And here we are with another great interview of the ‘Through the Eyes of a Local’ series. Today we’re traveling to New Delhi, India, with Shivani.
New Delhi is one of the most populated cities in the world and it holds a lot of interesting places and cultural experiences.
It’s a world in its own way and you can certainly learn a lot about India while there. As I read her answers I couldn’t avoid but to search for some cheap tickets to Delhi. I mean, why not, right?
If you want to read other interviews of this series, take a look at my “Through the Eyes of a Local” archive! I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning more about other cities from a local’s point of view.
Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do?
Hey! I am a web developer by profession and a part-time travel blogger from Delhi, India. Apart from travel, I have a deep interest in travel photography and books, mainly fiction, especially the ones about WWII.
What do you like about Delhi?
Delhi is a perfect mix of history and urbanism. Even developing at a fast pace, Delhi hasn’t forgotten its past. There is an ancient monument at every nook and corner in the city, a sharp reminder of its deep-rooted old days. Along with the history, Delhi is adopting the modern architecture as well, the buildings nowadays are perceived for today’s era.
Which 3 places do you highly recommend paying a visit in New Delhi?
Delhi’s historic monuments are the places one mustn’t miss while visiting the city. The Humayun’s Tomb surely tops my list! It is a mausoleum of King Humayun and his wife. The Humayun’s tomb is a mirror image of Taj Mahal, differing only in use of stone – the former is built of Red Sandstone and Taj Mahal is of pure marble.
Another place one should see in Delhi is the tallest brick minaret in the World aka Qutub Minar. Dating back to the 11th-century, the Qutub Minar marks the beginning of the Muslim rule in India. The architecture of the Minar is a pleasing sight to behold and will also produce amazing pictures.
Lastly, I would suggest visiting India Gate which is the largest war memorial in the country. It is a triumphal arch built on similar patterns of the ones in Paris & Rome, a reminder of the British Rule and Indian triumphs.
It’s difficult to choose just three, so I would like to add a special mention to Jama Masjid which is the largest mosque in India.
And which places should people avoid?
I wouldn’t choose a place to avoid, rather a time. I believe Delhi is safe to a limit but roaming around alone at night with only a handful of people can be risky. Choose places with at least 30-40 people in sight, don’t ride on empty buses, its counterpart metro is fine though. Uber is by far the safest cab service even for late nights, I myself use it for my late-night travels.
Is there anything you don’t like about your hometown? What is it?
The only thing which bothers me about Delhi is its extremely hot weather. The summers bring unbearable heat to the city with approximately 40+ degrees, which makes it difficult to explore Delhi from May to August. We, Delhites, usually visit Malls in summers or head out outstation in the peak season of May and June.
What are your favorite things to do in New Delhi?
Connaught Place (C.P) is my favourite place in the city. Built in colonial style, CP is the business/shopping district with the main complex entirely in white color. It is a perfect place to not only shop but also feel the vibe & culture of the city. An evening spent roaming in the inner circle of CP is my all-time favourite thing to do in Delhi. The complex has different sections and it can be confusing for first-timers.
The first one has the Palika Bazaar, an air-conditioned flea market set in the basement of the Central Park. Another flea market is the Janpath, which is also known as mini India with souvenirs available from all over India.
CP is divided into 2 circles, Inner circle & outer circle. Palika Bazaar is in the Inner Circle while Janpath is in Outer one. Just last year, they opened a Madame Tussauds Museum in CP, which can also be added to your Delhi list.
A few years back, a huge Indian flag was also set up in the Central Park, which is also an attraction one should pay attention to. There are numerous shops and upcoming restaurants in both inner & outer circle, which tourists can enjoy.
What is the best way to get around New Delhi? Is it easy to reach nearby cities?
Delhi Metro is the best way to get around in the Delhi NCR (National capital region) which is expanding and connecting more parts of the city now. There are buses, cars, and taxis as well, but the traffic is messy here, so metro is the fastest & most efficient way to commute in Delhi.
To travel to nearby cities, there are trains available and buses with major bus terminals too. Almost every nearby town is connected through either bus or train, like Jaipur, which is an easy 4-hour train ride. The 3 airport terminals in Delhi are also connected to almost every small & big city in the country. Mumbai is one of them. Which, by the way, has very interesting places to visit, such as the Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums.
Anyway, if one prefers road trips, there are various cab services, not uber/ola – they’re expensive for outstations. Choose any local vendor and they will charge on per kilometre basis – 9 or 10 INR/km (around 0.14 USD/km) for hatchback or sedan or 12 or 13 INR/km (around 0.19 USD/km) for SUVs. Don’t go beyond this rate, bargain if they charge more as they are trying to shed you of your money.
How travel-friendly is Delhi?
Delhi being the capital of India and the main junction of the Golden Triangle of India, it is a highly friendly city and people are humble and helpful. It is a metropolitan city and hence English is second most commonly spoken language here, so some basic knowledge of English will help your travel here.
The commutation is smooth in Delhi thanks to the metro connectivity. All the major railway stations and bus terminals are also well connected to Delhi Metro.
Delhi Metro has a special division for connecting to Airport, known as “Airport Express”. The Airport Express is a separate metro which connects to the New Delhi’s Railway station and only has 5 stations till the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is by far the fastest means to reach the airport.
How safe is Delhi? Is it ok to walk around with your camera or alone at night?
Delhi is moderately safe and as safe as you would want to be. Yes, there have been incidents in the past, the scammers are almost everywhere, but with a basic presence of mind, you’d be safe here.
I come home late at night, use uber all the time, I feel safe roaming in the city. The best dress code for in the city is moderate. Women can wear short dresses but then be prepared for some stares.
But while travelling alone, and especially in the night, don’t consume too much alcohol and don’t talk to strangers unless it’s absolutely necessary. Delhi’s nightlife is not much active as other metropolitan cities like Mumbai or Bangalore, so there are very few places to see in Delhi at night. If you’re driving or have a cab, then it’s the safest means to travel at night.
What are the best things to do when the weather is, respectively, bad or good?
In Delhi, for around 8 months is usually hot and humid, which makes it difficult to roam in a scorching day. But places like India Gate or Connaught Place are open and nice to explore during evenings.
Same goes for good weather too when it’s raining CP & India Gate are the two top places to enjoy the romantic weather.
During monsoons or Indian winters (November – February), all the ancient monuments can still be visited.
What is the most special hidden gem of Delhi? And why?
Hauz Khas Fort & lake is by far the most special hidden gem of Delhi. The 12th-century fort built by Alaudin Khilji should be on the bucket list of anyone planning to see Delhi. The entry to the fort is free, meaning the fort hasn’t attracted the government’s attention yet and even most Delhites have not seen it either.
Most tourists want to see the historic monuments and the old Delhi, but only a handful of them spare time to explore the Fort. I really recommend visiting this monument as well.
Can you tell us where we can find the best view of Delhi?
Jama Masjid in Old Delhi is not only an architectural marvel itself but it also provides the best view of the city. The Masjid has four minarets and you can actually go up to the top of one of them.
The ticket is reasonably priced (300 INR or 4.40 USD), and those 120 stairs will introduce you to a different side of Delhi.
What is the most traditional dish in Delhi?
Delhi’s street food is the country’s finest which can be easily found in Old Delhi near Chandni Chowk. Try the Dahi Bhalla (fried flour balls with sweetened curd and tamarind sauce & spices) from “Natraj Bhalla Shop” in Chandni Chowk, and the Paranthe Walli Galli (special stuffed bread).
Could you recommend a local bar and restaurant?
Delhites are foodies and there are a number of amazing restaurants and cafes. One of my favourite is Farzi Cafe, a themed cafe of Indian flavours with a twist, live music, and bar.
India is famous for its “Chai” aka tea but I’ll not suggest trying it from a local street vendor as the water may not be purified. I would rather recommend “Chaayos”, a local chain where you will find a Desi Chai (Indian tea) and fusion teas as well in a nice themed cafe.
What is the biggest tourist trap of Delhi?
Delhi attracts a number of flea market vendors and travel agents just waiting to suck money from foreigners. They usually charge 5 times of the original cost. I suggest bargain your way in Delhi, that’s what our specialty is. Except for big brands, one can bargain everywhere. While buying from flea markets, ask for rate beforehand, and negotiate to half and they agree upon a mutual rate.
Can you tell us a memory that you have in Delhi?
Almost 10 years back, it was the first time I visited India gate with my friends in heavy rain. We used the metro to get there, but India Gate is not directly connected to a metro station, nearest is Pragati maidan.
We walked all the way to India Gate, but to reach the monument was tricky. The India Gate is the busiest roundabout in Delhi, and to see the monument closely we have to cross that. The never stopping traffic and heavy rain made it difficult to cross the road but also left us with a lifetime of memory.
One tip: Walk your way through India Gate and Rajpath till the Rastrapati bhavan (President’s house).
Could you describe the people of Delhi?
Like any metropolitan city around the globe, Delhi people are extremely busy but friendly at the same time. During weekdays most of them are running for work but they will still stop and help out someone in need. But no two people are same, right?
It’s the same case here, some of you might have (or had) encountered rude and uncongenial people in countries where people are known for being friendly. Some are plain arrogant, I would say once you get such hint, step away from them and not indulge in any conversation.
Tell us a fun fact about Delhi.
Delhi is one of the greenest cities in the world, with 20% of its area covered in forests. With this, I can proudly say driving is one of the best things to do in Delhi, especially in & around New Delhi. The Lutyens in Delhi is where I love to drive around and enjoy the serene & green roundabouts.
What piece of advice would you give to readers who want to visit your hometown?
First of all, know that there are millions of people here, so try to embrace the fact it’s going to be mostly crowded.
Secondly, prepare yourself for a moderate dress code and some random stares. People here are obsessed with white skin and not in a racist manner rather an admiration. They themselves are brown and hence they have an inclination for black too, so be prepared for those stares. In Delhi, most of the people will not ask for random selfies, but if you go to rural areas, people might.
Lastly, Delhi is huge, and not everything can be covered in a day or 2 here. So, rather than getting confused about what to see and how to reach there, take a map with you and take your pick. Know beforehand what places you must not miss and know the best routes to reach there.
Also, install Delhi Metro app on your phone, it can be very handy as the metro network is expanding quickly. I have put together a post about how to commute in Delhi, with all the must-visit places, which you can read here for my Delhi travel tips.
What is the biggest prejudice other countries have about India?
Some people still believe India is a land of snake charmers and that they are found at every nook and corner, which is a completely biased view. Yes, a few people survive on this art form for their daily bread. But not everywhere. In my entire adult life, I don’t remember seeing a snake charmer except in a cultural place where they’re brought specially to showcase their art.
Can you tell us a book based on India?
A full-time techie and part-time traveller/ blogger at The Wandering Core. An avid book lover, a chai fan and coffee addict, Shivani likes to explore her hometown – Delhi – when not working & travelling. She also has a deep interest in photography and likes to enhance her writing through her pictures.
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Read more interviews of Through the Eyes of a Local series and get inspired for your next adventure!