Delhi was not kind to me and Delhi scams can be harsh to handle. Luckily I had already been in India a month before I came here or I would have thought India was a drag. So what happened in Delhi?
1. I got Dengue Fever
2. Couchsurfed at a creep’s place
3. Almost got scammed while the police did nothing
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
Many travelers in India have had negative experiences in both Delhi and Bombay. After re-visiting Bombay many times with friends that were born and raised there, I see a whole new fun side of the city. Delhi could have been the same way, but I’m not looking forward to going back because my experience was so negative.
As a backpacker, I would advise either wandering Delhi with a friend, or meeting a female couchsurfer to show you around and help you avoid popular Indian scams.
I go by my policy of India, that if you keep and open mind and heart, India will show you its magic and beauty. But, if you let the negatives of India bring you down, India will stomp on you until you book an early flight home or decide not to leave your hotel room.
Sadly, I let the negatives bring me down in Delhi; I was punished by seeing none of its charm!
I was meeting a French girl, Chloe, in Delhi. We met on the Couchsurfing page as we were both looking for someone to go to the mountains with. I’d been solo for four weeks and was hoping for a travel buddy. The host she got for us said last-minute he only had room for one, so she found me another guy on Couchsurfing as I was moving around and had no internet. Traveling solo in India is safe for females if you’re smart about it, but I was happy to have a friend in the empty mountains off-season.
Unbeknownst to me, there was an epidemic of Dengue fever in Delhi while I was there. I got bit 4 times on the metro and that was it- I was delirious from the fever. Damn you Delhi mosquitos! If you haven’t read about what having dengue is like, you should. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.
It also made me SO thankful that I had travelers insurance because I spent the next month in and out of hospitals and clinics. I use World Nomads Travel Insurance.
This is my second time using this Snooki GIF on my blog; someone slap me
The Couchsurfing Creep
I went to our public meeting place, which is one way to stay safe using couchsurfing, and my host was about an hour late. When he did show up, he asked me to pay for a cab to his place, and I said okay not thinking anything of it. I should have sensed something was off when he was trying to negotiate a cab down to hardly pennies while showing signs of anger that the drivers wouldn’t budge.
I was promised a separate room with a single bed. Seeing that he could hardly pay for cab should have made me perk up and think, “wait then how does he have a two bedroom home…?” Maybe I was just too sick to think.
We arrived at his place. One room with a hard floor or a yoga mat type piece I could have shared with him. I was annoyed by this but didn’t say much because my fever was getting worse. It was way too late at night to wander around looking for a hotel. Plus, on this trip I didn’t travel with 3g only calling, so had no way to search and Delhi is not the place to trust a driver to take you to a nice hotel.
He had no bottled water and told me it was “too dangerous” to go buy some. He offered me water from his fridge saying, “it was from a bottle that I poured in here.” I was pretty sure he was lying but drank it anyways as I felt like I had a furnace inside me.
In the middle of the night in his non-A/C room on the floor I started getting delirious. I didn’t know it was Dengue and thought I’d been given bad water. I tried to wait it out. I asked if I could turn the fan on, and he said “no, I don’t like it”. So I went through the fever in 105-degree heat while on the verge of tears.
Around 5 am I said that I felt like I was dying and needed to go to a doctor. He tried to hold me hand and rub my chest, as if that would calm me? This guy was a weakling so I wasn’t afraid of him, I just pushed him away like “ew you whack job”. I told him basically to fuck off, and I left to find Chloe at the metro early.
Chloe’s host said he’d make room for me so Chloe came with me to get my things and we were off to her host’s place. Thanks for that guy being awesome and dealing with me staying at his place while I was seriously sick. He was from somewhere in South America; I hate to make such a bold statement but don’t stay with an Indian man in Delhi on couchsurfing. There are some good guys, some of my best guy friends are from Delhi, but it’s not worth the risk.
Keep in mind when I was there the infamous “Delhi Gang-rape” hadn’t happened and there was no tales of women at risk in the papers until after that made international news. I didn’t have fear in Delhi because I didn’t know better.
I did some research seeing where other bloggers prefer to stay in Delhi and hostel chains that I’ve worked with in other areas of India who have opened rooms in Delhi to make a little list of options for you to consider. It’s the same list I’ll be referring to when I go back.
The Leela for 5 star heaven
The Delhi Train Ticket Scam | Delhi Scams
After Chloe and I met, and she probably assumed I was a bit pathetic because I just kept saying, “I feel like I’m dying”, we went to find a ticket out of Delhi, while stopping every twenty minutes for me to sit down as blackness came over my eyes and I fought the urge to pass out.
We walked for ages looking for the train station, neither of us having a map or internet. Once we found it, we saw that the tourist quota line was shut down for construction.
Tip: Now that I know how 3g works in India, there’s no reason not to get a SIM and pay the 100 rs for 1 gb data!
The trains were booked out, so the tourist quota I’ve used before helps travelers like her and I keep backpacking with separate reserved seats. They (men in uniform) told us to go to the new office, gave us the address, and a rickshaw driver knew just the place.
The place was his friends fake train ticket office.
We walked past a police officer into the fake office where about four guys were eating lunch and no computers were in sight.
One guy pulled a laptop out and said he’d book them for us. He told us there were no beds on the trains and we’d have to take a bus. He said there were no sleeper buses, just locals, and it was going to cost a figure that I knew from experience was at least 5x the normal rate.
Being that I had no sleep thanks to dengue, felt like I was going to vomit all day, had just been walking in the hot sun for a few hours, and had a guy try to rub me down… I lost it a little. A little… a lot… I called him on his scam, realizing it wasn’t even a ticket office, and the site he was on wasn’t the booking site.
Him and I yelled at each other, he waved his fist in the air calling me a bitch. It was messy. I went completely bonkers. Chloe told me to chill out and we would just leave.
I told the cop outside, “you know they are fake, how can you just stand here!?” I haven’t had this much aggression in me since my soccer days when girls would elbow!
I judge a cities safety on whether or not I can trust the police. In India the answer is no, you cannot trust them. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Delhi gang rape I mentioned above. It shook the nation. That year 1 in 700 people were actually prosecuted for rape. There is a culture here that puts the blame on women and this video by an Indian comedy group explains that a little bit more through sarcasm. Just read the comments by Indian men and you’ll see what women here put up with.
We finally found the real “new” office and got tickets out immediately just so I could get sick on the bus as it winded up the mountains. Turns out, other bloggers have written about getting scammed by this same exact thing and it’s one of the top India scams. Real shame I didn’t know about travel blogs a year ago!
Giving Delhi a Second Chance
Looking back, I hate that I got so mad at the man. I think it’s a perfect example of how you don’t know what a tourist has been through before an incident happens. India had been beating me up and I was ready to snap. Now that I’ve found peace with the sometimes-unfair rules here, India has become an easy place to live and travel in.
I was in such a bad mood that little things were upsetting me. I was annoyed at the pollution, traffic, and car horns. Why did the men get 5 lines at the metro, and the women had to wait in one seriously long line? Wasn’t that sexist? Why were the Delhi scammers so much meaner? How dare that man kick that little dog! Why am I getting charged three times more for my chai? It’s the same all over India, but because I was feeling low, it was all intensified.
What did I accomplish in Delhi? Nothing. We went by the red fort but it had shut down for the evening. I know I need to give the city another chance, but I did have two of the worst days in my travel history in that crazy city. Now that I have some friends who live in Delhi, I will go and stay with them and see it from a more relaxed local point of view. Luckily I didn’t start in Delhi; I’d already seen a month’s worth of kindness and beauty before these horrible two days.
I can’t imagine how my trip would have changed if this had happened at the beginning of my trip. I wrote in my journal, “Delhi is the worst place I’ve ever been. Everyone is cheating, lying, and pushing”. It can only get better on a second visit.
I was handed this baby when the bus stopped, once we got off I couldn’t even find his parents for 10 min. I thought they’d left him!
If you see a tourist snap while you’re traveling, don’t get mad at them, because you don’t know what they’ve been through leading up to that moment. Solo travel isn’t always fun, and backpacking India isn’t always easy; when things get hard you need a friend!
Thank God for La Fe Chloe and finally making it to the mountains (all while holding a barf bag to my face). First stop: Shimla.
Update: It’s been 6 years since I wrote this blog post, and I never left India. I’ve been traveling all over and even wrote a book which is the ultimate guide to traveling in India. Read more about it here.
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