India is fascinating. At every turn: whether shocking, enlightening or confusing, there is a scene to captivate you — that’s the beauty of going to a country with an extraordinary, culture-rich and fascinating history.
Delhi is a character: manic, unpredictable and not for the faint-hearted. With great tourist attractions and markets, Delhi’s economic development is seriously booming.
I have to be honest with you; I don’t recommend spending a lot of time in the capital as there are more breathtaking places in India. Delhi is a stop shop which will facilitate you to your next ventures, like Agra, Rajasthan and Jaipur. I highly recommend going on a tour from Delhi. If you’re a backpacker, I recommend this and this. If you’re going on holiday, I booked this package. Otherwise, this, this and this are all reputable.
This is the ultimate guide for Delhi though, so go to the places I recommend and you’ll have a wonderful time. I’ll be doing guides for Agra and Jaipur too so look out for those.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Delhi, India
Jama Masjid – Built by Shah Jahan (the emperor behind Taj Mahal), this holy mosque is truly remarkably beautiful. It is a place of worship so please dress conservatively (cover up your shoulders, chest and legs) and take off your shoes at the door, put them in your bag or leave them at the door for a cheerful 100 rupees (£1). Attire is available for hire at the entrance. I received mine as complimentary with my tour; below is a pic of me sporting the yellow trend.
Humayun’s Tomb – this UNESCO heritage site is the perfect introduction into India’s architecture and an opportunity to learn about the history of the Mughals. The Tomb rests through a walkway of lush gardens, I highly recommend it as your first trip of the day, we went early, and it was empty! Insta-yay!
Chandni Chowk Market – This market is an experience and a half, keep your wits about you. A maze of streets, with local sellers encouraging you to buy their goods, spilling out from every stall. It’s a long, narrow road. Walk on the left of the street, or you’ll risk a thump by a passing rickshaw. If you’re not planning to buy anything, hail a ride instead. Known as Aladdin’s cave, buy your spices, fashion to jewellery here. Remember never to accept the first price and come equipped with haggling skills. Don’t feel pressured to buy if you don’t want to. Just say “no, thank you” and walk away.
Red Fort – I became way too invested in the history of this monument. I even Googled more information at dinner to get the full scoop. If you are heading to the Taj Mahal, you need to come here. I won’t give the story away, but it’s a red sandstone fort designed to keep invaders out and houses many museums.
Qutub Minar – A sun-soaked, tall, red sandstone minaret; It’s one of the most popular attractions in Delhi. An archaeological minefield, roam around ancient ruins and tombs decorated in detailed Arabic inscriptions.
We flew via Virgin Airlines as we found a bargain on the Secret Escapes Golden Triangle package, otherwise I recommend shopping around on Skyscanner, Sta Travel and Holiday Pirates.
Local city transportation is cheap, but be careful. To be on the safe side, get an Uber instead of a taxi. If you’re going a reasonably short distance, you can hail a rickshaw ride but remember to bargain! Most Westerners hire private drivers as the norm in India; your hotel will have a travel desk where you can seek advice. We booked a mix of both Ubers and private drivers.
Backpackers – If you’re backpacking (first of all, I’m very jealous because that was me four years ago and I hope you’re having a wonderful time), I recommend booking through HostelWorld and HostelBookers. As it’s India, please do your research thoroughly. Grab a cuppa and get yourself ready for a big review-checking sesh.
Vacay – For safety reasons, I recommend five-star hotels in India. I was sceptical, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Our local tour guide warned us about makeshift hotels in the city. There have been horror stories including dodgy cameras in the rooms (I know, wtf?!). Hotel prices are decent. We stayed at The Suryaa New Delhi, it’s located a touch further away from central but was handy for our driver to get us to our next destination: Rajasthan. If you’re willing to splurge, the most ‘Instagrammable’ hotel is the luxury Taj Mahal Hotel or any of the Taj Group owned hotels. Top tip: book a hotel with a well-rated restaurant as you do not want to wander around Delhi in the evening.
Food is very cheap in India. But be careful! You’ll be so lucky to miss out on Delhi belly. I would love to tell you that it’s easy to avoid, ahem, stomach issues due to poor food hygiene. But this is just one of those risks with eating foods that are unfamiliar in your usual diet. As a general rule, hotels are fine.
The places I recommend are The Varq at the Taj Mahal hotel. I will never forget the mouthwatering Varqui crab dish. I’ve decided I won’t be eating curry in the UK anymore because it does not compare, ha! Dhaba at Claridge’s does a tasty Thali (seven different mini dishes of curries, dal and rice), the interior is set up as a very cool ‘dine on a truck’ theme. Otherwise, to save you a trip running around Trip Advisor restaurant reviews, Delhi’s version of OpenTable is called Eazy Diner, scroll through reviews written by Delhi locals!
Wifi is like gold and is expensive in India. Even the five-star hotels charge for Wifi! I recommend buying a sim card (which is cheap) and using the data from that; it’s also useful for emergency calls. As always, check out what your network provider charges for calls in India, O2 provides free local to local calls in India as part of my monthly contract.
I know what you’re thinking, you’re debating whether to add India to your bucket list?
I would tell you to go in a heartbeat. Keep your wits about you, be smart & open-minded and you’ll be fine.
I hope you found this post useful. Remember to come back for my ultimate guides to the beautiful Rajasthan and Jaipur!
Location: Delhi, India
Secret Escapes Golden Triangle