As a tourist traveling through India, you are often a common target for scams. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be as simple as an inflated price at a street stall to a rickshaw driver intentionally taking you to the wrong hotel or a guesthouse, so he could receive a commission from the owner and so on. Fortunately, after a while, you get pretty good at recognizing and avoiding most of them.
Still, even so, every once in a while, you can let the guard down because you feel like you’re having a genuine “interaction” with a local and then you discover that more often than not, there lurks some sort of an ulterior motive. It’s truly frustrating because it makes it very difficult to trust the locals around you and feels that the only people that you can rely on are your traveling partners or other tourists, who are in the same boat as you.
Moreover, to avoid scams and other pushy behavior, you wind up acting in ways you may really dislike – having to be aggressive and sometimes even rude. Because you know what will come next after every “hello, my friend” and “what county you from” – especially when you hear it 50 times over the course of a day.
The truth is, I can’t really blame the locals for trying. Although I don’t think that scams and overpricing is necessarily fair, at the end of the day, people committing them are not doing it to get rich. They are surviving – at whatever costs involves.
If I was a rickshaw driver, I would also try to milk my foreign customers for as much as I could – because an extra $1 to me means a whole lot more than a $1 to them. And I would have a very hard time understanding why is it that the people that can probably most afford that price are also the ones that are arguing the longest to shave off a few pennies.
As a tourist, I’m not sure what the proper way to deal with this is. Many travelers are on a budget and are not necessarily made of money either, so haggling helps to keep costs down. So are we necessarily wrong for trying to get a fair deal and the same price as everybody else?
Or are we focusing too much on the matter of principle when we’re trying to get a rickshaw driver to lower their price by $0.05 USD, and forgetting the human element to this interaction?
Would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve travelled abroad – in the developing or developed countries – and had to deal with these things.
P.S. Ironically enough, the day after I wrote and prepared this post, we actually met a couple of kids that spent several hours showing us their town – without any side motive. So, you never know…