Nice Delhi hotel for an India travelNoob?
April 26, 2008 3:29 PM   Subscribe

India first-timer seeking general suggestions and recomendations for first few night's lodging in Delhi.

Traveling in July (no choice), planning to head up into the northeast (to Hardiwar/Rishikesh and then onto Simla/Manali), back to Delhi and then on to Agra for the Taj, if time permits.

Any comments will be useful.

And if you can point me towards a great one- or two-star hotel for a reservation during those crucial first few days, that would be great.
posted by Rash to Travel & Transportation around New Delhi, India (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What's your budget and level of comfort? 1 and 2-star hotels will be pretty cheap. I stayed at the Connaught Palace (a palace it was not) in Delhi, and it was an "Indian 4-star" (U.S. 2-star, I'd say) and relatively cheap -- maybe $40 USD per night? They even had a bar called SCHWING!
posted by nitsuj at 3:38 PM on April 26, 2008

Ooops... SCHWING should have linked to this image. What a great menu!
posted by nitsuj at 3:44 PM on April 26, 2008

- Be prepared for the traffic shock of your life (but you'll get used to it after a few drives)
- Don't eat food off street corners
- Ask taxi drivers to turn on their meters. Get out if they don't want to.
- Take a roll of toilet paper with you
- Stay away from fresh water fish
- If invited to somebody's home, take off your shoes, and don't eat with your left hand
- Get some clothes tailored - it'll be a bargain (take your favorite shirt with you as a sample)
posted by lord_yo at 4:03 PM on April 26, 2008

What kinds of things do you need advice about? It's difficult to give you advice without questions.
posted by peacheater at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2008

Best answer: Just went to Delhi in January.

Good suggestions so far.

Also, if you stick out as a Westerner-- especially as a white Westerner, be prepared to be constantly accosted by people selling stuff and beggars on the street.

If you don't want to buy anything, just keep walking, smiling without making eye contact. Same goes for beggars, but if you're like me you'll end up giving a few people money (it's hard to say no to an old woman with a baby in her arms making a "we need to eat" gesture). If you think you'll be inclined to do that, keep a pocketful of small bills (10 and 20 rupee notes) and coins for this purpose. Make sure you're out of sight of anyone whom you're not inclined to give money to!

The pocketful of small bills and coins is also good for tipping, because everywhere you go people will do small favors for you with the expectation of you giving up a small tip. Carrying your package, letting you take their picture, giving you directions-- everybody's a hustler. It's best to just see this as a travel expense (and a small one at that) rather than try to think too much about it-- in a country of a billion people an 80% poverty rate, people have to do what they can to survive, and supporting them in this small way keeps them out of petty crime and prostitution.

Also, if you're tipping a waiter, bellhop, cabbie, etc. at an acceptable rate, don't let them make you feel that your tip is insufficient. You're a walking cash cow in an economy like India's, so it's a common trick to act like your tip is too small. When you give someone carrying your luggage 150 rupees and they say, "200 please," it's not bad form to say "gee nehi" (a polite no) and go about your business.

And speaking of cabs-- you can do what lord_yo recommends, or just ask the cabbie ahead of time what your ride will cost. Motorcycle cabs are cheapest. And if you're traveling from a bus station or airport, look for prepaid taxi stands-- you pay ahead, no room for "misunderstandings."

India is awesome. Have fun!
posted by Rykey at 4:49 PM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What kinds of things do you need advice about?

The itinerary to the Northeast, given the timing, as well as general stuff like lord_yo and Rykey provided, thanks! And considering nitsuj's suggestion, I think a (US) one-star hotel in Delhi would meet my needs. Any more recomendations?
posted by Rash at 4:59 PM on April 26, 2008

Best answer: General things:
Unlike in the US, tips are considered over and above service people's salaries, so about 10 % would be right.
People usually quote prices that are way above what they expect so bargain. If you don't want to bargain, that's ok too. They'll think you're a sucker, but the extra money will mean a lot more to them than to you.
It's going to be hot, but you should be able to catch the southwest monsoon, so expect torrential rainfall.
While travelling by train book Second Class AC. You'll need the AC when it's hot and First Class is unnecessary. If you don't want to use the bedding provided on the train, bring a sleeping bag (which is not to say the bedding is horrible, but YMMV).
Delhi is almost like two cities: the beautiful, well-manicured areas where the embassies and government buildings are and the crazy, crowded, dirty areas of Old Delhi. Both are worth seeing.
Try visiting a restaurant that sells chaats. I highly recommend Bengali Market but I'm not a Delhi native. Ask them if they think it'd suit your stomach. Their chole bhatura is to die for.
posted by peacheater at 5:16 PM on April 26, 2008

Best answer: In Delhi, you will most likely want to stay in the Pahar Ganj area (within a few minutes walk of the main train station). Its where all the low budget foreigners hang out, and you'll almost certainly meet other people your age, who you can travel onwards with.

I can recommend the Anoop Hotel. I think I paid somewhere around 400 rupees per night. A/C will cost more. There are lots of hotels in the area. Just make sure you are not with a taxi driver when you go in, or he'll try and get a kickback (and thus you'll pay more).

If you are arriving at a decent hour, ignore the bastard taxi drivers at the airport, and go straight for the cheap-o bus run by the army veterans. Once you get to town, you can jump in an auto-rickshaw (insist on the meter, or haggle).

You can call ahead to Anoop (google them), and make a reservation. If you don't feel like dealing with the taxi guys at the airport, Anoop (and most hotels) will send a guy to pick you up. He will have a sign with your name. Personally, I won't pay for this, but I understand that lots of people are not willing to haggle after 12 hours of flying.

Re: Manali/Shimla. It's a very unpleasant bus-ride. You may want to try flying, from delhi. Air Deccan can be cheap if you book in advance.


posted by genome4hire at 8:47 PM on April 26, 2008

Best answer: Been to Delhi once, stayed at a hotel called Maurya Heritage IIRC. Nothing special, but should fit your budget nicely. Hire a cab from the airport tourism office. It might be a little more expensive, but considering that Delhi is one of the least safest cities in India, the extra few rupees shouldn't be a concern.

- Be prepared for the traffic shock of your life (but you'll get used to it after a few drives)
Compared to the rest of India, Delhi has it really nice with the traffic.

- Don't eat food off street corners
The food off street corners isn't always bad. Ask around in your hotel for good places to eat local stuff. Won't do your health any good, but it's worth it.

And finally, BARGAIN BARGAIN BARGAIN! When anyone sees a foreigner, they generally hike their rates up by about 200-250%, probably more. If you're going shopping, go with a local friend if you can. Bargaining won't be very easy if you're going alone.

I'll add more if I remember anything. Have fun in India!
posted by cyanide at 9:53 PM on April 26, 2008

1) Check out IndiaMike if you haven't already. The Indian Railways section is most useful.

2) Stay in Pahar Ganj if you want to meet up with other backpackers and travel from there, otherwise stay in Connaught Place (CP) and do your own thing.

3) Take the metro/subway in Delhi. There's a stop at the western end of Pahar Ganj and it'll take you into CP and most of the other places as well.

When I first arrived in Delhi two years ago, my flight landed around midnight and by the time I got out, it was probably 1am. I used the prepaid taxi service as everyone recommended, but on my way downtown, the driver started telling me that Pahar Ganj got bombed recently and that he was taking me to a "tourist bureau." I smelled scam right away, but decided to play around just 'cause.. anyway, we're at the office in the middle of the night, and they offer me a phone to call my hotels. Whoever was on the other end claimed that all the information was true and that I should find another place to stay. It was around this time that two German girls came in crying as they were in a similar situation as me. By then I had gotten fed up with this, and the three of us (rather aggressively, as we were tired) demanded that we be taken to Pahar Ganj--safety be damned. We made it there, and of course the place was alright.

So take on your new experiences, but always be on the lookout as well. While you're traveling, most honest people are at work, so that leaves you with the touts who make money off of travelers who don't know any better. You will meet honest people, but that's usually on the train rides and in more middle-class establishments.

And to answer your original question, I stayed in the Vivek Hotel for 250Rs/night back in '06, off season. I liked the rooftop restaurant as I got to meet a few other people there and they have a nice collection of discarded guidebooks.

Also, Agra will be hot, and almost all the people there will be crabby when you're there. Keep that in mind. I have my opinions on Agra in another thread.
posted by hobbes at 12:28 AM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: where to stay (and how to arrange) my first couple of nights in Delhi? My basic plan is to hang around the airport until first light, then ride the Army Vet bus to Connaught place and then try to find something in Pahargang

yes, the ex-servicemens' bus is the way to go, if it's running (last time i tried to take it to Indira Gandhi International Airport *ROFL* it was "broken down" - probably because there were only three passengers). it leaves from right outside the terminal. a cab ride to CP is fixed fare; Rs300 last time I checked, presumably Rs500 or more now. this is the most ridiculous fare in the country. you can get a sleeper berth all the way to Chennai for about that much. if the bus isn't running, there's a fancy new metro (light rail, yeh?) system with a station not *too* far from the airport - google or ask on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree site for a decent fare between the station & the airport by taxi.

-- however I really wish I had something set up in advance (but would rather not be paying for four-star amenities I won't be using, nor do I want to pay in advance for somewhere which may turn out to be disappointing, or worse).

In the off season - when it's stinking hot - you'll have no trouble whatsoever finding a room. Somebody upthread mentioned the Anoop in Paharganj. That's one of my mainstays, along with the Ajay or the Hare Rama (Anoop's on the main bazaar, the others down a side alley). Rs300 a single room per night two years ago. Should probably be cheaper in the off season. A/C was included.

um, er, and how do i put this? 99% of hotels (at least in the budget market) you stay in will be "disappointing, or worse" compared with what you expect back home. the state of toilets & bathrooms, for example, is so incredibly woeful that the only thing you can do is laugh. Just radically lower your expectations & deal with it - "we're not in Kansas any more!". the hotels i mentioned may well shock you as filthy cesspits when you arrive, but strike you as the height of luxury on the way back home.

above: When you give someone carrying your luggage 150 rupees and they say, "200 please,"

don't ever give anybody Rs150 for carrying your luggage. India is so incredibly cheap that you can easily pay quadruple for things & still think you're getting a great deal. 20 is more than enough for carrying luggage, unless you're climbing everest. as a very general rule of thumb:

Rs5 = glass of chai or samosa = coffee or samosa in the west = $2.50
Rs20 = basic restaurant meal = $10

which turns your Rs150 tip into the equivalent of around $75 in real terms. don't do this, unless you think porters should earn ten times as much as doctors (monthly professional wage is around Rs10,000)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:58 PM on June 18, 2008

Lots of good, backpacker-y advice here so I won't pitch in with my native middle-class-y thoughts, except to endorse Ubu's point about PPP's: the general PPP exchange-rate I use is SGD 5 (== USD 6.50) == INR 20. Note that INR 31 = SGD 1 lately in the forex market.

That said, Delhi is disgustingly expensive to spend some time en boite; while the Ministry of Sound franchisee in Singapore charges S$15-20 for entrance depending on the time and the phase of the moon, MoS Delhi reputedly charges INR 2000 per couple, or something. Methinks Bangalore or Bombay has better nightlife than Delhi, although given inflation these days, those towns could also be equally costly.

And oh, crowds or not, everything they said about the Taj is true. You will be dazzled by its beauty, never mind the crowds.
posted by the cydonian at 10:40 AM on June 22, 2008

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