The first phase of the long-debated Delhi metro – officially,
the Mass Rapid Transit System or MRTS – is finally
under construction. It is anticipated that the first trains will
be up and running by January 2003; however, the first phase of the
MRTS will not be fully operational until the end of 2005.
The trains will be partly elevated partly over ground,
and partly underground and will spread to 62 kilometres (39
miles). The tunneling for the underground was scheduled to start
in the summer of 2002. The MRTS will hopefully reduce the
reliance of Delhi’s population on the car, reducing traffic
and benefiting the city and its environment.
There are also numerous schemes stirring to improve the flow of
traffic in the city, most importantly, the construction of flyovers.
Eleven flyovers have been constructed since 1998-99 and there are
plans for an additional 45 over the next ten years. However, Delhi
remains addicted to the car – vehicles registered in the
city has jumped by 90% since 1991 – and congestion, noise
and pollution are a constant annoyance.
There are public buses in Delhi, although finding a seat
is a task that disputes all Western notions of common courtesy and
personal space. Once on, passengers should be ready for a numbing,
bone-crunching ride. The Delhi
Transport Corporation operates a centralized bus service of
more than 300 routes (tel: (011) 331-7445).
#454 between Connaught Place and Nizamuddin,
#505 to Mehrauli and Qutb Minar,
#620 to Chanakyapuri and
#101 and #139 between Park Hotel and the Red Fort.
There is a row of seats reserved for women on the left of every
bus. although this rule is observed only on a whim. DTC also operates
an evening bus service. Bus fare costs between Rs5-Rs10
and is paid when boarding.
A DTC General All-Route Pass costs Rs400-450 and can
be purchased from Scindia House (tel: (011) 331-7445) or
1 of 36 other pass sections, including Delhi Gate, Cover
ground and Shahdara Terminal.
The best way to get around Delhi's city is by taxi or
auto-rickshaw (see below). Currently, in order to tackle the
city’s air pollution, the auto-rickshaws and taxis are forced
by the government to convert from petrol to Compressed Natural
Gas (CNG). This supposedly has made some statistical impact
– Delhi has now moved below Culcutta and Mumbai on the list
of India’s most polluted cities – although when standing
amidst the traffic’s fumes, it is hard to believe it.
The authorities are also trying to oblige Delhi’s taxis
and auto-rickshaws to install electronic meters, to battle
the rampant overcharging of passengers – according to a recent
estimate, Delhi’s commuters are overcharged Rs2 billion, almost
£30 million, yearly. Unsurprisingly, this is really unpopular
among the taxi and rickshaw wallahs, subsequently, the conversion
to electronic meters has been very slow.
Auto-rickshaws are open-sided, motorized tricycles, which
swerve in and out of Delhi’s appalling traffic and can be
stopped almost everywhere in the city. Visitors should brace themselves
for an uncomfortable ride as they surge over the potholes and bumps
of Delhi’s roads, at the same level as the exhaust pipes of
most buses and lorries.
There are 4 and 6-seater motorcycle rickshaws available in Delhi,
which operate fixed routes at fixed prices. The route is
between the Red Fort and Palika Bazaar at Connaught
Place. Bicycle rickshaws are available for short distance travel
in Old Delhi. The meter starting rate is Rs5 for auto-rickshaws
but meters are invariably out of order and there are usually surcharges
over the metered price, so fares should be agreed upon before
staring the journey. Drivers often expect a tip from foreign
tourists and 10% of the fare is adequate.
Visitors can book the Yellow and black Ambassador taxis
at local taxi stands or through hotels. (prices are fixed in
advance) Drivers do not normally expect tips unless they have
been extra helpful to their passenger.
There is a 100% surcharge between 11.00 pm and 5.00 am.
Like auto-rickshaws, there are official rates for taxis but metered
prices are usually impose high surcharges and can be double the
price of auto-rickshaws. The official starting meter rate is Rs5.
Prices should be negotiated before the journey.
For day of sightseeing or longer journeys, Ambassador
cars– of the yellow and black, or plain cream variety –
with a driver are the best option. These can be booked at
the Tourist Office, through hotels or at private travel
agents. Services International (tel: (011) 578-2636)
provide chauffeur-driven ‘luxury’ cars, including
air-conditioned Mercedes and Fords. In Delhi, a Mercedes
with a chauffeur for eight hours would cost US$147 and a
Driving in Delhi at times can take nerves of steel. The
wide boulevards of New Delhi cause potential dangers. However, negotiating
the vehicular chaos which is in Old Delhi can test the ability
of the most skilled driver, as bicycles and rickshaws careen through
the choking traffic of trucks, buses, lone wandering cows, ox carts,
elephants and goats.
India has an astonishing amount of 'dignitaries and VIPs, and roads
are usually closed for ‘VIP movement’. Driving
at night can be really dangerous, with streets and cars lit only
intermittently. There are very few car parks and generally driving
alone around the city is not recommended.
Car hire agencies include Europcar Inter-Rent (tel: (011)
619-1786) and Wheels Rent A Car (tel: (011) 331-8695). Most
of the main hotels can also arrange car hire on the guests’
behalf. An International Driving Permit is mandatory for
driving in India and in most cases the drivers must be at least
25 years or over. The 3rd-party insurance is required by law.
Car hire rates start at Rs2250 per day.
& Scooter Hire
Cycling in this city can take some courage but it is a good mean
of traveling around the broad boulevards, which are mainly un crowded
and in fairly good condition. Unfortunately, bicycle rental is hard
to find; however, there is a no-name shop, in Pahar Ganj,
a short walk from Hotel Vivek, offering bicycles for hire.
Lovers of vintage motorcycles travel to India to satisfy a penchant
for its locally built Enfield's. Lucky Auto Accessories on
Shri Kishan Dass Road, stocks renovated Enfield Bullets while Inder
Motors on Hari Singh Malwa street (tel: (011) 572-8579), has
new and used Enfield's for sale.
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