In Delhi, you find a lot of tourist offices but there is only one official tourist office that is run by the government of Delhi.
All the other tourist offices are there to trick you. The people who are working there will use whatever methods needed to get out as much money from you as they possibly can. They will lie about almost everything, just to sell you their services. Sometimes even non-existing ones.
Here is our story about how we got scammed in Delhi on our first day in India.
We arrived early in the morning (4 am) in Delhi. We are not a big fan of taxis but we were tired and everything felt so chaotic so we took a taxi. We told the driver that he should bring us to our hostel in the Paharganj area. This is the area where you find a lot of cheap accommodations and restaurants.
The driver told us that this area was popular 10 years ago and that it’s not safe there at the moment, he told us about the riots between Muslims and Hindus that were going on in that area and in Delhi at that moment. We already heard about the riots but those were far away from the city. So we insisted to bring us there anyway. He kept on telling us that it’s not a good idea and that we should leave Delhi as soon as possible. He suggested us to bring us to another hotel where he knew the manager and would give us a better price. It felt like he was trying to scare us and get money out of us.
We ignored his offer and told him to just bring us to our accommodation. When we finally arrived he asked for more money, we just took our bags and ignored him. At that time there was almost no one on the street, it felt a bit creepy. There was one guy following us and trying to sell drugs. Even when we told him that we weren’t interested he kept on following. Once we arrived at our hostel he left us alone. We checked in and went straight to our room.
We couldn’t sleep so around 7 am we decided to discover the area and get some information at the railway station. As we were walking we were approached by a guy, who asked us where we are from, how long we have been in India and if it was our first time in India. We told him it is our first time in India and that we want to get to the railway station. He told us that it’s better to buy train tickets in a tourist office. He brought us to a “tourist office” right around the corner.
We went inside and asked him some questions about train tickets. He didn’t answer our questions but started to ask us how long we are staying in India, which cities we are planning to visit, where we come from, what we do for a living, …
We didn’t see anything wrong with this so he answered all of his questions. He checked things on his computer and then he asked us, maybe you are interested in buying a package, which would include transportation and hotels?
We told him that we are not interested in this package and just want to know about the trains. He tried to change our minds by telling us that it’s not safe in Delhi and Paharganj. At this moment something felt wrong. We just wanted to leave so we made him clear that we are not interested. He started being angry and yelled at us that all tourists are the same. We just left!
The same guy that brought us to this office was waiting for us outside which was very strange, we told him to leave us alone which he did.
As we were walking through Paharganj we saw the streets become to life. Again we were approached by someone who asked us what we are up to? This time we kept distance, but his English was extremely good and it felt like he didn’t have wrong intentions. We had small talk, he told us about how he studies in Mumbai, about his family, showed us pictures from his college and his family, …
We told him about what we just experienced in the tourist office and how they told us to get out of Paharganj and Delhi. He explained to us that it’s all bullshit, that the riots are far away from the city and that’s it not dangerous for tourists to visit Delhi. We felt comfortable because finally, it felt someone wasn’t lying to us. The conversation went smooth and he offered us to have chai (tea) with him. Because we were standing right in front of a chai shop. We didn’t refuse, it seemed like he was sincerely interested in what we were going to do in India. He gave us some tips on how to avoid scams in Delhi. We told him that we wanted to get train tickets. He offered to help us and bring us to the “only” official tourist office run by the government in Delhi. First, we wanted to go to the hostel to take a shower so we exchanged numbers because he asked for it.
Back outside he was already waiting for us, he stopped a tuk-tuk and got in with us which was very awkward at that moment. We told the tuk-tuk driver to go to the railway station first but they both told it’s not tourist-friendly it’s better to go to the office, we just went with it.
Once arrived in the office we saw a couple of other tourists, so we thought we were in the right place. Here we asked if we could buy train tickets and explained to them which cities we want to visit in India. Again they offered us a package for 25 days that includes:
- Private driver
- Accommodations and breakfast
- Train tickets (Agra- Varanasi/ Varanasi – Mumbai)
- Entree ticket Taj Mahal
- Tiger Safari in Ranthambore National Park
- Boatride in Varanasi and Kerala
- Flight (Kochi – Delhi)
This package didn’t seem bad because we only did research on the places we wanted to visit but didn’t book accommodation or transport for our trip. They gave us a lot of information, showed us the hotels in which we were going to stay, showed us pictures from other people who had chosen this package, showed us their “certificate” of the government, talked about how they work together with ‘Anders Reizen’ (A travel organization that is famous in Belgium).
We could choose out of a low price package (900 euro per person), the basic package (1200 per person) or luxury package (2000 euro per person). We decided to go for the basic package. We asked to put everything on paper, which they did and told us everything will be ready by the next day. For the rest of that day, we could use a driver from their office to see how it works.
The next day everything was ready in the office. We checked all the documents and hotels with them, they gave us vouchers for our accommodations and attractions. We signed the documents and we paid. Right after we paid Michael noticed someone walking behind us hiding his face with a newspaper, rushing to get out the office. Something felt wrong! We knew that guy from somewhere but couldn’t recognize him directly, we rushed outside to get a closer look! Guess who it was? The same tuk-tuk driver and the “friendly guy” who brought us to this office. They completely ignored us! At that moment everything made sense and we realized in what kind of a stupid game we fell into. We felt stupid, angry, emotional and cheated on!
We just took some time to calm down and waited until our sim cards were activated. After they were activated we Googled here and there and found out that this office is one of the plenty of scam offices in Delhi. The certificates they showed us were false, the package that they sold to us was overpriced. The 2 guys that brought us to this office got paid by the office because we bought the package.
We went back inside very upset and made them clear that they are all liars! But sadly there was nothing else left to do since we paid for the package.
The only thing we wanted to do was leave Delhi and this bad experience behind us!
Eventually, there wasn’t any danger in Paharganj or Delhi. All that happened there was just a bad dream, and a new lesson learned! We continued our trip and had a magical time! During our trip in India we saw a lot more scams going on but we didn’t fell for those because of this experience. We will tell you more about these in another blog post.
We recommend you to buy a sim card once you arrive at the airport and don’t go outside till it’s activated, just to double-check something you have been told. For example, when you get in a situation like this. You can always ask the police and security guards for help too. BE CAREFUL, when someone approaches you and offers help. There are good people, and there are also bad people. We learned from our experience that you have to be more careful with people that approach you and speak fluently English.
In case you ever visit Delhi, here the address of the official tourist office:
The Government of India Tourist Office 88, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110 001
Have you ever been in a situation like this? Let us know in the comments below.