18 April 2008

Welcome to India


India was different than any other holiday I have ever been on. The first three days we were there, I left the hotel actually looking forward to coming back in the evening. Until you get used to it, it can be quite stressful because everywhere you look, there is poverty. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our introduction to the Indian way came months earlier when we were applying for visas. Hundreds of people were at the consulate and when it got too crowded, they would take the number machine down. Of course, this didn't stop anyone from coming in, but did heighten the confusion. Behind the counter, there were bundles of papers everywhere--it made me very apprehensive to see it, especially when it was my turn to hand my application--and passport--over.

This continued upon arrival at the airport in Delhi. There were barriers set up to form a queue, but it didn't do much good. Heather and I spread out to block others from passing us in line. Once we got through that, it was time to get a cab, and that is when the real trouble began.

We told the driver where our hotel was and he took off. On the way, he asked us what our travel plans were, and we told him we wanted to go to Agra and Jaipur. He asked if we had that travel booked; we said no. Then he said that we needed to book that soon because travel options book quickly and he would be happy to take us to an agent. We asked if it was a government agent--that's what you are supposed to use, and what the driver was--and he said yes. So we agreed.

At the agency, we were sold a three day package with a private driver from Delhi to Jaipur to Agra and back to Delhi. We wanted to take the train but were told that there were no seats available. The package also included hotel stops along the way. Heather again asked if he was a government agent and we were shown a certification. So we paid.

When we finally arrived at our hotel, we were approached by another agent, Ahmed, who was based out of the hotel and associated with RBS Tour & Travel. He asked if we had any travel needs and we told him we were all set. He asked what we had booked and how much we were paid. When we told him, he said we had been cheated. Let the panic begin.

First, he told us that there are always seats available on the train. And he told us that we were charged too much for the hotels. We called the agent and told him we wanted our money back. He declined. We said we would see him in the morning.

In the morning, we told him that we needed our money back or we would go to the American embassy. He told us we could go. When we got up and walked outside, he said he could give us the money back minus a handling fee. How much? Twenty-five percent. Take us to the embassy, please.

Unfortunately, they didn't do much there other than tell us to be more careful.

Back at the hotel, we booked travel with Ahmed and planned on disputing the charge to the other agent. Ahmed booked hotels and travel for us, including our preferred train rides. He even set us up with a great driver for the day named Kamal. If you are ever traveling to Delhi, give Ahmed a call--he will take care of you. I don't know how many times he described a hotel as 'small, neat and clean'--he will get you what you want, not what makes him the most money.

So after a bit of a mishap, we finally got the trip we wanted. Lesson learned.




Anonymous said...


I am definitely jealous of your trip. I hope to go to India one day. Have you seen "The Darjeeling Limited" yet?


Chris said...

Jealous? Just wait until I actually post the good stuff.

Darjeeling Limited was showing on a flight (think it was out trip to Hawaii last November), but I jumped in on it halfway through and never caught on. Maybe I'll have to try it again form the beginning.