The hub of India where old and new meet and different worlds coexist, Delhi is immediately overwhelming but not to be missed. You'll see hundreds of rickshaws in traffic jams alongside SUVs, women in traditional saris and the latest fashion and temples of multiple religions. If you can embrace the chaos, you'll walk away enchanted.
Schedule a two hour workshop with Delhi Dance Academy to learn three types of Indian dance - bollywood, bhangra and garba. Instructors choreograph a set for each type and when you're good and ready (or as good as you will be) they'll video your performance to save as a keepsake. Be prepared to sweat - this is a workout!
The beauty of Delhi is entirely in the culture and day-to-day life of the locals. You'll see other tourists but this is a city that moves to it's own rhythm with little influence from the foreigners that visit. Join Reality Tours for a morning excursion through Old Delhi - you'll be see the markets opening and explore local backstreets.
You'll also observe workship at the Sikh Temple, followed by a communal lunch of chapatis with temple visitors. You'll even be able to lend a help in making the food (although I was complete rubbish at this - outdone by fellow Londoner and guy with hands twice my size! The ladies were not impressed.)
Importantly, 80% of profits go back to development so you won't just be passing through, you'll be contributing.
As intriguing as Old Delhi is, it's that much more exhausting. Following your tour, stop to relax at a gorgeous haveli in the middle of Chadni Chowk. You enter Haveli Dharampoura from an almost secret doorway that leads into a old-world style hotel. On the roofop is the Lakhori restaurant with yummy snacks. Try the haveli special dahi puri (pictured above.) Ask a waiter to show you the view on the next level roof and point out the sights.
Coffee lover since university, I haven't gone many days without the morning cuppa...until Delhi. Not many baristas can compete with the drink brewed up by the local chai-wallah on the street. Each chai-wallah has their own unique method/mixture, with the best ones being known among the community. A random stop usually won't disappoint but see if you can get a local recommendation.
This is more flexible for men but women should dress conservatively. I'm not a fan of this but it is in respect to the local culture and will save you loads of comments and stares. On more casual days, I did jeans with short-sleeved shirts or leggings with a long shirt/sweater that covered my hips. I was also careful about what I worked out in if doing an outdoors workout. For more formal activities or dress up, I did a short sleeved dress that reached to the knees and a scarf to cover up the neckline.
The heat can become unbearable in India. As such, it's best to travel during the more moderate times of the year - especially if you're a women since you'll need to layer up clothing. Try January through March for the North and November - March in the South. After April, it becomes too hot and monsoon season is July to September. We did early February for both regions and it was perfect.
Most activities, food, transportation and overall living will be cheap in India. However, one are that you may want to consider investing in is where you stay. India is hectic. India can be sweltering hot. India is tiring. Give yourself the gift of a clean room with good service. The value for money can be exceptional.
India is famous for the "delhi belly" that inflicts many foreigners - especially during a first-time visit. I was very lucky to avoid this but also extremely careful. Drink only bottled water. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Stick with food that has been boiled for the first few days of your trip (you may want to do so the entire time.) Most importantly, load up on probiotics a month or two before your trip. I had acidophilus twice a day for the month leading up to my flight. This is available at most pharmacies.
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