Travel Info – New Delhi

Travel Info - New Delhi

By Plane

Indira Gandhi International Airport, (IGI, IATA: DEL), located in the west of the city, is the arrival point for many visitors into Delhi. Once notoriously bad, since privatization the airport has been extensively revamped and, with the opening of Terminal 3 in 2010, has been transformed into a thoroughly modern facility equivalent to the best airports in the world.

Delhi Airport has no less than six terminals, but only two are currently operational:

  • Terminal 1D, also known as “Palam” or “Domestic”, is used only by low-cost carriers IndiGo, GoAIR and SpiceJet. (Oddly, their flights arrive at neighboring Terminal 1C)
  • Terminal 3, the enormous main terminal, is used by all international flights and all full-service domestic carriers including Jet Airways, Air India, and Kingfisher.

A free shuttle bus operates between the two every 20 min. While the terminals share the same runways, connecting between the two requires a massive detour via a nearby highway, so allow plenty of time to connect.The Delhi Airport Metro Express (DAME) is a Delhi Metro train line from New Delhi Metro Station to Dwarka Sector 21, passing through the airport. Its operating timings are from 5AM-11PM every 20 minutes (as of April 2011). In the future, the trains may run 24 hr/day. The one-way fare between the airport and New Delhi Metro Station is Rs 150. The journey time is 20 min. From the railway station, you can transfer to the Metro (it’s a bit of hike though), continue by taxi, or simply walk to backpacker ghetto Paharganj.

There are also public buses to and from the city throughout the day and night. Travel time is approximately 50 minutes. There are two bus companies: Delhi Transport Corporation (green-yellow buses) and EATS (white-blue buses). The EATS (Ex Serviceman’s Airlink Transport Service) Buses run to ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal) near Kashmiri Gate, Connaught Place, Delhi Train Station and many hotels in the city centre, departing from both airport terminals every 60 minutes from 10AM-11:10PM. The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) offers 8 bus routes to both the city center and the more outlying areas of Delhi. Tickets can be bought and a fixed seat can be booked at a desk in the Arrivals Hall. One way fare for both companies: Rs 50 per adult, Rs 25 per child below 12 years, Rs 25 for heavy luggage.

If you’d prefer to go directly to your destination and are willing to sit around in traffic, or are arriving on the many long-distance flights that land in the dead of night, take a taxi. The easiest and safest way is to arrange transport ahead of time through your hotel (some hotels provide this service for free). Alternatively, you can pay for a taxi at the prepaid taxi booths in the international terminal. Prefer the pre-paid booth run by Delhi Police. Depending on the destination, they will ask you to pay the taxi fare to them, which they later pay to the taxi driver after he shows a receipt from you proving that you were taken to your destination. The pre-paid booths are visible as soon as you exit customs. The one on the left is managed by the Delhi police. You may be approached by touts offering pre-paid taxis; just ignore them and ask someone the direction to the Delhi Police prepaid taxi kiosk or booth managed by the cops. To the right of the exit door are private taxi operators. They are more expensive but the cars are air-conditioned. The number of the taxi assigned to you will be on the receipt. Then, go straight through the airport and turn right immediately outside the front doors and someone will help you find your taxi. There are several options, but the booth operated by the “Delhi Police” is considered the best, with non-A/C taxis to most points in the city for Rs 200-300.

Do not give the receipt to the driver until you get to the destination as this is what they are paid on. Also, ignore the explanation of the driver for additional payment. There is no practice of tipping taxi drivers anywhere in India. When you reach your destination, take your baggage first, then give the driver the receipt and walk away without further discussion.

There is a minor problem with this system. As there is a checkpoint manned by the traffic police just as your taxi moves away from the airport, you will have to give the receipt to the driver, who will hand it over to the police, who will record the taxi number. Make sure that you get the receipt back from the driver only after you have safely reached your destination.

When leaving Delhi from the international terminal, you should show up three hours before your flight is scheduled as security is tight. For domestic flights two hours should be enough. While sometimes time-consuming, the process is smooth, and the new terminal’s shops and restaurants are sensibly located at the gate area, not before security. However, if you wish to change Rupees back into foreign currency, you must do this before clearing security.

During the winter (Dec-Jan), Delhi often experiences dense fog and visibility is reduced considerably, making it difficult for flights to land and take off. Both international and domestic flights are often diverted or cancelled, so plan accordingly and allow for one or two days for possible delays.

By Train

Trains arrive at one of four main stations: Delhi Junction, also called Old Delhi or Purani Dilli; the second at New Delhi which lies in Central Delhi; Hazrat Nizamuddin a few kilometers to the south; and the upcoming Anand Vihar station to the east (very few trains use Delhi Sarai Rohilla or Delhi Cantt stations). Delhi Junction and New Delhi Railway Station are now conveniently connected by Metro Line 2, just minutes apart, while Anand Vihar is served by Line 3. It will take about 40 min-1 hr to travel from the New Delhi Railway Station to the airport by car, depending on traffic.

A ticket office open to all is on the road to Connaught Place with longer hours. It often has waiting times not much longer than at the tourist booking office. You will need to know the number or name of the train you want to take. Easiest of all, though, is to book online through the Indian Railways booking website. (Note, however, that you are required to have both an e-mail address AND a mobile phone number that is registered within India in order to access the booking area of the site.)

Once you have purchased a ticket either at the ticket office or online prior to the trip, all you need to do is go to the rail car labeled with your class of service purchased. You can either get on and sit in the first available seat or often times for higher classes of service, they will post a passenger list on the car when it stops. Look for your name and go to the assigned car, cabin and seat. There is never a need to get a boarding pass so if anyone comes out of the crowd to tell you that, don’t listen to them; it is a scam. If you’re brave, you can simply purchase a general 2nd class ticket and then get on any car where there is availability. The conductor will come by and check your tickets after the train starts moving. If you are in a higher fare class than you are ticketed for, all you have to do is simply pay the difference in fare to the conductor. The only risk here is that the train could be full and you could be stuck in the lowest fare class which can be very crowded with little room to sit.

New Delhi Railway Station

The main entrance to New Delhi Railway Station (code NDLS) is located just outside of Paharganj, also known as the backpacker ghetto. The Delhi Metro now connects directly here, but the metro exits are at the Ajmeri Gate (second entrance) side near platform 16. You can also take prepaid rickshaws and taxis from the plaza outside the main entrance.

The station is large, crowded, confusing and packed with touts. Allow one hour to find your train the first time you visit. Don’t trust the electronic display boards, which often show incorrect information. Instead listen to the announcements and ask multiple people in uniform (policemen) until you find your train. However, anyone who approaches you spontaneously should be completely ignored. Use one of the porters (in orange red uniforms with metallic arms badges) to find your train and carry your luggage, in exchange for a tip.

A tourist ticket office called the International Tourist Bureau is open during office hours upstairs of, but still within, the main New Delhi railway station on Platform No.1 (on the side away from the metro). Note that it is only for foreign tourists, so you must have a tourist visa (i.e. student and working visas are not acceptable). Non-resident Indians can also book their tickets through this office. Bring your passport and cash or traveller’s cheques in U.S. dollars, British Pounds or Euros. If you wish to pay in Indian Rupees you theoretically must show an official exchange certificate (from India, not valid if you changed in another country) or an ATM receipt. All ticket bookings require exact change, as like everywhere in India the office has little to no change. If you don’t have exact change, it’s possible after booking to go down to the food stores, buy food to get change, then return and pick up your ticket. To get a ticket, first get a form from the centre of the room and fill it out. Then go to the information desk near the entrance. There, have the clerk check the availability of the train(s) you desire, and fill out your form accordingly. Then line up at one of the two u-shaped lines of chairs for the reservation desks. If you need a bathroom during this lengthy process, there is a relatively clean male and female toilet just outside on the verandah through the side door (the door you didn’t enter through).

Do not trust strangers who appear out of the crowd to help you; ignore them. Always ask for assistance at the enquiry counter or policemen (in uniform).

New Delhi Railway Station also has a pre-paid taxi booth run by Delhi Police. If you are arriving at the station, and want to take a taxi, head to the Delhi Police pre-paid taxi booth. Unfortunately, this booth is at the extreme far north end (about 50 meters from the station main exit) of the taxi parking and you will encounter touts claiming to provide prepaid taxi; just ignore them and find the pre-paid taxi booth run by the Delhi Police which are safe and least expensive. Taxi fare from New Delhi Railway Staion to the Airport should cost you about 400 Rupees.

Delhi Railway Station

Formally Delhi Junction (code DLI), but best referred to as “Old” Delhi Station for clarity. Like New Delhi RS, this station is huge and confusing. The platforms are not in linear order, with some hidden in the west and east wings of the stations. The railway station is served by Metro Line 2 Chandni Chowk station, with an entrance just outside at the east end of the station and also just over the main road outside (last metro at about 23:30). If taking an Auto Rickshaw from here, the prepaid desk will often try and charge you as much as three times the actual price quoted on the official price guide displayed clearly in their window – bargaining is sadly often cheaper.

Hazrat Nizamuddin

Hazrat Nizamuddin (code NZM) is the departure point of many trains heading south. Practically speaking, the only way to get here is by taxi or car. The budget alternative is to take a bus to the Sarai Kale Khan Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) on the ring road and then walk over to the station (400 m). It’s the least chaotic of the Big Three, but still pretty big and poorly signposted; listen to the announcements to figure out your train. The station has a pretty good food court that sells inexpensive, hygienic takeaway snacks including sandwiches and samosas.

If you have some time to kill, pay a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, which is so close to the station that you can hear the announcements from inside – although it’s a long, circuitous walk from the station to the entrance.

Anand Vihar

Anand Vihar Terminal (code ANVT) is Delhi’s newest station, located well to the east of the city near Ghaziabad – Delhi Border. Repeatedly delayed, the station finally opened in December 2009 and will gradually take over all east-bound services. The station can be reached by Delhi Metro Line 3. Anand Vihar Terminal is just opposite to Anand Vihar Interstate Bus Terminal (ISBT).

By Bus

Buses arrive from Kathmandu and Chitwan in Nepal (36 hr+) and virtually every city in India. Although not as comfortable as the trains, buses are the only choice for some destinations, mainly those in the mountains.

Delhi has a confusing slew of inter-state bus termini (ISBT), which all have two names. The Delhi Transport Corporation is the major operator, but every state also runs its own buses and there are some private operators too.

  • Kashmere Gate ISBT (aka Maharana Pratap), Metro Kashmere Gate, Line 1/2. This is “the” ISBT and the largest of the lot. Buses to points north, including Nepal.
  • Sarai Kale Khan ISBT (aka Vir Hakikat Rai), next to Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station. Buses to points south.
  • Anand Vihar ISBT (aka Swami Vivekanand), on the east bank of Yamuna. Buses to points east.
  • Bikaner House, at Pandara Road, India Gate (Central Delhi) provides hourly air-conditioned Volvo buses to cities of Rajasthan (State famous for royal fortified desert-towns) – Jaipur (State-Capital), Udaipur (Lake City), Jodhpur etc. Bus Stop is uncrowded, well-maintained and ideal for luxurious travelling.
  • Mandi House, at Barakhamba Road, near India Gate (Central Delhi) provides hourly air-conditioned Volvo buses to hill-stations of Himachal Pradesh (State famous for Himalayan panoramas) – Shimla (State-Capital), Manali (North-India’s honeymoon destination), Dharamsala (Capital-in-exile of Tibetans) etc. Bus Stop is uncrowded, well-maintained and ideal for luxurious travelling.
  • Majnu ka Tilla Tibetan colony, a short rickshaw ride from Metro Vidhan Sabha. Buses to Dharamsala.

Delhi’s climate is, sad to say, infamously bad, combining the scorching aridity of Rajasthan’s deserts with the frigid cold of the Himalayas. From April to June, temperatures are scorchingly hot (over 40°C is common) and, with every air-conditioner running at full blast, the city’s creaking power and water infrastructure is strained to the breaking point and beyond. Monsoon rains deluge the city from July to September, flooding roads on a regular basis and bringing traffic to a standstill. In winter, especially December and January, temperatures can dip to near-zero which can feel a lot colder because central heating is largely unknown and homes are usually designed with a view to keep cool in the summers rather than warm in the winters. In addition the city is blanketed in thick fog, causing numerous flight cancellations and train delays. The shoulder seasons (Feb-Mar and Oct-Nov) are comparatively pleasant, with temperatures in the 20-30°C range (68-86°F), but short.