Like Agra and Delhi, Varanasi is rife with touts, and you’ll have to be careful of scams, especially on arrival. Many hotels pay a commission of up to eighty percent of the room rate (for every day you stay) to whoever takes you to the door – a cost that is passed on to you.
All English-speaking rickshaw drivers are part of this racket, and avoiding it takes persistence. At Cantonment railway station, you can phone your hotel of choice, who will send someone to pick you up (the tourist office will even do this for you). If you want to make your own way to the hotels of the old town, walk away from the bus or railway station to the main road, find a non-English-speaking cycle rickshaw driver, and ask to be taken to Godaulia, 3km southeast – a ₹50 ride. Rickshaws are unable to penetrate the maze of lanes around Vishwanatha Temple and are banned from the central part of Godaulia. Again, you can call a hotel from here to come and find you – if you attempt to get to a hotel yourself, touts may try to attach themselves and claim a commission on arrival. When trying to find hotels in the old town that don’t pay commission to touts, it’s common to hear that they have “burned down” or “flooded”; touts may also try to remove signs directing people to them.