I’ve spent over a year of cumulative time in India, and in those 365 plus days, I’ve learned a lot about getting around Indian cities. My biggest lessons have been learned through being ripped off, particularly by taxi and rickshaw drivers, but that doesn’t mean those are bad ways to travel, as long as you know what you’re doing. Below are the best ways to get around the city of Delhi, India, and tips for how to keep from being the victim of scams.
Taxis in Delhi, India
Taxis are a great way to get around the city of Delhi and chances are, if you arrive to Delhi by plane, as soon as you make it through customs, you’ll be swarmed by Indian taxi drivers. My worst travel experience in India came through a taxi driver at the Delhi airport, but it could have been avoided if I kept the following tips in mind.
At the Delhi airport, be sure to arrange for a taxi to your hotel at one of the two Delhi Traffic Police Taxi Booths. One is inside the airport, and one is outside. The key is to make sure to go to a booth run by the police, rather than by independent taxi drivers. Under no circumstances should you agree to go with a taxi driver who approaches you directly.
A taxi ride from the Delhi airport to Paharganj should run you about 225 rupees, with a 25% surcharge between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Hot tip: After paying at the prepaid taxi booth run by the police, you will receive a voucher with the address of your hotel. The voucher is how the taxi driver gets paid, so do not surrender the voucher to the taxi driver until he gets you safely to your hotel.
Getting Around Delhi, India in Rickshaws
Rickshaws are one of my favorite ways to get around Indian cities, in part because it’s how the locals often travel. Auto-rickshaws are more common, but bicycle rickshaws are still used in Old Delhi. If you do have a chance to take a bicycle rickshaw, you should do it at least once for a unique experience that should only set you back about 15 rupees.
Autorickshaw rates around Delhi range between 30 and 80 rupees, depending on distance. Before leaving your hotel to go to a particular destination, ask at the hotel front desk how much it should cost to take an autorickshaw to your destination. Keep that amount in mind, when haggling over the fare with the rickshaw driver.
Hot tip: Do not get into the rickshaw until you have settled on a price. The rickshaw driver may say something like, “As you wish” when asked about the fare. Do not believe that he really means that you can pay whatever you want. Refuse to get into the rickshaw until a firm fare has been agreed on.
Buses in Delhi, India
If you really want to travel around Delhi like the locals, take a public bus, but be forewarned: Indian buses become very crowded and most do not have air conditioning. They are, however, very cheap. A bus trip won’t set you back any more than 15 rupees, as long as you stay within the city limits. Short bus trips can cost as little as two rupees. I’ve also found that since few tourists take buses, many of the locals are happy to help make sure you get off at the right place, and there really aren’t any scams to worry about.
Hot tip: Since Indian buses get so crowded, try to board the bus at the start of the route so you can get a seat.
Travel by Metro in Delhi
Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The train is a great way to get around within the city of Delhi. Fares are reasonable, between six and 22 rupees. All departure announcements are in both Hindi and English, and tokens can be purchased for between six and 22 rupees. If you plan to use the metro extensively, the best option is to purchase a 1-day unlimited tourist card for approximately 70 rupees, or a three-day card for approximately 700 rupees.
Hot tip: If you’re planning to stay in Delhi more than 3 days, for convenience sake, purchase a Smart Card for approximately 50 rupees. It can be recharged as needed, in amounts ranging from Rs50 to Rs800, and you won’t have to mess with tokens.
Hired Car and Driver
If you want to avoid the stresses of multiple negotiations with rickshaw and taxi drivers throughout the time you are in Delhi, consider hiring a car and driver. This is the best way to have your own personal taxi to take you wherever you want to go.
The driver will take you to each of your destinations and wait for you while you see the sites. It is one of the safest ways to travel within the city of Delhi, but there are limits of a maximum of eight hours and 80 kilometers per day. The cost ranges between Rs700 and Rs1100 per day.
Hot tip: Be sure to use a reputable taxi company. The two listed below have been rated well by tourists.
Kumar Tourist Taxi Service
14/1 K-Block, Connaught Place, New Delhi, India
Metropole Tourist Service
224 Defence Colony Flyover Market (under the Defence Flyover Bridge, on the Jangpura side)
Lonely Planet: India, 2009, pages 160-161