I’m excited to share my second trip to India with you (made in February 2023). It was a journey filled with nostalgia as we revisited some of our favorite places like New Delhi and Agra, while also exploring new destinations like Jaipur and Indore. And of course, we couldn’t resist the allure of Goa’s beautiful beaches. So, let’s dive into the details of this adventure!
Citizens of certain countries can now purchase e-visas for their visit to India. This e-visa needs to be presented during passport control upon arrival. To apply, you can visit the official website at indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa.
Another important aspect to consider is getting a SIM card for your stay in India. It was an unpleasant surprise: In the official selling point, a vendor asked us about a reference number. What the hell is a reference number? – I wondered. It turns out that if you want to buy a SIM and a number in India you have to provide them with another Indian number, called a reference number. It can be a number of a relative or a friend. Why do they assume that I have a family or friends here? I am just a tourist.
Of course, we found a solution. We asked in our hotel and they called a guy who brought us a SIM card – of course it cost twice as much than in an official store. It’s only my guess that he gave his own number as a reference.
Modernity that doesn’t always work
Let’s talk about New Delhi, the vibrant capital city that serves as the gateway to India. As soon as I landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport, I discovered that a few years ago, a metro line has been built between the airport and the city center. Metro Express Line provides a convenient and affordable way to reach the city center. The T3 line, colored orange, operates every 10 or 15 minutes depending on the time of day and takes approximately 24 minutes to reach the city center.
No more haggling with taxi drivers! The Metro Express Line took me straight to the city center in just 24 minutes. It was convenient and cost-effective, with a token price of 60 INR.
However, I did encounter a small hiccup at the airport. Automatic ticket machines didn’t work. At ticket windows, despite the working terminals, I couldn’t use my credit card. So, I had to make a detour back to the airport to find a money exchange. It took a bit of time, but eventually, I was ready to explore the city.
One thing that caught me off guard was the metro station’s location in New Delhi. It was on the opposite side of the Railway Station facing Paharganj, the neighborhood where we planned to stay. Unfortunately, despite the passage over the platforms, I couldn’t access it without a train ticket. It seemed strange but there was no other way. People, when asked the directions, gave contradictory tips. We ended up taking a longer route to reach our hotel, but next time, I’ll definitely opt for a tuk-tuk to save time.
By the way, if you plan on exploring India by train, it’s crucial to know that train tickets are often fully booked in advance. The reservation system can be quite complicated for foreigners, but you can check schedules and update your reservation at indianrail.gov.in. Foreigners can also purchase train tickets through irctc.co.in.
Getting around New Delhi was a breeze with various transportation options available. From taxis and tuk-tuks to cycle rickshaws and the metro. Speaking of the metro, it became my go-to mode of transport. It was efficient, affordable, and a great way to beat the city’s traffic. Just remember, no eating, drinking, or photography allowed inside the stations.
4-star hotel with amenities and a mouse
Finding the right accommodation in New Delhi is essential for a comfortable stay. From our previous stay I remembered the Grand Hari Piorko hotel, located in Main Bazar, Paharganj. We chose a family room with air conditioning, TV, Wi-Fi, and coffee/tea facilities. With a rating of 7.7, it provides a pleasant and affordable stay for travelers.
On our way back, when we stopped again in New Delhi, we chose the Grand Uddhav hotel, situated in Nehru Bazar, Paharganj. We chose a deluxe room with amenities such as Wi-Fi, air conditioning, TV, and a coffee/tea set
We deliberately chose good hotels, which doesn’t mean expensive. But you have to know that cheap hostels and hotels in Delhi mean insects, dirtiness and noise. We were not ready for this. We had no insects; everything was relatively clean. Everything would be fine if not … a mouse. In a 4-star hotel called Grand Uddhav (many places bear pompous names) there was a mouse running around in our room. The service managed to kill it but they didn’t see any problem with it. For them: dead mouse = a glad customer.
The best places to see in New Delhi
As we explored New Delhi, we couldn’t help but be captivated by its rich history and stunning architecture. One of the highlights was visiting the iconic Red Fort, also known as Lal Qila. This UNESCO-listed monument took us back in time, and we even caught the mesmerizing “sound & light” performance in the evening. Trust me, it was an experience to remember!
Another must-visit attraction was the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Located near the Red Fort, it was a sight to behold. And let’s not forget about Chandni Chowk, the bustling main street of Old Delhi. We wandered through its vibrant lanes, marveling at the Digambara temple and even stumbled upon the Jain Bird Hospital.
Of course, no visit to New Delhi would be complete without taking a walk to India Gate. This magnificent structure commemorates Indian soldiers who lost their lives during World War I and in Afghanistan. Connected to Rajpath, the Royal Road, it leads to the Presidential Palace and offers a glimpse into India’s rich history.
For a peaceful and serene experience, visit the Lotus Temple, one of the main Bahai temples in the world. This temple, built in the shape of a lotus, is made entirely of marble and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Entry is free, allowing you to immerse yourself in its tranquil ambiance.
I recommend visiting also Lakshmi Temple, which with its red and gold architecture is really stunning. Remember not to use camera inside.
Once beautiful, now a monster
As our time in New Delhi came to an end, we couldn’t help but reflect that during our first stay in New Delhi, more of less ten years ago, we were surprised with the warmth and hospitality of the people we met along the way. This time it was not like this. We had an impression that people became sad, gloomy and even rude.
The city itself, through the decades became a monster, overcrowded, more dirty and unfriendly. Walking around, you wonder how it all continues to live, to survive, these people, these buildings. One day it must collapse as everything left to its own devices and neglected, collapses.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of our adventure as we make our way to Agra, home to the majestic Taj Mahal, and explore the vibrant cities of Jaipur, Indore, and the serene beaches of Goa. Trust me, you won’t want to miss what’s in store!