So you’ve ignored all travel warnings about India’s capital city, overlooked all evidence pointing against safety, discarded all perceptions thrown at you, and decided to move your life to Delhi. Brilliant.
Here are 9 tips for surviving life in Delhi as a single woman, compiled after my five-month-long love & hate relationship with the city.
1. Use protection.
Not that protection. Get yourself a pepper spray if you’re female, whether or not you have male company. In a city whose reputation precedes it, a tiny bottle in your purse can elevate you from a victim to a brave soul in your head, and as you’ll soon realize, you’re only as safe as you think you are.
Practical tip: You can buy a pepper spray for INR 500 or less at any chemist store or pharmacy in Delhi
2. Find a house.
This one isn’t fun, especially if your budget isn’t sky-rocketing, and surprisingly, expats seem to have it easier than Indians in a house-hunt (yes, in India). Join groups like Dilli Net & Yuni Net, and sites like Easy Roommate, but beware of sleazy Indian men who try to offer you their house. Don’t settle for the first relatively good house you find; house agents typically show you pigeon-holes at first, and then an exorbitantly priced average house. Trust your gut when it comes to landlords / house owners.
Practical tip: Avoid agents if you can, and if you hire one, remember that the standard agent fee is 15 days rent, not one month.
3. Get a room.
Public displays of affection are not well received in public places or on the streets, not even holding of hands. Refrain from it, unless you want jobless men to perform a cheap Hindi song just for you (in no rhythm, I promise) or old aunties to shoot you down with their “shameless people” looks. I admit it’s worth one try as part of the Delhi experience.
Practical tip: In my observation, Delhi has some up-market areas where PDA is considered part of the ‘new’ culture. Go find them yourself.
4. Just Dial.
When in doubt, Just Dial to reach the Google of the offline world in Delhi. It’s a phone service that helps you find any practical information, including food joints near your area, home delivery services, bus companies, and the name or location of anything you can need. This brilliant service is available in all major Indian cities while you’re on the road too.
Practical tip: Just Dial +91 8888 8888 for any practical information in Delhi.
5. Travel first class.
That’s how we proudly refer to the women-only coach in the Delhi metro. You don’t want to be pushed around like a lost luggage trolley, or subject yourself to the crowd, the odor, or the stares in the ‘everyone’ compartment aka third class. And no, third class on the metro is not part of the Delhi experience.
Practical tip: The first coach of every Delhi metro train is for women, and is clearly indicated by signs on each station.
6. Beat Delhi belly.
As a rule of thumb, indoor food joints bustling with people can be assumed to have fresh food. Trust food reviews on Zomato, and use it to find Delhi’s hidden food havens. Most street food stalls & carts, crowded or not, lead you down the Delhi belly road, thanks to the smoke, dust & smog in the Delhi sky. If street food must be tried, look for hygienic alternatives like Haldiram & Bikanerwala.
Practical tip: Delhi has some lovely hidden cafes with a cozy ambiance & good food. Use Zomato to unearth them.
7. Know your night buddy.
The majority of indecent incidents in Delhi happen after hours, when pedestrians recede into their cars and homes, and the streets lie deserted. Book a Meru Cab each time you anticipate a late night; it’s the most reliable and professional cab service in Delhi in my personal experience, followed by the Radio taxis run by the Delhi police.
Practical tip: To arrange a Meru Cab in Delhi, call 011-4422 4422. This cab service is available in other major Indian cities, with a change in the city code.
8. Join Twitterville.
Tweet your way to a social life in Delhi. The community has lots of free advice to spare. Admittedly, it has its share of sleazy men wanting to “do fraandship” but it won’t take you long to know how to filter them out. Many women & travellers in India are active on Twitter, making it a good source of social interaction, and often converting virtual tweeple to real friends.
Practical tip: As with any other social platform, trust your gut when it comes to taking a twitter friendship into the real world.
9. Escape on the weekend.
While Delhi is culturally & historically rich, trust a weekend away from the crowds of the city to rejuvenate your spirit. There are plenty of tourist trails and offbeat options, as well as rural retreats to keep you experimenting. The overnight volvo buses and trains will comfortably transport you into another world, literally.
Practical tip: It’s relatively safe for women to travel on major trails, especially in the mountain areas, but follow your instinct if you ever find yourself in a sticky situation.
Have you lived in Delhi? What would you add to the list?