The best advice we can give to anyone attempting to travel Delhi by autorickshaw is this: ignore the Lonely Planet. While the book usually offers good information, in this instance it fails utterly in its exhortation to only travel in autos that agree to use the meter. The official meter rate, fixed by the State Transport Authority at 4.5 rupees for every kilometer after the first, is less than half of what you can reasonably expect to pay.
Any auto driver who agrees to go by the meter is probably planning to take you from GK I to GK II via the Taj Mahal.
Because the meter is out of the question, every autorickshaw journey begins with fare negotiations. That’s easy to overcome if you know where you are, where you’re going, and the market equilibrium rate for getting there; but for our first few rides in Delhi, the fairness of our fare was entirely up to the honor of our driver, and how adept we were at fooling him into thinking we knew what we were doing.
We know now that no auto ride should ever cost more than 100 rupees, provided you’re sticking to South or Central Delhi. (Nobody knows how much it costs to go to North Delhi because, as far as I know, nobody has ever gone there.) I was not armed with that knowledge on my second day in Delhi, before Jenny had arrived, when I put my fledgling bargaining skills to the test and negotiated a ride from Connaught Place to GK II for 180 rupees, basking in pride during the entire ride in having talked the guy down from the 200 he quoted.
Any auto driver who finds a tourist that ignorant of the market values is going to try to push him for all he’s worth. When we reached my destination, I handed the driver two bills and asked for change. The driver turned around in his seat and started begging me to let him keep the whole 200. And I mean begging—pleading, moaning, eyes rolling and tearing, hands clasped in front of him as he invoked his gods and his children and his poverty and my wealth, all for that extra 20 rupees.
But I set my jaw and stood firm and got my change; and I felt proud that I hadn’t let the guy swindle me out of my hard-earned money. My first major test of my will in India, and I totally won.