Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur.
Have you even been to India if you didn’t get scammed? Well, yes, BUT a lot of us do get scammed and unfortunately that was me and Noel.
A popular scam in Delhi is arriving at the airport, getting into a taxi and then the taxi driver “ringing” your accommodation and saying it’s not open. They then take you somewhere where they will sell you a room and overcharge you. This accommodation they provide will be horrible and you most likely won’t feel as safe.
Fortunately for us, our hostel told us all of this before arriving and said to specifically get Meru Cabs, even though they may charge a bit more, it’s more reliable. We got into our taxi, gave the number of our hostel to the taxi driver, he rang and told them we were on our way.
So, we managed to skip this scam and we thought we were done. Oh, how naïve we were.
You need to know that in India, unless you book your trains months in advance, and I mean months, it will be pretty hard to get one, buses/flights are probably your best option. Unless you rent a motorbike like a few people I met or buy a tuk tuk like these 3 Canadian guys we got to know.
This being said, we thought we would try and book some trains as we had no way of getting from Delhi to Agra or Agra to Jaipur, but we did have a flight booked from Jaipur to Mumbai so we were kind of on a schedule.
Our hostel, Madpackers – Delhi, told us that if on the official website there were no trains, we could go to the train station in New Delhi and there they have a foreign office where they reserve tickets for travellers. We thought, ok amazing, we will just go and do that! Little did we know what we were heading into.
We arrived at the train station and looked everywhere for the foreign office and as we were walking up and down the station, a “ticket officer” stopped me. I say “ticket officer” because at the time we didn’t realise he wasn’t one. He stops us and seems friendly and even tries to help us. He walks us down the station and then points up to some stairs where there was scaffolding and it had been closed off. He then proceeded to tell us that the foreign office was no longer in the station and we had to go to the ministry of tourism, he even showed us where on google maps. Something to be aware of is that nearly every single company sign has government official on it, which we didn’t notice until after we lost £160 each - this became a running joke of ours in India.
This so called ticket officer tells us to go outside and get a tuk tuk to the ministry of tourism, so we went outside and got a tuk tuk. We told him, Ministry of Tourism and showed him on the map but he waved his hand like “don’t worry, I know where”. And we were off on our first tuk tuk ride.
We arrived at the alleyway which was just as dirty as the rest of Delhi, went into this office and started talking to the guy behind the desk. We thought he was so friendly, he spoke about how he had lived in Islington, London for many years and started looking for trains for us. He told us that there weren’t any available and then started selling us a tour. I know what you’re thinking, if someone starts selling you a tour you’re clearly not in an official government office, we didn’t click. He started saying how he could give us a car and a driver that would take us through the Golden Triangle and show us all there is to see with accommodation included. He originally wanted around £300 each and we refused and said we could book our own accommodation. He dropped the price to £160 each. Which at the time we didn’t think was bad for someone to drive us comfortably from Delhi to Agra, show us the Taj Mahal and other areas and then drive us to Jaipur and have a tour of Jaipur as well and then take us to the airport. A total of a week’s transport. We accepted, paid by card and were told we can cancel for free within 24 hour. We were meant to leave the day after purchasing said tour and he gave us a free tour of Delhi for the next day. After having a nightmare of a day and a real culture shock into the life of India, we went to a shopping centre to feel better, I know, very western of us, but hey. I ended up buying a dress that would mark my time in Asia.
We started to head back on the metro line, which is surprisingly good and so clean compared to the rest of Delhi, when Noel started having second thoughts. She started saying she had a funny feeling about it all and googled the place we went to. Obviously, this should have been done when we were at the office before purchasing anything but we didn’t think of it. The amount of reviews that came up saying it was all lies, they were scammed out of money, etc. I told Noel, they can’t surely be all in on it. From the “ticket officer” at the station, and the tuk tuk driver to the guys at the “ministry of tourism”. That’s when Noel remembered the ticket officer wasn’t wearing a uniform. We emailed the “ministry of tourism” saying we would like to cancel and as this is still the same day we bought it we should receive all of our money back. The office was clearly closed and we received no information back so the next morning we went in person, demanded our money back and that’s when the guy started getting hostile with us. It took us forever and after him shouting at us we managed to go to the bank with someone from the office. The guy said they didn’t need our bank details to return the money, which we were adamant that they did. They kept telling us we were westerners and in India it is handled differently. When at the bank, the worker explained to us that our money should be back in our bank accounts within 72 hours, when the “ministry of tourism” told us 2 weeks. We settled with only getting half our money back and left things.
We had some hope but after a few days we knew we were never seeing that money ever again, and sure enough, 6 months later, we still haven’t been paid back.
We ended up finding out about an app Redbus which we used to get a bus to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. NOTE- the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays, which was the day we intended to go, so we had to spend one more night in Agra.
We also were told about a few more apps for trains RailYatri and Ixigo. We managed to book a couple of trains through these apps and made our way through India with ease. Everything is so much better doing it yourself.
All in all we did not have the best start in India, but I soon came to realise months after leaving, that India was one of my favourite countries.