Through no fault of our own we were running late for our train from Delhi to Agra. Our crappy hotel in Karol Bagh had forgotten to order us a 5.15am taxi, just one of a long list of things our hotel did poorly. We flagged down a passing taxi and luckily we made it to New Delhi Railway Station with about 15 minutes to spare. We breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought we would be ok, but a group of guys had other ideas for us.
How the scam started
As soon as the taxi dropped us off once again we were surrounded. First by a couple of guys taking our bags out of the boot before we’d had a chance to say no, then asking for money for helping us. Secondly by a guy asking if we were going to Agra, then directing us in the ‘right’ direction.
He pointed to an entry point to the right of the station and followed us most of the way to ensure we got their ok. At this point we were greeted by another man who asked to check our tickets. He informed us, to our dismay, that our 6.00am train had been cancelled and if we wanted to catch the next available train we would have to make our way to Old Delhi Railway Station (ODRS) to catch a 7.10am train. You can imagine our dismay, we’ve just raced to catch this train and now we were being told we needed to jump in a taxi and go somewhere else.
Not a happy chappy
He also told us we’d have to buy another ticket as our IndRail Passes wouldn’t work from Old Delhi Railway Station. This was unacceptable to me, I felt aggrieved that through no fault of our own we were going to have to spend more money on train tickets that we’d already paid for. I started arguing with him, asking why it wouldn’t work, and how we could get our money back. He told us we’d have to take a taxi into Connaught Place to a service centre called DTTDC (whatever that stands for), arrange for a refund on our ticket, then get to ODRS to catch the 7.10am train. Otherwise we’d have to wait at New Delhi Railway Station until 11.30am for the next train to Agra.
By now my blood was boiling, and a friend of the man’s came to join the conversation. He tried to calm the escalating situation down, but all he did was make it worse. He was rude and arrogant which I’ve discovered is a common trait among Indians trying to relieve you of your money. They tend to interrupt you while you’re talking, arrogantly telling you to stop while they explain the situation. It was a tactic used by the ‘concerned citizen’ from the first Indian scam we were subjected to, and this guy was trying the same thing on. Needless to say being interrupted only makes me angrier.
Their story begins to unravel
This second man told me I should have checked within 10 hours of departure whether the train had been cancelled or not. When I told him I had checked online the night before, he said I needed to come to the station and check. According to him the IndRail website was unreliable and we needed to check in person. This obviously made no sense, I would have had to come to the station at 10.00pm the night before. When I pressed him on the point he claimed bad weather overnight had been the cause and the train had only been cancelled within the last hour. This made no sense either because it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d come to the station 10 hours earlier to confirm the train as it had only been cancelled an hour before our arrival. His story was starting to unravel, but I still hadn’t clued on this was just another Indian scam.
I was making quite a scene at this point. The two men went back to the story that I needed to go to Connaught Place to apply for a refund, then get across to ODRS to catch the 7.10am train to Agra. I wasn’t accepting that and demanded to get a refund right there and then. I wanted them to take me inside New Delhi Railway Station to get a refund. I also reminded them it was before 6.00am and surely this DTTDC place wouldn’t be open. He said it’s open 24 hours a day which I found simply not believable and told him in no uncertain terms.
A ‘good samaritan’ saves the day
It was about 5.55am at this point and the men were coming to the realisation I wasn’t leaving until I got acceptable answers. At this point the conversation took a dramatic turn. All of a sudden they told me a ‘special’ train was departing for Agra at 6.00am and if we ran perhaps we could catch it. What was this? There was a train going to Agra? Not the original train according to these guys, but a different ‘special’ train going to the same place at the same time. I was fuming by this stage and started really giving it to these two guys. This new twist was obviously an attempt to get rid of us so they could get on with the job of scamming other unsuspecting tourists, but I wasn’t going anywhere without giving them a piece of my mind.
With only a couple of minutes to spare another man appeared asking us where we were going. He must have spotted the scene I was creating and came to lend a hand. He told us our train was due to leave and guided us to the platform where it was waiting for departure. Was he part of this Indian scam too, the ‘nice guy’ helping us solve our problem by removing us from the scene and getting us to our train? Who knows, but we raced inside the station, saw our train and made a beeline for it. The guard waved us through without needing to put our bags through the scanner, then we quickly tried to make sense of the signage to find our carriage. Sarah spotted where we needed to go and we raced to the open doors. We made it with less than 60 seconds to spare.
If I didn’t hate Delhi already, I did now!
Once again our impression of India has taken a battering because of scammers trying to disrupt our holiday and steal our money. What was their goal? Are they in cahoots with a taxi driver who would take us to DTTSC then Old Delhi Railway Station? Would the next set of scammers at DTTSC (if this mysterious place even exists) inform us we wouldn’t make it to ODRS in time and try and get us to hire a car and driver to take us to Agra? Would the guys at DTTSC sell us train tickets from ODRS to Agra? Who knows, but it sickens me there are Indians willing to ruin our holiday in the name of taking our money through deceptive means. Who the hell do these people think they are? It’s a shame because now we don’t trust anyone here. We have put up the barriers to any stranger making conversation with us, and to combat their persistence in ‘helping us’ with the clear intention of asking for money, we’re now abrupt and cold in return. We’re not abusive, but we’re certainly not friendly either.
Advice for any travellers in India
- Don’t accept any advice from strangers outside of train stations (or anywhere else for that matter), it’s almost definitely an Indian scam. Go inside and get the information you need from official sources.
- Don’t pay anyone for anything you didn’t ask for, no matter what they say to you.
- No matter how easy or hard you may find it, you need to be strong with locals offering advice or their services. Nothing is for free and there is almost always an ulterior motive. I’m yet to meet anyone who will do something for you out of the goodness of their heart.
Why aren’t there officials outside the station (particularly in Delhi and Bombay where this scam is particularly rife) helping combat this obvious Indian scam? What is the government doing to remove these operators from exploiting tourists so brazenly outside their railway stations? Surely it’s in their best interests to ensure tourists enjoy their stay in India so they encourage others to visit their country? At this point I certainly won’t be encouraging anyone I know to come here, and it will take a dramatic turn for me to change my mind. After all, you can have all the amazing sites in the world, but if the locals are unfriendly you aren’t exactly going to be an ‘Indian ambassador’ spreading positive word of mouth are you?