WELCOME TO DELHI
There is this notebook I bought in Argentina, it has been all around with me during my travel to South America. I brought it with me to India, just to start a new chapter of it. So here is what I wrote on the first day I arrived:
October 24th New Delhi
Almost after a year, here I am writing on these pages. This time it’s different. This time is not a short break given in hassle and bustle of life, it’s a step towards a new life! Wow! I mean… wow! I did it. I saved money, I cleared my apartment, I quit my job. Now I am in a different world… Not any place, I am in India. I thought I would panic as soon as I land. I wouldn’t know what to do among smells feeling strange to my nose, people seeming strange to my eyes. Well, that didn’t happen. I had the most peculiar feeling of self-esteem. Neither the steering wheels on the right nor awkward looking neighborhoods succeeded to intimidate me. Knock on the wood, so they won’t…
Well, obviously I have spoken too early. The first two days were ok, because Adriana, a fellow guest in the house I am staying had booked a car and a guide in advance and we decided to go together, splitting the cost. We had a guide with us all the time, so the most surprising thing was locals asking for taking pictures with us. Which was in a way, pleasant. I was mesmerized by the sights, the temples and all the history. Today, I had to deal with the real life. Getting a local cell phone number, taking rickshaws and using metros, buying train tickets. Wandering the streets by myself… Well, let me say it is not easy. India may be the hardest country I have visited so far. Istanbul is an aggressive city, you have to push your way around and you should have your guard on all the time but compared to Delhi, it’s like-excuse my french-Brussels.
So although I am a beginner myself yet, I have a few tips for the India beginners. Especially solo female travelers.
Taking subways: The first two wagons of the Delhi metro is designated for women only. Walk till the front end of the platform until you see the pink signs. This way, commuting is easier.
Taking taxis and rickshaws: Take the picture of the license plate and be sure the driver sees you doing it. If he asks what you are doing tell him that you are sending it to your friend waiting at your destination. You may not have internet plan on your phone but the driver doesn’t know it. This way, they will open the meter and behave.
Wandering alone: If you are caucasian some people will just stare at you, men or women doesn’t matter. Some may want to take pictures of you or have a picture with you. Don’t get pissed of immediately. They mean well. But there are other situations which as a woman you’ll instantly pick up. Ignore them. If it’s not enough just raise your voice. Don’t be polite. This is a straight forward country and as I mentioned agression is a part of daily life.
Train and bus tickets: It’s extremely hard to get a train or bus ticket in India. First you have to have a local cell phone number. Even if you do, to buy a bus ticket online you need a local credit card. So it makes things a little complicated for international travelers.
I am sure you read all the stories on travel blogs. Especially about the fake ticket offices and tourist offices. Well, yeah it happens. So to buy your train tickets to other destinations from Delhi, you have to go to central train station, to platform 1. There you have to take the stairs to the upper floor. There is an international tourist bureau and they are extremely helpful. Don’t go to the travel agents outside the building. You’ll be screwed.
Scams and tricks: There are people who will approach you on the road and start a conversation out of the blue. Be patient and watch where it’s going. It usually ends up in a fake tourism agency or he has a car, offering you a ride. Run!
This is what I experienced and lived by so far.
By the way, India is also full of extremely nice people. People who try to help you and expect nothing out of it. My landladies Asha and Maya, my friend Sebnem’s friend Anchal and Jatnip from Girls Who Travel group helped me so much that I don’t know what would I do without them. Just listen to your gut feeling, it will show you the way.