Delhi has undergone significant development in recent years to become the best city in India. The new Metro train rapid transit system provides a quick and convenient way of getting around Delhi. The Metro is useful for tourists who are traveling on a budget or who want to avoid being stuck in traffic. While Metro ridership has grown to more than six million journeys per day in 2020, buses remain the most popular form of public transport for commuters in Delhi. However, the buses do get crowded and not all are air-conditioned. Many tourists use auto rickshaws and app-based taxi services such as Uber for short trips, or hire a car and driver for all-day sightseeing. Here's what you should know.
How to Ride the Metro Train
The biggest and busiest Metro system in India, the Delhi Metro has revolutionized public transport in the city since it started operating in 2002. The Metro is more comfortable, punctual, and efficient than the bus, and connects the city to outlying Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bahadurgarh, and Ballabhgarh. It is being constructed in stages; the final stage, IV, commenced at the end of 2019 and is expected to be completed by 2025.
Currently there are nine lines (including the Airport Metro Express Line) and 285 stations. The largely underground Yellow Line runs from north to south, and is particularly important for tourists as it provides access to a lot of Delhi's top attractions. Plus, it has convenient connections with other lines.
- Different types of passes: You can buy unlimited one-day and three-day Tourist Cards; you can use these on all lines except for the Airport Metro Express Line. If you plan to be in the city for longer, you may opt to get the contactless Smart Card, which you can load money onto; these will save you time purchasing single-ride tickets.
- Fare rates: One-day passes cost 200 rupees ($2.60), and three-day passes cost 500 rupees ($6.60). You must return your card at the end of travel, so you also need to pay a 50-rupee (70 cents) security deposit upon pick-up. Alternatively you can purchase tokens (single-ride tickets), the cost of which depends on the route. The fare can cost anywhere from 10 rupees (10 cents) to 60 rupees (80 cents). If you have a Smart Card, you will receive a 10 percent discount on each trip, with an additional 10 percent taken off for non-peak travel.
- How to pay: You can purchase tokens from Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) at each Metro station; Tourist Cards can be purchased at Customer Care centers at all Metro stations; and Smart Cards can be purchased from Smart Card Vending Machines (SCVMs) at select Metro stations, or from Customer Care centers at any station. If you have a Smart Card, you can top up online.
- Hours of operation: Trains on the regular lines (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, and Violet) run roughly between 5:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. During peak travel times, trains run every couple of minutes; at other times, you may wait up to 10 minutes.
- Transfers: Each token expires after 180 minutes.
- Accessibility concerns: The Metro has special accessibility features for people with disabilities.
- Additional tips: The first train carriage is for women only, and plan to pass through security checkpoint at ticket gates.
You can also check the Delhi Metro Rail website for further details, or download the One Delhi app (currently only available on Google Play for Android users) or Delhi-NCR Metro app (an alternative for IOS users) to plan your trip. Bookmark this route map for easy access.
Riding the Bus in Delhi
The Delhi bus network has about 800 routes and 2,500 bus stops connecting almost every part of the city. While you can go pretty much anywhere you want for cheap, the quality of your trip will vary, depending on the type of bus you take and the amount of traffic on the roads.
There are two types of buses: orange and blue "cluster" buses that operate in accordance with public-private partnership agreements under the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS), and red and green government-operated Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses.
The blue cluster buses are brand new air-conditioned buses, while the orange ones don't have air conditioning. Red DTC buses also have air conditioning, and can be found on almost all routes across the city. Generally, buses run from 5.30 a.m. until 10.30 or 11 p.m. Notably, they use environmentally-friendly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
Depending on the route, an air-conditioned bus will cost anywhere between 10 rupees (13 cents) and 25 rupees (33 cents). Buses without air conditioning cost between 5 rupees (7 cents) and 15 rupees (20 cents). If you plan to ride the bus a lot, you can get a one-day Green Card for travel on all DTC bus services (except for Palam Coach, Tourist, and Express). It's 50 rupees (70 cents) for buses with air conditioning and 40 rupees (50 cents) for buses without.
Sightseeing Buses for Tourists
A better option for tourists are the special sightseeing buses in Delhi. The DTC's inexpensive full-day Delhi Darshan bus tour stops at seven famous attractions around the city: Red Fort, Raj Ghat, Birla Mandir, Qutab Minar, Lotus Temple, Humanyun's Tomb, and Akshardham Temple. Tickets are only 200 rupees ($2.60) for adults and 100 rupees ($1.30) for children. Buses depart at 9:15 a.m. from Scindia House in Connaught Place and the tour concludes at 7.45 p.m. at Akshardham. The downside is that you'll be rushed and will only get to spend up to 45 minutes at each place.
Alternatively, Delhi Tourism's Hop On Hop Off bus service is a more flexible and upmarket option. It covers more than 25 tourists destinations, including top monuments and museums. The air-conditioned buses have disabled access, an on-board tourist guide, and live commentaries in English and Hindi. The buses run from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with departures every 45 minutes. Passes are available for one or two days. They have different prices for Indians and foreigners. Indians pay 499 rupees ($6.60) for a one-day pass, while the cost is 999 rupees ($13.20) for foreigners. Two-day passes cost 599 rupees ($7.90) for Indians, and 1,199 rupees ($15.80) for foreigners. Discounted fixed itinerary bus tours are conducted on Mondays, when many monuments are closed.
Airport Shuttle Bus
DTC operates an airport shuttle bus service. Its main Express Route 4 connects Terminal 3 of Delhi airport with Kashmere Gate ISBT via New Delhi Railway Station, the Red Fort, and Connaught Place. This service runs around the clock, with departures every 30 minutes. There's another useful route, 534A, between Terminal 2 and Anand Vihar ISBT. These buses depart every 10 to 20 minutes but stop running overnight, from around 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The fare ranges from 27 rupees (40 cents) to 106 rupees ($1.40), depending on distance traveled.
Auto Rickshaws and E-Rickshaws in Delhi
Delhi has plenty of iconic green and yellow auto rickshaws, but it's extremely difficult to get them to put their meters on. The drivers will quote a fare for your journey, and you'll have to haggle and agree on it before you travel. So, it's necessary to have an idea of the correct fare to avoid getting ripped off (which you certainly will otherwise, because drivers invariably overcharge foreigners). Do note that drivers frequently refuse passengers who aren't going in their desired direction, or want to go to a destination where they may not get a return passenger. This guide to auto rickshaws in Delhi has further details.
You're also likely to come across non-polluting e-rickshaws (electric rickshaws) in Delhi. They're common at Metro stations and high-traffic areas. Fares are set according to the areas they ply in and are lower than auto rickshaws. Expect to pay 10 rupees (13 cents) for the first 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) and 5 rupees (7 cents) for every subsequent kilometer (0.6 miles). Rides can be booked on the SmartE app. Be careful of rash driving though.
Taxis in Delhi
Prepaid taxis remain a reliable way of getting from Delhi airport to your hotel. However, app-based taxi services Uber and Ola (the Indian equivalent of Uber) have become the most convenient way of getting around Delhi. For travelers, this means it's no longer necessary to deal with taxi scams and ripoffs. The cost is generally affordable, with Uber charging a minimum fare of about 60 rupees (80 cents) plus 7.89 rupees (10 cents) per kilometer. Ola tends to be a bit cheaper than Uber for short distances with a tariff of only 6 rupees (8 cents) for the first 8 kilometers (5 miles) in addition to the minimum fare, while Uber is preferable for long distances. Both Ola and Uber can be hired at flat rates for extended trips of an hour or more. Ola and Uber also provide auto rickshaw booking.
Furthermore, Uber now has a public transport option that shows users how to best get from one destination to another using bus and train.
You'll need to have Internet access on your cell phone though, and of course deal with traffic congestion.
Bicycle and Scooter Rentals in Delhi
Yulu provides electric bicycles (called Move) and scooters (called Miracle) for rent via a vehicle sharing app. Users can take them from any available zone marked on the app, and leave them at another zone marked as having an empty slot. Licenses and helmets aren't needed. Rental zones are predominantly near bus stops and Metro stations. The app requires users to maintain a balance in a mobile wallet, and deducts a 250 rupee ($3.30) security deposit. However, Uber recently partnered with Yulu to provide users with the ability to book through its app. Rates start from 10 rupees (13 cents) and increase by 10 rupees every 30 minutes.
Tips for Getting Around Delhi
- Public transport widely shuts down at night in Delhi, although night service buses continue to operate on prominent routes.
- Avoid traveling on the Metro during peak hours from around 9-10 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Buses get super crowded during peak hours as well, from 8-10 a.m. and 5-7 p.m.
- Tourist passes for the Metro train are only really worth the cost if you're planning on taking a lot of trips.
- Uber or Ola really are your best bet for a prompt and fuss-free ride.
- Don't take an auto rickshaw during winter unless you're wearing very warm clothing. You will freeze!