As glorious and beautiful all countries can be, each one has a number of crooks who are trying to make a little extra money by scamming the easiest targets – the uninformed tourists. Especially in a country like India with a population of 1.9 billion, there are bound to be thousands who are plotting to scam the innocent.
India is a breath-taking country with diverse culture, rich heritage and an umpteen number of attractions to see and activities to do, but it’s got an ugly side to it as well. The commercial cities like New Delhi and Mumbai are most prone to such scams as tourists flock to these crowded areas, unaware of what is to come. To be clear, we are not discouraging you from visiting a gorgeous country like India, but we do advise you to be prepared and well informed. Here are some of the top tourist scams in India. Read travel information about Delhi here.
India is mostly a crowded country and whilst walking in such swarming areas, make sure you have all your important belongings with you and keep them secure. Avoid carrying large sums of money and just keep an eye out for suspicious onlookers. Although this isn’t exactly a scam, it’s a crime that hasn’t been suppressed in India, with beggars and others looking for busy tourists to steal from. Avoid keeping your wallets, passports and mobile phones in your pockets as they can be easily slid out without your knowledge. Ensure that your backpack is on the front and your slingbag is zipped properly. Beggars, a common sight in the country, are also sly at times and hurl abuses or come up with a sleeping (actually drugged) child to fool you. Be strong!
Bike/Car on Rent:
Most globetrotters like to experience the splendor of India by renting a car for road trips to some of the vacation hotspots – which is an extremely good idea. However, make sure you check the vehicle you rent for any damages and if any, point them out to the person who is renting it to you. Many car/bike rentals attempt to pin damage, already there, on you. Try and get proof like a contract or a signed document that acknowledges that the damages were made prior to the deal and you are not at fault. Rent your vehicles from a reputed company.
Yet again, this isn’t exactly a top tourist scam but a common crime committed in India. Not only may people try to steal your money and other valuables, but also your luggage at train or bus stations, sometimes even outside airports. Don’t leave your baggage unattended and be aware of your surroundings. Be organized and don’t leave your bags dangling from a chair or on the floor without keeping an eye on them. Do not always rely on the CCTV cameras as it's quite possible that one isn't around or if at all it is, it's not fully functioning.
Taxi/Auto/Local Guide Scams:
This is one of the top scams for foreigners in India. Taxis or auto rickshaws or even local guides will offer to take you to one of the most ‘famous’ shops for a particular item – where they get a commission for everything you buy. You might think that it wouldn’t hurt to take a look and not purchase anything, but the shop owners have a way of manipulating you into buying items. To avoid this, just politely decline the offer and say you’d rather just stick to your original plan, otherwise this show may go on for hours. Also, beware of those who pose as your well-wishers or guides and claim to know the location of your hotel or any particular store or restaurant that you wish to visit. You never know how people might turn out to be. The best way to avoid trouble is to prebook your mode of transport or use applications such as Uber, Ola and Google Maps which are easy to operate. Keep your destination's address and phone number handy. A longer route may also result in you paying higher fares.
Fake tourist office/Ticket booking office:
As we mentioned before, taxis and auto rickshaws or even strangers may offer to help you find the perfect ticket booking office with reasonable prices. However, they will take you to one of the fake tourist offices and trick you into buying overpriced tickets that won’t even be legitimate. We advise you to book through your trusted travel agency and have all your tickets with you beforehand instead of buying tickets once you land. If there are any monuments or heritage sites you want to visit that require buying tickets, know that only government offices near the sites will sell the tickets – and they always wear uniforms. Also, if you're the one who prefers booking everything online, then provide your card details and trust only the official websites instead of those who lure you with heavy discount.
Most taxi and auto drivers are honest and will take you to your destination at a reasonable price. However, there are some culprits who claim that their meter doesn’t work and will quote a much higher price for your ride. Sometimes, they even ‘fix’ the meter so that it runs faster and quotes an inflated price at the end of your journey. This is one of the top scams in India, not only for tourists but locals as well. Make sure you notice the meter running and if you think it’s going faster than normal, point it out to the driver or a traffic police who is placed at every traffic signal. If the meter is broken, hire another taxi. We highly recommend the taxi apps for your travel like Uber or Ola – they are legitimate and trustworthy.
Long Routes by Taxi/Auto:
Another scam by taxi and auto drivers is they sometimes take a longer route to your destination in order to increase the fare. Make sure you know the route to your hotel, at least from certain landmarks or even try to check your GPS to see if they are going on the right track. Again, we highly recommend the taxi apps for travel within cities.
Unofficial SIM Cards:
It’s true that getting an official and valid SIM card is a stressful task with all the paperwork involved, but it is definitely worth the work. If there are people selling you SIM cards that don’t require any paperwork, we guarantee that it’s a scam. This has been one of the top scams for foreigners in India. It is also recommended that you purchase a new sim at the airport itself where only licebsed outlets of telecommunication brands are set up. Do not forget to take a receipt once the transaction is over.
People say that some things are too good to be true – if you’re looking at a pashmina shawl that costs a great deal lesser than you expected, know that it’s one of the top ten scams in India. Some shopkeepers even sell fake products at high prices to fool tourists; hence we recommend you buy your products from government stores and trusted retailers rather than street shopping for expensive souvenirswhich might be of terrible quality and break off way before you get back home. There are also several beaches where people sell baby lotion as sunscreen. Make sure you pack your own sunscreen and other essentials to avoid being scammed. And, bargain like an Indian. carefully convert your currency to INR and visit 2-3 shops befor finalising on what you wish to get packed. Note that the vendor is surely asking you for extra bucks, owing to your hair, accent and skin color.
Do not trust strangers to take you to an official government office or even a private tour agency to book anything for you. We highly recommend that you book all your tours and tickets beforehand with a trusted travel agency and avoid being scammed by greedy onlookers looking to get some commission out of this. Even if one thing looks out of place, be sure that it’s not an official tour agency or even if it is, they will probably charge you double or triple the original price! Also read about the growing chingu scam here.
Despite all these top tourist scams and much more that we may not have mentioned, India is a country one must visit at least once in their lifetime to experience the culture and beauty. However, be cautious to make sure you have a smooth vacation without unnecessary hassle.
If any such scam has happened with you or your relatives, please feel free and spare few minutes to share your experience with the Tripscam communityas it would be a lesson and help other travelers like you. Log on to www.tripscam.com and 'Write a Report' on your good as well as bad experiences. We look forward to your feedback on making our country a better place.