I started 2019 by writing a post on my blog about my hometown, Delhi . I listed arguably ‘Top 10’ places to see in Delhi for a tourist. However, in Delhi, like most cities, there is so much to see and do besides the most well-known tourist destinations. I understand that this mega city with over 22 million people can be an assault to all your senses (to say the least). Nonetheless, if you happen to be one of the rare few who are brave enough seek out more of this city, here is my ‘Alternate Guide to Delhi’ that covers nine fun things to do, and one that you must not do in Delhi.
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #1: Take a stroll/do yoga at Lodhi Gardens in the mornings
Beautiful lawns spread over 90 acres dotted with tombs built during the Lodi dynasty that date back to 1444, Lodhi Gardens is the perfect blend of culture and nature in one place. It makes a great place for a morning walk/yoga during summers. Alternatively, a late morning/afternoon stroll under the winter sun is one of the low-key things you can do in Delhi.
Location: Lodhi Rd, Lodhi Gardens, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi, Delhi, Nearest metro station is Jor Bagh (Yellow Line) Timings: 5am to 8pm (April to September); 6 am to 8pm (October to March) Entry Fee: Free
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #2: Get Mehndi (henna tattoo)
For those who are unaware, mehndi is an intricate design of henna patterns made commonly on the palm of your hand. They are not permanent and wash away in a couple of weeks. Women in Northern India get mehndi work done weddings (not exclusive to their own) and religious/cultural festivals. My family origins are from the eastern part of India where mehndi is not much of a thing. However, as I was raised in Delhi, I loved getting Mehndi on any occasion I could. And I still do!
Location: Various. Speak to your hotel, and they can recommend you where to go. You can also have them come to your accommodation.
Timings: Anytime between 10am to 8pm. As for how long it will take, it depends on how intricate and big you want it to be. Normally, it take about 1.5 hours
Fee: This will vary largely on whether you go find them at a market or they come to you. Prices also go up during festive seasons. Expect to pay anything between INR 500 to 1000 for one hand.
Tip for men: Yes, henna tattoos are culturally meant for women. But hey, you can always get a small pattern made on your wrist or your forearms like a tattoo!
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #3: Do a photoshoot in traditional Indian clothes
I was going to suggest, ‘go shopping for Indian clothes’ as Delhi has several places for the same covering all budgets. But then, why not take it a step further! Why not do a photoshoot in traditional clothes at one of the iconic sights in Delhi? Ladies, if you are unsure about how to get dressed, look for the nearest beauty salon on Google Maps and head over there. They will dress you up and will even do your make up! Men, lucky for you, you should be able to wear yours on your own. If you would like a professional photographer, ask your hotel to find you one. Or scout the internet.
Location: Your pick! I suggest Humayun’s Tomb (INR 10 for locals; USD 5 for foreigners)
Timings: I would recommend doing the photoshoot during sunset
Cost: For dressing and make up, INR 2000-3000. Professional photographer: INR 5000-10000.
Pro Tip: Instead of booking a photographer, simply hire a guide at any of the sights for INR 500 max. He will click the pictures for you. These guides do this every day so you are in good hands. Alternatively, you just ask a friendly local to do it for you!
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #4: Eat at a buffet
The food scene in Delhi is huge, and arguably the most diverse in India. There are plenty of restaurants offering amazing Indian buffets (both for lunch and dinner) plus all-you-can-eat live grills. Look up best buffet restaurants on Zomato, and pick one based on your location, budget and restaurant rating. My personal favourite is Barbeque Nation; they have multiple locations.
Location: All over Delhi
Timings: 12-4pm for lunch; 7 to 11pm for dinner; can vary according to restaurant
Cost: INR 800-2500 depending on the hotel, veg or meat option, and with or without alcohol.
Pro Tip: On the weekends, I suggest making a reservation. You can do so using the Zomato app or by simply calling the restaurant.
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #5: Shop at Janpath
Janpath literally means ‘Path of the People.’ Situated at Connaught Place, this pedestrian shopping street has a lot to offer from cutesy clothes to jewellery to shoes to handbags/purses. You will find cheap knock-offs and factory rejects of well-known brands for dirt cheap prices as well. I personally love picking up a few tops and some earrings on my visits here.
Location: Janpath Market, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Timings: 10am to 8pm
Cost: Depends on how well you can bargain. As a rule, I don’t pay more than INR 250 for clothes and INR 100 for jewellery.
Pro Tip: Start haggling by quoting 40% of the price the seller quotes you. Then move up to 60% if you really want it!
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #6: Explore Majnu-Ka-Tila Tibetan Market
While there is a small Tibetan market at the aforementioned Janpath, I would highly recommend heading over to ‘Little Tibet’ a.k.a. Majnu-ka-Tila in North Delhi for an authentic Tibetan market experience. Here you will find various shops run by Tibetan refugees selling handmade Tibetan trinkets and handicrafts. Have a chat with them and learn about their lives as refugees and their take on the Tibet-China issue. What more, you can find many authentic (and cheap) Tibetan restaurants here as well.
Location: Majnu Ka Tilla near Aruna Nagar, North Delhi. Nearest metro station is Vidhan Sabha (yellow line).
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #7: Explore the narrow lanes of Old Delhi (and eat Mughlai food and dessert!)
Feeling brave and adventurous? So then why simply visit Jama Masjid and the Red Ford and not the Old Delhi Markets? Walk down the narrow, chaotic and loud streets to experience a part of Delhi so different from what you have (likely) seen so far. And, devour all the yummy Mughlai food. Here is a list of best places to eat in Old Delhi. My personal favourites are Al-Jawahar for yummy chicken dishes and Kuremal Mohan Lal Kulfi Wale for real fruit kulfi (Indian ice-cream)
Location: Areas that come under old Delhi are Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Daryaganj and Jama Masjid. They can all be easily reached by various Delhi metro stations on either the yellow or violet line.
Timings: I would suggest going during daylight hours
Cost: Depends on how much you eat. A lavish meal for two cannot cost more than INR 500. Desserts cost between INR 20-100.
An Alternative Guide to Delhi #8: Get an Abhyanga (ayurvedic massage)
You must have heard (or probably have had) a Thai and/or a Balinese massage. India is not very popular for massages. But what better place to get an ayurvedic massage than Delhi that is filled with some of the best spas in the country? If you aren’t familiar with Ayurveda, read about it here. And, if you want to familiarise yourself with abhyanga before getting one, see here. An Abhyanga is customised based on your body and skin type, so your experience is optimised to the maximum.
Location: There are various ayurvedic spas in Delhi. Look up on Google Maps to find one near you with good ratings. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel for recommendations
Timings: Depends on the spa; normally 9am to 8pm
Cost: INR 1500-3000 for one hour
An Alternative Guide to Delhi: #9 Watch a Bollywood movie
Love Indian cinema? So how can you not watch a cheesy Bollywood movie while you are in India? Like everything else in Delhi, there is no dirt of cinema halls in the city. See BookMyShow to find the nearest theatre, to pick a movie, and to book your tickets. There won’t be any English subtitles, so you don’t have to sit through the entire thing (unless you want to). Just go for the experience of it. Oh and remember to stand in attention before the movie starts for the Indian national anthem.
Timings: Depends on the theatre and how popular currently is the movie you picked. Shows run as early as 9.30am to as late as 11.30pm.
An Alternative Guide to Delhi: #1 Thing not to do in Delhi: Do a Slum Tour
See the expression on the kid’s face? It reads: My poverty is not for you to gawk at. Get over your entitlement and respect our lives!)
I recently stumbled upon various tour companies providing something called “Slum Walking Tours” in Delhi. WHAT? As a local, I am disgusted by foreigners who come here and think it is acceptable to click pictures of beggars, amputated homeless children and adults, and people living in dire conditions. It is not okay to do so!
Our poverty is not for you to take pictures of. Misfortune and hardships of our people are not for you to document for your ‘memories.’ Our poverty is not an exhibition put up for you. So stop acting so entitled.
Now coming back to these slum tours; okay, I admit they have great reviews. But reviews by whom? By westerners. I am sorry, whether or not you thought that this tour was an “enlightening and humbling” experience for you, it doesn’t matter. You basically thought it was okay to go look at people’s homes and their living conditions to see how the poor live. It is okay when you go look at celebrity houses at Beverly Hills, not the other way around.
You can argue that money from these tours help fund local schools and the community. But, if you really want to help the local community, look for NGOs online and donate. Or walk into these volunteer schools, and donate notebooks and stationary. Go and distribute snacks and juice boxes to the kids in these schools. Many of whom come to class hungry and go back hungry.
You do not need to go gawk at their living conditions to help them. This is not ‘real India.’ This is part of India, a part that doesn’t need your entitled intrusion.
This brings us to the end of ‘An alternative Guide to Delhi.’ As evident, Delhi has a lot of offer in terms of history, culture, shopping and of course, food! You are either going to love it or you are going to hate it. If you hate it, hey no problem, plenty to do in India. If you do love it, try out some of the ideas on this alternative Delhi guide and make your experience even more worthwhile. And yes, do steer clear from the slums unless you are planning to volunteer there for a humanitarian cause (a slum tour is not one!)
Written byArunima Dey
Arunima Dey from Namaste, Solo Travel!: Arunima is an academic with itchy feet who loves wandering solo. She started Namaste, Solo Travel! as a cure for her wanderlust when she wasn’t travelling. By writing about her experiences a solo female traveller from India, she aims to bring forth travel stories from a non-white, non-male, and non-Western perspective. She also blogs about travel itineraries, solo travelling tips and visa guides for Indians.
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