So, you’re planning your first ever trip to India and are worrying about the culture shock? Which of India’s major cities would be best for you? Well, I would recommend you narrow your choice down to 2: Delhi and Mumbai. These are the largest and most visited cities in India for tourism. But how do they compare?
Delhi is the capital of India and has an amazing raj history. Mumbai, on the other hand, is known to have some incredible Victorian English architecture, such as the main railway station. Delhi is also close to a tiger safari at Ranthambore and of course only a 2 hour drive away from the Taj Mahal. Mumbai meanwhile has something Delhi does not have: a beach!
When I first landed in Delhi, it was my first ever experience in India, and actually I had a bad time, as my taxi driver turned out to be corrupt and demanded more money from me or I would get dumped on the sidewalk. He was also very bad at his job, as he didn’t know even the most famous hotels in Delhi. Taxi drivers in Delhi and Mumbai probably wont be able to speak English, so it would be very wise for you write down (or get someone else to write down) the destination in the relevant Indian language (either Hindi or Marathi).
I found Delhi to be slightly easier to navigate by public transport than Mumbai. I think the city is laid out better for vehicles and also for pedestrians (although it’s still quite a feat to walk around India’s suburbs). The people in both cities were very friendly, although you could have slightly more curiosity around you in Mumbai, as it perhaps has less to offer the leisure traveller. One thing I will say about Mumbai, though, is that the street food there is AMAZING, with local snacks like Bhelpuri and the awesome vada pav being part of the daily diet of all Mumbaikars (and tourists)!
A year later after my escapades in Delhi, I returned to India, this time landing in Mumbai. I had the name of my hotel written down in the Marathi language and the taxi driver took me straight there – although the state of the roads in Mumbai and all over India are simply scary! Driving from Mumbai’s airport to downtown takes forever – at least a 90 minute drive on a good day – and this is something you need to consider when visiting this city.
Public transport may be ok if you are in a pre-paid taxi, but DO NOT use a bus – especially if it’s your first time in the country! Avoid buses! Preferably, you should arrange a hotel or hostel pick up car, if you can afford it. At least that way, you can guarantee that the driver knows where he is going! I found that drivers in India expect to be tipped, although it’s at your discretion if you want to or not.
Once you have gotten over the immediate culture shock of landing in India, it may be a good idea to start planning the days ahead. In Mumbai, there is far less to do than in Delhi, however in some ways it does have more charm, and as I said before, it does have a beach (Marine Drive) if you like to do a spot of sunbathing or swimming! Delhi, however, is the gateway to Varanasi, Rajasthan, and the Taj Mahal in Agra, so it is a more likely place for your first venture in this huge and fascinating country.
For me, I did Delhi first, and Mumbai was my second major Indian city. Next up for me will be Kolkata or Bangalore. I haven’t decided yet! But I what I can guarantee is that I will be able to enjoy myself and have a good experience now that I’ve began to adapt to the Indian way of life!