeed, stylistically similar, although Humayun’s Tomb is built from red sandstone, not white marble, and was built by a wife grieving for her husband, not the other way around. You can climb up to the second level (the stairs on the west side are very steep, those on the south side less so), and on the south side you will find the entrance into the main crypt where Humayun is buried.
Before you leave, be sure to visit the South Gate, the original royal entrance, from where you can get picture-postcard views without too many tourists in the way. In the southeast corner is the Barber’s Tomb, also built in the same style. Historians believe that the emperor’s favorite barber is buried in this picturesque tomb made of red and grey sandstone.
* Qutub Minar – The most famous structure on grounds, this 72.5m minaret was the tallest “skyscraper” in the world when built (1193-1368) on the orders of Qutb-ud-din Aybak. Delicately carved, it has been astonishingly well preserved and is still an awe-inspiring sight today. It’s often visible from air when flying into IGI airport! (Sticklers for archaeological truth will, however, note that the top of the tower has twice been rebuilt after an earthquake, and the base has been restored more recently.) While entry into the tower itself is no longer permitted, for 10 rupees per five min you can view the scenery via a little webcam on top.
* Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Delhi’s first and grandest mosque, now mostly in ruins, but many parts of the complex are still standing and the sandstone decorations are still impressive. Check out the extraordinarily ornate carvings near the tomb of Iltutmish on the west side of the complex.
* Iron Pillar is in the center of the mosque. True to its name, this is a seven-meter iron pillar erected c. 400 AD by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya, also known as “he, by the breezes of whose prowess the southern ocean is even still perfumed” according to the inscription carved on the base. Alas, Chandragupta II’s perfume has long since faded, but to the amazement of metallurgists everywhere his pillar is still going strong after 1600 years.
* Ala-i-Minar – Ala-ud-din-Khilji set out to build a tower twice as high as the Qutub Minar, but died after a mere 24.5 m was complete. The first story stands to this day.
* Ala-i-Darwaza – This square, domed building once acted as the entrance to the mosque, but is now tucked away behind the minar. Inlaid marble decorations and latticed stone screens.
* Tomb of Imam Zamin – Outside the main complex, next to the Ala-i-Darzawa, this octagonal tomb commemorates a Turkestani iman who was based in the mosque during the reign of Sikandar Lodi.
* Rajpath – This is a main parade route that leads to the President’s residence (Rashtrapati Bhavan). Don’t miss the splendid India Gate, and the many grassy lawns. Especially nice in the evenings and at night when the buildings are lit and the vendors come out to supply the many picnicking families.
* Rajghat Memorial of Mahatma Gandhi  – check for closure dates/security checks around national holidays/gandhiji’s death anniversary (30th Jan).
* Lodhi Estate
* Nehru House ‘Teen Murti Bhavan’. This is the house of the first Prime Minister of India. Remarkably well preserved with most of paraphernalia intact. Was used by the Commander-in-chief of the Indian Army before Indian Independence. Free entrance.
* India Gate. This monument has been built as a memorial for the Indian soldiers who died in World War I. There is also a fire (“eternal flame”) burning for all fallen Indian soldiers.
* Parliament House
Parks and Gardens
* Lodhi Garden is a peaceful park in the heart of New Delhi. Lodhi garden is ideal for morning walks in the hot season and for afternoon strolls and picnics during the cooler months
* Nehru Park is a large park in the South Delhi neighborhood of Chankayapuri
* Take the Footloose in Old Delhi half day walking tour around Old Delhi.
* Take a walk at Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi. The British-designed colonial equivalent of a shopping mall, it’s laid out in two concentric rings divided into blocks, all bursting with shops and lots of pampered pigeons waddling about. Long neglected, the area received a major shot in the arm after the opening of the major Metro junction of Rajiv Chowk under it, and it’s going more upmarket by the day. At the centre is a small but pleasant park, while on one edge is the notorious Palika Bazaar, an underground den of cheap wares, many pirated or smuggled from overseas. The area is surrounded by tall office buildings on nearly all sides. Train fans will want to check out the Metro Museum inside the station, open 10 AM-4 PM Tue-Sun (free with valid Metro ticket). Quite simply the best place to hang out!
* Visit the International trade fair exhibition centre at Pragati Maidan.
Delhi is a shopper’s heaven, but only if you’re not afraid to haggle and bump elbows in bazaars. Western-style malls and shopping emporiums are creeping in on the outskirts (esp. Gurgaon, Noida), but there’s little Indian about these sanitized shopping experiences, or the goods in them. Until a few years ago, all shops closed on Sunday. While rules have been relaxed, many districts (eg. Connaught Place) are still mostly shuttered. Saturday is the the main shopping day and hence also the most crowded.
Start your shopping tour of Delhi with a visit to Connaught Place , a rather unique cross between a European shopping arcade, an Indian bazaar and an upmarket shopping mall. At the intersection of the Yellow and Blue Lines of the Delhi Metro, it’s easy to get to. With all shops laid out in two circles, it’s easy to get around and explore.
Delhi and capital region (Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad) has recently witnessed the opening of lot of shopping Malls, which can be compared to any good malls in the world. Most of these Malls have food court and Multiplexes. You can find Multiplexes at every 5 square meter.
* Connaught Place – Many Western-style shops are here that have nice products for Indian prices. Check out “The Bookworm” and “Will’s clothing”.
* Paharganj market, – Oriented toward backpackers, this strip of shops sells items such as shawls, tablas, rugs, jewelry, etc. This is right opposite New Delhi Railway Station.
* Central Market, Lajpat Nagar – Middle-class Indians do their shopping here. Great deals for apparel, whether ethnic Indian or otherwise.
* Sarojini Nagar market is great for export surplus garments, and green grocery.
* Khan Market is where the foreign diplomats and Tibetan lama’s go for lunch and to shop for dog supplies, groceries (great choice of vegetables), clothes (upper class Indian style, not expensive) and books (many bookshops).
* Janpath is a bargain-hunter’s dream and just a two minute walk from Connaught place. Think of it as a vast flea market, where you can get all kinds of knick-knacks and clothes. Janpath is not a place for those unwilling or unable to bargain ruthlessly. Also, as in any flea market, quality will vary greatly. There are also some bookshops.
* Palika Bazaar, Connaught Place – This is a large underground market in the center of Connaught Place. The air here is bad and the quality of products low. One can hunt for DVDs, VCDs and Audio CDs of Hindi, English and a few regional and foreign language films and PC-based games.
* Chandni Chowk, Metro Yellow Line. The heart of Old Delhi, this is the place to go for the full-on Indian experience of crowded, twisting alleys and tiny shops. The Fountain serves as a useful orientation point, and there are great Delhi-style snacks to be found in the vicinity too.
Delhiites complain about many things in their city, but the food will satisfy even the most demanding gourmet. Not only can you find some of the best Indian food on the subcontinent, there is also an increasing number of excellent (if often pricey) international restaurants offering cuisine from around the world. When ordering, do remember that Delhi is about 1000 km from the nearest ocean, so vegetarian, chicken and mutton dishes are the way to go.
Delhi has arguably the best street food in India. However, if you’re not local (and even if you are), it’s not uncommon to get diarrhea or worse. Meat can be particularly risky, especially in summer.
Delhi is a hot, dusty city and the combination of the two may reduce visibility in the summer. In April through June, temperatures regularly top 40°C, meaning that proper hydration is of the utmost importance. In winter there can be seasonal fog; on particularly foggy days, 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.
Drink only bottled water so you may avoid any water-related illness. Keep yourself covered in summers to avoid a heat stroke. Drink a lot of water – 3 litres a day – particularly in the summer. Sticking to freshly, well-cooked vegetarian food will lessen your chances on acquiring the “Delhi belly.”
Many first time travelers to India find themselves falling victim to scams and touts, and unfortunately Delhi has a lot of both. Be on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, particularly 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 openly admit it as this will make you a mark for 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 arriving into Delhi at night either 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 on almost 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 accessible 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 short-change 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.
Several tourist agencies have been known to swindle tourists, such as change their travel plans or charge them extra commissions and fees. If you do use the services of a travel agency, try to book train or airline tickets. Do not take a personal touring car as the agency will most likely charge you ridiculous prices, for example, 7 rupees/km of the trip. The driver will most likely take you to sites that you did not request to see in order to pull more money out of your pockets. The best way to secure train tickets is by navigating through the India Rail website. Otherwise, prepare to spend a good hour sorting through the charges that the tourist agency will rack up, most likely several hundred dollars in convenience charges or unspecified taxes.
Power outages and water shortages are common Delhi, often occurring multiple times a day with summers being particularly bad. Better accommodations have water tanks and generators to alleviate the inconvenience, but keep a flashlight handy at night and do your part by not wasting too much water.
* Laundry service is offered in most hotels, even in budget accommodations. If you would rather save the money and do it yourself, buckets are found in almost all bathrooms – but perhaps wash it out well first.
* Exercising outdoors is not recommended due to the level of pollution and swimming in rivers is also not recommended. Instead, look for a hotel with a gym or a pool since many offer day passes. You can always try a morning or evening walk in the parks.
Delhi is a major international transit hub for trains, planes and buses as well as a great connection point for domestic destinations within India. It’s also a great base for exploration of the famous Hill Stations built during the
* Agra and the Taj Mahal are a 3-4 hour drive or train ride.
* Dharamsala – the seat of the Dalai Lama’s government in exile, is 10-12 hours to the north. Tickets can be purchased from Main Bazaar Tourist offices, Majnu ka Tilla Tibetan Settlement or the I.S.B.T.
* Shimla – the summer capital of British India and the queen of all hill stations in India. It has many scenic and historic locations and is about an 8 hr drive or 10 hrs in a bus. A direct flight from Delhi takes just 1 hr to reach Shimla.
* Jaipur and Rajasthan are reachable by plane or overnight train.
* Kathmandu in neighboring Nepal is a roughly 36+ hrs by coach, or longer (but more comfortably) on a combination of train and coach.
* The holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, are a 5-6 hour bus or train ride away.
* Mussoorie – one of the original British hill stations in India; also known as The Queen of the Hills.
* Nainital – another beautiful hill station in the Kumaon hills with the magnificent Naini Lake.
Lt. Governor Tejendra Khanna
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit
Mayor Kanwar Sain
Legislature (seats) Unicameral (70)
• Metro 13,782,976 (2nd) (2001[update])
• 11,463 /km2 (29,689 /sq mi)
• 15.9 million (2007[update])
Language(s) English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
• Elevation 1,484 km2 (573 sq mi)
• 239 m (784 ft)
• Pincode • 110 xxx
• Telephone • +011
• UN/LOCODE • INDEL
• Vehicle • DL-xx
Coordinates 28°36′35.7″N 77°13′48.3″E