How could anyone ever find the words to describe New Delhi? It’s a mad, bustling, beautiful mammoth of a city. If you’ve never spent time in India, be prepared to experience things you’ve never experienced before – and perhaps never even imagined existed.
For a traveller, the city undoubtedly offers a world of adventures – new sights, new sounds, new smells and new ways of being. But at the same time, it can be quite confronting. To get the most of out of your trip, it’s a great idea to do some preparation before leaving home.
Drinking and eating
Let’s start with the most important point: your health. After all, you won’t be having much of a holiday if it’s not in good order. You’ve no doubt heard numerous stories of intrepid travellers who’ve ended up spending at least one day in bed, suffering from the (best-not-described here) effects of unwanted bacteria. There’s no such thing as a watertight guarantee against such an occurrence, but you can take some precautionary steps.
First of all, it’s highly recommended that you consume bottled water only, ensuring that it’s sealed at the point of purchase. If you order juice, soft drinks or alcoholic beverages, insist on having no ice and no added water.
The problem with food is that it’s not exactly easy to figure out the hygienic standards of a restaurant kitchen by looking at it from the outside. Having said that, a large, consistent crowd is often a good sign. The locals have had enough time to work out what’s good from what’s trouble. Apart from that, cleanliness tends to more emphasised in the wealthier, more developed parts of town, where tourists and international business people spend time.
Finding somewhere to stay
Arriving in a place without having booked any accommodation can be an adventure, that’s for sure. But in a busy place like Delhi, where touts abound, it can also prove a major hassle. Try making decisions on the spot when one person after the other is offering an ‘amazing deal’. What’s more, a place might be represented in a particular light, but turn out to be quite different in reality.
Your safest bet is to book a hotel in Delhi in advance – at least for the first few days. That way, you’ll be assured of easy transfers from the airport and at least a couple of nights’ restful sleep in a secure, peaceful environment. Remember, too, that, although luxury accommodation might be out of reach in your home country, it’ll be much more affordable in India. It can be a good excuse to pamper yourself.
What to wear
Even though mini-skirts and singlets are the norm in Western cities, that’s not the case in Indian urban areas. You’ll soon notice that the majority of people – and women, in particular – keep most of their flesh covered. Sure, it might seem sexist or strange to you, but that doesn’t change the facts. Wandering around in skimpy attire can elicit an array of reactions – from the scowls of those who find it offensive or disrespectful, to the unrelenting stares of those who find it fascinating.
If you’d prefer to avoid such attention, you’re best to dress like the locals do. To make that as much fun as possible, wrap yourself in a beautiful silk saree. They’re available in an extraordinary selection of colours and patterns and remain comfortable in hot weather. By the way, if you’re fair-skinned and blonde, you’re likely to be looked at, whatever you do, but try not to feel offended or become aggressive – you’re merely a point of difference and, therefore, of intense interest.