Tips For Riding the Metro in Delhi

When we went to India this year we were faced with the dilemma of transport. And I say dilemma because there are so many methods to the madness, all with pros and cons. According to a report from the United Nations, Delhi is now the second most populous city in the world with 25 million inhabitants. Traveling from a metropolitan area of 10 million, we thought we knew what insane traffic looked like, but we were mistaken. Faced with that the choice to tackle the metro was obvious. An average of 2.4 million daily commuters on the Delhi metro leads to its own set of perils however. Mainly, not being able to squeeze into any of the extremely packed cars - so tightly packed that I witnessed the doors close on a man's backpack which triggered them to briefly re-open so that his fellow passengers could literally pull him against their chests, allowing it to close on the second try. Before you shrink back in horror from the thought of such madness, there were times when we'd find the cars to be pleasantly empty or at least easy enough to find a spot in. Really, I thought it was an excellent metro and would definitely recommend it if you travel to Delhi. 

  Picture we snapped of the lines waiting for the metro

Picture we snapped of the lines waiting for the metro

Consisting of five color coded lines, the Delhi metro was built from 2002 to 2011 and consists of 146 stations, which in our experience allowed us to get quite close to everything we wanted to see and do. Since it was built recently, it is very modern with air-conditioning on board and lovely maps above the doors that track your progress along the stations with a flashing light. These maps clearly show which stations you need to get off at to change to a different colored line and are in both Hindi and English. The stations themselves have good signs and footprints marked on the floors in the color of the line they lead you to. If you're ready to take on the Delhi metro, here are some things we discovered that you might like to know. 

  1. The metros start running at 5:30 AM and end at midnight. Since these times very depending at which stations you start and stop at, visit the Delhi metro website to find exact times by station under "First & Last Metro Timing". This is accessed from the Passenger Information tab.  
  2. They depart at frequent intervals - usually every 2-5 minutes. 
  3. If you know where you'll be getting on and off, you can buy a token just for that ride. For example, you can tell them that you need to go from Rajendra Place to Rajiv Chowk and they'll tell you the cost and give you a small plastic token. The platforms to get on the metro are guarded by gates that are opened by waving the token over a sensor. When you exit a station you must pass through another set of gates that requires you to return the token into something like a coin slot so that it can be reused. 
  4. If you're going to ride multiple times we recommend getting something called a smart card. The size of a credit card, its a nifty little thing you pick up for 150 rupees and provides you with 100 rupees of credit. By scanning it at the entrance and exit gates its able to calculate the distance and cost of your journey which it then automatically removes from your credit. The balance left on the card is then displayed on a small screen next to the scanner. When your balance gets low you can put more money on the card, but we warned - you have to put 200 rupees at a time on. We only had to refill our cards once as the average ride only cost around 16 rupees. 
  5. You cannot share one smart card between multiple people riding together. The card is too smart and does not allow you to scan it more than once at each entrance and exit gate. 
  6. Each metro has several designated female only cars. Perfect for solo female travelers or anyone who doesn't want to be packed into a car with thirty gawking men. They are also almost always much emptier than the regular cars. The entrance to these cars are clearly marked on the platform floor. 
  7. There is a line specifically dedicated to getting to and from the airport. It's reached from the Yellow Line (departs every 10 to 15 minutes depending on time of day) and can't be missed since its called the Airport Express Line. It has minimal stops and nice areas to store your luggage. At 100 rupees it's more expensive than the other lines, but is still most likely cheaper than taking a taxi unless you're staying extremely close to the airport. We used it when we flew out and only have one word of caution: give yourself some extra time. The metro app we used stated it would only take around half an hour from our starting station to the airport, but it took almost an hour and a half. We're guessing the app doesn't take into account the stop time at each station or the time it takes to transfer from one line to another. Talking about apps...
  8. If you want your life to be way easier, download one of the awesome Delhi metro apps. We used the metro's own app which was called Delhi Metro Rail (DMRC). It allows you to pick a starting and ending station and then provides you with step by step instructions on how to get there i.e. how many interchanges and the names of stations and colors of lines you need to get on and off at. It also tells you how much the trip will cost, which we found to be accurate since it is their own app, and length of time. However, as mentioned above we didn't find the time to be terribly accurate. 

That pretty much sums things up. I hope if you get to Delhi you'll give it a try and enjoy it as much as we did. 

  Airport Express Line. Note the ample luggage storage areas. 

Airport Express Line. Note the ample luggage storage areas.