Just like planning a trip to India, if you are traveling to its capital city you need to be well organized. A huge city, very crowded and at times difficult to navigate, any trip to Delhi requires proper planning, whether you are just staying for a few days on a vacation or for a longer business trip.
From deciding when to go and what to pack to pick the best area to stay, we give you our best tips to organize a great trip to Delhi, the vibrant and chaotic Indian capital, whether it’s for 1 or 4 days.
Check the direct flights
The Indian national carrier, Air India, lands in many international airports, and Delhi being the capital, its airport is very big and hosts several flights daily. On top of that, many international airlines land in Delhi, so you won’t have problems finding a flight. I suggest checking for direct flights as the trip can be wearying and with so many airlines landing and taking off daily, Delhi is directly connected to many world capitals, starting from the UAE to other Asian countries straight to the European continent.
Learn when is the right time of year
A great time to visit Delhi is January and February as it’s their winter and temperatures are chill enough to be pleasant but not too cold. Also, the daily rain is over and you can just enjoy your walks and sightseeing without worrying about carrying an umbrella or wearing a raincoat.
March through May are also nice months to visit Delhi, while I found our summer months July and August less pleasant because it rained every day, even though not for the whole day, making streets and outdoors very humid and a great playground for mosquitoes. So if you really can’t choose and are traveling to Delhi in August, don’t forget to pack a good mosquito repellant.
Check your visa requirements
From Italy, as an Italian passport holder, obtaining an Indian visa for me was petty easy and fast. For other nationalities, like my Afghan husband, things are less smooth. Every nationality has its requirements for the Indian visa so I recommend checking the Indian embassy in your country to make sure you don’t miss any. I had to hand in my passport, fill in a form, provide passport-size photos, and pay a fee. In a couple of days, I went to take my visa directly at the Indian consulate in Rome. If you are not confident enough, you can hire an agency to sort out all the paperwork for you. Similarly, if you are joining a private guided tour to India, the operator will take care of all the logistics, visa applications included.
Use the public transport
Delhi’s traffic is unbelievable. Cars, buses, bikes, motorbikes, carts dragged by skinny boys, people of any age, all in the middle of the streets going everywhere and anywhere careless of other vehicles and crossing the road just whenever they feel like it. Add a frenetic honking all the way, and you have a good picture of what to expect.
I suggest you use local public transport, including buses, as much as you can. If you are brave enough, you can also rent a car or a motorbike, but unless you are confident driving in this chaos, you won’t be getting too far too quickly.
Use Delhi metro as much as possible
As part of local public transport, I strongly suggest you prefer the metro. It’s underground, clean, well organized and reaches far places in much less time than buses and taxis as it operates without traffic. Plus, it has air conditioning, a thing that in Delhi is always appreciated, especially if you are in the hot and humid monsoon season.
Delhi metro is pretty widespread so you will reach several of the attractions on your list fast and far from the traffic noise. It’s also clean, unlike some buses, so another good reason to prefer this to other ways of transportation.
There are a few types of tickets for the Delhi metro. If you think you are going to use it once or a few times only, then probably a single ticket or token is enough. The single token is valid for a single journey and only on the day of purchase, and the cost depends on the journey. If you will use the metro over a short period of time, you can consider buying a tourist card. There are two types of tourist cards, 1-day (150 INR) and 3-day (300 INR). When purchasing the card, you will be required to pay a 50 INR deposit that will be refunded to you when you return the card.
Plan your itinerary
Delhi is huge, so some planning will help you get by at least the first days, and then you can add landmarks and places locals will recommend along the way. I suggest starting with the most famous attractions, especially if it’s your first time in Delhi, and gradually making your way to lesser-known places and less central areas. Old Delhi, Jama Masjid mosque, Red Fort and Qutab Minar always make a Delhi bucket list, but places like Humayun’s Tomb and the modern Lotus Temple are also to consider if you have more time in the city.
Pick the right area to stay
While Old Delhi is a place to visit, I wouldn’t recommend searching for a hotel in this neighborhood. If you are in Delhi for a holiday and your main activity will be sightseeing, definitely, you should look for a hotel in a central area such as the exclusive Connaught Place, one of the favorite neighborhoods for those who want to move to Delhi.
Other areas you can consider to stay in Delhi are Lodhi Colony, Shahpur Jat or Defence Colony. In Defence Colony, we had some pretty great meals. Young travelers and backpackers will absolutely love to stay in Hauz Khas Village for its artsy vibe and exciting nightlife, while brave adventurous tourists can book in hectic Chandni Chowk, the busy shopping heart of Old Delhi.
Pick a good hotel
Just as important as picking a good neighborhood, in India is especially crucial to book a hotel with high cleaning and safety standards. The last thing you want is to relax at your hotel for dinner and then spend the night sick in the bathroom. Getting sick in India is no fun and the right precautions need to be made. Choosing the right hotel is only one of them, but it’s very important. It’s not rare to find cheap Indian hotels that are simply not clean enough, they don’t provide clean bedsheets, rooms or toilets.
India being a hot country means that this can become nasty especially in the rainy season when mosquitoes are aplenty and dengue fever is always behind the corner. There are many good hotels in Delhi that are also affordable so depending on your budget, you can try to find the best accommodation for your needs.
Pack the essentials
When packing for India, there are a few things to keep in mind that apply to Delhi, too. Of course, packing for the capital, a large, modern city, is different than packing for a remote rural area where there are no shops, facilities and services. However, I still suggest packing your most needed essentials also when traveling to Delhi so that you don’t have to rush off to the nearest store for basic supplies. Be it clothes, skincare, or medicines, you want to start your trip in all comfort and safety.
Especially if you are coming from Europe or the US, keep in mind that the medicines you will find in Indian pharmacies might not be the same or carrying the same name as those you take at home. While in Delhi you can find pretty much everything, including high-end brands and cheaper products that are also of good quality, packing the essentials saves you money and time for your sightseeing.
Check out the free attractions
There are plenty of things to do in Delhi, and many of them are also free of charge. Make your way to India Gate, the large gate in Delhi city center, and take a walk around the nearby park, a fantastic way to relax and see a major attraction first-time visitors don’t want to miss. Visit the Lotus Temple for some relaxation and meditation, take a walk around the Hauz Khas village, stroll around Old Delhi or duck into the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum devoted to the former Indian Prime Minister assassinated in 1984.
That’s not all, also Lodhi Gardens are free to access and so are Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah Sufi’s mausoleum, and the crowded Akshardham Temple. Between cheap places and free attractions, a trip to Delhi will generally not be too expensive.