"You pay what you like": This rather annoying response from guides, drivers, and rickshaw-wallas to the question "How much will it cost?" will no doubt end with at least one of you feeling very disappointed. Try to find out how much something should cost before you enter into this dialogue (we've tried to advise this wherever possible), and always negotiate the fare or rate upfront. (Note that "I come later" is another irritating response, this time after you decline service, and you will need to remain firm or prepare to go through the entire experience again.)
"Just look, no buy": You will be urged to enter shops from all corners in both explicit and less obvious ways -- your driver, guide, even the seemingly innocent bystander offering assistance, are almost all operating on the ubiquitous commission system, and whatever they make on the deal is added to the quoted price. Note that to avoid this kind of hassle, look for the fixed-rate shops or those that mark their wares with prices. But as is the case everywhere, do beware of closely named imitations of fixed-rate shops with good reputations -- for example, Cottage Industries Exposition shops, often marked CIE, are seriously overpriced outlets that cash in on the fame (and closely related name) of the government-owned Central Cottage Industries Emporiums. The latter may not be the cheapest, but it offers good value, and you really can "just look, no buy."
"We look; we look": This response from a rickshaw-walla or driver usually means that the person either doesn't know where you've asked him to take you, or you'll end up somewhere with a similar name but nothing else to recommend it (Hotel Chandra, for example, rather than Hotel Chand). Prebook your accommodations whenever you can, so that you don't have to deal with touts and hawkers when you arrive. And be aware that a hotel or guesthouse that is successful will often have a rival opening within the year with a confusingly similar name.
"So where are you from, good gentleman?" (or more commonly, "Coming from?"): You will be asked this often, so prepare yourself. One of the possible reasons Indians kick-start conversations this way is that where you come from may in the past have indicated caste or social position; whatever the reason, engage in the opener -- it's far preferable to living in a five-star hotel cocoon.
"Hashish, taxi, guide, young girls?": In the well-traveled parts of India, you will be inundated with offers of assistance; again, the best response is to doggedly desist in what is essentially a game of endurance, and certainly ignore those unsolicited offers that are illicit -- these can carry a hefty penalty, including a lengthy jail sentence.
"Cof-fay, chai; cof-fay, chai; cof-fay, chai?": This incessant call given by the chai-walla wandering the corridors of your train will put to rest any romantic notions about the relaxation of train travel. Note that you will be most comfortable aboard the overnight Rajdhanis, which connect all the major cities, while the best daytime trains are the Shatabdis (book Chair Class). Time allowing, you should definitely book a "toy train" to the hill stations of Shimla or Darjeeling -- the latter approach is so spectacular it has been named a World Heritage Site.
"Yes, madam"; "Yes, sir": You will hear this everywhere, usually from hawkers wanting to draw your attention and con artists wanting to strike up a conversation. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of these irritants is to completely ignore them. In places like Varanasi, even saying no is perceived as a willingness to interact, and your pursuer will then continue to try to draw you into conversation. Just pretend you can't be bothered, and hopefully, in a little while, you won't.
"You wait, no problem": Finally, we can't emphasize enough how important it is to simply relax and accept whatever's going on around you. Many Indians subscribe to the philosophy that life is destiny, and getting uptight or flying into a rage usually won't solve much. You'll have a far better vacation if you simply give in to the moment and enjoy the experience; after all, the only aspect you have control over is your response.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
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