I'd have to agree Nick. On too many occasions I didn't take up people's invitations because I was a solo traveller, only to regret it afterwards thinking it was all well-meant.
Think of all the cups of tea and the chats you will miss. I'm thinking of the time I met up with some youngsters on the train. We went through the rounds of where are you from, what do you earn, how much was your ticket etc. As so often I explained well the plane ticket was so much but then a bread back home is so many roops and the rent is like this, and so forth. And as so often they readily understood what I was on about and it ended with them inviting me to their homes and assuring me they could pay for my way seeing how I was a poor man! Quite humbling really, and I've often found people can readily relate to the fact that we're not all the rich people we're made out to be just for being able to fly over there. Anyway I declined, a combination of being on my way and not wanting to impose and being overly wary maybe.
I'm also thinking of meeting a man on the streets in Gujarat who wanted to take me up on me teaching him Dutch (of all things! something about his great-grandfather having a connection I think) and teaching me Gujarati or Hindi in return. Again and regretfully, I was really pressed for time at that time and not alone so not free to change my holiday plans all around.
Then again I'm also thinking of the many stories I've heard of people taking up a private invitation and being left with the man of the house doing his I'm-an-Indian-and-a-man-of-the-world-and-we-invented-everything-you-know-anyway kind of act for a couple of hours with the missus having cooked everything you're being served and the kids sitting meekly at the side, not everyone's idea of fun.
Or my being invited into a villager's hut on my way to Pushkar hill temple and thinking as a freshman well this looks authentic, only to be asked for money for the sick husband in a faraway town of course after a bit of this and that (including being fed cold chapatis and sabji with a cup of water after all the warnings about never taking any of those haha ;) ). Sure enough that same moment some male walked in who got a decent scolding, unless he was the unliked brother-in-law I'm pretty sure that was the miraculously revived husband in question who showed up at the wrong moment.
Anyway never say never, but do beware of the scam artists and use your common sense please. Warnings of dire threats are unnecessary I think, I'm not saying bodily harm can't happen, just that it's unlikely. As a single woman think twice maybe but pretty much the same goes for a nubile young male.
wow, this just happend to me today in jaipur, i cant belive i really though i had met some honest hospital indians, that took me inot their home and taught me how to fly kytes, made me coffee and treats and offered to take me out this evening....
im getting very discouraged, all i want is to meet some cool, chilled out indians that dont want my money...is this possible...pls help
I just stumbled on this post. Its funny, ive meet the Manali gem scammer also. Last year when I was traveling in Manali alone, I meet him downtown, and was invited home. I was a little naive and didnt see any scam comming, before his "Uncle" joined us, and he started talking about diamonds.
Then I knew i just had to get out of there. I faked an interrest, and said i would think about it, then got his number, and said i would callback when i had made an decission. At that time there were 4 full grown men in the room, so i was a little scared.. But i could leave with no problems.
The next few days i really tryed to see if i could find the scammer downtown, where he "recruited" me, because i wanted to kick his ass.. Or a least spit in his face, but i never found him. So i went on to Leh... I think i still got the scammers number somewhere, if anyone wants to talk to a gem scammer.
[shock] Those are gnomes' shoes, growing from the back of a polar bear! How could I have missed this? I remember Manali being pretty much tout and hassle free. Now I have to avoid an evil fairytale creature with a fierce arctic pet in tow. [whoa]
He must have murdered a couple of Kazirangan Rhinos to own a pair of disco boots like that.:D
Seriously though, I've never been to Manali and not sure of the kind of characters that hang out there .... but my 'spider sense' would be tingling like windchimes in an hurricane if I saw someone approach me sporting that kind of footwear.[shock][shock] [shock]
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~ T. S. Eliot
This is also happening in Varkala (unsuprisingly, I guess, considering the amount of tourists).
Usual stuff, I agreed (too trusting) to go to an Indian guy's house, as there was another French backpacker going with him. I was approached by the helipad in Varkala at about 7, as I was walking on my own.
There were about 8 Indian guys in this rather nice house, and another backpacker had stayed there the night before. They gave us a few beers, curry etc etc, it was all good fun and I couldn't believe how friendly these guys were, as they offered to take me around the local area on a motorbike the next day. The French backpacker who came with me left to go back to his hotel, while I stayed the night, along with the English backpacker who was already there.
They were all quite Westernised, speaking decent to very good English. They claimed to be from Bombay, and said they all worked for a high-end jewellery company. I'd never heard of this scam before so I didn't really have any reason to doubt this. There were quite a lot of books about gems and jewellery lying around the house, and they had answers for all the questions I had about jewellery (even fairly detailed stuff like conflict diamonds).
Unfortunately I decided I would save a bit of money and stay around theirs for a few days, so checked out of my hotel and took my backpack around to theirs, then going around on the motorbike for the rest of the day.
Later on, I get taken to the "new Varkala office" which is just a rather basic looking jewellers. I did ask if they thought it was safe to have all this expensive jewellery in plain sight with no security system, why there was no sign for the name of the shop etc. Anyway, I eventually get the offer from the main guy - "Alex". They show me all the previous people they've scammed, saying they made a lot of money etc, the usual stuff. It was quite a long discussion, I actually thought it was more likely to be illegal smuggling of some kind at the time, rather than a scam. It's hard to describe, but I wanted them not to be scamming even though in my head I was saying "Get the hell out of this situation, there's no way this is for real". Anyway, I asked to go to an Internet cafe to check details on UK import law, typed in "india scams" and found about this.
Was shitting myself a wee bit at this point, as I had to go get my bag from the house. We got the bike back to this house, it's already dark at this point. I walked straight in, see Alex who has a big smile on his face and says "Hey man! So what did you find out?". I just said no deal, I need to go back to my hotel. He tries to open up a discussion about why, I just said, no, I'm sorry, it's 100% not happening. They let me go, with a few mentions of "You know, it's probably best you don't tell anyone about this." I don't know what happened to the English backpacker, he didn't seem like the sharpest tool in the box, hopefully he didn't get scammed.
Anyway, pretty dodgy situation, hopefully I got out of it OK. The thing is, my credit card was in my backpack which was round their house the whole time. Whether they found it and took the details, I don't know. I phoned my bank last night to check there'd been no recent transactions on it, looks like it's ok.
Having spent 10 minutes writing this post though, I think I'm just going to cancel the card to be safe, as I don't really want to have to try and explain this to people back home if there are any fraudulent transactions. It might sound naive to go round to these people's houses and believe that they are high-end jewellers, but they make a living out of conning people, and I haven't ever encountered someone like this before.
I still don't understand how the scam works, there was never any mention of a credit card from Alex, and he said he would pay me half (4000 quid) before the posting. I presume he was going to ask for a credit card for the postal insurance at the post office in Trivandrum, where I was going to be put up in a hotel, where we'd post the jewellery from. Also, who were these people? As I said, there were 8 in the house, but the main guys were Krishna, who picked me up originally and took me about on the bike, and Alex. The other 6 were Western-dressed Indian guys, not all of whom spoke great English. They didn't have any interaction with me in terms of the scamming.
The bike guy, looking back, looked like a bit of a dodgy character, but was very friendly and quite funny the whole time. The main conman, Alex, is someone I would love to meet again. He spoke very good English and was very Westernized. He claimed he'd lived in London and Paris, had been to Scotland and Ireland and I don't doubt that he has, due to the detail he talked about London and Scotland in. Who the hell is this guy? I would be fascinated to find out what the whole story was.
Anyway, big post with probably not much new information in it, but it was a bit of an insane situation for me to be in, so probably best to write it all down! It was a bit of a scary situation overall, especially the "What will you tell your hotel? You should keep this a secret part." I decided to change my travel plans and head North, just in case for some reason (ridiculous, I know) they decided to come after me. Ah well. I must say it's quite depressing being unable to go an hour without someone trying to rip you off or scam you in some way. I've already started being quite rude to people, especially any rickshaw drivers who come straight up to you in the station.
PS They mentioned Goa, Nepal and Thailand as other places they occasionally go "for work"
Well, yeah...I wasn't going to say, but bearing in mind your PS- I don't think heading north puts you out of their reach necessarily. I remember someone here posting about seeing the same faces in Rajasthan and Varanasi- they get around.
But not to worry- if they do bother discussing you with others of their ilk I expect it will be to simply say don't bother- he's on to us.
As far as the depressing constant hassle- if you want my advice? Get out of the tourist areas. You simply don't get hassle once away from them, and it does make India easier. Also, stick your headphones in and whack the volume up. What you can't hear can't annoy you. Lastly, after a while I think it shows that you're not a newbie. I get very, very little hassle in Delhi. Here's a tip- tell one tout that you're not a tourist but working here. They all know each other and with any luck the message will get passed around and you'll be largely left alone.
Anyway, well done for extracting yourself from that situation. But don't let it stop you accepting offers of hospitality altogether- try to remember the vast majority of people in India aren't scammers or touts, you're just moving in the epicentre of that world. Do yourself a favour and get off the tourist trail for a bit. :)
Not at all, it's a well-written story (so thanks :) ) & it aptly illustrates how trickily it works in practice. I'm sure many of the most forewarned and experienced travelers will be able to attest how they, too, have ended up in similar situations & perhaps felt tempted even.
How the finer details of the scam really work I can never really figure out either; for one thing, I suppose there'll be a variety of approaches to it. Another thing is I imagine all that conviviality may not all be totally ingenuine either; maybe many of these guys don't see all that much wrong in what they're doing, or just happily find themselves in some grey area that you'd better not find yourself in. And there is, of course, a market (of willing and possibly naive, or not, travelers) they cater to, or they wouldn't have any business. I mean it's like with drug dealers or so, you don't have to be 100% evil to do that business, and they too will and do have friends and may enjoy a friendly chat, even with their (would-be) customers, just like the next person.
Well, glad you extracted yourself from that situation in any case. Happy travels ahead! :) And I wouldn't worry too greatly about these guys following you around cross-country; they'll probably be spending their energy on their next victim instead.
Hello. Update on the Varkala guys. We had been friends with the "Alex" family for some days. And then they took us too their office and showed us the whole deal. We were already prepared tho, reading this thread just before. So we have videos too show where their house is. And a movie where u can see little of Alex face. They did always come up with something when we took a camera up.
I have too say they were really convincingly friendly. They are good actors, or have been doing this for a loong time. Anyways, we're off too the backwaters now. But sooner or later I will update with more details on what happened. And how the scam would have worked, we think we figured it all out. Also add some pics and videos.
The really sad thing was tho, this Alex has a girl friend from Britain. And she had been with him for more than a year, so she must be in on it, or they are playing her aswell. Or their honest... :D We were offered plane tickets to any european country, and back again too continue our holiday. And 8000euro each.
I would say its important to raise awareness on this, because we felt our judgment became very clouded before we decided too check out if anyone else had done it. Luckily we found this. :] So thanks.
And I'll get back with pics/videos/details later on.