Karl Rock's Blog

India Travel Safety & Advice plus the Best of Incredible India

Category: India Travel Safety Page 1 of 5

India Survival Guide Success! Police Arrest 4 in Connaught Place!

Success! Police Arrest 4 Scammers in Connaught Place, New Delhi

Good news! After my report with Zee News on scammers in Connaught Place, New Delhi the Delhi Police began a crackdown on people ripping off foreigners and taking them around to overpriced stores.

I never expected this to happen, but the Delhi Police have listened. Good work Delhi Police. I hope this continues during tourist season this year. Here’s the full news report translated from Hindi:

A gang of fraudster rickshaw drivers were arrested by Delhi Police. This gang used to scam foreigner tourists by fooling them in the name of taking them to shops selling jewellery and clothing.

Manoj Kumar aka Bobby (50, Geeta colony), Ritesh (36, Nabi Karim), and Jitendra Kumar (41, West Karaval), were arrested by Delhi Police.

Their rickshaws have been taken in custody as they were being used for the crime.

According to DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma, they were receiving complaints for quite some time that some auto drivers were scamming foreign tourists. The auto drivers used to take them to particular shops, which they said, sold traditional clothing, jewellery and decorative items of which they charged a huge amount. The auto drivers used to get fixed commission for this. Many tourists were being fooled by this gang.

To arrest these auto drivers, district police of Delhi had formed two special teams. One of them arrested Manoj and Ritesh opposite Royal Plaza on Ashok road. The other team arrested Jitendra and Amit at Jantar Mantar Road opposite MTNL building. Two FIR’s were launched at Sansad Marg Police station.

Delhi Police is now investigating further about how many other gangs like this are active in New Delhi.

A post shared by Karl Rock (@iamkarlrock) on

Is Pakistan Safe to Travel to?Wazir Khan Masjid Mosque Shahi Royal Hammaam Bathhouse Lahore Pakistan Oct 2015 047 photo by Wasif Malik (https://flic.kr/p/Bzmoms).

Is Pakistan Safe to Travel to?

What do you first think when you hear the word Pakistan? For me, living in New Zealand and India, since 9/11 it’s been synonymous with terrorism. News reports, the movie Zero Dark Thirty, and Mark Owen’s book No Easy Day were, like most, all I knew about Pakistan.

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Poster

I had similar worries about India from my conditioning from the Western media before I travelled there. That’s why I ended up writing the India Survival Guide, to help put traveller’s minds at rest by quickly teaching them the ropes to make their trip to India a success.

I’ve consistently throughout my life found media stereotypes to be scaremongering and far from the reality on the ground.

Access all available safety information

Government travel advisories for Pakistan weren’t very encouraging either. They rated Pakistan as an extreme and high-risk travel destination. Those same Government advisories had also rated Ladakh and Kashmir in India, where I’d just been, as an extreme risk too (and all of India as ‘some risk’).

So far I hadn’t found much positive info on travelling to Pakistan.

Next, I started searching for blogs about others experiences in Pakistan. This search came back very positively with many travellers raving about Pakistan, and it’s beauty.

After that, I went and got opinions from my friends. Unsurprisingly, my Hindu Indian and Kiwi friends all said something along the lines of, “You’re going to get kidnapped or blown up.” My Muslim Indian and the very few Pakistani acquaintances I had were far more positive.

My Pakistani friends, including a woman who works at a local shop I frequent, all immediately offered me hospitality in their cities. As I talked to them and read Pakistan travel experiences online, the worries I had started to fade.

Advice from a British traveller I met in Pakistan

Pakistanis are incredibly hospitable and very friendly. Walk through any city and you will be met by a barrage of people wanting to introduce themselves or offer you a cup of tea.

There are barely any tourists here, so people are often excited to see you. Sometimes your rickshaw driver will refuse payment, declaring that you are his guest. Outside the city, people become even more friendly.

However, the government and in particular the Military and Intelligence services appears to be getting increasingly paranoid around the activities of foreigners.

Be prepared to be stopped again and again by the authorities and have your passport at the ready.

Some of this official attention is for your own safety, there are, of course, very dangerous areas in Pakistan and the government of Pakistan will stop you going there, or for the slightly less dangerous areas, issue you with a police bodyguard.

The fact that the government issues foreigners with police protection shows that at some level there is still a very welcome commitment to opening as much of the county up as possible to tourists.

Regarding danger from terrorism, there is only one incident to my knowledge where Westerners were specifically targeted, the 2013 massacre of climbers at Naga Parbat.

Whilst terrorist attacks continue to plague parts of Pakistan, they are rare in Lahore and especially in Islamabad. The targets are not foreign tourists (there are barely any to target).

Foreign government websites offering travel advice are important to consult, but usually extremely risk-averse. You might find yourself, for example, staring at an overpriced box of Ferrero Roche in a fancy service station on the flawless motorway to Peshawar and realise, that you have strayed into a zone in which the British FCO advises against all travel.

In seven trips to Pakistan over the past twelve years I have never once felt threatened.

Know where to be extra careful or not go

That being said, there’s no denying that some regions of Pakistan are high risk due to terrorist organisations operating. This map shows you the troubled areas.

Safety in Pakistan: Areas of crime and terrorism activities

Safety in Pakistan: Areas of crime and terrorist activities. Green is safe, the rest have various issues. Updated in early 2018.

My decision

After weighing up all the opinions, I decided to go to Pakistan and even enter the zones of extreme risk. My risk tolerance is quite high compared to others so I can understand others deciding against it. If you want to go but are still a bit worried then just stick to the highway going from Islamabad in the north to Hyderabad in the south.

I was also lucky that I had a friend in Peshawar who I’d be staying with there. He informed the local Police the dates I’d be arriving and they requested a copy of my VISA and Passport. The Police there will work to ensure your safety. If you have friends back home that can introduce you to trusted people in these areas, then you can travel there much more confidently with a local.

I already had a wealth of experience from visiting and living in India, so the worry that I’d struggle with language, customs, bargaining, scams, and the daily life weren’t there. I was already a confident traveller.

UPDATE: After visiting – A warning

Pakistan was a great country to travel, but I did face one issue that I didn’t expect. Everyone online warns you about terrorists, but the problem I encountered was with the Government.

The short story is, coming to Pakistan on foot from India and visiting Peshawar (red area on the map) I raised some flags amongst Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Firstly, as I crossed the border, they called my Pakistani friend who’d invited me and began questioning him about me and telling him where not to take me (even though I’d included all his details in my VISA applications months before).

Then they called him a second time a week later asking him more questions about where I’d been and where I was currently.

Whoever was on the phone wouldn’t say what agency they were from. It was weird and made me extremely paranoid wondering why the hell they were keeping an eye on me. I’ve never experienced this anywhere else in the world.

The thing is, I’m not sure you can avoid being monitored in Pakistan unless you’re on an organised group tour. Pakistan’s relationship with the West is strained, they are wary of foreigners, and have a strong dislike of Americans. Until that changes, it won’t be as welcoming to tourists as most countries are.

My privacy is something that’s important to me and it resulted in me leaving Pakistan early.

Knowing all that now, I still would have gone to Paksitan, because it isn’t until you’re being watched that you realise how much your privacy means to you.

UPDATE: Another tourists experience

YouTube comment from another tourist about being spied on in Pakistan.

YouTube comment from another tourist about being spied on in Pakistan.

Foreign Woman Beheaded in India

Liga Skromane Missing Poster

Kerala Police have finally caught the two men who drugged, raped and beheaded a tourist – Liga Skromane from Latvia.

Liga had been missing since February when she went to visit a beach in Kovalam. She had come to India in search of ancient Indian Ayurvedic (natural Indian healing) treatment for depression.

The suspects are drug sellers, and one has previously abused both men and women in the same remote area in the post.

What went wrong?

Simply put, Liga trusted the wrong people. In tourist areas in India, it’s hard to know who you can trust. Most of the time, if someone is approaching you and starting a conversation, there’s something they want from you. It might just be a selfie or to sell you something, but it could be something else too.

As a man in India the risk is less, but as a lone woman being approached and going anywhere with local men is risky. They might come up to you and start with innocent questions like, “Where are you from?” Then once they’ve built a quick friendship with you, they’ll say, “Let me show you somewhere special that tourists never go.” Who wants to miss out on seeing a local sight off the beaten track?

Another thought I had which is pure hypothetical is that she may have been buying drugs. In places like Goa and Kerala, I was offered drugs from men on the street as I walked down the road or near a beach. I don’t do drugs or drink, so I never experienced what that process is like. But I imagine they’d have their lines to lure you to a quiet place to take drugs. Just like back home, you can’t trust drug dealers (but that should go without saying right?)

A final problem in India is that foreign women are seen as “easy” and thought to be more open to having sex than Indian women. So if you come across a man who has this mentality, he’ll take advantage of you all the while thinking to himself, “She asked for it, she’s out here talking to men!”

How to stay safe with strangers

Before trusting and going anywhere with people in India, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself:

  1. As a lone female, never go places with strangers. But if you are going to then follow the next to steps.
  2. Verify their identity. Before going somewhere, add them as a friend on Facebook or take their phone number and call their phone so you know it’s the right number. If they don’t give you any personal information, then they don’t want to be identified, and that’s a big red flag.
  3. Then send their identity to whoever you’re travelling with and tell them where you’re going with these strangers.
  4. Use the share your location feature on your phone with someone, so your movements can be tracked.

The Best Places to Visit Near Indore (Omkareshwar, Ujjain & Mandu)

After having a full eating dose in Indore, I was all geared up for a three days trip to three different places around Indore. It consisted of Omkareshwar, Ujjain and Mandu.

Omkareshwar, Narmada River. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Omkareshwar, Narmada River. Photo by vkpriyesh

Omkareshwar

77.6 km south of Indore exists a place of utmost religious spirit, Omkareshwar. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga (devotional representation) shrines of Lord Shiva in India and is situated on an island named Mandhata or Shivapuri in the Narmada river. A place full of sadhu babas, an amazing sunrise scene, rhythmic water waves, and Sangam.

Best travel connectivity from Indore

Frequent buses from Sarwate Bus Stand, Indore. You can also book a local taxi. Travelling by road is another add-on to the journey as the route consists of ghats on the way. It’s a 3-hour journey.

Food & Stay

Although the place can be fully experienced in a day. If you wish to stay, then Narmada Resort is a good option. The restaurant offers good quality food too.

Prominent Places

Standing on the bridge, you can experience a blissful sunrise over the dam. There are two main temples of Lord Shiva.

Narmade Har, Omkareshwar. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

The island is said to be in the shape of Om () symbol. Narmade Har, Omkareshwar. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Sangam, Omkareshwar. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Sangam is wonderful place to sit and meditate. You can take a boat ride from the main temple to Sangam at a very cheap cost. Sangam, Omkareshwar. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Ujjain

55.4 km north of Indore exists another place with full of divine power, Ujjain. A city that hosts Simhastha, one of the biggest Hindu pilgrimages along the Kshipra River. You can visit infamous Mahakaleshwar Temple, another jyotirlinga out of 12.

Best travel connectivity from Indore

There are frequent buses from Indore. Taxis are good. You can also opt for the train.

Food & Stay

If you are a religious person, and you are in India to see innumerable temples, then you got to spend some time in Ujjain, as it takes a while to get a grasp on each and every temple. You can find some good hotels, and food similar to Indore’s food around the railway station.

Prominent Places

Shri_Mahakaleshwar_Temple_Ujjain. Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Mahakaleshwar: As described, it is a must visit temple. Shri Mahakaleshwar Temple Ujjain. Photo by: Wikipedia

Ram Ghat and Kshipra river, Ujjain. Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Ram ghat in the evening gives you a sense of complete serenity.Ram Ghat and Kshipra river, Ujjain. Photo source: Wikipedia

Kal Bhairav Temple, Ujjain. Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Kal Bhairav: A very interesting temple where it is believed that the idol of Kal Bhairav drinks alcohol, as that is his favourite beverage. Kal Bhairav Temple, Ujjain. Photo source: Wikipedia

Iskcon, Ujjain. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

ISKCON Ujjain: Ujjain’s Iskcon is one joyous place to be during the evening. Iskcon, Ujjain. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Mandu

Nearly 100 km south of Indore, exists a wonderful place with beautiful places, and Mughal architecture. It’s an ancient town with humongous heritage.

Best travel connectivity from Indore

Book a private taxi, as the places are located pretty far.

Food & Stay

Malwa Retreat, the hotel by MP tourism is finest.

Prominent Places

Rani Roopmati Mahal, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Rani Roopmati Mahal (Palace) – Along the Narmada river, this palace was home to Rani Roopmati. Surrounded by thick stone walls, view from the top makes it a must to visit place in Mandu. Rani Roopmati Mahal, Mandu. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Rani Roopmati Palace Garden, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Rani Roopmati Palace Garden, Mandu. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Baaz Bahadur Palace, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Baaz Bahadur Palace, Mandu. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Jami Masjid

Jami Masjid, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Jami Masjid, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Jahaz Mahal, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Jahaz Mahal, Mandu. Photo by: vkpriyesh

Sunset Point, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Sunset Point, Mandu. Pic courtesy: vkpriyesh

Beware: No one accepts ripped notes in India. Photo © Karl Rock.

How To Avoid Fake Money & Ripped Notes in India [Exclusive Video]

Counterfeit cash is always in circulation in India. There are hundreds of millions of dollars of it floating around. To avoid getting stuck with it on your trip you need to know what’s real and what’s not as shopkeepers will always try to pawn off their fake currency to unsuspecting foreigners. Once it’s in your hands, no one will take it off you. All shopkeepers scrutinise cash before accepting it. You’ll see them holding notes up to the light to check authenticity. They’re not being rude, they’re just they’re trying to avoid counterfeit money too.

But never fear, here’s how to easily spot the most circulated counterfeits – the 10 rupee coin and 500 and 2000 rupee notes.

How to spot counterfeit currency in India

₹10 Rupee Coin

UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that the Reserve Bank of India has issued a statement saying both ₹10 coins here and in my video are real. HOWEVER, the coin on the right is considered by shopkeepers to be fake in New Delhi and surrounding areas, so it’s best that you avoid it if you don’t want to get stuck with it.

I got stuck with a bunch of these and when I tried to use them absolutely no one would take them. 10 rupee coins are the most common counterfeit floating around, especially in Delhi at the moment. They were made in the nearby state of Haryana.

Spot the difference? On the real coin, there are only 10 flower petals, it has the ₹ symbol, and the 10 crosses both the silver and gold part of the coin. Royal fail by the counterfeiters!

₹500 & ₹2000 Rupee Notes

Front of real 2000 rupee note. Photo © Karl Rock.

Front of real 2000 rupee note. Photo © Karl Rock.

There are 17 security measures on these notes but people only use 1 or 2. Get my India Survival Guide (Quick-Start Safety Guide) for all the details.

Don’t accept ripped notes

The same also applies for ripped notes: no shopkeeper will take a ripped noted from you, but they’ll sure try and give you their ripped notes. Always check every note you receive immediately in front of the person who gave it to you to make sure they’re in good condition with no tears or weird stains all over them. If there’s something wrong with it, hand it back to the cashier and ask for another – they’ll replace it for you.

If you do end up with a ripped note, take it to a bank and they will usually change it for you.

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén