How not to get scammed
1. Take your guidebook with you everywhere
Your guidebook will be indispensable when you need to confirm whether someone is telling you the truth (i.e. where is the train ticket office / is my visa valid / is it a reasonable price)
2. Do your research
Read about your destination whether it is a different city or just a tourist attraction, this should make you are aware of any scams that may be operating in that area
3. Trust your gut instinct
If something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t i.e. handing over wads of cash all at once is probably not right.
4. Take time to think about it
Do not rush into a decision if it involves parting with a large amount of cash, even if you think you need to decide in a hurry, (i.e. your trip is only for a short period / you are being pressurised in order to secure the deal) it will pay off in the long run if you sleep on it.
5. Pay by visa debit or credit card
If you decide to make any large purchase, do so by credit or debit card. If paying by credit card or visa debit card then this will offer you a large amount of protection from fraud and also for goods and services that are not delivered. For example, under the visa charge back service you can raise a dispute on any card transaction that has debited your account and they will investigate it. You should also contact your bank to notify them of the problem and to confirm whether they can stop a transaction.
On our very last day in Delhi we went to the New Delhi train station in order to make enquiries and to purchase train tickets for our next couple of train trips. When we got to the train station and were just about to pass through security at the front gate we were told by an official appearing member of the train station staff that in order to buy tickets we needed to go to the ticket office at Connaught Circus. He then directed us into an auto rickshaw and told the driver to take us to the official government ticket booking office. We arrived at the office and the sign above the shop said something along the lines of “the official government railway enquiry and reservation office”.
We sat down with a friendly chap who enquired on his computer system whether our trains where available and he then showed us the screen in order to confirm that no seats were available. He also told us that there were no buses to where we wanted to go. He then proceeded to ask to see our itinerary and noticed we were going into Nepal for 2 weeks and then back into India. He then looked at our Indian Visa’s and told us very firmly that these would not be valid due to the two month rule (if you leave India you normally cannot return within two months).
He then explained that the only real option we had was to hire a private car and driver and have him drive us around the Rajasthan area.
He gave us a price of £500 per person for the car and driver, trains from Agra to Darjeeling and also hotels for a 23 day trip. He also gave us a price without the hotels of £330 per person.
As we did not have a guidebook with us we could not confirm whether what the tour company was saying was true about our visa’s not being valid, and also about there being no buses. We were also in a panic due to what he told us about our visa’s and also because we had a train leaving to Jaisalmer, our next destination, in two hours.
We decided to book the trip without hotels as we were made to believe the only option we had was to hire a private car and driver if we wanted to visit our desired destinations. We paid part cash and part card.
Why was it a scam?
1. We read in the lonely planet guidebook afterwards that there IS a ticket office in New Delhi Station and not to believe anyone (including official’s) who tell you otherwise
2. We now know that are visas are valid for Nepal, as they are double entry visa’s with an endorsement on them that states “re-entry from Nepal”, therefore the usual two month rule does not apply
3. Our driver insisted on taking us to overpriced restaurants along the journey where he would receive a commission if we made a purchase
4. Our driver tried to insist on taking us to his choice of hotel where he gets a commission and when we insisted he take us to our choice of hotel he simply refused and just dumped us in the city and let us find our own way
5. We were told that we should collect our train tickets from the Agra office and not given them at the time of booking
6. We were put under a lot of pressure to book and were charged more than the normal rate in India for the trip we took
How to resolve the problem
1. Contact the tour company
As soon as you realise there is a problem and tell them you are not happy , what you want them to do about it and what action you will take if they do not resolve the problem i.e. visa chargeback or tourist police/fraud department
2. Do not simply stay on the tour if you are not happy
It is your holiday and you should be happy
3. Contact your bank and see if they can stop the transaction
This is unlikely if it has already been processed, however you will be able to use the visa chargeback service whereby a dispute is raised and visa may be able to get the money back from the seller
4. Contact the fraud department of the tourist office
Tell them your story and see if there is anything they can do to help. The email address for the India Tourism Office is firstname.lastname@example.org you will need to tell them to pass the details on to their fraud department
We cancelled our trip on day 2 of 23 and the tour company agreed to give us most of our money back (minus a deduction for the two days of the trip we had already taken). Result.