India posed some of the first real challenges we faced as travelers. Delhi is a city notorious for its scams, aggressive touts, and unsympathetic, tourist pricing. While walking down the streets of the city, we would be approached constantly by seemingly helpful and friendly locals, eager to offer directions or advice. These men were, in our experience, always trying to lead us to a shop, restaurant or travel agent where they earned a commission on goods that were often over priced and of poor quality. After dealing with this for days, it wore on us. Embarrassingly, we took the bait more than once but luckily we came to our senses before we lost any money or became too dispirited. We learned to be suspicious of people who approached us on the street, but did not let it make us too cynical – we still met plenty of friendly locals and interesting fellow travelers.
Another feature of India we came to learn about is the necessity of bargaining – for everything! For a ride that should cost 30 or 40 rupees, the driver would start the bidding at 250 rupees. We learned what was a fair price for things from trusted locals, we honed our bargaining skills and often walked away only to be followed down the street by the same driver who moments earlier asked for 250 rupees now happy to take 20 rupees (the so-called “Indian” price vs. the tourist price we were quoted). It was a fun feature when bargaining for a scarf at a bazaar, or chai tea on the street but less fun when you were in an unfamiliar part of town and needed to get back to your hotel in a tuk-tuk.
All in all, Delhi is a crazy, chaotic and incredible place. We learned a lot, got our sea legs, and are better travelers for having had the experience.