I was quite nervous and excited about my 10 days in India. More than likely I was way over-prepared for the experiences I was about to have, but in my head better safe than sorry! I’m sharing all my tips and tricks of how I survived India.
If you haven’t checked out my top highlights from my trip, check it out here!
Thanks to London Business School I was able to travel to India for a week to experience India including visiting the Dharavi Slum and watching the Dabbawala’s in action. But I also decided to take advantage of my travels there and check out Delhi and Agra. There are definitely a lot of things I didn’t get a chance to do and hope I will get a chance to go back to see, but I will be sharing all of things I found useful and my recommendations on what I enjoyed or didn’t.
I have shared my itinerary at the end of the post for my Delhi/Agra portion, but have included information regarding my whole trip including to Mumbai.
Things to do:
- Delhi – Old Delhi Tour via Reality Tours and Travel (₹1500 ~ $20 USD) As we only really had one day in Delhi, we decided to do a tour of Old Delhi to see the spice markets (including the sneezing market!), the red fort, and a Sikh temple visit. It was a really great way to see the spice markets and a Sikh temple without feeling too uncomfortable, while still seeing the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m not sure if Delhi is quite for me, but it was still interesting to see. I think my one complaint about the tour was that the guide awkwardly asked us to fill in a feedback form right at the end of the temple tour before taking us back to the start location.
- Spice Market – Be careful of your bags, as there are tons of people here and even the tour guide told us to be cautious. Also, have some tissues ready for the sneezing market, as it really does make your whole respiratory just itchy!
- Red Fort – We didn’t go inside as we were all pretty exhausted and weren’t that interested in seeing it, but it was quite impressive from the outside.
- Sikh Temple – This was probably the most uncomfortable I felt during the tour, as we had to take our shoes off and walk around barefoot. I also felt a bit out of place since we were clearly foreigners and the locals there were there for worship. However, people were all very kind and offered us food and allowed us to walk around to see what their religion was like.
- Agra – Taj Mahal (₹1000 ~ $15 USD) – One of the current 7 wonders of the world, this place is definitely worth the hype and really truly is stunning.
- Staying overnight – I suggest staying overnight in Agra and doing the Taj Mahal first thing in the morning rather than taking an early train from Delhi.
- Be the first in line – Another group of friends actually sprinted into the complex the moment the doors opened so they could capture photos with no one around right at sunrise, and they were quite epic. The key thing is to be there before the mass of Indians arrive via train in the late morning. Inside the Taj was nice and cool in the morning when we were there, but I have heard it gets very stuffy as the day heats the complex up.
- Closed on Fridays – Be sure to make sure you check when the Taj Mahal is actually open. India has many many holidays and it would be a shame to miss it because it’s closed.
- Agra fort (₹550 ~ $8 USD) – This was the only fort I actually entered and saw when I was in India and was nice. Some of my friends who had been traveling in India longer than me were quite over ‘another red fort’. It has some really beautiful structures inside and you can also see the Taj Mahal in all its glory from the fort. Worth a visit if you are also interested in the history of the Taj Mahal.
- Agra – Tomb of Itmad-ud-daula (₹110 ~ $1.50 USD) – This is considered the ‘Baby Taj’ as some consider it the ‘model’ for the actual Taj Mahal. It was a cute structure, but we weren’t actually that interested in seeing it and paying another entrance fee, but our tour guide insisted. As it is a mausoleum you need to also take your shoes off, but as its really small it will at most take your 30 minutes.
- Agra – Mehtab Bagh (₹100 ~ $1.50 USD) – From here you will get another view of the Taj Mahal from where the foundation was set to build the Black Taj Mahal, to be the mirror image of the White Taj Mahal we all know. For me nothing really special about this place besides the view.
- Mumbai – Dharavi Slum Tours – As part of our Global Business Experience with LBS, they organised for us a tour of the largest slum in the world. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside to respect the residents, we learned a lot about the people who lived there, their work and their sense of community. It definitely wasn’t something I would have ever thought of to do on my own, but do highly recommend it if you want to see another side of India.
- Mumbai – Dabbawala – If you are in business, particularly operation, you might want to see these guys. With no technology as we would use to manage operations, these guys are six sigma certified and deliver lunch boxes all over to the residents and workers of Mumbai with a level of service most businesses could dream of. You can see these guys at Churchgate Station in the mid-mornings.
Places to eat:
- Delhi – Indian Accent – If there was one thing that all my friends suggested, it was to try Indian Accent, so of course we made a reservation. Turns out this place is not quite central and located in what seemed to be a residential neighborhood. We all got the tasting menu with the wine pairing. Really really tasty if you want a bit more of western Indian fusion. Check out my review and all the pics in my blog post!
- Delhi – Saravana Bhavan – We were absolutely starved when we finally got to the hotel and just searched for something close on TripAdvisor. It definitely seemed like a more local restaurant, but it had good reviews so we were willing to take the risk. We had no idea what anything was, but the couple next to us was kind enough to make suggestions and help us out. The food is actually South Indian and was absolutely delicious and extremely cheap!
- Delhi – Farzi Café – After the Old Delhi tour we met up with the rest of our group here. We were exhausted from the long day and was quite ready for some food and beer to cool off. This wasn’t that cheap for India, but it was good and everything was presented really nicely. The vibe felt more westernised and generally speaking more upscale.
- Mumbai – Trishna – One of our nights off from LBS sponsored dinners we decided to head around the corner from the Taj and get ourselves some good seafood. The place was quite packed and a bit tiny, but the food was amazing. The waiter even brought our live crab to show us what we ordered. Highly recommend getting the garlic and butter crab and some naan of course.
- Eating – After hearing the many stories of food poisoning from my friends I was terrified about eating, but at the same time really excited to try it. I actually brought cup noodles just in case I had a craving, but also incase my stomach couldn’t handle the food. Honestly, being careful and smart about what you eat and making sure things are either cooked in front of your if you are doing street food, or eating at established restaurants. Of course there is still a chance of getting sick
- Drinking water – It’s hot and a few of my friends did end up getting heat stroke, so make sure you stay hydrated and buy bottled water. Generally speaking only drink bottled water and nothing from the tap and unless you have an iron stomach. Some people went as far as rinsing their mouth brushing their teeth with bottled water as well. I accidentally rinsed my mouth a few times in the hotel and I had no issues.
- Hygiene – Bring wet wipes, hand sanitiser and tissue paper wherever you go. You never know what you are going to touch or what the bathrooms will have. I was able to find most these things at little convenience stores around the city, but you can always bring a stash from home if you have a preference.
- Drugs – It’s very easy to obtain medication when you’re in India. Although many of the pharmacists will ask who prescribed you the medication, it seemed they were very lenient. I just told them I was told to take x drug by my doctor in the UK. However below are the drugs I suggest you have or get before a trip
- Doxycycline – a broad spectrum antibiotic that is good for a variety of things including malaria, travellers stomach, etc.
- Imodium – helps solidify your poo. Its not a sexy topic I know, but things get runny when you’re in India, and it just helps in case of emergencies or just in general.
- Ibuprofen – Always a good to have.
- Clothes – India is a more conservative culture, so it is important to remember that when packing. Yes, it is hot, but from the filth and the conservative culture we as ladies mostly wore things that covered out shoulders, long pants, and sneakers. The men also wore long pants as apparently shorts are for young boys. One recommendation is if you have those flow-y ‘fat pants’ that you can get in the markets or from tropical destination, wear that. It’s just too hot to be wearing jeans! Check out my packing guide from when I was traveling for 4 weeks.
3-day itinerary for Delhi and Agra
- Arrive in Delhi in the morning and check into the hotel
- Take the afternoon to eat lunch locally and take a wander around some shops
- 17:00 – Old Delhi Tour
- 8:30pm – meet other friends for dinner
Day 2 (Agra Tour start):
- 09:00 – Hotel pickup
- 12:30 – Lunch
- 14:15 – Agra Fort
- 16:00 – Tomb of Itmad-ud-daula (Baby Taj)
- 17:00 – Mehtab Bagh for sunset view of the Taj Mahal
- 06:30 – Taj Mahal
- 09:00 – Return to New Delhi
- 14:30 – Arrive at hotel and relax/free time
- 19:00 – Dinner at Indian Accent