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.
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!
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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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.
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!
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.
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!!
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!
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Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
Other articles you might love:
- Travelling India: 6 Tips For Solo Female Travellers
- A Guide To Goa, India
- The Most Mouth Watering Indian Food to Try in India
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