Delhi is not an easy city for disabled travellers. If you have a physical disability or are vision impaired, the difficulties of visiting the city, and of travel in India in general, can be exacerbated. If your mobility is considerably restricted, you may like to ease the stress by travelling with an able-bodied companion. One way that India makes it easier to travel with a disability is the access to employed assistance – you could hire an assistant, or a car and driver to get around, for example.
Delhi's National Museum has a tactile gallery, in which 22 replicas of the museum's pieces have been made available for visitors to feel. You should book your visit to this gallery at least three days in advance. Manually operated wheelchairs are also available, and there is Braille labelling in the museum.
Accessibility Some restaurants and offices have ramps but most tend to have at least one step. Staircases are often steep; lifts frequently stop at mezzanines between floors.
Accommodation Wheelchair-friendly hotels are almost exclusively top-end. Make enquiries before travelling and book ground-floor rooms at hotels that lack adequate facilities.
Footpaths Pavements in Delhi can be riddled with holes, littered with debris and crowded. If using crutches, bring along spare rubber caps.
Transport Hiring a car with driver will make moving around a lot easier; if you use a wheelchair, make sure the car-hire company can provide an appropriate vehicle.
The following organisations may proffer further information:
- Accessible Journeys (www.accessiblejourneys.com)
- Disabled Holidays (www.disabledholidays.com)
- Travel Eyes (www.traveleyes-international.com)
- Enable Holidays (www.enableholidays.com)
- Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org)
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Delhi is relatively safe in terms of petty crime, though pickpocketing can be a problem in crowded areas so keep your valuables safe.
- Roads are notoriously congested; take extreme care when crossing them, or when walking along narrow lanes that don't have footpaths.
- Pollution is another real danger in Delhi. Consider wearing a properly fitting face mask.
- Women should never walk in lonely, deserted places, even during daylight hours.
- Be aware of touts at the airport, train station and around tourist areas.
- Beware also of fake tourist offices.
Safety & Women Travellers
Delhi has, unfortunately, a deserved reputation as being unsafe for women. Precautions include never walking around in lonely, deserted places, even during daylight hours, keeping an eye on your route so you don't get lost (download a map that you can use offline) and taking special care after dark – ensure you have a safe means of transport home with, for example, a reputable cab company or driver.
Taxi-wallahs at the airport and around tourist areas frequently act as touts for hotels, claiming that your hotel is full, poor value, dangerous, burnt down or closed, or that there are riots in Delhi. Any such story is a ruse to steer you to a hotel where they will get a commission. Insist on being taken to where you want to go – making a show of writing down the registration plate number, and phoning the autorickshaw/taxi helpline may help. Men who approach you at Connaught Place run similar scams to direct you to shops and tourist agents, often 'helpfully' informing you that wherever you're headed is closed.
Train Station Hassle
Touts at New Delhi train station endeavour to steer travelers away from the legitimate International Tourist Bureau and into private travel agencies where they earn a commission. Touts often tell people that their tickets are invalid, there’s a problem with the trains, or say they're not allowed on the platform. They then 'assist' in booking expensive taxis or 3rd-class tickets passed off as something else. You're particularly vulnerable when arriving tired at night. As a rule of thumb: don’t believe anyone who approaches you trying to tell you anything at the train station, even if they're wearing a uniform or have an official-looking pass.
Fake Tourist Offices
Many Delhi travel agencies claim to be tourist offices, even branding themselves with official-looking logos. There is only one India Tourism Delhi office; if you need a travel agent, ask for a list of recommended agents from them. Be wary of booking a multistop trip out of Delhi, particularly to Kashmir. Travelers are often hit for extra charges, or find out they've paid over the odds for the class of travel and accommodation.
The Delhi Metro Smart Card (www.dmrcsmartcard.com) gets you 10% off metro fares (and 20% off some off-peak fares), and means you don't have to queue to buy tickets each trip. You can get one at any metro station; you need to pay a ₹50 deposit and put an initial ₹100 on the card.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|India's country code||91|
|international access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering India at Delhi's airport is relatively straightforward, with standard immigration and customs procedures.
Non-passengers are not allowed to enter the Departures building so when leaving Delhi you need to show your aeroplane ticket (a digital copy is OK) in order to enter the terminal. If meeting arriving passengers you can pay ₹100 to enter the Arrivals building.
Technically you’re supposed to declare Indian rupees in excess of ₹10,000, any amount of cash over US$5000, or a total amount of currency over US$10,000 on arrival.
You're also prohibited from importing more than one laptop, 2L of alcohol, 100 cigarettes or equivalent, or gifts and souvenirs worth over ₹8000.
To protect India’s cultural heritage, the export of certain antiques is prohibited, especially those which are verifiably more than 100 years old. Reputable antique dealers know the laws and can make arrangements for an export-clearance certificate for old items that are OK to export. Detailed information on prohibited items can be found on the Archaeological Survey of India website (http://asi.nic.in).
To enter India you need a valid passport and an onward/return ticket, and a visa. Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. If your passport is lost or stolen, immediately contact your country’s representative. Keep photocopies or digital copies of your airline ticket and the identity and visa pages of your passport in case of emergency.
Most nationals can stay for up to 60 days with a hassle-free, double-entry, e-Visa (www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa). Longer stays (up to six months) require a standard tourist visa.
Apart from citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, who don't need visas for India unless they are arriving from mainland China, and citizens of Japan and South Korea, who can obtain a visa on arrival, everyone needs to apply for a visa before arriving in India.
However, over 100 nationalities can obtain the wonderfully hassle-free, 60-day, double-entry, e-Visa (www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa), which you apply for online at least four days prior to your planned arrival; you'll quickly receive a digital copy of your authorisation, which you need to print out and bring with you to your airport of departure; this visa is valid for 60 days from the day you arrive in India, but note that you can only get an e-Visa if you are arriving at one of the 26 listed airports or five seaports. Delhi is, of course, one of the listed airports.
For longer trips, you'll need to obtain a standard six-month tourist visa, which is valid from the date of issue, not the date of arrival in India. Once in Delhi, If you need to register your visa (for stays of more than 180 days), or need a visa extension (there has to be a very good reason) or a replacement for a lost passport (required before you can leave the country), then you should apply online first (https://indianfrro.gov.in/eservices/home.jsp). If you need to see someone in person about your visa issue, then it will be at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office.
- Dress modestly Avoid offence by avoiding tight, sheer, and skimpy clothes.
- Shoes It's polite to remove shoes before entering homes and places of worship.
- Photos Best to ask before snapping people, sacred sites or ceremonies. Photography is not allowed inside some places of worship. You have to pay ₹300 for the privilege at Jama Masjid.
- Bad vibes Avoid pointing soles of feet towards people or deities, or touching anyone with your feet.
- Hello Saying namaste with hands together in a prayer gesture is a respectful Hindu greeting; for Muslims say salaam alaikum ('peace be with you'; response: alaikum salaam).
- Head wobble Can mean 'yes', 'no', or 'I have no idea'.
- Pure touch The right hand is for eating and shaking hands, the left is the 'toilet' hand.
- Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems (as well as air evacuation) is strongly recommended.
- Some policies exclude potentially dangerous activities such as motorcycling and even trekking: read the fine print.
- If you plan to hire a motorcycle in India, make sure the rental policy includes at least third-party insurance.
- Check in advance whether your insurance policy will pay doctors and hospitals directly or reimburse you later (keep all documentation for your claim).
- It’s crucial to get a police report in India if you’ve had anything stolen; insurance companies may refuse to reimburse you without one.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Pretty much all accommodation and most cafes, bars and restaurants offer free wi-fi access these days. There are some free wi-fi hotspots around the city, in some shopping malls, for example, and in airport buildings. Internet cafes are a thing of the past.
It's easy to gain 3G and 4G access via smartphone data packs bought for local SIM cards.
In a landmark decision in 2018, India's Supreme Court ruled that gay sex in India was no longer a criminal offence. The ruling overturned a 2013 judgement that had upheld a colonial-era law under which gay sex had been categorised as an 'unnatural offence'. The court also ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights.
Despite the ruling, India's LGBTIQ+ scene remains relatively discreet, though less so in cities such as Delhi. The capital hosts the annual Queer Pride (www.facebook.com/delhiqueerpride) in November, and also has a men-only gay guesthouse, Mister & Art House (www.misterandarthouse.com), in South Delhi. It's run by Delhi-based gay travel agency Indjapink (www.indjapink.co.in), who offer tailor-made tours. They also have a guesthouse in Jaipur.
Serene Journeys (www.serenejourneys.co) is also recommended as a gay-friendly travel agency.
Newspapers The most respected English-language newspapers in terms of balanced reporting are the Hindustan Times (www.hindustantimes.com) and the Indian Express (www.indianexpress.com).
Magazines For printed listings see the long-running weekly pamphlet Delhi Diary (www.delhidiary.in), which is available at local bookshops. Motherland (www.motherlandmagazine.com) is a stylish bi-monthly cultural magazine.
What's On To check out what’s on, see the ubercool Little Black Book (https://lbb.in/delhi) or Brown Paper Bag (http://brownpaperbag.in/delhi). And don't miss the Delhi Walla blog (www.thedelhiwalla.com), a wonderful window into Delhi's daily life.
ATMs are everywhere. Cards are accepted at many hotels, shops and restaurants. With a local SIM, foreigners can use the popular mobile payment app PayTM.
There's no need to use money changers in Delhi, but you'll find them around the city, concentrated in tourist hotspots like Connaught Place and Paharganj's Main Bazaar, as well as at the airport. Banks also change money.
- Restaurants A service fee is often added to your bill at restaurants and hotels. Elsewhere a tip is appreciated; 10% should do.
- Hotels If you're staying in high-end hotels, bellboys and the like will expect tips.
- Transport Train or airport porters will expect tips, but not taxi or auto drivers. Tipping cycle-rickshaw riders is good form given the job they do. If you hire a car with driver, tip for good service.
Sometimes loosely defined as a ‘tip’; baksheesh covers everything from alms for beggars to bribes.
Except in fixed-price shops (such as government emporiums and fair-trade cooperatives), bargaining is the norm. Remember to keep a sense of perspective, though, and always barter in good humour.
Some people argue that giving money to beggars only exacerbates the problem by encouraging more begging. To make a lasting difference, consider donating to a reputable charitable organisation.
Banks 10am–4pm Monday to Friday, 10am–1pm Saturday
Restaurants 8am or 9am to 11pm or midnight (some midrange and top-end restaurants may not open till lunchtime; some restaurants close between 3pm and 7pm; some stay open as late as 1.30am)
Shops 10am or 11am to 8pm or 9pm (some close later)
Sights 9am or 10am to 5pm or 6pm; many close on Mondays; parks and temples are often open either 24 hours or from dawn to dusk
There are post offices all over Delhi that can handle letters and parcels (most with packing services nearby, usually directly outside the entrance).
Poste restante is available at India Post's New Delhi General Post Office; it will keep parcels for up to a month before they are sent back to the sender; as well as the addressee's name, ensure mail is addressed to 'Poste Restante, c/o Postmaster, GPO, New Delhi – 110001'.
For ordinary postal services, it's quicker and easier to use smaller Branches of India Post, such as the one at Connaught Place.
Courier services may be arranged through DHL at Connaught Place.
There are three official national public holidays – Republic and Independence Days and Gandhi's birthday (Gandhi Jayanti) – plus a lot of other holidays celebrated nationally or locally, many of them marking important days in various religions and falling on variable dates. The most important are the 18 'gazetted holidays' which are observed by central-government offices throughout India. On these days most businesses (offices, shops etc), banks and tourist sites close, but transport is usually unaffected. It’s wise to make transport and hotel reservations well in advance if you intend visiting during major festivals.
The following are India's gazetted holidays.
Republic Day 26 January 2020
Holi 9 March 2020
Ram Navami 2 April 2020
Mahavir Jayanti 6 April 2020
Good Friday 10 April 2020
Dr BR Ambedkar's Birthday 14 April 2020
Buddha Purnima 30 April 2020
Eid al-Fitr 23 May 2020
Independence Day 15 August 2020
Janmastami 11 August 2020
Eid al-Adha 30 July to 3 August 2020
Muharram 21 August to 18 September 2020
Gandhi Jayanti 2 October 2020
Dussehra 25 October 2020
Eid-Milad-un-Nabi 9 November 2019
Guru Nanak Jayanti 12 November 2019
Diwali 14 November 2020
Christmas Day 25 December 2019
Holi (Hindu) 9 March 2020
Easter (Christian) 12 April 2020
Mahavir Jayanti (Jain) 6 April 2020
Buddha Purnima (Buddhist) 30 April 2020
Eid al-Fitr (Muslim) 23 May 2020
Dussehra (Hindu) 25 October 2020
Nanak Jayanti (Sikh) 12 November 2019
Diwali (Hindu) 14 November 2020
Christmas (Christian) 25 December 2019
- Smoking The 2008 ban on smoking in public places in India is generally well enforced in Delhi, although some of the very cheapest guesthouses may smell smoky, so check your room before committing. You can smoke in restaurants with terraces or gardens. Sadly, smoking is on the rise in India, although paan (chewing tobacco) is still more popular.
Taxes & Refunds
The new goods and services tax (GST) has made calculating what value-added tax (VAT) you will be paying (slightly) easier than the previously overly convoluted system.
VAT refunds for overseas travellers are not currently available, though apparently may be soon; check online before you travel.
There are few payphones in Delhi (apart from at the airport), but private STD/ISD/PCO call booths do the same job, offering inexpensive local, interstate and international calls at lower prices than calls made from hotel rooms.
You can use your unlocked mobile phone from home on roaming, but it's much cheaper to buy a local SIM card. You'll need your passport to register a local SIM, and the details of your accommodation in Delhi.
It's best to buy a local SIM card with a data package either from the airport when you arrive, or from a genuine branch of one of the main phone providers in the city centre; Vodafone or Airtel are the most reliable. If you go through a local shop or kiosk you may experience delays in getting connected, or be overcharged.
- Calling Delhi from abroad: dial your country’s international access code, then 91 (India’s country code), then 11 (Delhi's area code without its initial zero), then the local number.
- For mobile phones, the area code isn't required.
- Calling internationally from Delhi: dial 00 (the international access code), then the country code of the country you’re calling, then the area code (without the initial zero) and the local number.
- Toll-free numbers begin with 1800.
- To make interstate calls to a mobile phone, add 0 before the 10-digit number.
- To call a land phone from a mobile phone, you always have to add the area code (with the initial zero).
- A Home Country Direct service, which gives you access to the international operator in your home country, exists for the US (000 117) and the UK (000 4417). To access an international operator elsewhere, dial 000 127. The operator can place an international call and allow you to make collect calls.
- There are numerous public toilets dotted around town, especially in Old Delhi and the more heavily populated areas.
- Most modern public toilets, in places such as shopping malls, have a sit-down toilet as well as squat toilets, but in older facilities, there will only be squat toilets.
- Sometimes your are expected to pay a few rupees to a toilet attendant, though this is becoming increasingly rare.
- Some of the newer metro stations have public toilets.
- Toilet paper is almost never provided in public toilets (always carry tissues with you, or use the bidet system), and soap is rarely available (travel hand wash is handy).
- Some low-budget guesthouses may only have squat toilets, but most accommodation now has sit-down toilets in en-suite bathrooms.
India Tourism Delhi This official tourist office is a useful source of advice on Delhi, getting out of Delhi, and visiting surrounding states. But note, this is the only official tourist information centre outside the airport. Ignore touts who (falsely) claim to be associated with this office. Anyone who ‘helpfully’ approaches you is definitely not going to take you to the real office.
Regional tourism offices with a base in Delhi include:
Travel with Children
There's lots that children will enjoy in Delhi, though the city is a sensory onslaught no matter how old you are, so taking it easy is key. Staying in South Delhi, or in homestay-type accommodation, will make for a less hectic experience. South Indian food is less spicy than North India's Mughlai cuisine.
Need to Know
Nappies are widely available, but baby-change facilities are almost non-existent. There's a reason locals don't use pushchairs: lack of pavements in many places, traffic and crowds make them more of a hindrance than a help; you'll be much better off bringing a sling or a baby rucksack for toddlers. Rickshaws are always available for easy (and fun) transportation.
There's a wide range of international restaurants to suit the fussiest palates, and some good child-friendly hotels. For a homey feel, homestays are a good choice. All-age attractions include the National Rail Museum, cycle-rickshaw tours of Old Delhi (or indeed cycle-rickshaw rides anywhere), picnic visits to Lodi Garden, and rambling around forts such as Purana Qila and the Red Fort. Tours with DelhiByCycle are great fun for families, while older kids may be fascinated by street walks with the Salaam Baalak Trust, Street Connections or Reality Tours & Travel.
Best for Kids
Delhi isn't an obvious family destination, but kids, just like adults, will be fascinated by the intensity of the experience; just sharing pavements with cows and monkeys will delight most children, and the colours, sounds and unusual sights will hold the attention of even the most reluctant teenage traveller. And if all else fails, hop on a cycle-rickshaw; kids love them.
There are plenty of ways to assist Delhi’s less fortunate residents. The long-running Salaam Baalak Trust in Paharganj has lots of openings for long-term volunteers (one-month minimum commitment), including accommodation for volunteers at Diya Bed & Breakfast, which is run by SBT's affiliate charity Street Connections. There are also volunteer opportunities with Torch and sometimes with Reality Tours & Travel. Concern India Foundation can also arrange placements.
Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisation that we do not work with directly. Travellers should investigate any volunteering option thoroughly before committing to a project.