During a recent visit to Hyderabad on work, I took some time off on a Sunday to visit the Golconda Fort which dates from the 13th century and is located on the western outskirts of the city. Like most tourist places that I have visited in India, the place is in ruins. It appears to be standard operating procedure that maintenance of these so-called ‘heritage sites’ is pathetic. But then one may argue that India is a poor country and cannot afford to keep these places clean. Perhaps so. But would it really kill the visitors to take their trash with them instead of littering the grounds with their plastic wrappers?
It says something about the culture of the people and I am ashamed of the Indian acceptance of filth and squalor. I assume that at least some Indian tourists are put off by the filth and I suppose most foreign tourists find it unappealing as well. Which would explain at least in part that India gets about 3 million tourists a year while neighboring China gets about 60 million tourists.
Another thing that bugs me no end is the differential pricing scheme that they have for entry into tourist places in India. For instance, at the Golconda Fort, an Indian is charged Rs 5 (about $0.10) as entry fee but for foreigners it is Rs 100 (about $2.) It makes you wonder. Are the people who make up these schemes stupid or are they xenophobic or are they racist or all of the above? Surely, ripping foreigners off cannot amount to welcoming them.
Besides, how do they enforce this sort of blatant discrimination? Technically I am a foreigner because I don’t have an Indian passport anymore. So unless they ask people to produce passports, the only way for them to suspect that one is a foreigner is by the color of their skin. Basically it boils down to this: if you don’t look Indian, you are required to pony up 20 times what an Indian-looking person would pay to have the same privilege.
It is morally repugnant to discriminate against people, even if the discrimination is against those who are presumed rich. Not just that, it is commercially short-sighted because people notice this sort of blatant double-standards and it affects the overall tourist traffic into the country.
If you think that ripping off tourists by charging them very steep entry fees for visiting your ruins is a cool idea, you might be a third-world country.
Followup Feb 2006: They have decided to change the policy. See part 2 of this post.
Venkat Ramanan writes:
Well said! The differential pricing by itself reflects the parochial mentality of Human Beings born in India. India is truly a Third World country if Tourism Minister boasts of burgeoning domestic travellers. In an interview which appeared in the BBC Televisions, Tourism Minister said “Last year there were 309 million domestic travellers in India which was much higher when compared to many other developed countries”.
If you think that an unemployed youth who travels from one rural area to Mumbai or Chennai in search of work as a domestic traveller, or a family who moves from one place to another to attend the funeral of a family relative or a friend as domestic travellers, you are truly a Third rate, or for that matter nth rate country. Sick Babus, Sick Bureaucrats! Keep writing… Atleast let us be reminded of the fact that we have a lots to improve!
Walker Duhon writes:
Speaking as a two-time white tourist to India, I don’t mind getting ripped off, though I understand your point in principle. When I have gone to India I also usually follow American tipping conventions as well. The dollar just goes so far, it really doesn’t matter to me as much. India is just such a tremendous bargain.
Charging different rates to foreigners for landmarks seems pretty standard as well — I saw it in Sri Lanka too (by the way Sri Lanka is surprisingly pricy compared to India). It makes sense to me — if you are willing to pay $1000 for the ticket you should be willing to hand over $2 to see Golconda Fort.