Contrary to popular belief staying healthy in Delhi is easy
Dec 21, 2009 (Updated May 6, 2011)
The Bottom Line Delhi is a diverse city and can pose problems to new travellers, but with common sense staying safe and healthy shouldn't be a problem.
Most people have heard at least something about New Delhi and the comments run the gamut. For instance, some people claim Delhi is a magical and culturally rich city with wonderful people, yet others worry about corrupt police officers, rolling blackouts, extremely hot summers, cold winters, the infamous Delly Belly, scammers, noise, litter, and pollution. These comments almost seem contradictory, so how are tourists supposed make sense of it and more importantly how is one going to stay healthy and safe there?
I currently live in Colorado, my parents are of Indian descent, and I have visited India several times. In this review, I strive to present as real a picture of New Delhi as I can. Delhi can be a majestic and culturally rich city and with a few precautions staying safe and healthy on your journey is actually pretty easy.
Every years tens of thousands of Americans/Canadians head to India for a wonderful vacation. The problem is that many people get sick during the journey and end up wasting several days of their vacation sitting in hotel room. Travelling to India is a long and tiring journey, be prepared to be sitting on planes for over 15-18 hours!
From the LA, SFO, SEA areas:
You have several options to reach New Delhi, but the best options are Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways. Avoid JAL as you have to transfer in Tokyo to one of their subsidiaries and the process can be arduous. Should you fly this way, you will likely have stops in Hong Kong and Singapore (Singapore Airlines) or in Bangkok (Thai Airways). These journey can be very long and expect about 20 hours flying time and about a 28 hour journey. Other good options include flying Lufthansa to Frankfurt and connecting there, or flying with British Airways via LHR.
From Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Houston etc:
If you're flying to India from these cities, Lufthansa, Air France, and BA are definitely your best bets. Qatar Airways does run a direct Doha-Houston flight and you will be able to connect at Doha if you prefer. Journey times likely will involve 16-18 hours flying and 25 hours total.
From Chicago or the NY/NJ area:
If you live in these areas you are very lucky. American Airlines does a daily non-stop from Chicago O'Hareto New Delhi. Continental Airlines does a Newark-New Delhi non-stop every day as well. Air India has a non-stop flight to Delhi from JFK Int'l Airport.
A note of caution: the direct flights do tend to save time, as your journey is only about 18 hours (~15 hours flying) compared to around 22 hours if you connect in Euroe. However, the long non-stop flights aren't for everybody and if you tend to feel plane sick, taking a connecting flight with BA, Lufthansa, Air France, or Swiss may be a good idea.
From the Washington, Atlanta, Florida area:
If you're flying out of Dulles or BWI, I would recommend taking BA, LH, or AF and would avoid the hassle of trying to take a domestic flight to connect with one of the non-stop out ORD or EWR. The same applies for the larger airports in Florida, for instance, Orlando or Miami.
If you're coming from Atlanta, Delta runs a daily non-stop to Mumbai, but connecting in India is a huge hassle so be careful if you choose that flight. Otherwise, choose one of the several other options you have.
Abbreviations I used:
BA= British Airways
AF= Air France
ORD=Chicago O'Hare International Airport
EWR=Newark Liberty International Airport
JFK= John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York
DEL= Indira Ghandi International Airport (New Delhi)
BWI= Baltimore Washington Int'l. Airport
The biggest airports in Canada, for instance, Montreal, Vancouver, or Toronto have many airlines with one-stop connections to India. You can take BA, Lufthansa, or even Jet Airways (a premium Indian airline with very good service), which all have one-stop connections to New Delhi. Some people enter the US and take the non-stop Continental flight, although it can be a major pain to clear US customs and get ready for another long journey.
How to stay healthy on the Journey:
The plane journey to New Delhi is going to be long and very tiring, here are some tips to keep you healthy and happy on the journey.
1. Keep all valuables, for instance, cameras, laptops, jewelry, watches, important artifacts, important documents, etc. in your handbags and most importantly keep a bag of small toiletries and a change of clothes.
Remember airline travel can have quite a few delays, check out www.flightstats.com for more information on typical delays and on-time percentages for thousands of flights worldwide. Due to delays, it's possible to get misconnected. The best way to avoid mis-connecting is to keep at least 2.5 hours between flights, remember many airlines close boarding gates 30 minutes prior to departure.
In addition, your checked luggage is going to be gone for a long time and although baggage theft of your valuables is extremely rare, it can happen. Remember your bags go through the hands of several security staff/baggage handlers on the journey. I highly recommend locking your bags with TSA-approved locks.
2. Drink lots of water! I recommend buying a bottle of water from the departure area of the airport and keeping it with you, so you don't have to get up repeatedly just to ask a flight attendant for more water. Aircraft have low humidity levels and you're basically sitting in an aluminum tube with 200 other people. Your immune system works best when your body is hydrated.
3. Keep a basic array of medicine for the journey. I like to keep anti-diahrreal tablets, GasX, Pepcid AC, Tylenol, and some Children's Bennadryl tablets. I also keep a few band-aids with me in my bag. This way if you feel uncomfortable you can at least take something and relax. Chewing gum can help with the ear pain experienced in planes due to changing pressures during take-off, climb, descent, and landing.
4. Modern day aircraft (eg., Boeing 777 or Airbus A330/340) are significantly quieter than previous generation aircraft. Although some airlines still use the Boeing 747-400 to India, which can be quite loud. However, for some people the loudness of an aircraft cabin during take-off/climb can be very irritating, if this is you, carry some ear buds or if you have a pair of Bose headphones, use those.
5. On international routes most airlines provide meals, blankets, and pillows for free (don't you miss those of US domestic flights :-)), but some people prefer to carry a neck pillow to get more comfortable.
How to deal with Jet-lag???
Jet-lag occurs when you jump numerous time zones very quickly and your body can't adjust. This is the reason why once you reach India you may feel absolutely exhausted during the day and jumping off the walls at night. When travelling Eastward (towards India) try to sleep as much as possible, when travelling Westward (towards America) stay awake as much as possible. In addition, setting your watch to your current destination's time may reduce jetlag.
Indira Ghandhi International Airport (IGI):
Most tourists who visit Delhi will pass through the IGI Airport. IGI Airport is located in the Southern part of Delhi, about 15 miles away from the city center. Most flights arrive into Delhi at an ungodly night-time hour (12 am, even 3 am arrivals are common), although some flights now arrive in the morning.
Upon arrival you're welcomed into what a looks like a beaten down gate area with an unbearable heat (in summer) and stink. From there you go down a large escalator and reach the air-conditioned customs area/immigration area.
Currently, India requires a Swine Flu examination for all entering passengers. You'll be given a swine flu questionnaire on the aircraft, in addition, to the immigration form. Note: ALL passengers must fill out a form, including those travelling together as families. As you approach the Swine Flu counter, you maybe asked a few questions and then you will be allowed to proceed. If you have a cold or a flu upon arrival you may be pestered because swine flu can be deadly when combined with Indian weather conditions. Read below.
In the background there's a concealed bacteria sensor, which can detect unusual amounts (aka you have a cold or flu) and the staff maybe hesitant to let you cross or recommend you see a doctor. Once you clear the Swine Flu area proceed to immigration.
The immigration area has been recently remodeled and is modern looking. There's a bathroom on the right-side of the area, in case you need to go. At IGI there are three lines, one for visitors, one for PIO/OCI holders, and one for Indian citizens. Wait times are generally 15-30 minutes and make sure you hand your immigration form to the officer. In India stamping is still fairly common and don't be surprised if the officer slams your form a couple of times with a stamp. Indian custom officers generally won't ask questions and will give you back your passport with a small customs slip.
From there you enter the baggage claim area, bags may take upwards of 40 minutes to arrive, so be paitient. If you want the assitance of a baggage porter ask one of the uniformed ones in the baggage area. From the baggage area you proceed to the green channel, nothing to declare, or the red channel, if you have something to declare. As you enter the green channel remember to hand the small customs slip to the official standing at the door.
Once outside the airport you'll see a large waiting area where many people are waiting to pick up passengers. In addition, once your outside the airport you may be pestered even pushed by people anxious to help you with your bags. These aren't official bag porters and I wouldn't solicit their service. The scene outside the airport can be a nightmare for arriving passengers as there is the constant blaring of horns, and the chaotic driving (just because there are zebra lines, doesn't mean drivers will always be polite and stop and wait for pedestrians so be careful!)
If you need a taxi, follow the signs to the pre-paid taxi counter and use the one certified by the Delhi Police. Don't use the other one owned by a private company, they will almost always rip you off or hassle you. Tell the cashiers where you want to go and make sure the receipt is printed and visible before you get your cash out. From there use the number on the receipt to find your taxi. Don't listen to the taxi driver giving you explanations about your hotel being closed or asking you to give him the receipt. Only give him the receipt after the journey has ended and don't pay the taxi driver extra if he asks for it, as you have paid already paid the correct amount at the booth.
Transfer between the Domestic and International Airport:
One thing that catches many travellers off gaurd is that international-domestic flight transfers are rarely easy and you will need at least 3 hours between flights to have a chance of making it. Yes, I do mean 3 hours!
Indira Ghandi International Airport currently has 2 main terminals (Terminal 1A/C/D and Terminal 2). Terminal 1 is for domestic flights and Terminal is for international flights. Indian airports follow the British system and don't have an airside where domestic/international passengers mix. In the British system, each terminal opperates as a mini-airport with separate check-in areas, security, and departure gates. The terminals are generally interlinked by a bus/train system.
International Passengers arriving into IGI, must clear immigration, collect their bags, either take a taxi or the airport shuttle to the domestic terminal, check-in, clear security, and then finally board their domestic flight. Immigration/baggage retrieval times are generally around 50-75 minutes, the taxi ride can be around 15-25 minutes, check-in and security probably will take around 30 minutes total. Most domestic flights board on the tarmac, so you will be bussed to your plane.
Domestic flights take-off from Terminal 1D (Jet Airways, Kingfisher/Kingfisher RED, JetLite, Indigo, Paramount, and Spicejet). Terminal 1A houses domestic departures for Air India (IC flight numbers), GoAir, MLDR, and Air India Express). Terminal 1C is often referred to as the arrivals terminals all flights will arrive to this terminal.
**NOTE: In July 2010, IGI will inaugurate its massive third Terminal, Terminal 3. This terminal will have 74 jetways, 30 overflow parking bays, 72 immigration counters, 168 check-in counters, and hundreds of stores/restaurants. For the time being, most domestic flights (Jet Airways, Air India, and Kingfisher) and international flights will transfer over to the new terminal. All low-cost operations (Spicejet, Indigo, GoAir, Kingifsher RED, and Jetlite) will continue to operate out of terminal 1C/1D. Terminal 2 will be used as a private terminal.
Eventually in 2014-2016, Terminal 4 will become operational and all international flights will operate out of that terminal and a fourth runway will be added, increasing IGI's capacity to over 150 million passengers per year. In 2025-2028, a fifth terminal, will be added, known as Terminal 5. IGI will be making massive changes in the coming years, so keep yourself up to date by checking: http://www.newdelhiairport.in/traveller.aspx
The Delhi Airport can often be a good 50-60 minute drive from many popular hotels, so prepare accordingly. Also be sure to allow extra time for the taxi driver to arrive. In India it's recommended that you arrive at least 3 hours before an international departure.
Outside the airport find the designated entry gate, often times your airline will tell you, which gate to use. In India only ticketed passengers are allowed into the airport, so you must present a passport/e-ticket or printed on-line boarding pass to enter the airport.
Once inside, find your designated check-in counter and check-in, remember to fill out and put airline luggage tags on your hand bags.
Your airline's staff should hand you an emigration form, which needs to be filled out properly before you can leave the country. There are lot of open seats next to the check-in area, so this is a good spot to fill out your forms. From there you proceed to the emigration area and hand the form to an official who will verify the information and allow you to proceed.
Indian airport security is fairly similar to Western standards. No liquids above 3 ounces are permitted, no chili powder, no firearms, nor explosive materials. Laptops must be taken out of your hand baggage and you should put your cell phone in your hand bag before going through the metal detector. Even if you pass the metal detector, you'll be re-checked with a security wand and/or a hand pat-down.
Afterwards, make sure the tags on your luggage have been stamped, otherwise you'll have to go back through security before boarding the aircraft. From there you enter the departure lounge and you'll have several options for food (Subway, Yo China!, Costa Coffee, Cafe Coffee Day, etc. are there) and several newsstands. There's a large Alpha Duty Free store, but I wouldn't use it, as the prices are in US$ and only Indian citizens may pay with rupees. In addition, the prices there are exorbitant even by duty free store standards, for instance, a pack of Cadbury Carmel filled chocolates would have cost me $15.00, the same product in a 50% larger bag cost me US$8.00 at a duty free shop in London Heathrow. IGI has undergone numerous renovations from the horrible beaten down terminal it used to be just a few years ago. There's plenty of seating and the terminal is actually clean with restrooms that are in good condition.
Indians typically board very choatically and everyone will stand up and go to the gate the moment boarding is announced.
Note: In 2010, most international travellers will fly into the new Terminal 3, which is supposed to be an ultra-modern airport with over 50 jet-ways, fascinating architecture (they plan using a tension-fabric roof (think of DIA in Denver) with artistic slits to let in natural light), spacious corridors, and much more. I'll update this section if and when I visit the new terminal. IGI has added a third runway (Runway 11/29 which is 14,000 feet long) and is planning on adding at least 2 new terminals and runways before 2030.
Indian hotels will seem relatively cheap compared to their American counterparts. However, some 3 star hotels skimp on basic items like a full-service restaurant or even hot water and many don't have Internet access. I would recommend staying at a 4-star or 5-star hotel in India, you'll find they are world class, have excellent service and many have reasonable prices (though some 5 star hotels can run between $150-250 per night). Always look up the hotel you're going to and call ahead to see what facilities the hotel provides.
Get ready for some culture shock:
One of the biggest problems for tourists who enter Delhi is the culture shock they initially deal with. Almost immediately, you will notice the intense Delhi heat (if travelling in summer), the litter on the roads, the incessant honking, the pestering of beggars, the rash Indian driving style, etc. It's enough to make many people feel afraid and dislike India. Keep in mind, that India is still a developing nation (although it has made humongous progress in the past few years) and that cultural values that apply to Americans don't always apply to Indians.
Indians tend to stare at people, it's not a "crime" like it is in America (most of the time, Indians are just curious and not trying to be rude). India has a population of over a billion people in an area 1/3 the size of America, that means on average India has 9X greater population density than the US! Therefore, Indians stand very close to each other in lines and can sometimes be pushy because they have to be in normal life to succeed. In addition, Indian women tend to be shy and stay away from men, therefore, some male tourists may consider Indian women to be very rude. This is just a cultural difference, as even playful or frivolous talking with a male in India, can be perceived as flirtatious behavior for a woman. On the other hand, if you're a female tourist, you will find Indian women to be very friendly.
Indian infrastructure is nearly 30 years behind where it needs to be, therefore, space on the roads is limited and driving needs to be slightly rough. Honking is a common practice in India to inform other drivers of ones presence and is done frequently. Indian drivers often stop very close to other cars at traffic lights and pass other cars frequently. It's not uncommon to see Indian drivers driving outside of lanes, a famous quote in India is "a two-lane road in America, is a four-lane road in India."
Unfortunately, in India, the government finds it more cost effective just to hire sweepers to clean the streets every morning rather than place trash can every few feet and police don't bother about the no-littering rule, so Indian streets have lots of litter.
India is a predominantly Hindu state and Hindus consider cows sacred because they provide humans with milk. Therefore, many Indians don't like to kill cows, so you'll see street cows and a lot of street dogs. Indians do not bow down on the road and start worshipping the cows, though some foreigners think that, they simply don't believe in killing them. Unfortunately, for many people that means no beef while you're in India (though Chicken and Lamb and widely available)
Beggars are very common in India, and will often pester tourists and sometimes they can seem disturbingly poor. It does little good to get angry or shout "NO" just ignore them and they will leave you alone.
Generally, I wouldn't give any beggar in India money because they are so many scams and the Indian government has set up numerous programs, which educate them and teach them a skill, but some believe begging will be more profitable.
Unfortunately, as a consequence of the poor infrastructure, India has electricity problems and Delhi isn't immune. Some sections of the city's power grid haven't been touched in 30 years and transformer malfunctions/explosions can leave some areas without power for hours, though this is pretty rare. In addition, during the muggy and ultra-hot summer months, most homes continually use ACs, which drain a lot of power, so many power companies engage in load-shedding by cutting power to certain areas for about an hour a couple of times per day. Most hotels have full power back-up, so you shouldn't be inconvenienced for more than a few minutes.
India uses a 220V-240V/50Hz electrical system, so if you're coming from a country, like the US or Canada with a 100-120V/60Hz system you're going to need a step-down converter. For a laptop get one with a fuse and you can tell the staff or look on the package for the type of plug you need. Visiting an electronics store like Radio Shack is probably a good idea.
India uses two types of plugs, (annoying yes!), it basically uses a round three-prong outlet (with two round pins on the top and the round ground pin on the bottom), unlike the straight rectangular outlets used in the US. These come in two sizes, one being much larger than the other and the more popular smaller version.
For a laptop buy a step-down converter with a fuse or circuit breaker, as discussed above frequent voltage fluctuations and rapid outages are common. If you feel the device is getting really hot or you see smoke, disconnect it immediately. You can pretty much run anything in India, though I wouldn't recommend using high-current items like hair-dryers or toasters.
If you mess-up and don't buy a converter in your native country, don't worry. Just go to a reputable Indian marketplace (you can ask your hotel front desk for assistance) and find an electronics store. Most electronics stores have plenty of converters for all countries. The price should be below Rs. 800/- or around US$18 for the most expensive converters, if the vendor is going above that price, bargain the price down. Most converters should come around Rs. 500/-.
Due to the congested roads, the Indian government has tried building up an advanced array public transportation systems. However, I suggest tourists to the city stay clear of the public bus system, as the buses are crowded and are notorious for pickpockets. Delhi is in the process of adding a BRT (Bus-rapid Transit) system in several parts of the city.
The Delhi Metro, the city's commuter rail system, is a much better choice for people who just want to get around without using auto-rickshaws or taxis. All trains are air-conditioned and are fairly spacious. The train makes frequent announcements in both English and Hindi. The Metro has three lines: red, blue, and yellow.
Red Line: Dilshad Garden - Rithala
Yellow Line: Jahangirpuri - Central Secretariat
Blue Line: Noida City Centre - Dwarka Sector 9
Here's a good map of the Metro system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Delhi_metro_rail_network.svg
The Blue Line is probably the one of most interest to tourists as it connects the city to popular shopping centers like Connaught Place and Karol Bagh.
The Delhi Metro uses EMU trains capable of going 45 mph, however, the DMRC has bought new Bombardier Movia coaches, which are larger and operate at faster speeds. The Delhi Metro runs on ATO (automatic train operation), similar to a plane's autopilot, during the busy hours and is manually controlled at less busy times.
The Metro is pretty safe, as all passengers undergo a full security screening before being allowed on the platform and armed metro marshals frequent the trains during busy hours. All trains have CCTV surveillance cameras. Indians tend to board trains in an extremely chaotic manner, people often don't wait for exiting passengers to get out before entering, so getting on and off the train may sometimes take longer than it should.
Tourists can buy tokens from the ticket booth or purchase a smart card for a nominal fee.
Currency practices and Exchange:
The unit of currency in India is the Rupee, currently US$ 1= 46.71 rupees. 1 Rupee = 100 paise (the Indian equivalent of US cents), however, paise coins are often worthless and you will find most toffees or single serve gum packs cost at least 1 Rupee. The standard method for writing Rupees is a little different than the US version, for instance, 1 rupee is written as Re. 1/- or 250 rupees is written as Rs. 250/-. Rupee coins come 1,2, and 5 rupee denomination and 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 denominations come in bank note form. Typically bill size increases with the value. Although it is technically illegal to import rupees into India, this is never enforced (customs officers will not hassle you) and it's standard practice for tourists to at least bring some rupees into India.
I would recommend at least exchanging around $50-100 in your bank or forex office before comming to India. Insist on getting at least some smaller notes included in the money they give you. Airport baggage porters are very smart and will hassle tourists for exorbitant sums, for instance, one porter saw my US passport and kept on pestering me for US Dollars, I told him "NO" and gave him Rs. 150/-, pay about Rs. 40-50/- per bag when dealing with porters at the airport.
In India, mostly everything runs by cash and many business want nothing to do with credit cards. Always be careful with credit cards in India and make sure the transaction takes place in sight, as many unscrupulous businesses used to photocopy the card, write down the CVV, and use the card of the unsuspecting tourist. Most hotels and reputable business won't do such things.
In New Delhi, unfortunately, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has an acute shortage of small notes and coins. Therefore, some businesses may not be able to provide change and will often give you a product of equal value. Unfortunately, yes you're getting a little short changed on your money, but the change shortage is a real problem and most Indians just go with the flow. In reality, you're losing maybe 5-10 cents and you get something, so I don't really see it as a huge deal.
The best places to get your currency exchanged is at banks and reputable companies like Western Union or Thomas Cook. Banks often give the best currency rate, but will ask a few questions and generally don't like doing multiple currency exchanges. Thomas Cook is professional, but won't give as good a rate, for instance, if the official rate is Rs. 46.71, TC will give about Rs. 43.50 per dollar. No currency exchanger in India will like to exchange more than $2,000 at a time, and it's best not to do more than $1,000 at a time. You need a valid passport and Indian visa at the time of the exchange. Make sure you keep all currency exchange receipts, so you can exchange for US Dollars or whatever currency you originally had when you leave.
What to eat:
Indian food is one of the world's oldest and most diverse cuisines. Whether your a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian, Indian food will offer a lot of variety. Indian food wrongly gets a reputation that it's diet busting, when it's actually one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Indian food makes an extensive use of vegetables in nearly every meal and uses several therapeutic spices/herbs (for instance, turmeric, Ginger garlic, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, coriander, etc.)
Most tourists believe that Indian food is a fireball of spices, that couldn't be further from the truth. Indian food uses an array of spices for deep, bold flavors, if you ask for it hot, Indian chefs will have no problem lighting your pallet on fire (not literally :-)).
In Indian cuisine there's really no dish called a curry, it's often used as a generic term for a dish cooked with a sauce. Most Indian dishes are named for their ingredients, for instance, Murgh Massalum (Chicken cooked in a spicy gravy, what most people know as Chicken Curry). Indians don't use curry powder and most curries are created with a tomato and/or onion base with several herbs and spices.
We have all heard of the infamous Delhi Belly, where Indian food will make you so sick that you'll have the worst diarrhea imaginable. This statement isn't entirely false (the Delhi Belly comes from unsanitary food), but you almost avoid it completely by following some simple tips.
For the first few days, eat vegetarian food, don't worry Indian food has several tasty and filling choices, this is just to get your stomach used to Indian food and the different bacteria that live there. Eating lots of yogurt or consuming other dairy products is also a good idea.
For the first week I would only eat at the hotel, as most hotels generally serve hygienic food. After the first week, I would venture out to the meat entrees and eating outside at nice restaurants isn't a bad idea, in addition, fast food joints like McDonald's, KFC, Nirrula's, Domino's Pizza, Subway, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and Yo! China are generally safe. If you want to try Indian snacks/street food, restaurants such as, Haldiram's or Bikaner are good choices. Never purchase any food from roadside stalls, commonly known as dhabbas. In addition, with the exception of your hotel, never eat any peeled fruit served to you in a restaurant and don't drink the water they pour you, insist on a bottle. In addition, avoid eating salads outside, as green leafy vegetables can hide a lot of dirt. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds, before eating.
The number one rule in India, never drink the tap water! Even many locals can't drink it! Tap water in India has a hligh presence of minerals, dirt, bacteria, and high amounts of calcium and phosphorous.
Never drink water from a refrigerated water cart (as they serve you drity tap water) commonly roaming the streets, this includes lemonade and chai. Always make sure you buy a reputable brand of bottled water. The best brands are Aquafina (Pepsi), H2GO, Bisleri/Bisleri Mountain, Catch (NSF approved), and Kinley (Coca-Cola). Always check to make sure that the seal is intact, Indian con artists can do a very good job. In India many times old bottles are filled with tap water and resealed to be sold, the water bottle should be firm to the touch, if it yields, don't buy it, the lid should be intact and sealed properly, and the water inside should be clear. You can prevent water fraud by crushing the bottles after use. In addition, at most restaurants avoid ice, as ice in India is often made from tap water.
Delhi is generally very warm and pretty humid throughout much of the year. The best time to visit New Delhi would be in winter, as the temperatures are much lower.
Spring: after February, temperatures typically rise dramatically and highs in the mid 90s (degrees F) and lows in the 70 degree range are common. Starting in Mid-April, Delhi gets hit by a heat wave and temperatures frequently climb into the 100s even up to 115!
Summer: June is one of the hottest months in Delhi, with temperatures ranging from a high of 100-120 (degrees F) and lows often in the high 80s. Humidity levels also begin to peak and I would avoid going out around 1:00 pm as the afternoon sun can be sweltering.
July sees the development of the annual monsoons. Days can often be very hot ranging from highs around 98-105 and lows in the mid to upper 80s. However, by mid-afternoon huge thunderstorms and downpours are common. This month is very sticky and mosquitoes are present.
August begins a slight cool down, temperatures fall below 100 and nights are considerably cooler at about 75-80 (degrees F). The monsoon rains continue throughout this month.
September can be a tricky month it's weather is typically very close to that of August, but if the monsoons are delayed you can easily have a very rainy month, otherwise September is pretty dry.
October: Temperatures fall considerably and highs in the upper 80s to mid 90s are common. Nights are cool to pleasant with temperatures in the 50-60 degree range.
November: In November temperatures fall again and most highs touch the mid-80 with nights being around 50. Some days will be hotter than others.
December: this is probably the most pleasant month of the year, as high temperatures range from 70-80 and lows in the mid 40s. A few days in December the temperature at night may actually touch the freezing point. Extremely foggy mornings are common and can present headaches for drivers and airlines at the airport. By mid-morning the fog clears. Occasionally, you'll have a couple of small rain showers.
January:similar to December
February: Temperatures again rise, with highs in the upper 80s to low 90s and lows around 60.
In 1995, an infamous Time magazine article stated that the pollution in New Delhi was so bad, that even on clear days the sky looked a hazy gray color and that walking around for 5 minutes in the middle of the day in Delhi, was equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes.
The Delhi government has done an excellent job in reducing pollution in the city with the installment of CNG buses, increased strictness on emissions, and the Delhi Metro. Pollution levels have come down tremendously and Delhi's air is far cleaner than Beijing or Mexico City.
The Delhi heat in summer can wreak havoc on your skin, so make sure that you bathe at least twice a day and use face wash daily.
Wear lose clothing in summer and pack extra clothes, as you may find yourself sweating a lot more than your accustomed to. Take a good deodorant/anti-perspirant and remember to wash/shampoo your hair often. In addition, use Q-tips often as the dust will build up in your ears.
For contact users, the dirt/pollution of Delhi will pose a few problems. Be sure to use clean (change every day) contact solution and a strong contact solution when staying in India. I recommend going to a chemist shop and picking up Indian Renu or Complete Moisture Plus they are much stronger than their American counterparts. Wash out your contact lens case with filtered water, not tap water.
Due to the change in humidity levels and diet, shaving for the first few days can be a challenge as the hair will feel and cut differently. Indian water is hard and can have lots of bacteria, so make sure you use a liberal amount of aftershave. You may want to rub a little lotion on at night to make your morning shave a little easier.
Indian food is fairly acidic, you're more likely to encounter new bacteria, and bottle water isn't fluoridated, so I would suggest using an Indian toothpaste, as they have higher Calcium content. The most popular brands are Colgate and Pepsodent and you'll find several different varieties.
In winters Delhi can be a little cold at night so pack some full-sleeve T-shirts or fleece. Jackets aren't popular in India, most Indians just prefer to wear fleece and during the day temperatures aren't that cold, in fact, they are fairly pleasant (around 70 degrees F). I would recommend carrying a good moisturizer with you as the winters can be dry and cold.
What to do if you get sick:
Many first time visitors to Delhi do fall sick due to the pollution, weather, food differences from their native countries, or from overexertion.
If you do get sick, contact your hotel front desk and ask for the names of a few good doctors/clinics nearby.
Unlike many Western countries some medical doctors in India have a MBBS degree, meaning that they attended a few years of pre-med and have done basic medicine, these doctors should be fine for small problems. Many people prefer to visit Doctors with an MD degree, who have more advanced knowledge and have attended a proper medical school for four years and some Doctors also possess a DNB degree, meaning they have done advanced medical research in their respective field.
Most Doctor's fees are very low compared to their American or Canadian counterparts. For instance, some Doctors will only charge US$10 (Rs. 500/-) for a simple visit.
Most Doctors in India believe in the benefits of natural medicine, so it's not uncommon to see them prescribing vitamins or honey-based cough syrup, in addition, to the regular antibiotics and pain relievers. Make sure you keep a list of medicines and tell your doctor what your taking before visiting. Make sure you also write down the actual medication in your prescription, not just the name, for instance, if you were taking Tylenol 4 write Tylenol 4 (Acetaminophen and Codeine 20mg) 2x daily for pain relief.
At the hotel make sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. In addition, you may want to drink Chai, a special Indian tea made with spices and milk, contrary to popular belief Starbucks didn't invent Chai! (Sorry I had to vent :-) )
Some common American Medications, their Indian Counterparts and recommended medications:
Tylenol (Acetaminophen) = Crocin/Crocin Pain Relief
Bayer Aspirin = just ask for Aspirin
Bennadryl = you'll find Bennadryl cough syrup in India
Advil = ask for Ibuprofen
Odomos = a very powerful Indian mosquito repellent (Highly recommended)
ALL OUT = a plug-in electric mosquito repellent, you can get the kit from any chemist. Recommended in heavy mosquito areas.
Burnol = a Burn medication
Betnovate-N = a neomycin pain relieving cream (similar to Neosporin)
In India most grocery/general stores don't carry medications, unlike in the US/Canada. In New Delhi, look for Chemist shops to buy medications, these are typically marked with a red or green cross.
One thing that I find funny about many internet sites and forums is people talking about what vaccinations you need. Your doctor is a far better resource than I am on this subject! :-) Also see the CDC website for more info.
In general you don't need any special vaccinations to visit India, just the regular ones and Hep. A is highly recommended.
If you have a Medical Emergency:
It's extremely rare that you will have a medical emergency in New Delhi, I'm just putting this information just in case.
If you get severely sick or have a medical condition act up, inform, your hotel's front desk immediately. They will likely be able to get a paramedic or nearby doctor to visit you in your room. Unlike in America and Canada, Ambulance services in India can be very slow sometimes upwards of 20-40 minutes, so allow the hotel and their medical staff to make that decision.
Indians are generally very helpful even on the street, so if you're injured or need help many times nearby pedestrians will help you and get you to the nearest hospital or doctor quickly.
In most developing nations, normally law-abiding tourists can find themselves on the wrong side of the law simply by taking photos when they shouldn't. Thankfully, India is pretty liberal in this regard and you likely won't get hassled in anyway.
At some monuments you may be charged a nominal fee, around Rs. 50/- (US$1), before being allowed to use your camera. At most landmarks it's perfectly safe to have your camera out in your hand or around your neck. Most points of interest have plenty of well-stocked stores for almost all photographic needs, so don't worry if you memory card becomes full or you need new batteries.
You can photograph pretty much anything in India, without consequence. However, with certain items of strategic or militrary interest, photography is strictly prohibited. If you are aware of what you're photographing, you can probably avoid any all questionable situations.
1. Airports: Many airports in India share runways with Air Force aircraft and personnel. At these airports photography is strictly prohibited and the police may question you about your motives. Military airports include Pune, the old HAL Airport (Bangalore), Ahmadabad, etc.
At privately operated airports, photography is allowed. Aviation spotting has become more popular in India and most authorities won't question you if you're just taking pictures of the airport or civilian aircraft. Private airports include the new Bengaluru Airport (in Bangalore), the Rajiv Ghandi International Airport (Hyderabad), New Delhi's IGI Airport, and Mumbai's CS International Airport.
Many airlines don't care if you take photographs inside their cabins or out of the window.
2. Air Force/Army: Avoid taking photography of any military institutions, equipment (eg., tanks) or aircraft. You will be questioned by military police and it can lead to a long and uncomfortable process.
3. Police: Avoid shooting pictures of parked police cars or officers in strategic locations or of police checkpoints. Avoid photography of crime scenes, as well.
4. Train Stations: Unfortunately, due to several train bombings and attacks, platform photography of trains isn't allowed at many large stations. Photos taken inside the train or out of a train window are perfectly acceptable, in fact, you will find some train rides with endless scenic beauty.
5. Religious Establishments: Many of the famous Hindu temples and Muslim Mosques do not permit photography inside their premises. You can take photos from outside without a problem.
Photographers at Monuments:
At many monuments you will notice a lot of people who claim to be professional photographers, who will take your photo for small fee and then promise to send the pictures to you in a few days. Unfortunately, at these monuments they are a lot of unscrupulous people who pretend to be photographers and just take your money and leave you high and dry. However, they are a lot of professional and trustworthy photographers hanging around. You can avoid a fraud by following simple rules:
1. Look at the camera they're using: is it a brand-name camera (like Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, etc.) or is it some cheap-looking knock off?
2. Most professional photographers all over the world use SLR cameras (most photographers also now have digitial SLRs), which are bigger in size and have detachable lenses. Con artists often use much cheaper consumer level point and shoot cameras.
3. Look at how the "photographer" is dressed, most professionals will be dressed well and groomed neatly. Con artists, not so much.
4. Ask for their official photographer card, if the person seems hesitant to show you, don't use their service. Also check the card carefully, don't just glance at it. They should also have plenty of professionally designed business cards.
5. As for the price, it really shouldn't be too expensive. At most a big family photo should cost you around $10-15, regular photos around a $1-2 per photo. Most professionals will produce some very nice and memorable photos, so using their service can be worth it.
6. A professional photographer may come up to you and ask if you want your photo taken, but they will never hassle you if you say no. Con artists and touts will.
Many people think New Delhi is very unsafe, this couldn't be further from the truth. Delhi is actually pretty safe. In fact, the violent crime rate in Delhi is far lower than cities like London, Toronto, New York City, or San Fransisco.
Delhi does have problems with a relatively high rape rate, scams, and property thefts. If you're an experienced third-world traveller you will probably have no problems, if not remember most robberies are crimes of opportunity. By being smart and aware, you can reduce the chance of theft to practically zero. Below, I have broken down by category some of the more common crimes in India, and how to avoid them.
How to Protect your money:
1. Get a money belt/neck pouch: Keep your important documents and large notes in a concealed money belt or neck pouch tucked in your shirt. Also keep your wallet in your front pockets, instead, of your back pockets. For women keep your purse securely tucked below your arm when walking in public. Keep a wallet with cash in your front pockets for purchases, this way you don't reveal the location of your money belt/neck pouch when you buy something.
2. Keep a mix of traveller's check and cash. In recent years due to large frauds many banks have stopped converting traveller's checks. According to American Express there are 11 official cashing locations around Delhi. Remember to check the AMEX traveller's check website for those locations.
3. One thing I find is odd is some tour books recommend tourists wear a fanny pack. This is probably one of the dumbest things you can possibly do in India. Pickpockets can easily cut the securing strap of the fanny pack in busy areas and your important documents and cash will end up in the wrong hands. Use a concealed neck/money belt for your important documents/cash.
4. Get your money changed only at official Thomas Cook locations, Western Union Money Changer locations, and reputable banks like State Bank of India or ICICI. Just because a sign says Western Union or Thomas Cook doesn't mean their official locations, it may mean that the shop can do some of Thomas Cook's services, etc. Check online for official locations.
5. Never keep your money in a backpack and think it's secure. Quick fingered pick-pockets can quickly unzip backpacks without you noticing. If you must keep valuable things in a backpack, buying a decent quality lock and locking the zippers will keep pickpockets away.
6. When purchasing from local markets try to only use Rs. 500/- notes or lower (Rs. 10, 20, 50, 100/-), avoid using Rs. 1,000/- notes as they attract unwanted attention. Using Rs. 1,000/- notes in shopping malls, reputable Connaught Place stores, and in Govt. owned emporiums is perfectly acceptable.
7. Never accept a ripped note! Ripped notes are nearly impossible to use in India and getting a ripped note changed at an Indian bank is a major hassle.
8. Avoid using larger than needed bills, for instance, using a Rs. 500 note to pay for groceries worth Rs. 227/-. As I noted above, India does have a shortage of change and vendors will try to make up the difference by offering you "free" products.
Ok, so here are some common scams involving your money.
1. The friendly money-changer who offers an unbeatable rate: You'll be walking down a shopping mall or in shopping center, when a very friendly Indian will start a conversation. You'll probably find this person to be very likable and a little clever, after about 5 minutes they will tell you that they are reputable money changer, but have fallen on hard times and are desperate for your country's currency (eg., US/Canadian Dollars, GB Pounds, Euros, etc) and they'll offer an excellent rate. Remember most Indian money-changers will give a rate slightly below the official one, for instance, Rs. 43 per dollar, instead, of the official Rs. 46.
So you follow them to a small shop in a dark corner, however, the shop will seem clean or you will meet someone in an alley sitting on a chair.
If you go to the small shop, the shopkeeper will photocopy your passport, and make you fill out the official forms. Right as the exchange is about to take place, he will say the exchange rate has fallen and will offer you a much lower rate. Your first inclination will be to refuse the offer, the shopkeeper and his "friends" will crowd around try to convince that the deal is very good. If you're not convinced, they will use threats, calling you a fool, a cheat, and tell you that the police are coming to arrest you and will crowd in very closely. Most people back down and accept the offer, if you don't the dealer will likely increase the rate or offer a nice product for your business (sometimes a flash drive, a digital camera, or even silk boxers :-))! If you get into this mess, this is the time to take the offer.
However, if you're taken into a back alley where's just tents and a person claiming to be a money-changer, get out of there as quickly as possible. Indian police do raids on fraudulent money changers and will arrest you.
2. Another common money-changing scam is to hand a huge wad of bills, with 5-10 real notes, and blank pieces of paper in-between. Make sure to count all bills. In addition, count all bills from both sides, in India a common trick is to fold a bill in half, so it makes it appear as there are more bills than there really are.
Making Purchases in India:
1. India is a great place for unique artifacts in all types of materials like brass, copper, marble, even sandal wood. Even Indian clothing tends to be very unique. On the streets you'll find all sorts of cheap knock-offs, unless, you're really adventurous and know Indian artifacts and quality by heart, stick to govt. run emporiums to buy them.
2. Bargaining in India is very common and once you get the hang of it, bargaining can be fun. Remember in a local market the product is probably overpriced by around 20-30%, so if something is around Rs. 500/- try for Rs. 350/- and bargain up. Another way to do it, is to ask if you have a lot of items, "can you give me a better price, I'm buying a lot from you?" or "is this the best price that you can offer me?"
When not to bargain:
Don't bargain on groceries or items with a clearly marked MRP (Maximum Retail Price) marked on it. Don't bargain for medications, it's not going to work. :-) In addition, bargaining at reputable markets like CP, Khan Market, South X, the govt. emporiums, or large shopping malls isn't necessary, as prices are fixed.
Bargaining at flea markets with fruit and vegetable vendors is acceptable, even common. Another good place to bargain is Karol Bagh or the wholesale market of Chandni Chowk.
3. Never purchase anything in India, where the salesman says his company will ship you the product at a later date in your home country. Merchandise may be damaged or changed by the time it reaches you and it may be difficult to fix the problem. If you absolutely want a large artifact in India, which has to be shipped stick to the govt. emporiums. Also don't trust vendors who say they're out of stock on that item and can ship it to your home country once they get it.
4. Many retailers (in fact, the vast majority) won't accept returns. Once you buy the product you're likely stuck with it, even getting an exchange can be an arduous process.
5. Receipts may or may not be computerized. Many times you'll notice retailers using a handwritten slip with the business logo on it and calculating the bill with a hand-held calculator. As silly as it may look, these are valid.
6. Remember the US Dollar, British Pound, and Euro have very favorable exchange rates in India. The best thing to remember is that the cost of living in India is generally 1/3 of the US, or 1/4 that of Britain. For instance, you spending Rs. 500/- (US $11) may not seem like much, the actual value of Rs. 500/- for an Indian might be closer to US$30. Try to keep the cost of living difference in mind when making large purchases.
How to keep your property safe:
The common rules apply in India, as they do in most developing nations. By dressing normally and not flaunting wealth, you can avoid most problems. Below are some more tips
1. Except in tourist areas (eg., Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, India Gate, etc.) never keep your camera around your neck thieves can easily cut the strap and your camera will be gone. In public always try to hold your camera in your hand while shooting or concealed away in a bag, if you're just carrying it around.
2. As I mentioned above, India does have a slight problem with change, so when you're in normal shopping areas try to use smaller notes. In these areas avoid using Rs. 1,000/- notes, as it can draw you unwanted attention from beggars, etc.
3. If you're going to carry around a backpack, keep the zippers locked with a key or combination padlock. Otherwise, backpacks make easy targets for quick-fingered pickpockets.
4. Delhi has increased the number of wi-fi areas in the city and many coffee shops like Barista and Cafe Coffee Day have several locations with wi-fi. The good news is that you can use your laptop in a lot of areas. The bad news is that thieves are very smart, as well. The most common trick is when you're not looking they will switch out your laptop&laptop bag with a very close looking knock-off bag and a giant piece of plastic. Believe me some of the knock-off's in India can look pretty similar to the real thing. The best thing to do is to lock the zippers on your bag, keep a name tag, or maybe put a few stickers. Otherwise India is a pretty safe country to use your laptop in.
6. DON'T leave your bags unattended for even a minute! I can't believe the number of tourists who do this and then are shocked when they're belongings are gone. Yet, these people wouldn't leave their belongings unattended even in their home country. Take your stuff with you and avoid carrying too much.
7. Indians are genuinely curious people and very accepting of other cultures. Don't always be suspicious of a couple of Indians who are friendly and want to chat with you or take pictures with you. However, in India be careful not to give your cell phone or camera to other people.
1. Despite the highly-publicized and tragic attacks on 5-star hotels in Mumbai in November 2008, most hotels in India are pretty safe. The top 5-star hotels in Delhi, now require all guests to undergo full security checks (luggage will be x-rayed).
2. Indian hotels are generally inexpensive, but always try to stay at a reputable hotel (3 star and above) or guest home. See tripadvisor.com for hotel/guest house reviews. Avoid very cheap hotels, as they are generally less secure and more prone to robberies.
3. If possible, avoid hotels with exterior entrances. If you do have a room with an exterior entrance, make sure that there are multiple locks/bolts and that all are working properly.
4. Always remember that the standard hotel safety rules apply.
-Valet Parking/Taxi: Always remember to check the car/taxi before leaving and remove all personal valuables from the vehicle (eg., jewellry, ipods, music players, laptops, watches, important documents, cellphones, artwork, etc).
-Always lock your room! Yes, these rules apply even if you're going to be back in a minute or are inside your room.
-Leave very important documents/valuables (including laptops, cameras/SLR cameras, jewelery, passport copies, etc.) in a hotel safe or carry them in a concealed money belt/neck pouch. In the better hotels (3 star or above), your luggage is probably safe in your room, in cheaper hotels, consider buying a padlock and if possible chain your luggage to a wall or pole.
-Do remember that Indian hotels follow the normal hotel liability policy (hotels can only be held liable for belongings put in a room safe or the hotel safe deposit center near the check-in desk, unfortunately, hotels ARE NOT responsible for belongings taken from your room). If something is taken, report it to the hotel immediately and consider filing a police report.
-Always ask who's at the door before opening and be very wary of unsolicited service calls. If you are really unsure, call up the hotel's front desk and ask whether the service person is supposed to be at room.
Taxis and Taxi Scams:
1. Taxis in India aren't 100% safe, like they are in many other countries. Taxi drivers pull a wide-variety of scams and even robberies/assaults have happened. Here some tips on how to avoid troubles with taxis.
2. As I said above, when coming from the airport, use the pre-paid taxi service from the Delhi Police and don't hand the recipt to the driver until you reach your destination.
Remember even the pre-paid booths run by the Delhi Tourist Police isn't free of scams. The most common one is to tell the customer the price and then wait for the customer to get out their money. If you hand them an Rs. 500/- note, there will be a moment's silence while the Rs. 500/- note is quickly exchanged with an Rs. 100/- note. The cashier will then say that you need to pay more money for the journey. The best way to avoid this is to ask for a printed receipt and re-confirm the price and destination, before handing your cash over, in addition, saying the value of the money is a good idea.
Though pre-paid booths won't fleece you, like free-roaming taxis, expect them to overcharge you. Using google maps or another tool, calculate the approximate distance from the airport to your hotel by two or three different routes. Black & yellow taxis cost around Rs. 15/- per km. plus Rs. 10/- per luggage. From 11:00 pm to 5:00 am, taxis use night fares, which are 25% more than the normal fares.
Radio Taxis are around Rs. 18/- to Rs. 20/- per km.
3. Avoid using the yellow & black taxis or auto-rikshaws late at night, stick to the private radio taxi companies like Meru Cabs or EasyCabs as they are monitored by GPS and are much safer.
4. If two people are sitting in the front of the taxi, don't take it and firmly refuse if the driver wants to pick up other people on the route. This is a common tactic of thieves to outnumber you. Many people have ended being robbed/assaulted.
5. Unless you're taking a radio taxi, don't go by the meter. Meters are often old-style analog one's, which can be easily rigged. Agree on the fare before going and refuse if the taxi driver wants to take you to other places near your destination.
6. One of the most common scams involving tourists is where the taxi driver will tell you that your hotel is completely booked, has shut-down, burned down, had a name-change, etc. The driver will ask you to make a phone-call from a local phone booth. The phone booth is often rigged and the person on the other end of the line will tell you that your hotel is closed or over-booked. They will then try to sell you accommodations at much more expensive prices.
If you have your hotel booked, simply use your cell phone to call the hotel and make sure your reservation in intact. Refuse the taxi driver's offers and if the driver starts getting pushy or aggressive, pay the taxi driver for how much of the journey has been completed and find another taxi. Even auto-rikshaw and rikshaw drivers aren't past this.
7. If you're going on a very-long journey with a driver or taxi, try to map out as best as possible your journey. Taxi drivers love going in circles, especially when the meter is running!
8. All official taxis in India will have a yellow license plate. White license plates are reserved for non-commercial vehicles.
For Female Travellers:
Delhi is usually a pretty-safe city and even most solo-female travellers won't face many problems. Delhi does have a high rape rate ,compared to the rest of India. Women travelling in groups or with a male companion will likely face no problems. Here are some tips:
1. Dress conservatively and wear relatively loose clothing. Not only will it be more comfortable, but you'll be a lot less likely to attract attention. For instance, long pants and shirts than cover the shoulders are recommended. Tank-tops, tight jeans, skinny or short-shorts are generally inappropriate.
2. You will notice that even some people on beaches are fully-clothed, however, on most of the popular beaches it's perfectly acceptable to wear western style swimwear.
3. In India men and women generally talk to each other from a distance. Even saying hello is done from a distance and the most liberal you'll see it, is to shake each others hands. Most Indians consider hugging outside of a relationship to be inappropriate.
4. Outside in public avoid frivolous conversations with men, as they might perceive this is as a deep interest. Most Indian women avoid frivolous conversations with strangers. Making friends with Indian women, on the other hand, is easy and will often make for a more interesting trip.
5. If a man, who you're talking to starts touching you, tell them firmly that you're not interested and this should be enough to deter them and they will behave normally. In the rare instance that they continue firmly grab their hand and push it aside and move away or shout at them.
6. Delhi is a very crowded city and you may feel people brushing up on you in lines or very crowded areas. Simply give a little nudge and this should be enough. Some women have reported being groped in busy areas or receiving lewd remarks. If you feel that you're being groped, don't be afraid to the give the person a stiff whack or to shout at them. Ignore lewd remarks and continue walking.
7. This may seem obvious, but don't follow any unknown or recently befriended men to unknown areas. Many women have been robbed or raped doing this.
8. Wikitravel says that women may want to carry mace, pepper spray and a whistle when travelling alone. These likely are good suggestions, but can be a little overkill. A simple bump or accidental touch in a busy area isn't groping. Only use pepper spray or mace when you're pretty sure you're in danger. You can get into a lot of trouble for using mace or pepper spray on an innocent person.
9. Remember statistics and general perceptions about any city can be extremely deceiving. Delhi does have a high rape-rate, however, most of these were probably avoidable. For instance, some of the rape cases involved solo travellers on the roads late at night, a woman following a recently befriended stranger to a strange area, etc. It's extremely rare for break-in rapes to occur in Delhi.
India is a developing nation and not all sectors of the population have seen the benefits of the recent economic boom. Therefore, India has a large impoverished population and unemployment can be high (~15-20%). The Indian government has set up numerous programs to help teach impoverished people skills or to educate them. Unfortunately, some people may find begging more profitable.
Beggars in India can be a disturbing site and many will go as far to follow you and touch you. It does little good to say "No," the best thing to do is to simply keep walking and ignore the person.
Beggars have numerous scams, such as middle-aged men sharing crutches and bandages, pretending to be disabled, children will often take turns holding a baby and begging (though the child's mother is much older and is alive), or a beggar will hand you a cheap knock-off of something and then won't take it back, etc. I rarely give money to beggars in India, but if I see a person in a truly bad situation, such as being visibly injured or deformed or malnourished, I will give about Rs. 10-20/-. Don't give more than that or you will be hounded by other beggars.
In addition, you can donate to several charities or support the government programs, which help poor people in India.
There are a ton of scams in India ranging from cheap tricks to full out frauds. I have talked about some of the more common ones above. Here are some more, scams change frequently and checking out Lonely Planet's website at:www.lonelyplanet.com or checking Google under "Common Indian scams" is a good idea.
1. The official tourist office at the Delhi Railway station: There's a tourist office at the main Delhi Railway station, which is located upstairs, but many tourists don't realize this and are tricked into going to other travel agencies who will fleece tourists trying to buy rail tickets.
2. The helpful railway official: You'll notice an official-looking railway official who will go out of their way to help you with bags, confirming your reservations, etc. Then when it comes time to board your train they demand a large sum of money or they'll confiscate your stuff.
First of all, no railway official will go out of their way to help you, they're too busy doing their jobs. Official luggage porters will help you, but won't offer you travel advice or confirm reservations.
3. The distraction: One main trick of pickpockets is to use some sort of distraction to get your wallet. You may be walking along and some kid sprays ketchup or mustard on you and then someone very helpful comes to help you, the only help they're providing is a cover for someone to steal your wallet. This has become less and less common.
Bumping or using a loud argument are other ways for pickpockets to create a distraction.
4. The Gem Scam: A nice Indian family will befriend you on a journey and ask you for a small favor, the need to deliver gems or diamonds to their relatives in the US, Canada, or UK and in exchange for trusting you with their valuable diamonds they ask for your bank account number. Your bank account will be emptied and you'll end up with worthless polished glass.
5. The "Beware of Pickpockets" sign: If you see this sign, whatever you do don't grab your wallet. Although much more common in Latin American countries, pickpockets hang around these areas and wait for people to check if their wallets are there. Thus, giving away the location of your wallet.
How are the Delhi Police?:
Unfortunately, the quality of police officers varies drastically from country to country. In some countries officers are hard-working, trustworthy individuals, in others they are corrupt, lazy, and buffoonish.
The Delhi police is the main police force in the NCR (National Capital Region) and has about 48,000 fully-trained officers for civilian policing about 12,000 VIP officers for protecting politicians and foreign diplomats and about 10,000 entry-level constables (constables don't have much authority and are armed with lathis or thick wooden sticks). The Delhi traffic police enforces traffic rules and generally wears a white uniform with blue pants.
The Delhi Police wears a khaki uniform, adorned with rank designations, and the shoulder emblem says will say DP on it. Delhi Police officers also wear a cap with the Delhi Police official emblem on it. Here's a picture of a Delhi Police officer: http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/41138000/jpg/_41138738_delhidemo2_203crap.jpg
Despite the best efforts of the government, corruption and inefficiency are prevalent throughout the Delhi police. In India, you'll notice that many locals refer the police as the "pull-is" or "pull-lice," this is the Hindi word for police. Here's some tips on how to deal with the Delhi Police, if you ever have to use their services.
Dial 100 for police assistance during an emergency. Recently the Delhi Police has added CLI (Caller Identification Technology), so if you're dialing from a land-line phone, the police will likely know your location. If you're dialing from a cell phone either dial 011-100. Otherwise, dial the universal emergency number 112 and it should get directed to the police control room. Unfortunately, most Indian police departments don't have the technology to trace cell phones, so you will have to state your location if you call from a cell phone.
All 100 calls are routed to what's known as a PCR or Police control room, where dispatchers are stationed 24/7. The standard rules apply, try to stay calm and describe the emergency as best as possible and don't be frightened if the operator continues to ask questions.
Remember 100 is for emergencies only and isn't a universal emergency number like 911, 112, 000, or 999. For an ambulance dial 102 or a local hospital, for the fire department dial 101. Police response times in Delhi are slow, even for crimes in progress, the police may take 10-30 minutes to respond. For police assistance during non-emergencies go down to the police station.
Other Police related tips:
1. For large thefts over $150 it's better to report them at your local police station, this is not for the faint of heart. You'll notice that some police officers may be rude and ask you a lot questions about your stay, where you were, how the thieves got your belongings, etc. You may feel that you're being treated like a criminal, however, remain patient, the police use this technique to filter out scammers who waste the police's time. Try to obtain a copy of the FIR (First Information Report) or the preliminary report, these may be needed for insurance purposes.
2. If you're raped or are the victim of a violent crime, definitely report it to the Police. The police tend to be much more helpful in these types of crimes and make sure you can provide as many facts of about the incident as possible. Don't take a bath or try to wash off, as you may lose critical evidence.
3. If you happen to be a witness to a crime, it's perfectly acceptable to approach police officers at a crime scene. If you're not a witness, it's best to stay away and let the police conduct their preliminary investigation(s).
4. Many scammers routinely pay bribes to the police and the police will often be of no use if you're the victim of a scam.
5. If you're taxi driver or tour guide is involved in a traffic violation, you may notice that the driver is willing to pay a bribe. Unfortunately, this is normal as traffic courts move extremely slowly.
6. In some areas, a special tourist police force has been set up to protect tourists from harassment, this is known as the Delhi Tourist Police. If you ever feel harassed or threatened, approaching the tourist police is a good idea. Some policemen/policewomen can be rude and indifferent, whiles others can be very helpful. So it does no harm to seek assistance.
7. Like the US, certain crimes are categorized. In the US, we have misdemeanor (less severe) or felony (more severe) crimes. Similarly, in India, you will see non-cognizable (less severe) and cognizable crimes.
8. The Delhi police has two types of units, PCR vehicles and traffic enforcement vehicles. Traffic enforcement vehicles deal mostly with traffic rule enforcement and traffic accidents. PCR (Police Control Room) vehicles often patrol the streets and respond to emergencies. Traffic police vehicles will likely say interceptor, Delhi Traffic Police:"We want you safe," on them. PCR vehicles will have clear "Police" marking and will say "Delhi Police: With you always." If you need police assistance on the street, always approach a local police station, or a PCR van. Unlike many countries most Indian police vehicles are SUVs, in addition, some units use Hyundai Accent cars.
9. Most Delhi police officers know some basic English, many of them even have a full grasp of the language. So the language barrier should be no problem.
If you are suspected of a crime:
Some tourists think that by committing a crime in a foreign country, they won't be subject to that country's laws. WRONG!
As a tourist you're subject to all of the rules and regulations of the country you're visiting. Your country's embassy can intervene on your behalf and try to provide you legal assistance (at your expense), but they won't get you out of trouble. Be warned, Indian penalties for drugs, drunken behavior, and vandalism of public property can be quite strict.
In India suspected criminals don't have the right to remain silent and are expected to answer police questions and Indian police interrogations are more harsh than those of their western counterparts. In India, you do have the right to seek legal counsel and ask that your country's consulate or embassy be informed of your arrest. As always, with police investigations, think before your speak (don't joke with officers), state the facts, and don't try to prove your innocence to a police officer.
If you're ever suspected of a crime in India and didn't do it, don't ever confess. A confession is almost impossible to overturn in a court of law. Indian courts are pretty good for a developing nation, if you didn't do a crime and are accused of it, you'll probably be able to use your legal counsel to get out of it.
What can your embassy/consulate do for you?:
Most embassies can provide you with a good deal of assistance, but they have their limitations and everything will be done at your expense, the embassy isn't responsible for paying your medical bills, lawyers fees, damages, etc. Embassy serve citizens of their particular country and the general public. For instance, the US embassy in India serves American citizens, promotes America among Indians (by public gatherings about American Democracy, politics, etc.), helps Indian citizens with US visa issues, etc.
1. If you lose your passport and have a photocopy of the first page and your Indian visa, you're embassy can help you quickly get a new one. Some embassy issued passports last only a year and you'll have to get a new one once you go back.
2. They can provide tourist advice on where to go, health & safety advice, etc.
3. They can help you get proper medical assistance should you need it (of course at your own expense). Use the embassy for non-emergencies For medical emergencies in India, either contact your hotel or get the attention of people on the street. See the "medical emergency" section above.
4. If you're accused of a crime, the embassy may choose to have a representative meet with you, inform you about the local legal system, and your rights, inform family or friends back home of what has happened, and provide you with a list of attorneys you can turn to for help.
If you feel that you have been mistreated by the local authorities, inform your embassy's representative immediately. In most cases, your embassy/consulate will not interfere with your investigation and let the local legal system take its course. If extenuating circumstances exist and the crime is severe enough, your embassy/consulate may get involved in your case. Again, don't expect the embassy to pay a dime of your legal bills.
5. If you die (hopefully this will never happen to anybody!): The embassy can help identify you and notify family members and help them arrange for transport of the body (again they won't pay for this, nor for funeral services).
Do I need traveller's insurance:
Traveller's insurance is often an unnecessary expenditure, as most tourists never end up needing their services. However, if you unfamiliar with India or have a medical condition, which can lead to expensive medical bills. Traveller's insurance may be a good idea, remember if you want the insurance to cover your flight(s) you will pay more.
If you do buy traveller's insurance make sure you know what you're getting in the package. Some travel insurance may not cover for all inconveniences like lost baggage, misconnections, or may have a limit on health expenditures. Always ask questions before purchasing.
Here are the New Delhi emergency numbers:
Fire Truck: 101
***Remember Indian emergency response times can be slow, many times 12-30 minutes for a police car to arrive or upwards of 25 minutes for an ambulance.
Oh my gosh, how am I ever going to stay safe and healthy in India and how to avoid being paranoid:
Ok, so yes India has a lot of scams and pickpockets, it has some health risks, power outages are frequent, and police officers can be corrupt and reading this can be frightening. India has several positives too, like a magical culture, high acceptance of diversity, genuine and very helpful people, a hospitality tradition that even many Asian countries would be hard-pressed to match, etc.
If you look at many of tips and warnings, these problems can mostly avoided by keeping a level-head and using good judgement and it's highly unlikely that you're going to need every part of this review. Nearly 98% of tourists have absolutely no problems in India every year. Even the best, including myself, can sometimes get tricked by con artists, but the thing to remember is if you lose a few rupees to an expensive shoe-shiner or a merchant sells you a little bit of overpriced merchandise, it doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things.
The best piece of advice I can give about going to India is to relax, take in the wonderful parts of the country, be prepared and alert, and don't fret if everything isn't perfect.
What you should avoid and hopefully this guide will help you avoid are the big and dangerous scams which can cause you major financial damage or get you in trouble.
Indian Customs and Respect:
Indians are generally very respectful of tourists and are generally willing to provide information.
The traditional method of saying Hello in India is "Namaste," typically it's accompanied by putting your hands together with a slight bow. Most Indians know English, so even a simple "hello" will do, but many Indians appreciate if tourists try to follow local customs even if they're not 100% correct.
Indians value books very highly and don't like seeing books thrown on the ground, sat on, etc.
Indians also despise people who put their feet on seats or even those who enjoy sitting cross-legged on chairs. If you accidentally kick an Indian guest while sitting make sure to apologize, it's extremely rude if you ignore the situation.
If you are ever invited to an Indian person's home, always remember to bring a small gift. The gift is basically a token of appreciation for the effort your hosts put in for arranging the party/meal. The "gift" can be something as simple as a basket of fruit (fresh mangoes, apples, oranges, kiwi, grapes, peaches, cherries, or strawberries are good choices), a box of chocolates/Indian sweets, a small children's toy (if the family has small children), or as elaborate as an expensive bottle of wine. Typical price range for gifts in India is Rs. 500/- to Rs. 1000/- (US $10 to $25). If your host family takes you out to a restaurant, you probably don't have to give a gift, but make sure you offer a return treat before you leave. If you're unable to provide a return treat, give a small gift at the end of the meal. In addition, if you recieve a gift, always open it after the other party has left.
Another Indian cultural quirk is the concept of "joot or jhoot." (it's pronounced pretty much the way it's spelled, but remember to elongate the -oo sound). Indians are generally very strict and won't eat anything that has been eaten by another person. Therefore, if you enjoy the meal, just be sure to say that you enjoy the meal, but don't make an offer to share it. In addition, always use the spoon to help yourself to snacks you're Indian hosts may provide and never put your hand that has been if your mouth back into a bowl of food.
Indians typically playfully "fight" over who's supposed to pay the bill at a restaurant and if you go out with an Indian family its perfectly normal to insist that you pay the bill. In India most people never split the bill, so if your Indian guest pays the bill this time, make sure you pay the next time. These rules don't apply if your Indian guest has already told you that the meal is their treat to you.
While eating a meal it's a common thing in India to dip your nan or piece of bread into the curry. Just make sure you use your right hand for the practice. Indians love mixing curry with rice and don't feel ashamed to the same. Most educated middle class Indians follow Western standards in terms of manners and use silverware to eat their meals, in some Indian homes meals are sometimes eaten on the floor, although most now prefer eating on tables.
Conversation topics and what to avoid:
Indians generally enjoy talking with tourists and have no problems discussing a wide-variety of topics. If you have any questions about India or Indian culture, most Indians will be more than happy to address them.
A few topics to avoid: definitely avoid discussing the India-Pakistan tensions, Kashmir, and terrorism in India as they can get heated. Indians are very curious about other cultures and may ask lots of questions about your native country.
Try and be respectful of the cultural and social differences between India and your native country, avoid comments like "in my (country) things are so much more organized," though these responses may be innocent, you'll get the indifferent response of "if you expected India to be the same as your country, then why did you come."
Tipping in India is nowhere as common as it is in the US, but it still does exist.
Restaurants-expect to pay about 10% of the total bill. If your total bill exceeds Rs. 1,500/- you can probably reduce the tip to 7-8% of the bill. If the bill exceeds Rs. 2,500-3,000/- you can probably reduce the tip rate to about 5%.
Hotel Staff: Tip about Rs. 15-20/- per bag if the bell boy carries your luggage to your room.
Room service staff appreciate an Rs. 10-30/- tip for their service.
Taxis: Tipping of taxi drivers is uncommon, nor is it expected, but you can tip Rs. 30/- to Rs. 50/- if you feel the driver went above and beyond what you expected.
Internet Cafes: You don't need to tip an attendant stationed at a xerox shop, STD/ISD call station, or at an internet cafe.
If someone from a store helps carry your purchases to your car or taxi, you can tip around Rs. 10-20/-
Crossing the Street:
Ok, so you probably think I'm crazy, I talking about how to cross the street! Well, I'm not.:-) In India look both ways before crossing; overtaking, by crossing lane markers, is common and if you don't look both ways you may be surprised to see a car heading in your direction from the wrong side.
Unlike the US and Canada those nice little buttons and cross-walk signs are exceptionally rare as are traffic lights on light-traffic roads. On busy streets crossing the road may be harrowing experience as locals just begin crossing the road in the middle of oncoming traffic and drivers just avoid them. Many busy roads have nice little pedestrian tunnels below them called Subways locally, so use those. If none are available and there are no designated cross-walk follow the large crowd of locals. Remember some Indian drivers can be crazy and will run red lights and think nothing of it, so be aware when crossing even at designated pedestrian crossings.
www.xe.com (exchange rates)
www.timeanddate.com (The world Clock)
www.tripadvisor.com (lots of hotel & restaurant reviews)
Visiting New Delhi should be a majestic and wonderful experience. I truly hope that the information provided here will prepare you for your journey, so you'll avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Comments and feedback are always greatly appreciated :-)
Copyright 2009 by rohank4284 and epinions.com