10 Quick Survival Tips for New Delhi, India

by Dominic James Fusco

New Delhi is one of the most lively, diverse, and strangely wonderful cities in which you can choose to study abroad. But in the face of an entirely different culture, it can also seem chaotic and intimidating to the first time visitor. Fear not, however – acclimating is half the fun. Eventually you will come to feel oddly at home walking down those bustling streets, but in the meantime here are some quick survival tips to help you adjust. If by the end of this list you are not scared off, then the adventure of a lifetime may be just around the corner.

Street food vendor in New Delhi

1. Follow Your Gut (Or Stomach)

Delhi offers an array of tasty cuisine, but it may be wise to start slowly and work your way up. Natives grin when they discuss “Delhi Belly,” an affliction best left up to the imagination which affects most visitors adjusting to the spicy tastes of Indian food. Eventually you will be confident enough to turn adventurous, at which point it’s time to start experimenting. Who knows, maybe that street food vendor across the street may just end up being your favorite lunch spot.

2. Become A Bargaining Machine

As a student and tourist in New Delhi, it is inevitable that you will be exploited to a certain degree, the simple fact is that most vendors know you have money. Skillful bartering takes practice, but can be fun the better you get at it. While experience is the best teacher in this regard, a beginner’s rule of thumb is to cut the starting price in half and then work your way to a middle ground. Eventually it becomes second nature, and you’ll be bargain hunting like never before.

3. Take Time for Yourself

In the chaotic streets of New Delhi, it is important to occasionally relax and find a leisure activity with which you can escape the madness. Check out that new Bollywood movie, find a nice air conditioned café to read your book, or even find a yoga class to enroll in; these can all be good ways to unwind from the fray.

4. When & What to Give

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer here. In Delhi, as in most parts of India, poverty runs rampant. This can be difficult to understand and deal with at times as a foreigner not accustomed to Indian society. You will likely see things that strike your emotional core, but it is important to realize that these are deep rooted problems with no easy fix. And while you will be approached for money often, also keep in mind that beggar mafias control much of the inner-city territories. It will not be feasible to give all the time, but a good idea may be to carry extra food or water with you for when the situation demands it. Eventually you will find your heart to be the best guide.

Cow in the street of New Delhi

5. Keep Clean & Carry On

Don’t drink the tap water, wash your hands frequently, and make sure that your food is thoroughly rinsed. Also, keep this in mind for serving trays. They are often rinsed in non potable water if there is large amounts left behind it can be a good idea to do a rinse or wipe of your own. Delhi is not exactly renowned for its sanitation, and you will find that taking simple steps such as these to preserve your health will pay off in the long run and make your stay much more comfortable. The key is consistency (and bug spray).

6. Weaving Through Traffic

You will never forget your first rickshaw drive, probably because you will be holding on and praying for dear life throughout the duration. While this may be an exaggeration, the truth is that rickshaws are the fastest and most efficient form of transportation in Delhi. You will go for some wild rides, so have fun with it. Besides, most drivers are experienced enough to get you safely to your destination. One of the great things about Delhi is its central location which makes travel to other parts of the country fast and affordable.

7. Travel Outside the City

India is an incredibly diverse country, and deserves to be traveled extensively. Trains are your cheapest option, and it is best to book these about a month in advance. Flights are even more convenient, but proportionally more expensive. You will find your appreciation for New Delhi will continuously go up the more you travel, as you realize just how unique and significant this city really is.

Traditional Clothing of Women in India

8. Learn How to Deal with the Humidity

Depending on when you go, it will likely be hot. Humidity is worst in the early summer months when temperatures soar over 100° F, but tends to wash off with the monsoon towards August. If you do go in the summer, drink lots of water, don’t waste your energy, and do your best to stay cool. Carrying an extra t-shirt or two with you may be helpful.

9. The Gender Dress Code

Men and women may come to have very different experiences in New Delhi. While men do not have much to worry about in terms of safety and personal freedom, India is a very conservative society and women tend to lead more private lives. That means ladies, while wearing a traditional sari every day may not be necessary, it would be wise to cover up and dress modestly to avoid unwarranted advances. For guys, long pants and sandals are a good bet on any given day. As long as you know what to pack, you will be set for daily life in New Delhi.

10.  Go With the Flow

In Delhi, the biggest lesson you will come to learn is don’t sweat the small stuff. If you get caught up and stress about the little things, you will miss out on the bigger picture, which is that you are in one of the most distinctive and important cities in the world. The city will often come to feel like another planet entirely. Use these occasions to embrace New Delhi to full effect, and you will fall in love with it completely.

Now that you know how to survive daily life in New Delhi, you are ready to find the best study abroad program for you!