We arrived in Delhi yesterday afternoon and I have got to say that the airport experience was good, not amazing, but good. A short walk from the plane saw us arrive at the ‘foreign passports’ booths as we already had our Indian visas ready to go. 20 minutes queuing and we were through. The Jet Airways flight had delivered on its promises, even if the orange chicken pasta was not quite the cuisine I had expected!
Once we had collected our luggage, our attention turned to money as we tried to work out where success would be most likely. We headed through customs towards an ATM machine, only to discover that this had no cash. The next ATM, no cash, and the next and the next – still no cash. Luckily we noticed a foreign exchange outlet in the airport, that actually had some cash! We managed to exchange the full daily limit of 4,700 rupees each, so £120 later we had 9,400 between us – a good start. Thankfully Scott had brought some cash with him as the card machine was broken at the exchange. I guess we were starting to get to grips with the nuances of travelling to a country like India!
Heading out of the airport, we took a stroll towards the well-signed modern metro. Getting to New Delhi from the Airport couldn’t have been simpler and, after purchasing a token each (60 rupees), we were on the train. A few blocks of flats and wandering cows later we had arrived in the heart of New Delhi – not bad for what was no more than a 20 minute journey. All going reasonably well so far we thought.
This is where we came to our first slight problem.
We’d both forgotten to print directions from the metro to our hostel and we hadn’t sorted an Indian SIM for our phones (no Google maps this time buddy). How were we going to find it?!
We had no choice but to wing it and try to find the hostel ourselves.
Stumbling out the station doors we were greeted by hundreds of staring faces, beeping horns and broken paths. Just opposite the metro was the railway station, here a helpful local pointed us in the general direction of our hostel.
15 minutes and 3 locals later we were on our way to the Indian Tourism Office (officially named, but it turned out to be not so official – we think). At this point we were simply in search of a map and some advice, so anywhere seemed like a good idea. After surprising the officer with the length of our stay in Delhi (and him trying to convince us not to stay for so long, odd for someone who you think survives on tourism in Delhi), we were ushered into a tuk-tuk for a 50 rupee ride that took us right to the doors of our hostel. I don’t think I have ever seen Scott more relieved, likewise my relief must have been obvious to him too.
We headed to our room where we began to crash on the beds, but soon realised we needed to eat and try to stay up a bit longer. With instructions from the hostel reception we headed out accompanied by an excited Australian lady named Wendy. Turns out any instructions are pretty hard to follow in India and we were thankful for Wendy’s guidance in locating a small supermarket and, of course, a McDonalds on the way back. I forgot to ask for no cheese on my burger so could only eat half! Though it still filled the gap that’d been building since breakfast on the plane.
Fed, watered and with snacks in hand, we were grateful to have our own room and be able to chill out after the craziness of our first day in Delhi.
If there was one thing I am thankful we have it is time. Apart from the time pressures we are putting on ourselves during our stay in Delhi, we are pretty much free to do what we want when we want. Knowing this has meant we haven’t had to try and fit loads of sightseeing into our first day – I’d suggest you do something similar to let yourself acclimatise to your new environment
Whilst I have no doubts not everyone who offers you help has sincere intentions, plenty of locals do, and you may need their help to get form A to B. We accepted help from Wendy and now we know where to go for groceries, and also that you cannot get plastic bags in India (they’re illegal!). Be accepting but don’t be gullible and you’ll soon learn to cope with Delhi.
Having a pal with you can help anywhere, but I can imagine it is even more the case in Delhi. Being able to reset and refocus with a chat about home or a game of FIFA has helped my brain switch off at least a little bit. For that I’m thankful and visit with someone if you can. If you’re alone, like Wendy, be open and helpful and you’ll have people willing to listen and lend you a helping hand themselves.
Our first Delhi experience has been interesting, but we’ve survived the madness so far. Have you ever been somewhere you felt completely out of you travel comfort zone? We’d love to hear your story!