Avoiding scams / touts in Delhi (my experience).
anna paradox
India > India Travel Basics > India Travel > Scams and Annoyances in India
#1
| Senior Member

Avoiding scams / touts in Delhi (my experience).

Delhi was our point of entry into India and after Vrindavan it was my favorite place in India. Sure it's crowded and hot and dirty but since I had read so much about it's colourful past I felt I had the upper hand in being able to see beyond the car part dealers and junk stops, to understand what this city once was. The energy of Delhi is like nothing I have experienced before and being a person who gets a kick out of stressful situations I found this city highly addictive. I'm back home now in my European capital which I have come to nickname "The Morgue" which energy wise can only be described as that in comparison to Delhi.

The downside to Delhi are the scams and touts, while dealing with these people my boyfriend and I would sometimes look at each other and laugh and say "No one is your friend in Delhi" which isn't exactly accurate as we met some genuine people who weren't out to get anything at all.

Prepaid taxi from Indira Gandhi airport - I read somewhere on Indiamike that when paying for a taxi they will short change you when paying with a 500 note, so we decided to try this out and sure enough they did, they will ask you questions like "oh first time in India?" and "are you alone or is he your boyfriend?" just to cause confusion.

Prepaid taxi from airport to central Delhi - I was sitting in the back of the taxi and could see the driver in the front eyeing my boyfriend (who was in the front beside him) to see if he could get something out of us. Luckily we can speak to each other in languages apart from English so I warned my boyfriend and he just got his mobile phone out and pretended to speak to someone called Pappu, "yes Pappu, we are now in the taxi, we are coming to your house" ... it sounds quiet comical but it really did work, the driver didn't bother us at all!

Auto rickshaw drivers - These drivers along with shop keepers where the biggest annoyance in Delhi. On the first day we were paying into the hundreds even for short journeys, later we pretended to be living in India, "me hindustani" but still it didn't work, the only time we didn't get ripped off was when the stress had got too much (even for me) on Chelmsford Road and I had started crying, almost melodramatically the driver who had been bothering us started crying too saying "tourists were always happy until now" and insisted we get in his rickshaw and he would take us anywhere for free! Generally we were never successful in beating the rickshaw drivers.

Cycle rickshaw drivers - Our first time in one of these was heart breaking, going from Jama Masjid to Pahar Ganj. The driver was old and the further our journey went the more alarmed we were becoming, the driver was so exhausted and looked like he was about to collapse. When we got to the flyover at Gupta Road I refused to stay in the back of the rickshaw any longer and my boyfriend and I helped him push it along the street, by the time we got to Pahar Ganj we both felt awful and gave him four times what he had asked for and a packet of cigarettes. After that we never tried to get the Indian price for a cycle rickshaw and always tipped them we more than they had asked.

New Delhi train station - I can't believe, after all of the warnings I had read, that we would fall for this. Approaching the station we were approached by a smartly dressed man saying he was an officer and that the tourist reservation center was closed. I suspected he was lying so I asked him for his ID, he got a bit of paper out of his pocket and showed us it, it was all in hindi, I told him he was lying and I tried to grab the bit of paper. I think it might have been a general Indian ID card, well, funny to think back now but he was FURIOUS, he started shouting at me "Madam, I'am an officer, I can arrest you for doing that" ... I began to feel guilty for suspecting him and he led us away from the train station to small travel agents across the street. I told him I wanted to get a coffee first and he then started saying "but they sell coffee in the travel agents, please go there" then I knew he was lying. We managed to get away from him, went back to the train station and sure enough found the reservation center open on the first floor.

Delhi Metro - After we decided to avoid the non-prepaid rickshaws we got a map of the metro and tried to become more Delhiite. Our first time buying a token the woman told us the fare was 120 rupee while it was only 12, once we told her she was wrong she still tried to short change us. To be honest she was the only person who did try and scam us while using public transport. The metro is clean but I wouldn't say efficent, I wouldn't recommend trying to get in a carriage at Rajiv Chowk anytime but late evening. Everyone tries to cram into the full-to-capacity carriages, once my boyfriend got in a minor fist fight when a man had pushed me aside, another time his shirt got ripped when the people had rushed to get in. After this we decided to avoid the metro if we had to change at Rajiv Chowk and just use prepaid rickshaws.

Jama Masjid - This was the worst scam of all. My boyfriend didn't know anything about India, I was the one who basically dragged him there. He is Muslim so I thought I would show him the Jama Masjid to try and impress him with India's past. When we approached the mosque they demanded 200 rupee each from us to enter. I think this is the entry fee if you have a camera but the people who work there just abuse this and demand 200 rupee from everyone, camera or no camera. This seemed to insult my boyfriend and he refused to pay the entry saying it is a mosque and in a place of God there should be no entry. Eventually they let him in for free. While in the mosque my boyfriend went to wash as he decided to pray. I was alone and the man (guard) who walks around with a stick was trying to pick me up! I just ignored him. Later he came back to me and my boyfriend and they spoke about Islam, he took us to a corner of the mosque where an old man open a cupboard and showed us a hair of the beard of the prophet Mohammad. I tried to forget the incident at the entry of the mosque and when the old man gave us the visitors book to write in I wrote really nice things. As soon as the old man closed the book he demanded 600 rupee from us! At this point my boyfriend was furious saying they are not real Muslims but still we gave them a fraction of what they asked for (out of principle). At this point the guard who had tried to pick me up earlier marched us to the entry of the mosque and asked for a tip. When we refused he told us to leave! We told him we would stay as long as we wanted as it was a mosque which we did. I was very embarrassed infront of my boyfriend, instead of showing him this beautiful building it just turned out to be a joke. When we did leave we went to the police to report them but they didn't understand the principle of what had happened so we just gave up.

Even after all of this I still love Delhi, there were so many times that this city really captivated my imagination. Seeing an elephant walking down a busy street, or the monkeys stealing fruit around Kashmere Gate, or while peering into a little shop in Old Delhi where they were pressing envelopes a little boy who was working there tried to hide (i guess incase they thought I would report them?).Walking around the back streets of Pahar Ganj, once when I was alone I met a little boy, he was about twelve (but he told me he was fifteen) and was wearing rags, we spoke about his life and he wanted to take me home to meet his mum, or the families at night around India Gate who told us about their lives, or the little children all crowded around a television in the cotton market outside Jama Masjid watching what might have been a Indian popstar. It's the simplest things like this which make India what it is.

16 Replies

#2
| Still lurking
Nice report AP. I've only been to Delhi for 5 nights but I know I could spend longer there. It's no suprise to me that people who know the scams still get scammed, I'm sure I did, especially with rickshaw prices; funny about New Delhi station though :)
India blogs: monsoon meandering (2011) and big cats & holy ghats (2009)
Type 1 diabetes blog: circles of blue.
#3
| Amreeki OCIcat
Wonderful & balanced report, AnnaP! If it's any comfort at all, local (or in my case ex-local) people get fleeced and scammed too.;)

Glad you and your boyfriend were able to see past all that, and enjoy India. "the Morgue" => :laugh:
#4
| In charge, navel affairs
Enjoyed reading it. :D
.
This is computer generated drivel. No signature is required.
#5
| knowing myself
enjoyed reading your experience in Delhi
~Khak~

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do....... Explore. Dream. Discover.
#6
| Account Closed

Originally posted by: anna paradox View Post

... This seemed to insult my boyfriend and he refused to pay the entry saying it is a mosque and in a place of God there should be no entry. ..Eventually they let him in for free. While in the mosque my boyfriend went to wash as he decided to pray. ... At this point my boyfriend was furious saying they are not real Muslims but still we gave them a fraction of what they asked for (out of principle)...


Good on him ! so, my story - In Nov-2008, I'd just dipped into this "Yes, I am Guilty" book( about 10 or so murders in 1978, in Pune ) and picked up a page where I learnt(ed) that Manover Shah used to pray at the Pir outside Shanivar Wada, Pune, India. So I went to take a look and was just reflecting on it all while standing beside it ( its very small, about 20x20x20 ft - when some a-hole( hmmm thirties) comes up to me and says - "Sir, there is a charge, Rs 20 ". I mean, the gall of it - So I told him about Manover Shah and said "this is all before your time" basically to get him to bugger off but he wouldn't so I just switched to swearing, in my best Marathi manner; mannnn he legged it.

What's great is that the crowd of people who'd gathered were on MY side !

Of course I can empathise with him, there is no Social Security, unemployment benefit, disability benefit etc in India is there ?(I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm wrong). People have to do what they have to do make a living.

Didn't stop me swearing though. You are, no doubt, proud of your b/f.

-skk
Separately:
There is a way this can be handled btw - the way that Turkey handles the hordes of tourists who come to see the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul. But that's offtopic and best handled off-line.
#7
| Specialist muddler

Originally posted by: anna paradox View Post

Later he came back to me and my boyfriend and they spoke about Islam, he took us to a corner of the mosque where an old man open a cupboard and showed us a hair of the beard of the prophet Mohammad. I tried to forget the incident at the entry of the mosque and when the old man gave us the visitors book to write in I wrote really nice things. As soon as the old man closed the book he demanded 600 rupee from us! .


This very scam is described in detail in "Around the World on a Bicycle Volume II" by Thomas Stevens writing in 1870 or thereabouts.
At any rate, the Ancient and Hopeful assumes more mystery and importance than ever as he uncovers a second tin casket with a glass front. Glued to the glass, inside, is a single coarse yellow hair about two inches long; the precious relic, which has a suspicious resemblance to a bristle, is considered the gem of the collection, being nothing less than a hair from the Prophet's venerable mustache. Mohammedans swear by the beard of the Prophet, just as good Christians swear by "the great horned spoon," or by "great Caesar's ghost," so that the possession of even this one poor little hair, surrounded as it is by a blue halo of suspicion as to its authenticity, sheds a ray of glory upon the great Jama Mesjid scarcely surpassed by its importance as the second-largest mosque in the world.
The two-inch yellow hair is considered the piece de resistance of the collection, and the Ancient and Hopeful stows it away with all due reverence, strokes his henna-stained beard with the air of a man who has got successfully through a very important task, steps into his slippers, and presents himself for "pice."

Pice is duly administered to him and his three salaaming associates, when, lo! a fifth candidate mysteriously appears, also smiling and salaaming expectantly. Although I haven't had the pleasure of a previous acquaintance with this gentleman, the easiest way to escape gracefully from the sacred edifice is to backsheesh him along with the others. These backsheesh considerations are, of course, small and immaterial matters,
and one ought to feel extremely grateful to all concerned for the happy privilege of feasting one's soul with ever so brief a contemplation of the things in the cabinet, and more especially on the bristle-like yellow hair. These joy-inspiring objects, ramshackled from the storehouse of the musty past, fulfil the double mission of keeping alive the reverence of devout Mussulmans who visit the mosque, and keeping the Ancient and
Hopeful well supplied with goodakoo.
Evil all its sin is still alive.
#8
| Senior Member
Thanks for your replies!

I just assumed that the people who work at the Jama Masjid would be getting paid by the commitee who runs the mosque. The commitee would be getting their money from the muslims of Delhi who donate. The tactics they use at the entry gate are passive agressive, smiling but demanding money. This is a mosque!

It's funny you mention the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I went there earlier this year. I made the effort to buy a hajjab and wore clothes which covered up. My jaw dropped when I walked into the courtyard of the mosque (within the grounds of the mosque) to see packs of tourists in shorts and t shirts and hardly any of the women had covered up, someone was in high heels and a short skirt. I guess i'm old fashioned when it comes to religion and respect. Ironically the guard didn't even let me in to the main building because I was a tourist and it was prayer time. I was with a group of muslims friends and he wouldn't let them in either (?).

Back to the Jama Masjid, the prophets beard hair was in a small glass valve. Someone must have ironed it or flattened it out as it was as straight as a needle. They also showed us a footprint of Mohammad, they said it had miraculousy appeared on a stone where he had stepped.

I could have understood why, after viewing these artifacts, that the guard may suggest a donation but to mention an exact price just felt wrong.
#9
| Specialist muddler
Given that each of the "artifacts" is bogus, I can't see that any baksheesh is appropriate. Not a donation by the way - the money goes straight into the pockets of the scammers.
Evil all its sin is still alive.
#10
| Senior Member
Jama Majsid: I was mightily cheesed off when I went to Delhi's Jama Masjid at the end of my last journey to India. No one tried to charge me to enter but they wanted 250rupees for my camera. I hadn't realised this in advance but had no desire to take any pictures. They wouldn't let me in unless I paid and I couldn't leave my camera with anyone so I left. I'll go again another time without my camera. Unless I want to take pictures and then i will not mind so much to pay. I must say I do find it ridiculous to charge people to take pictures. I think that's a scam in itself but perhaps its a way of separating tourists from everyone else since most tourists will want to take pictures.

Delhi Autorickshaws: There are ways to avoid getting overcharged and there are probably heaps of discussions about it already on this board. First you have to learn about the real rates per km. Then you need to pick your driver. Never try to negotiate a ride in front of a tourist destination. Always walk down the street a 100 metres or so or go over to another street. Try to insist on using the metre. Otherwise negotiate a price before getting in that seems reasonable to you. If a driver can't speak English then you are probably dealing with someone who won't fleece you. The better their English the more accustomed they will be to tourists and getting money out of you.

That's a heartbreaking story about the old rickshaw driver. I am glad you paid him well since the poor old bugger was clearly suffering. I tend to use younger ones. I think travelling two in a cycle rickshaw is one too many.

Someone tried to scam me at the New Delhi station too. But I knew about this scam and just told them to go away. They gave in immediately. Its good to be firm.

The problem with all these scams is that it undermines your sense of trust and sometimes you end up distrusting people who genuinely want to help you or who are speaking the truth. You start to lose the sense of what is truth and what is not. When you get to that point, its quite upsetting.
#11
| Senior Member
Yes, newislander, what you wrote is spot on. Sometimes when we thought we had met touts or scammers it turned out they were just genuine people doing their best to help us. A couple of times we had to apologise about being so cold with people in the beginning after realising they were real.

I was glad that I was there with my boyfriend, I don't know how well or even if I could have coped with it had I been alone.

Later we met a rickshaw driver in Pahar Ganj, he became friendly with us and later admitted that he only ever looks for tourists as he can make enough money just from them.

Your advice about looking for drivers who don't speak good English is excellent, I'll remember that for next time I go to India.
#12
| rhill1

Originally posted by: anna paradox View Post

Delhi was our point of entry into India and after Vrindavan it was my favorite place in India. Sure it's crowded and hot and dirty but since I had read so much about it's colourful past I felt I had the upper hand in being able to see beyond the car part dealers and junk stops, to understand what this city once was. The energy of Delhi is like nothing I have experienced before and being a person who gets a kick out of stressful situations I found this city highly addictive. I'm back home now in my European capital which I have come to nickname "The Morgue" which energy wise can only be described as that in comparison to Delhi.

The downside to Delhi are the scams and touts, while dealing with these people my boyfriend and I would sometimes look at each other and laugh and say "No one is your friend in Delhi" which isn't exactly accurate as we met some genuine people who weren't out to get anything at all.

Prepaid taxi from Indira Gandhi airport - I read somewhere on Indiamike that when paying for a taxi they will short change you when paying with a 500 note, so we decided to try this out and sure enough they did, they will ask you questions like "oh first time in India?" and "are you alone or is he your boyfriend?" just to cause confusion.

Prepaid taxi from airport to central Delhi - I was sitting in the back of the taxi and could see the driver in the front eyeing my boyfriend (who was in the front beside him) to see if he could get something out of us. Luckily we can speak to each other in languages apart from English so I warned my boyfriend and he just got his mobile phone out and pretended to speak to someone called Pappu, "yes Pappu, we are now in the taxi, we are coming to your house" ... it sounds quiet comical but it really did work, the driver didn't bother us at all!

Auto rickshaw drivers - These drivers along with shop keepers where the biggest annoyance in Delhi. On the first day we were paying into the hundreds even for short journeys, later we pretended to be living in India, "me hindustani" but still it didn't work, the only time we didn't get ripped off was when the stress had got too much (even for me) on Chelmsford Road and I had started crying, almost melodramatically the driver who had been bothering us started crying too saying "tourists were always happy until now" and insisted we get in his rickshaw and he would take us anywhere for free! Generally we were never successful in beating the rickshaw drivers.

Cycle rickshaw drivers - Our first time in one of these was heart breaking, going from Jama Masjid to Pahar Ganj. The driver was old and the further our journey went the more alarmed we were becoming, the driver was so exhausted and looked like he was about to collapse. When we got to the flyover at Gupta Road I refused to stay in the back of the rickshaw any longer and my boyfriend and I helped him push it along the street, by the time we got to Pahar Ganj we both felt awful and gave him four times what he had asked for and a packet of cigarettes. After that we never tried to get the Indian price for a cycle rickshaw and always tipped them we more than they had asked.

New Delhi train station - I can't believe, after all of the warnings I had read, that we would fall for this. Approaching the station we were approached by a smartly dressed man saying he was an officer and that the tourist reservation center was closed. I suspected he was lying so I asked him for his ID, he got a bit of paper out of his pocket and showed us it, it was all in hindi, I told him he was lying and I tried to grab the bit of paper. I think it might have been a general Indian ID card, well, funny to think back now but he was FURIOUS, he started shouting at me "Madam, I'am an officer, I can arrest you for doing that" ... I began to feel guilty for suspecting him and he led us away from the train station to small travel agents across the street. I told him I wanted to get a coffee first and he then started saying "but they sell coffee in the travel agents, please go there" then I knew he was lying. We managed to get away from him, went back to the train station and sure enough found the reservation center open on the first floor.

Delhi Metro - After we decided to avoid the non-prepaid rickshaws we got a map of the metro and tried to become more Delhiite. Our first time buying a token the woman told us the fare was 120 rupee while it was only 12, once we told her she was wrong she still tried to short change us. To be honest she was the only person who did try and scam us while using public transport. The metro is clean but I wouldn't say efficent, I wouldn't recommend trying to get in a carriage at Rajiv Chowk anytime but late evening. Everyone tries to cram into the full-to-capacity carriages, once my boyfriend got in a minor fist fight when a man had pushed me aside, another time his shirt got ripped when the people had rushed to get in. After this we decided to avoid the metro if we had to change at Rajiv Chowk and just use prepaid rickshaws.

Jama Masjid - This was the worst scam of all. My boyfriend didn't know anything about India, I was the one who basically dragged him there. He is Muslim so I thought I would show him the Jama Masjid to try and impress him with India's past. When we approached the mosque they demanded 200 rupee each from us to enter. I think this is the entry fee if you have a camera but the people who work there just abuse this and demand 200 rupee from everyone, camera or no camera. This seemed to insult my boyfriend and he refused to pay the entry saying it is a mosque and in a place of God there should be no entry. Eventually they let him in for free. While in the mosque my boyfriend went to wash as he decided to pray. I was alone and the man (guard) who walks around with a stick was trying to pick me up! I just ignored him. Later he came back to me and my boyfriend and they spoke about Islam, he took us to a corner of the mosque where an old man open a cupboard and showed us a hair of the beard of the prophet Mohammad. I tried to forget the incident at the entry of the mosque and when the old man gave us the visitors book to write in I wrote really nice things. As soon as the old man closed the book he demanded 600 rupee from us! At this point my boyfriend was furious saying they are not real Muslims but still we gave them a fraction of what they asked for (out of principle). At this point the guard who had tried to pick me up earlier marched us to the entry of the mosque and asked for a tip. When we refused he told us to leave! We told him we would stay as long as we wanted as it was a mosque which we did. I was very embarrassed infront of my boyfriend, instead of showing him this beautiful building it just turned out to be a joke. When we did leave we went to the police to report them but they didn't understand the principle of what had happened so we just gave up.

Even after all of this I still love Delhi, there were so many times that this city really captivated my imagination. Seeing an elephant walking down a busy street, or the monkeys stealing fruit around Kashmere Gate, or while peering into a little shop in Old Delhi where they were pressing envelopes a little boy who was working there tried to hide (i guess incase they thought I would report them?).Walking around the back streets of Pahar Ganj, once when I was alone I met a little boy, he was about twelve (but he told me he was fifteen) and was wearing rags, we spoke about his life and he wanted to take me home to meet his mum, or the families at night around India Gate who told us about their lives, or the little children all crowded around a television in the cotton market outside Jama Masjid watching what might have been a Indian popstar. It's the simplest things like this which make India what it is.


Anna paradox,
thanks for your thread...it bought back so many memories of Delhi. I am taking 6 girls from my school from Melbourne, Australia to help in Kolkata [4 are blonde]this January...thank god it is not in Delhi...but they will have to be very carefulcool: :mad:
#13
| also known as Maya Sharma
later we pretended to be living in India, "me hindustani" but still it didn't work


I guess no one would believe you are a local if you say "me hindustani" in a foreign accent. First of all a local wouldn't have to state that and secondly you at least have to look as local as possible if you really want to be believed.
Even if you don't speak Hindi or any local language, you have to try and pick up the local English accent (some people in Delhi only speak English or don't have Hindi as a first language so you can still sound local even without Hindi).
Wearing traditional outifits, having somehow oriental features and a decent Hindi accent, often assured me local fees with drivers without bargaining.

I was quoted an extremely high price only once, when the driver noticed I didn't know my destination.

Originally posted by: rhill1 View Post


I am taking 6 girls from my school from Melbourne, Australia to help in Kolkata [4 are blonde]this January...thank god it is not in Delhi...but they will have to be very carefulcool: :mad:


my blonde German friend in Delhi was much better than me at bargaining because she usually had a harder time rather than me looking somehow more familar to the place. So, it's actually all about knowing how it works!
:elee:holikarang
#14
| Search, be your own guru
One can check with a local about the approximate cost of the auto-rikshaw ride. Taking that as a base price, one can haggle. All taxi or auto-rikshaw meters are rigged, doctored.
Truly that Dharma is the Truth (Satya); Therefore, when a man speaks the Truth, they say, "He speaks the Dharma"; and if he speaks Dharma, they say, "He speaks the Truth!" For both are one. - Brihadaranyak Upanishad
#15
| Senior Member
oh we were just saying "me hindustani" and laughing alot, the indians loved this but still it didn't work in getting indian prices, we knew we were seen as europeans but hey, it was worth a try :)

at one point my boyfriend was pretending to be a chai wallah who works on the trains but thats another very long story

yes, if you are blond and female then be careful. i ended up alone in the back streets of pahar ganj (as my boyfriend wandered off looking for smokes), i'm going to transcribe my experiences from my journal to indiamike so go look for my journal for my survival tips.