“hellohellohellohello! Where you want to go? I take you there! Taxitaxitaxi? Hotelhotelhotel? Hello???!Hellohellohello! I know someone, I take you somewhere!”
The international airport in New Delhi is deceptively nice. Clean, well kept. No one asking for tips. People leave you alone. Once you walk out the baggage claims doors, all bets are off.
People instantly surround you, shouting about hotels and taxis. The cacophony of voices, traffic and car horns is practically deafening. Fortunately, I had done extensive research and knew to go to the police run pre-paid taxi booth. We were able to make it to our hotel without a hitch and didn’t ripped off-the constant challenge of traveling alone in India.
The next morning we would catch a train down to Agra-about a three hour train ride from New Delhi.
We left from N. Hizamuddin station. For someone used to the incredible infrastructure and service of the trains in Japan, this was a far cry from what we were used to. The security was practically non-existent. Virtually anyone was able to wander in and get on a train. Not a single person checked our tickets.
We found our train and our seats with little trouble. The long, cold, depressing ride to Agra began.
Traveling by train in through India is an experience. The trains themselves are very old and absolutely filthy. While it had been warm and lovely weather in Andrah Pradesh, north India was cold. And the windows of the train wouldn’t stay closed.
Riding through New Delhi and seeing the slums was difficult. The sheer volume of trash and filth polluting the land and rivers of the city was nothing short of disturbing. Poor people were rooting through the piles of garbage, looks for anything to salvage.
Because of the lack of security at the train stations, anyone could board the train. This meant that people were constantly walking up and down the train either trying to sell us things or begging. Shoving English notes in our hands explaining their destitute situations.
We had been warned by our Indian friends at ARV to not give to any beggars because there are so many “professional” beggars who prey on foreigners. Also, because we had already given so much through our work in Chevuru, Karl and I decided to not give anything to any beggars.
The only way to deal with beggars and people trying to sell you things was to completely ignore them. Never ever make eye contact. I hated this. The hardest thing for me about traveling in India was being forced to be mean to avoid being taken advantage of. It was absolutely impossible to trust anyone. You had to barter over prices for everything.
It was completely exhausting.
Just outside of Agra train station, we hired a driver and tour guide to take us to our hotel. We also chose to engage them for the rest of our time in Agra. Them seemed nice enough.
When you hire a driver or tour guide in India there is an extremely good chance that they are associated with certain shops. The shops pay the drivers and guides a commission for bringing tourists in to buy things.
Our driver and guide told us that they knew our hotel and the man who ran it-and not to trust him. The man who ran the hotel told us the same thing about our driver and guide. Who to believe? The feeling of being constantly lied to and deceived was horrible.
But this is the way traveling in India works. You can never let your guard down.