New Delhi: Survival Kit

The capital of India is full of magnificent temples, mausoleums, museums and parks. The shopping opportunities are plenty and the food is exotic. At the same time, New Delhi is dirty, crowded and full of scammers. It is also infamous for “Delhi belly” – diarrhea and food poisoning experienced by many tourists. If you want positive experiences to outweight the negative ones, I invite you to pay attention to the New Delhi survival kit below.

1.    Bottled water

The first rule of survival in New Delhi – drink the bottled water. Tea, factory-packed juices and soft drinks are acceptable. I took a risk and also drank lassi (local yogurt-like product) – Indians order it a lot, so you may expect it to be fresh. But tap water or the water sold from “licensed” carts is a big “No”. Bottled water is cheap and does not contain microbes. When you buy a bottle, make sure that the plastic cap is intact. Ask for “no ice” in cafes and restaurants. Close your mouth when you take a shower; brush your teeth with bottled water. I know this sounds paranoid, but it is better be safe than sorry.

2.      Sanitizer

Apply sanitizer gel or spray on your hands before a meal or a snack, especially when you do not have an opportunity to wash the hands with soap.  We actually avoided the street food: although there are plenty of food stalls, the quality and cleanliness of Delhi street food is a Russian roulette played with your stomach. There is a lot of affordable cafes and restaurants in the city.

3.      Sunscreen

It is hot for most of the year in New Delhi. We were there in the end of October, and the temperature was holding at +35 C (+95 F). So a sunscreen and a hat are your friends in this trip. Based on my experience, the best clothes to wear in India are a cotton shirt and harem pants or long skirt. You can buy them everywhere. These clothes are comfortable, light and sufficiently respectful to visit temples, where you are required to have your shoulders and knees covered up.

4.      Passport and money pouch

Tourist places in New Delhi are as full of pick-pockets, as they are in other big cities. Carrying your passport and money under your clothes in a secret pouch is a good idea. Put a small amount of money for the current purchases in your handbag or a zipped pocket so you don’t have to reach the secret pouch frequently.

5.      Plastic shoe covers

Important part of New Delhi heritage is mosques, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples, where you should take off your shoes before entrance. So choose shoes that are easy to put on and off many times per day. If you do not want to walk barefoot for hygienic reasons – take with you an extra pair of socks or plastic shoe covers (just for avoidance of confusion – put them on your feet, not on your shoes).

6.      Shawl

Women and sometimes men are required to cover their heads in mosques and most temples. They give you shawls at the entrance, but it is better to have your own one.

7.      Anti-diarrhea medications

Take the medications to help you against food poisoning and diarrhea, in case you fall under “Delhi belly” curse.

8.      Flip-flops

A shower in a hostel or a budget hotel would likely be simply built in the wall, with water pouring directly on bathroom floor. Flip-flops come handy both for hygienic purposes (especially in shared bathrooms) and in order not to fall on a slippery floor.

9.      Power strip

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I suffered from lack of power sockets for charging our gadget in all hotels during my stay in India. So a power strip or a three-way plug adaptor would be handy.

Indian power sockets fit both European and UK plugs, while American plugs need an adaptor.

10.     The “No” word


India is the place to practice a strong “No”, even if you are generally a “Yes-type” person. A rule of thumb: if an Indian addresses you first and he/she is not wearing a uniform of a security guard or ticket inspector, than he/she wants your money and would not hesitate to cheat you. There are many millions of honest people in India, they just do not start the conversation with your first.

It does not really matter how the person starts a conversation («Hello, where are you from?”, "Mister, what are you looking for?”, etc.) – you may expect some type of scam. This may be either selling you low-quality souvenirs for 10x price, or getting you to an overpriced shop or tourist agency for a commission from the latter, or asking money for showing you the way to your destination, or just begging. The tourist attractions areas are crowded by licensed and unlicensed guides who would aggressively sell their “assistance”. They would normally not tell you anything on top of what you can read in your guidebook, but if you still decide to go for it – set a price from the very beginning and make sure it is full and final (not “per person” or “per hour”).

Always bargain with rickshaws, auto rickshaws and taxi driver and set a fixed price before you get inside. Do not buy into their stories like “mister, this hotel is closed/burnt down/moved, I will show you a better one” or “the museum is closed today, let me take you to a sightseeing tour”. They would take you to places that pay them commissions (and your hotel is probably still in its place, and the museum is open). Bargaining is a skill you definitely need in India if you want to pay just a “tourist price”, not a “stupid tourist price”.

Overall, India keeps your focused. You may need to say “No” to someone literally every minute. Just survive the first day, it would be easier afterwards.


P.S. I am proud that we came back from India not experiencing stomach problems and not having been scammed, and brought beautiful photos and impressions. I wish you the same!


  1. Thanks haha! Going to New Delhi soon so definitely saving this! 😀

  2. Hi Elena! I haven't been to India but it's certainly on my list. This will be very helpful.  Looking forward to seeing your beautiful photos of India. 🙂

  3. Excellent tips, and many of them are useful in so many destinations.  I would have a hard time with the "no", just the having to say it so often and feeling bombarded all the time is something that I struggle with during travel.  Interesting to know about being approached and them speaking first!  Also, love the tip about plastic shoe covers!

    • Elena Nemets

      Plastic shoe covers were a genius tip! My husband read this on some forum 5 days before the trip, we packed them and used them a lot!

  4. Great tips! As someone who's never traveled to India before, all of these tips are new to me. I particularly would not have thought to bring hand sanitizer or a power strip with me, as those are not normally things I carry when I travel, so great to know. Thanks for sharing.

    • Elena Nemets

      Sanitizer comes handy in any country in South-Eastern or Central Asia. In Africa as well, I assume.

  5. Interesting look into Delhi Belly. I drank ice, ate the street food, used a hand bag (even carried my camera over my shoulder sometimes) and didn't take any medication and I'm still very much alive. I loved the street food and I feel it's a strong connection to the country you are in… I find it amusing when I had a dinner with some other travellers once they all didn't want to use the cups because they were washed in the local water, preferring to drink from the bottle. But then they were more than happy to eat the food off the plates. Double standards much?


    <p class="p1">Crystal recently posted… <a href="http://castawaywithcrystal.com/budget-guide-nz-north-island/&quot; target="_blank">Budget guide for New Zealand; North Island</a></p>

    • Elena Nemets

      It’s a Russian roulette with Indian food and water – you may be perfectly safe by eating and drinking whatever comes your way or you may fall sick. Since almost all my friends who were in India suffered with their stomach, we decided to be a bit more paranoid than usual. 

  6. Great tips for this area. Things you need to be prepared for when visiting a different culture/country. Would love to see more of your pictures. Glad you had  a nice visit.

  7. I liked your post about Delhi and the honesty about your views. As you mention there are scamsters who give a bad name to the city and the country. The Government and the Tourism board is taking steps to tackle this menace, and hopefully things would improve.

    • Elena Nemets

      I see a lot of effort put in by government, tourist board and even private companies to prevent scam – and I appreciate this! Still a traveler needs to be cautious, so he or she can enjoy the trip instead of running into unpleasant consequences.

  8. I totally agree with your points. Well the air pollution in Delhi has hit a record high recently. So I will not recommend anyone to visit Delhi as of now.

    • Elena Nemets

      There are still a lot of great places of interest in Delhi, so the pollution would not scare a real hardcore traveler :)))

  9. Great tips. I feel like no will become me favourite word when I go out there!

  10. Great tips!  I'm heading that way soon and curious how safe you found your valuables.  I really want to bring my computer along to do some blogging but am worried it will get stolen 🙁

    • Elena Nemets

      Hi, Mike! We only had phones and camera with us, so I don’t know how would I feel about the laptop. It’s not that bad in India, but you need to be cautious – bring a lock with you at least. Good luck!

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