On my way back to the States I had a 12 hour layover in Delhi, India. Instead of spending the 12 hours in the airport I arranged to take a tour of the major attractions of the city. I really wanted to go to the Taj Mahal but there wasn't enough time. Maybe next time.
I have included some of my favorite photos from this tour but that isn't the purpose of this blog.
Normally, I don't get on my soapbox and prefer that people develop their own opinions on things. I would never want anything I said to influence someone to do or not do something without doing their own research. However, what happened to me in Delhi so infuriated me that I felt that I needed to tell others so that they wouldn't have to spend an agonizing hour like I did.
Was that enough to wet your appetite? :)
Here is what happened.
The driver that was arranged for me was really great and super nice. He took me to all the major sites like the Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb, and more. They were great and it was fun to see all of these different types of sites and I took a ton of photos (some of my favorites are below).
One of the things I really wanted to do was visit a craft market since I had a few more rupees to spend, I love to haggle, and I wanted to get a few more gifts for others and treats for myself. My driver took me to Delhi Haat which was suppose to be a craft market. I should point out before I continue that he was told to take me there by the person who arranged my tour so he was doing what he thought was my itinerary.
However, things went wrong from the minute I walked in the door of Delhi Haat. Before I even cleared the door I was approached by one of the salesmen and said he would show me around. He went on and on about how the store was government subsidized and this is why they would be able to offer prices that were the cheapest around. Yeah right!
Here is what the problem was with this store. One, it was geared towards ripping tourists off. I wasn't able to browse the story by myself but was lead through various parts of the store and made to sit and be shown various items like sarees, scarves, rugs, etc. I did not go into those stores wanting to purchase any of that. I wanted small items like bangles, etc.
However, the kicker came when they talked about the prices. They kept saying how the price was at least 50% of what you would pay in the U.S., which may be true, and since they were supposedly subsidized there was no haggling involved. They also said they were the cheapest anywhere in India as well and I wouldn't find a better price anywhere especially when you consider the quality of what they were showing me (their opinion not mine).
My problem was that their prices weren't the cheapest in fact they were the most expensive I had experienced in all of India. They also wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I had no need for a hand woven rug. Yet, the salesman would not let me walk away. Even though there was no haggling every time I went to walk away the price went down. I also know their prices weren't the cheapest because, for example, they wanted $5 for a bracelet and I had bought a similar one in southern India for $1.
So basically all of the prices were marked up since this store was just for tourists and was where all the guides, drivers, and tours took the unsuspecting tourists.
I finally had enough and told the different salesmen that I needed to "think" about things and then walked out of the store. I then asked my driver to take me to a different market (since there has to be more than 1 in Delhi) and he took me to a market that was still geared towards tourists but much more reasonably priced. Not exactly what I had in mind but at least I wasn't getting completely ripped off. Again the driver was great and was only doing what he was told to do and he did take me to another more reasonably place.
The reason I have written this blog about my experience at Delhi Haat to to prevent other tourists from being taken advantage of, whether in India or in other countries. You really need to be aware of where your guides or tours are taking you and research where the good shopping places are. You also have to understand if haggling is allowed and how to do it correctly (yes, there is a correct way). The other thing you need to understand is if your guide, driver, etc. gets a kickback from visiting certain stores. There are many tours where the guides receive a percentage of what the tourist buys in that shop, especially since the prices are usually jacked up so high. This leads to knowing what something should really cost (what would a local get charged).
That was another part that irritated me. I was made to feel like I didn't understand what good quality was and how much quality cost. I understand that I may be paying 4-5 times the price in the U.S. but that is why I am not buying those things in the U.S. and it also doesn't mean that you can take advantage of me.
One thing about traveling that I do get frustrated by is the notion of white skin = money. That is so not true and is frustrating to me that just because I have white skin I should have to pay higher prices. That is why I encourage everyone to do their research and also to not be afraid to ask locals. You should not have to be taken advantage of just because you are a tourist and wanting to enjoy another culture. You should also not be made to feel stupid or like you don't know good quality or prices. If you do feel that way don't be afraid to walk away and look for other markets.
Haggling and shopping abroad can be a lot of fun but you need to know what you are getting into.
Now that I have vented you can enjoy some of the fun parts of my day with the below photos.
Feel free to comment if you have ever been in a situation like mine and if you have any tips for others who might face this situation in the future.
This blog contains my travel adventures, tips, advice and more. Enjoy the ride!