When traveling, a person always has to be on their guard. All countries and cities have their dangers and annoyances and India probably is one of the worlds leaders when it comes to scamming tourists.
Here are a few scams that we either encountered or heard about during our travels through the country and hopefully will help you when you travel to India or another developing country in the world.
There are many scams that happen in India, but if you arm yourself with a little knowledge and keep an eye out for the signs, you can enjoy your time traveling through the sub continent. Don’t get too hung up on worrying about the scams, this post is to give you the information you need to enjoy your time in this most fascinating country on earth.
1. Prepaid taxis – This is the most common scam you will find throughout India.
You have arrived at the airport or train station. You are exhausted and it is the middle of the night. Rickshaw and taxi drivers approach you before you barely have time to get off the platform and offer their services to take you to a hotel. They will tell you that the prepaid booth is closed, or that there isn’t one there. Don’t let them pressure you. Take your time to look around and ask the right people where the prepaid taxi booth is. You will pay a fair price to your hotel of choice and avoid being overcharged or taken to the wrong destination.
For your safety take the prepaid taxi. Especially if you are new to the country. Keep your receipt from the booth and don’t give it to the driver until you have arrived at your destination. That is his receipt for payment from the company and your insurance that you will get to where you are going.
2. Drivers for hire - Probably the most subtle scam in India. You never even realized that you are being scammed until it is too late and you are stuck with your driver.
You are overwhelmed with the distances and navigating the country. Many people approach tourists fresh off the plane, or even worse, Taxi drivers (not prepaid of course) will take you to a tourist office enroute to your hotel where you will be fed a high pressured sales pitch to buy a driver for your time in India. Even if you are considering a driver, don’t go with these guys. They are scam artists and will over charge profusely. They won’t take you to your destination and you may end up on the wrong side of town. Take a prepaid taxi from the airport or train station they won’t stop at one of these fly by night places. We met a couple that fell for this scam right off the plane and were stuck paying an exorbitant amount of money for a driver for one week. Needless to say, they were not happy, but it was too late.
3. Cheap Rickshaws - A Classic scam in India.
If a rickshaw driver offers you a ride for a price that sounds too good to be true, it is. He is most likely going to take you around to gem shops and textile shops. He will take you everywhere but where you want to go and collect a commission from all of the shop owners. You are better off to negotiate a reasonable price that you are willing to pay. 50 to 100 rupees always seems average for us going anywhere and have them take you directly to your destination. If they suggest a market or shop along the way, reply with a firm no.
4. Touts – The Good Samaritan Scam
It starts with a hello, whats your name, where are you from when you arrive at the train station or tourist site. You say you don’t need a rickshaw or a guide. They say they are not a guide or driver, they just want to help. Believe me, it is rare that anyone will offer you help out of the blue. They want something and you will soon find yourself following them to a tourist office instead of the actual ticket booth or office that you asked them directions to. When people approach you on the street or in the train station, politely tell them no or shake your head. They are not helping, they are trying to lead you astray.
5. Train Captains - The old impersonating an authority figure scam.
We all know that booking trains can be tough in India. If you don’t know, you can read more at our post Figuring out India Rail. You often have to book weeks in advance to be guaranteed a seat. That is why Dave and I simply go to the train station, buy a general ticket and then upgrade when we see the train captain on the platform. This has worked well for us.
Here comes the scam…
During our last ride from Agra to Delhi we encountered fake train captains. Luckily we had traveled this route before, so when they asked us for 400 Rupees each for the upgrade, we said no. We knew that the upgrade was only 200. This happened 2 more times before the real captain came to check our tickets. We didn’t realize the other guys were fakes, we just knew that they were charging too much. They had on blue jackets, just like the train captain. They had a receipt book to give us a receipt and they seemed very official. But after the real captain came, we noticed the differences. Here is what you need to look out for.
- a) The real train captain has a seating chart. He has a stack of papers in his hand to check what seats are empty and what are taken.
- b) The real train captain has a badge with his name and number
- c) The real train captain checks everyone’s ticket, not just the tourists.
If a group of official guys come to ask for your ticket and then ask for money for the upgrade, but doesn’t look at any of the local passengers tickets, you can guarantee that it is a scam. The scam artists are targeting tourists, the train captain checks everyone’s tickets.
6. Tours - Using a Similar Company Name. Looks legitimate, but it’s a scam.
We heard a story from a nice couple. they were approached in a park in Delhi by yet another “good samaritan” that offered to take them to the official government tourist center to book a car. They followed him and it looked very official indeed. Their office was only a word off from the official tourist site. They then sold them a 6 day car hire for 650 Euros. They didn’t have time to think and bought the tour. They told us that they didn’t know if it was a scam or not because they got what they paid for, a driver, driving them around Rajasthan. But 650 Euro’s for 6 days is an out of control price for a driver in India. We didn’t encounter anyone that was happy with their driver, ourselves included Read here at Car Hire India, What were we thinking? so a word to the wise, be careful when hiring a driver and take your time, don’t bow to pressure.
There are many other scams in India I am sure, these are the ones that we encountered or heard first hand accounts about, does anyone else have some other tips or advice on what to watch out for?