New Delhi is simply a beast. Travel research will only soften the blow once you’re in the thick of things and the currency exchange counter at the airport welcomes you to this fact. I needed a little cash to cover a taxi ride to the hostel and approached the counter reluctantly. I was quoted a low rate, which I expect from anything running out of an airport, but no sooner after handing over $70USD that the quoted amount was chipped away by a mountain of nonsensical surcharges indicative of practically every purchase moving forward.
Market rate: $70USD @approx 65RS/$1USD = approx 4500RS
Expectation: $70USD @approx 62RS/$1USD = approx 4300RS
Reality: $70USD @60RS/$1USD = 4200 – fees and VAT = 3800RS
This city was ready to eat me alive right from the start.
As misfortune would have it, upon my arrival at the hostel, all the distractions during my preparations caught up to me. I inadvertently booked my check-in date as my departure date from Toronto rather than my arrival date in New Delhi. Since I was a no-show the day prior, the hostel forfeited the entire reservation. By the time I sat down to check-in they were fully booked and at 11PM I had nowhere to stay with no one to blame but myself.
After riding in an overpriced taxi, all I wanted to do was put my head down somewhere and accept temporary defeat before getting my bearings together. With a little bit of coaxing, the hostel receptionist was sympathetic to my situation and allowed me to sleep in the common area, for a lower rate with access to all amenities, which I gladly accepted.
Despite the rough start, this gesture of hospitality was a reassuring sign of things to come. The plan is to slowly settle in to New Delhi and orient myself to the new surroundings and culture in a week’s time. Over the next few days, I met three kind souls that welcomed me to the belly of this beast.