We spent three nights in New Delhi to start our two-week trip to India. We also visited Agra, Jaipur, and Udaipur. This was our first time in India and we had a great time! In the next few posts, I’ll give you tips on accommodations, where to eat, and what to see. If you’re lucky enough to travel to India, I hope my tips will help you enjoy your trip as much as I did.
⇒⇒⇒I’m not the best at describing our travels in writing because I’d rather express myself through videos or photography. You’ll need to watch my India episodes on my YouTube channel to see how we liked it. 😉
Where we stayed
We stayed at the YWCA International Guest House for three nights. It isn’t the cheapest accommodation (around $127 for three nights in a double room) but it was clean, spacious and came with a private bathroom. It’s located in Connaught Place, a shopping area conveniently located right on the airport train line. We took the train from the airport and walked a short distance to our hotel.
Connaught Place is just south of Paharganj, another area frequented by tourists since it’s known for its affordable hotels, shops, and restaurants. We had the option to stay here but chose Connaught Place instead. I figured it would be quieter away from the tourist hot spots and based on what we saw when we wandered through Paharganj, I was right!
Thanks to Kuba for these photos of the Paharganj neighbourhood.
Besides spending three nights in New Delhi at the start of our trip, we ended up back in the capital for one night at the very end since our flights to and from India were through New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Since we didn’t want to go sight-seeing again, we booked a hotel close to the airport.
We chose Aerocity Hotel Metropolitan Express because it was within walking distance from the airport train, so we could head to the airport on our own without having to rely on a tuk-tuk or taxi. This hotel cost $38 a night but it was clean and most importantly, it is located next to a 24 Seven convenience store so we were never far from snacks. (That’s the actual name of the place and yes, it’s open 24/7!)
⇒⇒⇒I booked all of our hotels for this trip on Booking.com. If you use my referral link for your next trip, we’ll both get a $20 reward! 🙂
Where we ate 🍴
For our first proper meal in India, we headed to Cafe Turtle for lunch. Their Indian-inspired falafel was delicious but it was fairly pricey compared to the rest of the meals we had while in India. Two Buddha bowls and a Lebanese platter cost $21.49 with gratuity included but since the food was so good, we didn’t mind! The cafe seemed to be primarily for tourists so I guess that’s why the costs are higher. Cafe Turtle doesn’t serve authentic Indian food but don’t worry, we had our fill in Agra, Jaipur, and Udaipur! 😉
Besides that glorious meal at Cafe Turtle, we ate lots of snacks and fruit. We struggled to find grocery stores in the city centre but convenience stores like 24 Seven had some tasty vegan snacks. Most of them were fried and super sweet but we still enjoyed them! For fruit, we visited little fruit stalls on the street.
For coffee, we frequented Starbucks since there was one conveniently located in Connaught Place not far from our hotel. My initial plan while in India was to opt for Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) instead but we didn’t have the best experiences there. (CCD is basically India’s version of Starbucks.) We tried it several times but were disappointed. They have a vegan shake on the menu (basically an iced coffee with soy milk and sugar syrup) and when it’s made correctly, it’s delicious.
Unfortunately, this only happened once even though we visited CCD three times (in different cities) and ordered the same thing. The last time, the barista substituted whipped cream for soy milk since he ran out but didn’t tell us. He was happy to exchange our drinks for plain coffee but we decided to forgo CCD for good and just stick to Starbucks and other local vegan-friendly cafes for the rest of our trip.
Free things to do
We focused on visiting free attractions. I had so many things on our list to visit (free and paid attractions) but we didn’t have enough time to see them all. I used Lonely Planet’s itineraries as my guide. These are super helpful because they give you recommendations for a four-day stay, which you can modify to suit your needs if you decide to spend less time in the city.
This museum is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s life and death. He spent the last 144 days of his life here before he was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948. Gandhi led India’s independence movement against the British and became known as the Father of the Nation. An advocate for non-violent civil disobedience and resistance, he fought for civil rights and freedoms around the world. Gandhi Smriti showcases his few personal belongings and his philosophy.
Lodhi Garden is a massive historical park in New Delhi’s centre. It contains several tombs and buildings constructed in the 15th Century by the Lodhi Dynasty.
Thanks to Kuba for these photos!
India Gate is a war memorial for the 70,000 British Indian Army soldiers who died during WWI.
Ugrasen ki Baoli
This impressive step well was rebuilt in the 14th Century. Feel free to walk down to the very bottom if you don’t mind climbing 108 steps back to ground level. 😉 You can read more about the history of Ugrasen ki Baoli on Atlas Obscura’s page.
Tips for visiting
I’m glad we spent a few days in New Delhi but in the end, it wasn’t my favourite destination out of the few cities we visited. I’d recommend spending a day or two at most in the city or skipping it altogether. New Delhi is convenient as an entry point into India because of Indira Gandhi International Airport but if I could do it again, I wouldn’t stay there. I’d simply book a connecting flight from New Delhi to elsewhere in India and continue my trip.
In general, the cost of accommodations and food (at least when it comes to eating out) were higher in New Delhi than in Agra, Jaipur, and Udaipur. To be clear, we weren’t visiting India on an extreme budget and we didn’t want to stay at the absolute cheapest accommodations. You could definitely visit New Delhi and spend less money on hotels and food but it might not be as comfortable. It all depends on your budget and your personal wants and needs while travelling.
The air pollution in New Delhi was bad but it wasn’t the worst pollution we experienced. The pollution didn’t bother me as much as it bothered Kuba, probably because I take asthma medication every day, but he struggled to breathe in New Delhi and especially in Agra. I’m glad we bought anti-smog masks in Kraków and brought them with us because they worked perfectly. Even though the masks helped, we couldn’t wear them 24/7 so breathing at night (while we slept) was difficult. Fortunately, not all of India’s cities have terrible air pollution; the air in Udaipur was fine. I’m sure if you stay away from the larger cities, or stick to southern India or along the coast, you’ll have fewer issues with air pollution.
Tourist Information Centre scams
Fake tourist information centres are a common scam in New Delhi. We were approached by several people offering directions to these centres. Some would even offer to book accommodations or transportation for us. We knew about this scam before we arrived so we politely declined. Plus, I already booked all of our accommodations and train tickets in advance so we didn’t have to worry about being over-charged.
Cash machines are hard to find!
We struggled to find cash machines in the city. Besides the cash machines at the airport, we only found one in the city that worked with my debit card. Cash machines are just hard to come by in India so if you find one that works, I’d recommend taking out as much cash as you need so it lasts you the rest of your trip!
Is Chandi Chowk worth the hassle?
If you want to be right in the thick of it, walk through Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi! This is one of the oldest and busiest shopping areas. Even though the streets in Paharganj were busy, they weren’t nearly as crowded as Chandi Chowk. We could still stop and take a few photos but that wasn’t really possible in Chandi Chowk because so many people were passing through. I hear Chandi Chowk is good for street food so if you’re into that, it’s worth a look!
- Lonely Planet’s Delhi Travel Page
- Karl Rock’s YouTube channel – Karl Rock quit his job in New Zealand and moved to India to start a new life. I like his videos because they’re informative without drama. He seems like a down-to-earth guy who wants to show you what India is really like—the good and the bad!
Don’t forget to check out my India episodes on YouTube! Stay tuned for more posts about Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. 🙂