(above: double decker train. Photo credit)
and how to avoid them
When I decided to do my Rajasthan trip I opted to leave it to a company called Delhi Tours & Services to organise. I had an acquaintence that worked there and they claim to help organise backpackers’ tours. The plan was that they would put me in the rail system’s computer database and all I had to do was send a WhatsApp 24 hours before I wanted to move and my electronic ticket would be forwarded on to me by Delhi Tours & Services.
I went in to their office in Delhi and booked my trip with them. They charged me 42,000/-. At the time I thought nothing of it as the journey was long and convoluted. It would have been a bit cheaper had I been able to pay in cash, (no government tax?)
I should have smelled a rat when the operative offered to book my hotels and proceeded to show me rooms priced at 8000/- per night (about 104.692€ or 93.473£). I have to offer the excuse that all the zeros in this currency confuse me in the same way Spain did when it used the peseta. None the less in my experience of travelling and backpacking I know NO ONE bacpacking (only wealthy tourists) that would pay that kind of money per night. The hostels I used and that backpackers use worked out at between 250/- and 450/- per night.
One of the first things that I noticed when my tickets were sent to me via WhatsApp is that the price was always excluded. Sure all the details, coach, seat or berth number were there along with my name (spelled wrongly as RICHARDS) but the price was always conspicuously absent.
It wasn’t until I had my fall down the stairs in Udaipur (that I mentioned in this post) that I began to see there was a huge differential between that which I’d paid and the price my travelling companions were paying. I resolved to look in to it and to blog it when I had the time to
- a) see how much I’d been “over charged”
- b) to try and help any of you travellers that may be reading this to avoid these exorbitant charges.
Two price breakdowns for the Rajasthan trip
So here below are the breakdowns of more or less what I’d have had to pay had I booked the tickets myself and the price of the most expensive tickets that I could find on the same routes that I took. The left column are the prices I found online for the same journey as I took using the same “class” of travel as I had. The right column is for “first class” travel wherever it was available.
|Journey||Price I would have paid||Most expensive|
|Delhi to Jaipur||820||1,565|
|Jaipur to Jaisalmer||1,060||2,385|
|Jaisalmer to Jodhpur||780||1,300|
|Jodhpur to Udaipur by bus||565||565|
|Udaipur to Ajmer||740||1,235|
|Ajmer to Kota||940||1,570|
|Kota to Sawai Madhopur||540||1245|
|Sawai Madhopur to Agra||540||745|
|Agra to Delhi||905||1,495|
|6 times the price that I paid.||3.5 times the price I paid.|
My recipt for travel from Delhi Tours & Services
I think you’ll agree that there is a huge difference? So the moral of this post is: be aware that these “travel firms” will add on huge commissions. Book your own tickets online here. Or check the routes and prices on www.trainman.in
Agreed Delhi Tours & Services have to make some money but 20% would probably be about the right mark. In my case I was charged a whopping 600% commission. I imagine it was a meal for the office, a nice bonus all round and still money in the kitty at the end of the celebrations and a huge laugh that the white tourist had been well and truly shafted.
Needless to say, I will not be using the services of tour operators again!
One other point to note: in India, due to the huge distances, many of the trains are over night. The stations are poorly signed and it is difficult to know where you are. (I mentioned that in this post). One of my tickets required me to exit the train at 04:35 in a place called Mathura and catch a bus to Agra. I could find no buses to Agra at that time of day. (That doesn’t mean there weren’t any.) So unless you really want to sleep on an Indian station platform… I’d try and get trains that have reasonable arrival times. Again, another good reason to do it yourself.
I have also since been informed that every Indian railway station has a tourists desk. You are better off going to them or using the online app. But do bear in mind that some trains are heavily booked and you really are better off arranging all your travel in advance.