Pay Extra, If You’re White! Why All This Discrimination Against Foreign Tourists visiting Taj Mahal-Agra and other tourist places in India. Taj Mahal which is one of the Seven “Wonders” of the World, makes foreign visitors “Wonder” why they are paying more to see it? Rs 1000 ticket price for foreigners and Rs 40 for Domestic/Indians!
Mangaluru: Mahatma Gandhi had said, “The only difference between man and man all the world over is one of degree, and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same species. Where in is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?” Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, this is the country of Mahatma Gandhi, who taught us never to discriminate on the basis of caste, color or religion-then why is that Indian tourism board in major cities in India charging more fees for foreign tourists during sight-seeing of monuments, parks and other historic places of interest, including the famous “Taj Mahal” in Agra. Many renowned Indian religious and political figures like Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Guru Narayana Swamy, Jawaharlal Nehru and others, have spoken and taught about keeping equality among human beings and also not to discriminate against race, color or religion-but it seems like Indians are abusing their teachings, when it comes to dealing with foreigners.
Two years back I had taken my friends who had come down from USA ( two Mexicans and two Americans) to see Delhi, including Taj Mahal in Agra, and also took them to Jaipur and other places. While we were at the ticket counter trying to purchase entry tickets to see Taj Mahal, there was a big argument between a young man and the ticket issuing clerk. The 26-year-old film student, Suraj and his family are Indians who emigrated to Canada. He had bought a cheap ticket for himself, but guards suspicious about his Western accent and Caucasian girlfriend demanded to see his passport. He explained that he was born in India and that his father was in the Indian air force for 10 years.
Sorry, the guards told him. He would have to buy a $20 ticket ( roughly Rs 750 then), as his girlfriend had. Suraj said that as students they couldn’t afford another $20, so they stayed out. Suraj’s two Indian cousins refused to go in without him. Isn’t that embarrassing when you are treated differently just because you are a foreigner. Bah humbug ! Similarly my American and Mexican friends because of their fairness/white color had no other choice than to buy the tickets whatever price they were, since they really wanted to see the Taj Mahal. They were not at all happy with this kind of dual pricing system. So also do the local merchants around that area-Merchants and tour guides say the price dispute is affecting their income. But although I was a US Citizen, I got in paying the domestic price of Rs 20 then–so it seems like this pricing is based on the color, since no one checks your identity. This is stupid, because there are rich India born US Citizens now, who enter to see Taj Mahal paying the domestic price and not the foreigner price. Bah humbug!
The Following pictures were taken last year
But recently this year the entrance fee hike at India’s monuments, doubling it for visitors from abroad at the Taj Mahal from Rs 250 to Rs 500. With another Rs 500 as toll tax, the total money they now need to shell out is a prohibitive Rs 1,000. Domestic tourists will now have to pay Rs 30 (after adding toll tax collected by Agra Development Authority it will be Rs 40) instead of Rs 10 to visit ‘A’ category monuments, which include the Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar. For category ‘B’ monuments, the rates have been increased from Rs 5 to Rs 15 for Indians and from Rs 100 to Rs 200 for foreigners. Interestingly, ASI has introduced a new class for foreigners visiting ‘A’ and ‘B’ category monuments and for this they will have to pay Rs 750 and Rs 300 respectively. For this, they will be provided with additional facilities specified by the director-general. Citizens of Saarc and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation countries will be charged domestic rates.
Most tourists come to India determined to see the Taj Mahal, the majestic marble mausoleum that is one of man’s great monuments to love. But nowadays they’re likely to encounter tears, shouting matches and sit-ins outside the gates of the white marble memorial. Many foreigners are shocked to discover that for them, the price of admission is Rs 1000 (where Indians pay only Rs 40)–nearly 48 times more than Indians pay. Guess, the proceeds are split evenly between the Archaeological Survey of India, a national agency that oversees India’s 3,606 monuments, and the Agra Development Authority, which says it needs the money to improve the city.
What improvement are they talking about- Any visitor can see that Agra needs more than just sprucing up. Pigs root around in huge piles of garbage and open sewage drains. Potholes abound and the air is filthy, due to emissions from iron foundries and oil refineries and engine exhaust from trucks and cars. There is filth and garbage scattered all over, a few yards from Taj Mahal. Pollution is in then air, traffic noise and what not -and is this what the foreigners are paying extra to experience “incredible India?” The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died giving birth to their 14th child. Elephants hauled in tons of Jodhpur marble and an army of 20,000 stonemasons, gem cutters, marble fitters and laborers toiled for 22 years to complete the tomb in 1648. It is one of the world’s great tourist destinations, for foreigners and Indians alike. But for many, the price of admission puts it out of reach.
Even the rich, five-star tourists are very direct about it. They feel discriminated against. Ethically, it’s just wrong and it gives such a bad impression of India. So why are foreigners charged more than Indians here- Even at Disneyland-Florida, USA, however, foreigners are not charged more than Americans. The entry fee at the Eiffel Tower in Paris is same for all nationalities. In Athens, the Acropolis is $6 for Greeks and foreigners alike. However, it’s not uncommon to charge foreigners more in Third World countries, on the grounds that upkeep of tourist sites is expensive, and local people on meager wages can’t be expected to pay high ticket prices. Forget about entry fees to see monuments and such, in India, foreign visitors are even charged higher prices for airline and railroad tickets, hotels and food. That’s not right ?
I decided to write this story, as few of my American friends who have come down from Chicago-USA for a wedding taking place here in couple of days, had been to the Taj Mahal and surrounding scenic places in Agra and Delhi before they arrived to Mangaluru, and they were not happy with the price difference between Indians and foreigners. Jonathan speaking to Mangalorean.com said, ” It’s not a big deal to pay Rs 1000, but it is kind of discrimination charging two different prices just because you are a foreigner, for that, because of your color. Nowhere in Chicago, foreigners are charged extra to see Sears Tower, Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo and other monumental places-everyone irrespective of color, nationality etc pay the same ticket price. We are very much upset with different ticket prices at different places for foreigners. We had no other choice than to pay”
The promise of large crowds of annoying people had me questioning whether it would be worth it, but the entrance fee kept me away for good at many sight seeing spots. After traveling in countries like Thailand, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, France, England and so on, I have never paid any extra than the locals there for anything- nowhere is the difference in prices for locals and prices for foreigners more apparent and more egregious than at the Taj Mahal. Indians pay Rs.20 a year ago, and now pay Rs 40;while foreigners paid 750 a year ago, now pay Rs 1000. That’s a huge difference, which I can’t simply understand, and I think it’s absolutely stupid and foolish.
And yes, I’ve heard the reasoning that foreigners can afford to pay more, so they should. That’s a load of crap espoused mainly by those whose pockets are being lined by the steep entrance fee. Not all tourists are from first world countries. What about the visitor from Pakistan? Or Bangladesh? Sri Lanka? Those countries are far worse off than India financially. More than the money, though, it’s the principle. To put it in perspective, imagine Indians, or for that matter foreigners visiting the NASA Space Centre-Florida, USA or Washington Monument and seeing a sign that reads: “Americans: $40. Foreigners: $1000.” I don’t think that would go over well.
Though the ticket sellers give foreigners a tiny bottle of water and some socks(!) for forking out Rs 1000 to see Taj Mahal, you still have to stand in the same slow, disagreeable queue as the Indians and otherwise get nothing more for your money. Now extend this to every other thing you do in India as a foreigner. You can understand how it feels like discrimination – or can you? If Indians went to US or many other countries, they would pay the same prices for everything that the locals over there do. I think, India is perfect breeding ground for Thieves, Fraudster, Cheaters. Not UP or Central Government, and the government consists of such Politicians, Bureaucrats who are nothing but a band of legalized dictator cum thieves. If you want to visit Taj Mahal, or any other historic sight-seeing spot in India, you have to pay whatever amount you are asked for. We want our Tourist spots to be flooded with Foreigners but we are dissuading them by cheating them either way(legally or illegally) ! Shameless species we are! Aren’t we ?
If you go to the restroom at the Taj Mahal (and you’re a foreigner), don’t pay to use the toilet. There’s a big sign that says foreigners don’t need to pay to use the toilet (while Indian national do have to pay). However, I saw one instance where someone was standing blocking the sign, and then I saw a foreigner go into the toilet while asked to pay the small fee. Don’t pay! Let me share an interesting point as we talk about the rate differentiation. If you are an Indian and want to freshen up after a round in the complex, you have to pay Rs.2, whereas foreigners can avail this amenity for free..! I wonder if Indians urinate so profusely to attract this fee.
Couple of years ago, I had the good fortune of spending three days in Mysore for Dasara, along with my friend, Ryan from California, USA. And it was quite embarrassing to see the difference in entry fees at various tourist spots. Entry for Indians at Maharaja Palace is Rs.40, for foreigners Rs 200; at Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery-Indians Rs 30, Foreigners-Rs 120; Maharaja’s Residential Palace Museum-Indians-Rs 35, Foreigners-Rs 280; even for a camel/elephant ride at the Palace-for Indians Rs 60/30, Foreigners-Rs 100. The differential felt like gouging, pure-and-simple.
For those of us who like to think we are giving something to this country, however modestly, the unashamed screwing we get should we want to visit its historic places is tough to swallow. If that is how our Government mercilessly “rips off the foreign tourists” to “earn” revenue at such important tourist destinations, how can the country’s image improve? Fleecing at its best ! There should be better ways to decently earn ‘foreign money’!
But one thing I can’t understand how the security personnel or entry gate persons differentiate between a Indian and a foreigner ? How about a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi comes to the gate-no ID checked, but is let in assuming them as Indians because of the brown color. But in the case of a white dude or a white female entering the museum gate, they are automatically considered foreigners, and charged extra fees. Is this the punishment they get for being white ? While on the other hand, there are quite a few Indian Americans ( aka American Citizens) who walk in pretending to be Indians, and avail the benefit of paying “Indian entry fee”. In 2013, while I was at Maharaja Palace, one such Indian American was Deepak Patel, his wife and two grown up kids-instead of paying the “premium ” foreign price, he and his family walked inside Mysore Maharaja Palace for Rs 160 (Indian entry price) rather than paying Rs 800 (NRI/foreign entry price). How nice?
Like Mr. Deepak, I too was a mute witness to this discrimination, but unlike him, I was actually more than a witness. I was party to a crime. Because I am a US passport holder of Indian origin, a American Citizen and also a dual citizenship holder-and I stood in the Indians line and bought a ticket with no questions asked. I simply believed in the saying, ” While in India, do as the Indians do”? I am ashamed to admit, but I didn’t mind doing it. No ticket seller ever asked me about my citizenship. And I never volunteered it either- Why should I, when its not fair to charge a NRI more. Yes, I am not poor and I can easily afford those higher fees. But the temptation to cheat and save all that money is just too great, and yes, ashamed as I am, I would do it again. Just for the reason what the Indian government is doing towards non-Indians is “total discrimination” .
So – after looking at these prices, my conclusion is – I don’t think the Government is significantly overcharging tourists for the Taj / Agra Fort experience. As far as the differential pricing for Indians is concerned – The Government of India subsidizes tickets for Indians to promote our heritage and create more interest / awareness / national pride. Additionally, in a poor country, there is no way the man on the street can afford the kind of the prices that these monuments deserve. This is a dent in the Government coffers, but it is a decision in the national interest which the Tourism department has the right to make.
There is obviously a case to be made for levying flat fees for everyone – Indian or foreign – there were rumours then considering flat fees of Rs 200 or so. But honestly, if you’ve been to Taj and seen the number of poor people that come there – none of them could afford this. In any case, until we hear any decisions, all that I think you should ask yourself as a tourist is – am I paying a fair price i.e. did I get my money’s worth being to all these monuments paying outrageous entry fees? I think the answer is likely to be a “yes” for some or probably, ” No” for others. But anyways, charging outrageous entrance fee for foreigners is not a good sign. Period.