This piece is primarily for those of you who are going to stay in Agra, and going to barge in to a hotel without any advance reservation. This is what a good number of budget travelers to Agra do.
Arriving at Agra without a reservation has the obvious hazels; and also some not so obvious ones that has to be tackled. Having said that , there are some advantages too. Let's see the problems first.
The obvious problems include lack of accommodation availability and the need to spend time searching for a suitable one. An Agra most of the budget type accommodations are concentrated around a few localities. The most popular is the Taj Ganj area just at the southern edge of the Taj Mahal where the touristy activities are at feverish pace.
Other areas for budget accommodations are near the Sadar Bazar and also near the Cantonment station.
Check a few places before you finalize and pay for one. Checking includes seeing your self the room you are offered, the bathroom and even the linen. No need to feel embarrassed to do so , as it is perfectly an alright practice. This needs to be done more so for accommodations that are in the 'dirt cheap' category. In other words, satisfy yourself what you are going to get for that price. Enquire (and negotiate) the checkout time.
The only thing is do it quick, especially if you sense the booking scenario is tight , as you would find that earlier 'good' one is already gone when you return to it for booking after say 30-45 minutes. And now you've to go back to that 'not so good' option.
What is explained so far is an alright and obvious situation. During the peak tourist season everything get occupied, leave alone you have a chance to pick and choose.
What to do in such a situation (you re in Agra and no hotel rooms are easy to come by) ? All is not lost. Before getting the answer on how to deal with this situation, let us know a few things about a common phenomena in Agra called the touts!
If you have arrived at a hotel with your taxi or rickshaw driver in tow, you are going to get a bad tariff in the hotel. Well, this may not be applicable to the upscale hotels as most of there clientele book in advance and the drivers are no source of business for them. In such places , at the best the driver may get is a tip rather than a commission at the cost of the client. So there is no such worries if you've pre booked.
So what are the 'advantages' of the gatecrashing type of hotel checkins. You can locally explore and select the best suitable for you in terms of budget,facilities and even the location.
But your situation here is different. You are not having a booking and you are arriving at a budget hotel with the driver following you. They will walk in to the lodge just behind (or even along) even though you've paid them and settled for the taxi service. This is just to indicated to the hotel staff that they need to quote you the price with the commission included! And mind you it is you who have selected that hotel and asked the driver to drop you there.
For a budget hotel/lodge the commission is typically 50% or even more. The less popular ( modest, remote etc ) the lodge , the more is the commission rate.
One of the best solution is to get rid of the driver long before the hotel. Or if that is not possible, get dropped near the hotel and do not walk into it immediately ( go for a stroll or walk into a restaurant ) and return to it a few minutes later. Most likely to your horror you will find that rickshaw driver is standing there with a grin expecting you to return. And in any case if you are asking for a way to the hotel to a passerby, you will be accompanied all the way to your hotel. Yes you guessed it, you have another one to tackle. And beware of the 'fakes' with similar looking or even with the same name as of the suggested hotels and lodges in your guidebook. In Agra all these have perfected to the level of a fine art.
Another way to deal with the situation is to call up the lodge and confirm the tariff and availability, a day before. At least you are sure of the tariff. The problem with most of the low budget places is, the 'reservation' system doesn't work like in case of the more organized hotels. A rood is always let out to a customer on the availability and demand. And eve if you have had a telephonic 'booking' to rooms may not be available. That's a case especially during the peak tourist traffic season.
Alright, you heard so much bad about the drivers and the touts. Let's see the other side of the coin. You are up against wall because of the no room availability situation in Agra. The one who is contempt everywhere , the touts , suddenly appears with the proportions of a savior. For he knows every kook and cranny of Agra, you are assured of a place to stay, albeit at a worse tariff. Now he is more desperate than you to find a hotel, because he doesn't want to lose the obvious commission to another tout or agent.
Even in this case do not leave everything at their hand. Tell them to show a few places to chose, if that is a possibility. Usually they show the first that offers them the highest commission. Anyway your job to find an okey place for you in that situation rather than to make the agent earn less commission. Usually you'll find that in the second or third place he will take you to.
Beforehand tell them the budget and ask the fair you will need to pay for the rickshaw. It will cut a lot of arguments and hassles later.
That's it about landing in Agra without a hotel reservation. Happy lodge hunting!!
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