Crash bang – Landing in Delhi
Bang! It’s a cliche but as soon as we land in Delhi all our senses are smacked hard by the hustle and bustle of the Indian capital. Tuk tuks honking, the blazing sun hitting your neck, Honda Heroes darting in and out of traffic, colourful saris flowing along, cows meandering down the street, and the sweet and spicy smell of street food is a busy Indian city.
The hustle and bustle of the streets of Indian cities means that it’s not a place to chill (if you’re a tourist anyway). It’s easy to get distracted with everything going on around you and right in your face.
We landed right in the middle of it all at Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Getting from Delhi Airport into the City by Metro
The Delhi Airport Express Metro gets you to New Delhi after landing in Delhi in about 20 minutes, it runs every 10 – 15 minutes with trains running from 04:45 – 23:30. It’s clean, fast, and efficient and only costs 60 Rupees to get you into the heart of Delhi.
From there you can connect onto other lines on the Delhi metro. Our first place of accommodation was pretty close to the station though so walking was fine.
Tuk tuks and Taxis
Be prepared to get hit with tuk tuk and taxi drivers as soon as you exit any train station. Of course you’ll be offered ridiculous prices and you’ll never get local Indian prices but negotiate and walk away if you have to.
There are plenty of tuk tuks everywhere and some drivers are nice whereas some will open with a price 4 times the going rate.
Get a private tuk tuk for around 100R for a 2km ride while a 25km run will be around 300R for tourists. Taxis will normally cost around double and cyclo rickshaws will be half but how far can they go?
Indian cities like Delhi are busy. Oxford Street, London has nothing on even the minor streets of Delhi. The first time crossing a road will make you feel like a nervous child.
Even with a map be prepared to get lost. Indian cities have a crazy amount of little roads and lanes that won’t be marked on your map so build in time for getting lost and ambling along new streets.
Our hotel gave us some pretty simple and clear instructions for a 10 minute walk from New Delhi station to the Main Bazaar but still we had to divert due to improvement works.
The pure number of people, vehicles and animals sharing the road means that traffic is a problem for pedestrians as well as vehicles. Along with constants road works and therefore diversions build in additional time for something as simple as walking to a destination.
Forget about any queueing system too. Either the loudest customer is heard first or the one that has squeezed to the front with clever body positioning is served first. Be passive and you can wait a long time to be served. Sometimes things aren’t simple and straight forward but if you play to India’s beat it can all be resolved simply without stress.
Not scams but shams
Touts are everywhere as with many countries. After all we are visiting their country and will spend money to have great experiences. Everyone wants a piece of the action whether it’s a clothes shopkeeper, a tour guide or a tuk tuk driver.
It’s tempting to just look ahead and not make eye contact with anyone but then we miss most of what’s around us. We don’t look like locals and naturally the touts see us as a potential sale, but we’re allowed to say no just as they are allowed to ask us to look at their goods.
There are hard working business people and then there are scammers. Apparently they are shams and not scams as our first hotel receptionist said. The most famous is the train station sham.
Train Station Sham
An official looking guy will approach you when you are heading to the ticket office, the International Tourist Bureau or even before you enter the train station gate. They’ll ask you where you are going or ask to check your ticket and say that the train has been cancelled/severely delayed.
These unscrupulous people (aka bastards) pretend to be train station officials and offer friendly advice using any tactic possible to try and make you miss your train. This so they can help you in the hour of need and organise an expensive car for you to your next destination.
These guys often work in pairs or teams. So if you walk away from one and a second person later confirms what the first has said, it somehow seems more truthful. This happened to us, and we almost fell for it but halfway along the ruse things didn’t add up so we went to the platform and gladly got on our train to Agra.
Things they might say include:
- The International Tourist Bureau (where tourists can buy tickets easily) is closed (it’s not, in fact the one in Delhi is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and that you should go to an official sounding place like ITTC (which is just an independent travel agent) to buy a ticket. They will then help you find a tuk tuk and negotiate a “good price” to get to this ticket office which is a short drive away.
- They will ask where you are going, and say that your train has been cancelled. You need to go to exchange your ticket at the official sounding ITTC (or another of his friend’s travel agents) and get a train from another station. The chance of you scoring a train ticket on the same day is pretty slim by the way!
- They will check your ticket and claim that you are on the wait list or the train has been cancelled.
- After you have been convinced that your train has been cancelled they will of course be happy to make arrangements.
Bottom line: don’t trust anyone about train schedules, cancellations or platforms except for train officials at the ticket offices. Your ticket will only be checked once you are on the train by the ticket inspector. In fact most of the time they will just ask to look at your ID and not even your ticket.
Next, we discover some sights around the major North Indian cities of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and Kolkata.