New Delhi is a crazy city. If you plan to visit here you need to put on your big girls pants and strap yourselves in.
Upon arrival the first thing you will notice is the pollution. Noise pollution from the craziest traffic you will ever witness in your life, smog from the craziest traffic you will ever witness in your life, and a huge amount of litter everywhere. There is a particular New Delhi smell that permeated our hair, skin and clothes. It was a scent that we struggled to get rid of for days after we had left.
We stayed in Hotel City Star which we found via Hotels Combined. It was clean as far as Delhi Standards go, we got a nice breakfast and the room service was good. No one got ill so that is a bonus as we were awaiting the on set of the dreaded Delhi Belly.
Driving around New Delhi is an experience in itself. The rules on Indian roads seem to be ‘do whatever the hell you want as long as you honk loudly as many times as you can’. Cars, lorries, mopeds, buses, wagons, rickshaws, bicycles and tuks tuks are all competing for space on the jammed roads. Throw into this the beggars that bang on your windows asking for money or trying to sell you balloons and flowers. Street children dance in the middle of the road for money, teenage girls carrying babies put their arms inside your tuk tuks, again for money. Cows and dogs weave in and out of traffic. It is a heady attack on your senses and can be very stressful for some visitors. Ava particularly struggled so we made sure she was wearing her ear defenders. Many people also choose to wear a mask to keep their lungs free from the pollution.
You also need to be firm with the taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers who can try to charge you excessively and ask for tips. Be prepared to haggle and say no. Tips are not compulsory even though the drivers make you feel like you have to tip.
Another scam worth noting is the drivers will offer to take you to Emporiums where you wander around shops full of tat feeling awkward and pressured to buy something. In exchange the driver earns commission from Emporium owner. Again, be firm, say no!
We mostly used Tuk Tuks to travel around as they are so simple to just hop on and off. We used the metro on the Sunday, but only because we knew it wouldn’t be too busy. Millions of citizens use the metro during the week so it can get super crowded.
New Delhi Slum Tour
We visited a New Delhi Slum for an afternoon with the girls. It was the most incredible eye-opening experience, one that will stay with us for life. If you come to New Delhi and choose to do only one thing, make it this.
Qutab Minar is a soaring, 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. It was a pretty cool place to visit. Ava loves seeing ancient architecture so she was in her element.
As with all Indian tourist attractions be aware of the “free” guides who offer to take you around at the entrances. You won’t be able to see things at your own pace and they expect a hefty tip.
Humayan’s Tomb was the first example of Mughal architecture in India. It’s a stunning garden tomb located in the centre of New Delhi. We enjoyed roaming around. As with everywhere in Delhi be wary of the stray dogs, beggars, scammers and guides asking for hefty tips.
The toilets here were some of the worst we visited so maybe go before hand, and make sure you’re carrying enough toilet roll, water and anti bacterial hand sanitiser.
India Gate is a war memorial and it’s sheer size is pretty impressive. It sparked some great conversations with the girls about the British rule in India and why they fought alongside the allied forces in WW2.
When we visited the grounds were being renovated and we had to duck under bamboo scaffolding and tarpaulin sheets to get to the gate itself.
The Gate is surrounded by hustle and bustle, street food stalls, merchants selling tourist tat, beggars, cows and more stray dogs. So be cautious if you visit.
The Lotus temple is an impressive white marble structure built to resemble a lotus flower. The temple is surrounded by nine ponds and gardens covering 26 acres in total. It belongs to the Baha’i faith and anyone of any faith is free to enter the temple to meditate, pray and worship. There is an information center inside the complex, which holds paintings that explains the unity of all religions.
We visited at sunset which was just beautiful. It can get very busy and is closed on Monday’s so worth noting if you plan to visit.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple
Also known as Birla Mandir, Lakshmi Narayan Temple is situated on the west of Connaught Place in the centre of New Delhi. There is a big garden in the premises with artificial caves, stone animals, cascading waterfalls and fountains. The girls enjoyed playing in the garden with the local children, and looking at all of the colourful statues.
It is free to enter, but you have to pay the guard a tip to look after your footwear. You also cannot take photographs inside the temple.
We had a walk around the building and received a blessing. We also spoke to the worshipers about the different Hindu gods which was fascinating.
So to anyone who thinks that you can’t explore New Delhi with children, you totally can. You just have to be prepared, be vigilant and always wash your hands. It is has been a grounding, sensory overloading, educational visit for our girls, one that will stay with us forever.
Don’t forget to check out our India Part 1 Vlog to see our Delhi Adventures.