Delhi is a city with many faces. Driving through Rajpath Marg with its wide boulevards and huge roundabouts you imagine yourself in England. All you have to do is replace the auto rickshaws with double-decker buses. Old Delhi is a whole different story, 2 rickshaws can hardly pass in the narrow streets and as soon as the stores are open the area is jam-packed with laborers hauling sacks of spices and sellers who merchandise their jewelry, lace and clothes. In this India travel blog post we share the best time to visit New Delhi, India travel tips for your first time in India, where to stay in New Delhi and the best places to visit in Delhi in one day. So keep on reading.
What’s the best time to visit New Delhi
The best time to visit New Delhi is from October to November and again from February to March. If you bring warm clothing December and January can also be a good option. Temperatures can drop to 2 degrees Celsius in January but an average winter day will be sunny with blue skies and it hardly ever rains from November till January. The summer months can be unbearably hot with temperatures well in the 40 degrees Celsius.
The Diwali festival, the Hindu festival of lights, is typically celebrated in the second half of October and in preparation for this festival Delhi will be decorated very colorfully. A nice moment to visit as the city feels very festive although you want to avoid Delhi during the actual festival as traffic and pollution will peak.
First time in India – travel tips
The odds are low that you will need a visa to visit India. Only citizens of Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives can enter the country without a visa.
Recently the country started offering e-visas. You can find out if you’re eligible to apply for an e-visa on the governments e-visa website. The website also lists the fees which vary by country. (see point 4 of the instructions)
Note that the Indian government charges the fee regardless of your approval status. The fee is seen as a processing fee and therefore non-refundable. It’s always charged, even if your application would be rejected due to an unclear picture or unreadable scan of your passport.
This made us a little uncomfortable and we decided to apply for our e-visa through a visa agency so that our information would be subject to an additional review by the agency before it was finally submitted.
When you want to apply for the e-visa yourself make sure that you use the official government website. Ignore sites that call themselves official like the one below, they add significant service charges to your application, more than reputable visa agencies such as iVisa. The official e-visa site run by the government is https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/.
How to get from the airport to the city
Upon arrival in India in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport, you still need to drive at least 45 minutes or more to reach the actual city. Traffic may significantly increase this. We landed around 6 am when it wasn’t that crowded. When we continued our trip the next day we had to make our way out of the city around 9 am and we just drove from traffic jam to traffic jam. It took us 2 hours to just reach the city limits.
Read also: 45 interesting facts about India you should read before your India trip.
If you’re not just visiting Delhi but have planned a whole itinerary in India we would highly recommend to arrange a personal driver.
It will make your trip so much more comfortable as you just need to arrange your plans with him and you don’t need to negotiate the prices for each leg of your trip. You also don’t have to worry that much about the location of your hotel, your driver will take you wherever you want to go. We also found our driver a good and trustworthy source of information to know the local prices for drinks, snacks, food and some tuk-tuk rides in the old city where the streets are too narrow for regular cars. If you have arranged a personal driver he will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall.
We booked our personal driver with Swagatam Tours and we were very happy with this decision. Our driver was always on time, he drove us safely through Rajasthan and gave us a lot of information about India and the local customs.
Private Transfer or Hotel Transfer
If you don’t have a driver there’re many options you can choose from to get to the airport. The most comfortable would probably be to arrange a private transfer or a pick-up with your hotel. Both can be arranged upfront which gives you peace of mind that somebody will be waiting for you at the airport. A private transfer costs approximately 1500 rupees, a pick-up from your hotel may cost anything from 1000 to 3000 rupees depending on the location and class of your hotel. Both are done in Air Conditioned cars.
You could also opt for a taxi. Airport taxis work at a fixed rate which saves you the hassle of negotiating prices just minutes after you have landed in India. If you’re staying in the city center, somewhere near Connaught place, you will probably pay around 500 rupees. You need to get the ticket at the counter inside the terminal. The ticket will have the number of your car on it so once you have your ticket you can head straight to your car. The green ticket is your payment.
Make sure to only hand it over to the driver once you have arrived at your hotel. Taxi drivers are unfortunately known to try all sorts of scams and may try to take you to another hotel for which they will get a commission. As long as you stick to the green ticket you can use this to convince the taxi driver to do his job. Airport taxis have no air conditioning.
You could also use metered taxis. You can book these at various counters in the arrivals hall. They’re slightly more expansive than the airport taxis as they have air conditioning. A drawback is that they’re using meters so you may end paying much more in heavy traffic or if your driver is playing tricks on you.
Uber and Ola
Uber is also operating in India as has a local competitor called Ola. They’re allowed to pick you up at the airport and have a designated area outside the arrivals hall where you can find them. Their prices are comparable to those of local taxis. Don’t count on Uber or Ola late-night, many people complain that the drivers never show up.
Airport Express train
The fastest connection to the city center would be the Airport Express train (the Orange metro line) that was opened in 2011. The train makes the journey from the airport to New Delhi Metro station (opposite the railway station) in just 20 minutes where this would take at least 45 minutes by car. The train runs every 10 to 15 minutes starting at 4:45 am until 11:15 pm. The stop is in Terminal 3, if you arrive in Terminal 1(low-cost terminal) you need to get a bus first to reach Terminal 3. If you arrive in Terminal 2 you can walk to Terminal 3. The fare from the airport to the New Delhi Train Station is 60 rupees per person.
Your last option would be the airport bus. The bus leaves every 10 to 20 minutes from terminal 3 and takes you to the center of the city. Stops include Connaught Place, the Railway station, the bus terminal, and the red fort.
The buses are modern and air-conditioned but the traffic in Delhi is crazy so you shouldn’t expect the buses to run on time.
Where to stay in New Delhi
Although Delhi is immense most of the city’s tourist attractions are located within walking distance. To the South of the city are some other places that are worthwhile visiting but to visit these you will need to arrange a driver or other means of transportation.
If you have a driver you don’t have to worry that much about where you stay in New Delhi as he will gladly take you wherever you want to go. As traffic often locks up in this city you will still win quite some time by staying close to the tourist locations.
These are the best places to stay in New Delhi:
Connaught Place is the most important commercial area of New Delhi. The place is lined with shops that sell everything from cheap gadgets to expensive designer clothes. Some of the attractions right on this giant roundabout are the heritage cinemas Odean and Rivoli, Hanuman Temple and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.
Chandni Chowk and the Red Fort are just 3 stops away with the Yellow metro line.
The Imperial New Delhi
The Imperial New Delhi hotel is a serene oasis in a great location. It has a beautiful colonial design. Beautiful well-furnished rooms. The staff provides impeccable service. Extensive and delicious breakfast.
Premium comfortable hotel
The Lalit New Delhi
The Lalit New Delhi lies in a good location and offers clean, spacious and well-appointed rooms with nice bathrooms and good air conditioning. Very friendly staff. Nice pool and great breakfast.
The Park New Delhi
The Park New Delhi is very well situated if you want to visit the city. Clean and comfortable rooms. Helpful and friendly staff that assists where possible. Beautiful pool area.
Chandni Chowk was once the largest market in India. Today its narrow streets are still lined with shops. They no longer only sell spices to locals, instead, they attract shopaholics looking for souvenirs.
Chandni Chowk is the best place to stay in New Delhi if you want to stay near the main tourist attractions in New Delhi such as the red fort and the Jama Masjid mosque, India’s largest mosque. Just keep in mind that the area is crowded and noisy.
Premium Comfortable Hotel
WelcomHeritage Haveli Dharampura Hotel
WelcomHeritage Haveli Dharampura Hotel is a wonderful traditional boutique hotel situated close to the red fort in Old Delhi.
Well equipped and comfortable rooms. Amazing views from the rooftop. Highly recommended if you want to stay in Old Delhi.
Hotel Broadway New Delhi
Hotel Broadway New Delhi is a very nice hotel with friendly staff nearby the Red Fort. The hotel has a rather dated décor and clean but quite dark rooms. Excellent value for money.
Most of the government headquarters are centrally located around Rajpath Marg. This district has nothing in common with Old Delhi. It’s typified by wide boulevards that interconnect at large roundabouts. The English influence is very clearly visible here. Rajpath Marg is the best place to stay in New Delhi if you want to stay close to the India gate and the Presidential palace which you can visit, you just have to register on the website first. The presence of the government buildings has attracted many upscale hotels to this region, Shangri-La and Le Méridien to name just two.
Le Méridien New Delhi
This luxurious hotel attracts many business travelers. The atrium is impressive (this picture was taken from the 18th floor). The buffet breakfast was impressive and offered the broadest selection of fruit that we had seen in our entire month in India. In the evenings you can choose from a Chinese, Indian and International restaurant. The amenities in the room were excellent but the comfort of the bed could be improved.
Shangri-La New Delhi
Shangri-La New Delhi is located in the heart of the city opposite of the Le Méridien hotel. The hotel offers travelers comfortable rooms with good beds. Excellent restaurant for lunch, dinner, and breakfast. You can choose from an Italian, Chinese and live-cooking restaurant.
Premium comfortable hotel
Lutyens Bungalow is a cozy and friendly family run hotel. The location is good, near the metro station and a few hundred meters away from Lodhi Gardens. Beautiful gardens and a nice swimming pool. Tasty lunch and dinner. Good and reliable WiFi.
If you have an early flight or just a short stopover you may consider to spend the night in Delhi’s Aerocity, an entertainment district right next to the airport in full expansion. At the time of writing 9 hotels are open and 3 more are under construction. Aerocity is 5 minutes by car or 1 stop by subway away from terminal 2 and 3 of Delhi Airport. Terminal 1 is mainly used by domestic low-cost carriers and can be reached with a shuttle bus from terminal 2.
Aloft New Delhi Aerocity
Aloft New Delhi Aerocity is a brand new hotel 5 minutes from the airport and the mall. Large, clean and comfortable rooms. Amazing infinity pool in the center of the hotel on the second floor. Extremely hospitable and courteous staff.
JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity
The hotel is near the airport. The hotel itself is what you would expect from a JW Marriott. It is incredibly beautiful, clean, large, and has multiple restaurants. The restaurant offers a variety of food selections. The hotel lies within walking distance of the mall.
This area is West of Connaught Plaza and counts many cheap hotels and guesthouses.
Tourist attractions are not to be found in this area so you would have to take a taxi/tuk-tuk or the metro to Connaught Plaza where you can change to the yellow line to Chandni Chowk.
Hotel Emperor Palms
The Hotel Emperor Palms is centrally located. The hotel offers comfortable and clean rooms and a great restaurant. Polite staff.
South Delhi (Mehrauli, Saket)
Many of Delhi’s must-see tourist attractions are located South of Delhi.
This is the best place to stay in New Delhi if you do not like the hustle and bustle in this lively city where the sounding of the horn never seems to stop. You may prefer to experience the city’s vibe at daytime but retire to a more peaceful area at night.
You will be staying close Qutub Minar and other attractions like The Alai Darwaza and Tomb of Balban. On your way Northwards to New Delhi, you must certainly stop at Humayun’s tomb and the Lotus temple.
The Leela Palace New Delhi
Outstanding hotel with fantastic rooms and excellent service. The breakfast buffet offers Indian as well as continental food. The roof terrace swimming pool and sun terrace offer fantastic views of the city.
Premium comfortable hotel
Sheraton New Delhi
Great hotel with modern spacious rooms. The hotel lies within walking distance to several malls. Very friendly and helpful staff.
Places to visit in Delhi in one day
One day in Delhi should be enough to explore the must-visit places in Delhi.
Chandni Chowk used to be the largest market in India. The main street, also named Chandni Chowk runs in a straight line from the Lahori gate of the Red Fort to the Fathepuri Masjid mosque.
Along both sides of the main street, you will find a jumble of small streets that are completely jammed by a mix of cars, rickshaw, mopeds, horse and cart, and the occasional car. The whole region is a confluence of several smaller bazaars, also called kuchas. Streets or zones with houses whose owners shared the same occupation. Kinari Bazaar is a great place to buy lace. Just behind the Fathepuri Masjid mosque, you can visit the Gadodia market, India’s largest spices market to date.
You can walk around Chandni Chowk on your own or you can visit Chandni Chowk with different organized walking or bicycle tours. Bicycle tours start shortly after sunrise because the whole region gets jam-packed as soon as the stores open at 11 am. You can also arrange your own rickshaw tour for about 400-500INR/hour.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the fort but never witnessed it completed as his disloyal son Aurangzeb had him locked up in the Agra fort. The fort was seriously affected by looting and the British used it as garrison for several years. As a result, most of its artwork has been destroyed.
A well-known expensive piece of art that was stolen in the fort and is now on display in London as part of the British crown jewels is the Koh-i-Noor diamond. (The British claim that the diamond was rightfully obtained)
Many people propose to leave the Red Fort out of your itinerary and we totally understand as we found the forts in Bikaner and Jaipur more captivating. Just make sure that you visit at least 1 fort when you’re in India.
Every day after sunset the red fort is the setting for a 1-hour audio and light show that narrates the history of Delhi and the Red Fort. The story starts with the construction of the fort and ends with India’s struggle for independence.
80INR for the audio /light show
Another great monument that dates back to the Mughal dynasty is the Jama Masjid. It was Emperor Shah Jahan who ordered to build this mosque, the same emperor who also commanded to build the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. After 12 years of construction with 5000 workers, it was finally completed in 1656. Since then it has remained the royal mosque until the end of the Mughal dynasty. With a courtyard that can accommodate 25000 people the sight of this mosque is truly impressive. When you visit the mosque and climb up the minaret ( fee: 100 INR at the time of writing) you also get a good view of old Delhi, including Chandni Chowk.
Maybe a 300INR camera fee. (unclear, nothing posted on any information panels)
Do no let anyone fool you, the access to the mosque is free. We read many reviews online about people that were tricked into paying an entrance fee and they played the same trick on us. At first, they asked 300INR for an entry ticket, as we stated the entrance was free, they said we needed to pay 300INR to take pictures. We were at entrance 3 and there were no signs to be found about any official fees so we just moved onwards. We had to fight ourselves a way in as one person literally grabbed me by the arm and uninvitedly started searching me and tried to get hold of my mobile phone.
An unpleasant experience and it’s a shame that holy places are disgraced by scams such as this. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in India.
You have to take off your shoes before entering the mosque and we advise that you carry them with you inside. This is what all locals do. If you leave them at the entrance someone will be there when you get back to ask money as he supposedly watched over your shoes while you were inside. Or, like in our case, you may find your shoes thrown to the bottom of the stairs by the scammer who didn’t manage to rip you off.
This was probably our favorite spot in New Delhi. It felt like we got a preview of the Taj Mahal. Both are some of the best monuments built by the Mughal emperors who ruled this country in the 16th and 17th century. Humayun was one of the Mughal Emperors. 9 years after his death in 1556 his first wife gave orders to build the tomb. By the end of the Mughal Dynasty over 100 members of the Mughal Emperors family were buried here, earning it the name “Dormitory of the Mughals”.
The golden hour is the best time to visit this monument as the sunset will cast spectacular colors on this red sandstone building making it even more admirable than it already is during the day.
The Lotus temple is actually a Bahá’í House of Worship, a temple of Bahá’í faith. This religion only has 10 of such houses of worship around the world and the Lotus temple in New Delhi is undoubtedly the most striking of them all. Bahá’í faith has 5 to 7 million adherents worldwide. The religion wants to bring people of all religions closer together by teaching the unity and equality of all. The lotus was chosen as it was a common symbol in Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Islam.
The lotus temple has received numerous awards for its outstanding architecture and design. The roof is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals”. Together with the 9 pools that surround the temple it effectively resembles a lotus flower floating on the water.
During services, you’re allowed to enter the temple but you’re not allowed to walk around or exit the temple. Services last maybe 10 to 15 minutes so this gives you a good opportunity to admire the impressive ceiling of lotus petals.
The Akshardham temple is a recently built and lavishly decorated Hindu temple complex. The security of this temple is taken very seriously and upon entering you feel like you are entering a prison.
You can’t take any cameras or mobile phones. There lockers where you can store them if you have a car with a driver you can leave them in the car to avoid the queue at the lockers. The security may be a little over the top but once you turn the corner behind the security checkpoint the thoughts about excessive searching will quickly make room for deep respect for the builders of this huge and richly decorated sanctuary.
The temple hosts a water spectacle daily shortly after the sunset. The spectacle is narrated in Hindu only. Tickets are 80INR.
The Lodhi Gardens is a large park of about 90 acres in the centrum of New Delhi. Spread across the park are the tombs of Mohammed Shah’s, Sikandar Lodi, Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad. The gardens are situated on Lodhi road between the Khan Market and Safdarjung’s Tomb.
It is a popular place for Delhiites to relax and for couples to spend some precious time together. An oasis of calm amidst the bustle of Delhi.
Full day organized tours
If you have a personal driver you can arrange a tour with him along these sights. If not you could arrange a tour with a taxi or arrange a private tour upfront. We selected some of the most recommended tours:
More Tips for your first time in India
Know how much you need to pay
We experienced how Indians shamelessly dared to ask a twentyfold of the official price for snacks or drinks. Another case where it proved useful we had looked up the entrance fee in advance was the Jama Masjid mosque. As such, we knew the entrance was free and we could ignore the scammers who had lined up outside and tried to sell us an entrance ticket for 300 INR each.
All drinks and snacks should have the price printed on them (see pictures below). If the package is not showing the price or the price has been barred just move on and find a trustworthy seller.
If you plan on visiting any monuments look up the price online before you go.
Adapter for electrical appliances
India uses a mix of electrical plugs type C (also known as Europlug), D and M. The type C plug is similar to what is used in most European countries. The type M plug has three round pins in a triangular pattern and looks similar to the Type D plug, the only difference being that its pins are much larger. Type M pins are used for bigger appliances.
Since we are from Belgium, we did not need an adapter.
If you have problems to use type C plugs in Type D sockets you should try to insert an object with a fine tip into the top hole while inserting the plug.
Although it can be really difficult to completely avoid the famous Delhi belly, here are some tips that should limit the damage.
Avoid drinking any tap water or brushing your teeth with it. Try to steer clear from any food that may have been washed in it like salads and order any soda’s without ice.
Indians have the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world. India has 500 million vegetarians, that are more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. The country offers perhaps the world’s most fabulous choice of vegetarian food so it may be a good choice to go veggie for the duration of your stay in India. Undercooked or rotten meat can do a lot more harm than a badly prepared vegetarian dish.
Arrange an airport transfer with your hotel when you arrive late-night
The first time we arrived in Delhi was early in the morning. At that time the arrivals hall was almost empty as most flights land late at night. Late at night, the arrivals hall is a real zoo.
We arranged an airport transfer for our second flight that landed just before midnight. The transfer cost us three times the price a normal taxi would charge but taxis are discouraged after dark because they’re unsafe and many Uber and Ola users have been complaining how they have been left stranded late-night. Drivers will accept the booking but subsequently, never show up. They get a penalty for bookings they don’t accept so they just hope that by not showing up the rider will cancel the booking.
When paying cash double-check the amount you hand over to the cashier and double-check the notes you get back. Shortchanging is, unfortunately, a common practice in India, also by officials at monuments like Humayun tomb.
Also, check the quality of the notes you get back. It doesn’t matter so much for all notes of 100INR or less but do not accept any notes over 100 that are damaged or have been written on. We had one 500 rupee note with some yellow marks on it and it took us a while before somebody wanted to accept it.
We stayed in both 3, 4 and 5-star hotels. The level of service in all of them was excellent but we noticed how the cleanliness was significantly lower in 3-star hotels. We found dust on the shelves, old worn towels, raffled carpet in the corridors, sticky tables in the restaurant and pigeon poop all around the pool. What we didn’t find was toilet paper in the public toilets. 😊 Not what we would expect from a 3-star hotel but you have to keep in mind that the standards for cleanliness are different in India.
Delhi is sometimes described as a mini-India. That is a little too flattering. During our month we discovered there is far more to India than what you can experience in Delhi. But there is a ground of truth, especially if you compare Delhi to the golden triangle and Rajasthan. Humayun’s tomb and the Red Fort are monuments that reflect the history of Northern India. The consecutive ruling by the Sultans, the Moghuls, and the British Empire has left a trace of glory and excessive richdom that still can be witnessed in the monuments. The architecture is unique and unlike anything, we had seen before.
Something completely different, but just as well unique, is the sensory overload of fragrances and sounds in Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. Some may describe this as the real India but I think it just depends on your point of view. Having seen so many different sides of India in the last month it is difficult to choose one place or one word that represents the whole country.
Incredible India, the many scams resulted in occasions that we were tempted to use the word in a sarcastic way. But it would be a pity to forgo the country and miss out on everything it has to offer due to this.
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