Varanasi Warnings and Dangers
Varanasi is regarded as the spiritual capital of India and has drawn people near and far for centuries for its temples and the famous Ganges river. As with many popular religious sites and cities, visitors should make note of the warnings and dangers that also reside in Varanasi.
The city of Varanasi is made up of thousands of narrow, dark alleys. There are good chances of getting lost or confused. The paths and walkways are uneven, cows are common, and its very possible you could trip and fall. Also, there are certain “dodgy types” that hang out in these dark corners, so be alert. Women should dress conservatively and take precautions. Always carry a small torch, as it is invaluable for Varanasi at night.
Women Beggars and Rickshaw Scams
Women beggars with babies and small children are common in Varanasi. While it is tempting to help them, the guides and local authorities will advise you to ignore them as there are agencies available. This is the best advice you can probably follow. It is highly likely these women are syndicated and all ‘earnings’ go to a boss to be distributed later minus a fee. It is impossible to know who is syndicated and who is genuine, so the choice is yours.
Arriving in Varanasi carrying a rucksack advertises yourself as “fresh meat” to scammers. There isn’t much you can do, but there are a couple of things you can employ to minimize this nuisance. Don’t give the name of your hotel to a rickshaw driver. Instead, give them a street name or the name of a ghat if you’re staying next to the river. They won’t be able to drive you the whole way to a ghat with their motorized vehicles, but they’ll drop you off as close as possible.
If you get followed by touts, you’re best to say no firmly once, and then don’t get drawn into an argument, as they seem to think that they might get your payment if you engage. Bear in mind that if you do follow a tout to his hotel, you’ll be paying for his commission on top of the normal room price. Be also wary of ‘holy men’ who find any opportunity to charge you their ‘services,’ from taking pictures with them to daubing you with paint on your forehead.
Your hotel will almost certainly warn you about this but make sure you keep all doors and windows closed whenever you’re out of your room and probably even if you’re there. The monkeys of Varanasi are reputed as vandals and thieves, as most of the hotels have wire mesh over all the roof terrace areas to prevent them from getting into the corridors. Several can be spotted hanging around on the balconies and lintels over windows near hotel rooms, and some still find a way getting into rooms and stealing belongings and even toilet paper!
Editor’s Note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about warnings and dangers in Varanasi.