In my first post about our experience in Delhi, I promised I’d give more details on our little adventure – buying the train ticket, getting to the station and taking the train to Jodhpur. So here goes the second part of our story.
We left the hotel with big backpacks on our shoulders and we decided to take a rickshaw from there to the train station. During our ride, the rickshaw driver asked us if it was our first time in India and if we had train tickets. Being a bit naive, we answered honestly that it was our first time and that we didn’t have tickets. Obviously, he saw an opportunity to fool us. Our ride finished at a place that didn’t look like the train station, which we’d seen the day before, by the way. We started arguing with him and he said that the station was just at the back of the office in front of us. I still didn’t believe him and he said “why would I take you to the wrong place?”. I don’t know, why would he? Walking towards that office, we asked a man where the train station was and he gave us some directions, but kept following us. My instincts were telling me not to trust him, but we decided to give it a go. In the end we realized once again that we were being taken to the wrong place. He took us to an agency where he would probably get a commission.
Once we understood the trick, we started ignoring the man and asked other people how we would get to the train station. None of them were pointing us to the right direction or seemed to be sure as to where the station was. The frustration and stress was growing on us. Finally I asked a lady if there was a metro station around there – by taking the metro we would get to the station, no problem. She pointed to the nearest metro and eventually we took the metro to New Delhi train station. This first part of the adventure, from when we left the rickshaw to when we finally got to the train station, took 45 minutes of walking, asking people and freaking out, with the backpacks on our shoulders.
When we arrived to the station, we were approached by several touts who tried to hijack us. We were looking for the International Tourist Bureau (ITB), probably the only place in Delhi where you would want to buy a train ticket, and they were trying to make us believe that the bureau was closed and so they could re-direct us to their agencies or make us victim of a very well known scam. As adviced in our guidebook, we didn’t listen to them and managed to get to the ITB and buy our tickets to Jodhpur. However the train was going to leave from another station: the Old Delhi train station.
Because we had been carrying our backpacks all day, we wanted to get a taxi or a rickshaw to take us to the other station. The 1st taxi driver we asked, said he wanted 400 rupees (about 9€), which is a price I would pay in Dublin, but not in Delhi – he was trying to rip us off. We decided to take the metro which costs 20 rupees (about 0,45€). By the time we got there it was rush hour and because it was just the day before the Diwali, the 4th of November, the metro was packed. We bought our metro tickets, but when we got to the station I had a panic attack. There were so many people pushing and fighting. There were also lots of policemen trying to keep things under control and flighting with men that wanted to sneak into women carriages (in the metro in Delhi, some carriages are just for women, but women can go with men if they want). It was scary! I felt we would be smashed with our bags if we would attempt to get in.
It took some time, and a few trains, before we dropped the idea of the metro. So we went back to the surface to get a taxi. Another two guys asked us a ridiculous price and when we tried to negotiate they turned their back and left. We waved to many taxies, but nobody seemed to like us, and the stress was growing. We started walking as it was getting late and the last thing we wanted was to miss our train, but we finally managed to get a rickshaw. He charged us a more decent price, but it was still more expensive than normal and at that stage we could turn anyone down. After a ride in the bustling streets of Delhi, at last he dropped us just in front of the right station.
We started relaxing once in the station, but we couldn’t find our train in the screens, so Emanuele had to queue at the information desk for a long time to ask and be sure that everything was ok. Everyone was getting on his way, breaking the queue and getting in front of him. This looks like a common behaviour and not many people in the queue seemed to care if someone went straight to the counter without waiting for their turn. In the end Emanuele got to the front of the queue and got confirmation that everything was ok with our train so we went to the platform and sat on the floor waiting for the train. As the train approached we saw a crowd running. When the train finally stopped at the platform, people started to literally fight to get in, even women with children, and get their place inside. As I read in Shantaram, there is a class of tickets with no seats allocated, so when the train arrives people who have these tickets have to fight to be able to get a place, otherwise they might have to stand or sit on the floor.
Finally with the help of some guys we were able to get to our carriage as printed on our ticket. In India the names of the passengers who have a reservation are printed and affixed to the door of each carriage, but when we arrived there, there was no list. We had to wait a while before a guy came with the list and once we read our names in it we rested reassured that we were finally leaving Delhi.
At 9pm the train started moving. We got our berth and after a couple of hours we were sleeping and finally releasing the stress.
We may have to go back to Delhi as part of the itinerary we’re thinking of following – and in that occasion we may stop for one or two days and give Delhi another chance. If we do, I hope our next experience will be better. I’m sure there are a lot of great things in Delhi that we missed out on and that are there to be discovered and enjoyed.