20 Things to do in Delhi for Solo Female Travellers
If you want to experience a city that has not lost its old charm and has still embraced modernity, look no further. Delhi is the city for you.
There is literally an Old Delhi and a New Delhi. Old Delhi is where Delhi’s rich history finds expression in monuments and old-fashioned buildings, famous eateries and shopping hubs. New Delhi is more of the political centre that it is supposed to be. The roads are wider and the residential areas well-planned out.
But there is definitely more to Delhi than all this. It is very different from all other cities in North India. Go through this Ultimate Travel Guide to North India for Solo Female Travel for more details. I had read a lot of travel blogs before visiting, but trust me, the city I explored was very different from all that. Each of my friends who visited Delhi also had very different accounts of the city.
Below I have shared 20 things to do in Delhi for solo female travel based on my personal experiences. Hope they guide you on your journey too.
1. Stall-hopping at Connaught Place (locally known as CP)
British Georgian-style buildings? Check. Old-time cinemas exuding charm? Check. Shopping hub? Check. Connaught place has everything, even the quaintest of restaurants and cafes. For a solo female traveller on her trip to Delhi for the very first time, CP is a must-visit. Luxury and affordability in one place, that is CP. I was lucky to meet a few tribal women from rural North Indian here who were selling multi-coloured trinkets. I got a few for myself, although I must admit they were a little pricey. However, I was more interested in conversing with them about their lives as self-employed artisans. I hesitated to start the conversation because, awkwardly I did not speak fluent Hindi. All thanks to a local by-stander, who translated for me – I was able to talk to them. Here are 14 awkward first-time solo travel moments that happened to me!
2. Get some cool ‘branded’ stuff at Palika Bazaar
On first glance, Palika Bazaar may sound like some ordinary bazaar (marketplace) to you. But nothing could be further away from the truth. Palika Bazaar is a completely air conditioned UNDERGROUND bazaar. Yes, you read that right! It is constructed below ground level and extends from one end of Connaught Place to another. The bazaar is famous for shops that sell ‘branded’ merchandise at affordable prices. By ‘branded’ I mean factory pieces that did not pass the quality test because of minor issues. Such designer pieces – sometimes just missing a button or a knot – find their way to the stalls of Palika Bazaar. So the next time you want to wear some fancy Dorothy Perkins while solo travelling to Delhi, why not head to Palika Bazaar?
3. Take a tour to the top universities
Delhi is not only famous as a melting pot of different cultures and for its rich history, but also for its colleges. It is the education centre of India too, apart from being a political centre. If you are a solo female traveller going to Delhi for the first time, you should visit some prominent colleges in the area. I went to Jamia Millia Islamia, a top-rated university, in old Delhi. I was happy to meet some students and they even gave me a tour of the university. And I was invited to a cultural event at the college by these students, even though I was a stranger! The grand old library at the university also opened new doors to knowledge for me. I felt like becoming a student again!
4. Take part in a langar at Guru Gobind Sahib
Guru Gobind Sahib is a sikh gurudwara or place of worship for sikhs in Delhi. If you want to witness the joy of giving and service to mankind, then you should surely visit this place. Before entering the gurudwara, you are supposed to cover your head. It is such a pristine and clean area of worship, with a lake bordering the premises. The best part of the gurudwara is that food is served to the needy free of cost.
The food is prepared in a huge community kitchen – with everyone from the rich to the poor – taking part in the preparation. This preparation of food is called a langar. I was honoured to be part of the langar at Gutu Gobind Sahib. I cut up the vegetables needed for the curry, and even washed some dishes. Everything felt so positive! I suggest that anyone travelling solo to Delhi should take part in a langar at Guru Gobind Sahib. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It will definitely instill a sense of giving back to society in you.
5. Visit the Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan
Who doesn’t love flowers? Especially if they are colourful and bloom in the thousands? I would guess nobody. The Mughal Gardens at Rashrapati Bhavan, which is only open to the general public from February through March every year, is an abode of floral magnificence. It overlooks the Presidential Palace or Rashtrapati Bhavan, and is a real crowd-puller. Get up early on a nippy winter morning and head straight to the Mughal Gardens. You can take a stroll down the well-paved lanes and take good photos of the area. If you are in the mood, then you can pose for some photos with a great background too! Take some selfies or ask a stranger to help you out or even use a self-timer.
6. Hop on a rickshaw!
A rickshaw is a chair-type vehicle that is hand-pulled by people. Though it has been in existence in India since the pre-British times, now it is only found in North India. It is still a preferred mode of transport for short-distance travel in places like Delhi. A 1 km ride will cost you around Rs. 30. If you cannot find regular autorickshaws to get somewhere, then you can always bet on rickshaws. Make sure to tip the rickshaw puller well after you get off. It is good to acknowledge the effort taken by the puller who is probably working hard to make a living.
7. Try some local street food
Delhi is extremely famous for its street food. From juicy kebabs to tender meat curries and yummy momos (steamed or fried dumplings) you get ’em all at Delhi. Delhi is a food-lover’s paradise. At every corner of any Delhi neighbourhood you will surely see a row of stalls selling corn on the cob, delicious chaat (fried crisps with masala), kathi rolls (meat or vegetable rolls made filled with spicy sauces) and so on. You can even find desserts in these local eateries. Some of the must-try sweet meats are rabri jalebi (milk pudding with a sweet fried pretzel), halwa poori (sweet dish made with gram flour and wheat flour) etc.
To quell my curiosity, I asked a local momo stall owner how much money he makes in a month. When he said upwards of Rs. 80,000, I was genuinely surprised! Adding ‘momo stall owner’ to my ‘alternate career plans’ list right away.
8. Get desi couture at Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is synonymous with affordable desi couture that looks like the real deal. So for your next desi wedding, do not worry if you cannot afford that Sabyasachi lehenga that you liked so much. Because, chances are, you might find a similar one in a shop in Chandni Chowk. There are a whole lot of options – from the latest designs to the trendiest cut – to choose from. And the best part is that you do not have to burn a hole in your pocket too!
9. Explore Delhi’s own Tibet
While it is not very popular, Delhi has its own Tibet town called Majnu ka Tila. It has the largest market in the whole of India which sells items from Tibet. You can get all sorts of Tibetan merchandise like Buddhist incense, thangkas (a type of Tibetan Buddhist painting) and colourful Tibetan flags and charms. You can sample authentic Tibetan foods at one of the eateries too. If you talk to the locals living here, you can get a slice of Tibetan culture – what exactly their aspirations are and what they hope for the future.
When I visited this place, I went to one of the Buddhist temples inside the area. I learnt to chant some hymns and even mediated for some time. It really gave me some peaceful ‘me time’ and took the edge off the fact that I was solo travelling to Delhi for the first time. It took me back to the emotional time when I solo tripped for the very first time.
10. Marvel at Delhi’s Afghan culture
Lajpat Nagar in Delhi is famous for its sprawling markets, but it is also home to the biggest Afghan colonies in Delhi. The colony houses Afghan immigrants who have fled their country during the war. Most of these immigrants or refugees have set up their own restaurants serving authentic Afghan food in Lajpat Nagar. You will find at least 10 to 12 restaurants in the same vicinity. You can choose which one to visit based on Google reviews or you could also ask a local for recommendations. My recommendation is that you sample the thick Afghan Naan, the Borani Banjan (eggplant in garlic-yoghurt sauce) and the mutton kebabs. As a solo female traveller on their first journey to Delhi, isn’t it great to be able to experience two cultures in one place!
11. Visit a mall in the national capital
Delhi’s malls are arguably the best in the whole country. From the design to the layout and infrastructure, everything is top-notch. The malls also have the latest brands in-vogue. So if you are tired of doing street shopping and want to go somewhere fancy, then the mall is the right place to go. Select Citywalk in Saket is my top pick because the mall is just sprawling! You cannot get enough of it. On some days, the ground floor of the mall hosts open markets from where you can buy clothes, decor items or food.
12. Much on the best winter vegetables and fruits
Winter is a great time in Delhi for many reasons. You can go on an afternoon picnic with friends or enjoy a hot cuppa all by yourself at a lovely cafe. But the top reason is that you get fresh fruits and vegetables like no other place. I was able to get fresh strawberries and apricots on most days. Almonds and walnuts were also available abundantly. And if you are a solo female traveller in Delhi, then you could get some packed on the go in case you feel hungry.
13. Explore different Indian cities at Dilli Haat
Dilli Haat is an open-air array of stalls and bazaars that hosts the best of products from all over India. Literally each Indian state has a stall here. You can buy authentic products from say Kerala in Delhi if you visit Dilli Haat. There are many eateries serving pan-India food in this place as well. Many cultural festivals representing the many states of India are also held here from time to time. If you are up for it, you could also take part in these cultural programmes. I was able to take part in a traditional Rajasthani dance, decked up in Rajasthani attire and jewellery, with dancers from Jaipur at Dilli Haat. As the dance steps were not hard, I could join the dancers easily to complete the dance routine.
14. Indulge in the best dhaba food
Highways in Delhi, especially the Delhi-Haryana one and the Delhi-Punjab one are lined with dhabas. Dhabas are local eateries serving Indian fast food. By fast food, I do not mean the ones serving burger and fries. We are talking butter naans and roasted meat curries here which makes for a different cuisine called ‘dhaba cuisine’. Dhaba food is a lot spicier and oilier, and definitely tastier. If you do weight watching, then you should only indulge in dhaba fare once in a while.
15. Clothes haul at Sarojini
Sarojini Market or Sarojini, is best-known for its textile market. Affordability and variety are the highlights here. You could buy clothes in bulk here if you know which place to find them in. I asked a few friends of mine who were experts in Sarojini market shopping for the best places to shop in. That helped me to get the best deals. From western clothes to Indian attire, you could find anything that suits your look and budget.
16. Take a walk to India Gate
India Gate is pretty famous as it is a major landmark location in Delhi. It is basically a war memorial dedicated to war heroes who have lost their lives in battle. The area surrounding the India Gate is a common picnic spot. It also has well-paved roads that are perfect for walking. Street stalls selling tea, biscuits and other snacks line the entire area so do not worry about going hungry on your stroll. The perfect time to visit the place is during the night as the fountains at India Gate become adorned with rainbow lights.
17. Take a solo boat ride at Purana Qila
Purana Qila or Old Fort is one of the oldest forts in Delhi. Although it has its own erstwhile charm, it is not really a popular tourist spot for foreign tourists. I do not know the reason why, but the spot is much loved by the locals. The main activity to undertake here is boat riding on a lake that is present on the same property. You have to do manual peddling as there are no automatic motor-powered boats here. If you are solo tripping to Delhi, then this exercise might do you some good as it is a great stamina-building activity. So you get the best of entertainment as well as fitness, all rolled into one.
18. Sway to qawwalis at Nizamuddin Dargah
The Nizamuddin Dargah is a Islamic Sufi landmark in West Delhi. It has a peaceful environment with qawwalis or devotional songs being rendered by the Sufi saints. As a solo female traveller in Delhi for the first time, why wouldn’t you fancy some peace and quiet? If you have never listened to a qawwali, then I must say you are at a loss. It is so calming to the mind and body that you feel like swaying to it. I was so impressed by the qawwali singing at the dargah that I felt like I was a new person after it. I have tried to listen to some qawwalis online after that, but nothing comes close to the original one.
19. Spice it up at Khari Baoli Road
Khari Baoli Road in Delhi houses the largest spice market in Asia. Name any spice that is indigenous to South Asia and used in South Asian cooking, and I assure you that you will find it here. If you do not know much about spices and want to learn more, then Khari Baoli is the place for you. The shopkeepers and stall owners explain about the spices in painstaking detail. They will even share recipes of food to use the spices in, if you befriend them like I did. Also, you can choose to buy the spices in labelled containers instead of buying them loose.
20. Pet some deer at the famous Deer Park
Deer are docile creatures who are really friendly to human beings. You may have noticed this on your occasional trip to the zoo. I am sure you may have felt like getting a little close to them and petting them. But zoo rules may have not allowed it. The Deer Park in Delhi is very different. You can get up close and personal with the friendly deer here. Also, you need to respect their space and not invade it. You are also not allowed to feed the deer as per the Wildlife Protection Act of 1976, but you can approach them in a civil way. If you are an animal lover who is solo travelling to Delhi, then I dare say you must not miss visiting Deer Park.
When I visited Delhi for the first time a couple of years back, I had my share of doubts and questions. The first question was obviously surrounding the safety of solo travelling to Delhi. This is because Delhi was notorious for high rates of crimes against women. Wondering if India in general is safe for women? Here is my take on it.
Safety always comes first
But once I went about on my journey, I understood that one can indeed solo travel to Delhi without any worry. Of course, I did take some precautions – like downloading the Himmat app. This is a free app launched by Delhi through which you can raise SOS alerts to the police. As soon as the alert is sent, your location and audio-video details reach the police. Read the following blog to know what to carry for your first solo trip: Carry these 10 important things if you are a solo female traveller embarking on their first trip to Delhi.
In a bid to be safer, I did most of my commuting using the Delhi metro system. I am kidding you not, I have never seen such a well-connected metro rail system anywhere in India. The routes are easy to understand and clear. You just have to hop on the metro and know where to go. Like other metro trains in India, the Delhi metro has a separate compartment for women. I chose to travel in the women’s compartment only. I recommend the same for fellow female travellers planning a solo trip to Delhi.
However, if you absolutely have to take a cab, then make sure you share your ride details with a friend or loved one. There is almost always an emergency button on every cab aggregator app like Ola or Uber. Do not hesitate to use it if you feel that the driver seems shady or is taking you aimlessly around Delhi. Here are 25 tips for using public transport in India as a solo female traveller.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.