The most common scams in India and how to avoid them

Have you ever been scammed? 

It’s not the best feeling in this world… But if you want this experience – please go to India! Haha

Indian streets in Delgi Chandni Chowk Market

I think most of the people are afraid to go to India, because they heard many many stories of how tourists are being scammed, robbed or done wrong in all of the senses. I won’t lie to you – it is true what they are talking about. Scams are really common thing in India, I had a chance to experience it and many travellers that I met on my way experienced it too, but as long as you know a few of them ahead of time – you might end up not being involved in any after all (or at least just a little bit)!

Here are a few very common scams in India:

1. The change of a price of your ride

How does it work? One of the most popular scams in India, and I think one of the hardest to avoid, is the change of the price of your ride with taxi or tuktuk. Before getting into a car you agree with one price and when you arrive the driver asks for a 3 times bigger amount. It’s pretty nasty isn’t it? Indians are lovely human beings, but somehow they think that they can do whatever they want with travellers as their wallets are endless gold mines. This situation can become even worse when the driver pretends or actually doesn’t speak in English, and in the middle of the argument his friends start coming and surrounding the vehicle leaving no chance for you to get away with this.

How to survive this scam? Ask the driver three or fifteen times about the price, write it on a phone or a piece of paper. Agree with the price before getting in a car or tuktuk. ALWAYS.  And then there are a few more options – pay the amount he is asking; try to bargain for the amount he would be happy to get; or give him what you agreed in the beginning and walk away (but be careful with this one).

2. ‘Your hotel is closed’ scam

How does it work? I think that’s the funniest (and scariest) and most popular scam ever. On your way to accommodation from the airport or train station, tuktuk or taxi driver might tell you that your hotel is closed due to the hurricane, flood, protest, heavy rain, too much sun, burnt down or whatever other reason they can come up with. That is so ridiculous but it happened to me and I was so scared! Oh by the way, they might even ring to your hotel and the voice on the other side might confirm that it’s closed. 

How to survive this scam? Do not believe in any of this BS. If you booked through booking.com or any other online source, there is no way your hotel is closed. Demand to give you a ride near your hotel anyway, tell him that your friends are waiting for you there and you will sort your accommodation problems with them. Do not go into any travel agency with him at any cost.

3. Travel agency/tourist office scam

How does it work? Have you heard stories about booking tours and going nowhere? That’s the scam you will get here. Fake travel agencies are still a thing in India, mostly located in the big cities, and it might even have a word ‘government’ in their name. Usually it’s a dirty room in a basement, with one table and a few posters on the wall. 

How to get away?  Try to avoid travel agencies and book as much as you can online or with your hotel/hostel as their services will be waaaay much better and more trustworthy. If it happens, that you end up in a travel agency, first – check about it online (google will help you), second – if they offer you to book a tour with a private driver and all inclusive accommodations – it’s a scam, third – ask as many questions as you can, if agent give up and tell you ‘you should sleep on that’ – it’s a scam! Fun right?

4. Ticket scam

How does it work? Found a charming small place where they sell train or bus tickets to another city? Or maybe a wonderful tour with a private driver? Next day no bus or car is coming to pick you up and you just stand there with all your stuff not knowing what to do? Here is your scam! Fake tickets for everyone!

How to get away? Buy tickets online or ask in your hostel/hotel for the tickets or where you could buy to avoid wasting money for (literally) nothing.

5. Train station scams

How does it work? Train stations are the most targeted place by scammers. You might get into a lot of adventures here: the reservation window is closed, free luggage transfer, pay for using metal detectors, your ticket is not valid, you have to pay for your luggage and so on.

How to survive? First – reservation windows are opened (maybe they are on a break), so find it first and do not go anywhere else (especially some travel agency). Second – the only things you need to pay extra there – toilets and snacks. So it’s free to go through metal detectors and sit on any bench that you want. And finally, keep your luggage near you at all times, but if you really need someone’s help with it – agree with the price before the service. 

6. Bold taxi scams

How does it work? Some taxi driver might take you one place, pretend that he don’t really know where he is or where your destination is, and to take you further he might ask you for more money to bring you where you actually need to be.

How to stay alive? I would say that using maps while driving is a very good thing to track directions where you’re going. And if that happens – be confident, pay him a bit less and get out of the car. There is literally no need to be involved with bad people.

7. ‘Don’t buy at this shop, let me show you a better one

How does it work? You will often hear tour guides, hotel staff or any other local saying that the shops on the main street (or wherever you end up) are rubbish, with very poor quality clothes, cheap materials, colours will wash off very quickly or that you will be very itchy after wearing it and so on and so on. The main reason why they saying this is because they want to guide you to the shop where they would get a slice of your purchase as well. Commissions are a fair reason to lie to a stranger.

How to get away? I would recommend keeping in mind that they might be saying the truth, because you know, like everywhere else in the world there are cheap markets, where quality of products are not the best. But also, don’t take it very seriously, everything is fine with all the shops around, just use your common sense before buying (I think you will feel when it’s a low quality product).

8. Wrong change scam

How does it work? I think this situation is common everywhere in the world, when locals try to take the advantage of chilled travellers, when it comes to giving a change for a purchase. Indians make this ‘mistake’ too, no matter where would you be (food vendors, banks, grocery shops, train stations and other places).

How to stay alive? ALWAYS check the change in front of the cashier and everywhere you need to pay. In front of their faces, alright?

9. Beggar scam

How does it work? Even though according to the World Poverty Clock today extreme poverty is under 3% of the population and the living conditions for the poor are getting better and better everyday (at least on a paper), you will meet lots of beggars on your trip. Mothers with infants, little boys and girls, skinny old men, all of them will come and ask you for money. I’m not gonna lie – it is very hard to handle this kind of situation (mentally and physically). I remember some of them looking very desperate for my help, and the hardest part was ignoring the little ones… 

How to survive this?  This question is an actual debate, but I would recommend if you have a chocolate bar or any food, give it to them (you will see their sad faces tho…) instead of money, especially for kids. Or you can always donate to organisations that really take care of the poor in that region.

10. SIM card scam

How does it work? Getting a SIM card in India might be a very big adventure on its own! We all know that the most important thing when arriving in a new country is to get connected. And get connected as quick as possible. But you also need to know that buying a SIM card in a small shop somewhere in the middle of the unknown market is a straight no-no. They sell used SIM cards that other person used and which expiration date is going to an end, so it will be disconnected and worthless at any time soon.

How to survive? There are plenty of official shops in the cities, where buying process is a bit longer but you will get what you actually pay for, and will be connected to the world.

11. ‘I am a certified guide’ scam

How does it work? Tourist attractions are the places where you will meet a lot of creative people with bad intentions. On an entrance to any popular place you will be met by a bunch of guys yelling ‘guide, guide’ to your face. And they will try to assure you that they are ‘certified’ guides and you really need him inside.

How to survive this? Stick with the leaflets, books or audio guides if you want to learn the real information. If you want some lies and a bit of wasting money – hire one of the guides.

12. Food and drink scams

How does it work? So I should mention here, that there are a few scams related to food and drinks in India. Since the water from the tap is a no-no for foreigners (unless you want to be ill), sometimes shops are selling ‘bottled’ water filled up with tap water. Sometimes milk in the shops are diluted with tap water. Sometimes people add drugs in food.

How to survive this? Be cautious and check the water and other bottles before buying, you should be able to see if it was opened before. Also be extra careful about eating in public places and use just trusted restaurants or vendors. 

So here are the most common scams in India. I can’t promise that you won’t be scammed, you will, but at least knowing a few of them, and literally preparing for the worst, will help you to get away with less worries and better travels. Always be aware of what is happening, stay calm and remember – IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT’S A SCAM!

I hope I didn’t scare you with this blog post, because India is an amazing country with a few flaws. You can read my 10 reasons why you should visit India post.

I also wrote quite a few posts about travelling in India which you can find here on my blog. Like How to spend two weeks in Rajasthan, what you need to know before Arriving in India and Train travels and others.

If you have any questions about India, about travel, about life, spirituality or what kind of sauce to use with your porridge – contact me! I am here to help and I always will be! You can reach me on Instagram @findthelightt or Facebook or Pinterest too!

Send You loads of Love!
Stay adventurous and see you on the road! x

7 thoughts on “The most common scams in India and how to avoid them

Add yours

  1. Barring these scammers,Most of the Indian people are good and helpful.They also understand English.If you get into any problem,try to call as many people you can,especially the ones with their families as they are genuine people most of the times.They will certainly help you.Before taking any guide,booking hotels,always consult a few local people.They will be happy to help you.Even the locals also sometimes get scammed.One more scam is very common at railway/bus stations.Some family with kids will come to you and say they have been robbed or lost their money and need to go home.They will ask you money for food and travel.Just tell them you know a friend in nearby police station who can help them in sending them back to their home.Pretend to call him.Those people will run away in no time if they are scammers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow! Thank you so much for sharing this! I didn’t know this scam, so it’s very good to know! 🙏😊 Just so you know, I do agree that Indian people are kind and generous, and they will help you no matter what. That’s one of the reason why I love India!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can agree with you on these problems. I have recently travelled to India and I found a key solution to be technology. Using apps such as makemytrip, uber, Ola, Google maps can reduce the problem burden significantly.
    These are similar problems experienced by most back packers in India, China, South East Asia and Africa. It is important to do your research before you set off back packing and equip yourself with the tools and knowledge required.
    Getting a simcard from the Airport is a must. I know that from the UK we now have available a SIM card that can be used in India as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, there are some things to consider before going on a trip in Asian countries. I actually do think that wherever you go, you need to do a research. 😊 Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate it!

      Like

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