sim-cards

How to get a SIM Card / Data Connection in India

If like us at CaptivaTour, you need your mobile phone connection and data just a little bit less than you need water and air :), then you will certainly be looking for a way to be connected while on holiday.

This article will guide you on where you can get a SIM card for your phone, and the process.

Where to buy a SIM card:

  1. Kiosks at the airport: These counters are usually located immediately after you clear customs. For the most part, if you have the required documents in order, you should be able to get your card in fifteen to twenty minutes after you fill out the form. A confirmation call is made to your mobile phone to verify details provided in your application, after which the SIM is activated (usually) within 24 hours.
  2. Local cellphone dealer: You might get some reluctance from shopkeepers due to new government regulation that puts validity of the SIM card to your Indian visa or a 3 month limit whichever is shorter. The procedure for activation is similar to the earlier option. Many local dealers may not have mini and micro SIM options on hand.

 

Documentation Required to buy a SIM Card

The Government of India has tightened the regulations on the sale of prepaid SIM cards to foreigners after November 2012 and therefore you need to be prepared to submit the following documents to the vendor along with an application form.

 

  • Filled out Consumer Application Form (CAF)
  • 2 color passport photographs of yourself (3.5 inches x 4.5 inches)
  • A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification, after which it will be returned to you.
  • A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original visa for verification.
  • A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license or any other Government issued document. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
  • Residency proof – Proof of where you will be staying in India. Guidelines state foreigners may use the address of a local reference, a tour operator, or a hotel where you are staying – A letter confirming that you are a guest will suffice.

 

Which Prepaid SIM card should you buy:

Some of the more popular networks in India are as follows:

  • Airtel: the most popular network in India because of the good coverage in metropolitan areas.
  • Vodafone: one of the better networks for metropolitan coverage.
  • Reliance and Idea: other large carriers in India, which offer both 3G and 4G connectivity.
  • BSNL and MTNL: state owned telecommunications providers that may be a better option if you’re travelling away from the major cities, especially remote regions, as their coverage is better in remote areas.

How much will a SIM Card cost?

Approximately INR 350 (USD 5) for a SIM card with 3 months validity. However depending on the voice and data bundle you buy you may get the SIM card for lower prices as well.

How to make a call using your new Prepaid SIM Card

  • For international calls dial country code + area code + phone number
  • Call to local fixed phone in India ‘City/area code’ followed by the number. City/area codes can be found here.
  • Call to local mobile Dial the 10-digit mobile number without prefixing ‘0’
  • Call to mobile in other state/service circle Dial ‘0’ followed by the 10-digit mobile number

You can add more balance to your SIM card online via the network’s website or at most shops with the network’s logo on the shop front. You will get better deals online as many local shops will not have data heavy bundles available. Most networks have selfcare apps that you can install on your phone to use for adding voice minutes and data to your SIM.

Scams

Tourist Scams to Avoid while in India

Here are a list of 15 scams to avoid while travelling to India. Most are targeted exclusively at foreigners, though some are perpetrated against locals too.

The Hotel Scam – “Pretending to have never heard of your hotel or that your hotel has moved places/burnt down/changed names etc”

The likelihood that this is true is minimal and the driver is almost certainly going to take you to an alternate place where he gets a commission for bringing in gullible travelers like you. It helps to have the location of the hotel on a map (offline or online if you have access to a data connection), distance & shortest route from the airport or railway station along with the hotel’s local number to call & check for directions if needed. Alternately, just get the hotel to organize a pick for you – more expensive but worth it to avoid the hassle. There will be plenty of time during your stay in India to try local transport once you settle in (relatively speaking!).

 

The SIM card scam – “You can buy & use SIM without filling any paperwork”

For buying a SIM in India, both locals & foreigners are required to fill out paperwork. For foreigners or tourists, you need to fill out a Consumer Application Form (CAF) and submit below information.

  • 2 color passport photographs
  • A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification, after which it will be returned to you.
  • A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original visa for verification.
  • A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license or any other Government issued document. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
  • Residency proof – Proof of where you will be staying in India. Guidelines state foreigners may use the address of a local reference, a tour operator, or a hotel where you are staying – A letter confirming that you are a guest will suffice.

If they don’t ask for all that, they are either giving you a used SIM which means you’ll get calls all day from random Indians, or they aren’t even planning on filing your paperwork which means the SIM will not get activated. As a tourist, its best to go straight to a local cellphone dealer of any of the popular networks in India (Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, BSNL), fill in the paperwork and get a new SIM card.

 

The change scam – “Give you the wrong amount or pretend that you have given a Rs 100 note instead of a Rs 500 or Rs 1000 note”

Show and if possible, say aloud the amount you are handing over to the driver or shop keeper or anyone else you are dealing with and always count the change you received right in front of them. It’s also a good idea to have more of 100 rupee notes with you so that these problems are avoided (change at your hotel or when buying something at a ‘respectable’ establishment). Many shops are unable to change or accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes for small transactions.

 

The photo scam – “Tips for a photo you take”

When taking photos of animals (usually elephants or dressed up cows) & sometimes even local people, someone nearby is expecting a tip. They may ask upwards of INR 100 and will shout or yell if you don’t pay up. If you see the owner around, check if there are any charges and negotiate before clicking a picture.

 

The beggar scam – “Exchange whatever you buy back for money”

Tourists are usually the first people approached by beggars/ children on the street etc asking for money. If you refuse to give money to support this “business”, they change tack and ask instead for you to buy milk for their hungry child or purchase pens for school. This sounds fine as you are not really giving money but helping them out in a more meaningful way. Unfortunately, this is a scam too as the beggars/ kids have a deal with the store to return the product when you leave in exchange for money.

 

The bill or invoice scam – “Asking you to pay again for the stay or charging for drinks/ eatables that you didn’t even order”

With anything prepaid, ensure you keep the receipts/ invoices handy to show the hotel if asked to pay again during check in or check out. The other scam to watch out for is being charged for food or drinks you didn’t order. If you catch it, they will claim it was a mix up from a different table and subtract the amount from the bill while leaving the service charge (~15%) and luxury charge (~10%) taken on the original higher amount. If the difference matters to you, get them to make a new bill.

 

The Commission scam – “Drivers/ guides etc get commissions from most places they recommend at your expense”

On the way, the driver or guide will check if you are hungry or are looking to buy anything. He is being incentivized or given a commission for bringing you there. And that’s why like most tourist places, its best to do your own research instead of asking your driver to take you to the best local food or shopping in town. Ask for a recommendation from your hotel desk or research online – TripAdvisor, Zomato (India’s Yelp) are good sources! If you get to know a driver and use him often or he comes with a recommendation from family/ friends, then you can start to build trust.

 

The Pashmina/ shopping scam – “Original available at only a 1000 bucks”

It’s a fake! There is no way you can buy original Cashmere or pashmina for Rs 1000. If you still like it and would like to buy, negotiate it down to a rate you are happy paying. Tip: Start at 50% of the original rate! On the other hand, if you are concerned about getting cheated or not one to bargain, shop at the different state emporiums in Delhi where rates are fixed but reasonable & you are assured of the quality. Other options include Delhi Haat (ensure you visit the original, fakes abound!), Tibetan market for cheap clothes & other knick knacks etc.

 

Bogus train tickets or information offices scam – “Phony offices selling you tickets”

If there are not many computers or proper desks, and the “employees” are telling you that trains or hotels are booked out due to an upcoming event but they can make alternate arrangements – you are at a fake office. Do your research on which trains are suitable for you, timings, costs etc before you go to a ticketing or information office.

 

The Free bracelet or gift scam – “Gifting you something or putting things in your hand saying they are for free and then asking to be paid”

Very common around temples where kids or “Holy men” put flower bracelets or tie a red string on your wrist saying ‘it’s a gift’ and then ask you for money. If you are not sure, feel free to decline and walk away.

 

The broken meter scam – “Check for a working meter before you get in a taxi/ auto rickshaw”

Check if the auto/ taxi has a working meter before you get in and if feasible, check at the hotel desk/ trusted local, on how much it will cost. If you are in a hurry, agree on a price ahead of time and show them the destination on a map (phone or otherwise) so they go the shortest route. Also keep in mind, just because they are willing to use a meter, doesn’t mean that the meter is set appropriately! You’ll get used to how fast the meter should run and if it’s going too quickly, call the guy out on it so he is aware that you know.

 

Leaving luggage in the car – “Only if you have hired the car & driver from a trusted source”

Do not leave any valuables in the car – your wallet, passport, travel insurance and any other important documents you are carrying. If you are leaving your luggage in the car, take a photo of the license plate, driver’s information (like name, phone no, where he is expected to park the vehicle etc) and don’t pay him until the end of the day.

 

Renting a bike or a car – “Check if it is in working condition (especially tires & brakes) before you rent it”

When you rent a bike or car, inform them and take photos of the damage already there – rent the one with the least damage to avoid hassles later. Check if the tires have sufficient air, brakes are working properly, how long the petrol is expected to last and take it for a short test ride to check if everything is in working condition. Always lock up your bike when parked even if you are running a short errand to avoid it getting stolen.

 

Food or Drink tampering scam – “Spurious bottled water, spiked food etc”

It’s important to inspect bottled water before purchase to check if the cap has been tampered with as there are cases where the shopkeepers refill with tap water and glue the lid back on – if possible, buy all food & drink at super or hyper markets. Be extra careful and never accept food or drink from strangers especially in trains as there are cases of tourists being drugged and robbed.

 

The Police scam – “Stop only the cab you are traveling in & ask for a road fee”

While traveling in a cab or taxi, if the police stop your car (and no one else’s) and ask you to pay a road fee/ fine/ tax etc, they are most probably taking you for a ride. The cab driver may be a good guy and tell the cop ‘NO’ or he may not have an option and ask you to pay to avoid getting into trouble with the local police. You can argue (not worth it) and in the end pay up as the driver won’t go otherwise. Road tolls, parking fees at certain places etc are real and you have to pay for them.

Diwan-e-Aam Pillars

Top Attractions In Delhi – South Delhi

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

Located in the Mehrauli Archeological park, the principal attraction in South Delhi is the Qutub Minar, an iconic 800-year-old tower that has endured earthquakes and lightning for eight centuries.

The Qutub tower at 72.5 meters (tallest stone tower in India) is a stunning example of collaboration across generations. It was started by Qutubuddin Aibak in 1193, to commemorate his victory over an Indian Rajput King, Prithviraj Chauhan, but he could only complete the first floor, before he died. Iltutmish then completed the rest of the tower by building three more floors (yes, it originally had only four floors). It is believed that the tower is named Qutub Minar, not after Aibak, but his namesake, Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, a much revered Sufi saint, who lived around that time, and whose tomb is built nearby.

In any case, it’s a testament to Iltutmish’s humility to build 60% of the tower and not name it after himself! Around a hundred and forty years after he built it, the fourth floor was damaged in a lightning strike – it was repaired by the then ruler, Firuz Shah Tughlak, who added the fifth floor and made a few changes.  In fact when further lightning strikes and earthquakes damaged the Minar, there were other rulers down the line who repaired it. In the sixteenth century, Sikander Lodhi undertook some repair; while the British did some repairs in the nineteenth century. Having been started by Qutubuddin Aibak and then built on by further Kings, the Qutub Minar is a wonderful example of collaboration among multiple rulers.

Qutub Minar – Key Information

Expected time spent:
1-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
Sunrise to sunset (typically 7 AM to 6 pm)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 30)/ Foreigners (INR 500) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free
Address:
Aurobindo Marg
Closest metro station:
Qutub Minar
How to get there:
The nearest metro station is Qutub Minar station which is around 2.3 km away. You can hire an auto from the metro station to reach the site.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb is India’s first garden tomb, and a worthy precursor to the Taj – built around seventy years before the Taj, in the year 1571.

This beautiful building stands majestically on the banks of the Yamuna river perfect in its symmetry and awe-inspiring grandeur.

Built in the rather unique octagonal shape, it stands out among the hundreds of tomb structures in Delhi.

That symmetry, however, could not be more ill-suited to describe the life of the ruler for whom it was so lovingly created: the Mughal Emperor, Humayun, second ruler of the Mughal dynasty, and the son of its founder, Babur.

Humayun’ means ‘fortunate’. However, many believe that, given his tragic life, Humayun was quite unfortunate. A ruler who would’ve remained forgotten had it not been for this extraordinary tomb built for him, redeeming his legacy forever.

Humayun’s Tomb – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Around 1-1.5 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
7 am to noon, 1:30 pm to 6:30 pm (tourists are not allowed during prayer hours)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:
Still camera is free
Location:
Mathura Road, opposite Nizamuddin Dargah
Closest metro station:
JLN Stadium (Violet Line)
How to get there
You can take an autorickshaw from the JLN Stadium metro (about INR 50). Alternate metro stations include Khan Market and Jor Bagh.

Hauz Khas

The Hauz Khas complex contains the ancient ruins of Alauddin Khilji’s historic city, Siri, which dates back to the 13th century. In addition to its numerous ancient stone monuments, the entire village is dotted with domed tombs of minor Muslim royalty, who were laid to rest here from the 14th to 16th centuries. Other highlights include the water tank, remnants of an ancient college and the tomb of Firoz Shah, who ruled Delhi in the 14th century, as well as Ki Masjid, a fine mosque built in Lodi style.

Once famous for ancient ruins and architecture, Hauz Khas is now one of the most vibrant places in Delhi with a number of art galleries, fashionable restaurants, and boutiques.

Hauz Khas – Key Information

Best time to visit:
Any time of the day
Expected time spent:
Allow for at least 1-2 hours, more if you plan to visit the shops and boutiques.Opening days:

Monday to Saturday (closed on Sunday). Restaurants are open on all days till 11 PM

Opening hours:

10:30 AM to 7 PM

Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free

Cameras:
Free

Closest metro station:

Hauz Khas (yellow line)

How to get there:

Drive along Aurobindo Marg towards the Hauz Khas enclave. Follow the signages for the village or ask a local. If you’re taking the metro, the Hauz Khas and Green Park stations (on the Yellow Line) are just a 5-minute auto-ride away.

 

 

Lodhi Gardens

Spread over 90 acres, Lodhi Gardens is a beautifully landscaped city park strewn with ancient monuments belonging to the Sayyid and Lodhi periods. Located on the main Lodi Road, about 1 km east of Safdarjang’s tomb, it contains – Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, Tomb of Sikandar Lodi, Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad – architectural works of Lodhis who ruled parts of northern India & Pakistan, from 1451 to 1526.

Muhammad Shah’s Tomb

The tomb of Muhammad Shah (1434-44), the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty is located in the southwestern part of the garden. Built in 1444 by Ala-ud-din Alam Shah as a tribute, it is a typical octagonal tomb with the central chamber surrounded by a verandah having three arched openings on each side. There are stone lintels (chhajjas) along the arches of the verandah with the sloping buttresses at the corner and a chhatri on the roof over the center of each side. The tomb definitely shares its prominent features with the previous octagonal tombs but the beauty of this tomb lies in its proportions, the crowning lotus and decoration on the domes. There are eight graves inside the tomb of which the central one is said to be the grave of Muhammad Shah.

Bara Gumbad

Bara Gumbad is a square tomb surmounted by a large dome, situated 300 meters northeast of Muhammad Shah’s tomb. Though often considered as a gateway of Bara Mosque, which it is not, the tomb has facades and turrets and was supposedly built during the reign of Sultan Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517). According to the records, the interior of the tomb was beautified with stuccowork and paintings. Since the tomb had no graves, the person buried inside is till date unidentified. It is assumed that he must be an officer of high rank for whom such a magnificent structure was constructed.

Sheesh Gumbad

Few meters north of Bara Gumbad Mosque lies another Lodi period tomb, the Sheesh Gumbad also known as ‘glazed dome’ because of the beautiful blue tiled decoration of the tomb, of which now only traces remain. Very similar to Bara Gumbad in appearance, the western wall of the tomb has the mihrab that served as a mosque. The tomb is surmounted by a dome, which was originally decorated with blue tiles. Some of the similar decoration can be seen today but only above the main façade. The interior of the tomb was also decorated with incised plasterwork containing floral designs and Quranic inscriptions.

Sikandar Lodi’s Tomb

Located in the northwestern corner of Lodi Gardens, this octagonal tomb lies about 250 meters north of the Sheesh Gumbad. It has a central octagonal chamber with each side opening in three arches with sloping buttresses at the corner. The tomb is enclosed within a square garden and has a wall-mosque on the west.

Athpula
Athpula is further located east of Sikandar Lodi’s tomb. As the name suggests (Ath-eight, Pula-piers), the stone bridge has eight piers and seven arches and crosses the small waterway running through the garden. The bridge is said to have been built during Mughal Emperor Akbar’s reign by Nawab Bahadur.

 

Lodhi Gardens – Key Information

Best time to visit:

Mornings

Expected time spent:
Around 1-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
6 am to 7 pm
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:

Free

Location:
Lodhi Road
Closest metro station:
Jor Bagh (yellow line) or Khan Market (Violet line)
How to get there
This landmark garden is situated right between Khan Market and Safdurjung’s Tomb on Lodhi Road. Jor Bagh (on the Yellow Line) and Khan Market (on the Violet Line) are the closest metro stations.

Lotus Temple

Bahai Temple or the Bahai House of worship, is literally constructed in the shape of a large, white lotus flower. Like all other Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction. It is a gathering place where one is allowed to read or chant from holy scriptures belonging to any religion, but nobody is allowed to play musical instruments, give sermons or hold religious ceremonies inside the hall. The main temple area prohibits visitors from making any noise whatsoever and lays emphasis on meditation as a means to experience divinity.

Lotus Temple – Key Information

Best time to visit:

Late evening, when it is lit up

Expected time spent:
Around 1-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week except Monday
Opening hours:

9 AM to 7 PM (Summer); 9 AM to 5:30 PM (Winter)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:

Free

Location:
Lotus Temple Road, Shambhu Dayal Bagh, Bahapur, Near Kalkaji Temple
Closest metro station:
Kalkaji Mandir (Violet line)
How to get there
The temple is located close to the Kalkaji Mandir metro station (on the Violet Line) and right next to the Kalkaji Park. Entry to the temple is via parking lot.
Red_Fort_A00C01P01_Red_Fort_facade

History of Delhi

Delhi is believed to have been the site of the fabled city of Indraprastha, which featured in the Mahabharata over 3000 years ago, but archeological evidence suggests that the area has been settled for around 2500 years.

However, for most of Indian history before the Turkic Muslim invasion in 1192 AD, Delhi didn’t really figure as a significant city on India’s map. Other cities such as Pataliputra, Ujjain, Kannauj and Mathura had been the major seats of power. Delhi attained some importance under the Tomar Rajputs from around 1050 AD; but it had never been a place from where the entire subcontinent’s fate would be decided.

That changed after the Turkic invasion.

Delhi was adopted as the formal capital of the new rulers. And since then, it has always been the most important city in India (barring a couple of centuries in between, when Agra, and then Calcutta held that honour). What made this city, which was an obscure hamlet for close to three thousand years, such an enduring choice for the capital of this vast country?

Like most things involving real estate, the answer is: location, location, location.

You can read more about Delhi’s location and it’s importance in this post.

For control over India, it’s important to have control over India’s most populous region. And the location of Delhi is ideal for doing so. It was almost as if India’s rulers experimented with multiple cities and sites before stumbling upon Delhi, and realised ‘Hey, we may be onto something here!’ And that’s how Delhi attained its status as India’s pre-eminent city and has pretty much retained it ever since.

Delhi is a city of cities, built and destroyed several times with at least eight known to have been founded around modern Delhi, the last of which was the British Raj’s New Delhi. Earliest existing ruins date from AD 736, when Tomara ruler Anangpal Tomar II, built Lal Kot, a fortified city in Mehrauli region as the first city of Delhi, to halt raids by Mahmud of Ghazni. After Anangpal’s demise, his maternal grandson Prithviraj Chauhan, then king of Ajmer took control of Lal Kot and renamed it Rai Pithora (remains of the fort walls are visible in Mehrauli around Qutub complex, Kishangarh and Vasant Kunj areas).

In the late twelfth century, Mohammed Ghori a Turk from present-day Afghanistan tried to capture Delhi and was initially defeated. But Ghori attacked for a second time the following year and executed Prithviraj Chauhan in a fierce battle in 1192 AD.

There’s an interesting backstory to that defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, that is told in an epic poem known as Prithviraj Raso, composed by his court poet.

Here’s how the story goes (Note: this story features in our Qutub Minar Audio Guide . For more such stories, take our audio guides for a spin on your Android or iOS phones.)

Prithviraj was an up-and-coming Rajput King, ruling over Delhi and Ajmer. He’d aroused the envy of his neighbouring ruler, the much older Jaichand of Kannauj. This Jaichand had a daughter called Samyogita.

Prithviraj and Samyogita fell for each other. The worried dad organised a “Swayamvar” for her. A “swayamvar” was a ceremony where the girl got to choose her husband, among many potential suitors; you could think of it as an ancient, feminist twist to the Indian arranged marriage system!) Naturally Prithviraj wasn’t called and what’s more – to add insult to injury, his statue was kept outside the door as a doorman! When it was time for Samyogita to choose, guess what she did: ignored all the other suitors, walked straight outside, and garlanded the statue. Prithviraj, who was hiding nearby, took his cue. He rushed in to take his girl and eloped with her on his horse… no doubt leaving behind a fuming Jaichand!

Why are we narrating this cute (if slightly incredulous) story in the context of Prithviraj’s loss on the battlefield? Well, by following his heart, Prithviraj made an unfortunate mistake – he antagonised the one guy who could’ve supported him, when the Turks came attacking. As it happened, Jaichand famously stayed away from the battle between Prithviraj and Mohammed Ghori. In fact, the Prithviraj Raso claims that Jaichand actively aided Ghori. That view is so popular, that Jaichand’s name became synonymous with treachery in Hindi folklore.

After conquering Delhi, when Mohammed Ghori left for Afghanistan, he left his trusted Turk slave, Qutub-ud-din Aibak in charge here. But hang on, you may ask – what happened to family? What about handing over the throne to your descendants or close family members? In Ghori’s case, he had no children; but a key factor that drove the preference for slaves by royals was their distrust of family. A saying in Persian captures the thought succinctly:

‘One obedient slave is better than three hundred sons; for the former desires his master’s glory; the latter, their father’s death.’

Qutub-ud-din Aibak built the Qutub Complex, which remains one of the most interesting sights in the city. Aibak took over the Indian spoils of war after Ghori’s assassination in 1206, founding the Delhi Sultanate, which was to rule Delhi and the surrounding region for almost 2 centuries.

In 1303, the Delhi Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji built the second city, Siri, near present-day Hauz Khas to defend the Delhi Sultanate against the Mongols.

Then the Tughluqs built Tughlaqabad, 8km (5 miles) east of the Qutub Complex, but this was deserted in 1321 and little remains of this city. After a brief sojourn in latter-day Maharashtra, the Tughluqs moved the city again in 1327, this time between Lal Kot and Siri, and named this fourth city Jahanpanah. These cities of Delhi were to the south, around the area where the Qutub Minar now stands.

A mere 27 years later the capital was moved again, this time some distance north to an eminently sensible position on the Yamuna River. Named Ferozabad, at Firoz Shah Kotla in present-day New Delhi, this sprawling fifth city was, according to legend, one of the richest in the world.

The Tughlaq dynasty received its final blow, when Timur invaded India in 1398. For eight days Delhi was plundered, enough to destroy what little was left of the Tughlaq foundations. Starting out as vassals of Timur, the Sayyids and from them the Lodis, did not build brand-new cities and their tombs are found scattered in the Lodi Gardens. Babur, king of Kabul, and native of Ferghana, dislodged the Lodi dynasty after defeating Ibrahim Lodi in the historic first battle of Panipat in 1526. Though Babur had a smaller army than that of the Lodis’, the cannons brought by him, and superior tactics balanced out the deficit in numbers. It was the first time that cannons were used in India, and unprepared for such a kind of onslaught, Lodis were defeated. Their defeat by the Mughal Babur signaled the end of Sultanate rule and the start of the Mughal empire, one of the world’s greatest medieval dynasties, which ruled the region for over 200 years.

It was Babur who first moved the capital to nearby Agra, but his son Humayun chose to return to Delhi in 1534, only to be forced into exile by the advancing army of the Afghan Sher Shah, who took possession of Purana Qila (literally “old fort”) in 1540, rebuilt this sixth city, and renamed the citadel Shergarh. In a brief span of 5 years (1540-1545), he made drastic reforms in civil and military administration. The currency of Rupiya was first issued in those times.

The Grand Trunk Road was built from Chittagong in Bangladesh to Kabul in Afghanistan, improving the transportation and postal services. Tragedy struck the Suris when an explosion of gunpowder took the king’s life in 1545. Islam Shah, his son succeeded him, but he too died in a short span in 1554. A series of weak rulers followed Islam Shah, thus creating an opportunity for the Mughals to return.

Fifteen years later, Humayun took back his throne, only to die an ignominious death a year later, falling down his library steps — his tomb, which can be seen from the southern gate of Purana Qila, remains one of Delhi’s top attractions. Under the guidance of Bairam Khan, Humayun’s son, Akbar, became one of the most able rulers in the history of India. Generally revered for his religious tolerance and diplomacy, he also instituted reforms in taxation and judiciary. He chose to move the capital back to Agra from Delhi. Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, constructed the seventh Delhi in 1639, thus shifting the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi; his Shahjahanabad roughly corresponds to Old Delhi today and is largely preserved. After the death of Aurangzeb, revolts had increased, and the Mughal empire started to disintegrate. Following the invasion by Nadir Shah in 1739, the foundations of Mughal dynasty were fatally weakened. In 1803, the British captured Delhi and promptly installed a British administrator. Delhi wasn’t the capital of India at the time, but it was a critical commercial centre. After the revolt of 1857, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah was exiled to Burma by the British and in 1876, Queen Victoria was proclaimed the empress of India.

The last of Delhi’s cities to be built, New Delhi took shape between 1911 and 1933. Designed by the British imperialist architects Lutyens and Baker, New Delhi’s major buildings are considered some of the finest artefacts of the British Empire.

Autorickshaw

Getting Around in Delhi

Like any great city of the world, Delhi is a fairly easy to get about in once you get the hang of it. Having a data connection on your mobile will help find out routes and to get your bearings.

Here are your top choices for local travel in Delhi:

The Metro

(Delhi’s lifeline – quick, reliable, safe!)

The Delhi Metro

The Delhi Metro

metrosightGetting there: Use Google Maps or ask a trusted local for nearest metro station or look for this sign of the Delhi Metro

Tickets: For single journey, it’s best to buy a token at the station. For multiple journeys, the ‘Metro card’ is super-convenient and great value. (no lines, discounted fare and a refundable deposit)

Metro Card

Metro Card

In the metro train: First coach of the train is reserved for women and extremely useful during crowded hours (especially mornings and evenings). No food/drink allowed inside.

 

Buses

(Useful for shorter distances, routes not covered by metro)

Getting there: Use Google Maps for routes & bus numbers to the required destination. Look for this sign to identify Bus Stops.

Air-Con Bus

Air-Con Bus

Tickets: Buy using cash inside the bus – make sure you have the correct change in coins/ notes. Cost usually in multiples of Rs. 5, and very cheap!

Non-A/C Bus

Non-A/C Bus

In the bus: It can get very crowded and uncomfortable – especially during rush hours. Look for separate seats reserved for ladies in front of the bus.

 

Autos (a.k.a ‘tuk-tuks’) and Rickshaws

(Last mile-connectivity)

Getting there: Usually hailed from the street; autos can also be called using the ‘Ola’ app which you can download if you are planning a longer stay and are keen on only using public transport for travel.

Autorickshaw

Autorickshaw

Fare/ Cost: Autos are metered, but drivers rarely abide by them. Use a thumb-rule of Rs. 10/km; find out the shortest distance using Google Maps. Cycle-rickshaw fare is usually standard amount depending on distance. Ask a trusted local when in doubt.

Rickshaw

Rickshaw

Radio & App Based Taxis

(When You’re in a Hurry)

Getting there: Use your mobile phone to call for a cab using the Uber or Ola apps. Another option is Meru.

Fare/ Cost: Fares are typically around Rs 10/km, while they vary lower and higher depending on the time of the day, special offers as well as surge pricing. Meru is about 2-3 times more expensive.

Diwan-e-Aam Pillars

Top Attractions In Delhi – Old Delhi

Red Fort (Lal Qila)

Red_Fort_A00C01P01_Red_Fort_facade
If you have limited time in Delhi and are looking to do only one sightseeing excursion, choose between this and the Qutub complex. This is a monument with a tumultuous past that has seen dizzying heights of power followed by a steep fall from grace and terrible tragedy.

The Mughals ‘headquarters’ was at Agra (the city of the Taj) for most of their rule but in 1638, Shah Jahan felt that Agra’s cramped streets were too narrow for his grand processions. By then, Delhi had already been the site of 6 earlier habitations, or ‘cities’ – but instead of using the previous sites, Shah Jahan decided to build a whole new city on the bank of the Yamuna river.

And thus, in the year 1648, a new city, rather modestly named Shahjahanabad, was unveiled. At its heart was the towering Red Fort palace complex. It was called Qila-e-Mualla or Qila-e-Mubarak – the Auspicious Fort. The imposing and regal edifice pays testament to the vision of its creator, Shah Jahan, the same man who built the Taj Mahal.

Before it fell into ruin, the Red Fort was an ultra-luxury palace complex and the residence of one of the richest persons on the planet. However, the name was utterly inappropriate. It was neither auspicious – given the tragedies that were to unfold here; nor was it a rugged Fort. Rather ironically, however, the name Red Fort (given by the British), with its connotation of the color of blood, would become a more appropriate name.

Red Fort – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Allow for a minimum of 1 hour if you intend to cover only the highlights
Opening days:
Open daily expect Monday
Opening hours:
Sunrise to sunset (typically 7 AM to 6 pm)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 30)/ Foreigners (INR 500) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free
Address:
Netaji Subhash Marg
Location:
Off Netaji Subhash Marg, opposite Chandni Chowk
Closest metro station:
Chandni Chowk
How to get there:
At the Chandni Chowk Metro Station, take the exit towards the Fountain/Gurudwara Shishganj Saheb. After existing, walk east past the Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) towards Netaji Subhash Marg. The Red Fort is across the Netaji Subhash Marg. The entrance and ticket counters are on the left of the imposing central structure with the national flag.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid - via Wikipedia

Jama Masjid – via Wikipedia

Across the road from the Red Fort and at the center of the erstwhile capital city of the Mughals, Shahjahanbad, stands Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Built in red sandstone and marble, Jama Masjid is one of the last architectural works of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan.

Jama Masjid is approachable from any one of three gates, though the one near Dariba Kalan is the usual entrance. The Jama Masjid has a huge courtyard, capable of holding 25,000 worshippers & usually fills up on Fridays, Eid, and other important festivals.

Eleven arches form the façade, a set of five each on either side of the large, central arch. Bands of calligraphy and inlay work in white and black marble form most of the decoration, mainly intricate carvings with verses inscribed from the holy Koran. Three massive white marble domes, with fine black lines of inlay, top the mosque.

Climb the 122 steps up the narrow southern minaret for a bird’s eye view of the city around. If you are interested in attending a prayer session, be there before 7:45 am when non-muslims are allowed. Visitors should be fully clothed & must remove their shoes before entering while women need to cover with a tunic that is provided & accompanied by a male (“guides” are available for a tip).

Jama Masjid – Key Information

 

Best time to visit:
Less crowded in the morning
Expected time spent:
Allow for 45 minutes to an hour
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
7 am to noon, 1:30 pm to 6:30 pm (tourists are not allowed during prayer hours)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:
INR 200 (Fee must be paid even if you carry a phone with a camera or don’t intend to photograph anything!)
Address:
Netaji Subhash Marg
Location:

Off Netaji Subhash Marg, West of Red Fort, near Chandni Chowk
Closest metro station:
Chawri Bazaar
How to get there
You can walk from the Chawri Bazaar metro station (1.2km), or take a 5-10 minute cycle rickshaw ride to the Jama Masjid

Old Delhi Markets

Chhatta Chowk: India’s first shopping mall

As you see the shops on either side, you’d be forgiven for berating the Indian government – after all, why would they allow such a historic monument to be desecrated with these shops selling trinkets of dubious authenticity? But wait, you are actually walking through a 17th Century market, which was built by Shah Jahan as part of the Fort Complex. Why build a market in a Fort complex? There was a large retinue of women in the Mughal palace, who were relatives of the Emperor and other nobles. Shah Jahan was keen that the ladies have a place to hang out, gossip and basically have a blast. The natural choice: A nice market to shop in. But Mughal royal women seldom ventured outside, to visit public markets; so, Shah Jahan decided to build the market within the Fort walls. But, with an innovation as markets in India in the 17th century were open air. But Shah Jahan was inspired by the great covered markets in Persia. And thus, the Chhatta Chowk Bazaar was born (Chhat means roof) – the vaulted arches giving a regal look to a market that would be frequented by royalty. In fact, you know what? This was India’s very first shopping mall! Today, the market has 40-odd shops selling artificial and semi-precious jewellery, embroidered bags, hand-painted wall hangings and ‘antiques’ with dubious authenticity.

Chandni Chowk: Experience the sights & smells of India along with a bit of souvenir shopping!

From the main entrance to the Red Fort, head down the principal street to the Chandni Chowk market, one of the oldest & busiest markets in India. This chaotic market built in the 17th century and designed by Jahan Ara (Shah Jahan’s favorite daughter) was once visited by merchants from Turkey, China and even Holland. During Shah Jahan’s reign, a tree-lined canal ran down the market’s centre, shimmering in the moon light, hence the name Chandni Chowk, or ‘moonlight place’. Best explored on foot, Chandni Chowk’s specialty is its variety: roads/ bazaars with many shops specializing in certain types of products/ goods – sarees with chikan & zari work (Kinari Bazar), spices & dry fruits (Khari Baoli), jewellery/ gold & silver shops (Dariba Kalan), shops selling books & stationery (Nai sarak), brass/ copper & paper products (Chawri Bazaar), Daryaganj (Sunday book market), clothing (Katra Neel), electronic, consumer goods (Bhagirath palace), shoes and leather goods etc. Most shops do not accept cards so keep cash handy and take care of your belongings as it gets really crowded.

Chandni Chowk: A microcosm of India’s different religions

Along this busy commercial street, you can experience a microcosm of India’s different religions – mosques, a church, and a number of temples. First up, opposite the fort, is a Digambar Jain Temple, established in 1656 by Agarwal Jain merchants invited by Shah Jahan to come and settle in the city. This temple is the oldest of its kind in Delhi and easily recognizable by its red sandstone material. It is surprisingly simple compared to other Jain temples, which are renowned for the intricacy of their carvings but has some attractive paintings related to Jainism. If you visit this temple please make sure you do not carry anything related to leather as leather goods (purse, valet, belts) are not allowed inside. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple. However, you can take snaps outside the temple. Also attached is a bird hospital established in 1929, where injured birds brought in by locals are treated before releasing them again.

If you’re pressed for time, skip these and proceed to vibrant Gauri Shankar Temple (built by a Maratha general Appa Gangadhar in 1761), which has an 800-year-old lingam. You have located it if you see mounds of marigold being sold to worshippers. Or stop at Sisganj Gurudwara, an unassuming but superbly atmospheric and welcoming Sikh temple, which marks the spot where Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Sikh guru and his followers were executed by Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam. The Gurudwara in the form of a memorial was built in 1783 when the then Mughal capital Delhi was captured by the Sikhs. You need to wash your hands and feet at the cheap taps plumbed right at the temple entrance. You are then briefed on what is and is not permitted in the temple. All visitors, both male & female are required to cover their heads. Before leaving the site, do take time to visit the community kitchen which feeds thousands of people across religions/ communities three times a day. Then, either turn left into Kinari Bazaar or head the length of Chandni Chowk to Fatehpuri Masjid, designed by one of Shah Jahan’s wives and built in 1650.

Chandni Chowk – Key Information

Best time to visit:
Less crowded on Sundays when most shops are closed

Expected time spent:
Allow for at least 2-3 hours

Opening days:
Monday to Saturday

Opening hours:
10 am to 7 pm, except eateries which are open late

Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free

Cameras:
Free

Location:
Near Chandni Chowk Metro Station

Closest metro station:
Chandni Chowk

How to get there:

The best way to reach the markets is by Metro either to Chawri Bazaar or Chandni Chowk stations, and then explore on foot.

Dariba Kalan

This is a 17th-century street in Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi or Shahjahanbad connecting the market to Jama Masjid. The street witnessed the bloody massacre of Delhi, ordered by the Persian invader Nadir Shah, when hundreds of innocent civilians and soldiers were killed and the gold shops were looted. The year was 1739 – it was 33 years since Aurangzeb’s death and the throne had already seen 7 occupants. The well-oiled military machine of Nadir Shah easily defeated the much larger, but ineffectual Mughal army in a battle near Delhi. The triumphant Nadir Shah entered Delhi with the captive Mughal emperor, and took residence in the Khaas Mahal in Red Fort. While Nadir Shah and his generals were inside the Red Fort, there was unrest in the city streets outside. In the unrest, some Persian soldiers were killed by a mob. The next day, an enraged Nadir Shah showed up at the main market, Chandni Chowk, to enforce discipline. He may have carried his battle axe, which now is displayed in Delhi’s National Museum! Apparently, when Nadir Shah was addressing the crowds, some mischief-makers shot at him from the rooftops, injuring a soldier standing by him. Nadir Shah completely lost it, and ordered a total, merciless massacre. The soldiers went berserk in their annihilation of the ordinary citizens, slashing and burning everything that came in their way. Today, Dariba Kalan is famous for costume jewellery – make sure you bargain hard for the gorgeous baubles.

 Kinari Bazaar

Turn into the jam-packed street, adjacent to the Gali Paranthe Wali, near Gurudwara Sisganj and stop to admire the zari, zardozi trimmings, lacework and cheap gold (mostly tinsel). This bazaar is known for its wedding shopping – all kinds of Indian wedding dresses like Kurtas, Sherwanis, Lehenga Dupatta, Salwar Kameez & groom’s turbans are available here. During the wedding season, there are hordes of eager shoppers flocking in locally as well as from far & distant places. After shopping here, you can try the famous Paranthe Wali Gali for some piping hot fried Paranthas and Natraj for its thick ‘n’ creamy Dahi Bhalle chaat.

Khari Baoli: Asia’s biggest spice market

Situated adjacent to Fatehpuri Masjid and operating since the 17th century, Khari Baoli sells all kinds of spices, nuts, herbs and food products like rice and tea. Reputed to be Asia’s biggest spice market — the colors, textures, and aromas are worth the side trip for a different experience. As an added incentive, though it is a wholesale market, you can buy smaller quantities of any item with great choice, quality & price unmatched anywhere else in the city.

Chawri Bazaar: Wholesale market for brass, copper & paper products

Chawri Bazaar, originally known as Chawdi (wide road) Bazaar, was established in 1840 and runs along a long stretch with Hauz Qazi Chowk at one end and the backyard of the Jama Masjid at the other. Chawari Bazar’s paper market is said to be the biggest paper mandi in the world and has grown from 7 paper merchants who set up shop in 1911, to over a 1000 merchants today with some of them tracing their lineage as paper suppliers to Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. In the 19th century, Chawri Bazaar was a promenade of the Walled City, a place for the rich and the young to enjoy their evenings. The ground floor comprised shops occupied by merchants and the floors above were kothas, a place where courtesans lived and performed mujras (a dance form). As the British rule became stronger, particularly after the 1857 mutiny, the mujra culture faded away and the upper floors of Chawri Bazaar were reduced to brothels. Eventually, even these were closed down by the British including five other “red light” areas of Delhi. Cluttered with electricity wires today, the market is famous for its hardware shops and paper market that sells wallpapers, decorative/ gift wrapping paper, office stationary and more. You can also head up to Nai Sarak, a popular book shopping and stationery destination in Old Delhi. Back then, this market was popular for watchmakers and tailors. Even today, a number of tailors have their shops in this market, also popular for showrooms of lehenga-chunni, salwar suits and second-hand books.

Churiwali Galli: Lane of Bangle sellers

Ask for the Churi Walan Chowk where most of the bangle shops are, dismally few in number though, as compared to the ancient times where the bangle sellers were known to have accessorized even royalty! Make a final stop at Karim’s to sample the authentic Mughlai cooking that has kept patrons coming back for over 100 years.

Isa Khan Niazi's Tomb#

One Day Itinerary for Delhi

By Krokodyl - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19013587

Arriving in Delhi

Delhi is most likely your point of entry into India, and you are probably flying into the bustling Indira Gandhi International Airport, which will welcome you with a warm Namastey.

If flying in from abroad, you will reach the swanky Terminal T3, built in 2011. The airport offers a wide range of duty-free shopping facilities (should you want to stock up on your favourite tipple for the journey ahead) as well as currency exchange counters (ideal for changing just a bit of currency for immediate needs – airport exchange counters don’t give the best rates).

New Delhi Airport T3 - via Wikipedia

New Delhi Airport T3 – via Wikipedia

If you arrived late at night, as many international flights do and expect your hotel to check you in only mid-morning, you you can head straight to the little rooms or the ‘sleeping pods’, chairs that recline up to 180 degrees, to sleep off your jet lag. You can also choose to indulge your taste buds from the wide variety of restaurants offering various cuisines.

The airport is also a good place to get yourself a local mobile sim card from the airport store so you can continue using your cell phone in India. It is important to have a legal local sim card issued in your name against proper documentation during your visit.

You should have your hotel booking sorted before you step out of the airport – that way the various scams and tricks you have read about will not bother you much. If possible, have your hotel arrange a pick up for this one trip – nothing wrong in slowly easing into the chaos of Delhi one step at a time.

If catching a connecting domestic flight, check the terminal number on your ticket. Terminal T3 has both an international and a domestic wing. If however, your connecting flight is to leave from terminal T1D, you will need to take a connecting shuttle bus to T1, a terminal located 8KM (5 miles) from T3.

If you are heading out to the city from the T3 terminal, there are several modes of reaching your destination. You can read in more detail about the options in our Getting Around in Delhi article.

Pre-Paid Taxi

Prepaid Taxis

Prepaid Taxis

You can book a pre-paid taxi from inside the arrival lounge as well as from a booth outside in the taxi bay. Right after your customs check, you can go the extreme left of the arrival lounge to find the pre-paid taxi booth. Since this is run by the government, there is no chance of a rip off and it is comparatively safe to avail this service. Although out of fashion, these black and yellow color taxis have a certain old world charm about them. Besides, they have to pass through the traffic police check post where they need to submit their details along with your name and destination. For further security, you may want to avoid the taxis with tinted glasses and ask for a change of vehicle if you feel unsafe. The rates start at Rs 25 for the first KM and then INR 16/KM, with a 25% surcharge at night. There are a few additional surcharges as well but you pay in advance.

Metered Taxis

You can also travel by metered radio taxis run by private operators like MERU CABS, EASY CABS, MAGIC SEVA etc. which are more expensive at about INR 23/km but will allow a more comfortable ride. You can choose a later model car with air-con through this service by shelling out a bit extra

Radio Cabs

If you use Uber in your country, and if you have taken a local data connection for your mobile, you can try calling an Uber to take you to your destination as well. A local alternative to Uber – Ola Cabs, have a similar service too.

Buses

DTC Bus - via Wikipedia

DTC Bus – via Wikipedia

To the extreme right of the arrival area, you can also find A/C local buses which stop at major railway stations and bus stops. However, it is better to avoid this if it is your first visit to Delhi and you are unsure about the route to your destination.

The Delhi Metro

Airport Express - via Wikipedia

Airport Express – via Wikipedia

Last but not least, there is the Delhi Metro Airport Express Line which will take you directly to the New Delhi railway station with just a couple of stops in between. The efficient metro service connects the entire city as well as the suburbs. You would however want to first refer to the Delhi Metro Map and spot your destination before changing lines at the New Delhi metro station.

Indian Rupees

Currency Exchange in Delhi

These are your options for changing currency in New Delhi

At the airport

Only exchange currency to meet immediate needs!

The currency exchange rate at the airport is always poorer (you could lose up to 2-5% on the rates offered depending on the currency) compared to what you can get in the city – so at the airport, change only the minimum amount of local currency that you require. Once you step out of the airport building, you may not be allowed back in to exchange foreign currency.

There are currency exchange counters before the customs and after the customs area in the arrival section of the Delhi airport, Terminal 3.

Before customs, there are 2 currency exchange counters: Thomas Cook and Central Bank of India, both of which are open 24 hours. Central Bank of India’s counter is not easy to find – so ask & look for it (refer to image) as they don’t charge any commission while Thomas Cook (refer to image) does. You should be able to exchange currency at either counter for similar rates. You can use the pictures below or the Airport’s interactive map to see where the currency exchange counters are located.

Location of Currency Exchanges - Image : newdelhiairport.in

Location of Currency Exchanges – Image : newdelhiairport.in

Currency exchange outlets in the city

Look for and exchange only at authorized money changers

Currency exchange outlets are found in tourist, market and commercial areas. They offer better exchange rates than the airport, and may or may not charge a commission. Offices in market areas like Connaught Place tend to offer better exchange rates than those in tourist areas (Paharganj, Karol Bagh etc) but always shop around to figure out which center is offering the best rate.

Govt or Reserve Bank of India approved money changers will have a sign proclaiming Authorized Foreign Currency Exchange. You can usually make out the genuine ones from the street corner people or ask for the Encashment certificate if you want to be sure. Take care when changing money – i.e. always count money in front of teller before departing, try to avoid changing large amounts of cash at any one time and check if notes are valid. You can try and bargain for the best rate if you are changing large amounts of currency.

ATMs

One of the simplest and scam free way is to use the ATM to withdraw money. Money changers like Thomas Cook and AMEX will charge much more as compared to the bank issuing the ATM card in most cases (do check with the card issuer transaction charges in advance!). However, sometimes banks may charge a transaction fee for every withdrawal, in which case it is best for you to withdraw larger sums so the transaction fee is spread on a larger amount. If you prefer to withdraw smaller amounts each time, notify your card issuer that you will be using ATMs frequently in India given most places in India accept cash only. Any fees will be up to the bank in India, and your home bank, but it will (usually) be better than a cash exchange service at the airport.

Important Note: In most (but not all) Indian ATM machines, you insert your card and then take it out immediately, unlike in some countries where you leave your card in when using an ATM. You will then be asked to enter your pin and carry on with your transaction.

 

Local hotel/ Travel agents

Cross check exchange rate being offered & decide accordingly as the rates offered here will be poorer than authorised agents.

Local Bank/ Post Office

Many local Indian banks branches will also change your currency at a fair rate if you have time for the paperwork. The other option India Post (local post offices), which in association with HDFC Bank, provides Forex services through select Post Offices across India. This is a useful service if you need to exchange money outside main cities/ towns in India and do not want to use an ATM/ bank card due to high transaction charges.

Don’ts:

  • Do not purchase foreign currency from local residents offering you a better rate. Fake foreign currency is not uncommon in tourist areas.
  • Buying foreign currency from unauthorized places is also illegal.
  • Do not fall victim to people trying to entice you by saying they will give you a better exchange rate than what the banks may offer you.

Q: How do I know if I am getting a good exchange rate?

Follow the steps below and you won’t be disappointed or feel cheated

  1. First check the rate on XE.com to get a fair idea of the current or today’s exchange rate
  2. Look at the Buy & Sell spread used by the money changer/ hotel etc. Spread is the difference between what they pay to buy a unit of currency and what they sell that unit of currency for. A bigger spread means they are looking to make more money on the transactions vs. a smaller spread which is better for you! Exchange your currency at a center/ hotel where the difference between Buy and Sell is the smallest amount.
  3. If you request for a receipt, some centers offer 0.3-0.4 rupees less than the exchange rate for the transaction. Currency exchange receipts should clearly show the amount of foreign currency exchanged for Indian currency and the rate of exchange you were given so you can reconvert your left over Indian currency back to foreign currency at the airport where you fly out from.

 

You can get a list of Reserve Bank of India approved places to exchange currency here

 

Indian Currency Notes Alert

Indian Rupee currency notes printed before 2005 will no longer be accepted after January 1, 2015. Those who have such currency notes should exchange them at par at Indian banks as soon as possible. Currency notes issued before 2005 do not have the year of printing on the reverse side. In notes issued after 2005, the year of printing is visible at the bottom of the reverse side. Tourists should ensure they are not accepting any Indian currency notes that do not have the year of printing visible on the reverse side of the currency.