One day in… Hyderabad
I’ve wanted to visit the subcontinent of India for a very long time – as long as I can remember actually. This year was the first time I got the opportunity as I was able to travel to this vibrant and varied country with work. My trip took me to southern India, and I absolutely loved it! One of my stops was Hyderabad, where I had some spare time and took advantage of the chance to get to know the city a bit better.
Hyderabad is the capital of the state of Telangana in southern India. It’s the fourth most populous city in the country with a population of over 6.5 million people. Hyderabad’s rather charming nickname is the City of Pearls, although unfortunately I wasn’t there to shop for jewellery. You may also hear the name Cyberabad used as it’s also a major technology hub. The former state of Hyderabad was ruled by a monarch called the Nizam, and this system of governing lasted until 1948, when the Nizam was forcibly deposed by the Indian army just one year after Indian independence from the British.
How to get there: You can fly direct from London Heathrow to Hyderabad with British Airways. Flight time from London is around 9 hours 30 minutes. Other airlines offer routes connecting through Dubai or other cities in India like Mumbai or Delhi.
Currency: You’ll need to get your hands on some Indian rupees (easier said than done!). The currency is currently restricted, meaning it can’t be sold outside India. I would recommend taking US dollars and exchanging them for rupees in the airport or your hotel when you arrive. 1GBP is currently worth about 82 INR.
Language: The majority of people in Hyderabad will speak either Telugu or Urdu. However, no-one will usually expect people from abroad (or even other Indian states) to speak the local lingo, so you should be fine getting by in English with the vast majority of people you come across on your travels in Hyderabad.
Culture: Southern Indian cities tend to be more conservative than their Northern counterparts; whilst it may be perfectly normal to see women wearing more revealing clothes in New Delhi and Mumbai, in the south of India there is a lot of traditional dress. For women, bare arms are fine, but I’d recommend high necklines and low hemlines as a general rule.
Getting around: Unless you’re travelling everywhere in a hotel car, getting around Hyderabad is fairly straightforward and cheap. I used Uber for most of my journeys in the city, which typically worked out at less than £1 for journeys of around 20 minutes. If you want to do some sightseeing, it can be easier to get a hotel driver to take you around for a day as you’ll have more space than in an Uber or taxi and they’ll wait for you as long as you want at each stop. If you do this, anticipate paying around £30-40 for a half day (this can be negotiated with the concierge).
During this visit, I stayed at the Taj Krishna, which is a beautiful 5-star hotel in the Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad. I was given a Club Room, which gave me free access to the Club Lounge, although I didn’t have much time to make the most of this! When I did get chance to go in there, there were complimentary canapés and aperitifs. They also did a light breakfast and afternoon tea in the lounge every day. In the hotel itself, there were several restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating areas (although outdoor areas weren’t very popular in the 40°+ heat), as well as designer shops including Cartier and Burberry. There was also a beautiful, large outdoor pool with various hot and cold tubs around the edge.
Hyderabad is famed for its Biryani; a rice dish with meat (usually mutton) and spices. The biryani I tried reminded me a lot of typical rice and meat dishes eaten in Saudi Arabia, which makes sense as there is quite a lot of cultural crossover between India and the Middle East. I have to admit, as I was in Hyderabad at the end of my trip to India, I made the most of being in such a cosmopolitan city and opted to go for some more Western-style cuisine, including the Hard Rock Café and sampling the Italian offering at the hotel. Hyderabad is a wonderful city to be able to eat a mix of amazing Indian food as well as stopping off at more familiar chains if you’re a bit food-homesick.
Hyderabad has such a rich cultural heritage, as do many cities in India. It’s a dream to explore if you’re interested in history and architecture. I was only in Hyderabad for a short while, but I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing.
Chowmahalla Palace: A must-see for first-time visitors to Hyderabad. Chowmahalla Palace provides respite from the crowded streets and bustling bazaar just outside its gates. It was traditionally home to the Nizams of Hyderabad and now houses artefacts in some of the rooms as well as show-casing expansive grounds and unique architecture. I enjoyed wandering through the beautiful gardens, which are surprisingly luscious and green considering the climate! You can also view a spectacular collection of vintage cars as well as traditional dress worn by Nizams and their families for entertaining guests at the Palace. Entry is 200 rupees for non-Indian visitors, and I also had to pay 5 rupees to take photos inside.
Golkonda Fort: This is another key sight to see if you’re in Hyderabad. Golkonda Fort is built on a hill, and is worth a walk for the views over the city, even if you don’t get a tour. Although a tour isn’t compulsory, and you can walk around the Fort on your own, I found it was really useful to pay for a private tour guide who was extremely knowledgeable about Golkonda’s history (and also kept the hawkers at bay!). The fort was originally built in the 12th Century and was continuously fortified at later dates. As well as the ruins of the fort itself, you’ll find temples, mosques and breath-taking views as you climb higher. There’s also a light show in the evening at Golkonda, although I didn’t get chance to see this – maybe next time! Entry to Golkonda Fort is 100 rupees for non-Indian visitors, and I paid 3500 rupees for the tour (including tip).
Have you visited Hyderabad? What’s your favourite place to visit? Let me know in the comments below!