India is one of my favorite countries in the world. I stayed there for 3 months and will come back definitely, but sadly this story is not a happy one.
I arrived at 9pm at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. I was hungry and tired due to a long flight from Rome that included a 16 hour layover in Moscow, where I went to party. As soon as I crossed the exit gate, I found 20 Indian guys offering to take me to my hotel. I had been warned to take a prepaid taxi when I arrived to India, so I walked directly to the prepaid booth.
After reaching the booth, a random guy approached me and asked: “Prepaid taxi?” I said “yes” and he took my bags and put them inside a very old and dodgy car. I gave him the address and he said we would get there very fast. He was with another man that ended up being the driver. When we were on “the way” to the hotel they started asking me several questions to see if it was my first time in India or not (they knew I was a new tourist ready to be scammed).
All of a sudden one of the guys said that the road to my hotel was closed due to a festival. I did not believe him and told them to drop me there, I would walk if it was necessary. Instead, they asked a police officer in Hindi about the situation and he answered “roads are closed” in English (at that moment I knew it was going to be a long night).
“No problem, we will take you to a tourist information office and they will help you” said one of the men.
We got to the tourist office and one of the workers gave me a cup of tea to relax and pretended to be friendly. They called the hostel where I was supposed to stay at and put me on the line. However, it was a fake call, they transfered it to someone else telling me that the road was closed because of the festival and that the hotel was fully booked so I couldn’t go there. Immediately, the man running the tourist office started offering me tourist packages for USD$1.200 for 3 weeks in the “Incredible India” which I declined instantly.
We started calling other hostels but they would reply that everything was fully booked or that they only had the “Presidential Suites” available. This was all a scam. They were transferring the call to the same person that would reply this so I would get desperate. My phone did not work at that point, so I could not access the wifi.
A minute later, I saw an abandoned computer and logged into Facebook to write to some of my friends that where in India. I started telling them what was going on and how I knew they were trying to scam me and even rob me. I wrote it in Spanish but the computer translated the text automatically into English. The people at the office read everything. One minute later, the power went down and I had no more internet.
All of a sudden, four men started yelling and threatening me. Then they kept on pushing me into buying a tourist package or leave. I wanted to leave but, where? It was already 11pm, I had no idea of where I was and I was being threatened by a group of guys that I had never seen in my life. Things got a bit more intense until a short guy showed up and said that he could take me to a hotel which would be slightly more expensive but I could still afford it.
After everything that was going on, I had to accept the offer. So I went with the small man and the taxi drivers to a hotel named Relax Inn (its not like it looks on Google if you want to search for it). The place was decent but the man at the lobby wanted to charge me USD 100 for a room. As soon as he mentioned the price, I laughed and walked away. There was no way I was going to pay that amount of money for a room in India.
I got my backpack and left the hotel and as soon as I stepped outside, I saw the four men from the office and the taxi guys waiting for me. They wanted to intimidate me again. It was 12am, raining, I had no battery on my phone, no internet, no maps and clearly, I had no idea where I was. I felt that there was nothing I could do. Everything was going wrong that evening and nothing would change it. It was meant to happen. So I turned back, went inside the hotel and paid USD100 for my safety and for the room.
The hotel room had a broken AC (it was always on to the fullest), a toilet that was sort of clean, and a bed that was big and comfortable but that I did not enjoy thanks to the previous episode. The wifi did not work so I stayed incommunicated that evening. Next day I woke up really early to leave the hotel and look for the hostel where I was supposed to stay at. At least breakfast was served at the Relax Inn. The man from the lobby got me a cab that took me to the same tourist information office as the night before. Now, for those who got lost in the middle of this post, I will make things easier: the taxi driver, the police officer, the tourist agents, the four men, the hotel staff and this new driver were all part of the same scam.
I saw the men again. I wanted nothing to do with them so I grabbed the first tuc tuc I saw and went to the real hostel.
As I mentioned before, India is one of my favorite countries and this is just a bad story from many good ones that I lived in here. The Tourist Office Scam has happened to many travelers that I met so make sure to avoid it but getting real prepaid taxis, insisting on being dropped at your real hotel and always staying calm. In India, people take advantage of your desperation so remember to think twice before reacting. Make sure to have your map applications downloaded and working before you get to New Delhi. Enjoy the Incredible India.
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