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First day in India – what can go wrong, but doesn’t have to…

Today I publish the diary entry of my sister, who came to India last summer with her boyfriend to travel and visit me.

Due to one of my tours, I could not receive them in Delhi, but booked their hotel and a bike sightseeing tour through Old Delhi and provided them with enough tips for their first day in the big city and the first hours at the airport).

It wasn’t my sister’s first trip to India, so we were confident that everything would work out. But read for yourself what happened… Below her diary entry you will find some tips and hints for the first day in Delhi.

Monday, August 31

At 2:45 am we land at New Delhi Airport. We survive the passport control – the Indian officer is at least as tired as we are and yawns three times hearty. Now we just need to follow Sarah`s Instructions:

  1. Get a Pre-paid taxi for 300 Rs (4 Euro)

Full of anticipation, we run towards sign that an Indian holds up. But the journey through the night should cost 1000 Rs. After a long hesitation, the agent tells us, that another Office has cheaper deals and indeed! Here it only costs us Rs 480.

  1. Drive to the Vivek Hotel.

We were immediately received by the taxi driver. Paul is even happy about the empty roads and our driver about my broken Hindi.. Having arrived in Pahar Ganj (where our hotel ws suppose to be), however, the police is not letting us in.

So the driver decides to go to a travel agency, from where a young man contacts the Vivek Hotel to find out how we can get to the hotel, despite the festival happening. Apperently there is no way in!

It is in the middle of the night and our booked bike tour starts in about two hours. So the driver drove us into another part of the city, to another hotel. Not wanting to pay more than Rs 1000,the receptionist just laughs at us and invites us for Rs 6000-8000/night. We cannot and will not afford that. Afternegotiations, the offer is reduced to Rs 4200, which is still 50 euros and far too expensive for us. You can live in India for a week on that amount.

We refuse, we want to keep looking. It is now 5 o’clock. However, the

Driver knows nothing cheaper, we are tired and in the dark Delhi we can hardly walk around.

The hotel room is clean, large, with AC and soft bed.

Endlich im Hotel

Finally in the hotel

An hour later we have to go on again:

  1. Bicycle tour through Old Delhi.

The tour was already booked and paid for. However, we did not know to what extent the ominous festival had an impact on the area- apparently none, because the Tour took place. For another 150 rupees we drove to Old Delhi, when we realized that we had no address from the hotel. So we arranged a pick up with the same Rikshah driver at 10 am In addition we had the hotel key. Two Indians and a Belgian woman in orange Shirts were already waiting for us on the bikes.

Fahrradtour durch Old Delhi

Bicycle tour through Old Delhi

After a small test ride and instruction: right, left, straight, stop, we road with the gear less and suspension less bikes through the small alleys of the old city, which is characterized by the style of the Muslims.

Das Rote Fort

The Red Fort

There is, for example, the legend that between the Red Fort in Delhi and the one in Agra is a 400 km-long tunnel. The impressions of Everyday India impressed us eben more: the unmanageable, murderous road traffic, the barber or scale man on the roadside, the melting Ice block that was transported or the woman ironing on the road. the Culture shock for Paul was already perfect. He was really horrified when we saw meat carcasses on the backs of old men.

Fluss Yamuna

Yamuna River

The first impressions we had on the tour were definitely exciting and with some highlights:  The view of the Yamuna River, Pauls first Chai and we became part of road traffic, with 2 rules:

  1. The stronger wins
  2. Blow horn/Ring Bell

The tour ended at Karim (a famous restaurant in Delhi) with alu-Matter (peas and potato curry) and Mango-Juice.Ein herzhaftes Frühstück

A hearty breakfast

  1. Back to the hotel.

When we arrived at the meeting point at 10:40 am, we feared that the Rikshah driver would not wait any longer and we were right!

Wo ist die Rikschah??

Where is the rickshaw??

But luckily we had the hotel key. Until we realized that there was no name and no address on it! How should we ever find our way back?! All our things were there, the bus ticket, the backpacks. Before even more panic could arise, we walked back to the meeting point, where our guide was still there. Hi remembered, that we called him from the hotel’s reception in the morning and he had the number safe in his phone!

This 24 hours show two things:

The Indians are impossible (telling us faked stories, about ongoing festivals), but they can make everthing possible (tracing back the hotel).

Now also the expensive hotel paid of: in the soft bed with AC we slept till the afternoon.

Tips and hints from Sarah

1. Read the article “Arrival in Delhi- First Hours in India“.

2. Book your hotel in advance and be sure to take the address and phone number with you. Better also arrange a pick up from the Airport through the Hotel.

3. If you are booking a taxi at the airport, use the Police prepaid counter (fixed price and police control). But pay attention to your change here. Sometimes you are only issued 100 rupees (1, 50 €) (instead of 500 Rs = 8 €) in the hope that you won’t notice it yourself. (who knows the currency at the beginning)

5. During the day there is also a great airport metro, which will take you directly to New Delhi Railway Station for about 3 euros per person. It is close to the tourist district of Pahar Ganj. However, you also have to continue from there with rickshaw or taxi, so that is only an option for experienced bakers !

6. It is a fraudulent ploy of rickshaw drivers working with travel agencies to tell the newcomers that the neighborhood where your hotel is located is closed due to festivals, construction work, etc. That’s not true. There are no such festivals!!

The rickshaw drivers will then take you to an agency that wants to sell you a complete and overpriced tour, will take you to an expensive hotel and the rickshaw driver will collect a decent commission.

At night, police officers are everywhere to secure the streets, but that doesn’t mean the neighborhood is closed. So refuse with your hands and feet and threaten to involve the police! It is best to ask for the rickshaw driver’s mobile phone and call the hotel.

7. A bike ride in the morning hours in Old Delhi is really interesting, but also a huge culture shock. Here you have to decide for yourself whether you want to do it on the first day or not.

8. Of course you always have the address and contact details of the hotel with you!

9. The rickshaw driver only waits, if you pay him at the very end.

10. Traffic in Delhi is bad and you MUST plan a lot of time, or take the metro

11. Let the Indians help you. The above indications suggest that the Indians cannot be trusted. That is not true. Indians are usually very helpful and nice. Only the Indians working in thetourist sector take advantage of our insecurity and ignorance, especially shortly after arrival. So if there are problems, go to the people and ask for help. In case of need, you can always jump into a rickshaw, give the driver the address and you are also taken where you want to go.

12. The best way to book your trip is with Chalo! Travels 🙂 Then I will pick you up from the airport, take you to our hotel and guide you safely through the crayness of Delhi!

More advice about how to enter India safely and secure you can hear on my Podcast Episode: Arrival in India- All you need to know about your first hours in India