We arrived in Delhi early afternoon. I had worked out the metro in advance and our hotel was only a 10 minute walk from the station.
We emerged from the metro station, avoided the insistent tuk tuk drivers and stopped for a moment to work out the general direction we should be heading. A helpful man pointed us in the right direction. Brilliant. Yet the streets didn’t really make sense, so I wasn’t sure. I had to check.
We stood out like a sore thumb – backpacks on, printed out directions in hand, slightly confused and just getting the feel for the crowds and noises that are ever present in Delhi. One helpful guy got out his phone and opened Google Maps. It was already set to directions for a travel agency which happened to be “right by our hotel”.
I knew he was lying, it didn’t take a genius to work out. What I needed, though, was a good look at that map, with the marker for where we were in relation to our hotel on the print out. I kept the guy talking, asking questions for about 3 minutes while keeping my eye on his phone and mapping out the route from where we were.
We said thanks and set off, in the complete opposite direction that he was trying to get us to go. He gave chase. He was insistent, he was convincing. Had I been less prepared, a little more trusting, we would have set off walking with him in the complete opposite direction than we needed to go. All so this man had a shot at commission from whatever his friends at the travel shop tried to sell us. We had literally just arrived in India and successfully avoided our first wild goose chase.
Avoiding the Scams
In India you are often faced with situations so illogical you question yourself. As an outsider it’s hard to decipher between a genuine person trying to help and someone outright lying to you for their own purposes.
When you go to buy some bottled water, the price is suddenly double because it’s after 9PM. Alarm bells start ringing. A little resistance and you get it at the normal price but for a second you wonder if it’s a normal policy. Am I just being difficult?
A hotel adds a 5% luxury tax to the agreed price, can they do that? Is that like GST? But you ask them to knock it off and they do, and even apologise. Yet you know it’s on everyone’s bill because maybe only a handful of travelers will question it.
Then again, you are boarding a night bus and the driver asks for an extra 20 rupees for your bags, you resist…then realize it says on the ticket that there is in fact a luggage fee.
Talking to fellow travelers it was evident some handled it better than others. There were some who smiled, laughed and told us of some of the more bizarre ways people had tried to pry money from them.
For a few though, it seems India had broken them. Exploding in stressed rants and suffering from heightened anxiety, they were so far from seeing the humor in it that it did not seem like they could possibly enjoy their trip.
The key to enjoying traveling in India is to not let the frustration boil over.
As soon as the stress turns to anger you are lost, everything will annoy you. Nobody comes to India expecting it to be devoid of stress. If you are looking for a relaxing holiday where the only thing that will stress you out is whether you should order a pina colada or a beer while you lounge by the pool, then head to an all inclusive resort in Spain or Mexico. India is not going to be a chilled out getaway, it’s an experience.
It’s worth it
I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea by this post. Although traveling India is particularly frustrating sometimes, there’s simply no place like it in terms of the wide range of emotions you will feel while traveling here. It has some of the most amazing structures I will ever see (The Taj Mahal is stunning, it did not disappoint), it has some of the busiest streets I will ever walk down and some amazing spots for nature lovers. We have eaten wonderful food, learned about fascinating ancient traditions, been baffled by cultural differences, met people who have embraced us with warm hospitality and gathered so many stories during our relatively short month-long visit.
I’ll never forget watching England win an international cricket game in Delhi, or getting covered from head to toe in color during the Holi festival in Pushkar. I’ll never be more relieved to see a western toilet, complete with toilet paper when it was needed most. There’s really not many places you get to see a fight break out between a gang of puppies and a bunch of monkeys.
So yeah, if you can live with the tiny frustrations, not get too annoyed at the hawkers or folks after a bit of your cash, if you can handle a bus being a few hours late without melting down, you will probably love traveling the rough diamond that is India.