All countries and cities have their dangers and annoyances but India probably is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to scamming tourists. So we’ve rounded up the top scams to watch out for when traveling India.
Here are a few of the scams in India 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.
When traveling, a person always has to be on their guard.
Top Travel Scams in India
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 overcharge 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. Fake Train Officials 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 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.
See more about train travel in India
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.
7. Begging Scams
There are 500,000 beggars in India and sadly 300k are children. Most people want to help and feel compelled to give money, but begging is big business in India and children are exploited by crime rings.
When you give to a child or beggar, you are most likely feeding the pockets of criminals. Read more at Beggars in India – the Art of Begging and Guilt of Travel
8. Child with Baby Scam
Common scams include a young girl with a baby in hand asking you to buy powdered milk. You go to the store with her and think you are helping but it is a ring where the criminals split the money with the store owner who overcharges you for milk, and the baby never sees it. The baby is most likely drugged and rented for the day.
9. Pen Scam
The same scam happens when children ask you to purchase a pen from a shop. You feel good because you have given them something to use in school, but once you leave, they return it to the shop and the shop owner keeps the money and pen.
10. Disfigured Scam
You think you are helping someone with a disability but sadly, the crime ring has disfigured a person to make them more appealing to tourists to give money.
The money doesn’t go to help them it once again lines the pockets of the criminals.
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?
10. Drivers Pretending to be Lost