Coming into India, I had the idea that I was prepared. I’ve got this, I thought to myself, naively reflecting on solo traveling through Morocco and visiting India with my dad.
Alas, it took being part of a 3 day elaborate scam to realize I was a damn fool.
It really is an oddly scary thing realizing that you spent two days being a pawn in someone else’s game.
The events from my perspective:
Get into a cab late at night from the airport, and proceed to have witty banter with a cab driver who can barely speak English for an hour. Once we get to the area he takes a closer look at the address and points out that there’s no block number. He stops to ask a stranger who validates the confusion by also asking what the block number is.
We call the hostel that says they are sorry, and that even though I had a reservation there are no more rooms available tonight.
The driver says that since I don’t have internet, the best thing to do is to go to a travel agency and they can redirect me.
The man at the travel agency, early 40s and decently dressed, starts calling hostels for me. Thank god I told myself, driving around Delhi was chaos and I couldn’t fathom attempting to find a hostel by wandering around.
We finally find a hotel that will let me stay there. It’s midnight, and I’m entirely relieved.
What really went down:
Instead of calling the hostel, the cab driver called a friend who lied to me.
The travel agency was fake, and the now seemingly shady travel agent only pretended to call other hostels.
The cab driver, fake travel agent, and hotel had all worked together, and I got ripped off by them all.
That was day 1. Day 2 raised a bunch of other red flags, such as the cab driver from the hotel continuously taking me to stores I didn’t ask to go to, and restaurants shaped like palaces that I refused to eat at. When I had enough and decided to leave the hotel to go somewhere else, the owner of the travel agency contacted me and tried to convince me that he was a couchsurfing host and that I should stay at his house.
No no no no, NO.
After contacting the hostel asking for a refund, they apologized profusely and then asked me if the following events had occurred. Turns out this is a new and widely used scam.
I spent the next couple of hours on the roller coaster of going from ragging mad at myself to thinking it was hilarious.
Luckily, I was only out $44 dollars. (For reference, my hostels for the entirety of next week cost me $18.)
It’s also strangely comforting that in every hostel I’ve been in so far, there’s at least one group of people who got caught up in the same scam, and being able to laugh about it will bond travelers real quick. Thankfully, I was not out hundreds of dollars like a few of them.
Backpacking through Europe two years ago was fun, welcome to the big leagues.