Traveling in select areas of Northern India was the pinnacle of my entire 2010-11 backpacking trip across Asia.
Prior to landing in India, I had started to get a little road weary and ‘templed out’ revisiting a lot of familiar areas in SE Asia.
India provided the kind of stimulation – and more importantly the challenge – that I had been subconsciously craving without ever knowing it at the time. Some of these challenges proved to be extraordinary experiences while others were merely frustrating and demoralizing.
One particular aspect of traveling in India I had began to loathe was the experience of taking an auto rickshaw from point A to B.
The amount of negatively charged experiences with rickshaw drivers was really starting to mount up.
While traveling in Old Delhi I spent time visiting the impressive Jama Masjid and other surrounding areas.
I had just recently recovered enough from a horrific case of food poisoning, that had left me bedridden for several days, finally mustering up enough energy to venture around and explore Old Delhi on foot.
Overextending myself and feeling completely knackered as my body started to throb from head to toe, I realized I didn’t have the energy to make it back to the nearest subway station.
The Time I Tipped My Rickshaw Driver In India
A rickshaw driver offered me a ride back to my guest house (several kilometers away) at a price that seemed reasonable.
After agreeing on the price I hopped on and we began our journey through an endless maze of crowded markets and streets bustling to the brim with activity.
Just outside of my intended destination point the driver suddenly stopped and indicated the ride was over.
Although I insisted he take me a bit further to my guesthouse it became suddenly clear this was the end point – a location far enough away from the tourist police and other foreigners.
I reached into my pocketbook and secured the agreed upon fare for the ride.
As I motioned to hand it over to him, I couldn’t believe his reaction.
He refused it entirely crossing his hands and glaring at me with contempt in his eyes.
Dumbfounded, I gestured once again for him to receive the money but he steadfastly refused.
Suddenly he demanded I pay an exorbitant fee of four times the amount we had agreed upon.
At this point my frustration level had entered into the red zone and I simply marched over to his rickshaw and placed the money on the seat and proceeded to walk away.
I knew this was far form over.
Moments later I felt a forceful tug on my shoulder. As I pivoted I thrust back with force to push his hand off of me and allow my body to face him directly.
We glared at each other with disdain for what seemed to be eternity, but in reality was probably just several seconds.
The fine line between us exchanging blows is something that make me feel queasy even to this day.
As he finally backed off, I felt puzzled by my reaction to the entire situation.
Wouldn’t it have made more sense just to have paid the newly requested fee (the equivalent of several more dollars) to avoid escalating conflict?
Was it worth nearly getting into a violent physical confrontation over a small amount of money?
At first the answer seemed obvious – ‘NO’ – but as I further reflected I felt an increasing sense of awareness.
It wasn’t the money that was an issue. It was about being treated with respect. This wasn’t a dispute over a transaction, from my perspective, as much as it was a refusal on my part to be treated without a shred of humanity.
Although visibly and mentally shaken I felt an odd sense of pride that I had stood up for myself. I wasn’t bullied. I didn’t give in.
Opposite Experience in Udaipur, India
Several weeks later when I was visiting Udaipur I found myself in a situation where I’d be needing the services of a rickshaw driver yet again.
Absolutely dreading the situation – the haggling, hassles and persistent requests for further services – I found myself approaching the driver in a tense detached manner.
To my surprise, he quoted me a price that seemed reasonable enough not to bargain down.
As I went to secure my bag on the passenger seat I felt hands assisting me.
He took my backpack out of my hands and lifted it on top of the seat.
As we set off on our journey to the station, I started to relax a little more.
He started up a conversation in which he genuinely seemed invested in what I had to say.
As I began to realize he wasn’t trying to butter me up for additional services, I became more open and engaging with my answers.
When we finally arrived he helped lift my bag out of the rickshaw and I couldn’t help but notice the radiant smile on his face.
Before I could even put my hand in my pocket to pull out my wallet, he wished me well on my journey.
Not demanding a tip nor trying to rip me off he treated me like a valued human being – as opposed to a walking ATM machine
Without hesitation, I reached into my wallet and handed him over several bills. The tip I included was a generous one, but as much as he likely appreciated it I owed him more gratitude than he could have ever imagined.
Sometimes it’s just the little things that make a world of a difference.
The lessons I learned from this particular encounter are worth far more than the tip I gave the driver.
Ever since, I’ve become better at detaching from past experiences and treating new ones as thought they are blank slate.
I’ve learned many lessons on the road but this was one of the greatest yet.
How To Handle Being Ripped Off In India
India is a country that has a reputation for being a challenging destination for travelers. One of the difficulties that visitors may encounter is being ripped off. Although it is not pleasant, it is a common occurrence in India. However, there are ways to handle being ripped off, and these tips can help you to stay calm and protect yourself.
The first step to take is to remain calm and avoid showing any aggression or anger. It is important to remember that getting angry or aggressive will not help the situation and may only make it worse. Instead, try to stay calm and assertive.
If you feel that you have been ripped off, try to negotiate a fair price. It may be possible to come to an agreement with the person who ripped you off, especially if you can explain why you feel the price was unfair.
It is also a good idea to do your research beforehand so that you have a general idea of what prices to expect. This can help you to avoid being ripped off in the first place. You can also ask locals for advice on fair prices and trustworthy vendors.
Another tip is to always agree on a price beforehand. If you are taking a taxi or purchasing an item, make sure to agree on the price beforehand so that there are no surprises later on.
Finally, remember that being ripped off is not the end of the world. It may be frustrating and upsetting, but it is important to keep things in perspective and remember that it is just one experience in your overall journey. Focus on the positive experiences and try not to dwell on the negative.
By following these tips, you can handle being ripped off in India in a calm and confident manner. Remember to stay calm and assertive, do your research, agree on prices beforehand, and keep things in perspective. With these tools, you can make the most of your travels in India and avoid unnecessary stress and frustration.
How To Tip For Great Service In India
Tipping in India is a common practice, especially in the travel and hospitality industry. If you receive great service from someone during your travels in India, it is appropriate to leave a tip as a gesture of gratitude. However, it’s important to understand the local customs and norms surrounding tipping to avoid any cultural misunderstandings.
In India, tipping is not always expected, but it is appreciated. The amount of the tip can vary depending on the type of service and the level of satisfaction you feel. For example, if you’re staying in a hotel, it’s customary to tip the housekeeping staff between 50-100 rupees per day, depending on the level of service provided. It’s also common to tip the staff who help with your luggage, such as bellhops or porters, around 20-50 rupees per bag.
In restaurants, a service charge is often added to the bill, but it is still customary to leave an additional tip of 10% if you received good service. If you’re getting street food, such as from a food cart or vendor, it’s not necessary to leave a tip. However, if you feel that the service was exceptional, you can give a small amount, such as 10-20 rupees.
It’s important to note that some businesses in India have a strict no-tipping policy. For example, many upscale hotels and restaurants do not allow their staff to accept tips. If you’re unsure whether tipping is appropriate or not, it’s always best to ask before leaving a tip.
In India, it’s also common to give small gifts or tokens of appreciation instead of cash tips. For example, you could give a small souvenir or a box of sweets to show your gratitude.
Ultimately, tipping in India is a personal choice based on your level of satisfaction with the service you received. By following the local customs and norms surrounding tipping, you can show your appreciation and respect for the people who have made your travels in India enjoyable.
Stay Safe While Traveling In India
India is a beautiful and vibrant country that offers a wealth of cultural experiences for travelers. However, like any country, it’s important to take steps to ensure your safety while traveling in India. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
- Dress conservatively: India is a conservative country, and it’s important to respect local customs by dressing modestly. Avoid revealing clothing and opt for clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- Use licensed transportation: When traveling around India, use only licensed transportation. This includes taxis, buses, and trains. Unlicensed transportation may not be safe, and you could be putting yourself at risk by using it.
- Be wary of scams: Scams are common in India, particularly in tourist areas. Be wary of anyone offering you a deal that seems too good to be true, and always use common sense.
- Be cautious with your valuables: Keep your valuables, such as your passport and money, in a secure location. Don’t leave them unattended in your hotel room or in a public place.
- Stay aware of your surroundings: When traveling in India, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings at all times. This includes keeping an eye on your belongings and being aware of who is around you.
- Research your destination: Before you travel to a new destination in India, do your research. This includes learning about the local customs and any safety concerns you should be aware of.
- Avoid traveling alone at night: It’s generally not recommended to travel alone at night in India, particularly for women. If you must travel at night, do so with a group or using licensed transportation.
By following these tips and using common sense, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip to India.