How worried should I be?

#1 Jan 7th, 2009, 02:26
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  • alderhill is offline
#1
So, I leave for India on Friday afternoon. I'll be there for two months, the first couple weeks on my own, then meeting up with a friend and we've got a rough itinerary, mostly in the north.

Now, he's FBI or NRI, or what have you, born and raised in the middle east, has been to India several times, mostly as a kid, before coming to Canada, where he lives now, and we friends. But most of his family and old family friends live in India. He can read Hindi and understands some, along with some Konkani, but basically he's as foreign as me, only blends in a bit better.

He's there now, but visiting family in the south, has a wedding to go and we're meeting up once that's done.

Now, his extended family in India have all been saying how much we're gonna be robbed and ripped off at every turn. Basically, we'll be torn to shreds and left poor and naked if I believed everything they said. Indian friends of my parents haven't helped either. I'm bracing myself but could do without the fear-mongering...

I'm not THAT worried or afraid. I've been to Egypt, and other places, I've experienced touts and scams and seen the dollar signs in people's eyes when my pale white (sun-burned) face rounds the corner. I know how to say NO or politely lie my way through things and take aggressive of touts with a grain of salt. I know I'm going to be hassled and given higher prices, but I've experienced such things in the middle east. I know how to haggle... even if I am paying twice as much as locals would.

But I can't help be a bit nervous because of all the warnings I'm getting... How valid are they?

I think that because my friend's family are mostly middle-class Christian Goan Indians (living in Mumbai and Mangalore mostly, fwiw) that I suspect they might be projecting their own regional or class biases (and fears) on my friend. But I can tell he's buying it, and he's sounding like we're about to be mauled. I've tried saying we'll just take it as it comes, but he says I'm not in India yet, I'll see!

Eesh. It's almost enough to make me not excited to go, but not quite.

So, what am I in for?...
#2 Jan 7th, 2009, 02:31
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  • Merchant is offline
#2
You will be fine. Personal crime against tourists is extremely rare. Yes, people will try to overcharge you, but it sounds as if you already know how to handle that. After your trip, you will come away with more examples of generosity and kindness than of the negative sort.
#3 Jan 7th, 2009, 02:44
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#3
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Originally Posted by alderhill View Post Now, his extended family in India have all been saying how much we're gonna be robbed and ripped off at every turn.
To their eyes you will be ripped off, but as someone used to paying Canadian prices, you won't believe how cheap everything is.

Foreigners are often charged more, even if they are of Indian origin. Even the Indian government charges foreigners more for visiting archaelogical sites. That is just the way it is and there is no point in worrying about it. One hint, if you are buying prepackaged goods, they will usually have the price printed on the box, check that before handing any money over and only pay the price on the packaging.

This sounds obvious, but if anything seems too expensive, just say no and look elsewhere. Don't worry, shopkeepers and touts don't make a habit of knocking you over the head, ripping your wallet out of your pocket and stealing your money, how they work is by persuading you to part with it. If you are easily persuaded to part with your money, it could be expensive at first until you overcome your Canadian fear of offending people and start ignoring touts!

If you have a travel companion who speaks more than five words of Hindi, you are far better off than most of us!

Keep reading old threads and keep posting questions, it will help "cushion" you against some of the potential shocks. Most of all stop worrying, really, you'll have a great time.
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#4 Jan 7th, 2009, 03:01
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#4
You'll get the hang of it. The first few days you might pay too much for things, but compared to Canadian prices it's peanuts. Then you'll figure it out.

Avoid crafts shops and tourist traps, get to know the price of things and remember you'll have to bargain hard but fairly. Often the amounts you'll be negotiating are silly - like 10 Rs or 30 cents, but bargaining is expected.
#5 Jan 7th, 2009, 03:27
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Originally Posted by alderhill View Post It's almost enough to make me not excited to go, but not quite.
I know I have already answered your post, but I wanted to add this. Everyone with half a brain gets both excited and scared when they are about to go to India for the first time, I certainly was! It is part of the fun, but don't let it spoil the anticiapation.

Merchant is right about the generosity and kindness you will come across, what I hated most about my first trip to India (which was only a week long) was coming home to England and realising how many of the basics that our so-called "civilised" society had lost.

Nothing huge, just little things like greeting and welcoming strangers, sharing what you have even if it's nothing, smiling in the face of adversity. Maybe I was fortunate in my Indian experiences, but the people I met, whether at "posh" functions or those who literally live on the streets, made me feel so welcomed, that England felt like a very unfriendly place to return to.

Okay okay, I confess that I miss India. It is the sort of place that gets to you like that.
#6 Jan 7th, 2009, 03:55
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Oh eric, you've been to turkey and other countries.
India will be a breeze.
I've had people spend most of their day off just helping me understand the train system.
Unbelievable generosity.
I was invited to lunch in Shillong. I was given food and I ate alone while everyone else ate in the other room. I realised half way through the meal that these people had given me their food!!!!!
Poor people, with money that is. Rich in the important things.
Everything is in India.
The most incredible kindness, and the most horrible, uncaring behavior.
You will be amazed and shocked.
Sitting in a beautiful expensive restaurant, and a giant rat walks on your table, and no-one says anything!!!!
In India, you can literally take two steps away from something horrid, and see something so sublime you are stunned by the beauty of it.
But 1 thing I've never felt, and that is unsafe.
I never felt in danger.
Hope this helps
#7 Jan 7th, 2009, 05:34
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Originally Posted by palerider View Post But 1 thing I've never felt, and that is unsafe.
I never felt in danger.
Hope this helps
i did... during my first bicycle-riksha rides & once going in the wrong direction on a really busy highway, it felt like the last moments of my life but i was prepared for it after reading hundreds of other experiences

in big tourist places you can expect some serious cheating so it's good to know the general prices, it's just best to leave souvenir shopping till you're with some savvy indians
#8 Jan 7th, 2009, 05:53
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#8
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Originally Posted by palerider View Post But 1 thing I've never felt, and that is unsafe.
I never felt in danger.
Hope this helps
Wait till you sit in a old old Fiat taxi in Mumbai, holes in the rusted floor which was good as the roof was leaking and the side window didn't close all the way up, massive monsoon downpour, ten metre visibility and the driver left hand on the steering wheel and the other out of the window with a windscreen wiper in his hand trying too wipe the water off while driving at 50 kms an hour , almost ran into a big red BEST bus. Had to shout at the driver to pull up on the side and wait till the downpour was over. Nearly had a personal accident when at the end of the trip looked at the tyres they were as bald as a bowling bowl (maybe they were racing tyres ).
#9 Jan 7th, 2009, 06:16
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#9
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Originally Posted by Dom View Post Wait till you sit in a old old Fiat taxi in Mumbai
Okay, that does sound like rather an adventyre, and I admit that the traffic and driving "skills" in India can be positively buttock clenching at times until you get used to it, but I think that palerider was addressing the OP's concern that the people are scary!
#10 Jan 7th, 2009, 06:21
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I drove a good chunk of Agra to Jaipur on the wrong side of the highway. It's a divided highway. The driver just chose whichever side was least busy.
#11 Jan 7th, 2009, 07:09
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The taxis and stuff can be a challenge. Belting down a road and three fully laden trucks are bearing down on you and there's no space to get through.
Like Haylo said, it's the people I was referring to really. I just think there are no more or less bastards in India than anywhere else.
It's not more unsafe dealing with people in India.
I find it easier than Australia.
I don't think someone would go out of their way to find me a room to sleep in if I just knocked on the door of a stranger in Australia.

We have so many posts here about "the stories people have heard" etc.
I just figure if a fat 50 yo potato farmer from the middle of nowhere can get there and back again without losing a limb or his soul, then most other people could probably survive.?
I feel more fear in India when I come across the "semi-enlightened" seekers of metaphysical misanthropy.
They are truly scary.
it seems for every genuine seeker of knowledge or yoga or spiritual safe shores, there are a hundred dead head mongrels bleating on about how spiritual they've become, when all that's happened is they left the office and haven't had to take responsibility for anything for a few weeks.
The heady intoxication of this act alone is enough to make them think they're a bee's penis from walking on water.
God I love a rant.
#12 Jan 7th, 2009, 07:50
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#12
i am since the past 6 years in india, i never felt unsafe!
happy journey baba!
#13 Jan 7th, 2009, 07:58
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There does seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to informing family/friends about travel in India.

One school basically assumes that you have absolutely no street smarts, no haggling skills and unless quickly taken under an indigenous wing - will be a virtual lamb for the fleecing.

The other school says, wing it, go for it, you'll get the hang of it and be fine.

The latter school with the following postulate should suffice: say 'no' & physically walk away to every price that you feel fair or compelled to accept for the first 3-4 days, keep saying no and walking until 'they' don't pursue you anymore and see the benefits/savings of this basic 'higgling 101' - guaranteed you well on your way to 'saving' the majority of your fleece.
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#14 Jan 7th, 2009, 09:13
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#14
It is an Indian tradition to be fearful for guests. You have to be met at the airport/station and escorted everywhere. Criminals are always lurking in the shadows; why, just twentyseven years ago someone was robbed right in this very city!

While some Indians (in particular Bengalis) are compulsive travelers, many Indians never travel except for family and religious obligations, and cannot imagine why someone would expose themselves to risk by traveling just for fun. If you must travel, it should be in a large family group; who would be foolhardy enough to travel alone or with just one friend?

Maybe some of it stems from the many invasions in Indian history; we have a cultural propensity to be protective of our own and fearful of everyone else. And many Indians are convinced that they can manage fine but no foreigner will have the street smarts: "What, you actually took an autorickshaw? Amazing! Weren't you uncomfortable? You actually bargained for this doodad? Astonishing! Incredible! Pure genius!"

In fact India is remarkably free of major crime. As others have said, you will be overcharged, but nothing you can't afford. Read a guidebook such as the LP for sensible advice on survival skills. Try not to overpay by too much because it makes things worse for other tourists. And please don't hand out pens or candy to children on the street.
#15 Jan 7th, 2009, 09:20
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by palerider View Post I feel more fear in India when I come across the "semi-enlightened" seekers of metaphysical misanthropy.
They are truly scary.
it seems for every genuine seeker of knowledge or yoga or spiritual safe shores, there are a hundred dead head mongrels bleating on about how spiritual they've become, when all that's happened is they left the office and haven't had to take responsibility for anything for a few weeks.
The heady intoxication of this act alone is enough to make them think they're a bee's penis from walking on water.
God I love a rant.
Agreed - Rishikesh is wanker central. "Hey man, I've been meditating for a week and I get it - you, on the other hand, are vulgar and unenlightened. Peace, man!"
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