After we left the Jantar Mantar, we had our driver take us to the New Delhi train station so we could try to make some changes to our train reservations. (The saga of making train reservations from the US is a story unto itself, and I’ll share that a bit later on.) And here we fell prey to a really classic Delhi tourist scam. We knew we needed to get to the Tourist Office, but we weren’t quite sure where it was in the station. We headed for the entrance that led to the platforms, and were immediately intercepted by a neatly-dressed youngish man who asked us if we needed help.
We told him we were looking for the Tourist Office, and he told us we had to go to the “new office” that was just a short tuk tuk ride away. We were skeptical, but he was insistent, and we let ourselves be hustled into a tuk tuk that was conveniently waiting right there. Another young man immediately jumped into the tuk tuk with us, and that’s when we knew we had been scammed. His main function was apparently to physically block us from jumping right back out of the tuk tuk. After a little bit of arguing with him, we realized that the fastest way out of this was probably going to be to just go along to the other office, so that’s what we did. A short ride and 40 rupees (about 80 cents) later we were dropped off down an alley in the middle of Connaught Place that was totally ripped up for construction.
Of course, it was not the new location of the official tourist assistance office. It was a grungy, smoky ‘travel agency’ that looked disreputable but not actually unsafe. We went inside, and a fairly jovial guy named Tarik tried to convince us that there was ‘no possibility’ that we’d get tickets on the train we needed to be on. Our best option was to hire a car and driver for $300, and by the way he could give us a better deal if we added on a side trip to a nature reserve we weren’t planning to see. Sigh. We listened politely, took his card, told him we’d call him once we made up our minds, and left as soon as we could to find another tuk tuk back to the station. This driver overcharged us for the ride back, but we still managed to come out of this with only $2 and half an hour lost.
Once back at the station, we headed back into the building, and were again intercepted by another well-dressed, youngish man who asked if we needed help. Now on our guard, we said we were heading for the Tourist Office, but kept on going. This fellow walked along with us for a little bit, directed us up the staircase, and told us, “It’s up there to the right.” Which, in fact, it was. And then he smiled and went on about his business, just a friendly fellow trying to help out two bewildered-looking foreigners. Once we got into the Tourist Office, we had to wait in a queue for a bit, but it was a cool and quiet break from the bustle outside. When we got to the desk and explained what we needed – we were trying to get confirmed seats on a train that we had gotten on the waiting list for – the helpful clerk praised my advance planning skills and very efficiently got our booking sorted out in about three minutes.
Our last stop of the day was Humayun’s tomb, which our driver suggested when we asked him what he thought were the must-sees in Delhi. This is the first garden tomb that the Mughals built in India, making it a forerunner of the Taj Mahal. Humayun was the second Mughal emperor of India, and his tomb was commissioned by his wife in 1562, several years after his death.