How to Explore New Delhi, India like a Local: Locals introduce their city.
In today’s MYCITY interview Sonal from “Drifter Planet” introduces New Delhi where she lives since 1999. Send me an email when you’d like to present your city.
SONAL KWATRA PALADINI, a corporate executive during the day and a blogger at night.
Please introduce yourself:
I’m a dreamer, backpacker, dog lover, adventure enthusiast and a hippie at heart. I have a blog called “Drifter Planet” with my husband – Sandro Paladini, who I met while backpacking.
New Delhi, India
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My favorite place to eat in New Delhi:
It’s difficult to pick one place to eat in Delhi because the city is famous for its good food, so I will list a few places for different cuisines and budgets:
Dilli Haat: I love Dilli Haat which next to INA metro station. Dilli haat is an open air area that features cuisines and handicrafts from all over India. This place has many options and offers meals at very affordable prices – from INR 100 Rupees to 200 Rupees per person.
Coast Café in Hauz Khas Village: I also like Coast Café in Hauz Khas Village which has some mouthwatering Indian coastal seafood curries. This will cost you INR 200 to 400 per person.
Sitaram Diwan Chand Chana Bhatura: This small eating place is in crowded Paharganj market. It sells only one thing – Chana Bhatura or commonly known as “Chhole Bhature”. It’s a delicious vegetarian meal of chickpeas with fried Indian bread. A meal here will cost only INR 50 per person.
Big Chill Café: Visit this place if you’re bored of Indian food and want some seriously delicious Italian food and desserts. I love the ravioli and four cheese pizza here. A meal here will cost you between INR 400 – INR 700 per person.
Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid area: Visiting old Delhi is an experience in itself and will provide you many photo opportunities. Please wear something that covers most of your skin. Karim’s and Al Jawahar are two legendary restaurants in this area that are famous for their meat curries. However, my favorite food here is street food: kebabs and more.
A typical dish of New Delhi:
Butter chicken with naan. Butter chicken is a typical “Delhi” dinner dish. It’s a kind of chicken curry with chunks of chicken tikka in a thick tomato and butter based curry. I recommend you eat it with a garlic naan. Naan is a soft Indian bread. For vegetarians, I recommend Daal Makhani or Kadai Paneer with garlic naan. Daal Makhani is curried lentils and Kadai Paneer is homemade cottage cheese (paneer) with thick gravy of onions, tomatoes and capsicum.
My favorite bar in New Delhi:
Hauz Khas Social in Hauz Khas Village or Monkey Bar in Vasant Kunj.
What about the Nightlife in New Delhi?
Delhi has a culture of an “early nightlife” because most bars don’t have the permit to remain open post 12:30 AM. However, I recommend you try visiting Hauz Khas Village for a pub crawl. Hauz Khas Village is an area which is next to Hauz Khas metro station. The backdrop is of many historical tombs from Mughal era which makes this place visually appealing. You can also visit a few interesting bars located in Khan Market, Connaught Place, Vasant Kunj and Cyber Hub. They are all easily accessible by Delhi Metro.
Things to do for free in New Delhi:
A visit to Lodhi Garden in the early evening (must do), drive around India Gate at night, Hear Qawwali at Nizamuddin Dargah, eat free local vegetarian food (Langar) at a beautiful sikh temple – Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, catch the sunset at a unique Baha’i temple – Lotus Temple and visit a Jain temple park - Ahinsa Sthal to catch a good view of Qutab Minar. Please note that some of these places are religious so please dress appropriately by keeping your shoulders, thighs and heads covered. Although temples are free to visit I recommend you to offer some money (as low as INR 10) for the upkeep.
Keep away of:
Touts. They’re everywhere! If you land in Delhi, please directly head to the pre paid taxi booth. If you arrive by train, please be prepared of many touts that will harass you to go the hotel or hostel that they recommend. Many of them will try to send you to some dingy hostels in Paharganj – don’t! Delhi has a lot of affordable hostels in better areas that are easily connected via Delhi metro.
Best way to get around in New Delhi:
Delhi Metro connects most parts of Delhi really well. It has a separate dedicated coach for female passengers which is usually the first coach. The signboards and announcements are in English and Hindi both. I recommend you get a Delhi Metro travel card to save money and to avoid long queues. The card only costs around $3 USD. This cost also includes the metro fare. Additionally, Delhi has a massive fleet of tuk-tuks which are more commonly known as auto rickshaws or just autos for short. Don’t forget to negotiate if you decide to ride one. For traveling at night, I recommend you avail an app based taxi service by Ola which is tracked by GPS.
Best place for first date in New Delhi:
Mia Bella roof top in Hauz Khas village if you are in a mood to spend INR 500 – 1000 per person. If you’re on a budget, try.
Best place to meet locals in New Delhi:
Everywhere! Delhi is a melting pot of many different cultures from all over India so every locality will give you a different vibe.
Best place to relax in New Delhi:
Lodhi Garden or Nehru Park or Ahinsa Sthal
Best spot to watch people in New Delhi:
Rajiv Chowk Metro Station – it is the busiest metro station with many different kinds of people.
Where to stay in New Delhi?
Madpackers Hostel, Jugaad Hostel, Zostel, Youth Hostels Association of India and Hosteling International (YHAI), Moustache hostel - these are some good hostels. If you’re not into hostels, then I suggest you check out The Lazy Patio in Hauz Khas village.
Five hot tips for enjoying New Delhi:
- Visit in the months of February, March, October or November. Delhi has extreme weather with unbearable summers and foggy winters.
- Make some local friends (Couch Surfers) and get them to take you to their favorite places.
- Celebrate at least one major festival in Delhi – either Holi (February or March) or Diwali (October or November).
- Eat as much different food as you can. Delhi has some really good restaurants with a variety of cuisines.
- Keep your mind open to accept the different culture. Some aspects of India will shock you on your first visit but wear your smile and enjoy the different experience.
One thing you would like to change about New Delhi?
I’m Sonal Kwatra Paladini. I am a hippie at heart who was bitten by a travel bug pretty early in life. I have lived in New Delhi from 1999 onwards. I have been to only six countries as of now (USA, Germany, Netherlands, Thailand, Singapore and Bhutan) but I am planning on traveling to at least 5 more next year. My idea of travel is not to just check the places off my list but to really experience the culture – even if it means visiting the same country / city more than once. I run a travel blog (Drifter Planet) with my husband – Sandro Paladini who I met while traveling. He’s half German and half Italian. Follow me on facebook, twitter and instagram.