Thursday, September 25, 2008

India: Touts and Scammers

I should probably be writing about how much I liked the Taj Mahal, and how it effortlessly transcends the vibrant chaos around it. But instead, more about hawkers and scammers in India. Sorry guys, but I'm just really fascinated with this whole phenomenon.

First of all, huge thanks to the Rough Guide to India authors. They've included so much information about scams in Delhi that I was able to steer clear of most. Without this book, I may have been screwed over many times: Taxi drivers that forget where your hotel is, take you on a shopping tour, and tourist bureaus that sell you overpriced train tickets - I was able to steer clear of all.

The one time they got me was in my morning drowsy state at 5:00 am at the New Delhi train station, on the way to Agra. My reservation didn't have a seat number on it, and an official-looking man took my ticket, said "you have to go get a stamp at the tourist ticket office", anbd I followed him to its entrance. It was only fair, I thought, to give him 20 Rupees of baksheesh. The ticket office, of course, turned out to be closed, but there was another guy who said that he knows another place that was open. He took me downstairs and pointed me to it. At this point I saw through the charade: The shop he was pointing to was outside of the train station. I went straight to the train where the conductor just gave me a seat number. No stamp needed.

Otherwise, I was able to steer clear of most scams, but I'm sure plenty of other visitors might fall for this.

Side note: While there seem to be lots of scammers, there seem to be virtually no pickpockets. At least that's what I've heard from other travelers. Is this a cultural phenomenon?


Anonymous said...

I've also not encountered any pick pockets yet. It also seems like there are no gangs or groups of suspicious looking people like we have in the west.

Been traveling through new delhi from east to west, north to south for 10 days now by foot. Poverty everywhere. Afraid to go after darkness, though.

Anonymous said...

The touts are highly organized though, many parts can take part in a scam (book shop, poor students, fake tourist office, all being connected in a big plot against you).

But no violence.