Being fleeced leaves foreign tourists with bitter taste
Clad in a blue jeans and white T-shirt, 27-year-old Alex from Portugal argued with a shoe-keeper at Delhi's Jama Masjid for 15 minutes, who allegedly demanded Rs 500 for keeping Alex's shoes. When Alex refused to give the money, the man took away his pair of socks.
This is not an isolated incident. Foreign visitors and tourists in Delhi face such pervasive harassment at the hands of shopkeepers and small businessmen daily.
"There is no written rule that foreigners should pay Rs 500 to keep shoes. When the general public is paying just Rs 10, why shouldn't I?" demands Alex, adding that he faces such harassment in the streets of Delhi almost every day.
"I guess people think we are very rich and ask for unreasonable amounts. But we also have limitations," he said.
Touts in Delhi harass foreign tourists in many ways. They start following them everywhere and in the name of helping them, charge exorbitant sums of money. Mostly of these touts swarm popular monuments and tourist destinations.
According to Rafiq Kidwai, a travel agent based in Paharganj, touts have deals with hotel owners and get information from them. "They start out as guides and slowly squeeze money from tourists."
Agreeing with Rafiq, Christy, a 32-year-old American woman, said that a hotel owner in Paharganj arranged for a tour guide for her, who took Rs 1,000 from her in the name of entry ticket to the Red Fort. When she later found out that the price was significantly less, she refused to travel with him anymore.
Harassment of foreign tourists takes place in many ways. A mineral water bottle, which costs Rs 15 for locals, is sold to foreign tourists for anything between Rs 60-70. While Indians can enter without a guide in Red Fort, officials force visitors to take a guide who charge Rs 3,000-4,000 for an hour.
Anshul Singh, a 23-year-old student of Delhi University, who brought his friends from Germany to visit Red Fort said, "From security guards to roadside shop owners, everyone is charging them twice or thrice the original amount."
When Anshul asked a shopkeeper why they overcharged his friends, he replied this is how they make profit.
Some foreign tourists specifically alleged that many roadside restaurants near Jama Masjid demanded more money for from them for dishes, which are sold to locals at much lower prices. When asked, the owner of one such shop he refused to talk.
Despite such fleecing, the tourists maintain that they love visiting Delhi because the general people are very helpful. "Once, I had boarded a wrong Metro. The passengers helped me take the right one. They even explained from where I should change the train," Alex said.
He explained that he does not want to judge Delhi by the touts and some other people. "Delhi is a nice city," he said.