Want to see inside a Delhi slum? Reality Tours offers backpackers the chance to visit Sanjay Colony in central Delhi. And it’s nothing like you’d imagine.

You’d be forgiven in thinking it might resemble a squat, with violent crimes, filthy streets and crowds of beggars. Far from it. The slum we visited in Delhi was surprisingly well maintained.

Yes, living conditions were undeniably cramped and uncomfortable, with families of 6 living in one room, but the buildings themselves were in decent condition. Most had electricity and running water. Some even had wifi and rooftop gardens.

Alleyways in Delhi slum - PICTURE - India slumbs - Fabulous Travel Guide

Many families work in the clothing industry at nearby factories, painstakingly separating scraps of materials for recycling. Others have their own businesses, selling clothes, running food stores or delivering mail.

It’s a fully-functioning community – not a homeless shelter. These people have a positive energy. A hard-working attitude. They want the best for their children and work hard to ensure they go to school every day.

80% of profits go back into the slum

My biggest concern about this whole experience was how we, as tourists, were going to be perceived. I felt awkward about peering into this other world. Worried I’d offend the community with my Western clothes and inquiring eyes. But once again, my fears were unfounded.

Residents were polite and respectful. No one asked for money, no one made us feel unwanted. If anything, we got a warm reception. Children waved to us from their rooftops, mothers smiled as we passed and locals offered us chai from the cafe.

The primary reason for this is the fantastic work Reality Tours does to help the community: 80% of profit made by the company is put back into the slums. They provide educational programs, sports initiatives and livelihood opportunities. So residents of Sanjay Colony don’t mind the occasional group of tourists wandering through because it benefits them in the long-run.

How to book

So, if you’re visiting Delhi and want to experience life in the slum as it REALLY is, book with Reality Tours. We were lucky enough to have Ravi as our guide and he had excellent English and seemed very popular among the locals.

NEXT: India: 5 common scams to be away of>>

Photo credit: Reality Tours