I was confident from perusing my guidebook that a fair rate for an auto rickshaw to my first and second choice guest houses would be about 40 rupees ($1). Before I reached the rickshaws, I was picked out by a gaggle of taxi drivers. The first one quoted a rate of 550 rupees ($13.75) which resulted in a hearty laugh from yours truly. Eventually I negotiated a rate of 200 rupees ($5) from another driver which was still much more than I had intended to pay.
The guy arranging the ride kept suggesting I visit the official Indian Tourism office before going to the guest house. I had read about fake tourism offices in the guidebook, but more importantly, just wanted to settle into a room so I could get some much needed rest. I firmly told the handler I wanted to go straight to the guest house, and I relaxed after hearing him relay instructions in Hindi to the driver. A mystery man jumped in the passenger seat, and we soon melded into the big-city traffic.
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After some chit-chat, I told the booking agent I wanted to see Sunny's Guest House and he had the mystery guy from the taxi show me the way. Before I left, I asked about the cost of a room with a private bath in the area, and he said 2,000 rupees ($50) minimum. Sunny's was only a few meters away. They showed me a series of rooms, starting with the cheapest shoe box, and working up until we reached the costliest option, a double with private bath for 400 rupees ($10) a night.
Dave, 1 point, Hustlers – 0
After a few hours under the ceiling fan, curiosity lead me out the door. I ate a delicious, spicy Indian chicken dish at a nearby bar and restaurant, Regent Blues. Satiated, I continued to explore the area. A young guy in a green camouflage t-shirt struck up a conversation with me. Despite my attempts to get rid of him, he walked along with me stating he just wanted to practice his English and didn't want money.
I knew the “practicing English” line comes from hustlers. I thought I could use him to get some local info though. At my request, he showed me the way to the nearby cinema, though it was only showing Hindi movies. I asked about a place to buy/sell used guidebooks, and he wanted to take me to a bazaar but it sounded too far away for my taste so I declined. I asked him if there was a restaurant around where I could order vindaloo (a spicy Goan dish). He said he knew a place, but first he wanted to take me to a souvenir emporium to earn a commission. I appreciated his honesty, and agreed to spend a few minutes in the place to help him out. In retrospect, I think the good hustlers say they're being honest because they know it is more likely to elicit sympathy and support from tourists.
I recognized the name of the emporium as one listed in my guidebook, which was somewhat reassuring. The salesman was fairly low pressure, and polite, though I left empty-handed as planned. As we walked further away from
I expected the guy would continue the circular route back toward my hotel with me as he implied earlier. Instead, he pointed toward the supposed location of a restaurant serving vindaloo, and the way back to my guest house. When I addressed the fact that I expected him to walk me back, he pointed to his feet, saying he was tired and would only go with me if I paid for a 20-rupee rickshaw. Annoyed at having been hustled, I set off on my own.
As I walked along the busy roads, I saw only a retail shop where he said I'd find the restaurant with vindaloo. Angry, sweaty, and tired, I pressed onward using the digital compass on my watch to get my bearings. I was sure the direction I was heading wasn't correct, so I asked a gentleman on the sidewalk for help. He said I was walking away from the center circle, which meant I was going the long way back. I did an about face, retracing my way back while fuming at the fact that I'd gone out for a leisurely stroll and been taken for a ride at the expense of my good mood and already aching feet.
Dave, 1 point, Delhi Hustlers, 1 point