How we were (not) robbed in India

It’s not easy to talk about failures. Although we realized that if it comes to travelling we have to talk about negative sides too because it will help to warn others. On the second day of our stay in India we had problems with professional swindlers and we only just managed to avoid losing money we had for our trip. Listen how all this happened…

We arrived to Delhi on Thursday and on the next day in the morning we were going by train to Agra. We had booked accommodation there on airbnb. Our host Rita was experienced enough with hosting foreign tourists that she had warned us what situations we should avoid to arrive safe. From her stories we learned that we should be extremely careful on the railway station in Delhi. She said it’s full of swindlers who tell tourists for example that their train was cancelled and they offer help. Help that consists in paying for private taxi 15 000 rupees (around 220$) while the train ticket costs 600 rupees (9-10 $).

We knew that in India scamming tourists is a serious problem but these kinds of ideas didn’t even come to our minds.

We were glad we heard about it before so we could be ready for anything. So we went to the railway station to take the train to Agra early in the morning. Our good friend that lives in Delhi had helped us to buy the tickets online so we had them printed with us. It took us some time to pass the luggage control and get to the right platform. It took us even more time to find the compartment. Each one had a list of passengers on the door and we needed to find ours with seat numbers.

While we were looking for the right compartment (no, they are not marked properly) a man approached us. He asked if we needed help and looked at our tickets. He waved an ID badge in front of our faces that was supposed to confirm that he was working on the station and then he explained that our tickets were not valid for that train and we had had to exchange it in a ticket office instead of bringing them printed. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? We thought so this way but then the man started telling us about high fines for passengers travelling without train tickets so we decided to check it.

Of course we called the friend that had bought us the tickets. Unfortunately he didn’t answer. We went to the ticket office. The man obviously followed us. He asked if we spoke Hindi and Mohamed said we didn’t. That was the moment when I felt that something was really wrong. ‘The nice guy’ talked quickly to the woman working in the ticket office and told us she didn’t speak English. After that he explained that the next train to Agra leaves in 2 hours from a different railway station but he can help us to get there. He took us to the taxi stop, negotiated (sic!) the price with the driver (I can bet he had bargaining planned with the driver before) and left us in the tuk tuk. The driver was about to move but the situation seemed unbelievable to me so I ordered him to wait.

I told Mohamed that something was wrong and we should call our friend again and ask. It wasn’t possible that he had bought us wrong tickets. Unfortunately he didn’t answer again. We decided to call our host in Agra because the situation started to look like the one of stories she told us about in her email. When we were dialing the number, Adi called us back. We quickly explained what was going on and he confirmed that someone was trying to scam us. We jumped out of the tuk tuk (the face expression of the driver and the swindler were priceless 😉 ) and we ran to the platform because the train was leaving in 5 minutes. We found our compartment and seats and we started our journey.

Until now I can’t understand how we could believe that guy and let him tell us such nonsense. Much less we were warned about this kind of situations. When we were going to Agra we started analyzing step by step what happened at the railway station. The man saw us walking around and looking for the right platform. Obviously he thought we were there for the first time and it would be easy to scam us. He showed us a fake document and checked if we knew Hindi in case we wanted to understand what was he talking about to other ‘employees’ at the station. He almost managed to take us in. The man was so convincing that Mohamed who is always distrustful of strangers, believed him more than me. Good that one the very last moment we used some common sense and the whole story ended up well 🙂

After we arrived to Agra we told our hosts about everything. It turned out that many of their guests had similar adventures. Someone told them that their train had been cancelled or delayed for few hour. They offered to help with organizing a new transport (like the private taxi mentioned at the beginning) or buying a ticket for a different train which will be of course significantly higher than normally because of the percentage taken by the swindler.

Dear travelers going to India. Trains in India are never cancelled. Yes, there are long delays but in this case there is always information about it on the platform. It a random person tells you about it, ignore it. When they are trying to tell you that your ticket is not valid or there is any other catastrophe happening that wouldn’t allow you to travel, ignore it too. Don’t believe these stories and be careful!

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This view made up all problems for us 🙂

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