Scams / Touts in Fatephur Sikri

#1 Oct 29th, 2013, 10:42
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  • lovedindia is offline
#1
Hi all, I've been lurking on this forum for awhile and have gotten lots of useful information from here. Just got back from a 12 day trip to India (Jaipur-Agra-Delhi) and thought I'd write about my experience with the touts in Fatephur Sikri.

Let me just begin by saying that we really loved the India experience on the whole, notwithstanding the touts and scammers we encountered. However (as most people on this forum seem to have observed as well), we found the touts in Agra to be especially aggressive and bothersome. Probably this has to do with the sheer number of tourists coming to Agra everyday to see the Taj.

Anyway, we had a full day to kill in Agra and, having seen the Taj the evening before, we planned to take a day trip to Fatephur Sikri in the morning, and to go to the Agra Fort after coming back. We asked the hotel to arrange for a driver to take us to Fatephur Sikri the next morning and back thereafter.

We didn't have much problems on the drive out to Fatephur Sikri (about 1.5 hours). However, when we had almost reached our destination, our driver pulled over to a large lot adjoining the road and told us that cars and buses were not allowed too near Fatephur Sikri due to "pollution". He said he'd have to stop us there and we'd have to take an autorickshaw the rest of the way. He also said we'd need to speak to a "guide" before going to Fatephur Sikri.

This set alarm bells off already but we could tell we were near the attraction and decided to just get off and see what they were going to pull.

So we get out of the car and immediately get pounced on by this guy who has an official looking shack there. He insists that he is a government approved guide and shows us some official looking documents to prove it. (I saw the words "Government approved guide" printed on the papers he produced, but otherwise, had no clue whether those were authentic or not, and doubt they were.)

Together with our driver, he pushes us very hard to purchase a "tour package" around Fatephur Sikri, insisting that we will not be able to appreciate the attraction without a guide, as the touts and beggars there are very numerous and will bother us. The price is 600 rs per person.

By this time we were quite pissed off and insisted that we wanted to see the attraction ourselves and did not need a guide. It took quite a while of persistent refusing and walking away before the guys stopped hounding us.

We then had to negotiate for an autorickshaw to take us to the attraction, and as expected, were blatantly overcharged - the attraction was about two minutes drive away. We finally agreed to 100 rs each way (i.e. 200 rs there and back) from sheer exhaustion.

On the way there, I saw a number of cars and buses around us - so much for the pollution story! When we finally got there, it was a short walk up a slope to Fatephur Sikri and all the way, we were besieged very aggressively by touts, offering tours, selling stuff, anything. Seriously, we got quoted guide prices from 600 rs to 20 rs. Touts, beggars and sellers were all the way up the majestic front steps of the place and swarming all over within the public area housing the mosque. We did our best to enjoy this part of the attraction, but eventually it got so persistent we had to move on sooner than we'd have liked.

Things were much better when we got to the inner part of the city, where the admission fees have to be paid. I did see on a large board that the government approved rate for guides was 125 rs though. There were also a few guides sitting around near the ticketing booth and I think these might have been the proper "approved" guides because we experienced minimal hassling from them. However, we rejected their services nicely and went in on our own. If you need a guide though, I would really recommend waiting till you get to this stage before negotiating for one.

When we got back, we paid up for the autorickshaw and got on the car as soon as possible. We saw our driver having a negotiation with the autorickshaw driver in front of us and something changed hands - I couldn't see what it was, but I would guess it was money (duh!) We also saw a few Caucasians trying to get away from the "Government approved guide" - hope they managed to in the end.

Our driver had the cheek to ask for a tip at the end of the journey - we rejected him smartly.

Fatephur Sikri itself was AMAZING, though. No question about that. But, knowing what I now know about it, would I have gone through the hassle of driving out to see it again on hindsight? I'm not sure.

Anyway, I just wanted to post our experience as a note to those who would like to venture to this wonderful attraction. I found it really awe-inspiring and worth a visit, but sadly, the touts and scammers ruined our enjoyment to some extent. You might end up getting scammed into the rickshaw ride like us, but please don't fall for the "guide" scam cos it will be a lot more expensive. Trust me, you can appreciate the attraction perfectly well on your own.
#2 Oct 29th, 2013, 10:57
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  • adam00121 is offline
#2
welcome to indiamike, lovedindia. and thank you for the wonderful trip report.
Could you (if appropriate) name the hotel which you used to arrange for the car, assuming that you do not have a name for the car company?

This nuisance has to end somewhere, and since they seem to be playing "pass the buck", we should play the game "pin the tail on one donkey".
#3 Oct 29th, 2013, 11:08
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  • Prakaant is offline
#3
It's correct, buses are not permitted near Fatehpur Sikri. But there was no need to take auto for the travel. There are battery operated vehicles available there which operates from the bus stand at very reasonable cost.
#4 Oct 29th, 2013, 11:11
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#4
Hi adam00121, we were at Howard Plaza Hotel. I don't know the car company name.

Don't know how far the scam can be attributed to the hotel though - maybe it was the driver's own idea.....
#5 Oct 29th, 2013, 11:14
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  • lovedindia is offline
#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prakaant View Post It's correct, buses or any diesel operated vehicles are not permitted near Fatehpur Sikri. But there was no need to take auto for the travel. There are battery operated vehicles available there at very reasonable cost.
Prakaant, I actually saw cars and buses beyond the point he drove us! We had no idea of the regulations either way of course, but having seen these other vehicles, I guess we assumed we'd been scammed.
#6 Oct 29th, 2013, 11:19
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  • adam00121 is offline
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Generally, there is more than one person who colludes to create the scam. in your case itself, there is more than one person, cab driver, one 'government authorized guide', one auto driver. That money changed hands in the end, also means that more than one person is aware and participating in this scam.

If you had complained to the hotel, and the hotel stops using this company/driver in future, then they stop the scam. Else they bear some responsibility for fixing you up with that driver/car company. I assume you did not do the picking, you just asked for the car, and they provided one.

At the very least, those that read this thread will be aware that that particular hotel might book a cab,with the same result.

This is my personal opinion, and i have been wrong before. But this silly fleecing of tourists has to stop somehow. Awareness is one part, which this site and threads such as this one do, others may come later and play their part.

The guest is not expected to be aware of all the local rules, that change depending on circumstances. There are instances were parking of vehicles is allowed a bit away from the monuments, in some places.

For example, it is possible that cars and other vehicles will be prevented from driving into the jaisalmer fort. That happens only when the fort gets filled on busy days, but to create a scam based on that ( and use it everyday) would be something else.
#7 Oct 29th, 2013, 11:30
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  • DrRudi is offline
#7
The big advantage to having a guide at many sights in India is that they take care of the touts / hawkers / irritants on your behalf. (And that's a minimum; the right guide is a miracle worker at eliminating queues.)
Gone.
#8 Oct 29th, 2013, 17:33
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#8
Welcome to IndiaMike, lovedindia!

Thank you so much for posting about your experience with the touts at Fatephur Sikri. It's important for people who have never been to Agra to know what they can expect there, and what they can do. Your experience can help someone else make good decisions while they are being surrounded by touts.

I agree that Agra has the most aggressive touts I've seen in India.
#9 Oct 30th, 2013, 12:28
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  • nayan is offline
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When we visited Fatehpur Sikri in 2004 the "guides" pestered us for the entire 2 hours we were there. They just do not give up. Nothing works with them - ignoring, rudeness, direct no - nothing. I have never seen such pestering anywhere else in India.
I am Indian BTW and our group was all four Indians and none of us looked very prosperous.

its such a shame because the place is amazing and atmospheric.
#10 Oct 30th, 2013, 12:51
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  • professorm is offline
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Where there is tourist, there are touts. In most places they are very aggressive. I was hounded by touts in Kali Temple in Kolkata and streets of Kolkata. They can tell a newbie.

This problems should be reported to the very top to Home Minister and Minister of Tourism. Tourists are hounded.

Indian tourists or foreign tourists are all treated badly, harassed! This should be cleaned up.
#11 Oct 31st, 2013, 11:59
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#11
Quote:
Originally Posted by nayan View Post When we visited Fatehpur Sikri in 2004 the "guides" pestered us for the entire 2 hours we were there. They just do not give up. Nothing works with them - ignoring, rudeness, direct no - nothing. I have never seen such pestering anywhere else in India.
I am Indian BTW and our group was all four Indians and none of us looked very prosperous.

its such a shame because the place is amazing and atmospheric.
Yup, I found things to be a lot better at all the other sites we visited and we were able to appreciate and enjoy them in peace. Even at the Taj we did not experience such pestering.

I was thinking maybe the problem is that the outer area of Fatehpur Sikri is a public area due to the operating mosque there, so admission fees can't be charged for that part (thus keeping out touts and beggars)? Only solution seems to be for more police or guards to be posted in that area to prevent touts from bothering tourists.

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