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Mitch04 Feb 3rd, 2007 07:53 PM

Touts in India
My wife and I are going to India in about 8 weeks, and she has expressed a little concern about aggressive touts and beggars. However, having run the gauntlet in Bali, Vietnam and Cambodia (and the Balinese touts and street vendors make those in Indo china look like amateurs) can anyone advise me on what to expect in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur? We are only spending 6 days in that region. The rest of the time (14 days) we will be in Assam which I imagine will be pretty tame apart from the much publicised recent bombings and shootings (see travel advisories at )

agtoau Feb 3rd, 2007 10:10 PM

Touts have regrettably become a fact of tourist life in India. If you are a white (wo)man you are a particularly good 'target' for touts and beggars. Several Westerners unwittingly encourage them - for every 10 Westerners who ward them off one offers them a 100-rupee note. So even if their hit rate is 10% they pull in a respectable amount per day and they know it.

The touts around Agra are especially aggressive. Your best strategy is to say a firm 'no' and simply keep walking.

Tangata Feb 3rd, 2007 10:25 PM

I don’t personally know about Delhi, but in Mumbai the beggars are very aggressive, particularly if you are Western. You will inevitably be stuck in traffic and will find a number of beggars, often women with pathetic looking babies, rapping on the window of the car and demanding money.

We found the beggars and touts in Agra and Jaipur extremely aggressive. After one particular day in Jaipur I noted in my diary, “The guidebook spoke of the romance of wandering the bazaars of Jaipur in the early evening. This looked attractive, but we decided that the writer must have had a military escort at brigade strength to keep the beggars at bay.”

lcuy Feb 3rd, 2007 11:06 PM

We found that avoiding eye contact is the best method with the beggars and vendors. Once you look at them or speak to them, you're theirs. At first I felt like a rude witch pretending not to see them, but it does work well.

Arriving at spots with your guide helps also.

rhkkmk Feb 6th, 2007 09:29 AM

just ignor them....the ones that got to us were the beggars who came up to your car window with a baby---don't even look at them....its a scam we are told...the babies often don't even belong to the woman begging...

thursdaysd Feb 6th, 2007 02:19 PM

Ignore them and keep walking. If that doesn't work, which it didn't always in Agra, stand still and stare straight ahead, then start walking again. Saying "no" just invites conversation, saying "no thanks" marks you as polite and therefore an easier target. Agra definitely seemed worse than anywhere else I went, but Rajasthan was pretty bad.

sandy_b Feb 6th, 2007 04:48 PM

A couple of years ago, I went on a tour to India . . . when I was with the group, we all were beseiged . . . could not get away from the touts, they were right in our face, sometimes even surrounding us. But, when I went off on my own, they completely left me alone. It was great being able to wander around and not be pestered. The few who did approach me responded well to my shake of my head no and I kept on walking.

Good luck . . . and I hope you have a great trip.

Sandy (in Denton)

rhkkmk Feb 6th, 2007 06:11 PM

i think groups may be a special target....we had not one person approach us on our walk from the electric car to the entrance of the taj...

you have good advice above...

waynehazle Feb 6th, 2007 06:27 PM

And I was alone with my guide and I had about 10 people descend on me from the eletric car to my entrance to the Taj.

thursdaysd Feb 6th, 2007 06:28 PM

Bob - did you have your guide with you when you were walking to the Taj? I was quite alone and did not find that kept people away, but some of them were would-be tour guides, who would not bother someone who already had a guide.

newyorkergal Feb 6th, 2007 07:43 PM

Just got back and I was HOUNDED. In the north, in the south, in cities, in airports - you name it. I'm blonde and fair. Dressing in a sawa kameeze (sp) did not matter. I've been to 6 other Asian countries and Brasil and India by far was the worst. Learn how to say no in Hindi (jaow ha say) with the wave of the hand. LOL this means go away - go from here. You can also try covering your head. This may detract. Get used to it and don't act surprised. They look for that sympathy vote. It's hardcode here. It's sad no doubt about it. Don't act interested.

Cilla_Tey Feb 7th, 2007 02:23 AM

If the two of you have a good private guide then the latter may act as a shield. That's what happened when we last spent two weeks in Rajasthan and the Delhi-Agra area. Maybe not being a blonde helps. The first time I was in India there was a lady in our small group who couldn't cope with the beggars etc. So she would walk with her husband on one side and I would be on the other shielding her. It helps also to switch to a certain mindset and not let all that pestering bother you.

rhkkmk Feb 7th, 2007 06:29 AM

we did have our guide with us, but there really were no vendors lurking around very was about 10:30 so that may have made a difference as most people go early or late, but we went later in the morning because of the ground fog earlier...

tatersalad Feb 7th, 2007 06:51 AM

Our India experience of last year started out in Delhi where the touts are a bit of a problem, but we were always able to shrug them off and we got "hardened" by the experience. We then went to Darjeeling and Gantok where they almost don't exist before we went to Agra where by now they were of little bother because of our "being hardened".

I think that we as tourists give off certain unspoken signals that make it easier or harder to deal with touts; I feel that I have a different energy when I have been in a country for a few days as opposed to being “new in town”. It’s a mind- over- matter thing; just deal with it.

I do remember using some advice; if a tout is very persistent after you first ignore and then say no I would stop, turn toward them; look right into their eyes and say NO. I do always try to keep smiling when I deal with touts.

Just now I am remembering of a thing about putting your hand around your own wrist as you say no; and if a tout grabs at you, you should put your hand around his wrist instead of pushing back; I don’t specifically recall having done either of these things although I may have done the first.

A problem that I had in India is that there are a lot of genuine nice people who would like to address me with no agenda other that to talk or offer directions and I had the tendency to give them the tout treatment for which I would feel bad when I realized the situation. Sometimes Indian people want to have their children or themselves photographed with foreigners.

The touts are at their worst, of course, at the main tourist attractions.

thursdaysd Feb 7th, 2007 06:59 AM

I definitely felt that touts were worse in some places (Agra, Rajasthan, Khujeraho) and beggars in others (Kolkata). But South India was a great improvement over much of the north, except for bargaining with rickshaw drivers, which is bad everywhere. I agree that Darjeeling was fine, and so was Orissa. You really just have to decide on a policy and stick with it.

SiobhanP Feb 7th, 2007 08:18 AM

Mumbai i found tough but Delhi for example just keep walking and say no thank you. One thing though I would say is realise its another world there sometimes and there is severe poverty. Give some money to those you feel need it once in a while. It will not hurt to share the wealth a bit. Make up you mind who you will give to and stick with it. I give money to the elderly or handicapped people as they have the hardest time in my opinion. I gave 20 rupee to an old lady who could not stand up and walked on all fours. I was so ashemed at how the others just walked past her and saddened that she touched my feet when I should be doing that to her out of respect. I felt by giving in these situations I was at least helping someone a tiny bit.

Earthtraveler Feb 7th, 2007 10:33 AM

The incessant young merchants at Fatipur Sikri drove me to losing my cool. I finally yelled and snarled. The
teen looked at me??? and then left me alone. I felt terrible I lost my cool but it worked.

When I went to Agra after that I used the story of what happeened at Fatipur Sikri with one young merchant and that if he kept harassing me I would yell and grit my teeth and snarl at him.(demonstrated the snarl) He took the hint and I walked away with a smile this time feeling great. :-)

Sweblon Feb 9th, 2007 07:04 AM

Came home from Dehli, Agra and Jaipur yesterday. Touts is a big problem espesially around Connaught Place in Dehli. They target you and want to show you the way to different stores-markets and it´s always "just around the corner", and the three times I got fooled they took me to different "department stores" for tourists. Sometimes they act like helpful students.
In Connaught Place the traffic it´s terible try not to cross the street walk in the tunnel under the road daytime is safe.
In Dehli it was a lot of beggars on the streets, children who want to perform for some rupies. Try not to look and walk away, sometimes they follow and try to touch you. But do you give to one a lot more will come.
Jaipur the same beggars and touts around all the sights. Shopping on my own was alright there when you ignore the beggars. Agra was a bit more agressive around the sights. It´s hot remember fresh water and small change 5 or 10 rupies for toilets and help on hotell. And a warning "The Marina" hotel in Dehli has not 4 stars as it claims maybee 1 star at the most.

rhkkmk Feb 9th, 2007 10:09 AM

i really think the annoyance from these vendors is way over blown....just go about your tourist business and ignor them

kellyee21 Feb 9th, 2007 11:03 AM

I agree, they can really be a bother but the best why to deal with them is to just ignore them. I loved India, but honestly the touts in Delhi put those in Morocco or Egypt to shame. We landed in Delhi on Christmas Eve 2005 and after one night in a bad hotel in Pahar Ganj we set off on foot for Connaught Place, a walk which should only take 15 minutes or so.

We spent over 2 hours trying to get to CP, being sent in circles by touts saying they were directing us there but instead trying to get us to go to "Official Governement Tourist Office" for a "free map". We even ran into the same tout twice while still trying to get to CP.

Finally realizing we were wasting a lot of time, we agreed to take an autorickshaw to the tourist office for 10 rupies even though we had no intention of going inside. We arrived, indeed at CP, payed 10 rupies and walked off, while the office guy was still yelling about coming in for our free map.

Really after that we had no big problems, we just ignored them. 3 weeks later arriving back in Delhi and back at Pahar Ganj for some shopping, the whole scene started unfolding again about the tourist office. This time my boyfriend turned things around on the touts when they approached us and acted like he thought it was them needing directions and then he would give them directions to CP. The confused look on their faces was priceless and they would just wander off...

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