Renewing Indian Passport in India

A Big Mistake – Dealing with Indian Government 101

While traveling, its sometimes the little mistakes and events that cost you dearly. For us, it has been a smooth ride but we finally had to deal with Indian Government for a passport renewal and it was like peeling an onion!

First Mistake

While planning our travel, we did a quick check of our passports to see the validity. Both of us had passports valid for over 2 years. We didn’t check anything further. It was only while in India that we realised that Shruti’s passport did not have enough pages for all the visas and stamps. Bummer!

Therefore, like pilgrims going to Vaishno Devi, we decided to go to Mother India barefoot to climb the mountain. In the process, both of us and our parents had to cry to get the boon.

Go back to where you came from

Our initial questions from government officials revealed that we had made a mistake of coming to India and wanting to get a passport in India. The Indian government does not provide extra copies of passport for exhaustion of pages. One has to go through the entire process of getting a new passport. We were told “Why did you not do this in Australia? It would have been much easier”.

The pain we went through for renewing Indian Passport in India is combination of applying for a new passport and requesting for a visa for country. You need to be a resident for more than 1 year or if not, you need to get a high ranking government official to sign a document stating that you are of good character. As we couldn’t prove the former, we had to go with the latter option. Additionally, we had to make sure we had ALL the documents, including the ones that are not listed in the checklist, ready because they could ask for anything.

Second Mistake

While preparing for travel, we got all our documents photocopied and signed by the JP. However, we didn’t bring the original marriage certificate. This proved to be a real problem as a govt. official told us “How do we know you’re married based on a photocopy”. In addition, my being Australian also proved to be a hassle as there is a problem of fake marriages between Indians and foreign citizens especially UK, US, Australia, Canada etc.

What Hague Convention?

At this point, we had to contact my mum in Australia to send us the original marriage certificate signed by Australian DFAT to say that our marriage is valid in Australia. Once mum had this, she had to take it to Indian Consulate for attesting. However, they refused to attest saying that it was already apostilled by DFAT and was legal in India.

On the other hand, the passport office in Mumbai told us that they would not trust an Australian Document unless it was signed by the Indian Consulate. Now, this created a problem for mum as she couldn’t send us all the documents until attested and Indian consulate would not attest.

At this point, mum did the Great Indian Mother Tantrum at the Indian Consulate and told them her kids (Shruti!) was not able to get a passport until they attested the documents and she won’t leave until they accepted the application. It seemed to work as the document was attested in 2 days!

Jobs for the people

Once we had all the documents in hand, Shruti filled in the application and once again went to the passport office to try our luck. Different officials asked Shruti for different documents and she was ready for this. However, one official asked her to present the husband. Therefore, I had to go show myself.

However, it was still not over. More officials asked for different things including changes in the application, passbook (remember these – a written record of money transactions in the bank account) and more documents. She left at 9AM and we returned at 4PM after submission.

We realised that unlike in Australia, each official in the government offices only has 1 job, like checking the documents, entering the details in the record or scanning documents. It was quite inefficient as the applicant is forced to go from table to table and present themselves to each official.

Mistrust within government

Once the application was submitted, we had to do a police verification. A senior officer visited Shruti’s parents place to see that we were living there. Then, we had to go and show the documents at the police station to a junior officer. This was again inefficient. It seemed as if the Indian Government has a mistrust within itself. Ministry of external affairs has already seen and accepted the documents but Ministry of Home Affairs, through Maharashtra police, had to check the same documents twice. Learn from Germany, Modi Sarkar!

Final Thoughts

To be fair, Shruti’s case was a bit unique from the start. We should have renewed the passport in Australia itself but we made a mistake of not counting the empty pages. We are thankful to the officers who helped us as well as our parents. Although most of the passport application process is now online, there were still some inefficiencies within the process which can definitely be improved.

Shruti with new Indian Passport

Udaipur – Land of lakes

Getting in

Udaipur was the last leg of our Rajasthan tour and to get there we took a bus from Jodhpur. It took almost 7 hours and the bus got more packed at every village.

We saw the Hills of Mewar, the area around Udaipur and were amazed at the beauty. I bargained like a pro for tuk tuk, for the first time, and we reached the hotel. Though we were in a budget hotel, we had a lake view and it was stunning!

Lake VIew from Hotel, Udaipur

Jagdish Temple

Jagdish Temple, UdaipurJagdish Temple was constructed by Maharana in 1651. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The royal family visited this temple on special occasions and offered their prayers regularly. The architecture is very detailed and stands tall.

When we arrived at the temple, the curtains were drawn and followers were seated singing songs about Lord Krishna’s greatness. The atmosphere in the temple was very engaging and so we took a seat on the floor next to the crowd. While we were engrossed clapping to the rhythm, the lady in front turned around to inform us that the curtain was over and we could offer our prayers.

Upon coming face-to-face with the deity, we were stunned. It was one of the prettiest idol of Lord Krishna and we just wanted to keep looking at him.

Jagdish Temple, Udaipur

Forts and Lakes

As with all Rajasthani cities we have been to, there is a massive City Palace. We bought tickets for the palace as well as the boat ride in Lake Pichola. One of the first things we realised was that Udaipur’s monuments are very expensive. Not great for backpackers! The museum ticket is Rs. 250 each and additional Rs. 250 for camera, and the boat ride is Rs. 400 each.

PS: this palace is shown in the recent boolywood movie, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

City Palace, Udaipur

Tip: If you are interested in just the boat ride around the lake (approx. 20 mins), there is a cheaper option available at Lake Pichola / Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Park. Though the only disadvantage with this option is that you can’t get of at Jag Mandir for a short walk tour.

The palace itself was beautiful and grand with great views. Mewar has been the only kingdom which has fought its enemies and never laid down arms in front of them. Rana Kumbha and Maharana Pratap are famous throughout India for their battles and bravery.

City Palace, Udaipur

City palace in Udaipur had a whole section for Maharana Pratap, his horse, Chetak and the battle of Haldi Ghati. In this battle the Maharana defeated Mughal forces represented by King of Jaipur. It was a David vs Goliath battle and Mughals never attacked Mewar again after their loss. Similarly, the King of Udaipur never attended the Delhi Durbar of British Empire which was a risky move at the time.

Maharaha Pratap & Chetak, Udaipur

Though expensive, the museum was in a great shape. The rooms of different kings and queens over the ages had beautifully decorated rooms with some great views of the city and the lake.

City Palace, Udaipur

Once done with the palace, we walked to the jetty to take the ferry ride on Lake Pichola. We saw the Lake Palace which has made Udaipur famous around the world. It really was stunning from all angles!

Lake Palace, Udaipur

The boat dropped one to Jag Mandir which is another stunning palace hotel in the lake. It provides excellent views of Taj Lake Palace, city palace and the surrounding hills.

Jag Mandir, Udaipur

For our final complete view of the lakes and palace, we took the ropeway to the top to visit the Karni Mata Temple. Aside with the temple with its rats (who represents the Goddess), the view was another level. There are 7 lakes in Udaipur and all were visible from the hill as well as the city.

View from Ropeway, Udaipur

We visited the Chittorgarh Fort as a day trip. The fort is around 130 km from Udaipur and was built over a long hill back in the 7th Century. It is a very historic fort which involved several wars and mass suicides. It was won by the Khilji Dynasty and the Mughals but was eventually taken back by Mewar.

Chittorgarh Fort, Udaipur

The effects of Muslim occupation was evident as all idol in the temples were defaced. One of the important temples within the fort is of Mirabai. She is a famous medieval saint throughout India who dedicated her life to Lord Krishna. She wrote poems and sang songs which are now recited as prayers.

Mirabai Temple, Chittorgarh Fort

Seeing the beautiful marwari horses, palaces of Rani Padmini and victory tower of Rana Kumbha was an amazing experience. Each idol in the victory tower had a name and there are built over 9 levels. A great day out!

Victory Tower, Chittorgarh Fort

Great Company

On our first night in Udaipur, we met Marita and Peter from England. Over a long conversation, we found that they had been to India 30 times and knew Goa like locals. They retired early and have been traveling around the world since then! In terms of travel, they were our idols and we would eventually like to travel like them. We decided to travel to Chittorgarh together so we could save money and spend a good day having great conversation.

Final Day

Our final day involved walking around Udaipur and seeing some highlights. We had a milkshake in our favorite cafe started by a great barista. The coffee there reminded me of Australia.

We saw Bagore Ki Haveli which was from the house of Mewar opened by the govt. Being a govt museum it was a little old but still interesting. The most unique exhibition was of puppets! An entire room was filled puppets of all kind, courtmen, king, commoner, ladies and animals.

Puppet Room, Bagore Ki Haveli, Udaipur

Tip: There is a cultural music and dance show at Bagore Ki Haveli every evening so don’t miss it.

Food Choices

Udaipur is a well-known tourist destination, especially with the young Europeans and Asians. There are plenty of Israeli, Italian, Korean and Greek restaurants around in Udaipur and more cafes are popping up every other day! Additionally, there are lots of chill hang out spots around the city centre. Feel free to pick up a book or a board game and enjoy a relaxing afternoon along the lake or a drink in the evening with relaxing music.

We highly recommend Grasswood Cafe for an amazing cup of coffee. It reminded us of cafes in Sydney, so imagine the quality.

And of course, don’t forget the local food. It is delicious and the local thali is a must try!

Summary

Accommodation

We stayed in hotel Thamla Haveli which faces Lake Pichola. There are lots of hotels along the lake for various budgets.

Transport

Most tourist places are around Lake Pichola making the city center walkable. However, autos and cabs via Uber and Ola are readily available.

Final Thoughts

Udaipur is incredibly beautiful! The surrounding hills and the lakes make it one of the most beautiful cities in India. In addition, it is a backpacker central at the moment with hipster cafes coming up. An exciting time for the city!

We were in the city for 3 days and we reckon we were short by 2 days. We recommend spending 5 days in Udaipur so you have enough time to see all the tourist spots in and around the city. 2 to 3 day trips are required to see all the attractions around the city so ensure you have given yourself enough time.

Udaipur Gallery

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Jodhpur – The Blue City

Sunrise & salt paneGetting In

We arrived in Jodhpur by a passenger train after spending 2 days in Jaipur. We witnessed the sunrise along with the salt pans during the ride. Also, for the first time,  we took an AC Chair Car and we were not disappointed. We got a bit of sleep and managed to get some blogging as well.

Land of Grand Forts and Palaces

Mehrangarh Fort, JodhpurJodhpur is the Capital of the erstwhile Marwar kingdom which is known for its valour in defending itself. One of the greatest symbols of this is the towering Mehrangarh Fort. Built above the Jodhpur city,  it can be seen from anywhere in the city.

We walked from our hotel to the fort through curving streets full of blue houses. Once inside the fort, we were entranced by it’s scale and the view of the city as well as the hills nearby.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

We Hukkah Man, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpurthen entered the ticketed area of the fort and visited the museum. The art of the Marwar area, its culture and the grand images of its kings were absolutely stunning. In addition, within the fort and throughout the city, people wore the traditional dresses and there were groups of people doing traditional dancing.

 

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

The museum was grand and virtually the entire palace of the area had been turned into a museum. The current king of Jodhpur has been very supportive in promoting tourism and that could be seen in the museum itself. Intricate detail of the life of the royals had been saved along with the paintings in the fort.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

We met a fellow traveler Nina from Riga, Latvia in one of the rooms and we chatted for quite a bit while we saw the museum. She was lovely and knew so much about the Indian culture including dancing Kathak in Latvia. However, she had a bad time being harassed by auto drivers and hawkers in Jaipur. We couldn’t be anything but sympathetic as we ourselves have been annoyed by the tuk tuk drivers, despite of being Indians! And, we shall see what other countries with different culture hold of us.

OMehrangarh Fort, Jodhpurnce we finished from the museum, we went to the ramparts of the fort. The Eagles were flying overhead after getting a meal provided by the royalty. The Eagle is the insignia of the Rathore dynasty and Eagles can be seen all around Jodhpur. From the rampart, we were finally able to see the blue city.

 

Blue City, Jodhpur

It is unclear who initially started painting blue houses or why. We’ve heard everything from Brahmins, servants of the royalty and also the fact that blue is a good colour to reduce the heat and mosquitoes. Whatever be the case, a large area near the fort has its houses blue and it is magnificent. The sun setting behind the hills was beautiful but were unable to see it set as the security kicks everyone out.

Sunset at Jodhpur

Blue City, Jodhpur, unlike other Rajasthani cities, does not have a lot of palaces or forts. However, it makes up quality for quantity. Our next stop was the grand Umaid Bhawan Palace which is the last of the great palaces built in India. As there was a famine in the area, the king decided to build a palace and provide employment for the people in the area. Most of the hotel is now part of the Taj Group of hotels, the king resides in a quarter and a small area is now a museum.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

The museum shows the history of the dynasty, the kings of the 20th century and thing used by the royal family. In addition, there is a vintage cars gallery which houses some amazing old cars.  Other than that, the view from the hill is amazing and we had great afternoon here.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

Magical Centopaths

The Rathore dynasty has been ruling the Marwar area since 12th century.  During this time,  they only had 2 capitals. Mandore was the Ancient Capital of the area and was in use till the 16th century.

Mandore Gardens house the ruins of the fort, various temples and centopaths of old kings of the dynasty. The centopaths are kept well and the architecture is quite detailed. Unbeknownst to us, the ashes of the kings are kept in the centopaths so they are more like a pyramid than a cremation place.

Mandore Garden, Jodhpur

On our visit,  it was noon and the place was peaceful and quiet. The shade provided by the centopaths was cool and refreshing while we were wowed by the architecture.

According to the legend,  Ravana’s wife was from the area and there is temple for him while he is considered a son in law. We never got to see this temple as we were warned against going to the hills by the tourist police. It was a fun couple of hours being there.

Sickness Hits Home

On our second morning in Jodhpur, I woke with a fever and a sore throat. It was a sure sign of a cold coming. However, I later felt weakness in the legs and signs of an upset stomach. To avoid further sickness, we decided to relax a little spending time at home sleeping and writing for the blog. I gargled and belched several times a day while taking panadol and managed to avoid a full blown cold. Phew!

A Great Feeling

We had been feeling a little let down by Rajasthan till this point. Part of it was the touristy feel to this place while it was also our hectic schedule.

Jaswant Thada changed it all. It is a white marble centopath for king Jaswant Singh who ruled in the late 19th century. It is known as the Taj of Rajasthan. The king is treated like a god here and people pray and ask him to grant their wishes.

Jaswant Thada, Jodhpur

TheRajasthani Singer land around is a stunning desert park and the old wall of the fort encircles it. While the memorial was beautiful, we sat on the stairs below in the shade to relax. An old rajasthani man a singing traditional songs and we sat listening.  The cool breeze blowing with Rajasthani music in the shade finally made us happy to be in Rajasthan.

Jodhpur

Rural Life

Back in Australia, we had wanted to try two unique things in India. One of them was living in the desert. We started researching and found Hacra dhani which was run as an eco-tourist experience. While it was expensive, the reviews made us believe that it would be a good experience. Mr Gemar Singh met us in Jodhpur and we drove towards his land and his home.

Mr. Gemar Singh & Wife, hacra, Jodhpur

(Here is a photo of Mr. Germar Singh and his wife)

Osian is an historic town around 25km from Jodhpur famous for its Jain temples and sand dunes.  Mr Singh was a hardy Rajput (former royal class) but he had a soft tone and gave a detailed answers. While he had a Mahindra 4×4 which could handle dunes and potholes, he drove unusually slow.

Black Buck, Osian, JodhpurAt one point,  he stopped the car on the side suddenly and pointed to the bush 50 metres away. It was a herd of black bucks, a protected deer once almost hunted to extinction. Again some distance away,  he suddenly turned the car into the bush and followed a trail until we saw a fully grown male back buck sitting in the middle of the field. As it saw us, it galloped away in full flight perhaps worried we will shoot it.

Black Buck, Osian, Jodhpur

By this point, we were already impressed with Gemar Singh, his eyes were trained to spot deer through the bush and his knowledge was amazing. However, our respect only grew for him. In the space of a few hours, we saw wild deer, blue bull, peacocks and Indian sprinbok deer.

Peahen herd, Osian, Jodhpur

We spent some time in Osian seeing the 1000 year old Jain Temple. The carving on the stones were immaculate as well as the story of how people in the area became followers of Jainism. The trading community of Oswal Jains which is spread all around the world comes from this town.

Jain Temple, Osian, Jodhpur

Our next stop was a camel ride and time spent with a camel herder family. However, this was no ordinary camel ride. We traveled through the brush over dunes to the camel herder village. Here we got to know our hosts, see their land and how they make a living in mostly arid land.

Nainsukh and his family owned around 6 camels. They had land where they grew millet from the monsoon rains and gave camel rides to tourists for a fee. We were welcomed to the centre of their property and invited to sit on a cot while they all sat on the ground. This meant they gave us higher status as guests.

Camel Herders, Jodhpur

We Camel Herders, Jodhpurwere mostly left free to discover their property, play with camels, calves and take photos to our hearts content. They even taught me how to tie a turban in the rajasthani style. While we sat, we saw villagers in their natural environment. They sat in the central area and talked about crops and other things. We noticed that the guests were welcomed with tea and opium. Lunch was a traditional thali with sabzi, daal, various breads and rice. Our favourite was definitely millet bread. Our host sat to serve us until we were done eating. An amazing gesture!

Camel Herders, Jodhpur

In the evening, we again mounted the camels to see more of the countryside and the sunset from the dunes. The camels crossed the village and its fences made of a thorny plant. Our guide was a young kid in the 9th grade who knew all about samsung and legal issues with property despite living in a village.  The village was changing afterall!

Camel Ride, Jodhpur

Another interesting change we saw in the villages was the toilet complex. Indian villages culturally have avoided building toilets and using the great outdoors to relieve themselves. However, not only is this a bad look for the country, it is unsafe for women. For the first time since independence, an Indian government has given a Rs. 12,000 subsidy to build toilets and the people are taking the opportunity with both hands. We saw people building new toilets throughout the villages. Modi government is changing a habit for thousands of years.

Finally, we saw the sunset from the dunes. It was incredibly beautiful especially with the camels chilling in the sand. We met an old British couple who told us great stories of their trip in Rajasthan. Once done, we were picked up by Mr Singh to take us to our accommodation for the night.

Sunset in Osian, Jodhpur

Once we reached Hacra dhani, we were absolutely astounded. We reached in the dark and there were no light whatsoever. In the pitch dark, we were able to see the stars and the Milky Way which already made our night. After showing us the hut and toilet, we had dinner in Mr Singh’s house with his wife and son. Mr Singh’s wife made an amazing simple meal of fire baked bread, kadi and sabzi.

Hacra Dhani(Here is a picture of the property in during the day).

After dinner, we sat in the dark and simply heard the sounds of the night. It was almost a full moon so we could see well and enjoyed the simplicity of the village. At night while sleeping, we heard the sounds of peacocks warning each other of predators.

Night art Hacra, Osian

In the morning, I got up to take photos and saw deer and peacocks just roaming around. We were only there for a short time but it really was an amazing visit!

Sunrise at Hacra, Jodhpur

An Expensive Disaster

The contrasting thing to the village life was living in a palace. This proved to be a nightmare as most of the bigger palaces are now run by huge 5-star hotel chains. On a backpackers budget, we could not afford such a thing. However, we though we had struck gold when we found Ranbank Palace in Jodhpur built in 1920s. It was built for a prince of the royal family and that was good enough for us!

Rambanka Palace, Jodhpur

When we arrived from the village, we found out that we were upgraded to a suite. Wow! What could be better? We then set about cleaning up and realised that the shower was broken. We could shower but would be burnt by the hot water. Nice upgrade!

Rambanka Palace, Jodhpur

The next two hours we spent sitting in gowns and watched as two maintenance guys came to fix the shower. We finally had a shower and thanked our stars. However, it was not for long as the TV remotes stopped working. The maintenance guy again fixed them but we were disappointed. Upon complaining, we were told that we could get 1 hour of free wifi as compensation. Thanks for providing us what should be free anyway!

This day also happened to be Karwa Chauth where Hindu women fast for their husband’s long life. However, being from the SRK generation, Manish also fasted the entire day without food and water. At night, we asked the hotel to have access to the terrace to be able to see the moon. For some reason, on this night it feels like the moon purposely takes a long time to come out. We waited for around half an hour when we finally noticed the moon. It was quite a romantic moment and we broke the fast with kaju katri and water.

Karva Cauth

And to finishing off, here is a traditional thali we thoroughly enjoyed.

Rajasthani Thali

This ended our trip in Jodhpur – the blue city!

Summary

Final Thoughts

We stayed in Jodhpur the longest out of all the Rajashtani cities. We had a variety of experiences in the city. To be fair, Jodhpur doesn’t have the monuments of other cities but it has various experiences around it which can keep you busy. One thing we liked in Jodhpur was that there were no hassling and the ‘tourist information’ centres, run by the police, were all around the tourist areas to provide service.

Our experience at Jaswant Thada and Hacra Dhani was absolutely amazing while the palace left a little more to be desired for!

Accommodation

We stayed at a 350 year old haveli built of red sandstone which was a delightful experience. Living in the small streets gave us an easy access to the Mehrangarh Fort while also showing us the markets of Jodhpur. We also stayed in Hacra dhani and Ranbanka palace. Dhani was an awesome experience but the palace was not so good.

Transport

We walked a lot around Jodhpur. However, we also used local buses as well as autorickshaws. Our experience with autorickshaws was better than other cities but still we couldn’t be sure they were not overcharging us.

Jodhpur – The Blue City Gallery

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USA Visa for Indian Citizen

While we were in Colombo, we looked into the process for USA Visa application. As I am am Indian Citizen, it was necessary for her to get the USA Visa. Turns out, everything was very straight forward. We looked through US Travel Docs site and followed the steps.

After filling out the online application, we had to make our way to a bank branch to pay the fee. We waited till we got to India for the payment step. Once the fee was paid, we received a receipt number.

We tried to book an appointment soon after but the receipt number wasn’t accepted. We guessed the system had to be updated. We tried again at night and bang, we got to the schedule appointment screen.

As we were scheduled to leave Delhi and travel around India, selecting collection port was an issue. US Embassy allows applicants to submit their application in one city and collect their passport in another. Upon thinking through our options, estimating the process time and discussing with my mother, we decided to pick up the passport from Mumbai.

Step 5 and step 6, both require appointments and although the system allows applicant to schedule appointment for step 6, interview stage, first, the date has to be after step 5, collection of finger prints, is done. This took us a while to figure this out!

We headed to Nehru Place to submit my finger prints and photo. The process took 40 mins, apart from the waiting around for appointment. Usually this step is really quick but make sure you are carrying all your documents, especially your bank statements. Only then your application will be processed. This step is carried out by an outsourced company and not handled directly by USA Embassy.

On the day of the interview, we headed to the Embassy. I queued up while Manish and mum-in-law spent time driving around Delhi. Luckily Rohit, Manish’s friend, had offered to drive us to the embassy. They came back every half hour to check on me as I couldn’t carry my mobile phone inside the building.

Once inside, I felt the US Visa anticipation atmosphere. It was almost like everyone there was preparing for a job interview they really want! The interviewer decides if the applicant will receive the visa or not. The range of interviewers was diverse as well, from an older man to younger female including an Indian origin American. It was also quite a surprise to see Americans speak in fluent Hindi and Punjabi.

I had almost done a walk-in interview, i.e., without any preparation, and was started to get worried. When it came to my turn, I was interviewed by the Indian American. Upon reciting our story, the interviewer double checked a few details. I suppose, mentioning we live in Sydney and Manish is an Australian Citizen, cleared most of his doubts. He clarified why was I applying the visa from India and upon learning that we are backpacking, he quickly dropped the visa in a tray and said that an email with be sent about the collection. It took me a couple of seconds to digest what had happened and I eventually walked out smiling.

Manish and the crew drove back to the embassy and picked me up after 2 hours. At least I had good news for them. Upon hearing my initial concern about the interview and me not being prepared, Rohit said that it appears US Visa is granted to those who don’t need it. So true I must say!

In 3 days we received an email saying my passport was ready for collection. Luckily my mum was in Mumbai and we couriered her a couple of papers, including an authorisation letter. The passport pickup was not an issue at all.

I suppose the entire process for scheduling appointments and receiving USA Visa for Indian Citizen took about 10 days. So now if I get visas to other countries or not, we can at least travel to US and other countries that allow Indians to visit based on the US Visa validity. Hurray!

Places to see in and around Delhi

Delhi has been the Capital of Hindustan during Mughal and British rule in India. This makes it a big hub of history dating from 11th century. In the recent years, new monuments have been erected thus making it a great mix of past and present attractions. Additionally, its geographical location makes it a great place for day trips and short getaways as well.

In the last few days, we have visited quite a few monuments and traveled around Delhi as well. Though we couldn’t see everything the city had to offer, we did explore quite a bit. I must say, there is so much history here and it makes it evident that India was looted and ruled by loads of ‘outsiders’.

Delhi

See below for the list of places to see in and around Delhi –

Old Delhi

Capital during Mughal era built by King Shahjahan. It was the walled city of Delhi. The walls were destroyed by the British but some remnants and gates remain.

Lal Quila (Red Fort)

Lal QuilaThe palace of the walled city. It housed the royalty from the 16th century to 19th century. Every year, the Prime Minister of India delivers the Republic Day and Independence Day speeches from its ramparts.

Though it appears grand and stupendous, in reality, many of the building inside were destroyed by the British after they won the war against Indian forces in 1857.

Jama Masjid

It was the royal mosque of Delhi. It is a magnificent building overlooking the markets and the Red Fort.

Tip: Women may need to dress conservatively but they provide a full length robe for a small price.

Jama Masjid

Chandni Chowk

Moonlight/sparkling market with small lanes and shops. It still is the heart of Old Delhi.

In my opinion, Chandni Chowk is the stereotypical Delhi. You will find animals, rickshaws, cars, trucks and people on the same road. Somewhat amazingly, it all works and people are able to go through their daily chores without hassle.

Markets

Each lane in Old Delhi sells something different and are known as bazaars. On a normal working day, it is very difficult to walk against the moving crowd. Some lanes are 5-6metres wide and shared by people on foot, rickshaws, hawkers, two wheelers and cows. It is definitely an experience that can only be gained by walking around the area.

Food

Indians love food. Period. Due to the number of people and cuisines, Old Delhi offers some amazing foods. There are traditional fast food shops, parantha (stuffed pancake) shops and kebabs. The kebabs are spicy and you can wash it down with a chilled glass of Mathura Lassi. It is the local variant of the restaurant kind.

Tip: Please be aware that Delhi Belly could be a common occurrence. Always buy bottled mineral water or sealed cold drinks.

Qutab Minar

Qutub MinarBuilt by Qutubuddin Aibak in the 12th century after his victory over the local Hindu kings of India. Its a 20 metres high tower made of red stone with delicate carvings which has stood the test of time. This particular king destroyed Hindu temples and placed pillars from these temples in the complex.

Lotus Temple

Built by the followers of the Bahai religion in 1980s, it is now a symbol of Delhi. It is a beautiful white building resembling a lotus flower and the ambiance inside is peaceful.

Akshardham Temple

Built in 2005 by the followers of the Swami Narayan sect of Hinduism, it is the largest Hindu temple in the world. Its made of pink and red stone and the architectural carvings are extremely detailed. Akshardham TempleThere are 3 exhibitions which are a part of a journey through the history of the sect, Hinduism and India. The exhibitions and the lights and sound show are very much recommended. The ideal time to visit is around 4:30pm as it can be very hot and the lights and sound show is at night.

Take note, you are not allowed to take any electronics inside – so forget about taking photos!

New Delhi

New Delhi was built by the British as their capital in the early 20th century. It was planned by Edwin Lutyens and it is now the capital of India. It is contrasted from Old Delhi by its wide streets, trees and cleanliness.

The opposite of Old Delhi, New Delhi makes one feel like they are no longer in India. It is too organized to be India.

Connaught Place

It is formed by an inner circular road and an outer one with shops and markets in both.

This area offers a wide variety of shopping ranging from brand outlets in the shops to street markets in areas such as Janpath and Palika bazaar.

We picked up trinkets and souveneirs on the street for a small price. Similarly, we were able to bargain for clothes in the Janpath markets.

Tip: Make a judgement call but it is recommended to start with half the price of the shop owners and meet them in the middle.

Government Buildings

This area has a wide range of monuments such as the Indian Parliament, India Gate, Museums and Embassies.

Haridvar & Rishikesh

These towns are around 5-6 hours from Delhi along the river Ganges. At least two nights stay are recommended to enjoy the ambiance.
Haridwar is a Hindu pilgrimage centre and Rishikesh is famous for Yoga, white water rafting and Hippies. Taking a dip in the gushing current of Ganges is set to wash away all your sins. The evening aarti (prayer) in Haridwar at Har ki Pauri is a must watch.

Haridvar

Tip: Be mindful of the conservative crowd and the religious significance of the place. Be careful of the priests and beggars. It is recommended to ignore them or turn them down humbly otherwise they will nag you. Additionally, once the aarti has concluded, the crowd rushes towards the river for blessings, either walk along with the crowd or step aside to avoid any accidents.

Rishikesh

Agra

Taj Mahal – It is the most famous Indian landmark in the world. It is a grand and beautiful building made of white marble by Emperor Shah Jahan after the death of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was commissioned by the Emperor in 1632 and completed entirely in 1653. The building is the best example of Mughal Architecture in India.

Tip: The Taj Mahal can be seen for 5 days at night every month, two days before and after the full moon and the full moon night itself. The light from the full moon makes the white marble glow.

Taj Mahal

Red Fort – The primary palace of the greater Mughal rulers, it is around 2km from the Taj Mahal. The fort is built of the red stone like many other buildings in India and houses some amazing examples of architecture from around India.

As the Taj Mahal was built after the Red Fort, from almost every part of the fort one can see the Taj Mahal. Also, walking around the Red Fort made me feel I was on the sets of the hindi movie, Jodha Akbar.

Tip: Guides are available at a small cost and they show you some amazing secrets of the fort.

Red Fort Agra

Vrindavan

It is the town where Lord Krishna was born and spent most of his young life. This is a small village around 2-3 hours from Delhi full of temples and religious fervor. This town has a lot of legends to tell of Krishna and Radha, his childhood sweetheart.

In our experience, we only went to Banke Bihari temple but stopped for the famous local lassi and aalo tikki chaat before taking the bus home.

Red Fort Agra

Modes of Transport

As Delhi is the capital of India and shares border with 2 states, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, there are lots of transport options available.

Metro

This is by far the best mode of transport within Delhi. The metro has connected most of the suburbs and attractions, thus making it very easy to move around.

Tip: The people at the station and inside the train are generally helpful so feel free to ask someone if you think you are unsure or feel lost.
The metro can be very crowded during peak time so be mindful of that.
Get yourself a smart card as queuing for tokens can be rather painful due to the crowd. Also, you will be saving some money too.

Tuk Tuks

In the city, tuk tuks use a meter system which avoids a lot of haggling for fare. Tuk tuks are generally used for distances more than 5km.

Rikshaw & eRikshaw (cycle cart)

The city offers rikshaw as a cheaper mode of transport for short distances, under 5km. These usually run based on sharing or you could hire an entire rikshaw by paying slightly more.

Hire Car / Shared Cabs

There are lots of private and shared cabs available around the city. Hotels usually provide car hiring service (with a driver) which can cost about Rs 1800-2000, ~AUD40.

Buses

For short getaways or day trips from Delhi, there are lots of inter-state buses operated by the Delhi and neighboring state government. Some of the popular routes have AC and Volvo bus options as well.
Alternatively, there are plenty of private buses operators too.

Trains

As India is a big country, it’s Railway System is very well connected. If you are keen to travel to other parts of India, train is a good option as well.
The Govt. have provided numerous online portals to check for train schedule, plan journey, check rates and also for booking.

Food Options

Street food

India is known of it’s street food and also the Delly Belly it can cause! Our recommendation is to skip these all together.

Halwai (sweet shop) & Dhaba

Local cuisine can be enjoyed from sweet shops and dhabas. These outlets usually prepare fresh food each day.
Tip: Ask your hotel operator or a local for recommendation.

Restaurant

There are lots of fast food and restaurant options available across the city, usually in malls. These outlets serve various cuisines from across India and other popular international cuisines with an Indian touch.

In and Around Delhi Gallery

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