So…. We have arrived in India. It was a bit of a shock, landing in a giant cloud of smog. It is literally so thick that you can taste it – it makes me feel very bad for Mother Earth. I have never seen anything like it – we arrived at midnight and when you look around it looks like you are in a dense fog but it’s not fog…. indescribable and utterly horrifying really.
After customs we noticed large crowds around the money exchange booths. It is due to the President of India suddenly declaring all 500 and 1000 rupee notes invalid due to corruption so there has been a run on all banks to exchange the old notes. There have been long lines at all banks and ATM’s across the country and when I say long I mean hours long. So we stood in line for 1 hour (the guy behind me told me it was way worse outside of the hotel) and waited to exchange $100 (there is $100 limit per passport). WOW I thought this is going to be interesting.
Once outside we followed the instructions and got a ‘licensed’ taxi to bring us to our hotel. Our taxi driver was well dressed and seemed really nice (my mistake since I later learned that he was probably well dressed because he screws over tourists and gets paid commissions by hotels for it…) It was really late by now and when got close to our hotel he pulled over and spoke to 2 guys (his accomplices) who said there were police barricades up and we couldn’t get to our hotel. They said everything was sold out in Delhi due to a large festival… OK panic is starting to set in. Our ‘nice’ driver says he will take us to a tourist office – while we are driving there I see the street our hotel is on and tell him so – he insists that we cannot go down the road and brings us to the ‘tourist office’ to meet accomplice #3. This guy ‘calls’ our hotel and passes me the phone – the person on the other end says he is from our hotel and that booking.com should have told us that our reservation has been cancelled and confirms that everything is sold out in Delhi. He then calls another hotel that also says they are fully booked due to the festival and so is all of Delhi. This is a very elaborate scheme, right? Crazy!!
OK by now we are really frustrated – it’s 1:30am in Delhi and we don’t know where to go…. had we had internet on our phone we could have checked things out but we didn’t so we trusted blindly. The driver brought us to his hotel of choice which was not great and cost $60 (which should have been a gorgeous boutique hotel but really was a shithole) really noisy, no sheets and all the staff seemed to want to rip us off. When we got to our room we knew that we had been scammed but at that point we were way to tired to deal with it. In the morning we had breakfast at the hotel and talked to 2 german girls who had had the same scam pulled on them – they were however blissfully unaware of the scam until we told them… Needless to say, we checked out (and saw 2 more unhappy tourists who had been scammed) and made our way over to our real hotel the next morning and relaxed with some A/C and American TV as we chilled some beers on the A/C (you gotta do what you gotta do, right?!)
Apparently this is a frequent scam and we fell for it, hook, line and sinker. We are wiser for it now though and are happy that we only lost $60 in the deal …. Looking back – we should have known better but they got us when we were tired and a gullible. But, after all it’s not an adventure until things go wrong, right?
We have our train booked (and paid for) to go to Varanasi and the hotel taxi will pick us up so we won’t be scammed again. We have grown wiser and are much less trusting now … we are getting the hang of the madness of India.
So despite all that we are still enjoying the adventure and are happy to have landed back on our feet.