Delhi is everything you have been told and more. The traffic noise is incessant, the streets are chaotic and the monuments are memorable. Whilst the noise does seep under your skin and combines with the heat to addle your brain a bit it is part of the sensory overload that is the Delhi experience.
And it is nothing compared to the hassle you get from rickshaw drivers and touts. The relentless pestering makes it difficult to enjoy much of the cities sights as if you pause for more than a moment you have someone at your elbow telling you to come with them, buy this, go there, that the museums are all closed, the trains all cancelled and that they are the only trust worthy person in the entire city.
After failing dismally with my oh so English polite ‘no, no thank you, thanks but no.’ We found totally ignoring any ‘friendly helpers’ is the only method that works ( apart from never going to any remotely tourist places or not being a rich white western tourist I guess).
Acting like this makes me sad as it’s just not very nice and means a blanket approach so some people who may genuinely be friendly get the same offhand treatment. But hopefully no real offence is caused. I would welcome anyone else’s tips for managing the touts?
Amongst all this the metro system is an air conditioned revelation. Fast, reliable clean, not too packed and above all hassle free.
The first thing you notice is a lot of women and young people use the metro. There are a lot men in Delhi and they do a lot of staring. My partner Ana understandably felt quite challenged and exposed being under the constant glare of big groups of men (even though appropriately covered etc) Travelling on the metro was much better simply because there are a lot of other women around – the trains even have dedicated women only carriages.
The other big win is it’s very straightforward and takes you where you want to go – rather than where the driver decides to take you. The three day tourist pass is only 300 rupees and so it works out generally cheaper than a rickshaw too.
The downside of the metro is that you’re never quite sure what awaits you topside. As street signs seem non-existent any map is fairly redundant. Waiting at the exit are hordes of drivers and ‘helpers’ so if you pause to get your bearings for a moment you get swamped.
We found the best way was to pick a direction walk confidently and then work out where we were later down the road. It worked pretty well and we generally found what we were looking for even if sometimes we did walk a winding route to get there.
So I’m probably being a bit overly down on the whole tout business and it’s part culture shock but it just becomes tiresome and spoils the many great things to see and do in Delhi – the metro on the other hand is great and should definitely be on every tourist schedule.