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Delhi Travel Guide
Moving through a sweltering bazaar, with each vendor crying out louder than the next, and clamouring through a sweaty crowd, a beggar tugs at your shirt as the sticky stench of the city pierces your nostrils. Navigate your way across the road through a perennial traffic jam of blasting horns and angry shouts, and suddenly you'll find yourself stepping through the trees into a deserted courtyard, flanked by gurgling ponds below the huge glittering dome of an ornately patterned mosque.
This is Delhi, city of contrasts, where an elephant can overtake an overheated Italian sports car on the streets, where colonial mansions stand next to squatter slums, and where cows are revered, but musicians are labelled 'untouchable'. The city's pace is chaotic, yet strangely relaxed, making it ideal for exploring. You're certain to be confronted with some strange and exotic sights.
With a long and troubled history, Delhi is full of fascinating temples, museums, mosques and forts, each with a distinctive architectural style. In Old Delhi, visitors will find a charming selection of colourful bazaars and narrow winding alleys. In comparison, New Delhi - the city created to reflect the might of the British Empire - consists of tree-lined avenues, spacious parks and sombre-looking government buildings.
While Delhi itself could take a lifetime to explore, it's also ideal as a base for visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, and it provides the best links for travelling to the hill stations of the North.
Fleets of metered taxis, auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws clog the streets of Delhi providing transport for locals and visitors. Rates fluctuate, but drivers should have rate charts available and tourists should ensure the meter is reset, or a price negotiated before departure. A ring railway starts and ends at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station with trains running in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions around the city. The Delhi Transport Corporation runs a large fleet of buses covering the entire city, but these are always overcrowded. The frequency of buses drops during the off-peak time between 1pm and 2.30pm but there are night service buses on selected routes and from the three main railway stations between 11pm and 5am. The first line of an ambitious Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) was recently opened, covering 14 miles (22km) and18 stations between Shahdara, Tri Nagar and Rithala. A further two lines are under construction and the entire project is scheduled for completion by 2021. It is not advised to hire a car in Delhi as the driving is frenetic and the traffic overwhelming. There are parts of the city where walking is the best way to take in the sights and sounds, but in general you will need transport to get around.
Indian Tourist Office, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2332 0005 or
Indian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 7000.
Indian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7836 8484.
Indian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 3751/52/53
Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia: + 61 (0)2 6273 3999.
Indian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5392.
Indian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 496 6792.
Indian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 6390/1.
United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 8000.
British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 2100.
Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4178 2000.
Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4139 9900.
South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2614 9411.
Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2462 6733.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2688 3170.
Emergencies: 100 (Police); 102/104 (Ambulance).
India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educate themselves about its religious and social customs so as not to cause offence: for example, smoking in public was banned in 2008. When visiting temples visitors will probably be required to remove their footwear and cover their heads. Generally, women should dress more conservatively than (perhaps) they are used to doing at home, both to respect local sensibilities and to avoid unwanted attention. Topless bathing is illegal. Indians do not like to disappoint, and often instead of saying 'no', will come up with something that sounds positive, even if incorrect. Social order and status are very important in Indian culture - remain respectful and obliging with elders. Avoid using your left hand, particularly when eating.
Visa extensions are not possible for tourist visas. Other visas may be eligible for extensions, which are applied for through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Holders of multiple-entry Tourist Visas (visa type code "T"), with a validity ranging from above three months and up to 10 years, are no longer required to leave a gap of at least two months between visits unless they are nationals from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh.
Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in India within six days of leaving or transiting through heavily infected areas. Also note that the following areas of India are restricted, and require that visitors obtain a permit BEFORE entering them: (Protected Areas) parts of the state of Manipur, parts of the state of Mizoram, parts of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the whole state of Nagaland, the whole State of Sikkim, parts of the state of Uttaranchal, parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of the state of Rajasthan, parts of the state of Himachal Pradesh; (Restricted Areas) the whole of the union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, part of the state of Sikkim. If surface travel is involved, and nationals travel via restricted areas, they require a "pass" issued by either the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (located in each major Indian city), or the Superintendent of Police (located in each Indian district), or the diplomatic representation of India in Bhutan or Nepal.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.