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So It’s Your First Time In Delhi: Survival Guide

You’ve landed. Depending on where you are coming from it may be very late at night, or early in the morning depending on who you are. Many international flights land in Delhi around 3am.

Now what?

Reading the guidebook cannot fully prepare you for your first run in with India. Dont worry though! I will talk you through it. First thing you want to do is grab your bag, you will notice there is not really adequate seating around the arrivals and baggage pick up gate i.e no sleeping here. Continue out of this section of the airport and arrive into a holding area of many private drivers looking for their passangers and hotel pick ups. If your lucky enough to have this arranged for you jump in and enjoy! You most likely do not need to continue reading…

For the rest of us, look straight out the doors, do you see a massive crowd and an odd haze in the sky making it hard to distinguish if the sun has risen or not? Welcome to Delhi.

Grab a Chai at one of the few cafes and make sure to grab a free couch vs. a seat. You can relax here for a while and no one will bother you.

When its a good time to get going (I wait until about 6am before heading out into a new city) you have a few choices. You can exit the airport and look straight ahead, there is the metro. You can take your chances and negotiate with a cab driver, or you can do what I did and take a prepaid taxi. A prepaid taxi is a regulated service where you prepay for your destination at a counter and your driver takes you there. Once you have arrived you hand the driver the ‘payment’ paper and you are set. This is the most stress free way of taking your first Delhi public transportation because there is no risk of scams and being asked for more money.

There are a few counters for prepaid taxi, inside the airport at the one end near Costa Coffee there is a desk, usually empty, for taxis. Instead if you go outside and cross the road you will see two more yellow huts with signs. Go to whichever is open and buy your ticket.

If a man starts to carry your bags, help with your cart, or lead you to the car: this is your first (and not last) encounter with Delhi ‘touts’ or scams. He is looking for money and will beg for a tip every second he can. Say no, and do not be afraid to stop answering his questions about where you are from, and his insists he is only helping.

Now you can relax for a while, depending on where you are going (most likely Pahar Ganj?) you will pass many indian men and women excercising in the fields that seperate the highway lanes, I think its a good use of space but that would never fly in Canada.

You will pass some extraordinary sights that will stay with you forever. Maybe this will also be your first wild cow sighting!


Thank the driver, tip if you feel like you want to, and take a deep breath in. Walk confidently to your destination and have a well deserved nap.

Basic Delhi Advice:

  • know approx how much a taxi, auto rickshaw, or item should be before attempting to bargain

  • the train station has a tourist office for foreigners buying tickets. it is open everyday including sundays but closes at 2 on sunday. When you approach the train station many people will tell you to go the wrong way, that the office is closed, that there is another office is for tourists down the street, etc. stick to what you know and follow the signs. do not believe the office is closed.

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