Monday, April 03, 2006

Touts, rip offs, and other practices

On a recent visit to Tirupati, I observed how so many of the basics of our tourism/pilgrimage/heritage industry is still so wrong. It exists right from the start of your journey. To take an auto to the place where you board the bus at night, you have to haggle (Bombay is perhaps the only exception). (When you return early in the morning, the auto guy starts off with a fare thats almost as expensive as your entire bus fare.)

The moment you reach the bus station or even Tirupati (or any other place), there are people who are selling stuff for more than their MRP. Sometimes you win in the argument, sometimes you dont, but point is everybody sells everything for atleast a rupee more than the MRP. Why?

Not just private even the government sometimes gets into the act. APSRTC has one of these luxury buses (luxury bus sir - better than express - more on this nomenclature some other time). The bus is an eyesore, a local bus painted with swirls of various colours and blue upholstered seats inside with enough leg room for a midget. The seats dont even recline. It is an absolute rip off. APSRTC for some strange reason does not allow any other RTC other than its own buses to Tirumala, the top of the mountain. And, the buses that APRSTC runs are as old as the hills. Thats perhaps a separate rant for some other day.

The ordeal does not end there. Most restaurants serve pathetic food. There is no guarantee that the food will be good at any place. Tirupati that way is far better than Guruvayoor which I visited some months back. These two places are perhaps the best; I shudder to think how it will be in other places.

And then there the touts...

There was a good exchange of comments at my last post on tourism in India, and how it has to go beyond glossy ad campaigns and get the basics right. There was a comment exchange between Markus and Steve Portigal. In that, one of the points that came across was that theres a lot of things unsaid when touring in India and any of these unsaid things might lead to somebody asking you money. Simply put, you get ripped off for nothing. People ask you money, tips for nothing etc. And this hurts. Each bad experience takes the experience further into a vicious circle.

A lot of this nonsense is not cleaned up simply because they are "jobs for local youth", but in reality thats just an excuse to not clean up this mess.

No comments: