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.
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
34 thoughts on “Top Scams in India to Avoid and Watch Out For”
Hi, I am going to Delhi later this year and know I’m not allowed to take rupees but I’m worried about how to pay for the taxi from the airport to the hotel. Advice please?
I also fall victim to those rickshaw scam in Delhi Red Fort, they would say it just 100 INR for 1 hour but in reality my trip just went less than 20 minutes in some garment stores, small temples and landmark. The guy said they 100 INR just payment for him and the bike is separate for 200 INR. WTF 300INR for less 15 minutes of bike ride, I keep arguing with him and said I never approach him in the first but due to his bad english, it seems like we’re going nowhere. The abusive driver drop in slum area in which I don’t have any idea, good thing my GPS is working but I kept good grip of my phone somehow I manage to reached the main road and booked an Uber.
Another scam there is Uber Eats and Zomato, the information of delivery rider said he knows English but in reality it’s a pain in the head to talk to them due to there Hinglish…
You forgot to mention the fact that you never get change when you pay for something. It is always the same story….take something else to make up for the difference! Another perpetual stunt is the waiting around by everyone hoping for a tip. If you do give, it is always received as if you are the biggest miser on earth as ten times the amount was expected. India has some very good people who are trying their hardest to make visitors as comfortable as possible. However, the culture among the have nots is now here is a chance for me to make something more when they see an outsider. Sadly, the poverty and lack of welfare has contributed to this malaise. You leave India with a mixed experience of dread, loathing and some happy memories.
This is what the foreign tourists can do to remain safe.
1) Plan your journey in advance. Book your hotels, flights and trains in advance.
2) Once you arrive at airport, order Ola or Uber taxi. Use it for inter city travelling.
3) Check the price of common goods such as clothes, grocery etc through internet. Always check the MRP if it’s there.
4) Use Google maps for navigation or finding restaurants, medical stores, police station etc.
5) Wear suitable clothes in public areas.
6) Avoid shady areas, dim alleys if one is not aware with the area.
7) Stay in big cities and urban areas.
8) Avoid street food. Instead enjoy traditional Indian cuisine from a good restaurant or hotel (don’t be cheap, spend some money)
9) Always watch news channel to know if there is any protest, curfew, riot, procession, or any law & order situation in the city you are staying in.
10) Ask for advice from your hotel management.
I am from India, actually, I was Born in the States. Didn’t realize India was this Filthy and that there are Many Scammers out there. Worse than the US. I am not a known traveler, but I am starting to do it again. Wanna take my Kids/Grandkids there, but I don’t want to be Scammed!
I’ve never joined this Site before, but I am Glad it is here to help those that Don’t Know.
I always thought people were helpful when you are in another country, guess I was Wrong
I’ve travelled worldwide. I’ve been shortchanged twice (Rome and Beijing), successfully pickpocketed (Buenos Aires), and unsuccessfully robbed (Buenos Aires). And then there was the time I bought the day tour and was promised “no shopping.” Yeah. And I think I was even aproached by a member of a foreign intelligence service posing as a student. But on three occasions, “helpful strangers” were actually helpful strangers. One in particular was a figurative life-saver. Another chased me down to return money that I dropped after a few too many. You never know for sure how things turn out until they do.
We had a really ‘nice’ guy attach to us while in Santo Domingo. It was our first trip to that city and I suppose we looked a bit starry eyed while walking down the Malecon to the old city. We had just eaten breakfast. The food in the DR is heavily cooked in lard, so, if you’re not used to eating such it won’t take long for some serious toilet sitting. That’s what happened, my partner was getting desperate to find a toilet and suddenly, right off the pavement a ‘nice’ guy approached, obviously he had heard us, and said, in pretty fair English, he knew where the nearest one was. We wound up at a car rental agency where the staff there didn’t seem to pleased to see us as we certainly weren’t there to rent a car. Our newly attached ‘nice’ guy started chatting them up and they seemed to relax a bit. My partner finished his business and we continued to head toward the old colonial city. The ‘nice’ guy continued to follow asking questions about where we live and how we liked the DR, etc. etc.
Finally we arrived in the beautiful plaza where a dramatic Christopher Columbus statue pointing west is, found a cozy café and ordered some drinks and, of course, offered our ‘nice’ guy guide whatever his choice. The drinks came and suddenly our ‘nice’ guy started getting belligerent saying that we’d taken up his valuable time and that we’d owed him a hundred dollars for his trouble! He really wasn’t ‘nice’ anymore and I felt he might have an accomplice that might suddenly show up to threaten. Luckily, about this time, a policial came walking by. I told our ‘nice’ guy that maybe we should discuss the situation among all four of us. He bolted. Didn’t even finish his drink.
So, be careful. I’m just thankful it never became violent.
PS I love Santo Domingo!
that really a gr8 problem in india people just cheat each other for there own sake
Thanks for the advice.. I’d like to see a list of scams that happen all over the world, especially Europe. I don’t want to fall for any :S
There’s a new scam a day… I liked the one where someone throws mud on your shoes, then someone else rushes over to clean the Sh*t off and wants to be paid for it…. pretty minor but memorable. Never a dull moment though
Very true Andrew, I think that there could be an entire book written about the scams. I didn’t come across that one, but yes, it certainly doesn’t surprise me:)
The taxi scam is very common and the more comfortable you get in India the easier it is to let your guard down and get duped. Thinking I could cheat a cheater almost got me in a very sticky situation the second time I was in India.
.-= Anil´s last blog ..The Top 4 Scams Of Marrakesh And How To Avoid Them =-.
That is great advice Anil. You are absolutely right, the longer you are in India, the more relaxed you become and end up getting scammed that much more. How ironic.
Great post guys! The cheap rickshaws sound like the tuk-tuks of Bangkok.
The fake train captains are bold aren’t they? What happens if they run into the real train captains? Do they get arrested or removed from the train or do folks just turn a blind eye?
.-= brian | No Debt World Travel´s last blog ..Passport Day 2010 – Apply/Renew Passport Before Prices Go Up =-.
That is a good question. We told the train captain about it when he came, but he just laughed. Either he already knows about it. Is in on it, or knows that there is nothing he can do about it. I think that people just turn a blind eye.
Taking extra precaution really is necessity for us specially travelling new places, thanks for you advice, More Power and GB
What do you know? I’m Canadian too! Really, truly appreciate this post because my first stop will be India (on a volunteer mission). In fact, I’ll be emailing this to myself as a reminder!
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..Denial =-.
I got scammed when i arrived in Mumbai – it was the middle of the night I was on my own and there were about a million people outside the airport. I was so tired and didn’t really know the system, so just took it that they booth was closed.
That is an honest mistake. We all get scammed eventually in India. we had been in the country for 3 months and still followed a guy to a bogus office at the train station and even followed him up the stairs before realizing that we weren’t going to the train booking office. They are so good at making the scam, not seem like a scam!
Excellent advice as always. I recently heard a great idea – that when arriving at the airport in a new country, it’s wise to stay inside the airport for fifteen minutes (drink a coffee perhaps) just to get your bearings and ask questions before being bombarded by scam artists outside. It’s of course in that initial moment of confusion that we are easily taken advantage of.
Another scam to be aware of in India is the gem scam, where you are led to s gem shop and lured into purchasing a large amount of ‘gems’ that you can resell at home for a huge profit. Of course, the gems are fake, and while avoiding this might seem like common sense, plenty of people do fall for this one unfortunately.
.-= Earl´s last blog ..The Night I Died In A Cafe =-.
Earl, excellent advice! I am going to do that next time. It is always hectic when getting off the plane and an extra 15 minutes would probably be perfect to relax and catch your bearings.
I had heard of that gem scam. Luckily we have never cared for gems or jewellery, but so many people want to buy that sort of thing. I can’t believe how many people fall for it. It is true, it seems like common sense but in their defense, the scammers are very good at what they do and it is so easy to fall victim in the moment.
Thanks for adding another scam to the list. Very important for people to know everything.
Audrey’s tip is great. I try to do the same thing now (after getting scammed on various of these ways you talk about) – price out legs of the trip before I am going there to ensure that I am at least getting something remotely close to fair!
Really great advice, it’s a shame that such advice nearly always has to be learned the hard way (unless people are smart enough to read your blog!)….but it’s good reminder that we need to be smart when we travel and use our heads.
It’s also good for people to remember that this advice applies to a lot of places, not just India – most big cities have people that are just looking for naive tourists to scam, even when you’re at home and not abroad. Sad that we have to be on guard, but we do.
Audrey’s tip is a good one too – I always check with my hotel ahead of time to find out the best transportation option.
.-= Trisha Miller´s last blog ..Marco Polo Didn’t Go There =-.
You are absolutely right Trisha! We have fallen victim to scams all over the world. We only wrote about India because we were there at the time, but we have encountered every one of these scams in other countries.
The Egypt is kind of the same way.
Thanks for the information, I took notes.
.-= Shawn´s last blog ..One More Month or Two in Bulgaria. =-.
So true Shawn. We had a scam in Egypt where the bus driver (the small vans that people pack into) overcharged us, luckily the good people of Cairo that were in the van with us stood up for us. Everyone said no no no. And when we handed our money up to the front, the person in front of us only took the actual fair, gave the rest back to us and then handed it to the driver. Everyone was so nice. We really loved Egypt. The driver could only laugh and then we laughed. “Hey, you can’t blame a guy for trying” is what is look on his face told us:)
Fortunately for me (but unfortunate for Dan), Dan fell for almost each and every one of these when he visited India on his own in 1997. When we returned in 2008, he was on guard…but there are still little scams here and there. Sometimes you just get tired and worn out and you chose to pick your battles.
One thing that worked well for us was each time we booked a guesthouse, we would call and ask the cost of the rickshaw/taxi to the hotel from the bus station/train station/etc. That way, we knew exactly the maximum price to pay and the negotiation went quickly. The rickshaw drivers weren’t happy, but we were 🙂
.-= Audrey´s last blog ..Antarctica, Part 2: Honest Antarctica – Gray Skies, Blue Ice =-.
Luckily dan went for you first to iron out the bugs:) That is excellent advice about calling the guesthouse. Now that we are using a cell phone more for travel, we are finding it much easier. When we find a good tuk tuk driver, we get his phone number and use him for the entire time we are in the city. Rewarding good service might catch on and there may (okay, I doubt it) be less scamming out there.
Hey guys! Thanks for the article, there are some we actually didn’t encounter or hear about before, so it’s good info to have out there! No doubt had we not read the literature available (LP, IndiaMike, blogs like this) beforehand we would have fallen victim to a number of scams in India – and we’re not naive travelers either! You can be a seasoned, skeptical world-traveler but still be had there if you don’t keep yourself one step ahead. They’re good at what they do, no doubt about it!
There are lots more too – the gem scam, the Kashmir houseboat scam, and the one we partially fell for, the Delhi “no the tourist booking office where you get your train ticket is not here, it’s on the N-block, here take this rickshaw, sure, sure no problem you’re welcome!” and off we went on our first harrowing rickshaw ride, lol. And we had gone to the station the day before, without bags, because we fully KNEW we were going to try to be scammed there! We STILL fell for it because they look so damn official!! We went along for the ride anyway though to see what they did. (When they started trying to discourage us from Ladakh in lieu of Kashmir though, we knew for sure and peaced out of their “government approved” tourist office. ;))
People shouldn’t let that deter them from India though; I remarked several times during our 5 mos there that for as annoying as it was to always have to be vigilant about getting scammed and having to assume that there probably wasn’t a chance in hell that the wonderfully warm, super-nice, friendly, helpful person was actually being helpful, I still always felt safe. I wasn’t afraid to walk down side streets or alone at night, never had to worry that someone was going to come by in a van and abduct, rape and kill me. Can’t even say that about back home.
And of course, not all Indians are like that. Maybe roughly 50/50 or 40/60 that you’ll encounter as a backpacker. But the ones who ARE genuine…wow. They make up for it tenfold. Did you think so too?
Well said Genelle. It is true, most people in this world are good. The scammers just happen to show up where all the backpackers hang out. And you are right, we felt very safe in India. Scams are quite different than safety. Scammers are actually working to try to separate you from your money, robbers will just rob you for your money. It is a big difference:) For the most part it is harmless and even half the scams don’t end up costing you too much more money, it is just good to be aware in India or anywhere you are travelling for that matter.
You can’t read this article enough! Read it, read it & read it & you will still fall for the scams… at least for one & hopefully just once. It (of course) happened to me, too. I know all the scams and still, each time I travel again, especially after some time between travels, I have to get used to the scams again.
.-= Melvin´s last blog ..Umhlanga, Blue-Flag Beach =-.
It sure does happen to us all eh. Even when we think we are prepared and know better, we always fall for it. Like I said these guys should give up the scamming business and start a business on their own teaching suits how to sell a product. They can sell anything!
This reminded me of an experience I had in Tangiers in the Medina when someone followed us with the guide and offered directions, advice etc. In the end, he asked for a tip but it turns out he was just an independent guy out to make a quick buck.
.-= Gourmantic´s last blog ..Tokyo Impressions =-.
Oh yes, that one is a common one. It is a shame because it makes the backpacker start to not trust anyone. Many people are just trying to be helpful, but when you have been traveling for a while you end up not letting anyone in or giving them a chance to help. You are always skeptical and on your guard wondering “how much is this going to cost me?”