By Suchita Salwan

As a young woman born and brought up in Delhi, running an enterprise here, and with access to people who are doing the most fascinating things in culture, food and fashion, it breaks my heart to read headline after headline on the blatant crime committed in the city that I call home. As a local, I know the ins and outs of Delhi. I know where to go, what to stay clear of, and whom to not speak with. But for people who aren’t from Delhi and India, it can be daunting to figure their way around a city whose fabric and roundabouts are complex, to say the least. What adds to the dilemma is that Delhi isn’t a safe city.

Having travelled a fair amount myself, I can say that there are a basic set of precautionary measures any woman traveller should take – stay in a safe neighbourhood, know a local, travel with a group, don’t be an a-hole but don’t be over-friendly either, and have a fair sense of how the city’s structured {or use a map.} I know it sounds like homework, but research must be done, and for a city like Delhi, this research needs to be taken up a notch or two.

There are some stereotypes about India, and Delhi specifically, that die hard. You’ll find everything on the streets – people, cars, cycles, autorickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, trucks, cows, dogs. Everyone follows their own sense of direction, and everyone’s in a rush. Delhiwaalas are known for their big hearts, but are also notorious for being impossibly impunctual. The cops? It would be a gross generalisation to say that they’re all dishonest and unhelpful, as you’ll usually find sprawled on newspaper pages. But given precedence, we’ve learnt to be weary of cops too. Despite all odds, eccentricities and hardships that Delhi may throw at its people or those merely passing by, I am happy to report that the city’s thriving. It’s brimming with wonderful, caring, and helpful people who will go out of their way to ensure you see the city for the vibrant and charming metropolis it is. Once you’re here, you’ll see that there are enough good people, who will outshine the mess that this city’s projected as. 

So please dear traveller, stay safe, and don’t wander and ‘figure it out along the way’ when in Delhi. It’s not New York. You’ll have to discover Delhi within limitations, but it’s going to be worth it.

1. Stay | Prioritise this on your expense list

Invest in a good hotel/hostel/guesthouse – you will not regret it. There are more than enough options in Delhi for bed & breakfasts, youth hostels and budget hotels. These are mostly run by expats, or by local families, and are very reasonably priced. The value add is that they’re conveniently located in neighbourhoods that are bustling, and are well connected to other popular pockets. The zones you can find a reasonably priced and reliable stay include GK, Vasant Kunj, Hauz Khas Village, Nizammudin East and Saket. To begin with, you can check out part 1 and 2 of our B&B list.

Golden rule: Try getting a place in South or Central Delhi. They’re close to all the market places you’ll need to visit, and the monuments on your checklist. While allocating monies, prioritize your stay.

2. Discover | Where to explore, walk around and cinderella timelines 

Make note of the major markets in Delhi: Chandni Chowk, Hauz Khas Village, Shahpur Jat, Khan Market, South Extension, Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony, Connaught Place, malls on Nelson Mandela Road, malls in Saket, Priya Complex, GK 1 & GK 2 markets, Kailash Colony, Nehru Place, and the Gurgaon malls. They’re always crowded, well-lit, and have a security system or a check post close by. Every big market has a PCR van or check post right next to it. Please stay clear of gallis {narrow lanes}, by-lanes, and deserted roads. For sight-seeing etc, try and finish while the sun’s still out.

Crime isn’t time bound. Day, night or evening, it’s imperative, especially if you’re travelling alone, to ensure that you’re in an area that’s populated, accessible, and connected to a main road. Most places shut by around midnight, barring bars in hotels, and that’s a deadline one can work with.

Golden rule: Get to your final destination by midnight, unless you’re going to a party with people you know.

3. Transport | To your hotel, and around Delhi

You have three options: Auto-rickshaws, the metro, and cabs. To the best extent possible, avoid buses unless you’re using the Hop On, Hop Off buses.

Auto-rickshaws: Make sure the driver doesn’t take you through meandering lanes and dimly-lit allies, especially past sunset. Delhi’s known for its wide, expansive roads; you should enjoy them!

Metro: It is the safest and most reliable public transport to use. Stick to the women’s compartment. Yes, you’ll be looked at because you aren’t from here, but that’s the extent of how uncomfortable you’ll be. We’d also suggest you avoid the metro post 9pm.

Cabs: Here’s where your hotel will be most useful- ask them for recommendations. There are also Meru cabs and metro cabs, which need to be pre-booked, and Uber {a billion dollar cab company from SF that’s made its way to India}. Use these services! They’re expensive, but worth it.

Golden rule: Use a reliable, registered vehicle to go around town post 9pm.  

4. Essentials | What to have on you, always

Mobile phone.

At least one phone number of someone you can call, just for information/guidance sake, even if it’s the hotel concierge.

Pepper spray. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who’s ever had to use it, but do keep it handy.

Your hotel address and a landmark next to it.

Loose cash and change.

5. Helplines | Who to get in touch with+where+support communities

Police: 100

Medical: 102

Accident helpline: 1099

Women’s helpline: 181, 1091

Auto helpline: 011 42400400

Delhi Metro helpline: 011 22561231

Along with these numbers, do keep a contact of someone from the B&B or hotel you’re staying at. It’s always good to cross reference directions, or give them a call if you’re stranded.

6. Talking to locals | General mannerisms

All the market places we’ve mentioned have staff that’s used to being around young city girls – I’d be surprised if you ever have trouble at any of these spots. Yes, while bargaining at Janpath or Greater Kailash, you’re probably going to get fleeced. But I anticipate that as the extent of you being treated as a non-Delhi person.

If you’re going to more conservative parts of Delhi – areas in the North, East or West, and the old part of the city, I highly suggest you dress conservatively – the way you’ll find women dressed in these pockets – so you don’t get more unwarranted attention. Keep the cleavage, legs and sleeveless clothing for a restaurant or bar in neighbourhoods like Hauz Khas Village.

Generally speaking, being white is considered exotic; as a white tourist, you will get gawked at. But it’s uncommon to find locals who will pester you. On the off chance that you are confronted with someone who’s getting too close, make sure you’re firm but not impolite. Being rude and confrontational more often than not backfires!

Golden rule: Fake it till you make it. Even if you’re pretending, know where you are, what you want, and why you’re there.

7. General advice |

Have a plan. Browse through books, websites, guides etc and have a good, long list of all that you’d like to cover while here. This will most definitely help you gauge the amount of assistance you’ll need to discover Delhi, and work within the timelines the city has.

Learn a few hindi words. Namaste is just the tip of the iceberg. Cover the basics- food, bathroom, taxi, go, stop, how much, where are you going, where’s the closest metro station, use the meter.

Research. Everything’s online, including Lonely Planet. You have Little Black Book Delhi, Time Out, So Delhi, Brown Paper Bag Delhi, Zomato, BookMyShow, Burrp, Love Delhi {it’s a book} Lonely Planet and more at your disposal.

Let us guide you! We’ve all been around long enough to give you reliable information. You could write to us directly at We’d be happy to give you some general guidance!

Don’t freak out. Yes, there’s plenty to be weary of. But once you’ve got the basics covered, let your hair down and have a good time. Sip a beer, walk around Hauz Khas Village, say namaste to the doorman at one of the restaurants you go to. Laugh, shop, take pictures.

Delhi’s got too many gems waiting to be discovered. And far too many Delhiwaalas making it their prerogative to ensure people new in town enjoy the city for what it truly is! We hope you enjoy your stay.

Featured image courtesy: Kaboompics

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