India Unbound’s Secret Delhi: A Guide to Travel in India’s Capital

An insider’s guide to India’s capital: The first in a five part series guiding you through the dos, don’ts and must haves of Delhi from India Unbound founder and India resident Lincoln Harris

Be sure you prepare for . . .

Arrival at Delhi airport, where it seems that half the city’s 14 million residents have come to welcome you.

Touts, hawkers and slightly annoying behaviour from just a handful of people who seem intent on putting a dampener on what is otherwise a friendly and truly amazing city.

Five rules for the city:

DO use the prepaid taxi service from the airport, which is inside the arrival building, before you exit into the general public area – if you haven’t already arranged a transfer in advance.

DON’T believe the taxi driver if he says your hotel has closed down, burnt down or can’t be accessed due to some ‘Hindu-Muslim problem’ – it’s just an attempt to get you to the hotel where he gets a commission.

DO look both ways before crossing the street, even if it is a one way street. Traffic laws are obeyed at the driver’s discretion. If you are having trouble getting to the other side, attach yourself to a local and go when they do. DON’T expect vehicles to stop for you or the green man

DO try to get the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers to use the meter. DON’T expect that they will.

DO visit Old Delhi – especially if you are excited by the prospect of wandering aimlessly; getting disoriented and even slightly lost; trying strange snacks; drinking chai and generally just soaking up the old world vibe. This part of the city is from another epoch. Take a business card from the hotel where you are staying, so you can get an auto-rickshaw back when you’re lost or have had enough. If the thought of doing it alone scares you, try a guided walking tour such as DON’T try to rush your visit to this part of the city – the roads are like car parks, even for the human-powered cycle rickshaws that are great fun and the most effective way to get around (even if you do feel like a slave driver).

DO, in the name of cultural sensitivity, brush up on your cricket knowledge – even if you despise the game. All you need to say is that Steve Waugh is your favourite player – he garners respect on a scale normally reserved for India players. For self-preservations sake DON’T say anything about Sachin (no one calls him Tendulkar) other than the most glowing superlatives that you can think of.