WELCOME TO NEW DELHI INDIA
I went to India in March of last year. Specifically I went to New Delhi, then Agara and then back to New Deli. It was a short, 5 day trip to just proverbially get my feet wet in the culture and the country that is India. Our travel goal was to experience the Holi festival, visit various landmarks in New Deli and make our way down to Agara to visit the Taj Mahal as well as the Red Fort before heading back home to Thailand.
We booked a hostel before arriving obviously and I suggest you do the same. Though you don’t need to, you can totally just be a walk in at any number of places, New Delhi is famous for ripping off tourists.
You can’t trust anyone in New Delhi for the most part and I would not want to be at the discretion of some unscrupulous taxi drivers who will simply take you to a place where they will get a kick back.
So get a place before you arrive and have a taxi take you there.
Upon arrival at the airport, we had two options for taxis. You can either take a prepaid metered taxi or a local taxi. The metered taxi is just outside the airport entrance after you exchange money. It’s a little stand, you simply get a ticket and prepay the price -or you can get a local taxi. No air con, but cheaper.
I wanted to take an actual car, the Thai girl I was with wanted to take the local taxi because it was cheaper.
Guess what happened.
No go ahead and guess.
We took the local taxi. After about 25 minutes of driving the car broke down in the rain, about 1.5 miles from our hotel. The taxi guy called a rickshaw to pick us up and take use to our hotel. Once pickup up, the rickshaw driver REFUSED to take us to our hotel saying the road was closed and dropped us off at a fake tourism board company where he would get a kickback. We almost called the cops at this point because we knew were were being treated badly, we already booked and paid for a hotel and this guy wanted us to waste time booking an elaborate trip at some random “official” looking business.
We were not that far and had internet so we simply went for a nice 30 minute walk to our hotel. It was March and New Delhi in March is actually really nice. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect for a walk.
We made it to our hotel, check in and prepared for our adventure over the coming week.
I’ll keep this short. I’m American, you can simply apply for an e-visa for India (most western countries need to apply for an e-visa). It’s fast and easy and all done online.
When you arrive at the air port in New Delhi, THEY HAVE A SPECIAL SECTION for e-visa holders. You need to go to this special section only. If you try to go through immigration for non e-visa holders they will not process your passport and will tell you to go wait in line over at the e-visa section.
So don’t waste time waiting in the wrong line 🙂
Things To Do and How To Do It
New Delhi is full of culture and it’s a big mistake to skimp on New Delhi. While most travelers simply look at New Delhi as a place to go when you’re going somewhere else, you can totally spend 3-4 days exploring New Delhi.
#1 Rent a Car
When you arrive at your hotel, RENT A CAR/DRIVER for your time there. It’s not that expensive considering the hassle of doing it yourself with local transportation. Simply ask the hotel staff to hook you up with a driver. A good idea is to go to a few hotels and ask so you can get different prices. You won’t be the one driving of course, but hiring a taxi to take you around New Delhi and to Agara was by far the best decision in terms of convenience and fun.
Sure you could struggle with the hassle of negotiating with rickshaws to get everywhere or you could just have your own car to take you where you want to go, WHEN you want to go. Saving time and making your tip way more fun.
You could struggle figuring out the train or bus system, having people waste your time and try and cheat you out of money, or you could just have a car take you right to your hotel in Agara and be done with it.
Protip: There are no taxis in the sense of what you think a taxi is in New Delhi. There are only rickshaws and they will want to charge you 10x (particularly if you’re white) what they would charge to locals (or they simply won’ take you).
They will also routinely lie to you and tell you can’t go there because xyz is closed and to go here instead.
It’s all nonsense. This can all be avoided by paying for a private car. In the long run it will be cheaper simply because you won’t be allow you to pay what locals pay anyways.
Plus it’s so fast and convenient. It’s not like other asian countries where you negotiate a little, they try and rip you big time. Just save yourself the headache and rent a car.
#2 Check out the Qutub Minar
Yep, this place is as weird in person as it looks in pictures. My personal favorite spot in New Delhi, it’s a massive minaret and a UNESCO world heratige site. Don’t skip this. It’s not just a tower, the whole space is built out with beautiful carvings and architecture.
This place is a modern temple built in 2005. It’s free and it’s beautiful. It acts as a sort of spiritual campus with various shows for kids and the main temple complex. The extra shows you have to pay for, but to visit the temple is free. You simply have to wait in line and surrender all your technology. No phones, no cameras allowed in.
#4 Visit the Lotus Temple
It’s a temple shaped like a lotus flower. You wait in line, then once you enter the temple complex you sit and meditate. All religions welcome. One of the most peaceful spots in New Delhi.
The list can go on and on with New Delhi. I would suggest doing a Google search for “New Delhi Landmarks” and plan out 3-4 places per day you would like to check out. We saw so many different places. New Delhi is filled with amazing culture.
You can easily spend 3 or 4 days exploring New Delhi.
Beyond New Deli – Seeing the Red Fort and The Taj Mahal
Alright, you rented a car. They will totally drive you to Agara (that’s where the Taj is – about 240 km away from New Delhi)! There are two roads, the new highwayand the older network of back roads. You’ll need to pay extra to go on the highway, but the highway will get you to Agara in 3 hours, the other road network depending on traffic can take up to 8 hours or more. It’s a nice highway and our driver stopped at many local tea shops on the way.
Yes, tea shops.
They don’t do convenience stores or truck stops. The have tea stops where you sit around next to the highway and sip some masala chai 🙂
Yes you can take a train from New Delhi, but good luck navigating that. People won’t help you in New Delhi, they all want you to rip you off and waste your time by having you go through some fake tourism board. If your set on booking a train, you can do so here.
Again, just rent a driver. When you’re ready to go, your driver will just take you. But again, it’s your trip 🙂
The world famous Taj Mahal. I personally enjoyed the Red Fort in Agara to bit more, but hey, it’s the Taj Mahal. Going to India and not seeing this is like going to France and not seeing the Eiffel tower.
Protip: WAKE UP EARLY and get your tickets. YOU DO NOT get your tickets at the Taj Mahal. You get your tickets at these gates that are where all the hotels are which is about a mile away from the Taj. They are call the west gate or the eastern gate. You’ll want to be there at 5 am or so if your goal is to beat the crowds and get a picture of you in front of the Taj without anyone else being there.
Once you get your tickets hire a bike to take you down the road to the Taj Mahal entrance.
You’ll need your passport too in order to get your tickets, and don’t bring any extra stuff. You’re not allowed to take anything with you into the complex and will have to leave everything in a locker.
Protip #2: The Taj is flanked by two Mosques. You can go there to get those sexy shots you see on Instagram 🙂
Lastly, the Taj is HUGE. You’ll be surprised by the scale of it.
Agara was the capital of the Mughal Empire. Their seat of power (think Game of Thrones – kidding) was the Red Fort. You must see the Red Fort if you visit Agara. While the Taj is more famous, the Red Fort is on par with it’s splendor.