14 Tourist Scams in India to be Aware of

Last Updated on June 19, 2022

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One thing I have learned on my backpacking adventure in India is the array of scams that are dealt to you.

Unfortunately, scamming in India is common and it can be incredibly frustrating to deal with all the tourist scams in India.

But please remember that most Indians are friendly and wonderful people! They are more likely to go out of their way to help you than to scam you.

However, scammers do exist and the scams of India are varied – some very simple and some quite elaborate.

Just be prepared for what to expect from Indian scammers and your visit to India will be much more enjoyable.

Below are 14 common scams in India for tourists to be aware of and that I personally heard or experienced myself while travelling there.

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14 Common Tourist Scams in India

1. Say no to people “helping” you lift your bag anywhere

As soon as you arrive at the airport you are likely to be met with one of the most common tourist scams in India: the helpful bag carrier.

When arriving at Delhi airport make sure that no one else handles your bag or so-called ‘helps’ you lift your bag into a taxi. It will cost you!

When I arrived into Delhi the man took it before I could even get hold of it, so best you keep hold of it at all times.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most popular travel scams to watch out for when you arrive in India.

It may only cost you 10 or 20 rupees but even so, no one should handle your bag except for you because you never know what they might do.

If you really do need a hand, then usually porters are wearing red shirts or an official-looking shirt, they would love to help you.

They can help you lift your bags upstairs etc, but only use them if you are prepared to pay!

While this is one of the most common scams in Delhi, you will likely encounter this at any airport, train station or large bus station.

Top Tip: Main train stations in India are where a lot of the big India scams happen. There are many you need to watch out for:

2. Train ticket is not validated

Your ticket does NOT need to be stamped to be validated, and you do not need to pay for it!

A common scam is people dressed up as ‘official’ train people, and saying your ticket is invalid without a stamp.

As long as you have the ticket, and it is confirmed (paid for) then you only need to show this to the train conductor along with your passport, when you are on your journey.

You do not need to pay for anything else after you have brought your ticket.

3. The reservation centre to get your train ticket is most likely open

“Sorry you cannot reach the reservation centre because it is closed, shut down, riots are happening inside, ants have infested the floor and camels have now taken over the tills” are NOT valid excuses.

Check the opening times of the reservation centre and if you can’t physically get in, then it’s closed for the night or for an hour.

I have heard stories that some scammers try and stop you from even going up the stairs in New Delhi station to get to the centre.

Usually, you can avoid scammers by just saying a friendly “Thank you” or “No thanks”.

Sometimes when I’m having a bad day I just say “No English” in a weird European accent – works every time!

Well known India tourist scams to look out for, detail of a stepwell in India with crisscrossing steps
Photo by Wim Arys on Unsplash

4. No fees for using a metal detector

You do not need to pay to get through the metal detector, or to get into the train station.

As long as you have your ticket then you do not need to listen to a single person, unless you need directions!

This is one of those tourist scams in India that can easily trip you up because it’s so simple, but don’t be fooled!

5. You don’t need a guide to visit the main attractions

When seeing main attractions you will probably see a load of people outside asking you “guide, guide? You will definitely need a guide”.

If you want one then go for it, but I recommend sticking to the guide books or an audio guide.

They are usually more reliable and with factual information!

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tourism scams in India, man rowing on wooden boat in lake at dusk

6. Always check the final price

One of the India tourist scams people often overlook is double-checking the final price when you actually go to pay.

I took a boat ride (all-inclusive I was told) then at the end was told that the amount I paid was only for the big boss and I actually had to pay for the boatman.

Always check what the price includes before confirming any type of tour.

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7. Ignore people forcing souvenirs on you

This is one of the most annoying tourist scams in India because it’s so prevalent, and you’re likely to encounter it if you even breath near a souvenir sealer.

While my boat tour in Varanasi was happening, an older man (with a rude attitude) placed an offering on my lap without me even noticing.

I had no choice but to put it into The Ganges and then pay for it as he moved his boat so I couldn’t give it back. He then angrily yelled ‘150 Rupees!’, I said no and chucked him 20 Rupees in response.

Needless to say, he was very pissed off, and so I was I! Keep away and completely ignore the people in the boats trying to sell stuff!

8. Forced bindi

A little boy ran up and placed a dot on my forehead before I could even say no at the ceremony in Varanasi. Then I was hassled for 5 minutes for money.

The money does not have anything to do with the ceremony; it just goes straight into that boy’s pocket. So always keep an eye out for what’s happening around you.

This is one of the most common street scams in India and can happen anywhere. Always be aware and do your best to safely leave the situation if it happens.

9. The poo scam

A random stranger might kick a bit of dirt, poo and god knows what else, at your shoe. Don’t let them clean it off you because that will cost you.

10. The “free” bracelet scam

They place a bracelet or anklet on you and say it’s free and then demand money. Most of the time you won’t be able to get it off and you will have no choice but to pay!

Most common scams in India, back of rickshaw driver's head

11. Rickshaw scams

Always agree and confirm a price when taking an auto-rickshaw because if you don’t you will get massively ripped off!

Also make sure they know where you are going and if you can track your location on google maps, make sure they are going in the right direction.

If they take you halfway and refuse to take you any further then start walking off. Usually, they will say okay, okay and take you to your location.

After all, they do want to get some money out of you!

This is probably the most common tourist scam in India as everyone I know who has been to India has experienced this.

Many people see rickshaw drivers as the biggest India scammers, but once a price is decided, most of them are very friendly.

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12. Picking up a friend scam

This is one of the common tourist scams in India done by rickshaw drivers. The driver might say that he needs to pick up my friend.

If they do that, the friend usually has an alternative motive of scamming you by taking you to a ‘tourist office’ or something worse.

Ladies, never say yes to having a driver’s friend come too for your own safety.

Top Tourist Scams in India to watch out for, people sitting around a table full of Indian food and serving themselves

13. Drugs in food

A scam in India that I didn’t come across (and hope I never do) is drugging on the trains and buses from contaminated food and drink.

Usually, it will just put you to sleep and you’ll wake up with no bags! If you feel unsure about the food that is being offered just politely decline.

Take snacks such as fruit, crisps and water with you so you don’t have to buy them elsewhere.

Usually, the meals and snacks offered throughout the journey by the train men are fine, but the trouble comes when randoms hop onto the train without the uniform of a serviceman.

14. The riot scam

On my journey, I met many people who had been scammed by drivers.

They will tell you ‘Your hotel has conveniently shut down on the day of your arrival’ or ‘there are riots in that part of Delhi and you cannot enter there.

Demand that they take you to your place, and say you have already confirmed with your hotel and they are expecting you there.

They will even go as far as ringing the hotel (their friend that actually has nothing to do with the hotel) and say yes you cannot stay here tonight.

Then they will take you to the most expensive hotel where they will get a commission.

I met an American guy who fell into this trap and ended up paying 2000 Rupees for one night when he was supposed to pay 400 for his fully functional and open hostel room.

Don’t fall into the trap, please!!

Common scams in Delhi to look out for, man on covered bike leaning back with colourful displays in background

Top tips to avoid scams in India

  • Politely decline and next time just say ‘No English’ in an unusual accent. They will leave you alone.
  • Don’t listen to anyone that asks if this is “your first time to India”, “which country are you from” or “can I practice my English with you”. These are usually just scammers trying to have a conversation with you which may end up with a bad ending. I have also heard when touts ask which country you are from, it gives them a good gauge on how much to overcharge you and rip you off!
  • Keep yourself to yourself and only ask officials that are wearing proper uniforms for advice.

I just want you to know these tourism scams should NOT put you off India. I actually find the tourist scams in India very amusing.

Remember to relax, smile and laugh because – I’m telling you now – you will drive yourself mental if you don’t! The key to avoiding a scam is research.

If you have already read all the big scams in India then you will know exactly how to avoid them! Please share this with people who might be visiting this beautiful country and give them a heads up!

🛎 TOP TIP: Wondering where to stay in India? Check out Booking.com for the best deals on hotels, guesthouses and hostels.

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What are the most popular travel scams to watch out for in India?

Everyone’s experience is different when it comes to tourist scams in India. However, it seems the Indian scams most likely to happen are being tricked/forced into buying souvenirs you don’t want, rickshaw scams, and fake tour guide scams.

✅ What are the most common New Delhi scams for tourists?

As soon as you exit the airport in New Delhi, you are likely to be approached by people offering to carry your bags or drive you somewhere for a “good price” – ignore all of this, and try to rearrange transport. Most of the Delhi tourist scams are the same as anywhere: don’t get tricked into buying souvenirs, confirm prices with rickshaw and taxi drivers ahead of time, and don’t get fooled by stories of riots or closed ticket offices.

✅ What are the most common tourist scams in Goa?

In addition to many of the scams above, there are a few extra specific tourist scams in Goa and other super touristy areas to look out for. The most popular Goa scam is the Gem Smuggling Scam. The entails a business-looking man asking you to ship gems with your duty-free allowance. A few days later a government “official” (a scammer) will call you and say you broke the law and owe a fine.

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The Comments

  • Kuba
    December 8, 2015

    Thanks Anita for your tips, I am glad someone actually shares them 🙂

  • Tom and Sheila
    January 3, 2016

    Sounds like these scams are more aggressive than most. Good advice.

  • Vanessa Workman
    April 24, 2016

    Great tips, thanks! India is definitely on my radar and I tend to be a trouble magnet, so these tips will come in handy 😉

    • Anita Hendrieka
      > Vanessa Workman
      May 10, 2016

      Glad you found them helpful Vanessa! 🙂

  • Canada Points Guy
    June 3, 2016

    Just got back from Gujarat, Goa and Mumbai in India…you just have to be alert and street smart…and note there is no queue system – people will just push in front of you so you have to be firm and assert your place ahead in the queue. And yes, dont let anyone touch your bags-just avoid eye contact and decline any help. BTW I took Dukarol vaccine before leaving from Toronto – helped immensely against vomitting and diarrhea and I could enjoy street food. Also the $ stretches quite far in India and the service in hotels is amazing. I had a great 2 weeks in India.

  • Carmen Taveira Smith
    February 21, 2017

    I should have read this before I left for my trip in India. I travelled with my 2 sons. On the whole it was pretty good scam wise, but we got massively done over by the arto’s, sometimes they were willing to forgo a fare altogether. They often refused to give us a price for our trip. That’s not to detract from my holiday, we had a wonderful time and everyday was something new and exciting. We are still talking about it.

  • Tripti Singh
    April 22, 2017

    I agree with you that these scams generally take places with the visitors. It is better to ask before taking any services.

  • chikonahoka
    July 24, 2017

    Thanks for this. I think I would react more effectively and positively (and less defensively) if I’ve rehearsed them in my head beforehand.

  • David from travelscams.org
    August 14, 2017

    Great article, India is an extremely diverse country boasting a plethora of sights and sounds rich with culture and heritage. Unfortunately, the country is also home to many tourist targeted scams.

    Do be wary of the fake government approved tourist information centres, milk and pen beggars, begging robbers, student providing free tours in exchange for books, fake products, flower bracelets, paid blessings, picture worthy animal scam, importing duty free gem stone scams and many more!

  • Steph
    May 24, 2018

    Its a well known scam in India, I believe its the start of many gem stone scams. Whilst in jaipur we were prewarned by a lovely shop owner to be aware of a shop a few doors down. Luckily we got our backs up just as a man came out shouting ‘why don’t you speak to Indians?’

    If you ever experience this please keep your head down and keep walking. As we gave no response to the man and kept marching without making eye contact he did get a bit annoyed. I think my partner may have said no to him as he started giving us racial abuse about being british. Of course we continued walking with no retaliation. He got so mad he shouted to my partner ‘I am going to hurt your wife’.

    Please if in doubt stay in populated areas and walk out of these situations. Whilst a large number are out to scam, there are many friendly locals around.

  • Tucson Traveler
    October 12, 2018

    “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel” is good advice in just about every country on Earth! Be smart, alert, and have realistic expectations. Remember a destination is never a place; some of my greatest experiences have been things I didn’t plan for or expect. Go with the flow and maintain your sense of humor….its a great World with plenty of detours!!

  • Ragni
    November 25, 2018

    Great views and replies every traveller should know about

  • Jackson
    February 22, 2022

    Haha, I just arrived in India for the 2nd time and had happily forgot about all the scamming lol. Earlier today I ended up in the riot scam, just as last time I was in India lol. The driver made fake calls to his friend, pretending it was the hotel, which supposedly said that Delhi was closed down, due to riots and election protests, so I wasn’t able to come to my hotel at the moment, only a few hours later. So we drove around in circles for maybe 45 minutes or so, and yes there was police blockages, but I guess they intentionally drove to those police blockages, to really lure me in.
    PRO TIP: Make sure that when they call “the hotel”, they actually call the right number. Tell them to show you that they’re actually Googling the hotel and calling that number.

    As mentioned in the article, I just want to emphasize this, if anyone is too pushy or you get a shady vibe, just ignore or pretend you don’t speak english, and walk away.

    You have to be a bit of a hard shell sometimes, when traveling India. You cannot make everyone happy, you have to be firm and grounded in saying NO or ignoring annoying/pushy people.

  • Abhishek
    June 6, 2023

    I am really very sorry why some indian doing this with tourist i can understand.your pain. Always know they are not educated because in hindu religions we Said a quote ” Atithi Devo bhawah ” mean A people who came in our land they are our brother and sister. Hope one day thay changed their behaviours, towards people

    And said ” not every finger is same. ”
    Conclusion :- I like your approach to aware people and us. also you really helped many person.
    god bless you 🙏
    Regards Abhishek kumar jha
    A college student.