If so, or just walking around on your own, be aware you may well attract unwanted attention from young men on the ghats.
I dislike having to resort to such trickery, but I did find it rather amusing how well it worked: while walking back to my hotel on my own, I picked up a bit of a follower who said he just wanted to chat and practise his English, which was fine, but when he moved on to asking questions about whether I was on my own and where I was staying, I realised what was going on. The minute I said I was meeting my 'husband' in a minute, he disappeared!
If you're a man, you'll almost certainly be approached, probably several times a day, on Dasaswamedh Ghat by men who say hello and offer you their hand to shake. Once you shake hands, they'll start to give you a hand massage and will prove remarkably difficult to let go of! If you really really don't want a massage at all, the best thing to do is offer them the 'Namaste' greeting with your hands pressed together - not only do you avoid shaking hands, you're being respectful too - but actually the hand massage is only a bit of a 'sample' offer to try to get you to go for a full massage, so there's no obligation to pay anything if you don't want to.
They don't seem to approach women at all, not even tourists. That said however, the above can still be a good way to avoid over-eager young men trying to chat up foreign women.
This is thankfully something we heard about before it happened to us. Around Manikarnika Ghat, which is the main burning ghat, there are a few men, claiming to be priests, who will offer to take you to a better viewing spot. They will take you up to a platform, where there probably is a good view, but you'll be charged for the privilege, and if you attempt to take photos (not a good idea anywhere around here) the price will be much higher.
This little irritation happens at the Ganga Aarti Ceremony every evening- As hundreds of people arrive to watch, there is a scramble on to find a good spot fromwhich to watch the ceremony. As we neared the Main ghat, where the ceremony takes place, two young men made a bee-line for us, and offered to show us a "good seat". This seemed too good to be true- but we took them up on the offer, and got a great view from a balcony upstairs of a shop. After a while, I noticed them doing the same for other tourists. Trouble is, they hung around behind us during the ceremony, and after demanded that we pay the shopkeeper!!I had enquired BEFORE about cost etc- and was assured that NO money was needed.
Anyway- we paid the money (R50) which was not much anyway, but it did cause a bit of a fuss, and spoiled what had otherwise been a wonderful evening.
I am fully aware that touting goes on in all tourist spots, but the way that these Ganga Gangsters behaved became rather threatening- I wonder what would have happened had we refused to pay.
Unique Suggestions: If you decide to take advice or help from a tout- always negotiate a price for whatever he is touting, selling or promoting. PAY BEFOREHAND on agreed price. That way- there is no argument afterwards- they will usually just leave you alone.
The same advice applies to Boat Trips, Auto-Rickshaw rides or Taxi Rides. CONFIRM the cost before you leave, and pay if possible beforehand.
Fun Alternatives: I am not quite sure why, but I have found that by smiling, shaking my head and holding my right hand up, palm outwards- always works. I noticed people doing this in Udaipur, and the touts take it with good humour- they will leave you alone.
Being a famous tourist spot, commission agents and brokers are everywhere to be found. They make false representations with a view to earning commission.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid them. Try to book hotels/tours directly with the authorities instead of going via them
Before I got there i was warned about this. I was planning to go to the yogi lodge because I've heard good things about that one. Tourist information told me to go to Dasaswameth gath and from there walk to the place. A rikshawdriver probably heard this conversation came up to me to give me a ride. Allthough I said Dasaswameth gath he insisted of bringing me to yogi lodge. I wasn't persistent enough so he brought me to the yogi lodge. I was very alert, because when I saw the place I saw old above the name it was scratched away. Just to be sure I asked the owner where we were on the map; He pointed a completely different place than where the yogi lodge was. I went out, told the rikshaw driver to ************* . And walk on foot to the real yogi lodge;
Afterwards I've heard there are many of these copy hotels, and rikshaw drivers get commissions if they bring you there.
Varanasi is famous for its Ghats and the cremation places located along the Ghats. If you go to this place shown in the picture, a stoned guy will show up offering to show you around. What he has to say is interesting and there is nothing against a donation to this and the additional houses where people wait for their death to be cremated, BUT it is just a simple lie how he asks for the money. Accompanied by an even older woman he asks for donating wood for the poor people who cant afford to buy enough wood. But the moon-prices per kg he charges for the banyan wood are hillarious. He charges 20 times of what other people told me.......
Our hotel had a brilliant view over this sight and from the rooftop we watched this systematical tourist-rip-off going on all day long. Great entertainment!
Touts are everywhere in varanasi the toughest I met.One little story for you.....
After 12 hours on a train in second class with one berth for two people(just for info Im 186cms tall and I weigh 100kg....)plus luggages,ours and bags from others and time to time few kids on the same berth,we arrived in Varanasi quite tired....As always we ve been welcomed by the usual touts BUT one was extremely annoing.After a short ride with the rickshaw we ended up far ,thanks to police infos, from the center, so we had a lovely walk at 6am ,just a couple of miles.From nowhere appears this little jumping tout offering me silk factory jewels hostels guides restaurants rickshaws etc etc like a repetitive house music song.After 15minutes of hassle I definitely lost my temper and I pushed him against the wall.This didn t stop him at all and he kept bothering me for other 15 mins, however the walk happened to be little more than a couple of miles.I overreacted again, and I promised him a quick and painful death if he would n t stop.This worked better, even because the difference in the body mass....,and I finally reached my hostel.The following morning as i went out from my hostel finally rested and relaxed a small tout approached me"do you remember me?" he asked.Obviously my answer was no,I have a very bad memory..,and he replied"you don t remember you wanted to kill me yesterday?"the bell rang, i couldn t believe that...and then he started again"silk factory?hostel?rickshaw?jewels?".....I learnt my lesson,there is no point of arguing fighting or be aggressive with them, just behave like them, smiles and hyrony are the strongest weapons in India.Once you ll learn that, you will have great fun and meet more people and touts will be less aggressive and more friendly.so just relax and remember "everything is possible in India"
Not really a trap but it just that you will be asked many times by somebody here local about to 'Just Visit, It's Okay' kind of offers, if you don't want, just say no. I didn't say no, so I had to buy some, but no harm, just buy and buy.
The Tourist Trap here I'm afraid could be the Varanasi Best. If I have a reason to return to Varanasi, it will be this one in picture. I was trapped by this little thing, I hope you can escape this trap. Believe me VTers, don't read those who told you not to eat roadside, this food I have tasted many times and many peoples already eaten, I'm sure you will cry for its good taste.
One time we had to get a train to Tundlar Station from Mughal Serai Station. Now where is Tundlar? Where is Mughal Serai? Good Questions.
Tundlar Station is a small town 50km south of Agra. Mughal Serai is a small town 10km south of the Ganges from Varanasi's Kashi Train Station.
We went this way because getting a seat on a Train from Varanasi to Agra (two huge destinations in India) can take weeks. I met many tourists who had been trying for days. The staff won't help you set your route. Not at all. They require you to fill out a reservation form, and queue up and present it to the clerk. If that reservation is not available then you have to try and make another one for another day or time and get back in queue. To the busy tourist thisis preposterous!
What should you do?
Unique Suggestions: Consult your 'Trains at a Glance' think laterally, and fill out a number of reservation forms. Starting of course with your preferred train first, your second choice reservation and so on. Remarkably the Indian rail clerks didn't mind this. In fact I think they respected our use of their system. It worked well. We always got a seat. Even if our journey waqsn't as direct as it could have been. Taxi's are cheap aren't they in India.
Fun Alternatives: http://www.indianrail.gov.in/
o Hindus, the Ganges is a deity and represents a deity at the same time. The Waters of the Ganga the most important river in India, purify. Hence returning your body to the Ganga wfater you die is an act of purification from life's deeds, washing and bathing in the ganga is also an act of Purification. Many Hindus begin their day with a bath or a swim in the Putrid Ganges.
Why? Well it is believed that the Ganges Comes Down To Earth from Heaven. A legend from the Ramayana speaks of King Bhagirath who once meditated before Lord Brahma for a thousand years for the salvation of the souls of his ancestors. Pleased with his devotion Brahma granted him a wish. He requested the Lord to send the river Ganges down to earth from heaven so that she could flow over his ancestors' ashes and wash their curse away and allow them to go to heaven. Brahma granted his wish but asked him to pray to Shiva, for he alone could support the weight of her descent. Accordingly he prayed to Shiva and he allowed the Ganges to descend on his head, and after meandering through his thick matted locks, the holy river reached the earth. This story is re-enacted by bathing the linga.
Unique Suggestions: Don't put any of this water near your mouth, it is EXTREMELY rife with Microbial life, pollutants and other nasties. Everything goes into this river. Injestion is an express ticket to Hospital. Be Careful
Fun Alternatives: Take a Shower in your hotel. Even if the water is cold.
Once you would need the service of an agency, for example to book a train ticket or whatever, before to agree for somehting, ask them which is the % or value of their services.
So, before to confirm something, bergain also about the provvision!!!!
Another very common thing that will definitely happend to you during your stay in India is this: You will take somewhen a rickshaw or whatever to reach a site, and they will definitely bring you in some shop (a shop of a friend or a brother or whatever). Keep in mind that the owner of the shop will pay the driver a commision cuz he brought there some tourist and clearly the prices of the goods will increase...
So, be strong and tell to the driver that you will not leave the rickshaw! This is the only thing that works out...
Donot wear very gaudy sleepers or foot-wears, if incase you do so, please deposit them at the shoe counter (generally found outside the temple they take one or two indian rupee coin to look after your shoes) because the chances of foot-wear theft is more in temples, not only in Varanasi but in any part of India.
When you will visit Sarnath, there you will find many deers, as in Buddha Age it was known as Deer Park Sarnath, so in his honour the government has kept few in this park, but beware here you will find hell lot of beggars coming after you selling cucumber and other fruits compelling you to buy and offer the deer in the parks.
Beggars.. well! It depend upon your faith, if you want to offer them than can give whatsoever you like, I have faced a problem in which my belongings were stolen by one of them so I donot want to generalize maybe only few are like that, but better be careful if they are around and flocking you for money or eatables.