For tourists, India a ‘chaos’ they love to explore

Tourists enjoy their day out at Red Fort in New Delhi.

Tourists enjoy their day out at Red Fort in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Most visitors don't buy the stereotypes about the country, but they do remain wary of touts and strangers

With the rising number of travel vloggers visiting India, relaying “10 things that blew their minds”, another 10 that they “hated” and everything in between, tourists visiting the country now have a lot more information to access before starting on their journey. And while no two people have the same experience, for those visiting Delhi, especially for the first time, a cultural shock is almost inevitable.

“It’s Chaotic,” exclaimed Fie, from Berlin, who is on her first trip to India, along with a group of friends.

“In Europe there are rules. Things are ordered. Here, people do whatever they want. You would never see a car moving in the wrong direction or people crossing the street like this there,” she said. Ani from Albania, who has been in the country only for a week, said: “I feel like I have been travelling for a year and have seen 20 cities. There’s so much here, it’s like everything is rolled up into one.”

For a Caucasian in India, getting stared at on the streets is a given, but now strangers walking up to them to take selfies is also a regular affair. Boris, also from Berlin, said that he gets approached by at least two people everyday who want to click a selfie with him. “But it’s more like they are curious, not aggressive,” he added.

Commenting on the selfie requests, Losha from St. Petersburg said: “It’s funny, it’s not like they even want to have a conversation. They just take a picture and leave.”

Safety concerns

Several tourists said they had been warned about safety issues, women getting raped and tourists being scammed, before visiting the country

But as Ani put it, “There are similar stereotypes about my country too, but I don’t think they are true. It has more to do with being careful and depends on the situation.”

However, scams are a problem, said drivers of tourist cabs parked on Janpath Road, where several luxury hotels are located. “You won’t believe the amount of fraud that takes place on this road,” said Sukhbir, a cab driver. “They have a system where the touts tie up with auto drivers. They tell them [tourists] that there are riots happening up ahead and it’s not safe to travel there. They then trick people into going to hotels and shops they are associated with.”

He also claimed that the police are hand in glove with the touts. “They (touts) have gone underground now because of some recent incident but they’ll be back soon,” he said. “It kills our business, but more than that it brings the country a bad name,” he added.

Fake tours

Justyana from Poland said things like being taken on a fake tour or hotels not turning out to be what they promise is common, but she's cautious enough not to give out personal information.

“They are always asking for your details about where you are staying and things like that and trying to tell you that they will take you to a better place.”

Touts can be persistent, said Antti from Finland.

“They have an odd way of trying to sell things to you. They don’t get to the point immediately. They will try to engage you in a conversation, get information and then after a while tell you ‘oh you should come to my friend’s hotel or my brother’s store’. In Jaipur we encountered one guy who did this and kept walking with us for the longest time even after we said no,” he said.

Most people are not too bothered by street vendors.

“We just ignore them and keep walking. But it’s hard to say no to kids,” said Justyana.

“But even with these things, like charging extra for a rickshaw ride, or hotel or some street items, it’s not so expensive and it’s not such a big deal,” she added.

Learning experience

The more time spent travelling, however, helps you navigate the country better. For instance, Yaov Ben Zaken, an Israeli tour guide who’s been bringing tourists to the country for several years now, is friends with the street merchants selling cheap necklaces and wallets near the art and craft emporiums on Janpath Road.

“These people aren’t really scamming anyone. They’re just trying to make a little money to feed their children and live their lives,” he said. Zaken has travelled the world and his constant advice to tourists is to not be judgmental “...About the smell, the clothes, the poverty. Visit a new place, experience its culture, you will learn something.”

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 6:20:35 PM |

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