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- J-9/13, Rajouri Garden New Delhi, India, 110027
The traffic in Delhi (and all the other places I visited in India) can at best be described as chaotic and challenging to ones senses! It is unruly (it is actually not uncommon that people start reversing on highways because they missed their exit), there is no ‘line driving’ as a friend of mine nicely put it, it is loud because of all the honking, there are barely any functional sidewalks for pedestrians and do not get me started on the demanding task of crossing streets – still somehow it seems to work… One important aspect that takes quite some time getting used to is the level of pollution that literally leaves you breathless. Apparently, Delhi got recently ‘promoted’ to the most polluted city in the world, robbing Hong Kong’s of its top position. Especially when traveling during rush hours it makes sense to cover your face with a scarf to help with breathing and avoid getting all dusty.
Good news is that Delhi has an excellent public transport network with a metro system that can easily keep up with any big Western city. The metro starts at around 6 am in the morning and runs until 11 in the evening and has the huge advantaged of being AC-cooled. Though the trains are hopelessly overfilled during rush hours making it hard to get on and especially off the train, the metro is still a great alternative to being stuck in traffic over ground not moving at all. Also, all trains always have a compartment only for women – usually the first of every train. If you enter those you will have no issues with men staring at and (accidentally) touching you. If you want to enter the women’s compartment you will see it being marked at platforms with pink boards saying ‘Women Only’.
Otherwise a fast and cheap way to get around in Delhi are auto-rickshaws. Every auto in Delhi is required to have a meter installed, unfortunately many of the auto drivers refuse to go by meter and rather hackle with you over the cost of the ride. Especially as a foreigner many of them will try to rip you off. It does make sense to look up the distance you want to travel and get an idea about the average cost of the ride (Rs.25 is the minimum fare which covers the first 2 kilometers and thereafter autos charge Rs. 8/ kilometer). If you can’t agree with the driver to put on the meter or charge a reasonable fare, it is better to turn him down and wait for the next auto which usually is not hard to get. It is also not uncommon that auto drivers refuse to go wherever you want to go to. If you face troubles getting an auto you can also order one via the Ola app. This has the advantage that the auto will not only come and pick you up but it will also go by meter and wherever you want to go. You just have to pay Rs. 10 more than the regular meter prize would be.
Delhi particularly and India in general has a big variety of taxi apps. These taxis are easy to order, will pick you up wherever you are and take you for a usually very good prize, barely more than what the auto would charge you. Though buses are cheap I would not recommend using them since they are mostly overfilled and not the most secure mode of travelling.
If one is feeling courageous, one could go in for a self-driven car. A number of companies rent out self-driven cars in the major cities. All one needs is an international driving permit and a credit card to hire one. It is however not for the faint hearted as the traffic takes some getting used to. In case of traffic violations, it is best to pay the fine against the receipt given by the police. Advice on bribing is best ignored as cheap as it may sound.
Concerning long-distance journeys, India has a great railway network with tickets for affordable prizes. I personally would not go for the cheapest options (3rd class or sleeper) which is without AC, but rather pay a bit more and book AC2 or AC3 which will make your journey a way better experience. Also AC2 and AC3 also have the advantage of better cleaned toilets and the ticket prize already includes a lot of food and drinks that you will get throughout the journey. Every train has a certain amount of tickets reserved for foreigners which are usually slightly more expensive. If you have a local bank account you can buy tickets for normal prizes online, however you will have to buy them way (at least one month) ahead since trains tend to be totally overbooked.
India also has some cheap airlines such as Indigo, Spice Jet, Air Asia, etc. Flying will save you a lot of time and if you buy the tickets in advance they might even be cheaper than the train tickets.