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How they tried to scam me big time on my first 24 hours in Delhi

Monday night I was with my girlfriend at the airport of Barcelona counting the minutes to begin the second part of my big trip: South Asia.

But was not going to be neither a fast journey nor an easy arrival. Let’s get in the situation, we had an overnight flight from Barcelona to Moscow that left us at dawn in the capital of Russia and we had to stay at the airport doing little more than waiting until late afternoon, when we would catch another flight that would take us to Delhi. Once there we would not know the days we would be in town, where we would go after or even where we would sleep that very first night, always following our idea that improvising everything goes much better .

We arrived at 4 am local time (11.30pm in Barcelona) with an obvious jet-lag and a large accumulated fatigue from not sleeping hardly two nights earlier on planes and having been able to rest only few spare hours in uncomfortable chairs at Moscow airport. We picked up our bags and asked the cheapest way to get from the airport to the main train station, where we had seen a few hostels that had a very good price. They said it was the subway, which cost only 60 rupees per person (less than an euro) and that started at half past five in the morning. After that, we went to change money but since we were still at the airport, the exchange rate was terrible and forced us to change large bills, ie, a minimum of 50 or 100 €.

Since we did not want to have so bad exchange rate for that many euros, we decided to see if we could get out of the airport and do it outside or if by chance we could pay the metro with credit card. We left the airport and hit a handful of taxi drivers that like lions pounce seeing a new dam. We continued to steadily walk to the subway and one of them began to continue to keep on speaking. He began by saying he would take us to the center in one moment for 300 rupees and we said no, the train was much cheaper. The guy, seeing that we did not change opinion, began to lower and lower the price down until he got to 100 rupees, and we told him that the issue was not only the price but that we had not changed money. We arrived at the subway entrance, and as expected it was not payable by card. Since the guy insisted and insisted in the end I told him jokingly that if he did not accept to charge us a 2 euro coin that I had in my pocket at the time, he should leave, to which he agreed, and we unbelievers, got into the taxi.

While driving he was asking us what we would do in India, how long we were thinking to stay, etc. Suddenly we had to stop because a dozen monkeys were crossing the road like crazy. Looking out the windows at the sides we could see also squirrels and pigs wandering at ease and traffic was getting worse. Even though there were no cows running around free out there, it was already the image that we all have a little of India .

First and only cow seen in all day!

Soon after arriving, we found a roadblock with few police barriers and a supposed agent. They began to speak in Hindi with each other and in the end the agent spoke to me saying that the neighborhood was closed due to a festival and that the driver would take us to a tourist center office where they would help us to find where to sleep that night.

We thought it was a little weird but there we were, after all, was free. We arrived at an office of the streets of downtown, near Connaught Place, we got in and started to talk to responsible. He said that these days there was a festival in the cheapest district of Delhi, and everything was closed. How convenient. I told him It seemed strange, since few days ago I had searched some sites online and all of them were available in those days. He told me to take his phone and call to as many places as I wanted, and I did. Each and every one of the answers were negative . And yet over, when asked for cheap places they could know, they all told me everything was closed and we could only go to another part of the city that had hotels of 4 and 5 stars.

If everything was smelling like a big lie that they sent me to all the most expensive hotels in the city It was too much, so I decided to call next on the list and then he told me the same story, and I asked him where he was physically. He replied that at the reception of the hostel I was calling and when I ask him why he was there when the hostel was closed, hesitated a little and told me to be able to answer the phone to dissatisfied customers. Then I told him not to worry anymore, that right now I would go there so we could talk directly face to face, and he nervously told me not to go because right now he had to go. Here I let out the sentence he could not answer: Hey, but what’s up then? You can get in and out as you please of the guest house or not?
Uncomfortable silence on the phone. I hang up and tell the others thanks for the help but I was going to walk around the neighborhood and knocking at the door of all the hostels I would see, and while they were saying it would be impossible and we would not get anything, we went ouut.

When we were outside, the one who had drove the car started to speak with us and to tell us to go somewhere else, he took one of the bags and started walking until he got into another kind of tourist office. Again, very professional site, packed with information and maps of the country on all sides. I told him not to waste time and a man appeared asking in what he could help. I told him thanks but nothing, that we would look for our solutions alone, and he began to gave us the same speech that everything was closed, and told us it was silly to get a hotel that could cost as expensive when anywhere in Jaipur the prices remained very low. I told him not to worry because we would find the way alone, and he kept on saying the same, until he told me how much time we would waste going to the center and for only 250 he would call for a taxi to take me to Jaipur to continue the journey. And out of curiosity, I asked 250 of what, and when his answer was euros I could not help but laugh and tell him that the ‘joke’ had gone too far . Again we took the things and left the office while they did nothing but tell us we would find nothing.

When leaving, the ‘taxi driver’ still wanted to come over and told us to stay but we told him to go, that it was 8am already and we had lost enough time with him and his friends. He left, and while watching the map, came a couple of men who had been with him before. We were told that, as it was already more than evident, everything was fake and that we were not where we had been told but in Gole Market, an area about two kilometers away from Connaught Place, where there were several pirate tourism offices where they brought foreigners to scam them. Then they proposed to take us by taxi to the center and we told them both, that if they had previously been shut up, now they should not come to us like friends. We were alone in the street, so we said to them that at least they could tell us in what direction was the real center, and we began to walk where we had been told and one of them was following us with a bike until minutes after when finally my GPS mobile geolocated and we saw that they we were sending us in the opposite direction.

Tired of this nonsense we told them, for the umpteenth time, to disappear and we started walking towards the center.

When we arrived at the area of Main Bazaar, it goes without saying that everything was opened. Like we had seen online it was full of hotels, hostels and guesthouses everywhere, and all of them had place to sleep that night and all the next ones required . In the end, after seeing few rooms and making a comparison, we have taken a room with air conditioning, private bathroom and bed for €4 per person each night. They had some pretty similar for lower prices, but let’s say they didn’t get a lot the concept of cleanliness.

Finally, we slept a couple of hours, since it was still so early when we got there and after we went out to walk and get lost in the little streets of this neighborhood of the center of New Delhi, where we could already see a very typical Indian rule, here the road traffic regulations are not respected, but it is the one who gives the strongest horn.

Our face after waking up of the so needed early-morning nap!

Main Bazaar & its surroundings were totally full of people, and like if we were speaking about a mix between a neighborhood market and culinary tasting, shops with clothes and food street stalls were interspersed. To finish the day we decided to try the spicy rice and on the way to the guesthouse we thought we could finally sleep at night since we saw the first cow in the day roaming freely. By the way, I still feel the spicy in my tongue . And I’m afraid I will keep on feeling this for the following months.

Our introduction to Indian food.

At the end of the day we stayed with the thought that everything had gone as we wanted, because we had gone from the airport to downtown without changing money at that exchange rate, paid a €2 coin that in any other case we would have dragged the rest of the trip being totally useless and slept in a cheap place in the center of New Delhi chosen at the last minute. On the other hand, we had the opportunity to see a live performance, since some of the presents in the morning played characters better than in Bollywood, although we never believed anything.

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