Topics include Transportation, Things to Do, Dining Scene & more!
Tourist Office Scam
All but one tourist agency is a scam, Government 'approved' or not. Very hefty extra charges hidden as commissions and processing fees are the least that will happen. Two notorious agencies are 'India tourism voyages' and 'shukla enterprises'. Head to the ONLY official government ran agency on Janpath and Connaught Lane. There are many fake ones around here too so make sure to have the right one.
The best way to secure train tickets is to queue on the second story of New Delhi train station where there is a desk for tourists. You can also navigate through the Indian Railways Website [http://irctc.co.in]. Also, you should book you flight tickets online as all the airlines have online booking system. Otherwise, prepare to spend a good hour sorting through the charges that the tourist agency will charge.
Beware of being taken to these tourist agencies straight after airport arrival. Tourists have been told that they are unable to access their chosen hotel as the roads around are closed due to 'protests'. This is all lies. At the travel agencies, the staff seem to be helpful, phoning local hotels to find an alternative and getting the chosen hotel to reassure tourists that they will be reimbursed within 24hrs. It turns out they are phoning their friends in a next door room who are in on the scam. They have been trying to convince tourists that there are no vacancies in Delhi but they can assure them that there is availability in Agra (3hrs taxi).
To get out of this - Do not hand over any money until they get you to your hotel. Be adamant that you do not wish to go to Agra (or any other city) as you have planned a tour to take you there 2 days later (make up a company name). Phone your hotel on your own phone or insist that you dial the number from their phone so they cannot phone someone different. Be strong. They will be very convincing. Taking a pre-paid taxi should prevent this situation.
Dishonest Taxi Drivers at the Airport
One of the 'sharp corners' on your travel to India is the taxi drive from the airport after arrival. Typically the story is as follows: A newly arrived traveller is pressed to pay more than the driver is entitled to receive, or the traveller is purposely taken to the wrong destination.
The pattern is as follows: An inexperienced India traveller is taken by the taxi to a slum-like, often relatively isolated part of the city. The fatique and jetlagged confusion of the traveller is being used to this end. Often the traveller(s) will be 'outnumbered' when the driver suddenly has the company of one or more friends in the front seat. The car stops at a location that has an initimidating effect on the passengers on the back seat. Or it stops by a hotel or a house that proves to be different from the one agreed upon. In the latter case, the situation dawns upon the travellers only after he or she has got out of the vehicle and has paid the driver.
Now everything will be done in order to intimidate and confuse the traveller. Attitudes in the front seat gets threatening, but direct verbal threats are not used. Instead aggressive suggestions of 'errors' on behalf of the traveller will be voiced (like "You lie about your hotel reservation - can you prove that you booked a room?") and and pointing out what an isolated place he or she now happens to be.
After having paid an amount, the passenger is finally taken to the correct hotel - or "is allowed" to find another taxi.
Sometimes the situation gets really vicious, and the traveller is held captive for hours, threatened and made to pay considerable amounts of money.
The solution: Make sure to start from the real, official government pre-paid taxi booth at the airport. A slow and bureaucratic way - but you will in effect become a registered parcel. The driver will have to sign first and last that he brought you to the right place. This is the most radical solution that will kill any prospective scam in the cradle.
If you go by a taxi that you found yourself, make sure to answer the enevitable question "First time in India?" with a firm "No!"
If the driver continues to ensure you that the chosen hotel is "full" or located in an area of political unrest etc, make it clear to him that you do not care about this. Insist on just this hotel. Also take a booking confirmation that has the details of the hotel you booked.
If you find yourself at another destination from the one you asked for, and the situation gets really bad - here is what to do:
Keep your cool. They cannot do just anything - if they attack you, it will create such a stir (i.e. with your embassy) that the Indian police would have to take up the affair. (Probably the livelihood of these swindlers rests on a delicate balance of bribery to police and airport officials. In other words: they cannot afford too much noise.) This knowledge can help you avoid excessive fear.
Counteract confusion as best you can. Get as much knowledge as possible. Notice the licence number of the taxi if it is visible from the back seat. Write it down, if you can do so unnoticed. The same goes for the number plate of the car, the name of the unwanted hotel, the characteristics of the house.
Carry a map of city- Carrying a map of city would help you in figuring out a lot of details. It also help if you pretend talking to someone on your phone and pass on the taxi number to the other side. Just make sure that the driver overhears the conversation.
Make intimidation and insecurety your own weapons, when the 'treatment' begins. Say something to this effect: "I have come to India to work for my organisation (name something impressive - PSF Punks Sans Frontiere ...). They expect a fax from me after my arrival at my hotel - actually fifteen minutes ago. Otherwise they will get nervous." Or: "The PSF official - the Überpunk is his title - is waiting for me at the hotel lobby right now." What you really is saying is: I am not alone and it will be noticed I do not arrive to my hotel on time. - Continue to explain that you will have to talk to the receptionist at your chosen hotel or with the PSF contact-person on your mobile. Right now. When you get through to the receptionist, explain the situation briefly and demand that they must contact your embassy if you have not arrived within 15 minutes. Do not be afraid to say so the swindlers hear it, It is good that they understand what you say. Speak aloud your 'gathered data': licence and -registration numbers etcetera.
Avoid arriving alone , at night - you can be a target. If you have no choice, arrange for the hotel to send you a taxi. Get the driver's name and mobile phone number. If the driver ask for extra charge, please pay. Do not risk your safety just because of few extra dollars. Ladies, please do not travel alone at any time.
New Delhi Train Station Scam - If you have booked a ticket, you reach the station and someone approaches you to tell you the train has been cancelled, its a scam to get you to book a car at high prices. Don't fall for it.
Train booking scam : When you ask for the booking office in the train station people send you to a private tourist office to sell you more expensive train-tickets or even tell you the trains are full booked and you need to book a private taxi to your destination. Don't believe that. Book your train-tickets in the train-station.
Temple donation scam : When pelgrims visit a temple or other religious place often they give a donation (like 20 Rupees). Tourists are often targets for money-makers in these places : they ask the tourists a donation of 500-1000 Rupees. Although nobody can oblige you to give a donation. If you don't feel comfortable just leave the place. And if you pay you should ask a receipt (even in a temple !). Otherwise you can tell them you will warn the tourist-police if they continue bothering you.
Bus Ticket Scam : When you book a ticket on a local bus check the destination-place on the ticket. Often they try to sell you a more expensive ticket by changing a further destination.
Local Guide Scam : Sometimes a local guide propose you to show you arround in the city (sometimes combined with a rickshaw-tour). This can be a good proposal but make an agreement about the price before you deal with this guide. Sometimes he ask per hour but takes his time so at the end it cost you a lot of money. And mostly they also brings you to a craftwork-shop and tell you to take your time for shopping. But the rates are running. So make good agreement before dealing wit a local guide. Also you are not obliged to buy something in these shops.