Dirty? Check. Over-crowded? Check. Will I go back? Not anytime soon…
1) It’s easy to fall foul of a scam
Some tourists manage to stay out of trouble, but for many more (me included), being scammed in Delhi is difficult to avoid.
From the airport taxi driver keen to persuade you that your hotel is full, closed down or in a dangerous area, to the unscrupulous, pushy tour agent intent on making a fast buck by re-writing your itinerary for you, the touts are everywhere and you’re their target.
A top tip – if anyone asks you if you’ve been to Delhi before, it’s always better to say yes even if you’ve never set foot on Indian soil….
Don’t accept the first price you’re given. Photo: Matthew Winterburn
2) People are too polite to help…
It’s seen as impolite in Delhi to say you don’t know where something is, so trying to get a straight answer as a tourist can be impossible, particularly when you’re busy running the gauntlet of touts who intentionally want to send you off-track.
As a tourist in India you will stand out, and you will almost certainly be approached countless times by people who want to send you off to their friend’s shop/restaurant/hotel.
This is not only tiring, it means you quickly end up being wary of anyone who crosses your path, which is a real shame when there are some locals who genuinely want to help you.
Ask for help, but don’t expect a straight answer. Photo: Gilus_pl
3) ….but they’re lacking in good manners
You don’t have to wander very far before you stumble across a man urinating against a wall or spitting on the street.
It’s something that might raise eyebrows elsewhere, but not in Delhi. Look closely, and you’ll see the tell-tale, red spit-stains from paan all over the pavement: a Betel leaf parcel most commonly filled with either powdered tobacco or areca nuts and spices, chewed throughout India as a palate cleanser, breath freshener and mild stimulant.
Although the government of Delhi prepared guidelines ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games for residents – warning them not to spit in public or urinate – any good manners seem to have left along with the athletes.
Watch where you walk, there’s a paan stain near you. Photo: Rahul Chhiber
4) Even bad accommodation is expensive
I stayed in some stunning Havelis (private mansions) in Rajasthan that were a complete bargain.
Although you expect hotels in any capital city to be more expensive, in my opinion, $65 a night for a dark, dirty, cold room with no hot water and filthy towels was horribly overpriced.
There might be some decent options in Delhi, but you have to search hard to find them.
Will there be hot water? Photo: EvanLovely
5) Driving is an extreme sport
Even after a long night flight and no sleep, there was nothing about my first Delhi taxi ride that made me want to drift off.
Lanes are painted on the road but completely ignored (my record spot was seven jostling vehicles across three lanes); cars switch lanes erratically with a loud ‘hoooooonk’ rather than an indicator, tailgating comes as standard practice and my driver was more interested in simultaneously chatting to me (“where are you from? Ah Englaaaand…verrrrry good country…first time in India?”), smoking, talking on his mobile and fiddling with the radio than driving.
Truly a white-knuckle ride.
Try a different route if you need to get somewhere in a hurry. Photo: kds1505
6) The winter fog can wreck your plans
The persistent fog that hits India’s capital every winter is a well-known Delhi phenomenon and its effect is far-reaching, with the power to totally disrupt your vacation.
Last year, at least 60 flights were either delayed or canceled and more than 50 trains delayed during a heavy bout of fog, with thousands of people stranded at railway stations and airports.
The fog comes every winter. Photo: Daveybot
7) It’s downright dirty
Most big cities are a bit grubby, but with the pungent stench of sewage, rotting fruit on the ground and the shocking landscape of a never-ending sea of litter as you pull out of Delhi’s train station, India’s capital city is a depressing assault on the senses.
Plastic waste in particular is a massive environmental problem, and it’s a common sight to see cows, pigs and stray dogs chomping through piles of garbage on the roadside.
Litter, litter, everywhere. Photo: Raaf
8) It’s claustrophobic and over-crowded
As a Londoner, I’m used to cramming myself onto public transport in rush hour with hundreds of thousands of commuters but Delhi is in a whole different league – with a population of 15 million people, just walking down the street feels claustrophobic and overbearing.
What’s more, the 10 million or so buses, trucks, cars, auto rickshaws and motorbikes that crowd the city’s roads every day mean getting anywhere takes three times as long as you expect.
Delhi: a good place to be if you’re feeling lonely: Photo: Mckaysavage
Have you experienced a different side to Delhi? Which city tops your most-hated list? Post your comments below and let me know!
If you liked this you might also like: My 8 Favorite Spiritual Places in the World.
Main image: Delhi Bus by DSLR Neil