Surviving India as a tourist

It has been almost ten years since I visited India for the first time and I loved its landscapes and people; so much that Karen and I decided to visit India again in a longer trip where we could know more about its culture and its people. I have also been fortunate to work with people here and make friends with many people who have shown me the highlights of India.

India is a magical place: its colors, customs and cuisine are amazing. It is a must to visit, but not as clueless tourist. I mean, the frequency and magnitude of the scams to tourists is of enormous magnitude and frequency.

warning scams

Delhi Train Station

Since we arrived in Delhi dozens of people have beeng trying to rip us off in different ways. It all started a few minutes after leaving the hotel for the first time: a very friendly guy approached us and after chatting amiably about Spain, he asked which zone were we trying to find and warned us that we should be careful because the street we were walking by was not safe. Kindly escorted us to a busier area where he led us to an Autorickshaw that would take us to the government tourist office, where we would be given free passes to visit the station. Plus we got a very cheap price for the taxi ride. We found he was a very nice guy since he was helping us being safe in a very unsafe area. When we got to the alleged government tourist office a very gentle guy gave us a talk on India and concluded with a very insistent suggestion to book all our trips through the alleged government agency: just asked us 3000 Euros each for 15 days of travel and accommodation. At that point we had already realized that it was a scam and graciously declined any proposal from this person, who seemed not to be in a good mood after spending an hour and a half giving us indications about the whole country. Collateral Damage: 0.20€ that we paid the Áutorickshaw driver; benefit: 1.5 hours of information about places to visit. We can not complain.

scam tourism office Connaught place

SCAM: False Government Touristm Office near Connaught Place

In Delhi people tried to rip us off almost every few minutes. In other cities scam attempts occur more widely spaced. Staring with taxi drivers trying to take us to other fake tourism offices, moving to blackmailers inviting us to buy tickets for the monuments and thus prevent women being groped in the queue and ending with coordinated groups of people blocking the entrance to the railway station indicating that we should buy a pass at another office (obviously false). All this in front of the police. Nor scarce dishonest taxi drivers who receive commission for taking tourists to different hotels from those they have booked using false claims (most common: the hotel has burned) or simply refusing to take you if you do not pay a very high price for the journey. These are just few examples of the endless scam attempts around touristic areas.

Tourists scams do not end with this selected group of scammers. In the foreign exchange office you will see how the agent keeps some few rupees for his pocket. The same scene is repeated when we changed money at the Punjab National Bank. In the Vodafone shop we are buying a Vodafone SIM card with a balance of Rs.500 and when the line is activated after a few hours the amount loaded in the SIM is only 200 rupees. The ticket  agent in the undergroud station refuses to sell 2 tickets worth 44 rupees if we do not pay 400 rupees, the train ticket agent gets 50 rupees for himself the and museum officer sells us a combined ticket for the next day, which ws not necessary to pay since all the museums were free the day after. Most often the solution is simply refusing to accept frauds or threaten to call the police. Although sometimes it seems more sensible to overlook some things. For example, some travelers mention that if you do not pay a “premium” for train tickets, chances are that these will not be available.

India is a complex country and these dishonest practices towards tourists is a tiny problem compared to the enormous challenges that the country face. If you want to visit India, do not think a single moment, it is an incredible place.