Delhi transport guide

The transport system of Delhi is very developed, which cannot be said about all Indian cities – everywhere it’s different, in some cities there is no rickshaws and cabs even. In Delhi, it is, in my opinion, even too developed: it provokes laziness and lack of movement in people too much, according to me. And also, Delhi is the “leader” in the lists of air pollution IN THE WORLD now (yes, not in China now the most dangerous ecology).

However, today is not about that. Public transport: what types of transport are there in Delhi and what types should foreigners use? What is the cost of public transport in Indian capital?

Also check: Guide on intercity transport in India

Rickshaws. Rickshaws are individual (well, usually), but fairly affordable transport which will take you to the desired place “with the breeze” and which is easy to catch on the streets. There are 3 types of rickshaws: bicycle, electric and auto-rickshaws.

I honestly feel sorry a lot for the bicycle-rickshaw drivers: sometimes they drive 2-3 people with their own physical strength – often not too thin people, being themselves usually very thin. Yes, and Delhi roads can hardly be called smooth. The fare for a bicycle-rickshaw is usually very low: for 30 rupees ($0.4) the driver will take you within a few kilometers – they do not travel very far since it will take a lot of time and energy.

Electric rickshaws are charged by electricity – for me this is the best solution – no harm to the environment (well, almost) and affordable prices. But, most often, they also work for not too far distances and for small prices: for example, getting till the metro station. Delhi people can take them at a distance of 500 m even – such short trip will cost 10 rupees ($0.14) per person. Yes, it’s worth knowing that these rickshaws are paid for each passenger (other rickshaw drivers can also sometimes ask money like this, but usually they should take for the trip in whole – remember this if another type of rickshaw driver is trying to trick you).

And, well, auto-rickshaws. Delhi people usually do not call them “rickshaws” (this word used for the mentioned above types of rickshaws), they call them auto-rickshaws, but often just shortly “autos”. Such rickshaws in Delhi are the most common because they travel for long distances (they can go even 30 km far, though some of them can refuse). But autos are not available on every street: there is many of them in the center and in some areas of Delhi it’s hard to find them at all. You will have to bargain with them, sometimes a lot: they can increase the prices more often than other types of rickshaws, especially to foreigners – the price can be much higher than a cab even (like some of them can ask 200 rupees ($2.8) or even 500 rupees ($7) seeing a foreigner in cases when it supposed be 70 rupees ($1) and Uber would charge 120 rupees ($1.67), for example. But not every driver will do it – it’s entirely depends on the driver’s desire. I honestly don’t like bargaining, but in India you can’t do without it just – people often consider foreigners as rich, well, or stupid – you can read about Indian stereotypes about us Here. Though, they overcharge not just foreigners, Indians too (but foreigners usually more). In general, such rickshaws should take a price almost like an Uber – but normally it should be a little less than that! (otherwise, what’s the point?) Therefore, when Uber came to India, rickshaw drivers began to complain that the company takes away their work.

Some rickshaws can try to take another passenger on the way when it’s still your ride as well, but usually it shouldn’t be so (unless was discussed so initially for cheaper price) and you can resist it to happen. Also in India, there are rickshaws that always try to take a lot of people and go on a certain route (sharing autos), taking small money from each person over longer distances. But in Delhi these days you can hardly find them. Yes, and foreigners are unlikely to like this kind of rickshaws (there might be too many people that will be crazily staring at you, girls may even get touched in inappropriate parts of their bodies). Therefore, I will not write more information about them.

Rickshaws in India can not only be caught on the roads (but cabs can’t), they can also be booked in cab booking apps (but this method is not popular). It is generally safe for foreigners to use all individual types of rickshaws, but still better not to take a rickshaw if you are a female and you need to travel in dark time (better book a cab). Also, as I have already mentioned, you must be able to bargain. If you, of course, do not want to pay more on purpose – after all, as some foreigners in India say: for them this money are nothing and for rickshaw drivers it means a lot (poor people usually work as rickshaw drivers and drivers in general in India) . It’s up to you to decide, but you need to remember that by doing so you incite them to fool other foreigners in future as well. And some of the foreigners (like me) live here, not just travel, others can come from the countries with smaller prices and salaries than yours and this money won’t look like nothing for them too, but Indian people will consider them as “rich” as well….

By the way, rickshaw drivers in India can fool foreigners not only with the prices: I have had an experience when the auto-rickshaw driver, having agreed on the price in advance (not small price because it was far), did not bring me to the place I requested but to a similar one, because it was a way more near. And then he was actively trying to prove me that this is exactly the place I need, until people around confirmed otherwise. So, keep these things in mind. You can pay more to do a good deed, but Indians usually bargain really a lot with auto-rickshaw drivers. And in order to do a good thing, they use these services more often. Somehow it is so.

The problem you can have with rickshaw drivers is the language barrier – if for bargaining the drivers usually will use the numbers in English only, they don’t know too much of the language otherwise (only the words that almost replaced Hindi commonly – read about the languages in India Here). The situation of the driver not knowing the way can occur as well (it’s quite common here) when you are about to reach the place or he might start asking you the way, or even try fooling you making rounds – to ask more money from you in the end (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not). Another problem of going by rickshaw is beggars, they try to stick to you (the most because you are a foreigner) when your rickshaw stopped on a red light/ in traffic jam, sometimes it can be even transgenders who can not just ask for money but even blackmail you for more money saying they will show their genitals.

Buses. Honestly, I have never even traveled by bus (except for intercity) in India, even taking into account the fact that I have been coming here since 2012 and spent almost 3.5 years in the country. And all because Indian people themselves do not recommend the use of city buses, scaring you with the stories of rape (even group rape, including driver’s involvement) that happened in city buses and sleeping trains. Probably it is the same like with the metro – people also scary foreigners about metro a lot – but I like Delhi metro the most out of all transport – read Here why. But somehow I believe in a danger of buses more.

Intercity buses, however, do not have such kind of reputation, because there, as a rule, will be no situation when the girl will be left alone among 6 men, for example. I can’t say a lot about city buses because of it (about intercity buses and intercity transport in general you can read Here), but I have heard that they can cost even 5 rupees ($0.07) per trip, they also differentiate between buses with and without air conditioning.

Metro. About Delhi metro I have written a separate article because it’s my favorite transport in Delhi, as I have already mentioned. According to me it’s the easiest and safest transport for foreigners in the city. Although Indian people aren’t the fond of metro, they prefer cabs over it. You can read about Delhi metro Here.

Taxi. In India, especially in Delhi, the use of cabs is now very common. Many people go to work by taxi (even if they do not live very far and their salary is 15-20 thousand rupees per month – $210-280). The most common cab companies in India are Uber and Ola.

The only nuance of Uber in India is that local cab drivers often do not go just by online booking, they wait for a call to confirm (because Indian people are far from being always obligatory and because locations on maps in Delhi often do not match real addresses, so drivers may ask you to explain the way to them). But, many taxi drivers in India, just like rickshaw drivers, do not speak English. Some drivers, however, will still go by online booking, or they themselves can call you, for example.

Another popular cab company in Delhi, Ola, is an Indian company but similar to Uber in all conditions. It was with the arrival of Uber and Ola that the use of cabs became very popular here – before that, other local cab companies were more expensive. I was traveling to Delhi before Uber and Ola were here yet – in those days almost no one used cabs. By the way, old cab companies here even started the strikes with the arrival of Uber, also believing that, allegedly, Uber was taking away work from them. But even now such companies have not lowered their prices, and, unlike taxi companies in my country (Russia), they are not trying to cooperate with Uber.

Uber and Ola also raised salaries for cab drivers and other drivers in the market in general: from 10-12 thousand rupees a month ($140-168) earlier to 15-20 thousand rupees ($210-280) now. Before the arrival of Uber, it was possible even to hire a personal driver for 10 thousand rupees ($140) a month.

By the way, despite the fact that petrol in India is more expensive than in Russia suppose (in Delhi it costs about 70 rupees ($1) per liter, in Mumbai about 80 rupees ($1.1) and in Russia little bit over 40 rubles – $0.6), Uber in India costs twice cheaper than Uber in Russia: 350-500 rupees ($4.8-7) for a distance of 30 km, not 900 -1000 rubles ($14-15.5). Most of personal cars and cabs in India drive on gas though (but it also costs more than 40 rupees per kg – $0.5). During the rains Indian roads are getting flooded and traffic jams begin to be bigger than usual (which are already big in Delhi most of the times), so the cost of a cabs increases.

Do not expect Delhi drivers to drive according to the road rules (yes, even cab drivers don’t follow it, though they drive still more carefully than other drivers on the road…and more slow usually) and no, do not expect them to know the city well! Being from Russia I am used to the point that cab driver’s professionalism includes knowing the city well, so in India I have felt irritated about it for a long time. But most of the drivers are not local here and sometimes don’t even have a school education so middle-class Indians are usually being indulgent towards the lack of professionalism of poor people. Driving with GPS will also not always help – as I wrote above, Indian addresses, even on Google maps, are not always located exactly. And in general, in Delhi, the addresses are not always very logical. In general, if you meet the driver who knows the city well in Delhi – consider yourself very lucky (although in smaller cities people usually know them very well). Very often, cab drivers in Delhi ask for directions from you not just to your address as I have mentioned above but when you are about to reach the required place as well (before that GPS will do). And if you don’t know the way, then they will ask passers-by all the time, and those people may all send you in different directions even if they don’t actually know the way (I don’t know why people do it so but very few people will actually say they don’t know it). It may make you to ride in circles for quite a while, but off course, you will be the one who will have to pay for that.

Just imagine the picture of a foreigner sitting in the cab getting angry, trying to say something in English, which driver won’t listen being busy asking for the way from everybody, people show different directions, the driver doesn’t know where to go and just goes “experimentally”, sometimes going away from GPS location completely…This continues for about 20 minutes, and just when you want to get out and find the place yourself, you reach it and see YOUR bill being quite bigger. Or worse: driver brings you to some place claiming it’s what you need – because GPS shows so, you pay and get out and then find out it wasn’t the place and for another 20 minutes you are searching for it on your own, being stared at a lot, obviously… (Maybe I should invent the hashtag #problems_of_foreigners_in_india) XD

It’s better not to leave a cab in Delhi until you make sure it is required place (if you are going to meet someone Indian, better just ask them to speak with the driver on the phone and explain the way in such case). In Delhi it’s way too harder to find the address you need with GPS than in Russia even without it, honestly. Because in India (unlike in Russia), you won’t see the numbering on buildings too much, and the numbers of buildings and even sectors can be located not logically at all in some areas (read about it Here).

However, tourists who travel to popular sights (about Delhi sights you can read Here) are usually not in the risk of being lost with the driver- those places usually everyone knows + it’s easy to notice them from distance.

In general, Indians consider cabs to be the safest transport in Delhi, but I personally consider the metro to be that, because the human factor is important in cabs as well. But Uber and Ola are trying to introduce various safety systems and tools to attract customers. Also, every Uber and Ola in India has air conditioning in the car.

To book Uber and Ola in India you need to download the Uber India and Ola Cabs apps to your phone. In 2018, I could book Uber in the same app both in India and in Russia, but this summer, during my visit to Russia, this function no longer worked. I had to download a separate Uber Russia app (which also does not work in India if to try now). So this might be same with your country as well. But downloading a new app will not take you much time 🙂

Cars of Uber, Ola and many other cab companies in India don’t look very different from ordinary cars: they are not painted differently, for example. The only difference is that sometimes they have a company logo, as well as yellow numbers (but not always). But in some places, for example, near the railway stations, you can see such black and yellow taxis as on the picture below. There are not many of them in the city now, they usually cannot be booked online and they may not have air conditioning. But if you are at the train station or at the airport and have a problem booking a cab (or you cannot find the booked cab in a huge crowd of people and cars – this also can happen in India), it will be easier to take a taxi like this. You can catch them not only just like that but also in booths especially designed for this (look for the inscription “prepaid taxi service” – yes, they are prepaid).

As for renting a car to drive on your own here – I don’t have such experience, neither heard about it from any foreigner I have met in India. And all because in Delhi not every foreigner would want to drive, seeing how much Indian people brake road rules, and also having a large number of very accessible public transport around.

Among locals, owning your own car is considered prestigious, but in general there is absolutely no need for it living in Delhi (in contrast to smaller cities): the maintenance of a car here will cost you more than riding a rickshaw and metro, and sometimes even more than going by cabs. In addition, there is simply often very hard to find parking space in Delhi and many cars occupy half of the road with their parking. Also, stray dogs or even monkeys can try to sit/sleep on your car at nights, and they can scratch it, of course.

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