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How to Keep Your Belongings Safe in Your Room in India. Photo by vkpriyesh (https://instagram.com/vkpriyesh)

How to Keep Your Belongings Safe in Your Room in India

The only time I’ve ever had things stolen from my hotel room was when I was in New York. I was sharing a bunk bed with a German tourist. I remember thinking when I met him that he wasn’t very friendly. That should’ve been a sign.

There were no lockers for luggage in the tiny room, but when you’re just sharing the room with one other person, the last thing you expect is for them to steal from you. Lesson learnt!

I came back after an afternoon exploring NYC to find the German had checked-out and my backpack open and missing my iPad charger. He’d also tried to smash the lock on my strong solid plastic suitcase. If it hadn’t have been for that sturdy suitcase he would’ve found my iPad inside.

I got lucky. I should’ve lost a lot more that day! Since then I’ve followed the below rules to keep my bags and belongings safe while travelling.

Securing your possessions (hotels & hostels)

Example of a portable travel safe.

Example of a portable travel safe.

  1. Prefer to stay at hostels with lockable luggage storage. Invest in your own lock to secure it too.
  2. Hotel room safes offer better protection than leaving valuables in your locked luggage, use them. If you want to be extra secure, there are locks available that add additional security to hotel room safes.
  3. If you have no safe, lockable luggage or storage, buy a portable travel safe and secure it somewhere such as the metal pipes under the wash basin.
  4. If you’re carrying something worth thousands of dollars, have it stored in the hotel’s own safe.
  5. Out of sight, out of mind: always have your bags out of sight in a cupboard to help staff resist the temptation to tamper with them.
  6. If you can’t secure your valuables in any of the above ways, carry them in your backpack with you.

Securing your room

  1. Hotels with electronics door entry are best because the codes are usually changed often, if not daily.
  2. Don’t stay on the ground floor; these rooms have windows open to the outside street. One level up offers security from that.
  3. Consider buying a portable door stop to secure your room door while inside the room.
  4. Hang the DND sign on your door, so no one enters while you’re out. Request the maid make up your room when you’re there.
  5. Double check your door is locked before leaving.
  6. Always use the peephole or door chain to check who’s knocking at your door before letting them in. If you’re not sure, call the reception and ask to verify the person.
How a portable door stop works.

How a portable door stop works.

Gangs of Wasseypur Poster

The Time I Was Nearly Kidnapped in India & How to Avoid Stalking

Stalking. It’s only ever happened to me once in India, that I know of. Once is enough to give you that sickening feeling in your stomach and ask yourself, “What could have happened?”

The sun was setting in Ranchi, the capital of one of the poorest states in India, Jharkhand. I’d just left my hotel at 4:30 pm to pick up some cough losengers from the nearby market.

As I searched the busy Upper Bazaar for a medicine shop a man wearing dark sunglasses that hid his eyes, dark blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a brown leather jacket walked past me singing to himself.

He looked like a typical Bollywood gangster with his hair slicked back. And after all, I was in the state of gangsters as depicted in the bleak crime film Gangs of Wasseypur.

Gangs of Wasseypur movie poster.

Gangs of Wasseypur movie poster.

He looked strange with the glasses on (often criminals try to hide their eyes, just like how we fail to keep eye contact when lying). He stared at me as he walked past, I knew something wasn’t right there and then. I kept walking, keeping an eye on him from the corner of my eye.

That’s when I saw him turn and begin to follow a few meters behind me. My instincts kicked in. Just with that small interaction, I knew there wasn’t something right about him. The way he was conspicuously dressed and his turning immediately after seeing me confirmed it.

Always trust your gut

As I reached the end of the market, I turned around, and he began pretending to look at a clothing stall.

I stared at him, so he knew I was watching him. I took a right turn and began circling the market. I turned around again, to find him still behind me. I stood there staring blankly at him. He knew I was watching him. He passed me and then began pretending to look at another clothing stall.

Mimicking my movements

I quickly made my way out of the small market lanes and onto the nearby main road. I turned around as I walked and there he was, following.

While I was in the busy market with people around I was safe.

While I was on the main road, I was safer as Police often have posts on the main roads. I found some kind of enforcement vehicle that wasn’t Police, so I stood there for a minute, and my stalker disappeared.

A Bazaar in India. Photo by Debajyoti Das.

A Bazaar in India. Photo by Debajyoti Das.

At this point, I knew without a doubt that he was following me. I was creeped out. It reminded me of another traveler’s story where in Amritsar she was followed and ran into a public toilet thinking he wouldn’t enter, but he did. He told her he wouldn’t leave until she paid him.

I’d lost sight of my stalker. But he hadn’t lost sight of me.

I finally found a medicine store and bought what I needed. The store was raised off the road. I looked out from my vantage point over the market for him. Then I looked to my left. It felt like a scene from a horror movie. There he was, two shops away, staring at me.

I kept staring back at him. I thought about taking a photo of him. But I didn’t, I couldn’t see any Police nearby, and I didn’t want to annoy him without them nearby – after all this state is famous for gangsters and violent far-left radical communist terrorists called Naxalites.

Find the police

A second later, as I kept looking across the market for Police, I saw two paramilitary officers patrolling with AK-47s slung across their backs.

I walked slowly down the stairs and ducked through the food stalls in my way and jumped a small fence to get closer to them.

I turned to watch my stalker; he stood there watching me cross the market. He hadn’t put two and two together yet. As soon as he saw me greet the army officers, I watched him casually and methodically escape into the crowd. He didn’t want to be pointed out.

After explaining to the officer I was being followed, he, of course, asked me, “Which man is following you?” But it was too late. He told me to come back to him if he bothers me again.

I wasn’t going to risk bumping into him again, not after dark, so I retired to my hotel for the night. Luckily my hotel was in the opposite direction the stalker went.

What did he want with me exactly?

Terrorists and guns in Jharkhand. From the Jharkhand Police's Twitter.

Terrorists and guns in Jharkhand. From the Jharkhand Police’s Twitter.

I had been warned not to go out after dark in Jharkhand because of the Naxalite tensions. But I didn’t know about the kidnappings there.

I thought this guy just wanted to rob me when I went into a quiet alleyway. But as my friend told me when I got back to Delhi, it was likely more sinister than that.

The Naxalites pay people to monitor the markets for kidnapping targets. Foreigners, politicians and their kin are the targets.

Luckily, following my own travel safety advice for this scenario paid off.

Here’s what to do if someone is following you in India

This advice below is taken from my quintessential India Survival Guide (Quick-Start Safety Guide), it’ll have you prepared and feeling confident about travelling in India as you enjoy reading it on the plane ride over.

  1. Keep calm and breathe.
  2. Verify you’re being followed by turning around multiple times to check if your turns are being mimicked. Stop and see if they pass you or not, then continue and look again.
  3. The moment you’ve verified it, begin making your way to a safe place like a bank, showroom, international brand’s store, or main road – anywhere with people. Do not isolate yourself or go into a place like a public toilet where there may be nobody.
  4. As soon as you’re somewhere safe, inform people you’re being followed.
  5. Call the Police on 100 or ask someone to take you to a nearby officer. The stalker should leave once they see the Police. Have the officer walk you to your hotel or assist you to your next destination.
How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Shopping Scams in India. Photo by David Baxendale (https://flic.kr/p/D6xJcN).

How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Shopping Scams in India

Being overcharged, given wrong change, and high-pressure sales tactics are the 3 most common shopping scams for tourists to India. The first two I still deal with every week being a foreigner living in India. Here’s how to avoid these scams.

Being Overcharged

When I first worked this scam out, I realised that two stores I frequented daily were overcharging me! One of them was a small shop at the end of a lane in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. I’d go there and buy a bunch of small food items and the cashier was scanning the products into the computer and then rounding up the bill by 20 or 30 rupees and never giving me a receipt, so I never saw the real amount.

I cottoned onto this scam when I only bought 2 items that I knew the prices of and realised he was adding more to the bill. You have to know the price of everything you’re buying and roughly add it up in your head, so you know roughly what the total will be. Luckily, that’s easy thanks to a consumer protection in India called Maximum Retail Price (MRP).

Maximum Retail Price (MRP) highlighted in red on a drink bottle and back box of sweets.

Maximum Retail Price (MRP) highlighted in red on a drink bottle and back box of sweets.

Every packaged product in India must, by law, have an MRP printed on it. It’s illegal for a shopkeeper to charge more than the MRP. Always check the MRP before paying to make sure they’re not overcharging you. If they are, point to the MRP – they all know the MRP laws. This law does not apply to items sold loosely, without packaging, such as fruit.

Wrong Change

A Mother Dairy store in New Delhi. Photo by Alan Morgan.

A Mother Dairy store in New Delhi. Photo by Alan Morgan.

The Mother Dairy store on that same street in Karol Bagh was also scamming me. I’d buy sweet lassi and milk from this little hole in the wall dairy and the cashier would never give me change. After I learnt about MRP, I realised he was only scamming me out of 10 or so rupees each time, but it’s the principle – he thought it was ok to shortchange foreigners.

Always know, at least roughly, how much change you should be receiving.

High-Pressure Sale Tactics

Certain stores, usually ones strangers and taxi drivers will take you to because they earn a fat commission, employ high-pressure sales tactics which can be very intimidating. The salesman will start bringing you lots of different products to look at and asking you constantly if you like them. Sometimes they’ll offer you chai and biscuits too. They make you seem very welcome until you decide not to buy something. Then they put the pressure on, “Madame, you must buy something.” They’ll even raise their voices and put a furious look on their faces.

Do not be threatened by these crooks and their high-pressure tactics. Tell them “No thank-you” and leave immediately, you are not obliged to buy anything – especially at the massively inflated prices these scam shops charge.

One skill you must have before shopping in India is bargaining, and it’s not as hard as you think. My India Survival Guide (Quick-Start Survival Guide) breaks it down into 3 simple steps, allowing you to surprise everyone and make massive savings.

Note: the ladies in this article’s feature image have nothing to do with scams, it’s just a beautiful photo of a local Sari store in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

India Rickshaw Scams Exposed & How to Get the Best Price Video. Photo © Karl Rock.

India Rickshaw Scams Exposed & How to Get the Best Price [Exclusive Video]

After dealing with scammers who’ll approach you on foot in India, you need to know how to bargain and deal with Indian rickshaw (tuk-tuk) and taxi drivers so you can avoid massive foreigner price markups, lies, and scams.

Watch my new hidden camera adventure to see tourist drivers attempt to lie, scam, and rip me off so you can avoid them!

Scammy tourist drivers give all drivers a bad name. I know it seems like everyone is out to get you in India, but unfortunately, all the con-men flock to tourist sights and areas to rip off inexperienced tourists.

Outside tourist areas, in ordinary Indian suburbs, you’ll find genuine people who aren’t trying to extort you. If you can, always book hotels outside of tourist areas. You’ll get a more authentic experience there, especially if you book an Airbnb with a local.

As you can see in the video, I was able to bargain the drivers down 54% in price. If you want to find out how to bargain like a pro in India in 3 simple steps, check out my India Survival Guide (Quick-Start Safety Guide).

Sexual Harassment as a Male Tourist in India. Photo by 花枝 劉 (https://flic.kr/p/AoM2hk)

Sexual Harassment as a Male Tourist in India

I knew sexual harassment and rape was an issue for women in India, but I never knew it was for men too until I experienced it myself.

Sexual harassment is a crime that is not exclusive to women, men are the victims too. It’s time we started treating it that way. Men are extremely reluctant to report it because we fear we won’t be believed, understood, or supported. I know that’s how I always felt.

Guys, it can happen to you too.

My Stories of Harassment

Sydney, Australia: The first time it happened to me wasn’t in India. I was in Sydney for work. I went to use the toilet at a nice restaurant on the harbour. While I stood there peeing in a urinal, a man came up behind me and started hugging me from behind while I was peeing. I pushed back to get him off me and began yelling at him and he quickly backed down and left. I shrugged it off, “What are the Police going to do? Laugh at me probably.”

New Delhi, India: A young guy came up to me and asked for a selfie with me. As his friend took the photo, the guy turned his head and tried to kiss me. I quickly pulled away and he didn’t connect, thank god. They walked off laughing.

Vrindavan, India: I was walking along a quiet dirt road to visit the famous Krishna temple in this holy city when an old man stopped his bicycle next to me. He began talking to me in Hindi and asking me run of the mill questions like “Where are you from? Do you have brothers and sisters? Are you married?” I was happy to chat for a minute and practice my Hindi, until he started repeating the word lollipop and hitting me twice in the penis. The first time I was shocked, the second time I began yelling at him and got away from him.

Somewhere in Gujarat, India: I was waiting at a bus station. I could feel someone was watching me. Whenever I’d turn around, there was this tall man staring at me. It was creepy. He kept moving closer and closer to me. I kept moving away. I went to the bathroom at the station and this guy followed me. There was plenty of urinals to use in the large bathroom, but he chose to stand next to me and watch me pee!

How to Avoid Sexual Harassment

In two of those situations, it was impossible to avoid, they harassed me. In the other two, I could have avoided it by not being so friendly, by not agreeing to take the selfie and by not stopping to talk to an old man. But that’s not how I want to live life because 99% of people are well meaning and genuine.

My top two tips from my India Survival Guide (Quick-Start Safety Guide) to help mitigate harassment are if you are touched inappropriately you need to make a scene immediately so others around you see what’s going on and come to your aid. Secondly, don’t be overly friendly with men as they quickly get the wrong idea in India, it pays to keep a balance between friendly and guarded with people you meet.

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