One thing that always jumps out at me here is the transportation. Seeing it in action is the only way to believe any of it. Here’s my lighthearted guide to getting around Delhi:
For short distances, walking works. It may seem simple enough, but not in Delhi. Walking is an exercise in awareness and reflexes. You must get across streets and intersections without getting hit, for pedestrians are lowest on Delhi’s transportation food-chain. You always have to be careful to not step in cow dung, puddles, or trash too. And on top of watching where you’re going and where you’re stepping, you must avoid scooters, motorcycles, bikes, ad buses- it is, of course, the pedestrian’s responsibility to get out of the way- there’s something very Darwinian about it all. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was my roommate Rushi tell me a few years back: “You how I know there’s a God? There’s a God, because I get across [the street next to our flats] everyday and haven’t died.” And even Joylani, who is generally clumsy, is pretty adept at walking and dodging her way around Delhi now.
Bicycle rickshaw are fun because you don’t have to do anything, but get to experience your surroundings first-hand. The downside is the guys always seem like they’re about to die when you reach your destination. Just tip a little more.
One step up, auto-rickhaws are quicker and more expensive than their bicycle counterparts. You don’t feel quite as bad as on a bicycle though, because nobody is killing themselves to transport you. They’re still small enough to ignore most traffic laws here; direction of traffic, illegal turns, stop lights. Yet, they’re zippy and get you to where you want to go fairly quickly. And while there’s nothing funner than zooming down a road in a rickshaw, wind in your face and hair, watching the city go by (first photo below), there’s nothing scarier than being in a rickshaw that’s loud and bumpy with a driver that you swear will crash you, blow-up his engine, or flip the thing on a pothole (as my friend Payal and I did once) (second photo below).
I usually don’t recommend buses, because while they’re cheap they are not door-to-door like rickshaws. They’re crowded, dirty, and you gotta watch your wallet. Upside: its fun to watch people run and jump in the door of a bus, as they often only slow down instead of stopping. Downside: if you don’t look both ways before crossing a street, a bus will end you.
This trip, I’ve also had the pleasure of taking the new metro a couple times. It’s new and consequently clean. It’s cheap and fast, but you often must take a rickshaw or bus from the station to where you want to go. And while police keep the homeless out of the station, those that can afford the ride pack those cars more than the buses! Its good to take if the stop is near where you’re going. Otherwise, it may be better to just rickshaw it.