How to survive arriving in Delhi late at night


04 March 2018. First arrival in Delhi, India. 

After a couple of years of talking about it (Leti mainly, Quentin pretending to listen) it's hard to believe we're actually on a plane about to touch down in Delhi's airport.

It's 1am and we land in Delhi with apprehension - having had everyone say to us before leaving to: "be ready, it's super intense, and no-one escapes Delhi belly!" With our minds on high alert we can feel/imagine the eyes of every local on us. We're careful to not stand too close to each other, having already pre-formulated our "we're married" story and shifted one of Leti's rings to her ring finger to try to stave off unwelcome advances. Yes people stare at us, particularly men who stare at Leti, but after a few hours we realise most of it is pure curiosity and not anything more creepy.

We arrive without any Rupees as not so easy to get outside of India, and most of the info we pre-read said that ATMs are everywhere in India. Well yes they are, but we found a lot of them aren't working or don't have cash, and we have tons of teething problems getting our cards to work. Out of the seven or so cards we have only one works: Leti's Revolut prepaid credit card. Our other UK based cards don't work for various reasons which took a few days to untangle. 

As we're travelling for four months across different climates we have arrived using our full baggage allocation from London, each having a single 23kg bag for the hold plus two pieces of hand luggage. There's no way we want to carry all that around India, and in fact most internal flights have a standard allocation of 15kg hold luggage. So we plan to leave our wheeled luggage in Delhi luggage storage and go on with just our backpacks. The Left Luggage facility is actually over the road from Terminal 3 in the Metro building. It costs about 400 rupees per day per medium weight bag (7-20kg) which we think is pretty reasonable. What we find less reasonable is the assistant's refusal to let us redistribute our weight between bags to have one of them reclassified as small and be half the price. It's too late now, the receipt is already printed she says. Welcome to India we say to ourselves!

Putting the annoyance behind us we head over to get our ticket to board the bus to terminal 1. Waiting patiently in line like well trained Brits we're amazed to see someone who we assume is a local rocking straight up to the front and interrupting the assistant serving the guy in front of us. Once it gets to our turn the suspected local then jumps in front of us. With frustration boiling over we both tap the guy on the shoulder vigorously a few times and say "hey we were next don't push in!". 😡A bit surprisingly he doesn't say anything and heads back behind us. 😏

Boarding the dilapidated bus we marvel at the characters around us, and in turn start to feel uncomfortable with all the eyes on us. Everything seems a little more scary and dramatic in the pitch black of 3am, and we're happy to jump off when we arrive at the airport 20mins later which feels like a lifetime.

Thinking the little challenges were over we start to check in for our flight to Rishikesh. Then the assistant asks for the card we used to pay for the flight and we realise that the fun isn't over yet. Leti had lost, then cancelled, and then found that card, and it had been replaced with a new one. Luckily he was willing to accept the onscreen statement showing the transaction that Leti found on her mobile.

Wanting to cross the next thing off our list we ask about local SIM cards and are assured that we can buy one once we pass security. Nope, we don't find such a shop and assistants don't know of any either.

Finally we board our Indigo plane to Rishikesh, surprised and pleased that it's shiny and new looking, much more so than the tired BA plane from London. Onwards to Rishikesh, post coming soon! 😅

Recommendations for arriving in Delhi:

- Bring a few different credit card options, including some of the more modern and travel friendly options like Revolut and Monzo (enable the magstripe ATM option in Monzo account settings - the ATMs in India use a different technology to the UK).

- Bring some rupees, or be willing to exchange a major currency (USD, GBP etc) at the money converters for a poorer rate than you get at ATMs.

- If you need to leave luggage, then redistribute the weight for lowest costs before they complete the transaction. And factor in time to head over to the metro where the left luggage facility is.

- Bring a lock for your luggage, and do anything else you need to do to the luggage to make your valuables safer if broken into (Quentin lost an hour of his life worrying about not having a lock for his bag and data being stolen as no password set up as required at start up).

- Terminal 3 is the newest and most equipped terminal, get a local SIM card and any other supplies there before transferring to other terminals for local flights.

- Allow plenty of time for getting through the arrival process and try not to get annoyed if locals push ahead of tourists.

- Smile and say Namaste to anyone staring at you. Assume it's curiosity rather than anything more sinister. In saying that, play it safe as you should anywhere else in the world and don't put yourself in situations where you could be vulnerable, especially if you are a women. 

- Seek to understand, accept and respect the culture - once we did we found it a lot easier than at the beginning when we were judging with our learned Western customs!