New Delhi, India: 4 Days of Adventure
To experience a rich culture is to experience India! According to Mark Twain, "Our most valuable and most artistic materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!" I personally haven't realized how much influence India has had on the world. For instance, we wouldn't know how to count if it wasn't for India! Don't believe me… look it up for yourself; you'll be amazed. From the clothing, spices, and architecture, you are bound to experience and feel the vibrant culture of India, which is why I highly recommend taking that leap of faith and traveling to this beautiful land.
Isa Khans Tomb.
Traveling to India during a pandemic? Probably not recommended for just anyone, but I was able to go for work. Now I am not going to lie… India was a "culture shock" for me. For one, It was my first time exploring Asia, and I didn't just explore the tourist spots but the places that aren't so glamorous. Sadly, there is a lot of poverty alongside art and beauty. Their way of life is dramatically different than in the USA and Europe, something I expected but was not prepared to see. However, don't let this discourage you from going! Every culture/country has its pros and cons. One thing I've learned from traveling a lot is to adjust and embrace the reality of others to enjoy the experience. I always come out more grateful and humble after these experiences as well.
I ended up staying in India for four days; the whole trip took six days because of the flights, so make sure you plan your flights and dates accordingly. Also, if it's your first long haul (10+ hour flight), download all the shows you can think of and bring anything to help you sleep.
What to Wear
One thing I highly recommend is to be prepared for the heat and be prepared to buy clothing when you are there. I only wore everyday western clothing the first day and wore traditional Indian garments the rest of the trip! I highly recommend wearing their garments; they are rich in color, well made, and just all-around beautiful. Additionally, if you are bringing a lot of clothing, just make sure to dress a little conservative; for example, wear long pants and skirts, comfortable sandals, limited jewelry, and don't show a lot of cleavage or shoulders, however, showing midriff is okay! Being that I am curvy, I found it hard to be conservative without looking like a nun, but I managed with some pants that flow, crop tops, and a crochet cover-up... If I can do it, anyone can!
Where to Stay
I ended up staying at the JW Marriott in Aerocity, New Delhi. Now, I'm sure this hotel is excellent; however, I went during the pandemic and want to give my honest opinion. So if you go, just be prepared to sweat! Yes, India is a scorching country! Plus, it didn't help that the hotel turned off their Central Air, so there was no ventilation anywhere but in the rooms. So just be prepared to lose a pound or two from sweating so much. Other than that, the hotel had beautiful rooms and friendly staff. The food at the hotel was decent, but definitely not as good (or cheap) if you eat out of the hotel. Now, I know many people don't like to stay in hotels for many reasons, so If you are looking to cut down on expenses or "get down with the culture" more, there are Airbnbs in India, and sometimes the house host will be a tour guide for you. Just make sure you do your research.
Getting Around and Language
Now for my favorite part, transportation. Hang on for your dear life! I'm not trying to be mean; I'm being honest. There are no rules in India when it comes to driving except stop at lights, don't hit another car/bike/person, and stay on the right side of the road (this one is broken sometimes, though). Also, if you get car sick, don't forget some car sickness pills! Besides that, getting around is relatively easy, there is Uber and it's relatively cheap. On top of that, many people speak English in India, and most things are translated into English near the city and tourist parts of New Delhi.
What to Do, Money, and Food
Even during the pandemic, there were so many things to do in India. One of my favorite activities was going shopping (of course)! There are many markets you can attend; my favorite was Khan Market. This is where I bought a lot of traditional Indian outfits and pashminas for a reasonable price. Also, for my germaphobes out there, everyone at the market was good about wearing a mask, they take your temperature everywhere, and there was lots of hand sanitizer (of course, you should always have your own hand sanitizer as well). We also went shopping at an actual mall called Select Citywalk Mall! Here you can find your Go-To stores like H&M or Sephora, but also some traditional Indian stores, but I must warn you that you will pay a lot more for the items you get at the mall than at the Markets. I'll also mention that everyone here wore masks, your temperature was taken in every store, and the mall promoted social distancing. Even before entering the mall, they spray you down in this full-body machine and take your temperature! I loved it.
With that, if you think the money conversion from US Dollars to Indian Rupees (INR) will be better, it isn't. After researching some stores, I realized I'd be paying the same price as in the USA.
Besides that, I will say the food court at this mall was absolutely AMAZING! They had so many options for food,
Paneer, chicken tandoori wrap! My favorite meals were the paneer and tandoori chicken wraps for only $2! I ate like 5 of them, which comes from a person who doesn't eat Indian food. They also have vegetarian plates for $10 that give you a lot of food. I will say my favorite place to eat during this whole trip was at the mall! Also, remember that in India, they don't eat beef; the cow is sacred there.
Isa Khan Niyazi Tomb.
If you're not into shopping, this is the section for you... Tourist attractions! For Delhi, we did not book a tour ahead of time and didn't use a specific company. Instead, we used a hotel's private driver, which cost about $120 US Dollars for three people. If that's something you don't want to do, I know people will just pay Uber drivers to drive them around or book through actual tour companies. However, I found this to be the best option for me and some co-workers. We could visit Qutab Minar, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi Markets, and Humayun Tomb. I'll also note that you will still have to pay to enter the attractions, which comes to about $8 US Dollars each. These attractions were extraordinary in themselves, rich in color and traditional architecture. You might be wondering, No Taj Mahal?! Sadly no, the temple was closed because of the pandemic. Also, one thing I loved while touring the attractions was that they were all empty, meaning no crowds! This hardly ever happens (one positive outcome from the pandemic, I guess).
A part of the Old Delhi Markets.
If you want to escape the super touristy parts of Delhi, check out Old Delhi. The Old Delhi Markets were eye-opening. There's much to see here, including the textile and spice markets. I'll say business is booming in those areas. Additionally, large cars are not allowed in the Old Delhi Markets due to traffic, so you will most likely have to ride in a Rickshaw car (like I did), a small cart with wheels, and no doors. So, hang on for dear life! I also recommend that you try not to have your valuables hanging out; according to our driver, there is a lot of theft in the area. With that, I will say (because I believe it matters) that there isn't a lot of diversity in Delhi regarding different races. So if you don't look like a native, be prepared to stand out while on these tours. Standing out equals more attention which sometimes isn't a good thing.
For this trip, minus the flight and hotel, I spent about $300, which is about 22,000 Indian Rupees (INR)! This is for food, shopping, souvenirs, tours, and tips! Yes, you tip in India! I also tried to give generously when tipping which increased the price slightly. Now I must admit, I went a little overboard with the gifts and shopping, which would decrease the cost by at least $150, but I figured I might not be here again, so I went all out! Also, most markets, malls, and hotels use credit cards and ATMs to pull money out.