For any traveller coming to India, Delhi is one of the stopovers where you’ll end up at some point of time. Unless, you are only travelling in South India or in North Eastern part and entering from Myanmar side, you won’t be able to avoid this town, unless you have a few extra bucks to spare on flights.
Delhi’s history dates back to thousands of years but has developed a weird love hate reputation with the tourists. Delhi will give you a thousand places to explore. You can spend your evenings at Lodi Gardens or go café hopping around Paharganj. The Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Firoz Shah Kotla are all here and perfect to spend a day of sightseeing. The buses and trains for Manali, Khajuraho, Mcleodganj, Agra, Jaipur and Jodhpur leave from Delhi which makes it an ideal centre point to stay during a vacation.
But at the same time the chances of getting cheated in Delhi while travelling is very much high. The tourist touts, auto rikshaws, guided tours and bus/train ticket booking are just a few ways where you can end up losing your money for no reasons. If Delhi is welcoming then you are also supposed to stay alert or you’ll end up being cheated in the most creative ways possible.
Common tourist scams in Delhi
Delhi is a city that you’ll eventually end up in while travelling in India. Being the central location of many places including Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan, Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala, Orccha, Khajuraho, Varanasi, etc, travellers prefer spending a few days here and there are reasons.
The travellers coming to Delhi are usually inclined to enjoy the hustling bustling part of the city along with the old monuments including Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi and Lodi Gardens and a lot many places. The buses for Himachal and Uttarakhand are available from Anand Vihar and Kashmiri Gate and trains directly go to Agra, Varanasi, Rajasthan and Gwalior. Like Bangkok or Ho Chin Minh, the chaotic city life feels beautiful and worthy of observing and may be clicking.
But with so much beauty, there also lies a dark secret. The city has the power to make you spend money on things that are not even worth it. Tourist scams in Delhi are very common. The chance of falling for one is very easy if you are coming from abroad and unfamiliar with these tricks.
Here are a few common scams that you should be aware of –
Bus and train ticket bookings
India is notorious for delayed buses and trains. This causes hysteria among those who are not used to it. Sensing this issue, many cheaters try to scam you into spending money on private taxi or expensive buses.
If your train is delayed then checking out https://enquiry.indianrail.gov.in/ can prove very helpful. This site shows real time update of the train status and its position. https://etrain.info/in also shows live update of a train’s position.
Download train enquiry app from Google Play store – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.railenquiry&hl=en_US
Always prefer going for bus bookings from an online portal like www.redbus.com rather than opting a local travel agent who may claim that they can do it for cheap. Redbus has an active customer care support system and you can also check out reviews of the buses from the past travellers.
Well, this is a big one and while it is common all over the world, I don’t understand how people fall for it that often. The procedure is almost similar everywhere. You’ll catch a prepaid taxi or call an Uber or Ola using the app. The driver, after going to a certain distance, will tell you that the hostel is shut down. To make themselves sound believable, they’ll also talk to some local who is probably set by the driver himself. Long story short, the driver will take you to a shi##y hotel and will convince you to stay there paying double or three times of what you were supposed to pay.
It is easy to evade this issue. Always buy a sim card the moment you arrive in India. Keep internet handy and check Google maps for the direction. If it is the Uber or Ola driver who is creating confusion then turn on the emergency button and speak to the customer care representative.
Just in case, if you don’t have a phone, then ask the driver to drop you at the nearest police station and end the journey.
Incorrect cab and autorikshaw fare
If you have travelled in South East Asia then you must be aware about this problem. You hire a tuk tuk in Delhi and the driver simply quotes you whatever they feel like. You try bargaining and eventually they come close to a satisfied rate. But chances are that the said fare is also not genuine. In such cases, better use Uber or Ola and reach your destination easily and safely.
I have come to a conclusion that guided tours are a huge scam in Delhi. A number of free agents simply take you through Old Delhi, Hauz Khas and Shahpur Jaat and giving you half fed information showing you places that are not even supposed to be shown. An agency like Sahapedia and DelhibyFoot will charge genuine prices and will show you only what is worth visiting. You can also learn about upcoming Delhi sightseeing tours on Little Black Book and register for the tour that you like the most.
Daily sightseeing trip for Agra and Mathura
While it is a nice idea to explore Agra and Mathura on a day trip and save your time, it is likely that the companies that provide the tour will charge additional fee and then skip a few places of interest. While a better idea will be to make your own itinerary and then explore everything on a personalized day trip but that will end up consuming a lot of money. You should look online for such fixed departures and then select the one which has the best reviews.
This is one of the latest trending scams in Delhi. A random person will approach you at your hotel or around a location of sightseeing interest, will introduce themselves as manager of an orphanage that is about to shut down and will ask for donation. A lot of times young children are also used in this fraud. If you want to donate to an orphanage, better connect with one personally and gift them with a few books or money without indulging with a third person.
Currency Exchange Scam
Currency exchange is a huge scamming business in Delhi. If you end up with a wrong person who gives you lucrative deals on dollar or pound then chances are that they’ll charge more commission than the exchange rate itself. Most notorious in this case are the ones present at the airport. They charge a lot of commission compared to the local exchange rate. Try to find someone genuine, with better rates or just withdraw money from ATM.
Street shopping scam
A number of companies organize street shopping sessions. While it is a great way to indulge with locals and learn about the handicrafts and culture, it has its own loopholes. First, these companies have tie-ins with certain shops where they have a fixed commission. Then, they force you to purchase the products from the shops that are run by third parties which don’t really allow you to support local artisans. A better way is to plan a guided trip after reading reviews and then explore a bunch of options. You can also take a walk around Chandni Chowk, Chawri Baazar and around Janpath to indulge in some street shopping by yourself and pay to the vendor and support local business.
Delhi is an amazing place to be. But the chance of falling in love with the city is as equal as realizing that you have been scammed and then disliking enough to come here. Be careful, research enough and enjoy India’s capital in its truest self.