Dealing with scams in India and How to Get Out of ’em

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tourist scams india, tourist agency scams india

How do you get out of Indian tour agencies scams?

Namaste, you’ve been ripped off!

“If you gave saddhu (Indian holy man) just 1/10 of what you’re paying on your ‘tour’, the saddhu and his entire family would pray for you for the rest of his life! – Papu Singh

Indians have a humorous way of putting things.

Under the desert moon and with the Jaisalmer city walls as our backdrop, we got to know the Mali brothers (of Shahi Palace) better. The drinks were free and the laughter was flowing. But when the brothers had heard the predicament I was in with the tour, things turned towards a down note. Papu’s calculating mind raced ahead. $500 each? For a tour for one and a half weeks with only one driver? Were we western tourists really all that naive?

They explained how much things really cost in India and how much the company was profiting from us, by scraping quality.

  • Squeezing three people into a room?
  • Four people stuffed into one tiny Tata car?
  • …And every shop, hotel and rest-station was an agent’s and driver’s commission.
  • Worse, it was a tour itinerary we had already planned and the one big change to it was the driver.

When the Papu put it like that, I started to feel like a ridiculous western moron.

My question to them: Should we trust our driver?

They didn’t want to tell me the answer. Basically, the answer was yes and no.  As friendly as Kul was, he’d still be working for an unsavory company, of which he was getting kickbacks from as well. The Mali brothers encouraged me to take action when I got back to Delhi and get off the tour if I didn’t like it.

I knew we had stepped into a scam, but how much, I had no idea. This was my first time to India and it was becoming a mess. It wasn’t the way I wanted to experience India.  I compromised my trip out of friendship. But each day, I was finding the compromise more annoying and frustrating.

Regina and I relayed the news to Margaret and Dan. They agreed to fight to get our money back and to get off the tour.  We all made phone calls to our credit card companies to see what could be done. Perhaps we had a chance… Maybe I could change this trip into the one I’d always dreamed of.  If I just trusted myself.

 

To make a long story short,…

 

How I became a solo traveler in India

Twenty minutes before we meeting with the tour agency folk in Delhi and three hours before our flight to Nepal, we were sitting in Connaught Place, waiting for the day to begin. The air was a thin crisp gray, a flock of birds were rummaging the sidewalks, a few taxis were out on the road. Moments were ticking away and we (my companions and I) needed to figure out how to face the tourist agency that had scammed us.

One of them went pink with panic claiming we all signed a contract!

(Well, not completely true. I didn’t sign any contract for our tour. Dan signed the contract, while the rest of us looked on. As the token male, he was the most eager to jump aboard a tour and assume the lead.)

And then the story changed. My friends intimated that I should pull together with them to make a united stand.

… For an upgraded tour!

Are you fucking kidding?  More touristy shit? No way.

This was my first trip to India, a country I was excited to see and experience it. I wanted to ride on Indian trains more,  discover local finds vs visit tourist souvenir commission shops. It was never my intention to see India from an ass-pinched seat in a tiny Tata car, with my nose pressed against the window. Or blow through India by hitting bullet points on a checklist. I wanted freedom to explore India, I wanted to go more local and I wasn’t liking that our driver was starting to get temperamental and moody when we went against his ‘suggestions’.

No upgraded tour for me.

I wanted off and now.

So then my friends laid it flat out to me : They were fine with staying on the tour. If I wanted to get a refund for myself, then we’d part ways and I’d have to negotiate that on my own.

Like that, a Solo Traveler was born!

india tour agency scams

Want to know how to spot an scam India tour agency ? Notice the fake Govt Tourism Dept sign?

 What does a scam tour agency look like?

Tip: If you’re looking for the official India tourism office (it would probably look a little more well-kept). Asking a rickshaw driver to take you to the official tourism office will be shifty. You should have a written address and enforce that you want to go there.

Ten minutes into my friends’ meeting with the tour agent, …

The tour agent tossed in a couple more  stops on the itinerary to dim the flames. My friends caved in without a fight. Upgraded tour? Not quite. A couple of extra sights, maybe a nicer hotel at one of the locations. Nothing much had changed and the changes didn’t reconcile how much was already paid. With Dan’s name and credit card on the line, they’d take whatever they could get, rather than risk upsetting the scam system.

 

How I got off a scam tour and got my money back

I was the agent’s more difficult case. He was really angry with me, because I wanted off and I refused to back down.

Tour Termination.  A refund for the rest of my unused trip.

No negotiation.

Living in New York City, you learn to fight until you get your way. To a degree you need to know how far you can stretch a bluff. It was only me now.

I’d been left coldly. My friends had left to the airport without waiting for me. I was left alone in the scam tour office, with two Indian men and a scam to get of.  I was girl with a bit of street smarts but still naïve and scared.  Truthfully, beneath my bold mask, I was very, very nervous. I knew my chances were slim, but now I was also pissed by the way my friends had left me in the office alone. Something like this could some day be forgiven, but never forgotten.

No, I would stand the fight and I would win.

I ruined my trip with a $500 knife, I wasn’t about to cave in to an upgrade it for a machette.

.

What were the challenges of dealing with a  scam like this?

To a degree, you have to how to play your cards and bluff confidence, where you don’t have it. I don’t play poker and I’m not good at lying, so I didn’t know if I pull off a bluff. I would find out.

This was the  wall to hurdle:

  • The tour operator didn’t need to refund me any money.
  • The moment my credit card slid through, my balls were in a vice grip, same as my friends.
  • I could go to the police (probably corrupt) and risk them doing either, nothing or turn and try to extort money from me.
  • Take the matters up with our embassy (a very long route).
  • I’m a female in a shady scam office occupied by only men.

Thus, I needed everything to be resolved here and now or kiss my money ‘goodbye’.

 

How I got my money back:

  •  I was non-emotional and firm. 
    I spoke with controlled calm and firm stubbornness.  I’m a female, so obviously, the tour operator threw his anger around to intimidate me. To raise my anger would only fuel a heated fire, which could produce rage.  I may have quaked in my shoes, but I didn’t show it .
  •  I didn’t demand or fight or argue. I commanded.
    To be demanding is to fight. To command  is to expect due justice.
  •   I stood my ground and kept my wits about me
  •  I bullshitted confidence
  •   I gave the agent only one solution for appeasing me.
    I want off the tour and half refunded”….” I want off the tour and half refunded.” … “I want off the tour and half refunded.” ….
    I sprinkled the phrase throughout the agent’s attempt to argue with me or sell me an excuse. His voice raised. Each time, I brought him back to his only solution to dealing with me. “I want off the tour and half refunded. “
  •   I dealt with the agent directly and on my own.
    Had my friends not left me and were in the room,  the agent might have been more stubborn about giving me money back, for fear the others would’ve demanded it too. Being left to fend on my own was a secret blessing. I was still pissed though. Being in that office alone with two men could’ve been dangerous.

    Read Tips for Dealing with Scams, Beggars, Touts

  • Tips for Dealing with Travel Scams

Obviously, this won’t work in all cases of scams. But it worked for me.

In the end, the agent had no choice but refund me a chunk of my money. Know that even if the law is corrupt, Indians probably don’t want to deal with them either. The agent was so heated, he practically threw my money at me. I got close to half of my money back. The chunk he returned was more than what Margaret and Dan bargained for or thought I’d be able to get.

I left the office with freedom at my heels, ruppees smarter and loads lighter!

Now came the next adventure. Getting to the airport to catch my flight to Nepal … and doing so on my own.

 

<<  Rajasthan: Jaisalmer, deserts and camel safaris
Namaste! Kathmandu, Nepal! >>

 

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5 Comments. Leave new

If you are stuck in some Indian Tourism Scam read this post and get OUT
we are very thankful for this blog post

I am currently in Kashmir half way through a very expensive tourism scam
classic story of first time to India fly into Delhi and within 24 hours we were handing over 222,600 INR to a tourism agency to arrange our travels
this is NOT how we intended to travel India – with a driver and SHIT accommodation for over $150 a day CRAZY

we thought it was done over untill I read this blog 2 days ago and realized NO BLOODY way
we were roughly half way through – I want off the tour and half our money refunded – and that was our mantra today
thankyou for the words of inspiration and guidelines to dealing with negotiations in this ruthless industry

my family and I felt like our trip was completely stolen from us – beyond repair – avoid any travel agent in India – do it yourself – dont be fooled by random meetings with people on the street who are trying to help you – it is all FAKE and business to them – its honestly black hearted shit – I cant believe they have taken SOOOOO much money off us $4,500 2 weeks of driver and a month of accomodation in really shit horrible hotels – we are traveling with a young baby – we are vulnerable and they took advantage of this – its really horrible to report and embarrassing but we got so scammed

dont trust anyone especially this man
Dheeraj Lel who works for Incredible India or India Tourism
The office is India Tourism, 2AB Regal Building, Near Malik Sweet, Connaught Place New Delhi – 110001
Dheeraj Lel +91, 9810959347 is his number is anyone wants to harass him for his disgrace to humanity

They are not government and even if there was a government tourism department in India DONT TRUST THEM its all corrupt

its been such a headache every step of the way with this fraudulent office – they tell you all kinds of lies – Buses dont run due to monsoon, you cant do that this time of year but DONT TRUST ANYONE just do things one step at a time, pay little by little, people are lies and cheats easily in Delhi, they will not think twice if you are willing to hand over your money.

the embassy will help
bank will help
insurance company may help

but by then you have already lost your holiday to endless anxiety and shame, constantly fooling yourself that you might of spent that much anyway

you wouldn’t!!

and if you spent half as much you would of traveled 1st class in luxury, 5 star and not had some dickhead driver trying to spoil your trip

Good luck fellow travelers

avoid Delhi its a hole anyway fly out asap

Reply

    Hi Jasmine! I’m sorry I only saw your comment now. I hope you were able to salvage your trip and set things right for your family in the end. Indians know Delhi as a scam city- there are many good aspects to it, but you need to be on your toes regarding scam tours. Or so I learned.

    The scams happen so quickly, and at the time it all seems like a good idea to be sold an upgraded version of your DIY… You’re not alone is what i’m saying-scams happen to the best of us and even that is part of the adventure in the end. I hope your family recovered and were able to enjoy some of India!

    Reply

Hi,
I’m in a sticky situation. I accidentally booked one of these damn tours and have felt unsafe ever since. The driver appointed to me insisted I drink beer one night before asking me to pay him 50% of the tip 2 nights before his services were due to end. Not to mention he had his friend in the back seat helping play tag team. Then the hotels they book have been trying to con me out of so much money. I want to cancel and get refunded but I’m not sure what to due. I am a week into my trip and have booked for about a month and a half.

What do you think?
By the way I am a solo male traveler and have been to many 3rd world countries and have never felt this unsafe.

Reply
    Avatar
    Christine Kaaloa
    January 20, 2016 8:41 am

    @Yoni: Your gut is screaming at you right now to GET OFF THE TOUR! NONE of what you said, should you be experiencing. It’s unprofessional. However,its hard to say if it’s just your driver that’s playing you or the entire outfit. I’d start making backup plans of finding an alternate way to get around. etc… on your own- hotel & transportation. Then call in and say you want to cancel and refund. With the driver and agency, you have to be firm. You will probably have to ruin your trip some and go into the office in person, immediately. You won’t get a full refund, but it’s better than being extorted further.Ruining some of your trip is better than ruining the entireity. If you charged it on credit card, call your company and put a freeze on payment until you can work it out. Ask locals what’s advisable in your situation also– they know the Indian way. Good luck & hope some of that helps!

    Reply

I don’t usually sign up for tours, but this is a good warning just the same. My backpacking trip to India is nearing and I really need to read A LOT of blog posts now about traveling there!

Reply

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